Monday, July 31, 2017

Record-Breaking Swimmer: ‘Down Syndrome is a Life Worth Saying Yes To’

By Nancy Flanders
Live Action News

Karen Gaffney isn’t your average person — but it isn’t her diagnosis of Down syndrome that differentiates her. It’s her accomplishments.

As part of a relay team, Gaffney swam the English Channel, making her the first person with Down syndrome to do so. She swam nine miles across Lake Tahoe. She is the president of her own non-profit organization. 

She has received numerous awards and was an official Olympic torch relay torchbearer. All of this was made possible because her parents said no to institutionalizing her, instead doing all they could to give her an equal education to her peers.

Gaffney recently spoke in Ireland at the Save the 8th rally (a rally in favor of preserving Ireland’s 8th amendment protecting preborn children); prior to this, in 2015, she gave a Ted Talk about how life with Down syndrome is a life worth living.
“I wonder what comes to mind when you think of our tomorrows, the tomorrows of people with Down syndrome,” Gaffney asks the crowd. “Some of you may be thinking, ‘Is there a tomorrow for people like us?’ Given what is happening in a world of prenatal testing, anyone would question that.”
Prenatal testing for Down syndrome has advanced quickly in recent years, and a blood test can now determine if a preborn child has a risk of Down syndrome. Despite the inaccuracy of this noninvasive test, many people are so frightened of having children who may have different learning capabilities that they abort their children even without knowing with certainty that they have Down syndrome.

Gaffney shares the story of her fifth-grade teacher. It was the first year of teaching for her and she didn’t know anything about Down syndrome. The two grew close and are still in touch today. One day, that teacher called her to ask for Gaffney’s help.
“She needed my help because her baby would be born with Down syndrome,” explained Gaffney. “The diagnosis came very early in her pregnancy. She pushed back on any discussion of termination because she knew Down syndrome from a completely different perspective than her doctor did. She taught him about one of her fifth-grade students. Me.”

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