Kathleen Rose was born with a condition called Trisomy 13, which is a chromosomal disorder associated with severe intellectual disability and physical abnormalities in many parts of the body.
According to the United States National Library of Medicine, individuals with Trisomy 13 often have heart defects, brain or spinal cord abnormalities, very small or poorly developed eyes, extra fingers or toes, a cleft lip or palate, and weak muscle tone.
Sadly, many infants with the disorder die within their first days or weeks of life. And only 5-10% of children with the condition live past their first year. However, these statistics didn’t stop Kathleen’s parents, Tracy and Tom Harkin, from giving their daughter a chance.
After Kathleen was born, the Harkins shared her story with Every Life Counts, an organization that is a resource for parents of children with terminal conditions.
“We were now parents to a very special little girl. After she was born, Kathleen Rose was now termed ‘life limited’. Doctors told us she would be mentally and physically handicapped and might not even survive her first year.
Despite this dismal diagnosis, we continued to insist that our baby be given every opportunity to reach her full potential – no matter what that might be.
Doctors followed our directives and following successful surgery we welcomed Kathleen home to the love and care of her family. We’ve now had seven years with Kathleen Rose at the centre of our family.”
Unfortunately, if an unborn baby is diagnosed with Trisomy 13 in utero, doctors sometimes encourage parents to abort because their child is “incompatible with life.” But for the Harkins, abortion was never an option. They acknowledge that there have been challenges with Kathleen; however, they believe they should live without the fear that someone might think, “Well, that child shouldn’t be here.”
Now, Kathleen is a happy 7-year old girl. The Harkin’s said, “She had defied all the medical experts. Kathleen Rose is not incompatible with life. She is the love of our lives!”
Additionally, the Harkins believe it is wrong for our society to put immense pressure on parents to abort children with rare disorders. Tracy said, “I think at the time of the diagnosis parents are very vulnerable and it is very cruel the way we are told as parents. I think their needs to be a lot more thought and training, and research done, for children like Kathleen. Sometimes they just need medical intervention and a little bit of support and care.
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Tracy concluded, “Sometimes the picture that is painted is so bleak, but the reality is doctors never know because every single child is different. And to say “incompatible with life,” it’s just not logical because the child is living and breathing in the womb.”
“I think children like Kathleen are such precious jewels within our society, because they give love in abundance – and they teach us how to love. We become better parents, more loving people and richer communities by having these pure souls in our midst.”
Learn more about Kathleen’s remarkable story in the video below.