Savannah Guthrie has shared a touching tribute to NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel’s son, Henry after he died from Rett syndrome, a rare neurological disorder, at age six.
On Twitter on Tuesday, the 50-year-old TV host shared a throwback photo showing her holding Henry in her arms, as he held his hand placed on the side of her face.
She shared a sweet dedication to Engel’s child in the caption, writing: “Dearest Henry, I will never forget your sweet spirit and the twinkle in your eye.”
Guthrie’s Today co-host, Hoda Kotb, also sent her condolences to Engel. In response to the journalist’s announcement of Henry’s death, Kotb wrote: “Oh Richard… I am so so so sorry. My heart aches for you and your family. We love you.”
On Thursday, Engel posted a statement, also signed by his wife Mary Forrest, on Twitter to share the news that their six-year-old had died.
“Our beloved son Henry passed away,” he wrote. “He had the softest blue eyes, an easy smile and a contagious giggle. We always surrounded him with love and he returned it, and so much more.”
The tweet also included a link to a Texas Children’s Hospital page called “Remembering and Honouring Henry,” where people can make donations to support research in Henry’s name.
When Henry was an infant, his parents noticed that he was struggling to hit typical developmental milestones. After a series of tests, they discovered that he had a mutation in his MECP2 gene, which is responsible for Rett Syndrome.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the incurable developmental disorder “affects the way the brain develops” and “causes a progressive loss of motor skills and language”. Although it primarily affects girls, it can also, in rare cases, affect boys.
Over time, Rett syndrome can also cause serious problems with children’s muscles that “control movement, coordination and communication”.
On Twitter in May, Engel described how his son’s condition was progressing, with the reporter sharing a video of Henry receiving a kiss from his younger brother Theo, who Engel and Forrest welcomed in 2019.
“For everyone following Henry’s story, unfortunately he’s taken a turn for the worse,” the author wrote. “His condition progressed and he’s developed dystonia: uncontrolled shaking/ stiffness. He was in the hospital for six weeks, but is now home and getting love from brother Theo.”
Following his death, Dr Huda Zoghbi, Founding Director of the Duncan NRI at Texas Children’s Hospital, also paid tribute to Henry and shared how he was an inspiration to the research institute.
“Henry was special in so many ways. His loving and endearing smile, and the way he connected with his eyes, stole my heart from the time I met him. His quiet fight against this terrible disease was incredible,” he wrote in a message shared on the “Remembering and Honouring Henry” page. “What is most amazing, however, is the impact Henry had on so many of us at the Duncan NRI and on our Rett research. We will continue to push as hard as possible to develop treatments. This is how we will honour his life.”