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How My Child Inspires Me - By Linda Walsh
This is a speech that Linda gave at RMDSA's Breakfast of Champions event in May, 2007.

Hi, I am Bridgette's Mom. I was asked to speak about my experiences with Down syndrome and the life of our daughter Bridgette who is now 27 months old. I struggled to try to include everything that we have been through in the last 27 months and limit my speech to just 5 minutes. It has been quite a wild ride to say the least.

I would like to start by saying, most other mothers I talk to about the birth of their child experience much difficulty to conjure up the memories of that day, as it is simply too painful. I am happy to share with you my experience, which although was very difficult, was also the beginning of a very beautiful journey.

The Birth:
Bridgette was born on a Friday in early 2005. She was a healthy, full-term baby, 7 pounds 12 ounces, breastfed. She was perfect except for a little gurgle in her breathing.

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Two Hours Later:
Two hours had passed since the nurses whisked Bridgette away for her 'bath'. Longing to hold my new baby girl, I called the NICU and asked about Bridgette. The nurse's response was shocking: "I am sorry, but I am not qualified to talk to you about the condition of your baby." And she hung up. I was floored. Was Bridgette dead? Was she sick? What did this mean?

I ran down the hallway towards the NICU when our pediatrician and my husband rounded the corner. [Our pediatrician] smiled as he came towards me. "Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby girl!" he said. The racing in my heart started to calm and I asked, "Is she all right?" "Let's go to your room, sit down, and talk," he said.

The Diagnosis:
[Our pediatrician] calmed my fears and shared with us the truth about Bridgette. He informed us about her medical conditions, the holes in her heart, the murmur, and that Bridgette had Down syndrome. I went into shock, but his facial expressions, and his calm presence pulled me back as he said, "You both have been blessed with a wonderful gift. God does not give these babies to just anyone. You have been chosen, hand selected, and your life will be so much more fulfilling, you just won't believe it." He then shared that he had just been through the [health care provider] training through RMDSA and was so excited that we were his first patients. As I look back, I too am so very glad that we were his first patients after he received the training, which planted the seed of hope and positive attitudes that we live by today.

RMDSA:
I knew nothing about Down syndrome. So [our pediatrician] hooked me up with RMDSA and I received my visitation the next day. When I met Jeanette and her two-year-old son, Tait, it was from that moment on that I knew everything was going to be all right. Jeanette had tons of information, and she seemed so calm and relaxed, like she had been doing this for 30 years! And Tait, he was just like my kids at two, exploring everything in my hospital room. He was cute, funny, lovable, and my knight-in-shining-armor.

Amazing Healing:
Bridgette came into our lives, healed relationships between my family members, and pulled our family together. Her heart healed miraculously on its own, but she had another problem. She was diagnosed with Hirschsprungs Disease at 8 months old. I had been helping her to stool everyday for 8 months, thinking this was normal for Down syndrome. At an RMDSA support group meeting, I discovered that this was not normal and we took Bridgette to a specialist, who confirmed that she would need surgery. Then the roller coaster began again.

Surgery went well, but Bridgette went septic and ended up having seven surgeries all together. We almost lost her multiple times, and one day, when it was all too much, I called Jeanette and told her I was ready to give up, ready to let go of Bridgette's little foot as she was being pulled back to heaven. I did just that, I stopped fighting, and told God, if he wants his littlest angel so badly, then I release her. Shortly after that conversation, I received a telephone call from [the hospital] and the nurse was telling me that Bridgette was suddenly making a remarkable recovery, and that we could come and take her home in a week! The lessons I have learned in the last 27 months go beyond anything I can explain. I am a different person since our youngest daughter arrived.

I want to thank RMDSA for the training you provided to our pediatrician. Thank you for your intervention. I can only hope and pray that training will be provided to all the nurses that simply "don't get it," to all the OB/GYN's, and even midwives that desperately need RMDSA to help educate them. Most of all, I want to thank you for the support that you have given me and my family, through the good times as well as the tough times. We never have to walk this journey alone and have made lifelong friends from day one.

Thank you.

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