When we found out that our child was going to have some differences and some special needs, we really felt like we were led to this region.
– Courtney Wampler, Trae’s mom
Not long after Thomas and Courtney Wampler of Elizabethton, received the exhilarating news that they were expecting their first child, the couple’s elation was tempered by shocking news. Courtney’s 18-week anatomy scan revealed that their baby didn’t have arms. Something was different about his legs, too.
The Wamplers absorbed the news and were concerned about what the future might hold for their child. Then, they began to think about other children like their new baby. Knowing that Niswonger Children’s Hospital is a teaching hospital, they realized that they could give the staff and the residents an opportunity to learn how to manage and treat a rare condition. So they prepared to deliver their son, Trae, close by at the Family Birth Center at Johnson City Medical Center.
“We hoped that by sharing our experience, we might be able to touch the lives of another family,” Courtney says.
About an hour after Trae was born, Thomas and Courtney noticed that their new baby had an abnormal coloring. Eight hours later, he had received a blood transfusion and was getting a platelet transfusion. Tests concluded that Trae had Thrombocytopenia Absent Radius Syndrome (TARS), a rare condition that affects one in 100,000 babies each year.
The Wamplers began their mission to prepare for the special challenges their child would face and to look for the support they would need to have as parents to help him thrive.
“When we found out that our child was going to have some differences and some special needs, we really felt like we were led to this region,” Courtney remembers. The couple had moved to the area not long before so Thomas could continue his education at Milligan College.
“We feel like God had a big part in not only giving us Trae, but in providing for all of his needs by putting us in the region with such a great hospital specifically for children,” she says.
On July 19, 2012, Trae was born into the loving arms of his parents and his caregivers at Niswonger Children’s Hospital who continue to treat – and be inspired by- the curious toddler who brings his bubbly personality to each hospital visit. Due to the low platelet count characterized by TARS, Trae has had more than 250 platelet transfusions in his short 2-1/2 years, requiring several visits to Niswonger each week.
Since Trae’s birth, the clinical staff and hematology clinic staff at Niswonger have made a special effort to learn more about TARS so they can provide the care that Trae and his family need.
“It’s amazing how the staff at Niswonger has been so willing to educate themselves and help us through the process to make sure Trae is getting the treatment he needs to thrive through infancy and, now, into toddlerhood,” says Courtney.
But, Trae has become much more than a patient for his doctors and caregivers at Niswonger. At each visit, he flies around on a specially-designed wheelchair (his “car”), wearing a helmet that protects him from frequent falls, to greet his Niswonger friends — from the cafeteria and maintenance staff to the clinical providers — with his sparkling eyes and contagious laughter. And, for the Wamplers, Niswonger has become more than simply a place for Trae’s medical treatment.
“Every time I come to Niswonger, I am greeted at the door by someone who is here every week who knows Trae and me,” says Courtney. “We don’t have family in this region, so Niswonger Children’s Hospital has provided us with extended family.”