Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How Little Gabriel Survived by Fighting

While this doesn't have much to do with particularly DS, this is an article written by Dr. Mostert (I put another article he wrote about abortion & DS up in October).

This article shows how God is totally in control!

How Little Gabriel Survived by Fighting

by Mark R. Mostert

Recently, the London Daily Mail ran photos of the beautiful seven month old Jones twins. Dressed in similar outfits, (right down to their blue socks) their smiling, curious faces are crowned by shocks or red hair.

Rebecca Jones knew at ten weeks that she was pregnant with twin boys. “When they told us” the Mail reported, she and her husband Mark “were over the moon." As the pregnancy progressed, the happy parents picked out names: Gabriel and Ieuan.

Life was good.

Ten weeks later, however, something wasn’t right. A routine check-up brought news no expectant parents want to hear. Gabriel was only half his brother’s size and his heart was three times larger than normal. The doctors said that such a condition meant that Gabriel would likely die before he was born—a heart attack, or perhaps of a stroke. They also told the parents that should Gabriel make it into the world he would not survive for long.

The news got worse. If Gabriel died in utero, Ieuan’s life was also in jeopardy. The doctors advised “that it would be better to end Gabriel's suffering sooner rather than later.” Rebecca and Mark were being asked to make the unbearable a reality: "We had to decide whether to end his life and let his brother live, or risk them both."

They had some help in making their decision. The Joneses were advised, it seems, that it “would be kinder to let him die in the womb with his brother by his side than to die alone after being born.” This was enough to convince Rebecca: "That made my mind up for me. I wanted the best thing for him."

Everything neatly rationalized, the doctors promptly went work. First, they tried to cut Gabriel’s umbilical cord to end his blood supply. It didn’t work – the umbilical cord was too thick. The doctors then divided the placenta so that when Gabriel died, Ieuan would survive. "I put my hands on my stomach, thinking of Gabriel“ Rebecca said. “It was devastating. I had said my goodbyes."

But Gabriel lived on. The following morning his mother could feel him “kicking madly.” Not only had he survived two deliberate medical attempts to end his life, but over the next few weeks he gained weight and his enlarged heart began to return to its normal size.

Gabriel (1lb 15oz) and Ieuan (3lb 8oz) were born by caesarian section at 31 weeks. Now, the Mail’s photos show Ieuan tipping the scales at 15lb, and the almost disposed of Gabriel at 12lb 6oz.

Gabriel, according to his mother, “is always laughing.” "Doctors tried to break their bond in the womb, but they just proved it couldn't be broken."

At first glance, Gabriel’s story is a heartwarming one. Consider the headline: We're twinseparable! Happy with his brother, the boy who refused to die.

One would reasonably expect a story about the resilience of the human spirit: perhaps an unborn child facing some dire medical emergency with the help of courageous family and skilled physicians; of a roller coaster where doctors never give up trying to keep the child alive, beating back challenge after medical challenge. They use every medical intervention in their considerable arsenal because they believe life is precious and that doing everything possible to save an unborn child is a moral and professional imperative.

In this case, however, such a scenario is a lie.

Increasingly, as in Gabriel’s story, we treat unborn children with serious medical disabilities as threats to their unborn siblings, their families, and even their communities. It’s getting more difficult not to believe that many in medicine think that some entire groups of unborn children with disabilities are expendable. That’s one reason why we dispose of most children with Down Syndrome in-utero. Perhaps, as with Gabriel, killing unborn children with heart defects are next. Why not unborn children with cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, or those genetically likely to have blue eyes? Why not by gender? Why not destroy certain ethnic groups?

What really happened was that Gabriel survived in spite of his parent’s permission for him to die (after some serious prompting by the doctors, no doubt) and in spite of his doctors, who were trying to kill him. Gabriel’s physicians were deliberate and tenacious in wanting him dead: When one method didn’t work, they tried another. When he didn’t die, they marveled at this little boy holding out against their sophisticated plotting. That’s why his doctors nicked named Gabriel “Rocky.”

The underdog, facing incredible odds, willing to give his all, fought back. But that’s where the Ricky analogy ends. Gabriel couldn’t match his adversaries pound for pound, move for move, scalpel for scalpel.

But fight he did, blind to his enemies, unable to anticipate the direction of incoming blows in a lethal dance bereft of rules or referee.

But fight he did, as mightily as his little limbs would allow.

Mark R. Mostert, Ph.D is the director of the Institute for the Study of Disability and Bioethics at Regent University.


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