ABC's 20/20 Follows An Inspirational Family As They Adjust To Life With Son's Rare Facial Condition
'20/20' Airs on Saturday, January 13 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on ABC
It is every parent's fear during pregnancy - will my child be born healthy? Magda and Russel Newman had every reason to believe their child would be, but what actually happened resulted in an UNEXPECTED journey that changed their lives forever. Their son, Nathaniel Newman - now 13 - was born with a very rare cranio-facial condition called Treacher Collins syndrome that affects just one in 50,000 people. Nathaniel was born with no cheekbones, ears and almost no jawbone. In a complete coincidence, Nathaniel's life bears a striking resemblance to Auggie Pullman's, the fictional
protagonist in R.J. Palacio's best-selling book "Wonder." The comparisons are so striking that even Palacio has called Nathaniel "Auggie Pullman come to life." For nearly three years, anchor Elizabeth Vargas follows Nathaniel, who struggles to fit into a world where he cannot help but stand out, and his family as they navigate everyday challenges from the start of a new school, to undergoing groundbreaking surgery - only performed once before on a child with Treacher Collins - with the goal of removing his life-altering tracheostomy. The special edition of "20/20" includes interviews
with Nathaniel; Magda and Russel; Jacob Newman, Nathaniel's protective younger brother; Nathaniel's doctors; "Wonder" author R.J. Palacio; Jono Lancaster, a 33-year- old with Treacher Collins who has successfully adapted to his condition; and an incredible surprise from singer Christina Aguilera. "20/20" airs on Saturday, Jan. 13 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on ABC. (Rebroadcast. OAD: 11/17/17).
Magda and Russel met on a beach in Southampton, New York, and married about a year later. Following a healthy pregnancy, Magda, 24, gave birth in New York City after nearly 17 hours of labor. What should have been a joyous occasion quickly turned to a frantic scene. As the doctors rushed the baby away in an attempt to save his life, Magda caught a glimpse of his head and knew immediately something was different. Hours after Nathaniel was born, after they were still emotional from the news of his condition, the two new parents sat in the hospital room watching the Grammy Awards. After they watched Aguilera perform "Beautiful," they resolved to treasure the inner beauty in their son, and help the world see it, too. Because of the malformations in his face, the simplest tasks - eating, breathing, and swallowing - were nearly impossible for Nathaniel. In the first year of his life, he had more than 10 surgeries to help his body function. Flash forward to present day, Nathaniel has had over 60 surgeries, but his family is still holding up the vow they made on that first night. "20/20" follows Nathaniel as he comes to terms with his differences, and his resilient family as they endure risky surgeries and Magda's cancer diagnosis, and prepare for future challenges.
When this episode first aired on Nov. 17, it delivered a season high, shooting up 82% to 3.96 million total viewers week to week. "20/20" is anchored by Elizabeth Vargas and David Muir. David Sloan is senior executive producer.