Written by: Julie Meintel
World Down Syndrome Day is 3/21 every year. Why 3/21? This date was chosen carefully to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (3) of the 21st chromosome, which is what causes Down Syndrome, or Trisomy 21, to occur. This day has been officially recognized by the United Nations as a global awareness event since 2012. World Down Syndrome Day is aimed at raising awareness and understanding of this naturally occurring condition, and the people that live with it every day, as well as protecting and advocating for their rights around the world. Down Syndrome usually causes varying degrees of physical and intellectual disability in addition to accompanying medical issues. About 6000 babies are born in the United States each year with Down Syndrome, or roughly 1 in 700, making Down Syndrome the most common chromosomal condition. Worldwide numbers vary.
In considering what to write in this post, I thought about people I know personally whose lives are touched by Down Syndrome. I researched the numbers and the statistics. I remembered a post I had written several months ago about Ernie’s Ride.
The founder of Ernie’s Ride, Doug Shope, had a very special relationship with his Uncle Ernie, who was born with Down Syndrome. When Doug learned about how many babies with Down Syndrome are aborted each year, it drove him to do something to raise money and awareness and to offer support and abortion alternatives to parents who receive this diagnosis. Ernie’s Ride combines Doug’s love of cycling with his drive to save lives. Cyclists seek sponsorship from donors and take a three-day bicycle trip from Cincinnati to Cleveland, over 330 miles, with area pro-life pregnancy centers as the beneficiaries. Elizabeth New Life Center is blessed to be one of them.
In addition to my previous writing, I also came across this little essay that offers a beautiful view of Down Syndrome. How fitting it is, then, that World Down Syndrome Day is just a few days from St. Patrick’s Day. And everyone knows that the four-leaf clover is the symbol for all things Irish and lucky!
The Four-Leaf Clover
Who knows why Down Syndrome occurs? Why does the extra 21st chromosome stick to the cell when the fertilized egg begins its first division?
It can be compared to what happens in nature, to a field of clover. Usually, we see 3 leaves on each clover. Once in a while though, we find a clover that has an extra leaf, making it a four-leaf clover. We don’t know why Mother Nature decided to add that extra leaf; she just did.
There is no obvious explanation; all of the clover plants grew in the same soil, were exposed to the same sun and rain, etc. Mother Nature just decided to add an extra leaf to one of the clover in the patch. This doesn’t make that clover better or not as good as the other clover, it just makes it different. Some people even believe that it brings a person good luck when they find a four-leaf clover.
It is much the same way with the extra chromosome. We don’t know why Mother Nature didn’t let the cell divide evenly; she just didn’t. She decided to add another chromosome to that baby’s cells. It doesn’t make the baby better or not as good as other babies; it just makes him or her different.
And if you find one of those babies, you are truly lucky for they are very special babies who grow into very special people. (author unknown)
We at ENLC firmly believe that every life has such incredible value and take joy in celebrating these lucky clovers today and every day!