The Blessing of a Special Needs Son

When Jackie gave birth to her son Donald, the doctor said her baby would not live 24 hours. A day later, Donald was still here. Then the doctor said that at best, he would be a “vegetable.”

“I told God that I would not ask why, but if He would let me keep Donald, I would dedicate the rest of my life to him,” Jackie recalled. “And I don’t regret one day. I thank God every day I can wake up and see him. Despite the triumph and pain, I can’t imagine not having him with me.”

More than 30 years later, Donald is living proof that the doctor’s predictions were wrong. Despite his challenges as a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, Donald graduated from high school at age 21 as a National Honor Society member with a 4.0 average. He enjoyed a social life and participated in sports as the football manager and wrestling waterboy.

“Donald always has a big smile on his face. No matter how bad I’m feeling, I can’t help but smile when I see him,” said Jackie. “Before I had Donald, I had pains, aches, and complaints. Then one day I asked Donald, ‘Are you sad you can’t walk?’ and he said, ‘No.’ I have learned so much from him – how to love and respect people a lot more.”

While raising her son, Jackie worked as a nurse. After retiring from her 32-year career, she discovered a second calling in life as an advocate and educator for parents of children with special needs. She serves as the Special Needs Engagement Chair of the DeKalb County Council of PTAs.

During the week, Donald attends the DeKalb Community Service Board’s CHOICE program for adults with developmental disabilities. Jackie explains, “I don’t worry about him because I know he is safe, the staff does what I ask and are taking good care of him.”

When he’s not spending time with friends at CHOICE, Donald enjoys wheelchair tennis, rap and baseball. He is pictured above with his mother on the left and CHOICE’s director Felicia Anderson on the right.