University of Wisconsin-River Falls

News Source

May 21, 2004

Book Explores Joys, Challenges of Down Syndrome Child

UW-River Falls speech instructor and freelance writer Pat Ferguson Hanson's first book, "The Five Goodbyes, Mothering My Child With Down Syndrome," is a touching memoir of her family's experience of raising their daughter Molly, who has Down syndrome.

From conception, Molly was known as "the miracle baby." The Hansons had tried to have a child before Pat's bout with breast cancer forced them to forgo attempts to create a family in the usual way. They had adopted two daughters, Tina and Maya, from Honduras, who were preschoolers when Molly was born.

The pregnancy came as a surprise to the Hansons. Although doctors offer amniocentesis to all mothers over age 35 to detect birth defects, Pat didn't want to risk her pregnancy knowing there was a chance of spontaneous abortion with amniocentesis, the most accurate test for genetic abnormalities. Moreover, Pat, who was raised in the Catholic faith and had no intention of aborting her baby.

In addition to Down's syndrome, Molly had numerous health complications at birth: a hole in her heart, a collapsed lung, and jaundice. Initially, the Hansons decided to leave the hospital without Molly. Two days later, they went back to get her. To complicate matters, Molly was later diagnosed with Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

In a serious yet lighthearted manner, Hanson's book chronicles the strains on friends and family such as those who stuck with the Hansons and those who didn't; struggles to obtaining adequate and safe respite care and personal care assistance; and obstacles to obtain out-of-home placement, as well as the bureaucracy associated with getting care for the disabled. It also highlights the joys and happiness of a family working together.

"This is a triumphant story of survival," says Hanson. Today, Molly, who at age 13 lives with her family weekends and in a private foster home weekdays, is thriving. She attends junior high school and likes to read, play adaptive soccer and softball, and sing in her school choir.

The rest of her family is flourishing, too. Hanson writes and teaches, teens Tina and Maya are healthy, happy, and accomplished, and Jim, who retired after 39 years of teaching art, spends his days working in his studio, getting ready for his next exhibit.

Noted author Carol Bly says of the book, "Pat's strengths are pacey story-telling, vivid scenes full of absolutely gripping dialogue, a fine authorial voice full of rightful anger at bad practices or lack of desperately needed services--and equally ready to give praise to devoted professionals and others deserving of it."

"The Five Goodbyes, Mothering My Child With Down Syndrome" is available at the Stillwater Public Library, and Valley Bookseller in Stillwater, Minn., and Cues From Nature in the Lighthouse Coffee Shop in River Falls, Wis. and the University Bookstore in the Hagestad Student Center at UW-River Falls (Wis.). Published by Xlibris, the book can be ordered from 1-888-795-4274, x276,, or (ISBN1-4134-3209-3).

Author book signing and reading events include:
Stillwater Art Crawl, Valley Bookseller, Friday, June 18, at 7 p.m.
Stillwater Public Library, Monday, July 20, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Featured author at the Rivertown Readers Book Club in Hudson, Wis., September 2004
Featured author at the Lion's Paw Book Club, Davee Library, UW-River Falls, May 11, 2005


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