Standing just 2 feet, 11 inches tall, Brittany Stout doesn’t look like a typical 21-year-old.
Born with dwarfism, Stout has grown accustomed to the stares and puzzled looks she receives — from children and adults alike. She takes it in stride, greeting them with a “hi” and a smile.
“I would rather people to know and ask questions than to just kind of sit there and wonder,” Stout said. “So I’ve gotten very used to striking up conversation with people, just because they don’t feel comfortable yet. You have to make people feel comfortable, so they’re like, ‘OK, she’s normal — she’s just small.’”
That positive attitude has helped Stout through the challenges she faces living with spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita, a rare bone-growth disorder that results in dwarfism. Her spine is curved, her hips and legs are malformed and one of her legs is longer than the other, which makes simply getting around a challenge.
“Walking around the mall or walking downtown or something like that, it will hurt after 30 minutes of walking and I’ll have to slow down,” she said. “It’ll hurt the rest of the day and that night, and it’ll start getting better the next day if I don’t overdo it.”
In hopes of alleviating her daily pain, Stout will undergo surgery later this year to lengthen her right leg and straighten her legs, spine, hips and feet. Following the surgery, she will have to wear full braces on both legs and undergo daily physical therapy, essentially relearning to walk.
“It’s going to be a long road,” said her mother, Angie Stout.
“If I don’t have the surgery, I will be wheelchair-bound and severely arthritic,” Brittany said.
The surgery will be performed by Dr. Dror Paley, a renowned limb-lengthening and deformity-correction surgeon in West Palm Beach, Fla. The extensive surgery, recovery and physical therapy will require her and her mom to spend three months in Florida, away from their family and friends in Effingham.
To support Brittany, Springfield First Baptist Church is hosting “a time of prayer and encouragement” this Saturday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Methodist Campground in Springfield. The Stout family attends Springfield FBC, and Angie works there as well.
The day will include live music, children’s games, face painting and an appearance by the Easter bunny. A “wishing well” will be set up for people to place cards and notes of encouragement for Brittany.
Money will be raised through a silent auction and sales of spaghetti dinners, baked goods and T-shirts, and people are welcome to make any other donations. However, Brittany said, the fundraising isn’t the focal point of the event.
“It really is a day of prayer and encouragement, because we’re going to need a lot of that,” she said. “It’s going to be hard emotionally to be away from our whole family for that long.”
As they await Dr. Paley setting the date for Brittany’s surgery, the Stouts hope to raise $15,000 for their trip. Brittany’s page on the fundraising site www.GoFundMe.com has brought in $2,175, and another $2,000 in donations have come from other donors and T-shirt sales.
“What we’re raising the money for is not even for the expenses of the surgery,” Brittany said. “It’s to have the money to stay there for three months, because my mom will be out of work for three months.”
Brittany is no stranger to being in the hospital. At six years old, she underwent a spinal fusion and spent the next six months wearing a halo brace.
After Brittany was born, “we lived in hospitals for almost two years,” Angie said. Brittany had a weak immune system and was prone to upper- and lower-respiratory infections.
“Because of the size of her chest, her lungs really couldn’t expand and take any air, and she was always getting sick,” Angie said.
Both Brittany and Angie credit the Effingham community with helping them through life’s challenges. For example, when Brittany was a student at Effingham County High School, principal Yancy Ford allowed her a five-minute head start on getting to her next class or catching the bus, to avoid the crowded hallways.
A few years earlier, a shop class at ECHS built a special seat for Brittany to use in the Ebenezer Middle lunch room. With three stairs, a handrail and a rotating seat, the custom-built chair elevated Brittany to the height of her classmates.
“It was super cool,” Brittany said.
“We’ve been blessed here in Effingham, we really have,” Angie said.
That’s why, through all of the challenges that have resulted from Brittany’s dwarfism, Angie and her husband Jody say they wouldn’t change a thing.
“I knew that it would be challenging, but I knew that we could do it,” Angie said. “And I knew with the Lord’s help, we’d get through it — and we have.”
A Time of Prayer and Encouragement
To support Brittany Stout
• When: Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
• Where: Methodist Campground, Springfield
• What: Live music, silent auction, children’s games, face painting, Easter bunny, spaghetti dinners, baked goods and T-shirts