Northern Star: Andrew Standfield
For this week's Northern Star, we learn about a local powerlifter who was born with a rare genetic disorder.
DULUTH, Minn. – Next month, Andrew Standfield will be representing Team USA at the International Powerlifting Federation World Championships in Helsingborg, Sweden. But how we got to this point has put as much strain on his body as the weights he trains with.
“They noticed during an ultrasound that his belly was bigger than his head. They were like, “OK that’s weird. That’s not good. We should check that out. We need to keep an eye on it. There’s some stuff wrong. His kidneys don’t look right. We’re going to keep an eye on this over time,” Andrew’s father Jason said.
“We kind of realized at eight, nine, a little later that I was kind of a little bit different like that. But I’ve always been a stocky kid so if you’re counting that, pretty much all my life I’ve been different,” Andrew said.
“As we got closer to his birth, they warned that he’s probably one of those kids that will just not play a lot of sports and not a lot of contact sports for sure. They couldn’t put a name to what was going on,” said Jason.
Commonly known as “Prune Belly”, Eagle-Barrett Syndrome is a rare, genetic disorder that is usually diagnosed before birth. It mainly impacts the development of the abdominal wall as well as the urinary system. Nearly a quarter of those who receive the diagnosis die before they are born. But in Andrew’s case, he wasn’t officially diagnosed until he was 10 years old.
“A urologist in Tacoma just said to us, “He looks like a kid who has prune belly.” And I said, “What’s prune belly?” He said, “It’s Eagle–Barrett Syndrome.” And I said, “Why don’t you think he has prune belly?” And he said, “Because he’s still alive.” And my heart stopped. I said, “Is he going to die?” Jason said.
“I have something that a lot of kids do and these other kids they can’t do anything. They have no fitness careers because it’s such a strain on their bodies because if they get hit anywhere wrong, it could be fatal,” said Andrew.
But Andrew would build up his strength and was eventually cleared to participate in sports like baseball, wrestling and even football.
“I wanted to try them all because it was something i never had access to as a kid. it always something that i wasn’t allowed to do because all my doctors said no.”
The Standfields moved to Duluth in 2015 and decided to homeschool Andrew for his sophomore year of high school. And that decision created tension in the family.
“There was nobody around for me to hang out with. It was just me being home and eventually I just got super mad one day and I was just fed up with being just with my parents. I wanted to be out. I wanted to be doing something. so I got into a fight with my dad,” Andrew said.
“Seeing him get brought in with handcuffs and ankle shackles that was quite sobering as a parent. and I think it was pretty sobering for him,” said Jason.
Andrew was arrested and spent 24 hours in a juvenile detention center which he says helped him realize his mistakes.
“Occasionally we disagree about little stupid things but I haven’t got into a big fight with him, my brother or my family. I just avoid that thing now because I realized that stupid decisions, stupid mistakes and little things that I disagree with aren’t something worth fighting for,” Andrew said.
Shortly after the incident, Andrew was introduced to aerial athletics in Duluth and his father’s passion of powerlifting rubbed off on him. He would go on to break several state records and took first place in his age group at a national meet back in October. And now he will represent his country this summer.
“I cried a little. I was pretty excited. It was a big deal,” said Jason.
“My mom was like, “Oh my god! Amazing! how?” It was just the best thing in the world at that point. It had trumped anything beforehand. I had never felt so good,” Andrew said.
From being born with a fatal genetic disorder to fighting with his family, Andrew just hopes his flight across the Atlantic is much smoother than his road to becoming one of the rising stars in the powerlifting world.
“I have not been into an appointment for a while. I rarely think about it anymore. I rarely think about how I have this Eagle–Barrett’s Syndrome and how my abs don’t function properly. It’s like a second thought now,” said Andrew.
“People can look at that and say all the junk I’m going through right now, if a 17–year–old kid can get it together and focus and make it happen, maybe I can too,” Jason said.
The Standfields have set up a GoFundMe page to raise money so that Andrew can share his special moment with his parents and his younger brother. if you would like to donate, click here.