13 Truths Our People

It's worth it

Fran Hickey, M.D. with Sarah Hritz, 2, in a playroom at Children's Colorado. In September 2013, Dr. Hickey helped open a new space for the Anna and John J. Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children's Colorado on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

Fran Hickey, M.D. with Sarah Hritz, 2, in a playroom at Children's Colorado. In September 2013, Dr. Hickey helped open a new space for the Anna and John J. Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children's Colorado on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

Share Share Share
"The next morning we were in the Down Syndrome Clinic, this was like a well-oiled machine...It was during this appointment that I realized the difference in care."

– Kim Ludwig, mom blogger, Chromosomally Enhanced

"What's so wrong?" Andrea Hritz asks. Her daughter, Sarah, has Down syndrome; Hritz recalls the negativity surrounding her pregnancy, from others' reactions to the ominous termination statistics. "It's not that bad."

Andrea's question implies that perhaps someone wasn't telling her something. Would it make their lives more difficult? What about the stigmas? Were others afraid of the person the child would or wouldn't become?

Down syndrome is undoubtedly challenging, and the Hritzes concur, as they juggle the requisite care to help Sarah thrive. But Fran Hickey, M.D., medical director of the Anna and John J. Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children's Hospital Colorado, insists we treat them not as kids with disabilities, but simply as kids.

"The way things are going now, everybody wants their one or two perfect kids," Dr. Hickey says. "But there is no diversity in society...I just don't think that's the best for anybody...A lot of things [in life] you can't predict anyways."

Dr. Hickey vowed to improve all aspects of the condition when, 21 years ago, his son James was born with Down syndrome and he found a glaring void in medical literature. Throughout his career, Dr. Hickey worked to bring together experts and led research that addressed the underlying medical conditions, like cardiology complexities, that infringed on life expectancy, which was about 20.

Three years ago, Children's Colorado recruited Dr. Hickey from Cincinnati, with Denver's generous Sie family leading the charge (their granddaughter was born with Down syndrome). Everyday at the Sie Center, caregivers work non-stop to help children with Down syndrome overcome major health issues so they can live longer – possibly to their 60s. They work to help these children break through communication and movement barriers, like speech impediments and reduced muscle tension, so they can participate alongside their peers, and pursue unlimited possibilities in school and work.

Dr. Hickey recounts a time someone verbally pitied his daughter for having a brother with Down syndrome: "Katie said, 'You don't understand. That guy's got the greatest life in the world. That guy enjoys everything...we're just blessed because he's our brother.'"

What is your truth about Down syndrome?