Eight-year-old Andrew Little wants just one thing for Christmas — actually, lots of that one thing: Christmas cards. Enough to cover the walls of his room at St. Joseph Home in Sharonville and to share with friends there.
When Andrew was about 15 months old, he contracted a rapid onset of transverse myelitis, a swelling of the spinal cord, which paralyzed him from the neck down. Doctors told his family, “He wasn’t going to live beyond the week,” said his grandmother and guardian, Alyson Little of Fairfield Twp. “Then, when he did, they said, ‘He’s never going to be able to communicate past what he’s doing now. He’ll never be able to talk, there’s too much brain damage.’”
Those predictions also were wrong.
Andrew is clever, has an 8-year-old’s wit, attends second grade at Evendale Elementary and loves the Bengals — especially wide receiver A.J. Green because he said he’s so fast and Andrew Whitworth because they share a first name.
He also wants to attend the University of Cincinnati someday, which is considered against the odds because he’s so medically fragile.
“So far, I’ve received messages from people all over the country that they’ve seen it,” Alyson Little said, noting many are from people she doesn’t know. Her hope was, “Maybe I could get him 25-30, at the most, 50 cards, just enough to put in his room, for us to read a card a day.”
The cards have been slow in coming so far, but already he’s ahead of last Christmas.
“Last year he only got four cards,” his grandmother said.
“After his mother passed away (in 2012), I wanted to do something to bring the world to him, because he couldn’t go to the world. This year, about a week ago, I just decided to promote it on Facebook. I had $35 left in my checking account, and it was $30 to promote it. So I’m like, ‘Just let me see what happens,’ ” she said.
Alyson Little said Andrew enjoys kid-oriented cards most. He enjoys looking at the photos and then the inside messages.
Andrew is on a ventilator, and “to keep him alive has been a huge medical undertaking,” Alyson Little said. “I mean, he has monitors, and they go off. And his medication list is just endless.”
His heart monitor has flat-lined many times, she said. His lungs are so damaged, the flu or pneumonia could be deadly.
His grandmother called St. Joseph and other facilities every six months for three years asking if they had a bed available for Andrew. One day, the answer was yes.
“It was truly like a Utopia,” Alyson Little said. “They don’t just care for the residents, they have pure love, and that’s not something you can pay for.”
Operated by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, St. Joseph is a non-profit home for adults and children who use wheelchairs and have complex medical needs.
“The director of nurses, when she took me around, she knew everybody, their history, their names, their family members,” Alyson Little said. “I knew, if I couldn’t bring him home with me, that was where I wanted him.”
“He’s a very sweet little boy. He’s very kind, very generous. His heart is so big, and he’s so full of compassion,” she said.
After his birthday Nov. 25, “he wanted to give away his gifts to all the residents, because he wanted to share the love,” she said. “He wanted all the residents to come to his birthday party.”
“When any of the residents are sick and he knows it, he constantly asks about them,” she said. “He’s very loving and nurturing.”
“And I’m going to tell you something,” his proud grandma said: “He remembers people and their names from when he was 3 years old. If you talked about something today, and you didn’t see him for six months, he would pick that conversation right back up where you left off.”
When he and sister Aubrey, a fifth grader at Fairfield Intermediate School, get together, they tease like any siblings, his grandmother said.
“For somebody who has such a hard life, honestly, he’s very optimistic and happy,” she said. “He does not look at himself as having challenges or disabilities. He puts everyone else in front of him.”
Want to send Andrew a Christmas card? Mail it to: Andrew Little, 4181 Weathered Oaks Lane, Hamilton, OH 45011.
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