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Mr. Ford, you have a son." I still remember vividly those words that the doctor said early in the morning on August 14, 1999. It was one of the happiest days of my life. After trying for seven years and just about giving up hope, the Lord blessed our family with a new addition. On top of having to wait seven years, my wife was bedfast for 19 weeks during the pregnancy and Eric was delivered seven weeks premature. This was clearly not a typical pregnancy. I couldn’t wait to hand out the cigars to my friends and coworkers.

Two days later, I was urgently summoned back to the hospital. As I raced back to the hospital, the worst scenarios ran through my head. Something was wrong with Eric. He wasn’t going to make it. “Mr. Ford, your son has Down syndrome.” I was stunned. “That’s it! This is the reason I nearly broke my neck getting here?” My reply was half relief that Eric’s condition was not immediately life threatening and half a testament of strength to lead my family through something we knew very little about. 

Moments after learning of Eric’s genetic disorder, we were handed a couple of pamphlets by someone who most obviously knew nothing about Down syndrome other than clinical diagnosis. After being told all the terrible complications of the disorder, my wife was told: “...and he won’t be able to kiss you due to his poor muscle control.” 

Frantic for information, I immediately started researching Down syndrome to understand what can be expected and not expected. Even in 1999, there was not a lot of organized information. But what I pieced together told me that Eric and our family was going to go through a lot during his life but with love and care he was going to be okay and we were going to be okay. God made Eric special and had chosen us to be his parents. We felt blessed to be given such a responsibility.

Not knowing exactly what to expect at first, we found that Eric ate, slept, cried and dirtied his diapers just like every other baby. He did it a lot. Development that we took for granted with our daughter Mandy was eagerly awaited with Eric. “He rolled over on his back. I saw it first.” “ I saw him roll back to his stomach.” “He said dada.” “He said mama first.” My wife and I would claim our, I mean Eric’s, conquests and brag to our family, friends, neighbors, the postman or anyone that would listen. In our eyes, each small step for Eric was a milestone in his life. And we all shared in his achievements. Today, Eric is still our special boy just as our daughter Mandy is special to us. In Eric’s short lifetime, we have gone through many challenges: he was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes at 18 months and he has had four surgeries to put tubes in his ears. We have also experienced many great triumphs: swimming at age 4, soccer at age 5, and being selected for the National Down Syndrome Society picture contest and seeing his photo on Times Square– twice!

What we have found is that Eric’s challenges and triumphs are just as great as our daughters are; they are just different. We are happy and proud of them both. His love is unconditional and so is ours. By the way, one thing that Eric does extremely well: he really knows how to give great hugs and kisses.


Down Syndrome Association of Acadiana
P.O. Box 81323
Lafayette, LA  70508-1323
Phone: 337-234-3109


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