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Real life 'Tiny Tim' inspires doctors, community

Posted at 10:16 PM, Dec 03, 2021

SMITHFIELD, Utah — The stage was set Friday night for the opening performance of "A Christmas Carol" at Sky View High School in Cache County.

"The cast and the crew kind of get that reward now, to present what they’ve been working on and share it with people," said Kody Rash, owner and artistic director of the Four Seasons theater company.

Among the many stars of the show, one actor has made their cast complete — 10-year-old Phippin Tingey.

Tingey walked FOX 13 through the set, showing off the theater that has become his home and the cast who are like family.

“I like all the action and all the detail in it," said Tingey.

This is Tingey's second performance cast as "Tiny Tim," the character of a seriously ill boy that melts the hard heart of his father's boss, Ebenezer Scrooge.

"Phippin has changed our lives," said Rash.

That's because Tingey himself is a bit of a "Tiny Tim" after being born with two rare genetic disorders.

Aicardi-Goutieres Syndrome (AGS) is a neurological disease that has a number of causes. Over time, someone with AGS slowly loses their ability to function due to delays in critical development at a younger age.

For Tingey, it meant having a stroke at the age of three and brain surgery that followed weeks afterward in 2014.

"It was a rough night," said Emily Tingey, Phippin's mother. "But we’ve had an amazing support team on our side.”

That team is made up of extended family, friends, and their theater family.

Tingey was cast as "Tiny Tim" in the Christmas Carol in 2019, shortly after he suffered another mini-stroke in 2018.

Earlier this year, Tingey met Dr. Kristen Carroll for help with his second genetic disorder — one that causes nerve damage to his feet, forcing Tingey to walk on his toes and the outer border of his feet.

“This is a kid who’s living with a time bomb of 'when am I going to have another stroke' because you can’t predict them," said Dr. Carroll. "And yet he keeps on treking and he’s wonderful.”

Dr. Carroll has been with Shriners Children's Salt Lake City since 1996, filling various capacities. For the past decade, she has dedicated her time and efforts as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.

Carroll first met Tingey in April of 2021.

"You know every now and then you meet a child who is so remarkable they take your breath away," she said. "He’s one of those kids.”

In September, Carroll and her team spent nearly five hours in surgery working on Tingey's feet. She said when Tingey was still waking up out of the anesthetic, he was thanking her.

Now, that Tingey has recovered, he's reprising the role of "Tiny Tim," and Dr. Carroll wanted to surprise and thank him.

Driving 85 miles for their opening night performance, Carroll brought a bottle of sparkling cider in a bag for her young friend, to wish him good luck for his performance.

The cast will perform "A Christmas Carol," through December 11.