It’s the most pro-life segment you’re likely to see from NBC News. It’s also the most beautiful. On Friday morning, NBC’s Today aired a story showcasing the “special”-ness of each and every individual child’s life, by telling the story of one of its own.
NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel appeared on the broadcast to share how much of a “validation” it was hearing his disabled son call him “Dada” for the first time, reminding millions of viewers that even the smallest and least capable among us deserves a chance at life, surrounded by a loving family.
Richard Engel’s son Henry was born with Rett’s disease, a rare genetic mutation making it so that his “physical and mental development aren’t on pace with other children.”
Engel and his wife were utterly shocked upon first hearing the doctor’s diagnosis of their infant son in 2017. Richard recalled receiving the devastating news while on assignment in South Korea, calling it one of the “worst days of my life.”
In an earlier interview, Richard and his wife recalled grappling with the feeling of insurmountability in raising their debilitated boy, reeling at the thought of their son’s “lifelong, untreatable physical and intellectual impairment.” They feared that the disease would render him with the “mental capacity of a toddler for life.” Despite this, the couple pushed on, always hopeful that with the help of doctors, physical therapy, patience, and a lot of love, their son could have a happy life, and perhaps make some progress.
“No matter what’s coming, we want Henry to know that he’s loved,” Engel affirmed.
Now almost two years later, Engel told the Today cast that his family’s patience and perseverance has brought him great purpose, joy, and “validation,” and that there have been little miracles along the way that have inspired him to keep fighting.
Engel shared the breakthrough moment he had recently, when his son recognized him and called him “Dada.” He claimed, “I’d sent him video messages and photos, blowing him kisses and singing little good morning songs, so he’d been prepped for my arrival.” Engel claimed that Henry struggles with basic things, so he wasn’t expecting anything new or different. “But that’s not unusual either. I’ve done that before, but never gotten the welcome home Dada.”
But Engel was shocked that morning after returning from an assignment in Syria. “As I was singing good morning to Henry and reconnecting after a long trip away, he looked at me, locked eye-contact and said, clear as any word, ‘Dada.’” It was a miraculous moment for the father, who likened the experience to hearing “angels,” singing “from on high” or hearing a crowd erupt in “thunderous applause.” It flew in the face of doctors’ expectations that little Henry would never be able to speak.
Engel claimed, “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.” Engel added that even though his wife hasn’t gotten a “Mama” yet, he’s hopeful “one day she’ll just get a “Hi Mama, it’s good to see you,” like my Dada. She deserves it.”