TMT CHAMPION STORY

Loving a Daughter with Down Syndrome is a ‘ball of sunshine’

Francisco Yabut and wife, Sharon, are looking bright ahead of their careers and lives in Angeles City. Isko is an accomplished lawyer and a college instructor, and his wife is a career woman as well. Topping their blessed life is the birth of their first daughter, Syene. What looked to be a vibrant family of three turned even brighter with the coming of someone the parents cheerfully coin their “ball of sunshine.”

Diagnosed with Down Syndrome as early as five months on her mom’s pregnancy, now seven-year old Scarloe is genuinely beautiful. In an interview for The Millennium Trumpet, Isko shared a newfound profundity: Scarloe’s arrival to the family defined the meaning of his existence. 

One in every 800 Filipino babies has Down Syndrome, according to Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines, Inc. (DSAPI). This translates to about 1,875 new cases annually in the country. 

Down Syndrome is a condition where a person is born with 47 chromosomes instead of the typical 46. This extra chromosome causes a delay in development that leads to physical and mental changes in the child. The common conception that persons with this condition are afflicted with heart disease, as well, is validated as up to 45% of children with Down Syndrome develop congenital heart disease, according to World Health Organization—a harsh truth that these little balls of sunshine are dimming out early in life.

But not Scarloe, the fighter

“My biggest fear is to die ahead of our children because they are still too young,” Isko lamented. “However, it is also just as painful if she dies ahead of us because, generally, they have a short life span. Fortunately, Scarloe doesn’t have the usual characteristics of a person with Down Syndrome of an enlarged heart and thyroid glands which are the usual causes of their early demise.”

The Yabut couple sees loving Scarloe as a lifetime commitment. They took the brave road of enrolling Scarloe in a normal school where she spends five days of regular schooling, heaped with additional four days a week for therapy alone. 

“One of the most painful moments we had is during the first time that we took Scarloe to the physical therapist because of the rubbery-like legs. It was very painful for her. We could only wish to take part in that pain,” Isko recalled. Scarloe also had a food therapist to help her in meals. She has started to eat solids, but most of the time, she still drinks milk from a feeding bottle.

Scarloe’s leg muscles are still weak. Some of her words are occasionally inaudible and she cannot yet read and write as slow cognitive development is common among children with Down Syndrome. “Life has been a big struggle for her but we have fondly observed that Scarloe is a fighter,” the father remarked.

The fighter in this child is a little warrior who is steadily honing minute details of personal growth that one day will be a bastion of character. She sings, dances, reads and plays with her colleagues interactively. The puny cavalier tops it all with brimming confidence. She may not say it, but she shows it.

“More than the benefits that a normal environment has given to Scarloe, it has even done more benefit to her classmates. It is like magic.”

Team Sunshine

Looking at Scarloe’s happy photos instinctively melts the heart and makes people intuitively smile. The ball of sunshine glows because of the people who reflect her warmth. Isko has all the gratitude to Dr. Francis Dimalanta, a noted pediatric-development doctor, who then referred them to Dr. Joanna Vicencio, a pediatrician; teacher Hosanna Camacho, a physical therapist; and teacher Bernice Co-Cruz, an occupational therapist. Teachers Jeannie and Maya at Kindermusik provide hours on arts. Isko thanks the school community for giving Scarloe a normal environment.

“We want her to be in a normal environment despite her obstacles. It has actually done something good for her classmates and cultivated their sense of empathy. Even the biggest bully in school is very protective of her. More than the benefits that a normal environment has given to Scarloe, it has even done more benefit to her classmates. It is like magic,” Isko said. 

When observed with contentment, normalcy is great. Scarloe tries to help in the chores, and she now knows how to set a table with placemats. Isko appreciates it when Scarloe hurls in temperamental outbursts. “To me, it means that her brain is functioning.”

Team Forever

And of all the people who take part in nurturing Scarloe, Isko unfurls the red theater curtain to wife Sharon and their daughter Syene. 

“True credit goes to my wife Sharon who, since day one, has been mainly looking after and taken care of Scarloe’s needs, from bringing her to her doctors and therapists to accompanying her to Kindermusik classes. And we are proud of Scarloe’s older sister who, as young as she is (older by only 14 months), has also been understanding, patient and sensitive to her younger sister’s needs.”

The family learned in unison the power of balance. Sharon tutors Syene every night; Isko, after a demanding day at law, plays with Scarloe, while Syene is learning to be more patient with her little sister. 

As the nation observes this March the National Women’s Month made more special by the Women with Disabilities Day observed on the last Monday, more tales are told about families who contribute in nation building by forging strong bonds with each other and with the community that surrounds them. Proclamation No. 744, series of 2004, enjoins local government units and non-government organizations to implement programs geared towards the fulfillment of human rights of women with disabilities. 

Isko continues his involvement in organizations promoting awareness about Down Syndrome. This has been his life’s meaning. After a tiring day at work, Isko is eager to go home for another night of naughty antics, singing and dancing with her daughters come dinner. 

“I would tickle the soles of her (Scarloe) feet,” Isko said. And the ensuing laughter is magical. 

(Photos contributed by Yabut Family)