Down with Dad: One father’s thoughts on Down’s Syndrome

David and Eilidh Patterson
David and Eilidh Patterson

I once bought a table that had a few small chips in the woodwork when it was delivered. I couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of returning it so the company gave me some money to make up for the imperfection

In other news, a couple in England have successfully sued the NHS for allowing them to have a baby with Down’s Syndrome.

The story stopped me in my tracks.

I can’t and won’t attempt to judge the couple for what they have done, for what made them take the action they did, as I don’t know them. I suspect I wouldn’t want to know them and I simply can’t grasp the concept of what they have done.

What I can do however is reflect on my own experiences and hopefully bring some balance to the story.

Eilidh as we know very well is, to put it politely, stubborn. She refused to get in position during the scan that may have indicated she had DS so the doctor missed any indication.

We were blissfully unaware of anything until a few hours after her birth.

I won’t pretend that it was or is easy to have a child with a disability but at no point have I considered the NHS to be at ‘fault’.

Our lives were turned upside down in a moment and all we could see ahead of us were problems and sadness. This was a selfish but absolutely natural reaction – the worry of how this would affect our happy and ‘normal’ life. I did find my way through it though with the help of those closest to me, and of course Eilidh showed me the folly of my ways.

It would be taking it a bit far to call it an enlightenment but something changed in me. My heart had to grow twice it’s normal size just to cope with the love I have for her. Maybe because she has to work twice as hard as others, maybe because she needs a little more protection, or it may just be that her personality is so totally infectious but Eilidh quickly became everything to me and to us as a family.

The couple in question have received a “six figure payout”. I wonder what they plan to do with that money? I think I paid off some of my credit card with my table refund but what financial loss have they suffered? Granted there is a chance Eilidh will require financial support when she is older in order to live independently. But then she might not.

She might get a job and be self sufficient, but she might not.

Same goes for Rory though. Who knows what the future holds. As a parent all I can do is raise my children as best I can.

I will always regret how I felt about my daughter in those early days and I wonder if the couple will come to regret what they have done.

Down’s Syndrome is not an imperfection to be monetised and it saddens me the statement that this story makes about the value of people with Down’s Syndrome.

Quite the opposite to suing them, I remain completely indebted to the NHS for the support they have provided and will continue to provide Eilidh throughout her life.