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The Daily



09-23-03: ‘He’s just so much fun to come home to’

Standard Correspondent

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 the clock.
“I 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 eyes.
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 return.
“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 Syndrome.
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 army.
“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.”


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