By Lorcan McCormick
MP Associate Editor
Elijah Petty smiles. Grammatically a semicolon should be used here to bridge the sentence, as that is a relative clause and dependent on a fuller idea. But what is written is a full idea: fully expressing the value of a human being, his life, and what he extends to other lives; Elijah Petty smiles. “Elijah’s story is more than just special needs, God has used him to change an addict into a recovered loving caring, mother, He used him to give a little girl a mother she so deserved, He used him to bless Chad and myself, to be the parents we always prayed to be, and He uses him daily to bless a person that is having that bad day with a smile that can light up the world.”
Those are the words of Elijah’s mother, quoted without artifice or exaggeration. In any structure of thought Robbie Petty of Martin, mother, constructs there is permeating two constants; God and Love: love of family, love of her work, love of God, and love of Elijah. “I want people to know that all people have a purpose, and I believe God uses Elijah everyday to bring a little light in what seems like a dark world at times.”
The specter of darkness clouds the early part of Elijah’s story, and perhaps one could construe it clouded the early part of Robbie’s story also; in this way possibly their paths merging is the most healing of realities in their lives. Robbie is married to Chad Petty, and early in her life she received sobering news regarding her health in the form of a diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome; the diagnosis is not a death certificate for being able to conceive a child, but leaves the odds at a very low percentage. Yet Robbie Petty never ceased believing in her place as a mother, she never gave up the desire nor the will to serve such a role. To borrow a quote by Robbie from an article by Macenna True, who offered her assistance in bringing Robbie and Elijah’s story to a broader audience, published in the Weakley County Press for Mother’s Day a year ago, “and I would cry and I would pray; I would pray and I would cry, and every time he would tell me the same thing – in His time.”
In 2018, events began to manifest that would alter the Petty family’s lives forever. In keeping with the wishes of the Petty family, the individual in question will be referred to by the pseudonym Angel. Angel is a recovering addict who has been for some time now on the path of stability and health – she now has custody of her daughter, and has a part in Elijah’s life as well – but in the latter half of 2018 her journey had a long road ahead to that place which she occupies now. In that time her battles with addiction were ongoing, and she found herself pregnant with the boy that would become Elijah, and in a moment of clarity that foreshadows her growth into the mother she has become she felt she could not properly care for that child. At this time Robbie and Chad Petty had started foster parenting classes and were halfway through when they stopped, knowing that it was this child, that it was his time.
Robbie worked with Angel and was there every step of the way during the pregnancy; just before Robbie’s 36th birthday in November they found out they would be having a boy. In these hours all seemed simple enough, as simple as they could be within such contradictorily complex parameters, but there were twists remaining in the story. On Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, Angel found herself in the hospital as a result of a relapse which had been triggered by an altercation with her significant other. Initially this was disquieting insofar as the situation regarding Angel herself, but soon it would come to be that Elijah Petty, whose due date was April 4, 2019, would be joining this world on his own time that Christmas Eve.
What followed were months of fear, worry, and prayer. Elijah was born a micro-preemie at 25 weeks: he was high risk for brain bleeds and hydrocephalus, which is when cerebrospinal fluid accumulates in the brain. The doctors stressed the unlikely nature of Elijah’s survival, but Robbie, as she always had, retained faith; to borrow an essential quote again from Ms. True’s article Robbie said, “he was so little. So tiny. I understood the risks. I’ve been in healthcare a long time. But he looked at me and I knew it was going to be okay.” Elijah suffered brain bleeds and has cerebral palsy of a more severe kind, and there were times where it seemed dubious to hope he would make it out of those initial days. On Feb. 4, 2019 Robbie Petty held her son the day he could come off the vent and use high-flow oxygen.
Elijah Petty now lives a life the same as any other boy. Elijah is a student at Sharon School; he has a best friend, Dawson Fuqua, who hugs him every time he sees him, he beams a cherubic grin flanked by Goofy and Donald at Disney World, and he has an exuberance to him which is irrepressible; he wears a strap on his wheelchair, “because he gets excited and scoots in his chair.” Robbie smiles as she says that, she smiles when saying just about anything regarding Elijah, “residents from around the area are always coming up to him and talking to him and they tell me they saw his sweet smile on facebook and they will always say it brightened their day to see him on a bad day, or it always make them happy and smile to see his pictures and what he has overcome.” Yes, he has limitations and there is always concern about his health, but his family is undaunted by it, “special needs are not something that needs hidden, children ask questions, it doesn’t offend us at all, I am glad they are curious. They learn from an early age that there are all different types of people in this world and that is ok.”
Currently, the Petty family is striving to raise funds to buy a wheelchair accessible van which can support Elijah as he gets bigger. To quote Ms. True who spoke with us for the piece, “I’ve known Robbie a long time. As a healthcare professional and a friend she is selfless, kind, and a true advocate for humanity. God’s light shines through that woman in every aspect of her life. Robbie is one to ‘figure it out’ for herself and never asks for help, but is the first to step in when others are in need. Elijah is beating all the odds and growing like a weed! He needs a van to accommodate his wheelchair so they can continue to safely transport him to and from the doctor, not to mention so he can be out in the community seeing all the people he loves and brightening everyone’s days! There is a GoFundMe account out there and there are several fundraisers planned. I encourage everyone to help with any amount they can and know that by helping them you’re helping a loving and selfless family who deserve it.”
As we leave our story for now it is with the bright world of Robbie and Chad Petty having their son Elijah, in his time and their’s, and the bright world of Angel reunited with her daughter and sober, having overcome and overcoming everyday her past affliction. Robbie’s closing remarks are like that of any mother, “we just want to provide Elijah with the life of any child. To give him quality of life of any child.” Based on how Elijah Petty smiles, one could surmise they are doing a fine job in accomplishing this.
If one wishes to donate to the GoFundMe page it is titled, “Help Elijah Get a Wheelchair Accessible Van.”