Fighters Come in All Sizes

Fighters Come in All Sizes

By Marla Jones, Managing Editor • marla@southerntorch.com

RAINSVILLE, Ala. — On Monday, the Rainsville City Council signed a Proclamation that designated October as Dwarfism Awareness and Acceptance Month. 

Dwarfism is short stature that results from a genetic or medical condition. Dwarfism is generally defined as an adult height of 4 feet 10 inches (147 centimeters) or less. The average adult height among people with dwarfism is 4 feet (122 cm). Dwarfism most often happens in families where both parents are of average height. 

Patti Gilbert Carson was at the meeting to celebrate the signing of the proclamation Monday on behalf of her daughter, Tinsley Andrews. Tinsley was diagnosed with a rare form of dwarfism called Kniest Displaysia that occurs in one in a million births.  Gilbert stated that her daughter is exactly “one in a million.”

“As a Mom, I feel that this is a wonderful gesture from our hometown. For the City of Rainsville to make October Dwarfism Awareness Month, means so much to me and Tinsley because people need to educate on what dwarfism is and how it affects the person,” stated Gilbert. “No, Tinsley is not DIFFERENT than any other teenager, she is just a LITTLE shorter! Thank you to our Mayor and City Council for going above and beyond for our children and our great city."

From day one, Tinsley Andrews has been a fighter. 

She was born a full month before her due date on December 8, 2004. Tinsley was born with a genetic condition known as kniest dysplasia. Among the symptoms were a cleft palate and weakened windpipe. The cleft palate caused serious problems, making it almost impossible for her to swallow. Due to this, she was sent to Children’s Hospital at just two weeks old. 

At less than one month old, she underwent fundoplication surgery, a procedure in which the upper curve of the stomach is wrapped around the esophagus and sewn into place in order to prevent food and stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus. Feeding tubes were inserted to ensure that Tinsley could begin to grow. 

At 10 months, she had her cleft palate repaired. 

“It was such a hard time,” said Patti Gilbert Carson, Tinsley’s mother. “It was hard on everyone. And I can’t imagine how hard it was on Tinsley. Thanks to the skill of the surgeons and staff at Children’s Hospital, Tinsley [was] soon able to eat, speak, laugh and play like other children her age.” 

Fast-forward to today, Tinsley is now 15 and in the 10th grade. She attended Plainview High School, where she served as the manager for the Plainview Varsity Volleyball team, before transferring to the Alabama School for the Blind (ASB) in Talladega after waking up one morning with a lifechanging detached retina. 

“I always felt like I was having to live in a bubble,” said Tinsley. “I decided to go to ASB because I felt it would benefit me to live independently and we are all the same. Now I don’t have to live in a bubble. We aren’t scared.” 

She participates in track, cheers, and maintains a perfect 4.0-grade average. While attending ASB, Tinsley has won Queen at the school’s Junior Miss ASB pageant, Freshman Homecoming Attendant, Harvest Festival Queen, and recently, Co-Captian of the ASB cheerleading squad and has received the Universal Cheerleading Association (UCA) All-American Cheerleader Award, two years in a row.  When she grows up, she would like to be a pediatrician. 

Tinsley has faced adversity throughout her young life. “Tinsley sums it up the best, “You just have to take life one day at a time and just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you aren’t a champion.”

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