It's a birth defect most of us knew nothing about until the recent spread of the Zika virus. Now, a Bothell family is sharing their unique perspective on what it's like living with microcephaly in hopes of raising awareness.
"It's not a death sentence," said Carrie McAfee, whose now 22-year-old daughter Allison was diagnosed with microcephaly when she was just ten months old. "It doesn't change who she is."
By now, you've probably seen the photos shared around the world, showing babies with abnormally small heads born to mothers with Zika. That's microcephaly. It's one of the biggest concerns among pregnant women when it comes to Zika virus and potential impacts to unborn babies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and other birth defects.
McAfee said she feels it's important to share her family's experience with microcephaly, now more than ever.
"I just would like people to know that people with microcephaly aren't really that different from everyone else, they just have a harder track to grow," she said.
For instance, doctors initially said Allison McAfee might not ever speak.
But after working with a speech therapist, she began talking at age three. By middle school, she was reading. She graduated high school, she earned honors and success during the Special Olympics, and Carrie said she brings joy to their lives every day.
"Just be happy with your life," Allison told KING 5.
That's their advice to anyone dealing with a microcephaly diagnosis.
"When you watch how she has grown up and how she has gotten to this point, I have to say, she's amazing," said Carrie. "She isn't someone who deals with life any different than you or I do. I'm very very lucky to be her mom."
In Allison McAfee's case, the microcephaly diagnosis was not zika-related. It was likely the result of genetics.
Still, her family hopes that by sharing her story they can show others that children with microcephaly can live a full life.