I spoke at a patient’s memorial/life celebration a few days ago and I would like to share some of my words.
I would like to go back to 1954, the year Don was born. Life expectancy of a person with Down syndrome was less than 20 years. Common advice to the family was to “get rid of the burden,” put him in an institution, and never visit him.
Thank God for Don’s family and families like them. They were pioneers. They took him home, loved him, and cared for him. Thank you for sharing him with us.
Let’s zoom ahead to 2010. Average life expectancy is 58 years for people with Down syndrome. In those 50 years, if the life expectancy of those without Down syndrome increased by the same percentage, we would be living to over 200 years.
People with Down syndrome are not hidden from society. We see them working at the grocery store, McDonald’s, and many other places. We see them participating in life celebrations like those individuals who are here today. We see people with Down syndrome participating in athletic events like those individuals who I join in 5K races.
People with Down syndrome are learning to do new and amazing things in areas such as:
And many others
The boundaries are expanding. They are living full lives…and we are all enriched.
People with Down syndrome are generally known to move slowly. This includes slowing down and appreciating life and appreciating others.
Dr. McGuire, the doctor of Social Work at the Adult Down Syndrome Center, wrote a wonderful piece, “If People with Down Syndrome Ruled the World.” One of his observations is that if people with Down syndrome were in charge, we might have more McDonald’s restaurants but less war.
People with Down syndrome are known to be loving and caring. Families tell me how enriched their lives are because of their son or daughter (brother or sister) with Down syndrome. I hear of and see warm, beautiful friendships. I experience the “emotional radar” people with Down syndrome often have – they often can sense another’s emotions with an uncanny ability.
Many of our patients are very affectionate. I often joke that, through nothing to do with me, I am the “most hugged physician on the planet.”
Thank you to Don’s family for asking me to be here today and for giving me the gift of Don in my life.