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Wyatt is a ‘Wonder’

By Kay S. Pedrotti Barnesville has its own little ‘Wonder’ ‘“ his name is Wyatt Terrell Andrews and he’s almost three years old. Wyatt’s parents, Luke and Allie Andrews, treat him ‘just like any other kid,’ though he was born with Treacher-Collins syndrome. His condition is rare ‘“ one in some 60,000 births ‘“ and is a grueling pattern of continuing surgeries for little ones born with cranio-facial bones fused together. Wyatt’s condition is the same as the fifth-grader in the current movie ‘Wonder,’ portraying a Treacher-Collins child’s first experiences with public school. The movie was so good to see, Allie said, ‘because now there is much more awareness of the syndrome.’ It was all she hoped it would be, she added. ’I was scared and mad when Wyatt was born,’ said Allie. ‘I saw the looks on the doctor’s and the nurses’ faces, and they whisked him away immediately.’ About two weeks before Wyatt’s birth, Griffin hospital had hired a neo-natologist, an expert in treatment of birth defects. Allie said, ‘It was a ‘˜God thing’ that this doctor was there for Wyatt.’ For the first two hours, Luke said, ‘we did not know whether he would live or die ‘“ it was 50/50.’ Wyatt’s breathing was impaired by the underdevelopment of the jawbone, but the specialist was able to restore breathing, he noted, ‘and then his first surgery was scheduled.’ It was a risky four to five hour procedure that amounted to ‘six or eight surgeries in one,’ said Allie. ’He has a milder case of the syndrome,’ Allie said. ‘We’ve had to do many things we never thought we could do, like having to tighten the implement that was put in to reposition his jaw. He wears a headband-type hearing aid, not because he doesn’t have the ability to hear, but because he has no ears or ear canals to get the sound through. He is doing remarkably well, though, with communicating ‘“ we’re amazed every day.’ Luke and Allie have another little boy, Waylon James Andrews, born just 14 months after Wyatt. Allie said, ‘He is our little bulldog. He was sent by God, I know, to be a protector for Wyatt as he goes out into the world.’ They were glad that the late Steve Andrews, Luke’s father and the grandfather of the boys, ‘got to hold Waylon, and say his name, before he died,’ Luke said. Allie said she was in labor with Waylon while praying with Hope, Steve’s wife, and other relatives a few days before Steve died. Both boys go to Faith Friends Academy at First Baptist Church of Barnesville. There have not been any episodes of fear or teasing from other children, Allie said. ‘It’s like they all know ‘˜that’s just Wyatt.’ I asked at the school who his best friends were, and the teachers said ‘˜to tell the truth, Waylon is his best friend.’ There are two teachers who seem especially patient and understanding with Wyatt ‘“ he’s made a lot of progress being around other children.’ She said there is one little boy who goes home and wears his mother’s headband, ‘so he can be like Wyatt.’ Treacher-Collins can affect formation of eyes, eye sockets, ears, and other facial features. Allie said that in the ‘Wonder’ movie, the young boy has had at least 20 surgeries, and Wyatt is facing many future corrective operations. Allie said she hopes someday to have a foundation or ministry for Treacher-Collins families to help with expenses not covered by insurance plans, such as hearing aids. Sometimes finances have been a problem ‘“ Wyatt has been turned down for Medicaid and disability because Luke and Allie have jobs. But the support of their church, Rock Springs, and the community has been a great help, ‘and I know God is with us all the time and we will get through all this,’ Allie said. While the Barnesville-Lamar County community has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the family, ‘there’s more medical costs to come ‘“ but we have faith that even if the ‘˜big surgery’ is in California, we can handle it.’ ’God chose us to take care of this little boy,’ Luke said. ‘It’s a humbling experience to know that, but the good Lord showed us how to do it.’

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