Liam is more than a regular dude. He has an IQ of 143. He won a place in an art exhibit in his county of Sussex, N.J. He was one of two fourth graders in Sussex County selected to display their work at the Educators of New Jersey 2013 Youth Art Month State Exhibit held at the Statehouse in Trenton, and Liam was one of 40 students statewide to win a spot by audition in the prestigious New Jersey Elementary Honor Choir performing in the Spring of 2013. He is a top-performing fourth-grade student at Helen Morgan School in Sparta.
Liam was also born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type II, a rare genetic disorder that affects 8 in 100,000 live births and 1 in 6000 to 10,000 children worldwide. Because he has SMA Type II, Liam does not have use of his legs and has limited use of his arms.
In 2011 Liam’s health took a harrowing turn. His low muscle tone led to a curvature of the spine so severe, Liam was in constant pain and had to wear a body jacket to help keep his spine in place. His parents say they were in a panic, first over Liam’s severe pain and then over the prospect of the required spinal surgery. Liam says he too was afraid. Dr. Samuel J. Laufer, Chief of Pediatric Orthopedics at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, helped allay the Rust family’s fear with his honesty and optimism, says Mr. Rust. Dr. Laufer performed a 7-hour spinal fusion surgery in July 2011 that Liam refers to as the “big ouch.” The surgery was so successful it changed Liam’s life.
Mr. Rust adds, “Without sounding corny, Dr. Lawler and Children’s Specialized Hospital have performed a miracle in Liam’s life. Liam can sit upright in a chair today without any assistance and doesn’t have to contend with the painful skin ulcerations he had prior to the surgery. Another benefit of being at Children’s Specialized was the seamless transition from the surgery at Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital to therapy at PSE&G Children’s Specialized Hospital. It helped my son gain a faster and stronger recovery.”