When Gabrielle Frohock was pregnant with her youngest daughter, she had no idea what microcephaly was. When her doctors diagnosed her daughter Laney with the brain disorder, she was afraid and devastated.
Thirteen years later, Frohock is trying to dispel growing fears about the brain disorder in South America and Texas, her home state.
Several South American countries are reporting an alarming spike in the number of babies born with microcephaly. The condition is potentially linked to the Zika virus outbreak, though the link has not yet been confirmed, according to the World Health Organization. “Between October 2015 and January this year medics in [Brazil] have registered almost 4,000 cases of microcephaly in newborns, compared to 163 in a normal year,” according to The Pool.
Abortion activists are using the health crisis to push for legalized abortion in the largely pro-life continent. LifeNews reported that the abortion group Women on Waves also is pressuring women in South America who may be infected with the Zika virus to abort their unborn babies because they may be born with microcephaly.
But Frohock told the BBC that finding out her daughter Laney had microcephaly was “not the end of the world.”
At first, doctors thought that Laney would not survive more than a few months, her mother said. A year went by, and though Laney developed much more slowly than other babies, she survived.
“I was determined I would love her and hold her – I did not put her down for six months, as I didn’t know how long she would survive,” Frohock said.
Laney is 13 years old. She cannot walk or talk or feed herself, and she has a feeding tube in her stomach. Her mother said she can crawl on her own and push buttons on her favorite toy, and she enjoys riding horses as part of her therapy.
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“There are varying extremes of the condition – Laney is towards the end where her brain has a lot more problems but doesn’t make her value any less,” her mother said.
“I went through a grieving process and was praying for a miracle that my daughter will get better.
But instead, I got better and I learned to accept the child I have,” she continued. “It was a process and it didn’t happen overnight, but I got there. … She’s a gift to me.”
Frohock said the Zika scare has reached Texas, where many fear it could lead to microcephaly in unborn babies. Laney’s mother said she wants her daughter’s life to bring hope to families whose babies have been diagnosed with the disorder. She encouraged people not to pity her daughter but to treat her as a valuable person who represents “another part of our human condition.”
“I wouldn’t choose to have my child to be born with microcephaly, and people should take precautions,” she said. “But when it happens to someone I want them to know it’s not the end of the world. I want to spread the hope that it’s not horrible when it happens.”
Earlier this week, a young journalist who was born with microcephaly also defended children like herself from discrimination and abortion in the midst of the health crisis.
“I believe that abortion is a short-sighted attempt to tackle the problem,” said Ana Carolina Caceres, a 24-year-old journalist and blogger from Brazil. “The most important thing is access to treatment: counselling for parents and older sufferers, and physiotherapy and neurological treatment for those born with microcephaly.
“I survived, as do many others with microcephaly. Our mothers did not abort. That is why we exist.”
The World Health Organization and others are involved in working to stop the spread of the virus. No vaccine or cure has been developed yet.