Courtesy Linda Bannon(CHICAGO) — A Chicago mother and son who were both born without arms are an inspiring testament to overcoming obstacles.
Linda Bannon, 37, and her son Timmy, who turned 11 on Monday, were born with Holt-Oram syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes abnormalities of the upper limbs and heart.
“I think there’s much more of a special bond between me and Tim than your average mom and son,” Linda Bannon told ABC News Tuesday.
Although she was born without arms, Bannon said her parents never treated her any different from her four younger siblings who were not born with the disorder.
“I was always expected to do chores and participate with the family activities like all the other kids,” Bannon said. “I just had to adapt and learn how to use my feet how other people use their hands.”
When she was about 5 or 6 years old, Bannon was fitted for prosthetic arms at Shriner’s Hospitals for Children in Chicago, but she preferred not to use them.
Bannon thrived. She went on to receive a degree in elementary education and eventually married her husband Richard in 2004.
Soon after, the couple became pregnant. But like his mother, doctors said the baby would too be born without his arms.
“Because they were looking at the presentation of no arms and the heart anomalies, they said that it was an indication of Holt-Oram syndrome,” Bannon recalled. “In the beginning, obviously it’s kind of a shock. No parent ever wants to know that their child is affected with a condition that’s going to alter their life. For, the most part, knowing I grew up this way, and I feel like my life was pretty good — I didn’t have fears for him. The biggest fear was how serious his heart condition was. That was more concerning than his disability.”
On May 2, 2005, Timmy was born. When he was 8 days old, he had open heart surgery and spent two months in the ICU.
Now at 11 years old, Timmy is a typical boy — energetic and outgoing, his mother said.
“Lately, he’s been referred to as Mr. President because he likes to be out with people talking,” Bannon said, laughing. “He doesn’t really shy away from social situations, so that how he’s gotten that nickname.”
She added: “He likes being outside, he definitely likes being very psychically active as much as he can be,” Bannon said. “Swimming, [riding] the modified bicycle — when we got that for him he was very excited because that meant he could keep up with everyone else on the trails.”
The mother-son duo use their feet for everything — to brush their teeth, comb their hair, draw a picture and more. Timmy even uses his feet to play video games.
Growing up, Timmy looked to his mother to show him how to improvise daily tasks by utilizing his lower limbs.
“We laugh because as much as I try to help him, I’ll say, ‘You’re doing it the hard way,'” Bannon said. “I think it’s funny because I’ve already done the legwork, so why reinvent the wheel? That’s been his personality since day one. One of our first doctor visits, I said, [Timmy] is just so stubborn.’ The doctor said, ‘No way, you’re kid is stubborn? I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.'”
Sara Klaas, director of business development at Chicago Shriners Hospital said she and the staff at the facility have been working with the Bannon family since Linda was a child.
“Over 30 years ago, Linda Bannon received our life-changing care and now, that same care and expertise are given to her son, Tim,” Klaas said. “Shriners Hospital for Children – Chicago is proud to touch generation after generation of children and families who need our world-class care..”
Timmy and his mom first grabbed the world’s attention six years ago, after Bannon shared their story with ABC Chicago.
Now, Bannon said she’s willing to continue spreading the word of their journey, as long as it keeps inspiring others.
“I think it really shows the power of the human spirit,” she said. “A lot of people will see someone with such a severe physical condition and think, ‘How is it possible to do all the things they’ve done?’ It gives [people] hope that even though they have challenges, as long as they have a positive attitude about it, then they’ll be able to conquer the same challenges.”
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