The upside of Down

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Kimba Wall.

Family history: Kimba Wall enjoys reading about the positive impact she has had on her family in the Now I See book. Picture: Gary Sissons

CHELSEA SES volunteer Phil Wall well remembers the moment he and his wife Maryann were told by a doctor that their first-born child, a girl, would have Down syndrome.

It was mid-December 1989 and Kimba was due to be born later that month.

“It felt like the worst possible news at the time, but looking back we got the best Christmas present ever,” Mr Wall said.

His memory of that day is vividly described in a new book entitled Now I See, compiled by Carolyn McDiarmid and Angela Blakston.

Mr Wall’s family story called Surprise, Surprise is one of 50 in the book, written by parents and grandparents of children with Down syndrome.

Ms McDiarmid and Ms Blakston decided to publish a book detailing the experiences of families including a Down syndrome child after reading a US book and realising there was no equivalent for Australian families.

Book editor Ms Blakston is a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience, including a 14-year stint at The Age.

“Carolyn and I were really good friends and coincidentally both ended up having boys with Down syndrome born six months apart,” Ms Blakston said.

“Carolyn is a midwife and she thought it would be a good idea to let other families know about the reality of living with Down syndrome.”

The pair put the call out for contributions via Down syndrome organisations four years ago and Phil answered the call which now sees his family’s story captured in print.

“It’s initially fear of the unknown when the doctors tell you the news,” Phil said. “But this book is great for families since it’s written by families and not medical professionals.”

“I wish something like this had been available when Kimba was born 25 years ago.”

Kimba said it was exciting to be featured in Now I See.

“The book is fantastic,” she said.

Kimba has followed her father’s lead and volunteers at the Family Life op shop in Chelsea a couple of times per week.

“I sort out the clothes, arrange the racks and basically do everything there,” she said.

“I just thought I’d give it a real good go since my dad’s also a volunteer.”

Mr Wall said Kimba’s arrival in his family’s life had made him now see it can be good to be different. It’s a lesson both he, his wife and Kimba’s younger brother Dave have come to appreciate.

“When Kimba was born we wondered how we would live with her,” he said. “Now we don’t know how we’d live without her. She’s an inspirational kid.”

It’s a sentiment shared by Kimba.

“I’m so lucky to have such a wonderful mum, dad and brother,” she said.

– Buy the Now I See book via www.nowisee.com.au for $25 plus postage. All proceeds go to printing more copies of the book. Kingston City Council has agreed to buy copies to be made available at all Kingston libraries.

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