Linda Bannon, 37, and her son Timmy from Chicago were born with something conspicuously in common: neither mom nor son had arms.
Both Linda and Timmy were born with Holt-Oram syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes abnormalities in the arms (or a lack of arms in this case), as well as anomalies in the heart.
Since Linda lived her whole life mostly using her feet to perform daily tasks, she has a special understanding of her son Timmy. “I think there’s much more of a special bond between me and Tim than your average mom and son,” Linda told ABC News in an interview. Although Linda was born without arms, her parents treated her the same way they treated her 4 younger siblings.
“I was always expected to do chores and participate with the family activities like all the other kids,” said Linda. “I just had to adapt and learn how to use my feet how other people use their hands.”
Although she had prosthetic limbs made especially for her when she was around the age of 5 or 6, she didn’t like using them, and preferred to get by unencumbered. Nevertheless, she flourished despite her handicap, eventually earning a degree in elementary education. She married her husband in 2004, and became pregnant soon after. She was told by her doctors that her son would also have no arms.
“Because they were looking at the presentation of no arms and the heart anomalies, they said that it was an indication of Holt-Oram syndrome,” Linda explained. “In the beginning, obviously, it’s kind of a shock. No parent ever wants to know that their child is affected with a condition that’s going to alter their life. For the most part, knowing I grew up this way, and I feel like my life was pretty good—I didn’t have fears for him. The biggest fear was how serious his heart condition was. That was more concerning than his disability.”
Linda’s son Timmy was born in May 2005, and when he was still only 8 days old, he had to have open-heart surgery. He then spent the next 2 months in ICU.
Now, Timmy is 11 years old, and he is flourishing just like his mother did. He enjoys doing all sorts of physical activities; he is also outgoing and social.
“Lately, he’s been referred to as Mr. President because he likes to be out with people, talking,” Linda exclaimed. “He doesn’t really shy away from social situations, so that’s how he’s gotten that nickname.”
“He likes being outside, he definitely likes being very psychically active as much as he can be,” said his mother. “Swimming, [riding] the modified bicycle—when we got that for him he was very excited because that meant he could keep up with everyone else on the trails.”
His mother has showed him how to do many tasks with his feet, although he’s becoming more independent, and sometimes ops to do things his own way.
“We laugh, because as much as I try to help him, I’ll say, ‘You’re doing it the hard way,”” said Linda. “I think it’s funny because I’ve already done the legwork, so why reinvent the wheel? That’s been his personality since day one. One of our first doctor visits, I said, ‘[Timmy] is just so stubborn.’ The doctor said, ‘No way, you’re kid is stubborn? I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.’”
Timmy now does all manner of daily activities with his feet, everything from grooming, making art, and even playing video-games.
The mother-son duo first made airwaves in 2010, when they appeared on ABC Chicago. Linda said she was willing to keep telling their story if it meant they were able to inspire others to persevere in life.
“I think it really shows the power of the human spirit,” she said. “A lot of people will see someone with such a severe physical condition and think, ‘How is it possible to do all the things they’ve done?’ It gives [people] hope that even though they have challenges, as long as they have a positive attitude about it, then they’ll be able to conquer the same challenges.”