Wyatt at 7 weeks old, after his first brain surgery for a shunt.

Kim Dionne and Bill Foster never understood the real meaning of courage until their son, Wyatt, was born. The 2-and-a-half-year-old was born with Spina Bifida, hydrocephalus, Chiari Malformation (Type 2) and Syringomyelia. In his short life, Wyatt has already endured three brain surgeries and three other surgeries to manage his conditions, and a host of other challenges. Despite that, Wyatt brings joy to everyone he meets and pushes himself to achieve his milestones.

According to the Journal of Neurosurgery, 80% of children born with Spina Bifida have hydrocephalus.

Wyatt was diagnosed with Spina Bifida and hydrocephalus while Kim was 15 weeks pregnant. When she first received the diagnosis, she remembers feeling shocked and scared for the future.  

“I made the mistake every mother does when she receives the news, and Googled and read everything I could to figure out what was going to happen to my baby, what kind of future we were now looking at. I was terrified to say the least,” Kim explained.  “I eventually found a support group online, and things slowly starting being okay again. I was speaking with mothers who were able to share stories of what their little ones were doing and not doing. I educated myself, read the books, met the doctors, and asked questions.”

Because of his conditions, the increased size of his head as an infant, and his many surgeries, Wyatt took longer to achieve certain milestones, but Kim quickly realized what a warrior Wyatt really is.

Wyatt smiles his way through the challenges of his health conditions.

He sat on his own at around 8 months old. At  12 months, when most kids are learning to  walk, he was just starting to crawl. At about  20 months, he started using a walker to get around, and finally at 2 years and 3 months old, he started walking independently.

“He has had to work hard to reach all of his milestones, but he pushes himself and smiles through it all. You won’t find parents that could be more proud of their child as we are of Wyatt! We are proud of the person he is becoming, and of the strength and determination he is already showing the world.  Nothing is going to stop him,” Kim says.

Having Spina Bifida, hydrocephalus, and other health conditions has meant that Wyatt visits his local children’s hospital every six months to see his neurologist, urologist and nutritionist. He was also getting physiotherapy on a monthly basis but is doing so well on his mobility issues that the sessions were stopped.

Kim credits physiotherapy with helping Wyatt achieve so much growth over the past two years. “We couldn’t have done it without our wonderful therapist!” she says.

Wyatt also deals with bladder issues, which are being addressed with dietary changes.  He was being catheterized once every four hours, but that is no longer required, as his kidneys and bladder are functioning well. His speech is a little delayed, so Wyatt sees a hearing and speech therapist, and he’s scheduled to have tubes put in his ears at the end of this month to help with the extra fluid building up in his ears. 

Kim hopes that by sharing her son’s story, she will give other parents facing a similar diagnosis hope. She says receiving a diagnosis like this doesn’t mean your child won’t have a great life – just a different one.

“Grieve the loss of the child you thought you were having, then embrace the one you are about to have. They are truly a gift. Don’t give up on your dreams, just change them a bit. Dream new dreams,” she says. “Speak to your doctor and don’t be afraid to ask any and all questions. My son is the light of my life. He makes me see life in a different way, a better way.  He has opened my eyes to so many things, things I always took for granted. He makes us better people.” 

Kim, Bill and Wyatt live in Darmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.