Growing Up Gibson

Bob Fecho living the good life after being successfully treated for a heart attack

The Williams’ story of miracles and milestones

Looking for outpatient rehabilitation for their miracle baby, the Williams choose St. Mary’s

Watch a video about this heart-warming story.

Gibson Williams is two years old. Like most boys his age, Gibson is growing and changing every day. He loves to bang on drums, hang out with his grandpa, and help take care of his new baby sister. So what makes Gibson special? He was born with half a heart.

Even before he was born, Gibson’s parents, David and Alison Williams of Statham knew that Gibson would need special care. They sought out the best pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons around, which meant travelling to Atlanta for the highly specialized care that would give Gibson his best opportunity for a normal life. Before he was 6 months old, Gibson had undergone three corrective open heart surgeries.

But during Gibson’s third surgery, complications arose that resulted in a temporary loss of blood flow to his brain. The surgery was completed successfully, but Gibson experienced setbacks due to the complications. After surgery, Gibson was kept in a medically-induced coma for five days to stabilize his symptoms.

“It was like he had a stroke at six months old,” David shared. “Much of the progress he had made up to that point – sitting, reaching, rolling over – was gone.”

Alison remembered, “Those were the hardest five days of my life. We weren’t sure what to expect when he woke up. Our doctors warned us to expect the worst.”

But after he woke, staff were impressed with the progress Gibson made during his three weeks in the cardiac intensive care unit. “Our nurses and doctors in Atlanta knew that Gibson would need therapy to keep progressing forward, and they had complete confidence in referring us to St. Mary’s for outpatient rehabilitation,” Alison said. Finally, the Williams returned home.

Gibson’s Rehabilitation Begins

After weeks of physical inactivity, Gibson was at the development level of a newborn. He began therapy at St. Mary’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center at just over six months old. When he arrived he worked with physical therapists on head and neck strength, trunk control and muscle tightness. He worked with occupational therapists on fine motor skills, and he worked with speech language therapists on eating, sucking and chewing food.

“We use a comprehensive, team approach to therapy,” said St. Mary’s physical therapist Natalie Gillespie. “Our PT, OT and speech therapy teams work together very well. We get to know the whole person and anticipate their needs. This gives our patients and their families confidence in the care they are getting at St. Mary’s.”

Quality Care. Close to Home.

“Gibson has made significant progress at St. Mary’s. He reached milestones we did not know if he would ever reach.” Alison shared. Gibson has conquered everything from crawling and cruising to feeding himself.

Speech therapist Katie Benfield explained that everyone is motivated by something different, and it did not take long to find the activity that motivates Gibson. “We learned pretty quickly that he is motivated by music,” she said. “Give Gibson a set of drums or a toy that plays music and he is a happy guy. Sometimes he forgets he is at therapy.”

Staff at St. Mary’s have watched Gibson progress to walking with the help of a walker. They continue to work on fine motor skills and building up his strength and endurance.

Alison explained, “The staff at St. Mary’s makes it a priority to work with Gibson on activities he’ll need in everyday life. When he goes home and applies something he learned in therapy, he lights up.”

Gibson continues to surprise his physicians, therapists and family with his remarkable progress. “Our specialists in Atlanta are very impressed with the care he is receiving at St. Mary’s. His doctors have even referred some of my questions to Gibson’s therapists,” Alison said. “Because he comes here once a week the staff at St. Mary’s has gotten to know Gibson and our family well. The consistency and familiarity has been extremely helpful in the progress he has made.”

Alison and David feel blessed to have St. Mary’s rehab staff to walk Gibson through each milestone. “Our hope, of course, is that one day Gibson will not be held back by what he can’t do,” Alison shared misty-eyed. “In the meantime, we enjoy every moment with him. You will never hear me complain about a ‘terrible’ two-year old tantrum. I appreciate every little thing about Gibson.” His journey to recovery is not over yet, but just putting one foot in front of the other, Gibson is moving in the right direction.

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St. Mary’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center is located just off Ga. 316 near the Athens Perimeter at The Exchange, 2470 Daniells Bridge Road in Athens. St. Mary’s highly-qualified staff practice a comprehensive team approach to therapy for patients of all ages; utilizing education for patients and caregivers, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech-language pathology, as appropriate. Rehabilitative services require a physician’s referral. For more information call 706-389-2950 or visit St. Mary's Outpatient Rehabilitation Center webpage.