Heather and David Britton want everyone to understand a few things about their giggling, bespectacled 3-year-old son, Chase.
"He's happy. We call him the Little Gremlin. He loves to play tricks on people. He loves to sing. His goal in life is to make people smile," Heather Britton told AOL News.
"He's got so much love around him. We're an extremely happy family. His story is not tragic."
But to an outsider, the Brittons' story might seem heartbreaking. might seem heartbreaking.
Chase was also born prematurely, and he was legally blind. When he was 1 year old, doctors did an MRI, expecting to find he had a mild case of cerebral palsy. Instead, they discovered he was completely missing his cerebellum -- the part of the brain that controls motor skills, balance and emotions.
"That's when the doctor called and didn't know what to say to us," Britton said in a telephone interview. "No one had ever seen it before. And then we'd go to the neurologists and they'd say, 'That's impossible.' 'He has the MRI of a vegetable,' one of the doctors said to us."
... Chase is not a vegetable, leaving doctors bewildered and experts rethinking what they thought they knew about the human brain.
"There are some very bright, specialized people across the country and in Europe that have put their minds to this dilemma and are continuing to do so, and we haven't come up with an answer," Dr. Adre du Plessis, chief of Fetal and Transitional Medicine at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., told Fox News affiliate WGRZ.
"So it is a mystery."
Chase also is missing his pons, the part of the brain stem that controls basic functions, such as sleeping and breathing. There is only fluid where the cerebellum and pons should be, Britton said.
Britton's pregnancy was complicated, so doctors closely monitored her. Deepening the mystery, she has detailed ultrasound pictures of Chase's brain during various stages of fetal development and the images clearly show he once had a cerebellum.
Chase eventually managed to sit up on his own, something he shouldn't have been able to do without a cerebellum to provide balance. Next he learned to crawl, first dragging himself military-style, then pushing himself upright. Now, he's learning to walk.
"He keeps going," his mom said. "He keeps picking up new things and progressing. We call it, 'Chase pace.'"
In the fall, Chase started going to a specialized preschool near his New York home three days a week.
"I'm in awe of him every day," Sharon Schultz, his teacher at CHC Learning Center in Williamsville, N.Y., told WGRZ.
"Things that, based on that diagnosis, he should not be able to do, he is doing. I mean, walking up and down the hall, riding a bike, holding a pencil or a pen to work on projects, using scissors."Her message, she said, is simple: "Don't give up on your kids."
"Don't believe everything the doctors say. Don't get me wrong. I love doctors. But they can be wrong. ... Chase is extremely healthy. And he's extremely smart -- his motor skills just haven't caught up," she told AOL News.
"People could view this as a tragic story. But that depends on how you look at life. You can be angry or you can appreciate what you have been given," she said. ...
via Chase Britton, Boy Without a Cerebellum, Baffles Doctors.