The National Advocate for People with Down Syndrome Since 1979

National Down Syndrome Society
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The Other Side of the River
The Other Side of the River

When our sixth child was born I was learning to become a midwife so I immediately noticed his folded over ears and asked my midwife if my baby had Down syndrome. He did not have a simian crease and his muscle tone was pretty good so she did not think so. I mentioned this to a good friend who said " Well if God had to place a baby with Down syndrome in a household, yours would be a good address." I had a week of blissful ignorance until our son Avichi's heart murmur caused the doctors to order a heart Eco and we were plunged into the rabbit hole of open heart surgery- which our little guy successfully underwent at three months. His Down syndrome just seemed secondary. When our son was five months old we went to our first conference for parents and professionals of special needs. There we heard a story of twins who died at age eighteen of a congenital illness. The family had a journal and from the entries their mother was comforted that one son had the other to share the experience. I came home from the conference and told my husband that we needed to adopt a baby with Down syndrome so that Avichi would not grow up alone. I was born a twin so this made sense to me. On his first birthday a family visited us in our home in Alaska with a beautiful blond baby girl who had Down syndrome. They came at 10am and left at 2:30pm and the baby stayed in my arms entered our hearts and has been there ever since. In 1995 we decided to immigrate to Israel with the hopes of living on a kibbutz. I figured that was a good solution for my children's future. None of the kibbutzim wanted a family with two babies with Down syndrome so we stayed in Safed, a city in the north of Israel. After two years we heard about an abandoned baby girl with Down syndrome in the local hospital who was left and nameless. We asked to visit her and named her Shalhevet which means flame. This was around the holiday of Chanukah and we knew she would be full of light and joy. We took her home and she joined our family as well. Five years ago we heard of another baby boy who had Down syndrome and whose young mother was not able to raise him. He underwent an esophageal atresia at birth, would need open heart surgery, and had contracted menningitious. The first time I gazed at him under the oxygen tent with all his medical tubes he gave me a look as if to say "Lady, either you save me or I am checking out." One hour volunteering to be with him in the hospital turned into two, turned into twenty-four hours during which either I or my husband was with the baby. Ori's mom wanted us to become his foster parents but the Welfare dept. wanted to institutionalize him because he was so fragile. We got a lawyer and fought the system and won because the judge we happened to get, unbeknownst to any of us, was the father of a daughter with special needs who was institutionalized. A few years ago I took Ori down to Schnieder hospital for his heart surgery. Because we were the second surgery on Tuesday we were placed in regular intensive care instead of heart ICU. In the bed next to us was another abandoned baby girl with Down syndrome, a twin. I knew I had to find a home for her, and I did in the wonderful lawyer who helped us win the case with Ori. Today Ori and Shiri are in preschool together. We have formed an organization in Israel called Bircat Haderech to help families keep their babies born with Down syndrome or if not place them immediately in approved loving homes. No abandoned special needs babies in the North of Israel are being institutionalized and any children who are difficult to place are being sent to the North to our organization! When you give birth to a child with special needs it is as if you have been placed in a boat without a map and you need to cross this unknown river. I think we have made it to the other side, want to join us?




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Darcy Araya, United States, FL
9/23/2014 12:35:56 PM
The Story speaks for itself. This is G-d's love

Paula, United States, WA
10/12/2013 2:22:31 PM
What a WONDERFUL story and thing you are doing!

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