Before little Robert was even born, the odds were stacked against him. Indeed, doctors expected that he would have a very low quality of life and even advised his mom to terminate the pregnancy. However, no one knew just how determined mother and son could be.
When Jillian Hartman and her partner found out they were pregnant, they were overjoyed. However, excitement quickly turned to worry when they received some horrific news. At 19 weeks into her pregnancy, in fact, doctors informed Hartman that her son was suffering from hydrocephalus.
Hydrocephalus consists of a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid on the brain. For newborns, the extra fluid not only puts pressure on the brain but also means that their developing skull will grow to accommodate the fluid. When a baby is born with the disorder, moreover, it is called congenital hydrocephalus.
Of course, such pressure on the brain when the brain is still forming can cause a number of mental and physical disabilities. And as the skull grows around the fluid, the baby’s head can swell up to four times the normal size. Naturally, then, Hartman had her concerns upon hearing the news about her own child.
Doctors were also cautious and even advised the mom-to-be to consider an abortion. “We were told if Robert lived he would have no quality of life and would be severely brain damaged,” Hartman revealed in a YouTube video documenting their journey. However, she wasn’t going to give up on her son just yet.
So, on April 22, 2010 Hartman gave birth to a little boy who she named Robert. He had a head circumference of 20 inches: seven inches larger than the average 13-inch head circumference of a baby at birth. At just one day old, then, little Robert underwent his first surgery.
The operation involved inserting a small tube, known as a shunt, into Robert’s brain. This allowed the extra fluid to drain from the brain into the abdomen, from where it could then be easily absorbed into the body’s bloodstream. Fortunately, the procedure seemed to go well, and after recovering for 15 days the little baby was able to go home.
However, Robert still had a long road to recovery ahead of him. After a while, in fact, his parents began to notice that their little boy seemed uncomfortable. It eventually emerged, that after just two weeks, Robert’s shunt had begun to fail.
As a result, the tiny tot was rushed back to the hospital. And while there, doctors did an electroencephalogram (EEG) scan to determine whether Robert was having seizures. As it turned out, though, Robert had caught a staph infection from his last operation.
So Robert was given an external ventricular drain on his brain before undergoing surgery again. At first, the new device was over-draining the fluid; after a while, though, it began to work just fine. Soon, then, Robert was recovering in leaps and bounds – as Hartman admitted on her YouTube video, her little boy was “a fighter.”
Eventually, though, as Hartman revealed on her YouTube clip, “Robert was finally able to relax and be a baby.” That video was uploaded in order to document Robert’s life so far; the touching document has since been viewed over 80,000 times.
“Robert is amazing and gets stronger and smarter every day,” Hartman also wrote at the end of the montage. And thanks to the video’s popularity, the family decided to continue documenting their baby’s progress on YouTube. Footage posted there showed Robert enjoying life just like other babies – taking a bath, laughing happily at his cooing mom and enjoying play dates with his friend Paige.
Then Robert achieved something incredible: after being told by medical professionals that their son would probably never walk, Hartman and her partner uploaded a video of him doing just that. Robert, in fact, was growing up to be quite the active little boy.
“Needless to say we are so proud of every milestone, big or small,” Hartman wrote on YouTube. “Robert is living proof of God’s grace. Given a grim outlook for his life we never gave up, and neither has Robert,” she added.
Indeed, Robert continued to prove his doctors wrong and continuously conquered tasks he’d never been expected to do. Other videos, for example, show Robert confidently reciting the alphabet, standing up all by himself and climbing a set of stairs. And it was clear to see in them how proud Hartman was of her little boy.
Little Robert also developed a love of music and, at the age of three, started tinkling around on the family’s keyboard. In fact, it seemed as if there was nothing Robert couldn’t do if he put his mind to it. And with his parents’ love, prayers and support, the toddler was becoming very smart indeed.
As for Robert’s amazing recovery, his parents are incredibly grateful for all the medical care he has received. In fact, he’s already grown through two helmets to help shape his head. And it’s clear to see this little boy’s quality of life is significantly greater than anyone could have hoped.
Now aged six, Robert has become a member of his local Sparrow Club in Oregon, which recently raised $5,400 for him and his family. Also since he started first grade, his parents are as proud as ever. “Right now he has a wheelchair and a walker. He is very strong-willed and likes to move his own chair. He gets frustrated when others try and push it,” Hartman revealed to website Little Things in October 2016.
Robert’s incredible story has also gone on to inspire other families dealing with hydrocephalus. “My son is 30 years old now and has had three surgeries, he’s a real comedian and a joy to his brothers and sisters,” one person wrote on YouTube. “My cousin is in her late fifties and has had a full and happy life, so to say end a pregnancy due to obstacles is an ignorant statement. I am one lucky and blessed person to have her in my life,” another said.
Indeed, this courageous little boy proved all his doubters wrong. What’s more, he has also given hope to others facing health battles and debilitating illnesses. And, in some way, Robert’s story is an inspiration to us all to never give up no matter what’s thrown at us.