Sainfield support group for Down Syndrome

Sainfield support group for Down Syndrome

29 November 2017

TWO Saintfield mums will host a family fun day on Saturday to launch a new Down Syndrome Parent Support Group.

Nichola McSherry and Shirley Wadsworth have forged a friendship following the birth of their sons Euan (3) and Luke (14 months), who both have Down Syndrome.

Having both experienced very different challenges following their children’s births, they are keen to offer support to parents of newly diagnosed babies as well as friendship to families with older children.

They have been inundated with expressions of support for the fledgling group with seven Saintfield families hoping to attend along with others from Newcastle, Downpatrick and Ardglass.

Mother-of-three Nichola (28) said it had taken her until now, almost four years since Euan’s birth, to find a local support network.

“We found out just 10 days before Euan was born that he had Down Syndrome,” she said.

“My midwife had sent me for a scan because she thought the baby was breech and they realised he actually had a bowel condition related to Down Syndrome and that I was already in preterm labour.

Nichola said Euan, who was born nine weeks early weighing 5lbs 1oz, was whisked away for surgery at just 12 hours old.

Also diagnosed with three holes in his heart and requiring peg feeding, she said she was much more worried about his medical conditions than his Down Syndrome diagnosis.

“We were so focused on Euan and were in and out of hospital all the time that it became normal,” she said.

“Until a year ago I did not know there were any other families in Saintfield with children with Down Syndrome.

“We have formed a nice group of mums who meet up with all our children and Saturday’s launch event is to get the group up and running.

“It is for all sorts of things like social outings for the children, friendship for the parents and practical advice on how to access things like specialist nursery provision, which I have been very fortunate to do.”

Shirley (32) said she got in touch with Nichola soon after her unborn baby was diagnosed with Down Syndrome following her 20 week scan.

Frank about the roller-coaster of emotions she underwent following the news, she was also told her baby was unlikely to survive due to a severe build-up of fluid around his vital organs.

“It threw me into a world of unknowns and I feared the impact on my other two daughters, who were also babies at the time,” she said.

“I feared he would die, I feared a life spent in ICU, I was not ready for this news.”

Shirley said her mindset changed following her next scan when she was told that the fluid that had threatened Luke’s life had gone. She said she he felt overwhelming relief that her “wee man was fighting”.

“I suddenly realised I was going to fight for him. I thought if he can’t win his fight I will live with that but I am not taking that chance away from him,” she said.

“I have now become a protector of anyone with special needs.”

Saturday’s Christmas Family Day will be held from 2pm-4pm in Saintfield Parish Hall and will include a bouncy castle, face-painting, arts and crafts and other entertainment.