A prayer for my daughter: Brendan O’Connor on Down Syndrome

(For non-medics, you might want to click through to article directly >>>)

“When Mary came out, the anaesthetist actually said to one of the doctors to hold on to her because she was jumping around so much. Sarah, lying cut open on the table, said, so she’s not floppy. It seemed she wasn’t. And she was a girl.

I remember saying to the anaesthetist when Mary came out that we wanted a girl, and she said something like, well I’m sure you just wanted a healthy baby. And now we had one. They seemed to look at her for a bit too long when they took her away over to the table.

But now I recognise that smile for what it was, a sad little smile, “the poor pet”. Then there were phone calls and we kept asking is something wrong. Her oxygen levels had been a bit low, I think they said. They needed to check. And then the doctor came and told us that her ears were set low, which was indicative of certain chromosomal disorders. God bless my innocence, I didn’t know what that meant, or what he meant when he said — what I now know — were the words Trisomy 21.

Eventually he said it. Down Syndrome.

One thing is that kind words can be so important and such a consolation. I never gave much of a damn for kind words before. Dr Robson, Sarah’s consultant, came in to see how we were as I stood in the recovery room by Sarah’s bed. “Mary is Mary,” he said. I’m sure that Dr Robson won’t mind me saying that he is not the most gushing person. Part of the reason I liked him so much is that he was fairly straight and fairly male and didn’t ever emote too much. He was nice and he was straight. But with those three words he came through for us in the most unexpected way. For some reason it soothed us as we stood there dazed, and in a waking nightmare.

Dr Murphy, the paediatrician, another angel disguised as a straight-talking Corkman, told us before we brought Mary home that now that we had ticked the boxes on many of the health problems, we were essentially dealing with a child with an educational difficulty. Minimise it, he said. You mean in our heads? I asked. Yes, just minimise it. And he was right. And again, those words meant so much to us, that small bit of advice.” (Independent) >>>

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2 comments on “A prayer for my daughter: Brendan O’Connor on Down Syndrome
  1. Paul says:

    We have extracted more of this article than is standard for us because of how powerfully Brendan has written about his experience, and how helpful it ought to be to medics in relation to communicating with people facing these kinds of challenges. (Fair dues to Brendan for putting the raw feelings & frank thoughts down on paper like this and giving us all such fantastic insights.)

  2. geraldine hegarty says:

    Congratulations to you all on the birth of your little girl and on the wonderful article you wrote. May Mary bring you great joy and love and can I welcome a new Cork rebel to the world!!!!

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