It’s not easy being the mom of seven children, especially when two of them are disabled. Elva Farrell knows. Her youngest, Andrew, was born with a rare condition, diastrophic dysplasia, a form of dwarfism.
While Andrew needs 24-hour care along with physical, developmental, respiratory and occupational therapy, Elva knows it’s possible for him to one day be as independent as his 9-year-old sister, who has the same genetic condition. In third grade, she can do nearly everything her peers can do, despite dwarfism that’s required 27 surgeries.
Andrew still has a long way to go. The two-year-old is just now learning to stand, he doesn’t speak and, because he’s missing his soft palate, he’s often fed through a tube. Andrew had respiratory failure after his birth and was on a ventilator for two months, and now has a trachea tube. Until it’s removed, doctors won’t know whether his vocal cords are permanently damaged. Several times a day, his parents or a nurse who comes to the house five days a week, give him respiratory treatments to prevent fluid from collecting in his lungs.
In August, he had metal rods surgically placed on either side of his spine to help straighten it. In order for the treatment to work, though, new rods have to be placed every six months until he is grown.
There are a lot more surgeries down the road, including reconstructive surgery on his knees and more corrections to his flat feet, another symptom of dwarfism.
Being a caregiver is not easy. Elva’s greatest concern is making sure her children – all seven of them – can be as independent as possible. She finds strength to make it through the most challenging days through her faith.
“There are times I feel so much despair and sadness. To have people to talk to and people to pray for me to find strength, that’s what keeps me going,” she said. That, and the smiles she sees on her kids’ faces.