It has been ten years since we first met Martina Pardue and her son, Luke. Since we last talked to her, Luke has been thriving, growing, and has even become a big brother.
When Martina was just 10 weeks pregnant she was told her son might have Down syndrome. The doctor who performed the amniocentesis test offered abortion as an option for Luke. Even with his diagnosis, Martina and her husband always knew Luke belonged in this world.
With a more recent focus on Down syndrome in the media, it is important to share the stories of people with Down syndrome who have touched those around them. Sadly, many in society view those with Down syndrome as less than a full person.
“Down syndrome is not a bad thing,” Martina said. “It bothered me when he was born, and it still bothers me today that people think that.”
Studies show that anywhere between 61% to 93% of children diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb are aborted. Those children never had the chance at life that Luke is enjoying today.
Luke is 11 years old and thriving. He will be starting 6th grade in the fall and is mainstreamed and integrated into a general education classroom. This past year he even received straight A’s. He excels at reading, which he learned at 18 months, and is a great speller. He plays soccer, participates in karate and enjoys American Ninja Warrior-style obstacle courses.
Martina said Luke is doing so well that some of the kids in his class have been known to try to cheat off of him. She’s not too worried, though.
“When I hear about kids trying to cheat off him, I just laugh,” Martina said. “I think it’s hysterical.”
Children dreading geography tests on state capitols have no greater friend than Luke. Martina said Luke has a talent to memorize things quickly. Luke was able to learn all the United States and their capitols just by looking at a map for 10 minutes.
“You can tell him a capitol, and he will tell you a state, or you can tell him a state and he will tell you the capitol,” Martina said.
At school the kids adore Luke. At recess he also enjoys playing basketball or swinging with his friends.
“The girls adore him,” Martina said. “I think I am in trouble when he gets to high school. They fight over who is going to push him on the swings.”
Life with Down syndrome does have its challenges.
“Everybody with Down syndrome is different,” Martina said. “He is high functioning, but it is a lot of work. My husband and I have worked hard to capitalize on everything he could do. I would never tell him he couldn’t do anything.”
Martina said she is worried about when Luke moves into middle school soon. Some of his current classmates who have been around him and love him will be there to give him a high five in the halls. Other classmates might not have been exposed to someone with Down syndrome before, however.
“Fear is the worst thing in the world because it stops people,” Martina said.
Martina said people need to open up to get to know those with Down syndrome. She believes that when you get to know someone with Down syndrome you will realize how filled with love they are. That love can have a life-changing impact. When Luke was just two years old, Martina saw first-hand the impact he can have on others.
“He changed someone in my life close to me on abortion,” said Martina. “They said, ‘I give you credit because I would have aborted.’ A year and a half later they are laughing together. The thought process and the outlook on Down syndrome that he has changed is amazing. It is crazy to know that my son did that.”
Luke is a shining light to more than just his parents and little brother. He has managed to save a life, simply by being Luke.
“I said it 10 years ago, and I still say it today: Luke has accomplished more in his life than I ever will,” Martina said.