‘20/20’ FOLLOWS AN INSPIRATIONAL FAMILY AS THEY ADJUST TO LIFE WITH SON’S RARE FACIAL CONDITION
13-Year-Old Nathaniel Newman Has Been Called the Real Life Story of a Character from Best-Selling Book and Forthcoming Movie, ‘Wonder’
‘20/20’ Airs on Friday, November 17 (10:01-11:00 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; Jacob Tremblay, star of the film adaptation of “Wonder”; 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 Friday, Nov. 17 (10:01- 11:00 p.m. EST), on ABC.
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 into 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. Later that night, 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 ten 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.
“20/20” is anchored by Elizabeth Vargas and David Muir. David Sloan is senior executive producer.