Child Of The Month
By Rich Petersen
Jesús Santiago Silahua Carranza
This blond cherub is Jesús Santiago Silahua Carranza, who lives in Ixtlahuacan with his parents and two siblings. Mom is a housewife and Dad is a carpenter. “Santiago” is only 5 months old and has been with us since just after birth. Perhaps from this photo it is not evident, but little Santiago has Down Syndrome. This syndrome is caused by extra genetic material from chromosome 21 (chromosomes are the structures in cells that contain the genes). The usual number of chromosomes in each person is 46 (23 pairs). We inherit one chromosome per pair from the mother’s egg and father’s sperm, the union of which forms a fertilized egg.
But, sometimes something goes wrong before fertilization, and the developing egg or sperm cell may divide incorrectly, causing the egg or sperm cell to have an extra chromosome number 21. Thus, when this cell joins with a normal egg or sperm cell, the resulting embryo has three number 21 chromosomes, for a total of 47 instead of 46. This is the cause of approximately 95% of the cases of Down Syndrome.
It is not known why this cell division error occurs. It is known that the “error” occurs at conception and is not related to anything the mother did during pregnancy. In the United States one in 700 babies are born each year with this chromosomal abnormality. We at Programa pro Niños Incapacitados del Lago see many Down Syndrome children in those we assist, and while the percentage in Mexico is lower than in the States (one in every 445 births), from one perspective, it appears to be higher here.
Down Syndrome is usually identified at birth or shortly thereafter, normally because of physical characteristics of the baby: low muscle tone, a single crease across the palm of the hand, a slightly flattened facial profile, and an upward slant to the eyes
There are many problems to be surmounted by a family with a Down Syndrome child. These include health issues—heart problems, asthma, hyper- or hypothyroidism, convulsions, eye problems, blood anomalies and even cancer–and developmental issues: slow learning being the primary one. There is no cure or specific treatment for Down Syndrome, but early intervention is very important as most Down Syndrome babies are more like “normal” children than they are different. They need to be stimulated more with physical, speech and developmental therapies. They need social interaction with family and other children.
Santiago is fortunate to have a loving family who from the start recognized the need for their intervention in their son’s early life. To date, he is taking medicines to avoid seizures and is being taken to early therapy sessions with other Down Syndrome children. His parents also attend “seminars” so they can understand the complexities of Santiago’s condition and will know how to react to any changes or special needs; they also learn how to continue his therapy at home. Programa pro Niños Incapacitados del Lago has been paying for these medicines and for the transport to and from therapy sessions in Guadalajara.
If you would like to learn more about us and our organization, please join us the second Thursday of each month at 10:00 a.m. in one of the meeting rooms at the Hotel Real de Chapala in La Floresta. We always present one of “our” children prior to the business meeting. Please feel free to bring a friend. REMEMBER PLEASE: Niños Incapacitados’ annual Fundraiser Dinner/Dance—this year “All Aboard the Orient Express”—will be held Thursday, March 14, from 6:00 until….. at the Hotel Real de Chapala Lakefront Patio. Live and Silent Auctions, buffet dinner, dancing, no-host bar. Tables of 10 are encouraged. See you there!