Four-year-old shows courage, joy for life despite birth defect

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Four-year-old Faith Hastings’ favorite colors are “yellow and green and all the colors of the rainbow.”


It seems fitting that the precocious and affectionate little girl, whose life has included some dark days, should be delighted by rainbows and their promise of sunshine.


Faith was born with hemifacial microsomia, which resulted in the underdevelopment of the right half of her face.


Since she turned 3 months old, Faith has undergone 10 surgeries to repair facial defects, including a cleft between the corner of her mouth and ear that crept toward her eye.


She is blind in her right eye and attends speech therapy but is otherwise healthy and normal.


Most recently, Faith successfully underwent surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., over the summer, which involved taking muscle and tissue from her thighs and buttocks and implanting it along the scar that runs from her forehead to past her cheek.


The surgery was done by reconstructive plastic surgeon Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, a leader in the face transplant field who in March performed the most extensive full face transplant ever completed, on a 37-year-old Virginia man who was injured in a gun accident 15 years ago.


“He is one of the best surgeons in the world. He is the best at what he does,” said Randy Hastings, Faith’s father.


Randy and Faith’s mother, Rachel Hastings, fell in love with their baby girl the moment they held her and, along with Faith’s maternal and paternal grandparents – who are a steady and constant presence – have made it their mission to provide her with a normal life.


“She is awesome. She loves everybody,” said Rachel Hastings, 25, a Washington & Jefferson College graduate. “She never complains about anything, ever.”


The Hastings have gotten support from family and friends (Faith spends weekends with her grandparents) and world-class professional help from Washington obstetrician Dr. Daniel Lattanzi, and doctors at Children’s Hospital and Johns Hopkins.


Medical bills have mounted for the couple, who both are employed – Faith’s surgeries have cost more than $300,000, including the most recent one, which cost $125,000 – but the financial burden isn’t their biggest concern.


Randy and Rachel want Faith to have a happy childhood, and they try to protect her from the stares and rude comments from strangers when they’re out in public.


“I want to get T-shirts made up for Faith and children like her that say ‘Just Ask,’” said Randy.


If they did, people would learn that Faith was a conjoined twin, and that four months into the pregnancy, doctors found that the top of her sister Arianna’s head was connected to Faith’s face.


They would know that Rachel and Randy were forced to make the most difficult decision in their lives when specialists told her that Arianna’s brain would not develop and advised that Faith’s best option for survival was to perform a procedure called cord occlusion that would result in the loss of Arianna.


And if they asked, people would find out that multiple 3D sonograms missed Faith’s congenital defect because her head was facing down. The first time Rachel knew something was wrong was when she heard someone in the delivery room gasp after Faith was born.


“The doctors thought she would be fine. I had some suspicions during the pregnancy – maybe it was a mother’s intuition – that something was wrong,” said Rachel.


To the people who know her, Faith is a smart, compassionate, loving and resilient little girl who finds joy and happiness in each day. She loves Care Bears, dancing, grilled cheese sandwiches and her chihuahua mix named Lucy.


Faith dances two days a week at Studio B, participates in Kingdom Kids at Bethel Presbyterian Church and spends time with friends, especially her best friend Olivia. She loves attending kindergarten at Faith Christian Church.


“She has a lot of friends and to them, she’s just Faith,” said Randy.


But Randy and Rachel have found they can’t protect her all of the time.


“We’ve had people say a lot of things about us within hearing range. I was shopping at Michael’s once when I heard a lady say to her daughter, ‘See sweetie, that’s why you don’t do drugs when you’re pregnant,’” recalled Rachel. “It’s devastating. I can’t believe the parents.”


Rachel said she tells her daughter all the time that she is a very special girl, outgoing, intelligent and fun, and God wanted to make sure everyone knows how special she is so He made her different. Faith is on several church prayer lists and many people have reached out to lend support to the family.


The Hastings are heartened by the support and by kind and encouraging words from strangers.


Faith has made remarkable progress but faces years of additional surgeries. Rachel estimates her daughter will have about 50 operations by the time she turns 25.


“We’re looking at a long process, but you just do it. It’s like when you’re running a 5K. You just put your head down and you don’t look at where the finish line is. You just keep going until you get there,” said Rachel.


Randy said Faith, with her big smile and quick laugh, has changed his perspective.


“I’ve learned,” he said, “to make the best of what you’ve got and to count your blessings.”


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