MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) – A local family returns with many memories and stories to tell about a recent visit to New York City and Washington, D.C.
The Worthams, of Madison, are not your typical family. Keep reading — you’ll see why.
They were in the nation’s capital before the shutdown ended, as groups voiced their concerns and veterans threw down barricades to reopen national monuments.
“Whatever party you belong to, it would have brought you to tears,” said Rebecca Wortham. “It was like history in the making.”
Wortham laughed as she shared her family’s experience with us. The trip started in New York.
Cole’s Foundation awarded the Worthams a trip to the Big Apple, where their sons performed in a private concert at Carnegie Hall. Carnegie, and many other groups pulled out all the stops to make sure the family felt on top of the world.
They don’t have it easy. Anything but.
All three boys have autism. “We call our house ‘The House of Autism Cubed,” Rebecca says.
That’s not all.
Five-year-old Ben has global cerebral atrophy. He was born without a fully-developed brain, and the family learned simple sign language as an early means of communication. The family works very hard to keep his development up to speed.
Caleb, 7, has Henoch-Schonlein purpura, or HSP. It’s a rare auto immune disorder and Caleb’s case is severe. His body fights against itself, and Caleb is often weak as
his body develops spots, circles, and rashes. He has had to be hospitalized for the severe pain and doctors have him on a regimen of steroids and chemotherapy.
Nine-year-old Joshua keeps the family hopping, too. The family visited many Starbucks locations in New York because Joshua is fixated on them. He also loves vacuum cleaners, and has more than 50 of them at home, Rebecca says.
But the boys will astound you with their talents. While in New York, they performed at Carnegie Hall, playing the violin, cello and piano. Carnegie’s staff rolled out the red carpet, making custom programs and tickets featuring their pictures and names.
The trip also included a special boat ride through Sailing Heals, an organization whose mission is to take individuals and their families/caretakers on the water for a beautiful day of sailing and respite. The family rode out to see the Statue of Liberty.
During their time in New York, the family also got to see Blue Man Group, Central Park and ‘LIVE with Kelly and Michael’.
The trip home
The family drove from Madison to New York in one long stretch on the way up. But due to Caleb’s condition, doctors urged the family to make more stops on the way home.
The Worthams planned to stop in Washington, D.C. but the closest hotel room they could find was in Baltimore for Sunday, October 13. The government was shut down, and even though national memorials were closed, there was plenty of activity surrounding them.
Truck drivers staged a protest. Veterans were also in D.C. for the Million Vet March, urging Congress to act, and they also took it upon themselves to remove barricades at
When Marines saw the Wortham boys, they stopped to talk with them and learn their story. Speakers had just finished at the World War II memorial.
Rebecca Wortham said the Marines asked Caleb what he thought about what he was seeing.
“Caleb said ‘My brother’s in boot camp and he’s going to be a Marine,'” Rebecca said.
“They came over, called him a Marine, and said he’s strong like his brother,” Rebecca said. “They saluted him, told him he was a warrior, gave him the flag, and saluted me, the mom,” said Rebecca Wortham.
“When they gave Caleb the flag in the wheelchair, there were grown men crying. They lifted him up the stairs.”
The Worthams returned home late the night of Monday, October 14, just in time for Caleb’s chemo treatment that they’re administering at home. The hope is the low-dose chemo will put the HSP in remission. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory, Rebecca explains.
The Worthams also have two older sons who didn’t go on the trip. Jacob, 18, is training to be a United States Marine at Parris Island, South Carolina.
Zachary, 19, is attending college at Jefferson State and plans to transfer to the University of Alabama in January.
Friends have established a ‘Praying for Caleb Wortham’ Facebook page where they offer support to the family and sell t-shirts to help spread awareness and offset costs.
Through HSP support sites, Caleb has also met a pen pal named Jeremiah. He is the same age and also has HSP, but lives in Michigan.
The Wortham boys attend Madison Elementary School. Joshua is in third grade, Benjamin is in Kindergarten and Caleb is in 1st grade, attending class when he can. He has a special teacher visit him at home.