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A Smile from the Heart

Mom and Dad Nikki and James with baby Ryan.2 / 2

We see them plastered on Christmas Cards, soccer player buttons and school pictures: the toothy, wide smiles of a child. But for an energetic, precious Detroit Lakes baby, a smile will be something he will never know. That's because 8 month old Ryan Larsen was born with a rare syndrome that doesn't allow him to blink his eyes or smile.

Tucked in the north woods of Becker County in a cozy log cabin, the noisy gurgles and rosy chunky cheeks of Ryan Larsen make his parents smile. Since Ryan's birth last June, Nikki and James Larsen of rural Detroit Lakes have been caught up in a medical whirlwind.

James Larsen - Ryan's Dad: "Seems like one doctor appointment after another."

Trying to pin down why and how their little boy became a number, one of just two in a million to be diagnosed with Moebius Syndrome.

Nikki Larsen - Ryan's Mom: "Obvious things are no facial expression, really."

The impact of Moebius varies, but for Ryan it means fingers are missing on one hand, and the muscles and nerves near his mouth and eyes don't work.

Nikki Larsen: "As a mom, is that heart breaking. It is at first it was big time, but that is how he is and we don't know why."

The syndrome will not allow Ryan to ever blink. His eyes stay focused forward, never side to side, and sadly Ryan, because of the Moebius syndrome, will never be able to smile.

James Larsen - Ryan's Dad: "He's just a kind of laid back doesn't cry much, just a happy kid."

Ryan's mother has found herself getting involved with other moms around the country who have children with Moebius. She, like any parent, hopes this baby's childhood years will be spared the cruel comments that come with being different.

Nikki Larsen: "I think what concerns me is how he will be perceived for not having a facial expression, not having that initial smile people can turn the other way. I want to protect him from that."

There is no shortage of love or playtime in Ryan's house. He has parents who think the world of him, and want nothing more than a good life for their little boy.

For more information on Ryan and Moebius Syndrome, check out the Easy Link tab. There, you can learn how to buy a purple rubber bracelet from Ryan's church that says, "I smile with my heart." Proceeds from that will help the family get to a summer conference on Moebius.