Success stories come in many shapes and forms but it’s not their scale that’s usually inspiring. For Joey Wittkugle and his mother Bobbi – his life is their success story.
Joey was born on June 29, 1958. It was a different time back then and Bobbi Wittkugle came to know that better than many. When Joey was born, the doctors realized that he had Down Syndrome.
The doctors at the time weren’t nearly as familiar with this developmental condition as today’s medical professionals. So, their position when they broke the news to Bobbi was extremely blunt.
“The doctor came in and never asked my name and said to me, ‘You have to put him away. He’ll never talk. He’ll never walk. He’ll never know who you are. He will live to the age of 11 and that will be the end of it,’” Bobbi shared. Yet, more than six decades have passed, and Joey just celebrated his 62nd birthday on June 29, 2020.
Bobbi herself is set to hit a special milestone this year – 90-years-old. And she’d been the first to acknowledge when her son was born, it was a very different time for everyone, not just the medical professionals.
“Sixty-two years ago, nobody knew about them and they kept them in the house. I mean, you did not have them out walking or one thing or another,” she said.
When asked what inspired her to keep Joey and to give him the best possible life she could, Bobbi said it was a local priest.
“Bobbi, you are gifted by God,” the priest told her six decades ago. “You were chosen by God to have this child. You can’t turn your back on him. When he leaves you then you will know the purpose of him coming to you.”
To this day, Bobbi seems to have no regrets whatsoever about her decision. “I don’t know what I will do, God forbid, when he passes away. I don’t think I will be here much longer after that.”
This year, Bobbi and Joey celebrated his birthday with a community-held car parade. You can check the full WBTW interview here. Before the interview ended, Bobbi shared one more message to the viewers and readers of her son’s story”
“I want people to start understanding, when you see one of our children, don’t turn your back at them like they did years ago. They are human, they are special from God and please learn to love them as much as they love you.”
And while things have indeed progressed since 1958, there’s still more work to be done. Nowadays, there are community organizations, schools, work forces, and health care systems that are much more accepting of people with Down Syndrome. Hopefully, the awkward gazes will keep decreasing with time as well as there are more people with Down Syndrome out there than many of us realize. There are ~6,000 people with this condition born in the U.S. every year, that’s one out of every 691 babies.
One thing that has definitely changed, however, is our medical understanding of the condition and how best to deal with it. Down Syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra copy of a 21st chromosome in the genes. While we normally have 23 pairs of chromosome pairs in the nucleus of our cells, people with Down Syndrome have one extra.
There are three different types of Down Syndrome and even though all of them are genetic conditions, only 1% of recorded cases are passed hereditary. In all other 99% of cases, it’s just a matter of chance.
What Down Syndrome means for a person is usually a mild-to-moderate cognitive delay, a lower muscle tone, an upward slant to the eyes, and an overall smaller stature.
And while all these symptoms are quite significant and impactful, in many cases iIt’s still possible to lead a meaningful and even productive and helpful life with this condition. All that’s needed is love and care like the ones Bobbi Wittkugle gave her son.