‘Wonder’ boy in West Michigan promotes kindness

The Hirdes family speaking to 24 Hour News 8.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The family of an Ottawa County boy, who was born without a nose as well as other deformities, talked to 24 Hour News 8 about how a new film hit very close to home.

“Wonder” stars Julia Roberts as the mother of boy born with craniofacial difference. The story takes viewers on the family’s daily journey, which is plagued with adversity and kindness.

It’s very similar to Easton Hirdes’ story. He is an 8-year old living in Coopersville.

“When Easton arrived, everything was different,” said his mother, April Hirdes.

It’s difficult for his scars to go unnoticed, but each one represents a small victory for Easton.

“Early in my pregnancy, I felt very much like something was wrong,” the mother of three said.

She told 24 Hour News 8 that several early tests and ultrasounds by pregnancy specialists found no issues, even after she voiced concern to her doctors. That all changed around week 20 of her pregnancy.

“We knew that his face was severely deformed. His head was misshapen. His feet were not normal,” she explained.

Doctors scrambled for answers while monitoring Easton’s development during the pregnancy. Still, no sign of a disorder based off of his chromosomes.

“It wasn’t frustrating, it was scary,” she recalled while speaking with her family at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

“There was a lot of sadness, a little bit of anger. A bit of mourning,” she said as she recalled the unknowns that lingered during her final weeks of pregnancy. “Then he came and all of that subsided and [we] instantly fell in love with this face — that to us became normal.”

On the first day of his life, doctors put Easton on a breathing machine. For the first five years, nurses basically became roommates in their Ottawa County home. The family also spent weeks traveling to specialists from Florida to Chicago. A feeding tube was also required, and is still there now.

“It’s been a crazy road,” said April Hirdes. “The surgeries are not without risk. They’ve been a bit gruesome. [Easton] struggled at times.”

April Hirdes has struggled too. She never took Easton, her middle child, in public for the first two years of his life. Church and doctor visits were the only exception.

“Your motherly instincts really kicks in, maybe to a degree that causes a disadvantage to your family, and we sheltered him very, very much,” she said.

Often there were curious looks tossed their way, but each time became a little easier. The Hirdes family read the book that “Wonder” is based off of, and they recently enjoyed the new movie.

April Hirdes said they’re sharing their still-unfolding story as they push for a more non-judgmental society.