Today is World Down Syndrome Day, and so this evening my friends and I were reflecting on the value of those with Down Syndrome in our lives.
My favourite story my friend shared was about a man named Peter for whom she cared for one year while working as a live-in assistant at a L’Arche community in Montreal.
Peter was in his 30s and his kidneys did not work well. He was on dialysis and, because he could not urinate properly, he also had a catheter that, in his case, was surgically changed every six months.
After one of the procedures when it had been changed, Peter returned home and to the care of my friend.
My friend was responsible for attending to Peter’s daily needs and to monitoring and managing his pain as he recuperated.
She recalled, “At one point, I remember that Peter was sitting on the couch in his usual corner and I was working with my back toward him when I could hear him moaning in his discomfort. But, as soon as I turned around to check on him and show my concern, he immediately stopped moaning and gave me a vigorous thumbs up.”
Sixteen years later, my friend still recalls this – how Peter, who could not speak more than ten words, had made an effort to reassure her that he was okay.
“That showed me his insight for putting others at ease,” my friend reflected.
“His most-used word was ‘happy,'” she added.
Peter was the seventh child of a influential Canadian politician. Initially, it had been hard for Peter’s accomplished father to accept his son’s diagnosis but, my friend explained, “His wife loved Peter so much and he learned to fully love his son because of the tremendous love he had for his wife.”
In 2009, Peter passed away at age 42. My friend attended the funeral and remembers that other people had their own stories of how, precisely when the trials of life might have gotten everyone else down, Peter was ready to give life a thumbs up!
Photo of Peter sent to me by my friend