The long and short of it


In the Bootsma fam­ily, be­ing aver­age height is the mi­nor­ity.

Dave and Ka­t­rina Bootsma were born with achon­dropla­sia, or dwarfism.

For al­most six years they nav­i­gated life as a fam­ily of lit­tle people, with their two chil­dren Char­lotte, 7, and Noah, 3.

That was un­til their last son, 18- month- old Eli­jah, was born with­out the con­di­tion.

‘‘It was such a re­lief to know ev­ery­thing was OK. I had a hunch,’’ said Ka­t­rina, who is 4ft 2in tall.

‘‘I thought it was ei­ther go­ing to be bad news or he was not go­ing to be a lit­tle per­son. Of course, all you want to hear is good news straight away.

‘‘It was a lit­tle bit of a wow fac­tor.’’

‘‘He’s what so­ci­ety is gen­er­ally, but in our fam­ily he is the one who will stand out. It will be in­ter­est­ing once age is more ob­vi­ous.

‘‘What’s the ma­jor­ity in so­ci­ety be­comes the mi­nor­ity in our fam­ily.’’

The Gre­nada Vil­lage cou­ple have had four chil­dren and ev­ery ge­netic out­come pos­si­ble.

Their sec­ond child, Joel, was born with dou­ble genes and lived only six weeks.

The fam­ily’s ge­neti­cist, Dr Kather­ine Neas, has known the Boots­mas since the death of their son.

She said about one in ev­ery 26,000 people were born with achon­dropla­sia.

‘‘For a cou­ple like David and Ka­t­rina there is a 50 per cent chance of hav­ing a child with achon­dropla­sia, a 25 per cent chance of hav­ing a child with nor­mal stature and a 25 per cent chance of hav­ing a child with two faulty copies of the gene, called ho­mozy­gous achon­dropla­sia. This is un­for­tu­nately not sur­viv­able.’’

Dave, who is 4ft 7in tall, met Ka­t­rina through fam­ily and friends in 2002.

Un­like their chil­dren, Dave and Ka­t­rina are first-gen­er­a­tion lit­tle people.

Ka­t­rina was a neona­tal nurse for 14 years and al­ways wanted chil­dren. She said they had never wor­ried much about pass­ing dou­ble genes, a fa­tal com­bi­na­tion, un­til Joel was born.

‘‘We had had Char­lotte, so even though that was no rea­son why it couldn’t hap­pen, in our world, we didn’t think it would hap­pen to us.’’

Ka­t­rina said when Eli­jah was born it was like be­ing a first-time par­ent again.

‘‘It’s a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s sort of liv­ing what other people must ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘He is do­ing ev­ery­thing at the ap­pro­pri­ate stages.’’

While the pro­por­tions of their bod­ies meant Noah and Char­lotte did not walk or crawl for a long time, Eli­jah is al­ready up and about and drag­ging him­self up on the stools his fam­ily use.

‘‘If we don’t watch it he is up on the benches, on the ta­ble, on the chairs. It’s like free range for him.’’

Ka­t­rina and Dave know Eli­jah will face chal­lenges.

‘‘We will stand out be­ing so dif­fer­ent to him so people will ques­tion him about us,’’ Ka­t­rina said.

‘‘As much as people were cu­ri­ous [about Char­lotte and Noah], it might hap­pen to him more.

‘‘To him we are his par­ents and his fam­ily, so he might not see us as dif­fer­ent for a long time.’’

Ka­t­rina said she had only to walk out the door to be stared at. Rude com­ments and people call­ing over oth­ers to look was also com­mon.

‘‘We are only short, but we seem to get so much cu­rios­ity. We are nor­mal; we are just shorter, but we draw so much cu­rios­ity.’’

The Boots­mas live a nor­mal life, one Eli­jah will eas­ily fit in.

The only adap­ta­tion they have made to their home is low­er­ing a few light switches.

The cou­ple both work and drive a car.

They joke their younger son’s height will be use­ful.

‘‘He will be our shop­per; he will get ev­ery­thing off the top shelf,’’ Ka­t­rina said.


Lov­ing fam­ily: Back from left, Dave, Char­lotte and Ka­t­rina Bootsma. Front from left, Eli­jah and Noah Bootsma.

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