The doctors said that Patryk will not survive childbirth, or the next half-year, or the next year. When he lived to a year-and-a-half, they stopped saying that he would die.
More than four years ago, our disabled son was born. But even before his birth we had to fight for his survival. Now another battle is upon us.
I am Jewish and Catholic. I live with my family in Israel, where we emigrated to from Ukraine. When my wife Ania was five months pregnant, we learned that our son would be disabled. The doctors told us that Patryk had only half a brain and they had to abort the pregnancy as the baby would not survive anyway. Being Catholics we did not agree with their decision. The pressure was then put on Ania. They told her: “You are young. Why be burdened with a sick child?”
As it turned out, our child was born with a complete brain, but he was diagnosed with agyria (lissencephaly). This means that the convolutions (the folds) of the cerebral vortex are not fully formed, so the surface of the brain is smooth. Patryk’s condition is therefore very serious. He is not paralyzed but he is developing very slowly. He likes classical music, he differentiates voices, and he is happy when I return home from a long day at work. When he hears my voice, he starts to smile and laugh.
If the Lord God gives us such a child, then we cannot kill him. Human life is formed from the moment of conception
I remember how the doctors said that Patryk would not survive childbirth. When he did survive, they said that he would not live two months. Then six months. When he lived to a year-and-ahalf, they stopped saying that he would die. It is said that children with agyria could live no longer than one-and-a-half years. In Russia, one child with agyria lived to be eight years old. Patryk is now four years and six months and our hope is in God that He will completely heal our son.
Mirabel and Other Treasures
After Patryk we had another child – a healthy daughter, who we named Mirabel. Ania is again pregnant. In her sixth month of pregnancy, the doctors conducted several tests. Three different hospitals came up with three different diagnoses. In the first hospital they diagnosed in the baby microcephaly (a condition where the head is much smaller in comparison with other babies), and immediately recommended abortion. The second hospital in Tel Aviv diagnosed agyria in the baby. We also rejected the suggestion to abort the pregnancy and they reacted with incredulity: “Are you serious? How can you even consider having two disabled children in the family? Even believers are afraid of raising children who are disabled.” Under the guise of conducting further tests, they moved us to another hospital. We were scheduled for the tests at 11 A.M. When we arrived, we were asked to wait another hour, despite the fact that there was nobody else but us. Ania and I went out for lunch and when we came back they began the tests. They did an ultrasound test and within five minutes the same thing happened again: “You can’t have this baby.” We asked, “Why not?” They answered: “Because you have a healthy daughter. If you had another disabled child, you would not be able to give her the attention she needed.” The pressure became more intense and more aggressive for us to sign the paper agreeing to an abortion. They warned us that the social service agency would never allow us to carry the baby to term and that the only logical decision is to agree to this “procedure”. However, we remained firm in our conviction, constantly repeating that we would not do it. The doctors told us to leave. Then they called two other doctors. All of them started to try to convince us with the argument that babies like Patryk, who had had been diagnosed with similar conditions, did not have a right to live. But Patryk at that time had already been alive for four-and-ahalf years! They even started raising their voice: “What exactly do you want? Do you want another sick child?” We told them: “If the Lord God gives us such a child, then we cannot kill him. Human life is formed from the moment of conception.” They still insisted, “This is merely a fetus. It must be removed!”
The Terror of Abortion
The doctors called for a psychiatrist to confirm their suspicions that my wife was being pressured by myself and by her mother to give birth to disabled children. The psychiatrist turned out to be a Russian woman, which eased my fears somewhat. When she entered the room, the doctors claimed that my wife was suffering from depression and cannot be held responsible for her own actions. They wanted the psychiatrist to confirm this, but she refused, saying: “This woman is not my patient. I don’t know her. How can I give a diagnosis within five minutes of meeting her? What are you all talking about?” But the doctors did not give up and insisted that Ania remain in hospital and go through all the necessary psychiatric tests to determine her mental and emotional state. They also called in social workers who acted as guards, preventing us from leaving. They kept us in the hospital from 12 noon to 4 P.M. Patryk was with my mother, and Mirabel was with us. Eventually our daughter started crying. I couldn’t bear the pressure any longer and asked for the papers, saying that we agree to everything. We signed the documents and agreed to the “procedure” for 7th December, and they let us out of the hospital. I signed the papers, not because I wanted to, but because I could no longer withstand the pressure that we were put through.
Immediately after leaving the hospital I called a couple of Carmelites in Haifa, namely Fr. Robert and Fr. Gregory, our parish priest. I told them about our situation and that I had signed the papers agreeing to the abortion. The monks told me that if we did not appear at the hospital at the agreed date for the “procedure”, the doctors will report it to the police and the social service in Haifa, and they will come and take our children away. I also called many other people, including Fr. Eleazar in Bethany. The Carmelite fathers recommended to us two lawyers, both Catholics, who give them legal aid. After consulting with them we learned that social welfare cannot force us to do anything, and our horrible experience in the hospital was against the law. Shortly afterwards, our parish priest arranged a legal defence for us, a medical lawyer who is also a Catholic.
The doctors started to try to convince us with the argument that babies like Patryk, who had had been diagnosed with similar conditions, did not have a right to live. But Patryk at that time had already been alive for four-and-a-half years!
One time, when I was at work, people from social welfare came to our home. From the moment they entered the house, they started threatening my wife that they were going to take our children away. The next time they came, they were already met by our lawyer and they were scared off. They started talking to us in a different tone. Our lawyer explained to them that they could not put any pressure on us, and that if they continued, they could be taken to court and sued. Now they come once a week and merely check if there is food in the fridge.
From another hospital we recently got another diagnosis – Down Syndrome. The delivery has been planned for April. Many people are praying for us and for the child to be born healthy.