(From an article by Eleanor Nelson, M.M. Report, Feb. 1984)

Kevin said his first word at seven months. He is now crawling and he sits up by himself. That’s not unusual for a child who has just celebrated his first birthday. But Kevin is a special child. He attracted national attention shortly after he was born. He was born with Spina Bifida, a birth defect in which the lower spine is not completely formed.

He lay in an Illinois hospital for more than three weeks, but surgery was not done. The manner in which the hospital handled the case prompted investigations by two federal agencies and a storm of questions relating to deny surgery for the child.

A right-to life group asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, whose initial finding was that no laws were violated in the hospital treatment, to reopen its investigation. Eventually, life saving surgery was performed on Kevin at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and soon after he was given a home.

“Look at that child,” Kevin’s adoptive father said last week, as the baby’s tiny fingers reached out to pat his new mother’s cheek. “Is that a child who should have been allowed to die?”

The couple are parents of two other children. They had asked Lutheran Child and Family Services, a state wide social service agency, to find a “special needs” child for them to adopt. Then the mother heard radio news reports about a Spina Bifida baby in southern Illinois. The reports mentioned the controversy over the refusal to perform surgery on the child.

The mother recalled that when she heard the report, “I said to myself, I wonder what’s going to happen to that child.” Two days later, a call from the agency informed her that she and her husband could adopt the boy. They adopted Kevin after his natural parents transferred guardianship to the state. They took him home from the hospital July 3,1986 after he had recovered from his operation.

Recently, Kevin’s mother said, “I don’t think his natural parents would recognize him now.” Kevin coos and gurgles like any baby and crawls in his own way, like a little inchworm. He tosses his stuffed toys out of his crib, watching delightedly as his brother and sister pick them up.

His special needs are few. Five times a day he is strapped into his leg brace. He stands for 20 minutes at a time to strengthen his trunk muscles. He also wears a brace at night. But for most of the time he is just a normal baby. His new parents are optimistic about his future. They believe that his alertness proves there has been no brain damage and that his paralysis from the knees down won’t keep him from walking.

Right now, he is just a baby who has found a place where he knows he is wanted and loved. “Isn’t he beautiful?” his proud father asked. “Who has the right to say whether that child should live or die?”