NBC’s Richard Engel and his wife Mary Forrest have welcomed a new baby boy, Page Six can reveal.
The couple has spoken openly about the struggles faced by their beloved eldest son Henry, now 3, who was born with a rare genetic disorder called Rett syndrome, which means he cannot walk or talk.
They kept news of the impending arrival under wraps, but Engel looked smitten as he delightedly showed off Theodore Forrest Engel in his arms on Monday.
We’re told that the baby, who was born over the weekend is “healthy and strong,” and the entire family is “over the moon and thrilled.”
Engel, NBC News’ Chief Foreign Correspondent told Page Six: “So look out world. Theo’s here! And from the looks of him, I can tell he can’t wait to get out there and start exploring.
“Mary, Henry and I are in love.”
In 2017, Engel and his wife learned their firstborn son Henry has a variety of a Rett syndrome. This means that he will require life-long care.
This March, Engel – who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012 – wrote excitedly “I finally got a “Dada.” It was a long time coming, which made it all the sweeter — an unexpected reward.”
After a recent trip to Syria, Engel wrote: “Our son Henry is 3 and a half years old and has special needs. His physical and mental development aren’t on pace with other children. So when I got the Dada from him, I went a little wild.
“To parents with typically developing children, a little Dada may not seem like a big deal. But for me it was a validation, an acknowledgment that he’s in there, knows me, knows that his mother and I are forces for good in his life, and above all, that he loves us.”
The team at the Duncan Neurological Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital, led by Dr. Huda Zoghbi, is working on creating a treatment for Henry, and through that research, all boys and girls with Rett Syndrome.
They are now carrying out tests on genetically modified mice, bio-engineered from Henry’s skin cells, to figure out a way to boost the protein he lacks, which controls brain and motor function. They are optimistic, seeing progress, and hopeful that in a few years they will crack this terrible disorder that robs children of their potential.
Engel said: “There are thousands of debilitating genetic disorders and they tend to follow a similar pattern. In each case, a mutated gene fails to produce the correct amount of a protein that the body needs. Protein levels in the brain are unforgiving. Dr. Zoghbi, the director of the Duncan Neurological Research Institute at the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, calls them “Goldilocks proteins” because their levels need to be just right. Too much or too little leads to massive brain malfunction or death.
“In her decades of work, Dr. Zoghbi — who discovered the causal link between MECP2 and Rett Syndrome — has never seen a mutation quite like Henry’s. She believes it is, at least for now, the only one of its kind in the world, and when trying to make scientific discoveries, rare is valuable.”
He added he was hopeful that Henry would soon give Mary a “mama” adding: “Having a special needs child makes you savor the patches of sunshine you cross on the hard, and often lonely, road toward a cure: the doctor’s visits that don’t go as badly as expected, a solid night’s sleep, or a Dada three and a half years in the making.”
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