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'He's not supposed to be here:' Garner man thrives despite rare condition

Posted November 27, 2013

— William Hartsfield was never supposed to survive. Born with a condition so rare only 15 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with it, doctors had advised his mother to terminate the pregnancy. Twenty-one years later, he is defying the odds.

“They told me he'd never go to school, he'd never walk, and here we are. In less than six to eight months, he'll be graduating from high school,” said Janet Hartsfield, William’s mother.

Born with Larynx Esophageal-Tracheotomy Cleft Type Three, William's esophagus and trachea were fused together. He had two stomachs and all his organs are in the wrong place. His heart is under his right arm.

He spent the first three years of his life in a hospital, and doctors gave him little to no chance of surviving. Of the 15 people diagnosed with the disorder, half have died.

“We were told so many times, ‘You've got two more years. You've got one more year. You've got three more years,” Janet Hartsfield said. “And, finally, it got to the point after about 12 years, they said, ‘You know what, we're going to take this day by day and year by year, because we don't know. He's not supposed to be here. We don't know what to tell you.”

Now a senior at Garner High School, William is paired with a buddy who helps him.

“He’s one of my best friends, in all honesty,” said Sean Dahlin, 17.

William Hartsfield Garner man thrives despite condition

Janet Hartsfield says she has seen the progress her youngest son has made.

“With children like William, you have to set what I call partial goals. You set a goal and reach it and say, ‘We can go a bit further,’” she said.

William’s next goal is graduation, which is scheduled to happen in June. His mother hopes he can attend Wake Technical Community College next year.

“He's a warrior of unconditional love and shows people every day how much he loves them without saying a single word,” she said.


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  • bronzegoddess40 Dec 2, 2013

    Such an inspiration. God bless him and his family.


    great inspiring story. Although I need some clarity on the fact checking. It says of the 15 diagnosed cases, half have died? hmmmm

  • STRAWBERRY LETTER 23 Nov 27, 2013

    What a wonderful story.

  • wayneboyd Nov 27, 2013

    There are no valleys so deep, no mountains so intimidating, no nights so dark, no uncharted pathway so daunting, that a mothers love and Gods grace won't surfice to conquer. Best of everything to you young man. God continue to bless you.

  • Naysayer Nov 27, 2013

    Great story!

  • Fuquay Resident Nov 27, 2013

    This is a very inspirational story. It shows that doctors aren't always right. It's all up to God.

  • jcrew1979 Nov 27, 2013

    Sweet! Inspirational story.