Hear Gavin's story,
as featured on KS95 For Kids.
Rebekah and Stephen, missionaries in Thailand for nearly eight years, had a normal pregnancy and birth. But their lives changed forever when baby Gavin was born with spina bifida.
"We'd never heard of spina bifida, let alone known what it meant for our child," says Rebekah. "The language barrier between us and the Thai doctors added to our fear and confusion."
Spina bifida is a birth defect that occurs during the earliest stages of pregnancy, causing abnormal development of the spine. The condition can cause partial paralysis, difficulty walking, hydrocephalus (excess fluid on the brain) and other complex health issues.
An Immediate Connection
The family learned about Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare through a relative in Minnesota. Still in Thailand, Rebekah spoke with Michael Partington, M.D., a pediatric neurosurgeon at Gillette, soon after Gavin's birth.
"The first thing Dr. Partington said was, 'You must be Gavin's mom,'" says Rebekah. "He calmly explained the condition and treatment Gavin would need. For the first time, I thought to myself, 'I have a baby - not a diagnosis.' I'll never forget that conversation."
When Gavin was 4 weeks old, the family returned to the U.S. But when Gavin continued to experience health issues, they quickly relocated from Oklahoma to the Twin Cities to be near Gillette. "We put our house on the market and packed up our belongings in a matter of days," says Stephen. "Gavin had his first appointment at Gillette that same week."
An Intelligent Toddler
Rebekah describes Gavin as a precocious little boy who speaks in complete sentences and already knows how to spell his name. He walks with help from braces and a walker, and he's starting to get the hang of arm crutches. Favorite pastimes include chasing big sister Mackenzie and watching Elmo, his favorite Sesame Street character, on TV.
"Gavin never lets his disability get in the way of what he can accomplish," says Rebekah. "He's an inspiration to everyone he meets, and we're excited for what the future holds for him."