It’s said there’s no bond like a boy and his dog. But what about a boy and his chicken? Andrew Adams and his pet chicken, Frightful, shared a bond that would one day save his life.
Kristin Jarvis Adams, Andrew’s mother, recently received the Gold IPPY award for her memoir, “The Chicken Who Saved Us: The Remarkable Story of Andrew and Frightful.”
Andrew has autism. Some people with autism have difficulty relating to others but often find it easier to bond with animals. Adams said the family referred to Andrew as the “chicken whisperer,” as he could communicate better with Frightful than he ever could with his family.
This bond allowed Andrew to confide in his pet chicken when one day he told Frightful, “I think my body is trying to kill me.”
Andrew’s confession launched his family and the medical community into a 10-year search for answers. From a young age, Andrew suffered from cyclical bouts of sickness of 104-degree fevers, pain and skin ulcers that would last for about a week and then quickly resolve. Doctors couldn’t determine what was wrong with him.
Andrew was eventually diagnosed with Trisomy 8 Mosaicism, a rare genetic disorder that doctors believed was causing his immune system to attack his body.
At age 16, Andrew’s immune system was beginning to shut down. Andrew was removed from school and confined to a hospital bed. With a 5 percent chance of survival, Andrew underwent a bone marrow transplant.
Throughout Andrew’s stay at the hospital, he was unable to have Frightful with him. Andrew’s sister, Hannah, came up with the idea to wire an iPad to the outside of the chicken coop and then give Andrew a second iPad so he could FaceTime with Frightful.
“He would talk to her and you could see her just stop and look at the screen and really respond to him,” Adams said.
Andrew, who wouldn’t talk to the doctors or to his family when asked how he was feeling or what he was experiencing, would tell Frightful through the FaceTime connection.
“As a team, we were able to figure out what was going on through this friendship that he had with Frightful,” she said.
Through the months and eventually years of this medical journey, Adams became inspired to share her and her family’s experiences with others.
“One of the things about living in the hospital and going through a medical trauma is that it’s super isolating,” she said. “There’s no sense of community. I was in a tiny little room sleeping on a cot one wall away from another mama who was sleeping on a cot with her child for months and knew nothing about them or their story.”
She described a day when she went to the first floor of the hospital to get coffee. She met another mom who was going through her own intense medical journey with her child. They both sat and told each other their stories. Adams said she felt relief, strength and hope.
“There’s such an incredible relief to have somebody witness your story,” she said. “That day when I sat there, we felt cared for and a part of a community. These people need community.”
Adams kept a blog of her thoughts, feelings and experiences during the years of Andrew being in the hospital. Readers of the blog wanted to know more about what happened and more about Andrew, his recovery, his relationship with Frightful, and more about the family’s faith journey during Andrew’s illness.
“I realized that there was a bigger, more universal story, and people wanted to be a part of it,” she said. “As those many months in and out of the hospital became years, it was the people who shared their stories and lives with us who carried us through the darkest times. They became the hands and feet of God.”
Adams’ goal in writing the book is that readers would recognize either a part of their life or a loved one’s life, and that it would be healing for them.
“I really feel like from the people who have reached out to me, that I have reached that goal,” she said.
Adams is in the process of writing another nonfiction novel and is attending author events. The book is available in all major bookstores and on Amazon.com. For more information on Kristin Jarvis Adams and her family, visit https://kristinjarvisadams.com/.