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.