|Ashley in 1998|
On the last day of 2006, a 3 year-old boy was found wandering along I-465 in Indianapolis wearing only a diaper and t-shirt. His mother was asleep in their squalid apartment. When police reached the boy’s home, his mother was still asleep, and his sister, also quite young, was eating cold spaghetti off the floor.
Also this past December, an infant girl endured four of her toes being chewed off by a family pet while her parents slept on a mattress in the living room floor. The baby was in the floor by her parents when this happened. As of this writing, there is still some debate as to whether the poor kid's toes were gnawed off by the ferret or the pit bull terrier. Both were in the room with the child as the parents slept.
With all the abuse and neglect of children in this country, it is a rare pleasure to hear of someone who truly goes above and beyond the call to care for a child. Such is the case of "Ashley X" (her parents are attempting to remain anonymous).
Ashley was born with static encephalopathy, and has no use of her arms and legs. She can't hold her head up on her own. She cannot eat normally and requires a feeding tube. Ashley can't even roll over in bed by herself. And Ashley's mind has not and will never develop beyond that of a newborn. She will remain in a newborn's tiny world all of her life.
Ashley’s parents were determined to care for their daughter at home rather than send her off to an institution. As Ashley grew, the physical burden of moving her around their home and transporting her from place to place grew as well. Still, her parents continued to care for their daughter.
At age six, Ashley began showing signs of an early puberty. This caused Ashley’s parents to seriously consider what the future might hold for her as she grew into an adult in the physical sense, but with none of an adult’s mental capabilities. How would someone with the mind of a newborn deal with the pain of menstrual cramps? With both of Ashley’s parents being fairly tall – her father is 6’ 1” and her mother 5’ 9” – how much more difficult would it be to move her as she reached adulthood? To adjust her position (she can’t move by herself) in bed or in her chair? To include her in family activities? To bathe her?
Equally distressing to her parents was the prospect of a young, attractive and fertile woman with no ability to speak for herself, much less defend herself should she be attacked. Abuse of the disabled is unfortunately yet another perversion that has increased in frequency in America over the years.
Ashley’s mother came upon the idea of further accelerating her early puberty to minimize her adult height and weight. The family discussed their options with Dr. Daniel F. Gunther, Associate Professor of Pediatrics in Endocrinology at Seattle Children’s Hospital. It was here that they learned of a high-dose estrogen therapy that could lessen Ashley’s adult height and weight by a significant amount with no long-term side effects.
As the discussions expanded to deal with the totality of Ashley’s situation, a strategy was developed that would employ time-tested and safe procedures to prevent Ashley from developing into an adult. In effect, she would remain a child all of her life.
Because of the nature of the procedure and the condition of the patient, it was first necessary to gain the approval of the ethics committee of Seattle Children’s Hospital. On May Fifth of 2004, the family, aided by Doctor Gunther, presented their case to a panel of forty medical professionals. The procedure was approved, and surgery followed in July.
What has become known as “The Ashley Treatment” included a hysterectomy, appendectomy, and removal of Ashley’s breast buds. The surgery went smoothly and there have been no complications. This was followed by the high-dose estrogen therapy to control her growth, which lasted two and half years and ended recently.
The treatment has been successful. It was estimated that without treatment Ashley would have reached an adult height of 5’ 6” and weighed approximately 125 pounds. As a result of the estrogen, her growth topped out at 4’ 5” and 65 pounds.
In October of 2006, Ashley’s doctors published an article on the use of estrogen to inhibit physical growth in developmentally challenged children. The article brought national attention to Ashley and her family, and the predictable storm of harsh judgment from those who had no real knowledge of the situation outside of what was seen in the media. Thankfully, there has also been a goodly amount of positive response.
Ashley’s family was overwhelmed by interview requests, phone calls and e-mails. As a result, on December 19, 2006 the family posted a huge and comprehensive blog post to explain their reasoning and dispel the myth that Ashley had been “mutilated” for her parents’ convenience. I for one am in complete agreement with her parents. They have done a great service for their daughter by giving her a body far more suitable to her mental capabilities. Ashley will spend her life with the mind of a small child. Now she is guaranteed the body of a child as well.
With her small stature, her parents will be able to care for her as they grow older and their own physical strength begins to wane. They will be able to better include her in family activities because transporting her will be far easier. Ashley’s low body weight will make her less prone to bed sores, and the lack of breasts will allow her much more comfort while lying down. That’s important, since she is incapable of sitting or standing on her own. Ashley will never endure menstrual cramps. She will never be a victim of uterine cancer or breast cancer. She will never suffer an attack of appendicitis.
With all of the challenges facing Ashley and her family, they have somehow managed to create the possibility of Ashley having as near to a normal life as is possible for someone with her condition. She will live her life with her family, rather than being in the company of strangers in an institution. She will travel, and will experience the world in whatever capacity she is able.
In a world where monsters like Michael Schiavo are free to murder for convenience, where child abuse and neglect are rampant and abortion is considered a viable option to condom use, these loving people have sought the higher ground. Mr. and Mrs. X, I salute you.
(Images used with permission)