Finding a suitable partner is hard enough for people without physical challenges and limitations, but when you add the latter into the mix, it can really be tough. But for one man from New Mexico – one of just 25 in the entire world with an extremely rare medical condition – he hasn’t let anything stop him from finding the girl of his dreams.
34-year-old Nathan Hrdlicka has a disorder known as bilateral proximal femoral focal deficiency (PFFD) type D, in which his thigh bones never developed, leaving him both shorter and more disabled than “normal” people. Born with his knee bones situated right under his hip bones caused Nathan so much pain, that it is something of a miracle he can walk at all: doctors have told him he’s the only one in the world with this disorder who is able to do so.
But Hrdlicka has maintained a remarkably positive outlook in his three-and-a-half decades of life, and that includes going on social media and reaching out to various support communities. In one, he met Chelsee Stuart, 19, and the two immediately connected, though not necessarily outside of the friend zone.
In fact, when their interaction began, Chelsee admits she viewed his height – Nathan is only 4’6” tall – as something of a roadblock.
“When we first met I did think the height difference was going to be a sort of problem because this was my first time really being with someone that was shorter than me,” the lean and lanky lovely admits. “It took us a lot of time to really learn what works and what doesn’t work but eventually now everything works,” she says with a wink.
PFFD is not genetic, and it’s unknown what causes it. While sometimes it can be improved with exercises to help lengthen and strengthen the leg, the instability of the existing hip and knee bones are often too problematic for this technique to work, meaning surgery, or a prosthetic limb may be the only options.
But Hrdlicka refuses to let the rude and insensitive comments of others when he is out in public get into his head.
“I don’t see myself as different. When people come up to me that’s the first thing they are seeing is my disability … [but it] doesn’t define me,” Nathan insists.
One thing the man has not been able to avoid, unfortunately, is a great deal of pain. It’s projected that had he developed normally, he might have hit 6’4” inches, and it is certainly through sheer will that he has learned to walk, despite the agony it often brings him.
“I’m literally walking on the tips of bones so throughout the day that eventually wears me out and brings pain on,” Hrdlicka admits.
As for Chelsee, she says she no longer sees Nathan’s disabilities, while he is simply thrilled to have a compassionate partner. And the things they cannot do together, like hiking, Chelsee says she’s learned to do with other friends.
What the loving couple brings to each other is a priceless sense of acceptance and caring.
“Chelsee supports me emotionally as a friend in a way that I never had in my life,” Nathan says. “When I am sick she is there making sure there is everything she can do to make me feel better.”
Having gotten little help from Western medicine, they are now exploring alternative healing methods, and even hope to open a center for holistic healing in Iceland someday. With that in mind, they have set up a GoFundMe page with a $25,000 goal, which will initially go towards Nathan’s uncovered medical costs.
If you know someone who might like this, please click “Share!”