I’ve got genetically superior genes. I’m a winner with winner’s blood. Learning you’re going to have a child with Down Syndrome is like experiencing a death. That’s what I felt like. Like I was getting a broken baby.”
I work with a lot of special needs kids as a pediatric ER nurse. About three years into my nursing career (after working three years in adult ICU/ER) I started working in a pediatric ICU. Back then, I wasn’t as adept at working with kids as I am now and in my early PICU days I remember times when I would just stand in the middle of the unit and wonder what I was going to do about all these crying kids.
At shift change, we would ask all the parents to leave. It was an open unit so it was hard to protect patient privacy. Some of these aspects are highlighted in my most recent medical thriller, Peril. During one such time, we had a young girl whose leg was in traction and she began to fall apart when her parents left. Now– this was before I was a mother so cut me some slack but I stood there and thought, “What am I supposed to do for her?” when, within a few moments, a more seasoned nurse came and sat by her bed and stroked her hair to calm her down.
Oh, well, I can do that, too!
Not long after this, I was caring for a Down Syndrome child who needed heart surgery. It is not unusual for a Down Syndrome child to have heart defects. Sadly, this child’s veins were not the greatest and it was always a challenge to get blood and IVs in place. As a fellow nurse and I tried multiple times to get an IV in this todder– all he would do was say “I love you.” over and over, put his arms around my neck and snuggle his face against my cheek while all I was doing was causing him pain.
And I still cry thinking about that moment.
There is something about caring for special needs kids/adults that is challenging but truly brings out the best in most people– this deep seated sacrificial love. I believe all life has value and maybe special needs kids are more about teaching us about ourselves than about anything else.
The above quote comes from this piece about an athlete/father, Tom Rinaldi, and the emotional turmoil he went through when he learned he and his wife were having a child with Down Syndrome. It’s about 15 minutes but I hope you’ll take the time to watch.
It’s why I believe in the value of every life. Without this daughter, I think this man’s life would not nearly have been as rich as it is now. What do you think?