By JEAN ZEHRINGER GIESIGE
FORT RECOVERY — When-ever people would congratulate Dave
and Rhonda Hull of Fort Recovery on their fourth pregnancy,
Dave Hull’s brain would start forming the usual responses,
but his heart would hold him back, just for a single tick of
knew there was something different about this pregnancy. I think
maybe it was God’s way of getting us prepared for what
was to come,” Hull said. “I just knew that there
was more to the story.”
There was more to the story. The Hulls’ fourth child,
Andy, was born on June 13, 2002, at Community Hospital in Coldwater.
When Andy was born, Rhonda Hull too knew that he wasn’t
like her other three children. “I knew before the doctor
told me,” she said.
What the Hulls sensed was different about Andy was Down Syndrome,
a chromosomal disorder that affects approximately one in every
800 babies born in the United States. People with Down Syndrome,
a condition determined at conception, have an extra chromosome.
The initial diagnosis is based on physical characteristics that
are common in babies with Down Syndrome, which may include low
muscle tone, a single crease across the palm of the hand, a
slightly flattened facial profile and an upward slant of the
When the Hulls were later presented with the test results that
confirmed Andy’s Down Syndrome, they did the only thing
they felt they could have done: they loved that baby more than
ever. And Andy, for his part, is giving back all that love in
“He’s just such an important part of our family.
I like to joke that he’s our best kid,” Dave Hull
said. “You know that movie, ‘Snow White‚’
where all the dwarves have names: Sleepy, Dopey, Grumpy? Well,
if we were going to give Andy a name like that, it would be
Happy. He’s just so much fun to come home to.”
On Saturday, the Hulls will be participating in a Buddy Walk
at the Jay County Fairgrounds in Portland, Ind., with Andy and
their other children. Buddy Walks were established in 1995 by
the National Down Syndrome Society to promote awareness of Down
The walk is also meant to promote inclusion for people with
Down Syndrome, something that has simply not been a problem
for the Hulls, Rhonda Hull said.
“The people in our community have been so accepting, so
nice,” she said. “In our extended family, the older
kids are so protective of him. They would never allow anything
to happen to Andy.”
And his brothers and sister, 8-year-old Lane, Grant, 6, and
Faith, 4, also enthusiastically and unquestioningly joined Andy’s
“Just this summer, I had the big sit-down talk where I
was going to tell the older kids all about Andy and Down Syndrome,”
Dave Hull said. “I thought it was going to be this big
moment in our family’s history. I went into the whole
chromosome thing, what was different about Andy, everything.
I thought they’d be bawling by the end of it, but they
hardly had any reaction. They were, like, So? It just didn’t
make any difference to them.”
Andy’s parents realize that it will make a difference
to the family. They take Andy to Cheryl Ann Programs in Celina
twice a month for speech and physical therapy, to help him in
his development, which is usually delayed among babies with
Down Syndrome. They watch him closely for the health problems
that can plague people with Down Syndrome. Andy has hearing
loss in both ears, but is otherwise healthy, they said.
“We’ve been lucky because his disabilities seem
so minor,” Dave Hull said. “So many kids with Down
Syndrome have heart problems, but Andy doesn’t have that.”
And they enjoy watching him grow.
“The first year you have a Down Syndrome child, everything
is Down Syndrome. You’re constantly watching that child,
you’re looking at his hands, you’re reading pamphlets,
finding out about support groups, you’re just bombarded
with it,” Dave Hull said. “After that first year,
it starts to taper off, and you just don’t think about
it as much. To me, he’s just one of the kids.”
Rhonda Hull sees a special blessing in Andy, coming as he does
at the end of her family.
“Andy was given to us for a reason. He’s just special,”
she said. “The only thing to me that’s different
about him is that he learns at a different pace, so he gets
to stay a baby a little longer. Andy’s going to do all
the things the other kids did. He’s just not going to
be the first to do them. He’ll get there, it’ll
just take him longer. So we can really enjoy his accomplishments
— when he learned to sit up, it was a big deal.
“Andy has really completed my life. He’s made me
very happy,” she said. “My heart is full.”