Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tennessee woman "beats the odds" as one of the oldest people living with Down syndrome

The Tennessean profiled Mary Perry, 73, on April 29, who is one of the oldest people living with Down syndrome. Dr. Karen Summar, a developmental pediatrician at Vanderbilt children's hospital, said, "She beat the odds. It's incredible."

Perry has outlived seven of her eight siblings, even though at the time she was born people with Down syndrome didn't usually live to be teenagers.

Dr. Summar says families are now beginning to think about the implications of children with Down syndrome outliving their parents and siblings. (The Seattle Times also did a recent story about this very issue of aging parents trying to figure out the future for their children with Down syndrome.)

"There are going to be more and more people with Down syndrome living to this ripe old age," she said. "They will outlive their parents. Who will take care of them when their parents pass on? We've got to be thinking of what's ahead."

More than medical advances, Dr. Summar said the care and love Mary Perry gained from being with her family helped her live so long.

"Being raised at home, she had proper nutrition," she said said. "She wasn't in the crowded environment of an institution. Contagious illnesses would sweep through those places."

Perry's nieces and nephews say "she was dearly loved and was treated just like all her other siblings growing up on the farm."