Part of the logo at Reece's Rainbow says, "Because every family deserves the blessing of a child with Down Syndrome". The idea that having a child or family member with Down syndrome and that being a blessing may be a foreign idea to many, but it is something that I am very familiar with. My uncle(my mom's younger brother) has Down syndrome(let's just go ahead and shorten that to DS now). I have learned, first hand, throughout my life, what a blessing is truly is to have a family member with DS.
Mike is more than just a blessing though. He is a living breathing miracle. He was born and everything seemed to be normal, but shortly after coming home from the hospital disaster struck. Mike was sleeping in his cradle when my grandmother went to check on him. He was black, from lack of oxygen, and was barely breathing. They rushed him to the doctor. When they arrived there the doctor said that he was in heart failure and he sent them straight to the hospital. When they got the hospital they discovered that his heart, liver, and spleen where more than twice the size that they should be. He insides where so enlarged that they were putting pressure on his lungs and making it very difficult for Mike to breathe. Mike was not only having trouble breathing, he was burning up with fever. A nurse came to take his temperature, and when she did, she screamed and ran out of the room. Several nurses came running back in and poured buckets of ice all over Mike right there in the incubator. My grandparents later learned that when the nurse tried to take his temperature it had immediately shot to the end of the thermometer. They will never know how high is fever actually was. The doctor ran blood tests where it was discovered that Mike not only had DS, but severe lukemia. The doctor told my grandparents that there was nothing that they could do for him. He was too sick. The doctor said that if he were them, that my grandparents should just take him home, love on him, and let him die. He was so sick that it was anticipated that he would die very quickly.
My grandparents took my Uncle Mike home, loved on him, and prayed. Word spread all over the area about the sick baby boy. Prayer requests burned through church prayer chains like wild fire. People all over where praying for Mike. My PawPaw fervently prayed and told God that if he would just save Mike's life, that he would devote his life to helping handicap people.
For several months Mike barely held on to life. Too weak to suck a bottle, my grandmother had to feed him with an eye dropper. My great aunt had to sew doll size clothes for him because he was so very tiny. His muscles were as limp as a dishrag. But still people prayed.
My grandmother brought him to the doctor every week for blood work, and always it was the same. His white cell count was astronomically high. Lukemia ravaged Mike's tiny body. Then one day, when Mike was 4 months old, his blood work came back normal. The doctor had no explaination, except that his cancer must have gone in to sudden remission, but that it would be back, most likely very soon. He said that Mike would never be able to sit up or walk or talk, and he wouldn't live past the age of 12(if that long), and it was doubtful that he would even be able to hold his head up.
He sure proved him wrong.
Today is Mike's 48th birthday. He has lived one of the happiest and fullest lives of any person I know. He won a gold medal in the International Special Olympics and Arnold Schwarzenegger was the one who hung the medal around his neck. He has been in books, magazine articles, and newspapers. He has met tons of celebrities, not to mention, the Queen of Jordan. He has traveled all over the country and had all kinds of amazing adventures. Mike is loved by everyone everywhere he goes. He is like the glue in our family. The joke, that is actually only half a joke, is that one day when my grandparents die, that we are all going to fight over who gets to have Mike live with them. We ALL want him. My PawPaw loves to say that Mike has never had a bad day, and it is a very true statement. He's always happy. Always smiling. Always a joy to be around. I have had the priveledge of knowing what a blessing it truly is to have someone with DS in my family. I don't know what kind of family we would have been without Mike, but I don't want to know.
My PawPaw kept good to his promise to God that if He would heal Mike that my PawPaw would devote his life to helping those with handicaps. That is exactly what he did. When Mike aged out of the special education program through the public school, my PawPaw retired from his job as an electrician at a refinery and he and my grandmother started a non-profit organization that helps adults with physical and mental handicaps. They built a center for "special" adults, where they could learn life skills, exercise, do school work, play games, and go on field trips. The ministry that they provided to those special adults for over 20 years was amazing. They changed so many lives over the years. The effects of their love on the many handicapped adults that they came in contact with, has had a farther reaching effect than they will ever realize. All because of a little miracle boy named Mike.
Every family really does deserve the blessing of a child with Down Syndrome.