DANIELS, WV (WVNS)– Hunter “Rowdey” Williams of Daniels is almost six months old, but he already has a following on Facebook.
Rowdey’s parents, Audrey and Robert Williams said he also has many friends at the family’s church, Calvary Assemblies of God, and on his brother Austin Long’s baseball team.
“They all like him better than me,” Austin said. “So they all gather around his stroller when we first get there (to the field).”
Audrey and Robert said Rowdey, the third child in their family, is their miracle baby.
The couple was going for Audrey’s 20-week ultrasound scan during her pregnancy. They were planning a party to reveal the baby’s gender to family and friends and excitedly told the ultrasound tech not to blow the surprise, they recalled.
But the appointment took a somber turn when the technician noticed the pregnancy was not a typical one. Robert said Audrey was scared and that he comforted her.
At church, Audrey said, a number of congregants prayed for her and the pregnancy.
Audrey was referred to a specialist in Huntington. There, the couple learned Rowdey would be born with spina bifida, a birth defect that affects up to 2,000 American babies each year.
Robert said the car was parked across from a baseball field where he had once played ball. With the diagnosis, he said he began to get emotional, as he realized that the expected baby would likely not play on a baseball team.
“The first thing (thought) was, he’s not going to be able to play baseball,” recalled Robert. “And I’ve coached Austin since he was little. I’ve played ball since high school. That’s a bond me and Austin closely share,” he added. “That’s brought us together.”
Robert said he decided to learn how to relate to the new baby in another way.
Audrey made the courageous decision to put her own health at risk when doctors told her that Rowdey was a prime candidate for a surgery that would close an opening on his back and prevent it from getting infected.
Audrey decided she would undergo a major surgery so that doctors could operate on Rowdey while he was in her uterus.
The couple went to Cincinnati for the surgery, staying at a Ronald McDonald House there. They would stay for 80 nights, through Rowdey’s premature birth in February until he was released to return home.
“They provided two hot meals a day, they had laundry services,” she said. “Anything you could think of, they had available for you at the House. So you didn’t have to pay for anything. You could just focus on helping your child get well.”
Audrey said she felt the prayers of loved ones and strangers throughout her pregnancy and felt peace from God.
Robert wanted to name the baby “Rowdey,” but Audrey balked. She said doctors told her while she was pregnant that the name seemed to fit, so Audrey agreed to give the baby “Rowdey” as his nickname.
The baby has defied the odds, doing things his doctors first believed he would never do. When he was born, he was moving his feet, a major relief, since doctors did not know if he would be able to do so.
“One of his doctors in the NICU, he said he’s doing everything he shouldn’t be doing,” Audrey told us. “We said, ‘We have a lot of people praying for him.'”
She said the doctor told her, “Well tell them to keep it up, because it’s working.”
Audrey is organizing a 5K Fun Run called “Hustle for the House” on July 30 at Woodrow Wilson High football field. Proceeds go to the Ronald McDonald House in Cincinnati, where the couple said they received the support they needed during Audrey’s pregnancy and after Rowdey was born.
“There are a lot of families here that have experience with going to the Ronald McDonald House in Cincinnati,” said Robert, explaining the family’s decision to support the house in Cincinnati instead of one in West Virginia.
“Ours was for spina bifida. We know a few other couples in this area that have went to the Ronald McDonald House in Cincinnati.”
Ronald McDonald House has asked the community to provide snacks and toys for the house.
More information is available on Facebook.