“Can I hold my daughter please?”
My wife Margie delivered our daughter Chloe on May 16th,
2003. I was in my twentieth year as a Police Officer, and I knew there was
something not right in the doctor’s look and voice. Chloe aspirated during her
entry into the world, and as they cleared her lungs I was relieved to hear a
loud cry. Seventeen years earlier, I had delivered a baby on a sidewalk, and I
knew how important it was to hear that crying sound.
After approximately five minutes of the physicians clearing
Chloe’s lungs, a doctor approached Margie and me and stated in a very sterile
voice that our daughter had “characteristics of Down syndrome.” I did not know
much about this diagnosis, but I said to the masked physician, “Can I hold my
daughter please?” He responded, “Yes, do you want to hold her?” I detected
surprise in his voice, but Chloe looked right into my eyes, and I instantly
fell in love with this precious gift God had given our family.
We brought Chloe home from the hospital after a long and emotional three-day stay, and as a family we immediately began focusing on what supports and services she would need. My wife Margie and four-year old son Nolan worked tirelessly and passionately with Early Intervention therapists to make sure Chloe had the best possible foundation for life. My wife and son even taught Chloe to read at age three, and now at age seven she reads at the level of her peers. I was amazed by the ABILITIES of this little girl who not long ago would have been labeled uneducable and shipped off to an institution for a life of EXCLUSION.
My greatest concern after Chloe’s birth was her safety, and one of my biggest fears was my own life expectancy. I knew that as long as I was alive I could protect her, but the chances of me living to be 100 when Chloe turned 60 seemed pretty slim – especially with my wear and tear from the streets. As I prayed, God continued to open doors and close chapters in my life. I felt God pushing me into a profession where I could be a loud voice for these precious children. As career doors opened, I took a leap of faith and left my Law Enforcement career and returned to college to get my Masters Degree in Early Intervention. I now work full-time as an Outreach Director and Advocate for children with disabilities and their families.
Going back to college was honestly more terrifying than some of the demons I faced as a Police Officer. I was sweating profusely when I arrived on campus for my first class. My parents bought me a class ring from the University of Pittsburgh when I received my degree, and I had a silver cross placed in the middle of the stone as a constant visual and reminder of Who carried me through this journey.
Thanks to the tireless work of my wife Margie, son Nolan, and a team of awesome professionals, Chloe continued to grow and advance in her skills and her social and communication skills became her greatest asset. Chloe asks Nolan daily “Are you happy?” and the first thing Nolan will say when he wakes up in the morning is “Where is Chloe?” Nolan has learned at an early age what the true meaning of life and love is and the relationship between Chloe and Nolan can only be described as magical. They are best friends, and Nolan is becoming the type of young man we always prayed for thanks to the purity and unconditional love Chloe has filled him with.
We decided to do all we could to let the world see what a beautiful, priceless gift Chloe and all children with Down syndrome are to families, communities and schools. As a family we took Chloe to meet as many people as possible, and the efforts have yielded a beautiful harvest. Chloe has been in magazines, books, newspapers, and many online articles. She has met Sarah Palin twice, appeared in a press conference with Pennsylvania Governor Rendell, read to newly elected Pennsylvania Governor Corbett, warmed up with Andy LaRoche and the Pittsburgh Pirates, met many legislators and she was recognized on the floor of the Pennsylvania Senate after they declared World Down Syndrome Day in Pennsylvania because of Chloe’s advocacy efforts for all children. Chloe has called the Governor and many Legislators “Buddy”, and maybe one day she will enter politics and bring the honesty, purity and focus on the most vulnerable members of society that is desperately needed. Chloe has been on the local news, and she is featured in the national TV series “Facing Life Head On” episode “Going to Bat for Down syndrome” with Andy LaRoche. I started a site http://chloesmessage.blogspot.com/ so people could see the ABILTIES of children with Down syndrome and new parents could get excited about the future when they received a precious gift like Chloe.
As I studied and researched disabilities I was shocked to learn that 90%+ of children diagnosed prenatally with Down syndrome are aborted. This issue literally kept me awake at night, and I began writing about this silent eugenic movement when I could not sleep. I came up with the acronym SAD SIN (Stop Aborting Down syndrome Individuals Now), and I began a site to post article and facts to wake the culture up and ask, “Who will be targeted next?” I write a regular column at Renew America http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/kondrich .
People ask me what it is like to change careers so radically, and I respond that I really have not changed my work focus at all. My mission now is the same as it was during my days as a Police Officer – “To serve and protect”.