Rio Williams was born with Down’s Syndrome, and part of his heart wrapped around his windpipe.
It meant the toddler, now 14 months old, had breathing problems and a whole host of other health conditions which kept him in hospital for 45 nights. A mere 24 hours after coming into the world, Rio, from Somerset, had to have surgery as his bowel had perforated. It was then that mum Kimberly found out he had Down’s Syndrome. Eventually, Bristol Children’s hospital found that Rio’s windpipe was being severely compressed by vessels from the heart. He had two millimetres to breathe through.
Months later, Rio had cardiac surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital which moved the main vessels from the heart and fixed them away from Rio’s windpipe meaning he could breathe a bit better.
After coming out of hospital, Rio is doing well and was recently signed by Zebedee management, an agency specialising in models who are different. Since then Rio has modelled for a charity that helped his family with living arrangements. But his latest campaign is a big one – Rio is now modelling for Primark.
The family are now raising money for the other charities that helped them, principally Wouldn’t Change a Factor which has included Rio in its 2019 calendar. Kimberley said: ‘The principal purpose for this is to change individual attitudes to Down’s Syndrome. That’s why we’re doing this. ‘We simply need him to be included and wish everybody can see that he is similar to anybody else. He’s no different to another child.’
‘It’s onwards and upwards now, however, the first 12 months of his life was touch and go. ‘The ability to have a standard life – modelling for Primark – is simply superb. A few months ago we weren’t even positive he was going to be right here.’
On his GoFundMe page, Kimberly wrote that the family wanted to repay the charities that helped Rio. She said: ‘Rio got through it all because he is a warrior, we got through it all because we had a lot of help. ‘Eight fantastic charities have supported us in more ways than we could explain. We have been given somewhere to stay, close to the hospital when Rio has been in intensive care or in high dependency.’