In the summer of 2006 Nixon Jayson Smith came into the world in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China. Nixon was born with a condition called arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC). This condition caused baby Nixon’s arms and legs to be contorted and locked in unorthodox angles and positions limiting his mobility. Nixon’s hands and feet were turned, twisted, and unusable. His mother and father were likely very confused and overwhelmed with his ailment. They made the hard decision to abandon him in hope that someone who found him could care for him properly. He was found and turned over to Chinese orphanage care.
Unfortunately, the orphanage system in China is overpopulated and he was not afforded the opportunity to receive any real medical care for the first 9 years of his life. Along the way Nixon did learn to move from point to point by scooting on his knees. However, he likely spent an inordinate amount of time lying in bed due to his mobility challenges. Nixon was blessed around the age of 9 to be selected by a healing home in Beijing, China named Holt Blue Sky. This Christian based organization’s mission was to bring the most physically challenged orphans to access the most talented doctors in China. Nixon was brought from the orphanage in Inner Mongolia to Blue Sky and with doctor after doctor the answer was the same:
“His condition is to severe, there is NOTHING that can done.”
Fortunately, as part of the healing process at Blue Sky, the 8-10 children in the home are showered with love, learning, and Christ. Nixon began to flourish as he learned to write, even though his arm was facing backward and his hand was stuck palm facing out at his hip. He also began learning English, Math, and adaptive life skills with an occupational therapist. Nixon even received an electric wheelchair that was donated from Germany. Life was better, but not like the other children who would receive treatment from a doctor and then often be whisked away with a “forever family” through adoption. But his story wasn’t over. When he was almost eleven, Nate and Alysia Smith found Nixon’s story through Agape adoption agency. Their hearts knew that they had to bring Nixon into their family as God continued to bless them with an ever expanding family.
The Smith family prayed about his health and began to research AMC and treatment options. They had limited access to the reality of his condition and walked in faith knowing that Jesus is bigger than any challenge this world can bring. Initial findings pointed to the difficulty in treating someone as old as Nixon with the best results occurring in the very early years of children’s lives. If Nixon were ever going to be able to be free from his dependency on his wheelchair it would be one of two options: 1. Amputation of both of his legs above the knee and the use of prosthetic legs; or 2. Multiple surgeries to release each of his knees and straighten his feet (with a probability that if surgeries weren’t successful amputation would be the final result). These would be tough decisions and would require a lot of prayer and always a concurrence from Nixon on what he wanted to do. Throughout the research Nate and Alysia discovered that one of the very best facilities for treatment of AMC was at the Paley Institute at St Mary’s hospital in West Palm Beach, Florida. And by God’s grace, this was only a two hour drive south of where the Smith family lived.
After a year of paperwork, logistics, and traveling Nixon came back to the United States with the Smith family in late October 2017. Nixon was quickly scheduled with a consultation and evaluation at the Paley Institute with Dr. David Feldman. From the first meeting with Dr. Feldman the Smith family felt a comfort in trusting the future of their child in his hands (literally). Dr. Feldman’s initial assessment was that Nixon was “one of most severe cases of AMC he had encountered, but he had a plan to get him walking.” With little hesitation Nixon’s parents decided to proceed with treatment with Dr. Feldman. In the span of the next 12 months, Nixon endured five surgeries under the skilled care of Dr. Feldman and his team. Two surgeries (one on each leg) to shorten his femur by three inches and release his knee, Two surgeries to rotate and rebuild each foot, and a bonus surgery to rotate Nixon’s arms to place his hands out in front of his body.
Between each surgery Dr. Feldman would meet with Nixon to discuss the next steps and ensure that he wanted to proceed. Dr. Feldman genuinely connected with Nixon (and his family) showing his desire to help make things whole again. With the completion of the five surgeries, lots of healing, a minor setback (Nixon broke his leg), a lot of therapy and determination, we are proud and excited to say that Nixon is walking! He is more independent than he ever thought he could be and he is so thrilled to have the opportunity to walk. The care and compassion that Dr. Feldman has given Nixon has given him a new lease on life. Dr. Feldman is an amazing surgeon and an outstanding human being. We are blessed to have him in our life.