The typical 8-year-old child weighs anywhere from 57 to 60 pounds and has a height of about 45 inches. Gabby Williams is not a typical 8-year old.
“She had a real scary birth,” said Gabby’s mother, Mary Margret Williams. “The doctors told me that she wasn’t breathing. It took the whole crew to get her going again. I thought she was OK for awhile and then she wouldn’t eat. … They sent me home and said, ‘I don’t think this baby is going to make it for much longer.’
Despite her dramatic entrance into the world, Gabby will soon be 9-years-old. She weighs only 11 pounds and is no bigger than a newborn baby. Gabby has to be fed, have her diaper changed, and is cradled as though she is still an infant. Gabby is also blind and will never be able to speak to her family.
“She cries when she is hurting and sometimes smiles,” said Williams. “But there’s not a whole lot of communication. She is definitely very slow, but she knows when mama and grandma are holding her,” she said. “She comforts to people around her. She knows her sisters, who have watched her quite a bit and listens to them play. We have a wild bunch around here.”
Gabby was diagnosed with an extremely rare disease; so rare that it has no name. There are only a few other people, across the world, that share Gabby’s disease, which prevents their bodies from being able to grow.
Medical researcher, Richard Walker has been working for two years to try and determine what is causing them not to age, and he is trying to figure out what he can do to stop it.
“In some people, something happens to them and the development process is retarded,” said Walker. “The rate of change in the body slows and is negligible. My whole career has been focused on the aging process. My fixation has been not on the consequences but the cause of it.”
One of Williams’ biggest concerns has always been whether or not her other children (there are five others besides Gabby) will have children of their own like their sister. “We did find out with Dr. Walker when he did the gene sequencing that it’s not something we can pass on but just an abnormality, a mutated gene that was just happenstance,” she said. “That was a relief for us.”
Doctors are unsure of Gabby’s lifespan since there is so little known about her disease. Doctors didn’t believe that Gabby would live long past her birth, but she has surpassed all expectations and has made it almost 9 years.
“From the time of her birth, we didn’t think she would be with us very long,” said her mother. “The fact is she is now going on 9 years. She kind of surpassed my expectations from the get go. We took her home and decided to love her as she is,” said Williams. “Gabby is still with us today. She is tougher than most of us.”
The TLC television special, “40-Year-Old Child: A New Case,” airs on Monday, Aug. 19, at 10 p.m. ET. The show will follow-up on Gabby’s story, which originally aired last year.