Need Inspiration?

Because everybody has those days when you need something inspiring, something that gives us hope. Please enjoy stories of love and great achievement. If you would like to submit a story, artwork or anything else for this page, please email us at

Feature Stories:

Inspiring others through 22q

Meet Everett – February Faces of 22q Calendar

(Posted February 2020)

Everett lives in Tennessee with his older brother, mom, dad and cat and turns 4 years old this month! Everett is happiest when he has any kind of ball to play sports with and his basketball skills are quite impressive! He loves to travel, to be outside, in the water, and spend time with family. Everett is full of smiles, laughter, and likes to do anything silly to make others laugh. We are so thankful for the joy he continues to bring to our family and to anyone he meets. Even throughout his 22q journey, we are amazed at how he faces every obstacle with determination, strength, and laughter.

We noticed Everett was reaching developmental milestones a little late during his first year which led to genetic testing at 18 months old and a diagnosis of 22q deletion syndrome. We began teaching him sign language to communicate at an early age which allowed his vocabulary to soar by age two!  He is very smart and, currently, his receptive language far surpasses his expressive language. With many wonderful doctors following Everett, we continue to learn more about his unique anatomy as signs and problems appear and how to overcome the challenges they present. He now attends the School for the Deaf and we praise God that he is beginning to show signs of spoken communication! Everett works and plays hard each week at his therapies to keep his development on track (speech 4 times a week, feeding therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy). Another big challenge for Everett associated with his diagnosis was finding out he had a posterior arch deficiency of C1. This means his C1 vertebrae is not fully formed and any impact on his head or neck can be severely dangerous. Everett has trouble understanding why this means he cannot play sports – the thing he loves the most. However, as his parents, we are learning how to navigate the world for Everett – a boy who thrives on being extremely active and adventurous – to make life for him as safe and least restrictive as possible while also helping others we meet learn to communicate with Everett!




Inspiring others through 22q

Meet Everett – February Faces of 22q Calendar

(Posted February 2020)

Everett lives in Tennessee with his older brother, mom, dad and cat and turns 4 years old this month! Everett is happiest when he has any kind of ball to play sports with and his basketball skills are quite impressive! He loves to travel, to be outside, in the water, and spend time with family. Everett is full of smiles, laughter, and likes to do anything silly to make others laugh. We are so thankful for the joy he continues to bring to our family and to anyone he meets. Even throughout his 22q journey, we are amazed at how he faces every obstacle with determination, strength, and laughter.

We noticed Everett was reaching developmental milestones a little late during his first year which led to genetic testing at 18 months old and a diagnosis of 22q deletion syndrome. We began teaching him sign language to communicate at an early age which allowed his vocabulary to soar by age two!  He is very smart and, currently, his receptive language far surpasses his expressive language. With many wonderful doctors following Everett, we continue to learn more about his unique anatomy as signs and problems appear and how to overcome the challenges they present. He now attends the School for the Deaf and we praise God that he is beginning to show signs of spoken communication! Everett works and plays hard each week at his therapies to keep his development on track (speech 4 times a week, feeding therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy). Another big challenge for Everett associated with his diagnosis was finding out he had a posterior arch deficiency of C1. This means his C1 vertebrae is not fully formed and any impact on his head or neck can be severely dangerous. Everett has trouble understanding why this means he cannot play sports – the thing he loves the most. However, as his parents, we are learning how to navigate the world for Everett – a boy who thrives on being extremely active and adventurous – to make life for him as safe and least restrictive as possible while also helping others we meet learn to communicate with Everett!

Meet Felix – January Faces of 22q Calendar

Felix’s Story, as told by Felix’s Dad 

(Posted January 2020)

Felix came into our lives when he was 20 months old, through the foster care system, and we adopted him a few weeks before his 4th birthday. We knew he had medical needs, but we had no idea to what extent when we first met. We learned Felix had 22.q.11.2 duplication from his previous foster family, who had genetic testing done. All we really knew was that this condition affects everyone differently, and has a wide range of possible symptoms throughout your body. The last couple of years, we have helped Felix work through his medical issues, and are still working our way through them daily. We’ve learned a lot on this journey so far; so many things we never thought we’d need to learn. For example, I personally never realized “feeding therapy” existed. Other than 22q.11.2 duplication, Felix has been diagnosed with auditory neuropathy, failure to thrive, sensory processing disorder, and is globally-delayed. He’s been in speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, has a hearing aid, and had a feeding tube placed when he was 3. Felix can and does eat on his own, but he doesn’t eat enough daily to get the nutrients his body needs. Medical professionals aren’t sure why this is. He enjoys eating at times, but a lot of the time wants nothing to do with food.

Felix has been a huge blessing to our family. It’s inspiring for us to see how happy he is, and how he is always willing to learn something new. He has a big heart, and cares for people who are hurting. Felix currently loves all things Disney and super heroes. He loves to dress up in all sorts of costumes.

Looking back, it seems overwhelming looking at this journey from the beginning — especially when you feel like you’re in the dark, but it’s just “normal” for our family now. We just take one appointment at a time! The amazing part of this journey is that the progress he makes is so sweet for us to see. You pay more attention to the little steps children make in development, and can have the gratitude for it that most people take for granted.

My name is Bobbie Judge – I am Tommy’s Mom—and this is our 22q story:

(Posted December 2019)

Tommy is 8 years old and he was born in North Carolina. He has spent his entire life loving airplanes and trains. His younger years were tough with surgeries and developmental delays, but he started life as a fighter and continues to be one.

Tommy was diagnosed with 22q around three and a half weeks old, while he was in the NICU. They sent for genetic testing due to being born with Tetralogy of Fallot as well as a cleft lip and palate.

Tommy is currently in the second grade, he started attending school in Pre-K. He fatigues easily and does best with one on one instruction. He is currently thriving in an EC class reaching his goals every year.

When he is not at school, Tommy plays miracle league baseball every spring and fall. He also enjoys playing with airplanes and playing Angry Birds. On December 18, 2017, Tommy was sworn in before a judge as an honorary Sheriff’s deputy in Pitt County, NC – one of the highlights of his young life. He proudly tells anyone and everyone that he is a police office and he often wears his uniform.

Tommy is very creative – and has designed a total of 5 shirt designs for Paper Clouds Apparel (A company that features art by kids with special needs, hires adults with special needs and donates half of the profits to different causes) to benefit others. He is so proud anytime he wears one of his designs and anytime he sees someone wearing his shirts.

My advice for parents of children with 22q, or those with 22q — Celebrate every single accomplishment you make, no matter how small it is!

Tommy has turned our worlds upside down but there isn’t a single thing about him I would change if I could. I hate to see him struggling when he does and I wish I could take the pain away during the hard times but he is the single most inspiring person I have ever met. His strength is immeasurable and I am so proud of the child that he is.

Tommy has a way of inspiring others around him and he has a way of pulling out the best in people just by being him. I want him to grow up knowing how inspiring and amazing he truly is!



Meet Lane Grissom

(December 2019)

Hi, my name is Lane Grissom, and I’m 14 years old. I was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, but I live in a very small town called Manchester, which is about thirty minutes south of Murfreesboro. I have a sister Destiny, she is 19 years old and is in her first year of college at MTSU. I have a brother Tristan, he is 16 years old, attends Coffee County Central High School and plays baseball for the high school team. My parents are Doug and Erica, and we are a very active family. I make beats; play a few musical instruments and love sports, especially basketball! My family and I also like to travel; hunt, fish and we all like to play sports. We are a very close family. My favorite food is pizza and my drink of choice is Pepsi.

When I was born, my parents noticed I looked a bit different and I was sick a lot. As I began to grow, my parents also noticed I was delayed in learning to crawl, walk, talk and all my normal milestones. My mom over the years began to question my doctor on these milestones, but they ignored her inquiries. I went to public school for kindergarten and we soon learned through the teachers that I struggled in school, too. I couldn’t read, I didn’t understand how to hold a pencil, my speech was delayed, I couldn’t do simple math, and the list went on. We also found out while I was in school that, without a diagnosis, I couldn’t get the extra help I needed. Finally, my mom told the doctor, enough is enough we needed to do some tests to help me find out why I was struggling so much. My doctor then sent me to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital for testing. They did a special test called the Fish Test, which is a simple blood test (I’m a pro at blood tests, by the way!) We waited for the results and finally, we got the call, at the age of 7, I was finally diagnosed with 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome. That day changed my life in so many ways, and I have had many surgeries since.

I began to meet so many new amazing doctors that taught my parents and myself how to take care of me and make me feel so much better. I was also able to get help from school; answers on why I’d been so sick, and learned I shouldn’t play any contact sports which broke my heart. My doctor did more tests and found that I have an enlarged aorta, which is why I can’t play contact sports, mainly because I could get hit in the chest and cause my aorta to explode. My parents and my community over the years have helped keep me active by letting me play sports and just be extra careful. I don’t live in a bubble! LOL!! I’ve played basketball and baseball for the Special Olympics. I love music so much too! Where I live, we have a music festival that’s called Bonnaroo, and during that week of music festivities, I got to be the show closer for a smaller show in town called Fam Jam. I know how to play the drums, and I’m learning the guitar now. I take lessons and teach myself by watching YouTube and I make some “sic” beats. I played in my school’s talent show when I was in the 1st grade, and I’ve also gone on to win a few cool trophies for baseball and the Special Olympics.

What I would like people to know is that 22q doesn’t confine me and I will never let it! Yes, things can be scary and harder to do, but I’ve always tried my best and always will! My family and I love to educate people about 22q so they can better understand me and get to know the real me. I someday want to make professional beats and be a professional you tuber.

I never want to limit my dreams or myself and other people with challenges shouldn’t limit themselves either. 22q isn’t for the weak! Trust me I know, I just had surgery on October the 16th and have had a lot of complications, but I’m getting better every day. My family always says, why can’t we do anything the easy way, and I say, it’s simple, that would just be too boring.

Standing UP with 22q!

Samantha Lively was born on May 23rd 2005, at 3 pounds 10 ounces. She was premature, and had to stay in the NICU for 8 weeks. We were worried at first, as the doctors watched her struggle to grow, but she is a fighter and proved the nurses and doctors wrong. She encountered serious health issues throughout her infant life. She was finally diagnosed with 22q in 2009. Samantha has had heart surgery, multiple ear surgeries, palette surgery, and has several more surgeries to come. She will have her bottom and top jaw broken in a couple years, to prepare for adulthood. She has 11 specialists she sees on a consistent basis and blood drawn every three months, along with CT scans, and MRI’s yearly.

Samantha is now 13 years old, and has been through tough waters and still is standing strong. She has been bullied at school because of her face and teeth and the way she talks, but still fights back and stays strong even in her darkest hours. The bullying still happens, but has slowed down with the help of the school district bringing more awareness to the students. Samantha continues to rise above the bullying, and fight back.  Samantha believes different is better, and she stays true to that mantra. She has a very strong voice and wants everyone to hear it!!!

Samantha got involved in the Oklahoma Children’s Network, and met other kids going through the same situations. She loved this program and it made such a strong impact on her life, that she started to make it her “calling.” She started doing volunteer work with them and went to a lot of events. She did a fashion walk show with Children Network, and with Miss Oklahomans. Samantha started to get involved in pageants that are natural or little makeup and she won a couple even with her looking different than others.  She does volunteer work for others, collects toys and books for the less fortunate, and kids in the Children’s hospital.  She shares her story to help others understand anything is possible and within their reach — and to never give up! She is living proof that anything is possible and even those with differences can win pageants and make an impact on the world. Sammy continues to make a huge impact on others, as she’s made it her passion. She wants to help everyone out, even if it means giving her own things away and doing without.

She won Miss Amazing Oklahoma Preteen Queen 2018 this year, which was a true blessing. She is now standing strong and changing the world little bits at a time. She now is doing more pageants and showing people different can be better, and is trying to become a model, do fashion shows and become an advocate for those with differences like hers, and working on creating a bill against bullying. She is ready to take this world on and make a change. Sammy is a miracle child and a blessing from above. She will work hard to bring greatness to others and bring about change. She has a dream to be Miss Oklahoma, an advocate for others, or a model one day.

Sammy has a voice and a plan. She is also a Royal Court Member for the new National Pediatric Cancer Foundation Share A Smile campaign. Despite how easy it would be to walk away, Sammy has begun public speaking, appeared on KOCO News 5, participated in a benefit runway show, met with a State Rep, a politician running for governor and a published model. She is inspiring and motivating others to defy all odds and never give up. All of this because one little girl was not afraid to dream and dream BIG!!


Inspirational Stories

Meet Mother and Son 

(Posted January 2020)

Meet Sherry, a 50-year-old mom from KY who was diagnosed with 22q in July 1999, after her son was born. Even though Sherry and her son Matthew share a 22q journey, their journeys have been very different.

Sherry says, “I was happy growing up, my childhood was good.” She was sick a lot with pneumonia and in and out of hospitals, but that didn’t stop her from her favorite activity; playing 2nd base in softball. She also played clarinet in the band, was in the Color Guard, and spent a lot of time at the pool. School for Sherry was a struggle in elementary and middle schools, but she graduated high school and went on to college. She received her Bachelors Degree in Human Services and went on to receive her Master’s Degree in Education Specializing in Mental Health Counseling. Not only did she graduate from grad school with a 3.9 GPA, but she did that while working full time as a case manager. Sherry has been married for 20 years, “my husband has been my strength after I was diagnosed. It was overwhelming and emotional. He’s always there for me no matter how hard it gets.”

Having had various careers working with children (a case manager, a clinician as a Mental Health therapist providing individual family therapy and parenting classes, as well as being a school Program Director), she says her biggest accomplishment is being a mom to her son, “I love being his mom!” Along with being her son’s full-time caregiver, she works part-time as a Parent/Rep Advocate for Developmental Disabilities to the Commonwealth Council, as appointed by a former Governor. She also learned that she loved politics after working on a political campaign. But she considers her job as “Matthew’s mom”, to be the most rewarding.

Sherry didn’t find out until she was 30 years old about her 22q, however, her son Matthew was diagnosed prenatally and his 22q journey has been quite different than hers. Matthew was born with a heart defect, had complications at birth and coded within 24 hours after he was born. He tested positive for 22q, and had his first open-heart surgery at 20 days old. His life has consisted of 4 open-heart surgeries, lots of therapies, and a feeding tube from the time he was a baby till 2007. Matthew also had 85% blockage in one lung, and 95% blockage in the other lung causing a lot of pneumonia as a baby, and required oxygen. Matthew had a stent placed to open the airway, but has been able to have that removed. Today, he is in his last semester of high school, and loves to cook. He is in the Community Work Transition Program at the school, and has been training as a cook for the last two-three years in a small local diner. His goal? To become a Chef, of course! Sherry says, “One of our favorite activities is going through cookbooks, Matthew picks out a new recipe he wants to try, he writes the ingredients down and we go grocery shopping for the meal. Matthew has overcome so much, I’m so beyond proud of him!”

In the past year, they have added a new member to the family, a dark chocolate lab named Bella. Bella is in training to be a service dog, she is 11 months old, and trains with Matthew and his family and Matthew helps with her feeding schedule and hygiene.

The 22q journey for this mother and son has been quite different.   Sherry gives credit to her mother as the biggest influence in her life, “she always encouraged me not to give up.”   Now, Sherry has paid that gift forward as the biggest influence in Matthew’s life, and certainly an advocate for him and others with disabilities.

Cheer through 22q!

Abby was born at 37 weeks on December 15, 2003. Aside from some minor complications during delivery, she was pronounced a healthy baby. At 7 hours old, after formula came out her nose (which we later learned was nasal regurgitation and common in 22q kiddos) she became grey and lifeless. The nurse rushed her to the NICU, 4 painful hours later we were told she had a collapsed lung and trouble keeping her oxygen levels up. The doctors at the time told us it was due to meconium at birth. She came home to us 8 days later.

The first 4 years of her life had her with too many illnesses to count, ER trips, 3 sets of ear tubes, and a diagnosed left hearing loss. February 6th, 2008 brought us to our local children’s hospital for what was supposed to be a routine CT scan and a bronchoscopy. Her pulmonologist was searching for a reason behind her constant cases of pneumonia, raspy breathing and occasional blueish tint around her lips. A vascular ring was suspected.

The tests went off without a hitch. In recovery, while eating a popsicle and listening to discharge instructions, all the monitors began going off. Pulse ox dipped to the 70’s, eyes got glassy, her popsicle fell to the floor. We were rushed out of the room while the staff began working on her. From around the corner, our pulmonologist was arriving to give us what we thought were some results, only to then have her rush into the room as well. Minutes that seemed like hours later, she came out, “She’s OK. She had fluid buildup in her lungs…we know why”

Abby was diagnosed with an absent left pulmonary artery and a severely hypoplastic left lung. The fluids they used during the bronchoscopy weren’t able to be properly absorbed and it was as if she was drowning. We were admitted that night for observation. With those results in hand, we set out to make a cardiologist and cardio thoracic surgeon appointment. In doing so, my research brought us to a website describing 22q deletion syndrome. So many symptoms fit. My next call was to genetics. A few weeks later, 22q deletion syndrome was confirmed.

2008 she had a summer open-heart surgery to attempt to fix her heart and lung defect, it didn’t. Summer 2010 brought another lung surgery to correct a new problem, it kind of did.

2010 to now is kind of a blur. Abby is a thriving sophomore in high school. She’s on the honor roll, the high school cheer team, student coaches a 3rd-grade cheer team, works part-time as a hostess, has friends, is learning to drive and from the outside doesn’t appear to have anything “wrong” with her.

She gets sick often, and it takes her longer to recover, but she does. She’s in all general education classes at school, and while she receives some modifications, she is held responsible for the same curriculum. She keeps her circle of friends small and prefers it that way. She enjoys shopping, music, YouTube, friends, and all the other teenage things.

On her horizon are getting her license, looking at colleges, continuing to work and cheer. A possible heart surgery in the next 5 years, hoping she continues to do well and continuing to support other families with kids with 22q.

Abby is “lucky” in many ways, we are lucky in many ways. Just last week I was contacted by our local school, a new family has a child just diagnosed with 22q. Would we be willing to be a resource for them? Absolutely!

Meet Erin

My name is Erin Adone-Thatcher. I was born in Basingstoke, Hampshire, England. I am 17 years old. I was born 5 ½ weeks early. When I was born my parents were told there was a 99% chance that I had Downs Syndrome as I had several markers for it. The tests came back as negative, but I guess that was a sign that something was not quite right. Medically I haven’t had any serious issues yet although due to low immunity I can suffer badly from colds and sickness and I did have pneumonia when I was 8 years old. However, I recently underwent major knee surgery as I had trochlear dysplasia in both knees, it was undetermined whether this was due to 22q or not. Also in the past month, I have been rushed to hospital by ambulance twice due to concerns around my heart; this is currently under investigation as they think this could be linked to 22q.

I was late at reaching all my milestones; I didn’t walk until very late and had to have quite a lot of speech therapy, as I couldn’t talk. I even started school with the teacher not being able to understand me. My parents now tell me stories of when I was young and how I always used to run away whenever we went out, I once tried to climb into a Zebra enclosure at the zoo and I also ran away from my mum once and ended up running into a thorn bush covering myself in cuts and scratches. I never used to see the fear in things and my parents used to dread family days out, as I would just do my own thing. People used to think I was just a naughty child when I was just misunderstood. Once my behaviors were more obvious I was rarely invited to birthday parties even when I invited people to mine, this used to make me sad. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 9 years old. I was originally diagnosed, as having Aspergers but my Mum and Dad didn’t feel this fit my behavior and so pushed for further tests.

School was hard as I struggle to process a lot of information at once and I didn’t have the social skills to make friends very easily. Also, I was bullied from junior school upwards for how I spoke and because I lacked confidence. To overcome the academic problems my mum made herself a nuisance at the schools and got me lots of help from the teachers, my parents also paid for a private math tutor in my later school years to try and help me pass my exams.

Growing up I took swimming lessons and learned to swim; I also went to Karate lessons regularly. I achieved a Black Belt in Karate in 5 years of training. This was huge for me as there were a lot of instructions I needed to follow, and I also had to learn some Japanese. But my favorite activity was dancing, I love music and dancing as this makes me happy!

I achieved a BTEC in CVQO when I was 12, this is a Vocational qualification where I learned such things as map reading and basic survival skills, but probably my biggest achievement is passing my Math GCSE in my last year of school.   I am in my second year of college currently. I am studying for a BTEC Diploma in Animal Management. I achieved all distinctions for my assignments in my first year, but I do find it very hard to keep up in class as I still struggle to understand everything that the lecturer says and be able to make notes at the same time. My Mum and Dad help me a lot at home trying to get me to understand what a question is asking me to do and how to research for answers. I have made a couple of friends in my courses but still struggle to socialize outside of college with people that aren’t family.

My goals for the future include becoming a Dog Groomer and own my own Grooming Salon. I would also like to be married one day and start a family, but I have fears over my partner not accepting my condition and also that my child has a 50% chance of being born with 22q.

What is my best advice to others with 22q?  Don’t be ashamed of who you are, nobody else is better than you. Don’t ever let 22q stop you from wanting to achieve things and never be afraid to ask for help!

Meet Kathy feeling blessed!

(December 2019)

Meet Kathy, born in Plainfield, New Jersey, 51 years old, married for 25 years, and a grandmother. Kathy was just diagnosed with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome in September 2019, even though she’s had many symptoms of 22q deletion syndrome over the years. Kathy was born with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, and to date has had 2 surgeries for this condition; one at 8 months, and one at 2 years of age, but her first surgery was at 2 months old. Because of her heart condition, she has always seen a cardiologist, but it wasn’t until she saw a cardiologist at the hospital in Philadelphia where the doctor asked if she had ever heard of 22q (which of course she had not), that she received her 22q11.2 diagnosis. What was her reaction? “My reaction was one of shock and sort of relief that I finally knew why I had this heart condition, but also confusion!”

Now she believes she has some answers to many of her questions about her life in her 51 years. School was not easy, she struggled a lot, and was held back in several grades; kindergarten due to her heart condition and being out of school a lot for doctor’s appointments and 8th grade due to difficulty in most subjects. She was supposed to repeat 10th grade but at age 18, she decided to quit school. “I was never tested for any type of learning disability so I just struggled.” But after a year of working all-day and going to school at night, she received her high school diploma! “I am proud of being able to graduate and get my diploma even with all of my difficulties in learning, but I am most proud of my children.”

Kathy had wanted children but was worried because of her heart condition. She says, “I knew I wanted children all of my life. We were told we should not try because of my heart condition, but I didn’t want to give up that dream. I am most proud of not giving up on that dream.” Kathy gave birth to her first child was born I had 3 children in total. Her first one was born with a congenital heart condition, cleft lip/palate and brain damage. I am positive she was 22q, but will never know for sure. She passed away when she was 4 months old but knowing what she knows now feels sure she was 22q. Her 2nd daughter, who is now 20 only had issues with urinary tract infections, is relatively healthy except for yearly upper respiratory infections. Her son has also had kidney issues. As well as tubes in his ears, “I am convinced has 22q. We will be getting him tested soon.” He had kidney surgery at 6 for a tube inside his kidney that was twisted, a condition he was born with but we were unaware of. We realized that there was something going on with him around age 4, when he was in head start preschool. He had a lot of trouble focusing, and seemed very hyper, was moodier then children his age, and seemed to get angry easily. We had him tested and he was diagnosed with ADD, Mood disorder, ADHD, he started therapies to help with those issues. He was in therapies where the therapists came to her house about 4 times a week. He was also on quite a number of different medications over the years but now he is off of all medication, and although he still has issues sometimes with anger (and really who doesn’t?); he is doing much better.

Her advice to any child who has 22q, “Do not feel bad if you need help with school or anything else. It is better to ask for help when you are young then to ignore the problem and it not get better.” And to 22q parents and children, “Don’t be afraid to ask or ashamed because it wasn’t your fault that this happened to you. Get as much support as you can, it will help in the end.”

Kathy believes her faith has been the biggest influence in her life, “I am a Christian, and can honestly say that if I didn’t believe in God and didn’t have faith, I would not be the person I am today.” She has had many wonderful supporting people in her life and says, “God will put these people in your life when you need them, even if only for a short time.”

Meet Eliza 

Hello everyone; I’m Eliza, I was born in the Chippewa County Hospital in Montevideo, Minnesota. I am currently living in a small town Milbank, South Dakota with my grandparents and my mom. I was diagnosed with 22q deletion syndrome at the age of 4 or 5 and had heart surgery at the age of 4 because my trachea was wrapped around the arch of my heart. I also was diagnosed with ADHD, ADD, anxiety and depression.

I had many difficulties in preschool, elementary, middle and high school. I had a hard time learning in math and speech. I had speech therapy till freshman year of high school. I had special education for math through high school and had study hall for help with homework or studying. I went to the “Milbank 18-21 Transition Program”, and I’ve received my high school diploma this May.

Activities I’ve done growing up were softball in the summer and I was the student manager for volleyball and girls basketball but theater was my absolute favorite thing to do in high school. Drawing is my favorite hobby that I like doing on my own time. I used to enjoy spending time with my dog, Sassy. She was a corgi and lived to be 12 1/2 years old. She was the best dog I ever had. I miss her. My favorite holiday is Halloween and I also like watching dirt track racing in the summertime.

I have my driver’s license and one of my goals for the future is to get my own apartment but the one thing I’m most proud of is that I have a job at Super 8 as a housekeeper. My advice for all of you is not to give up on your goals, be kind to others and don’t let people get you down.

Peter Mason – Marching to the Drum of 22q!

“Take each challenge as they come and don’t get overwhelmed with what might happen”, is the advice from Peter Mason. Peter is a deaf musician who has won multiple individual, duets, and quartet competitions for his Drum Corp talent. The son of drummers who met through a fife and drum corps, Peter started playing at the age of 5 and then officially joined the Co. John Chester Fife and Drum Corps (the oldest active junior corps in the world), and started competing in 1995, at just 8 years old! He has won many titles over the years including Hudson Valley, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and North Eastern in individual, duet, and quartet competitions. He says his proudest moment was, “Being the first American drummer to compete and compose my own music for the Swiss Fife and Drum Federation competitions!” The Fife and Drum corps is an enormous part of his life and he spends most of his time with the Connecticut Patriots of Bristol Connecticut and the Ameri-Clique. But he is also working on an associates degree in culinary arts, studying American Sign Language and traveling.

All of this does not come easy for Peter who grew up in Connecticut, surrounded by family and friends, most of who are into fife and drum corps. He was diagnosed 22q shortly after being born with several health issues including sub mucous cleft palate, chronic ear infections, pneumonia, and heart issues. He was also born hard of hearing and due to many ear infections and surgeries, didn’t speak until age 5, which is also when he started to take an interest in drumming. School life was incredibly challenging, not only was he hard of hearing and not able to stay focused or stay organized; he also missed a lot of school due to surgeries. To this day he has had close to 40 surgeries; mostly on his ears but his first heart surgery was at age 9 and 7 of them in the past 2 years. Peter says, “Take each challenge as they come and don’t get overwhelmed with what might happen”. He has had to take his own advice when about 2 years ago he started having seizures and was diagnosed with Epilepsy. This as well as being deaf, a cochlear surgery and a cornea transplant have all made it extremely difficult to work.

Growing up he tried baseball, soccer, and Boy Scouts but health issues always made it challenging after he was finally able to join the school band in 3rd grade he found drumming was his true love!  Friends were not an issue for Peter, in his early school years he gained a small circle that always stood by him, many he is still close to today. Middle school however proved to be different when some older kids started bullying him due to his need of special assistance and hearing aids. Even though his friends “had his back”, he unfortunately started to buy into the bullying tactics and as he says, “It affected me so greatly that I stopped wearing hearing aids for about 15 years, but being involved in music helped me tremendously to cope.”

All of these struggles have not stopped Peter; instead it keeps the drive going in him! He has a certificate in Culinary Arts and even though he cannot work full time (because of his recent surgeries), he has created his own work; check out his Face Book page/Food Blog called “Deafinitely Delectable”, notice the play on names? He is also working on completing his Associates Degree in Culinary arts but plans to continue his education with a major in Deaf Studies and Special Education, “So I can become a teacher for deaf kids.” Currently he is studying American Sign Language and plans to use it as his main language for communication, and English as his second language.

As a 32 year-old adult, Peter has lots of advice for children growing up with 22q, “Find a passion you love to do, develop that skill early on and you will have it for a life time, for me, that was music and drum corps, I will forever have these. Also, be sure to surround yourself with people who make you comfortable, but also don’t be afraid to open up to meeting new people.”

So who is Peter, “I am a deaf musician, and a chef, with many hobbies including writing, woodworking, music, and traveling. Music and cooking have given me opportunities to open up as a person, and to step outside of my comfort zones and allow me to travel to all different parts of the world. I love to travel and meet new people wherever I go.” With his birthday coming in a few weeks, Peter has started a fundraiser for The International 22q Foundation on Facebook, #2200for22q with a goal to raise $2,200 for 22q. He truly is acting as an advocate for 22q!

Meet Brielle and her daughter Kaylee

My whole pregnancy everyone kept telling me “you’re so small, you barely look pregnant.” I never thought anything of it I just figured she was a small baby and I just wasn’t gaining weight. I ate healthy and did everything you should do when you’re pregnant; I took very good care of myself. Then I went into my 35-week doctor visit and had a normal exam. The doctor measured my belly and said I was measuring small so she wanted to send me for an ultrasound that day to get measured to be sure everything was okay. She didn’t seem worried so I didn’t worry. I called my boyfriend and told him, ”They want me to go today for an ultrasound cause they think I’m measuring small and want to double-check and make sure everything is okay.” So he left work and we went, I was nervous but didn’t think anything of it until they told me she was only 4lbs, had fetal growth restriction and I was at high risk of stillbirth. I was terrified!

I just remember thinking and saying; what did I do wrong, I should have eaten better, did more, took better care of myself. I thought it was my fault my baby girl may not make it to birth. They sent me home and told me to monitor fetal movements; I was terrified I didn’t want to go home, I worried something would go wrong.

We went to a maternal-fetal medicine doctor where they explained to us more about Growth Restriction and what to expect. They said if I didn’t have her by 39 weeks they would induce me, so I went on my leave to relax and take it easy. I went to my doctors to check on her 3 times a week until my water broke at 38 weeks and we went into labor and delivery. I had told our doctors and nurses that she was going to be a NICU baby and to have them ready but they were confused because I was 38 weeks the baby wasn’t early and wouldn’t need to be in NICU and they just went about doing what they do.

I had her August 3rd, 2019 at 3:26 pm, I remember hearing the doctors say page NICU she’s only 4lbs she needs to be checked. She stayed in NICU for just shy of a week. She had poor weight gain, low calcium, and would not eat or latch properly. I attempted breastfeeding, which didn’t go well so I pumped exclusively. The doctors were curious how I could have a 4lb baby at full term so they decided to do lots of testing while she was in the NICU, this included a genetics test which we wouldn’t find out the results until we were already home.

After the results came in they called and said they would like us to come in to discuss further. We did the wrong thing and started googling. I pushed to get an earlier appointment to discuss the findings and then we further pushed to get all the testing completed, we were determined to get my baby girl the best care she possibly could have.

The first 2 months were so painful. When they told me my heart dropped I was feeling so many emotions. What will happen to her is she okay? Did I do something wrong to cause this?

They sat us down and explained everything and started further testing. Her heart was semi-good and will test again at 6 months, her immune system looked fairly well but will need to be checked again at 6 months and so on. She has very minor complications such as PFO vs AFO, PPS, a sacral dimple, feeding difficulties, gastrointestinal reflux, nasal regurgitation, poor weight gain, butterfly vertebrae, slower development, and a belly button hernia.

I am so blessed to have her here with us today! She is so strong already and she’s only 3 months old! My heart is so full of love!!!

Addison Bolander – Choosing to Bloom with 22q!

My name is Addison Bolander and I’m 21. When I was born, I was diagnosed with a syndrome called Velo Cardio Facial Syndrome. My parents were told that I would probably not live through the first six months of life, without surgery to repair a hole in my heart. They were also told that I would probably not talk or hear. Well, I survived that heart surgery and other surgeries after that. At many points along the road, I asked, “Why do I have to have this?  I can’t say that sometimes I don’t still wish I didn’t have this, but following surgery when I was 13 after they had come in to start a 7th IV, something started to change. I was crying, I felt afraid and I had pain so my mom and I started to pray. There was a tremendous peace that filled my heart and mind, it was overwhelming and I knew that I was not doing this alone. With that, I set out with a new hope that I could BLOOM with my disability. Not overcome, just BECOME who I was meant to be.

School was always hard for me since I didn’t look “disabled” I was treated differently by peers. I had extra help from the teachers and gave it my all. After 911 my father joined the military and we moved around. I was sick a lot in middle and high school and the children’s hospital was a 2 and a half-hour drive so eventually, we had to find an alternative to regular school because I was gone so much at the doctors or hospital. I started online school to stay up with my classes, but with online classes, there was no leniency with the curriculum. A missed day at the doctor meant a whole day of classes that had to be made up online. Since I don’t learn as fast as the other kids, with the help of my mom as a learning coach, I would start classes when my brothers and sisters went to school, and finish at 8 or 9 in the evening. It was so hard, but I did graduate. I even fell in love with theater arts and even wrote a mini play. I excelled in special effects makeup and I plan to attend BYU Idaho in the spring of 2020 to study theater arts.

After high school, I was called as a full-time missionary to the Arizona Gilbert Mission but unfortunately, I got sick again in the training center for Missionaries. I was given a choice, go home, or just serve for 3 months under evaluation. Well, I took the three months, and it was amazing! I learned to value what is on the inside of a person; it helped me to come out of my shell and to know how to interact with others and how to interpret different situations. I believe those three months are just what I needed because this skill has helped me become more perceptive of human emotions and to express what I’m feeling.

I am now back in Boise and have been blessed to not be seriously ill. I still have chronic pain and take medicine to keep my thyroid working and also have cat eye syndrome, (I can’t keep my eyes open very long in the sun because of the coloboma). I also have an artificial aortic insufficiency due to how they accidentally stitched my valve during my open heart surgery and can’t do much exercise, cardio, or lift heavy objects other than that I am pretty healthy.

After returning to Boise I entered a pageant to represent Idaho’s disabled youth as Idaho Miss Amazing. AND I WON!!! Representing the disabled was truly incredible. It was not for the fame or glory it was the act of one for the many who can’t. I have a great job as a dog handler at a doggie daycare, it’s just like child daycare but the dogs don’t listen to you, bite each other, poop, eat it, wait, maybe it is like regular daycare. I have been snow skiing since I was 5 and recently sign up for the Special Olympics and hope to be able to be part of the ski team. I don’t last long on the slopes since the ski boots are really tight, they have to be, and that does not go well with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (chronic), (I forgot to mention that one), but I like to ski.

I also like to go backpacking and have been doing this with my family for as long as I can remember. I have hiked to more than 20 mountain lakes in Idaho and Colorado and usually carry my sleeping bag, air pad, clothes, hammock, and some food and a fishing pole.

I have experienced so much in my life and can’t wait for the next chapter! I have enjoyed every bit of life and eagerly wait for the next Miss Amazing Pageant and college. I feel so blessed to be able to speak and do all the things I can do today and want to be a voice to others saying, “Hey you can do this,   you can because I have!” Later I would like to compile stories of disabled youth to show that when in doubt you can, and that will be the title of the book!


Hello, My name is Cynthia! I’m 24 years old from Toronto Ontario recently moved to Nova Scotia.

I was born with 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome and was born with Type 2 Truncus Arteriosus. I’ve had 4 open-heart surgeries and multiple procedures. The first heart surgery was when I was 2 days old. I do have a conduit stent and had my valves replaced, my most recent was August 6th 2019. I had a Michanical valve replacement done.

I was adopted as a child at the age of 4. My adopted parents didn’t know anything about 22q deletion syndrome at the time or did my family, so they had to go to seminars to learn about the Syndrome. It was a very tough time for my parents and my family. I didn’t know how to speak; they ended up taking me to speech therapy and it took me a year to learn how to talk. A year and a bit after they adopted me I needed to have open-heart surgery. I had some complications during my surgery, but I ended up being just fine. My parents didn’t really have a fun time with me as a child the first few years of adopting me I was a very difficult child, I would scream and throw things. I made it very hard for them up until my late teen years.

During my elementary school years it was very difficult for me. I had trouble in school with Math and English. I would sit in class and hate every second of that class. Kids would pick on me during recess because I was different. I was always that kid who would get into trouble for everything I did. Making friend’s and my disabilities in elementary school was very challenging for me.

In my high school year’s I opened up a bit more and made some friends. I ended up being a social butterfly. I ended up falling into depression and dropped out of school at the age of 18. “I regret dropping out”. My depression and anxiety got to the point where I couldn’t leave my house. I saw several doctors and have tried a lot of medication. My depression finally broke at the age of 23 and I am living my life as positive as I can!

I did end up getting a job in my late teens. I started working as a cashier then I got a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant. I know it wasn’t the best job but to me that job was everything. I have always wanted to work in a kitchen since I was a little girl. I did have some issues keeping some jobs, but I ended up working my way from the bottom to the top and after 8 years of working in the hospitality industry. I became a Chef!

Wasn’t the easiest job! I worked long and late hours. I am right now working at a bar, club and hopefully work towards my reseal certificate.

As you know I was adopted, I ended up getting in contact with my biological aunt. Meet her and my uncle at the age 16. Years later my biological cousin found me on Facebook and got in contact with me. I meet her and my Nono. I’ve learned a lot about my biological side. I sadly couldn’t meet my mother, she passed away in 2009. My biological mother at the time was the only one in the family who had 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome before I came along; she was also diagnosed with schizophrenia and had a similar heart defect as me. I am lucky I had skipped the schizophrenia genetic part. After my diagnosis everyone in my biological family got tested and they were all negative. So my biological mother and I were the only ones in the family who had 22q.11.2 Deletion Syndrome.

I was the only child as a kid, and I was a very draining child for my parents with all my energy. They put me in a group called Girlguide which had helped a lot with my social anxiety as a child and teen years. I would go on trips, camping, I even made some friends who are still my friends to this day as well. It was a very fun thing for me to do as a child. I learned so many things. It was a place where I can be as creative as I can.

I also did horseback riding as a child. I use to compete in horse shows as an equestrian. My parents use to take me to this thing called horse friends, where I would learn how to behave. Horse friends ended up starting a riding program so my parents signed me up. I miss horseback riding ALOT. “As far as I know I did a lot as a child and was always busy up until my teen years”.

I did not go to college but I do want to go to Australia to Le Cordon Bluè for culinary management. I have always dreamed of being a chef. “I remember I use to have a kitchen set as a child and easy bake. I would cook for my parents and make them eat it”.

I have two tattoos and I plan on getting a few more down the road. I have one tattoo that is an infinity sign that’s for my depression. It means “that no matter how hard life gets to never give up”. I also have a second tattoo that is heartbeats for my cardiac. Showing that I am a strong fighter. I enjoy gaming, SciFi and horror. I collect a lot of doctor who stuff. I have seen every episode from 1963 and listened to the old radio shows. I use to style and dye my hair a lot. But I recently shaved my head so it’s growing back healthy! I enjoy playing guitar and I am self-taught. I listen to heavy metal, Old Folk and classic rock music. My favorite bands are, Asking Alexandria, Of Mice and Men, Slipknot, RUSH, Tragically Hip, Mitalica.

My advice to kids and adults who have 22q is ” Live the life you want to live, don’t let anyone control who you want to be.”

Seth Wilson – What a Difference 33 years can make!

Imagine it’s the year 1981; a child is born with VSD/ASD heart defect, clubfoot, and cleft palate and no real medical diagnosis. As this child grows, he has many other medical difficulties as well as several learning disabilities, but still no type of diagnosis. In today’s world, that sounds a bit unreal with all of the medical knowledge, DNA and Chromosome testing available to us, we would most likely have some type of diagnosis. In the past years, we have learned that 1 in 68 children with congenital heart disease and 5 to 8 percent of children born with cleft palate have the 22q11.2 deletion, so most likely a child born today with these symptoms would be diagnosed with the 22q11.2 deletion right away. Knowledge about 22q has come a long way since 1981, and because of the medical progress made, 37-year-old Seth Wilson is now armed with the knowledge we have now, to help in the decisions he will have to make, while raising his own son, who also has the deletion.

Seth was born in Denver, CO with many complications including a VSD/ASD heart defect and had his first surgery at 9 months of age. At an early age, he had many surgeries on his clubfoot requiring it to be broken several times as well as stretching his Achilles tendon to straighten it out.   He had surgery for a cleft palate, and was not able to speak until age 4. Then, he had throat surgery, which enabled him to start speech therapy, which he continued through 2nd grade. While all of this was going on, he endured multiple surgeries on his eardrums (resulting in a 20% loss of hearing), and several hernia surgeries; his last one was March 2019. So when and how did Seth’s 22q diagnosis come about? Like so many of our adults with the deletion, he found out after becoming a parent himself. When his wife became pregnant, the doctors were concerned about Seth’s medical issues as a baby and growing up, and upon testing, he learned he in fact had the deletion.

Seth describes his childhood as normal. “I knew my parents loved me and wanted the best for me, I was well cared for, had a roof over my and was fed,” said Seth. However, he does feel his parents were a little overprotective due to his medical conditions and didn’t really let him get out and make his own mistakes. And like others with the deletion, school for Seth was hard, even though he was homeschooled along with his older brother and a younger sister. Dyslexia made it very difficult for Seth to read, so of course, he said, “I hated reading because it seemed like I was always finishing last and not really understanding exactly about what I read.” Seth considers getting over dyslexia one of his biggest challenges. He also has ADHD, but never wanted to be tested because he did not want to be “labeled” with a disability.

“I wanted to be treated like everyone else, despite my medical conditions,” Seth added.

Seth has a very outgoing personality and has always enjoyed being outdoors with his friends. Since he was homeschooled, he liked to get out of the house to do as much as possible. In middle school, Seth’s mother introduced him to music — first playing the piano, and then playing the saxophone in high school. He liked playing soccer, or any type of recreational sport for that matter and he says, “Camping and fishing was a big thing for me when I could go. I loved going skiing and snowboarding with friends during church trips as well.” In his later teens, he really enjoyed paintball, too. With his personality, he always had many friends and was never lonely.

Today, Seth has been married to his lovely wife, Michelle, more than 5 years, he says they are complete opposites but that’s the way they like it. “We complete each other, and I can’t imagine a day without her! I never learned to relax until I met Michelle; she convinced me, it’s okay to just get work done and then sit down and enjoy some peace and quiet just for yourself!” Together they have a 3-year-old son Wesley, Seth’s pride and joy, who was diagnosed with 22q prior to birth. They are also in the beginning stages of adopting through foster care.

At times, Seth can be very self-conscious and beat himself up especially about all of his scars until he met a friend who had the same scar; he told Seth that he was part of the ‘sew me up club!’ His friend said, “Be proud of those scars, and treat them like battle wounds of life!” Which is exactly what Seth now tries to do. Above all, Seth has many goals for this life; a happy family, to raise kids who enjoy themselves and make this world a better place, to complete a full marathon later this year or next, and to be really good at photorealistic portrait sketching.

Chelsea Gaughran

My name is Chelsea Gaughran. I was born with 22q11.2 Deletion syndrome. My parents found out when I was around 2 years old. I have struggled with panic attacks throughout my life, along with other issues. I live in Virginia; I am 29, and will turn 30 in May. I am proud of what I have accomplished during my life. I went to public school up until 4th grade, then transferred to a private school, called North Star Academy in 5th grade. I graduated from there in 2007.  After graduation, I was hired to work behind the scenes at a local car wash, taking care of many things like making sure the drying towels are washed, dried and ready to use each day, etc., and I have worked for 11 years.  Through it all, my family has supported me — and my mom is my rock!  I love my family — I have a younger brother.  I am involved with Special Olympics, which has changed my life and helps me to come out of my comfort zone. Special Olympics is for all age athletes, and it’s so much fun.  I am also a global messenger for Special Olympics.  A Special Olympics Global Messenger helps spread the word for Special Olympics – as an ambassador for the program. The photo I’ve included with my story is from the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics state games at the University of Richmond last summer. I highly recommend getting involved in Special Olympics, locally, if you are able.  Through the years I have learned so much, and I’m not afraid to talk about what I have; I was taught to not be afraid of who I am, and I’m so proud of what I have become. I was sick a lot when I was young — I’ve had 23 MRI’s and a lot of other medical stuff. But I love my life, and how far I have come with it — I would love to share this story for others to see.  I live at home with my mom and dad, and I have a therapy dog named Angel; she’s a German Shepard.  I have 14 cousins and we all live within a mile of each other, which is a lot of fun too!  I love music, going on vacation, and family parties. A quote I live by now, that was inspired by the movie Soul Surfer is this — I don’t need easy, I just need possible.”

“Keep pushing yourself to do your best!” 

“Keep on pushing yourself to do your best,” is the advice from Katie Brady. Katie born in the Jersey Shore area now lives in South Carolina and is doing everything a single 31-year-old should be doing. Due to her hard work and perseverance, Katie says, “I’ve accomplished many things that when I was young, my doctors never thought I would be able to do.” Her doctors never thought she would be able to make and keep friends, get a driver’s my license or graduate high school, and of course, they never thought she would go to college, but she says, “I have three degrees and working on my fourth!”  Katie is a young lady who knows the art of pushing herself above and beyond!

Katie’s first surgery was at eight months old to repair an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) but she was not diagnosed with 22q until the age of seven. As a young girl, Katie suffered many different health issues and was very low on the growth charts when her pediatrician diagnosed her with JRA; Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. She was then referred to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) where she was diagnosed with 22q11.2 deletion. Even though she was often sick and her health interfered with her schoolwork, she kept pushing forward.   “Unless I had a stomach bug, my mom made me go to school” she said.

As for school, her learning disabilities were a real challenge, and she remembers often escaping to the school nurse to keep from doing work. In elementary and middle school years, she took speech and was given an in-class support special education teacher, but in high school, she learned to self-advocate and requested to no longer leave classes for speech. Even though she continued to take advantage of using her special accommodations for school, she began speaking up for herself to her teachers about what was and was not helpful for her learning.

“I learned how to speak for myself and ask for help when I needed it,” says Katie. She also began participating in sports with friends. “I would struggle because I would try my best… I was never up to par with size or skill, but the coaches always supported the effort I put in.” Being a poor test taker, Katie opted out of taking the SAT and after high school attended a community college where she graduated with an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She followed this with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Ramapo College of NJ. After working a few years, the idea of becoming an interpreter inspired her to go back to school for a degree in American Sign Language and Deaf Studies. She soon realized that was not the right fit for her, but went on to graduate with a certificate of completion. Today she is focused on being accepted into a Master’s degree program in special education, specifically Learning Differences.

As Katie grew out of adolescence, many of her health problems seemed to diminish or as she says, “I learned how to deal with my issues. I wanted my life to be as normal and as independent as it could be and thanks to my parents, who are awesome and a great support system, I have done that.”   There are a few lingering health issues related to taking growth hormones. “I’m currently recovering from Patellofemoral Medial Ligament Reconstructive Surgery and go to physical therapy three times a week.”

Today she works with an autistic student, babysits after work, has friends and is dating! “I’m always multi-tasking and doing everything a 31-year-old today should be doing. My goal right now is to become a certified Special Education teacher in South Carolina through their alternate route program. I hope to get married and have a family one day, I just want to continue being the best version of myself every day and improve on my weaknesses.” What is her best advice to other young adults with 22q? “Keep pushing yourself to do your best. Ask for help when you need it and when the hard days seem impossible to get through, just picture yourself where you want to be. Find your passion in life and don’t let anybody stop you from getting what you want.”

Running for 22q!

Daisy Sellas, a 19 year old student from San Juan Capistrano, California, is competing in her next race with 22q in mind!  Daisy’s younger sister and best friend, Mandy, was born with 22q11.2 deletion disorder. Daisy and Mandy love spending time together and with their dog, trying new foods, baking and watching reality TV! Daisy currently goes to school in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is pursuing a degree in songwriting with a minor in social work. She loves to compete in long-distance running races all around the city. Next weekend, Daisy is going to compete in the Hot Chocolate 15k in Nashville, where she plans to raise awareness about 22q by repping an International 22q11.2 Foundation t-shirt and giving a voice to our population, sharing what we all know—that  22q11.2 often goes undiagnosed, and studies have shown it may be even more common than Down Syndrome!  Please show your support by visiting and wish Daisy luck in the race next weekend! You can also donate to Daisy’s fundraiser on Facebook at:

“Don’t ever let anyone tell you who you are, because only you know who you are.”

This is how Nicole, a 32-year-old single mother with 22q11.2 Deletion is living her life. Nicole is from Burlington, Iowa and was diagnosed with 22q at the age of 3. While she didn’t have the heart issues many do, her parents just knew something wasn’t right, and when she wasn’t speaking at age 3, she went through a series of testing which revealed she had 22q11.2 Deletion. Like many other children with 22q, her childhood was a little rough, due to being in and out of the hospital. “It was tough, but my mom hung on and stayed strong through it all,” says Nicole.

Nicole was shy as a little girl because of a speech impediment. “I got made fun of a lot because of my speech. I cried every day after school,” said Nicole. She is thankful to have had the opportunity to be a voice against bullying when she was interviewed by her hometown newspaper about 22q; her story also ran as an ad to “Stop the bullying.” Being shy did not stop Nicole from being involved in activities outside of school, she did gymnastics as a little girl, played the guitar and took singing lessons, she took swimming lessons, took tae kwon do, and even played softball and basketball for her school.

All levels of learning in school were difficult, due to her learning disability. Nicole had an IEP, and was in special education classes up until high school.   She struggled through high school, but graduated and today is attending a community college to be a Medical Assistant! Nicole says, “I am so proud of myself for going back to college and striving for my dreams! I always say, don’t give up keep moving forward no matter how hard 22q may hit you. Don’t ever let anyone tell you who you are because only you know who you are.”

Nicole has a 9 year old son who also has the 22q11.2 deletion, and like her, has learning disabilities and a speech impediment. When asked about her accomplishments she says, “I’m most proud of my son. He has made me who I am today!” And I feel certain she is teaching her son the lessons that have helped her get to where she is today, one of those being, “Don’t care what others think of you only worry about yourself.”

You can follow Nicole on the Facebook page she created to help support other mothers with 22q sons: 

and on her website:


Finding My Motivation with 22q

“I choose not to let my issues define me,” says Tom who just turned 40 years old and was not diagnosed with 22q until the age of 28. Life for Tom has not always been easy, but read on to find out how the will to succeed can help you to accomplish many things!

Tom Chase was born in Boscawen, NH, and talks about his childhood being different from others, “I had delays in most everything; walking, speaking, etc.” His first 5 years of life were spent in and out of hospitals. With several learning differences, anxiety, difficulty reading and taking tests he required constant help with school work. Since at the time he had no diagnosis, the administration at school told his family that he was “coddled” too much and “lazy”. Thankful for the frequent trips his parents were required to make to school for IEP and other meetings, Tom says, “I owe so much to my family, particularly my mom staying up late with homework keeping me busy with activities and making sure the schools did the right thing by me! And my dad was a huge help too in working and supporting the family.”

Growing up without any type of diagnoses Tom found it hard to make friends; they couldn’t understand his issues and of course, he was not able to explain. He did find a few friends he could trust and participated in activities best he could but most sports were difficult because of bad ankles. During middle school, he was bullied daily, physically and emotionally. Thus he disappeared in reading. This was until he discovered riding a bike. “I fell in love with biking I was on the road by myself miles on end, long trips short ones, didn’t matter.” High school wasn’t any better academically or socially. Tom’s mom signed him up for a swim team and shortly after he also started lifting weights both of which he loved. In his last year of high school, he got really sick and missed a lot of school but when told he wasn’t going to graduate, what did Tom do? He buckled down, missed all senior-related activities and graduated on schedule. After high school, he entered the workforce, “I chose not to let my issues define me if I can’t do the job it’s not for me.”

In 2000, Tom began martial arts training giving him self-discipline and confidence; this eventually led to him teaching Tae Bo and spin classes! But at age 28 Tom suffered an injury to his shoulder at work which required surgery. The injury activated many other issues including back and nerve pain leading his doctor to further review his medical history, he ran more tests and finally came the diagnosis, 22q. “This was a curse and blessing,” he says, “I can now explain things but it’s too late to receive help; funding, counseling, etc.” After the accident, Tom had many health-related difficulties and gained a lot of weight, in fact at one time he weighed 340 pounds. Just as doctors considered putting him in a wheelchair, his self-discipline kicked in and he took the matter back into his own hands by working out and eating healthy. Today he is just over 200 pounds, works out 6 days a week and posts videos of his beach body workouts for inspiration to others. Tom is a hard worker, working 40 hours a week as a custodian, “A good union paying job with benefits!” Happily married, for 15 years he and his wife recently purchased their first home and continue making plans for the future. Tom and his wife both have online businesses since his wife also suffers from health issues, Neurofibromatosis, they realize that one-day full-time employment outside of the home may not be an option. Tom’s self-discipline, work ethic and motivation is an inspiration to all!

What is Tom’s advice for others living with 22q?

For parents of children with 22q: “I would highly encourage parents to research and get their kids early help; grants, physical therapy and speech therapy.”

For children with 22q: “Functional fitness is huge, don’t go into hiding as I did. Be courageous, make friends lots of them. Enjoy growing up.”

For adults with 22q: “Don’t let 22q define you, you are strong and can do anything with the right support and training.”

Thank you, Tom, for sharing your story and encouraging so many others!

Living Positively with 22q

Moving from an adolescent with 22q to an adult with 22q can be intimidating, but if you just put one foot in front of the other and proceed forward, you will find yourself living as an adult on your own, with a job, hobbies and friends! This is how Adam Aelick has approached his young adult life.

When Adam was born in Sudbury Ontario Canada in 1998, his doctors suspected he had 22q at birth and after a week, the diagnosis was confirmed. He spent about 3 weeks in the hospital where more tests were run and his heart and oxygen were closely monitored. He had his first open heart surgery at 18 months of age. After several years in and out of the hospital with pneumonia, he had his second heart surgery at age 5.

Like many children with 22q, he struggled with school and didn’t have many friends but always knew he could count on his family. “I didn’t have one specific friend growing up, but I was always able to rely on my sister, my mom, and my grandparents.” High school is usually more difficult for those with learning differences and so proved to be for Adam as well, but he is proud to say, “I gradually intergraded into mainstream classes in high school.” “It took an extra year for me to graduate but I did receive my high school diploma with one of the highest grades in woodshop class in the school!”

For most students even without differences, it takes someone behind you guiding and maybe even giving you a push along the way. That someone for Adam was his mom. When he was about 15 his mother “forced” him into a non-profit music program, which he eventually fell in love with. “I was in it for years then I left because I turned 18 and the program is for 11 to 18 years old.” At age 20 Adam still loves to play his guitar and plays both acoustic and electric guitar, learning new music all the time.

Today Adam does require medication for depression, anxiety and a leaky valve, which he hopes to have fixed in the near future. However, he is living his own life working, making friends, learning archery and he is on a Special Olympics 10 pin bowling team! “My mom is always positive with me no matter what,” so with inspiration from his mom and a book by Quinn Bradlee, Adam started a facebook positivity page where he posts positive quotes and pictures almost every day. Follow his page and be inspired everyday!



Enjoying Retirement with 22q

Denise L. Bonardi’s Story

I was born in an Englewood, New Jersey hospital on July 21, 1959 and I’m 59 years old. When I was very little, no one except my mother could understand me when I tried to talk, so my parents took me to a specialist and discovered that I had a paralyzed soft palate. Dr. George Crikelair, a famous plastic surgeon at Columbia University, operated on my palate to help me speak clearly. I was three years old at the time, and back then, there was no such thing as genetic testing, so they didn’t know the exact cause of my childhood issues.

I grew up struggling with medical issues. My childhood was lonely and I did not have many friends. School was not fun for me. I had to go to special classes for math and having bad hearing did not help either. Even though it was hard, I made the Honor Roll in High School. I did not go to college. Growing up, I liked to write and play my guitar. I also collected autographs. I have autographs from a lot of famous people.

I am proud that I have worked for many years as a cashier and was recognized for my excellent service seven times in a row! I have also traveled to England, Holland, Italy, and Bermuda.

At the age of 55, I was diagnosed with 22q. When I was first diagnosed; I was depressed. Now, I feel so much better and less alone because I have connected with other people with the syndrome, and I understand it better. I finally had an answer for all of the childhood problems.

My advice to anyone with 22q is don’t ever give up. Be strong–there is always hope! Live your life boldly. Always look on the bright side of life, and be happy.

Living Boldly with 22q

Carsons Story:

My name is Carson Weide, I am 17 years old and a senior at Paso Robles High School. I am heavily involved in many extra curricular activities. I have been on the high school swim team for the last 4 years, along with playing water polo.  I am involved in 3 youth groups and play the drums on the worship team at my church.  Just this year I finally signed up for marching band. I wish I had done it sooner. I love music. Music is my passion.

I was diagnosed with 22q in 5th grade. I always struggled in school. My parents were my best advocates. My mom spent countless hours trying to figure out why I was always sick and why I had such a hard time learning.  Everyone kept telling my parents I was autistic. They knew that wasn’t the right diagnosis, but nobody would listen, so they went with it so that I would qualify for help.  Fast forwarding to 5th grade, my pediatrician referred me to a neurologist. She suggested we do some genetic testing.  2 weeks later we got the call that made everything fall into place.  That is when I learned I had 22q.

We were immediately sent to UCLA to meet with the genetic team. Since then, they have put together a 22q clinic. I met with the whole team every year for 6 years. Last year I was told I only need to come every 2 years. I was cleared from everything. My heart is very healthy, my one kidney is functioning just fine, I am totally healthy. I am grateful that I do not have any major medical problems that come with 22q.  I do however have the mental challenges. I suffer from severe anxiety and OCD. I spent countless hours trying to find the right therapist to help me..  UCLA referred me to a doctor in our area and she was my saving grace.  I did extensive cognitive behavioral therapy along with exposure therapy.  My life was hell for a while. But I persevered, and I am now able to use my tools to manage it with out any medication.

I feel like I have overcome so many obstacles in my 17 years.  I would love to study abroad at a disciple training school. My heart is leading me to New Zealand to spread the word of God. (My mom worries about me leaving, as I do not have the best sense of direction but that is what navigation apps are for, right?)    I want to become a youth pastor when I’m done traveling.  Just because I have 22q, I do not let that define who I am. My parents push me to my limits; tell me there isn’t anything that I can’t do.  Sometimes I want to give up because I have to work extra hard, but they don’t let me. In the end, I know they were right and I’m glad I have them cheering me on.

My advice for anyone with 22q is to keep pushing yourself to do the best you can even if it’s hard. Life is good, even with 22q!

Living Generationally with 22q

I’m a 36-year-old French women. I learned two years ago that I have 22q. It’s possible to live one’s life without any knowledge of the diagnosis.

From a young age, I suffered from hypernasal speech. At 6, we discovered that it was due to my palate not reaching my throat (Velopharyngeal Insufficiency). So I had a surgical procedure on my palate and suddenly was able to speak more easily, but still had breathing issues. I went to a speech therapist three times per week to improve my speech.

Because of chronic flare-ups and inflammations, I had to give up on swimming despite my love for it. Today, I continue to have problems with my middle-ear function and may need an operation. I also suffered from juvenile arthritis and wore a chest brace from ages 11 to 17 to deal with scoliosis. It was a very difficult time in my life. I finally had spinal-fusion surgery with a metal rod inserted along the length of my spinal column.

Academically, I led a normal life. I was first in my class, and I received my baccalaureate degree in Applied Arts. I later earned master’s degree in Art History and Museum Studies.

I’m now the mother of three children—two of whom have 22q. For my 6-year-old boy, it has manifested as febrile seizures (fever fits) from the age of 9 months, as well as delayed speech and motor skills, hypermobility of his leg muscles, and chronic inflammation. Some of his issues have improved and he’s currently doing well at school.

Of my two 5-year-old twins (fraternal), only my daughter has the syndrome. For her, it presents as hypocalcemia, delayed speech, immune deficiency, hyperthyroid and a heart murmur. School is going well for her too.

I discovered my own 22q diagnosis thanks to my children, but I wish I would’ve known long before.

We are constantly seeing specialists to try to manage our health and improve as much as possible. We go to a family doctor, a pediatric neurologist, a physical therapist, a speech therapist, a microphysiotherapist, an osteopath and a homeopath, plus we’ve spent a year and a half with a psychomotor therapist/psychiatrist, not to mention all the blood tests and regular treatments for my daughter’s hyperthyroid.

My daughter also has triphalangeal thumbs where each thumb has an extra phalange. And my son has odontoid hypoplasia in his cervical vertebrae that we only learned about during an MRI for his seizures.

That’s my story. We’re learning to live with our condition and all the challenges that go along with it, trying to help others to understand and be able to support us. Unfortunately, my extended family tends to put their heads in the sand about it. No one else will take the test. But there you have it. There are certainly other illness and syndromes in the world that are worse. So we try to make the best of all of our moments of happiness because we only have this one life to live.

Living Patiently with 22q

Hannah Kathryn Schilling, Author & You Tuber

Students eagerly pack their belongings and begin the trek back to colleges this fall, for another year of college life in the dorms and off-campus housing… it’s the fun hustle and bustle that college towns look forward to each year.

Meet Hannah, a bright, enthusiastic young lady who is starting college this fall and getting ready to live in a dorm for the first time. This may seem like no big deal for some, but for Hannah, this is quite an accomplishment. Hannah has learned that if you work hard and approach your goals with patience, good things will come.

Hannah was born November 1996. At 4 days old, she was diagnosed with the 22q11.2 deletion.  She spent many years in and out of hospitals, but the most difficult part of her journey was being non-verbal for the first 10 years of her life. She has also found it difficult to have a learning difference.   As a non-verbal child for 10 years, Hannah learned to be aware of things going on around her, which she says is still a great asset today.  Being non-verbal taught her above all — patience — which now, she’s conquered, and when questioned about it, will tell you straight out —  “Now, I love talking and can’t STOP!!!”

Some of Hannah’s biggest challenges as a child included not understanding what everyone was talking about, and staying focused in class.   It bothered her, but she fought through it. Today, she is beginning to understand that 22q had a lot to do with those challenges… and even though she has a better understanding of it now, the challenge is still there — just trying to understand the where and why of 22q.

“Going to Dragonfly Camp and meeting other people with 22q just like me, was a positive step in understanding 22q,” said Hannah. It is also one of Hannah’s favorite memories as a young teen.  She felt that meeting and connecting with others with 22q, helped her to feel less alone and understand things better.

Today Hannah likes to shop, travel, swim, and craft. She also enjoys sharing her story on YouTube to encourage others with 22q.  After working at TJ Maxx for 2 years, Hannah is now preparing to start college at Millersville University College, where she will have a tutor and live in a dorm!  She has had lots of encouragement from her family throughout her years, and thanks her family for teaching her to, “Just be ME.”  So, what is Hannah’s best piece of advice for a young person living with 22q?  “Take time, just be patient, it will come.”

You can see Hannah’s story on her YouTube channel, Spreading My Word out for my 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome,

Living Musically with 22q

Musician, Actor and 22q?   Yes, that describes Todd Simpson, an amazing Musician and Actor,  with 22q Deletion Syndrome.

How can a child who underwent his first heart surgery at 2 days old then went on to spend 767 days of his first 3 years of life in the hospital grow up to be such an incredibly talented adult? 

Todd does it through his music.  He says, “Music is a great way for me to express what people with disabilities can accomplish!  It’s more than just a good time, it is a spiritual thing.”

Todd has also been involved with Foundations such as The Dempster Foundation benefitting 22q and The International 22q11.2 Foundation as well as many other charities.

So how did it all start? 

While he was in the hospital his nurse Valerie would play all kinds of music for him which he says has been a huge impact on his life today.  Even though Todd’s activities were limited due to his health he says he was able to find his gift and purpose through music.  At the age of 8, he picked up a harmonica while listening to his father Wes and friends playing guitars, after playing flawlessly they asked how he knew how to play, he responded, “I just feel it!”  A few days after he found himself in Birmingham Al. playing at the City Stages music festival with Bluesman Willie King.  At age 17 Todd amazed family and friends by picking up a guitar and playing it as if he had been for years.  Todd does not read music or write lyrics, when he plays music he says he’s seeing color at the same time, what many see as a handicap he says is a blessing!  In 2010 Todd had a part in the movie “Lifted” which he portrayed himself and featured two of his original songs.  Todd’s music is deeply rooted in Blues but his band MoJo Child plays an eclectic mixture of traditional blues, original songs and interpretations of songs from all genres.  For him, music is “an uplifting power.”

And what is Todd doing with his music today? 

Todd continues to build his music career touring and performing with his band, Todd Simpson and MoJo Child.  He was nominated for the 2017 & 2018 Alabama Music Awards in two categories:  “Best Blues Male Artist” and “Rock Artist”.  You can see him perform in various locations throughout Alabama and other states and you can hear his music on Spotify,, ITunes, IHeart Radio, Google Music, Amazon Music, Pandora, ReverbNation, he can also be found on You Tube, Facebook and Instagram. Until you are able to see him in concert, Todd invites you to follow him on Facebook. 

 And what is Todd’s ultimate goal?

All of this sounds really exciting but for Todd is ultimate goal is: “To show people what they can do know matter what disability they have, this disability can actually be an ability”.

Living Creatively with 22q


Philip and Dawn Skowfoe III were happily awaiting the arrival of their second daughter, Isabel Skowfoe, who was born on May 23, 2002 in Upstate New York. She arrived a little earlier then expected and all seemed perfect after birth but just 24 hours later, our lives, as we knew it would be changed forever.

Isabel wouldn’t eat and her limbs started turning blue; there was something definitely wrong. The next hours are a blur as she was transported to another hospital to undergo open-heart surgery and so would begin our life with 22q11.2. She’s had two open-heart surgeries with more to come, numerous set of ear tubes, two tear duct surgeries, gall bladder removal, tonsil removal and so many specialists along the way….BUT this isn’t her whole story, it was only the beginning.

I want parents of 22q11.2 kids to know, their kids like mine, are still capable of making their dreams come true with hard work and your support.

Isabel has overcome so many physical obstacles that’s why I’m even more proud to say she has published her first book at the sweet age of 16 years!! She is an author!

I would appreciate your support by passing on the word of her new fantasy book which is available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble  — “Sabrina Banner, The Soul of a Sorcerer” by Isabel Skowfoe This is Book One of hopefully a series if all goes as she hopes with your support!

Remember dreams are still possible no matter what obstacles are thrown your way!

Thank you,

Dawn Skowfoe

Living Gratefully with 22q


My name is Kathryn. For the first seven years of my life, I struggled to breathe and live. I was born a preemie at 34 weeks. I am lucky enough to have a mother that is a Registered Nurse. She could tell something was wrong during pregnancy. When I was born, I wasn’t breathing. I was born black due to lack of oxygen. My apgar was 1:6 and I also failed the FAD and biophysical. I was in the NICU on a ventilator for a month after birth. When my mom finally brought me home, I used to code three times a day. I couldn’t swallow food due to a submucous cleft palate. My parents both started to realize something was wrong. At the age of two and a half, I went to a specialist, Dr. Robert Shprintzen. Through FISH, he diagnosed me with 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome. The doctors detected my heart surgery, but I had struggled to breathe for so long that I only had a week to live by the time I had my surgery. I had a right aortic arch vascular ring heart repair. To this day, I still have a scar half way across my body. It is my battle scar.

I found out when I was older that some of my family members didn’t want to become close to me because they were afraid I was going to die. I was in and out of the hospital for seven years. I had still suffered from many health issues. I’ve had 21 surgeries to fix my health problems.

I still suffer from some medical difficulties. I currently have immunity difficulties such as: hypothyroidism, hypoparathyroidism, IgM deficiency, hypocalcemia and osteopenia. I also have many gastrointestinal issues and am currently seeing a specialist for gasteroparesis and GERD. I suffer from severe anxiety and PTSD, and receive help. I have learned that I need to keep up to date with my doctors in order to stay healthy and live a normal life.

In all honesty, everyone calls me a miracle. I somehow survived so many health hardships. I’m proud to be able to live a normal adult life. I graduated high school. I went to college for four years, but dropped out due to anxiety. I may go back to school one day, but for now I found full time work. I married my soul mate and we live together with our miniature poodle. I am proud to share my love of technology, art, and animals. I believe that my pets can sense that I am a miracle. I’m proud to be here. I’m proud to have seen some of the best doctors in the world. I hope that anyone who reads this will know that 22q comes in all shapes and sizes. I was one of the lucky fighters. I know you can be too.

Living Spiritually with 22q


Meghan Beggs is a young lady who was diagnosed at the age of 11 with 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome in her own words, “I am a young women who has a big Heart for God”. Her desire is to help others love and accept themselves and to encourage others to get through their struggles. Today Meghan is a successful writer and blogger.

As a child, Meghan had many medical issues and learning differences. At the age of 11, she went to a doctor who was treating another patient who looked similar, he suggested a simple blood test and she was then diagnosed with 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome. “I do wish more doctors knew about 22q so that people can get help sooner than I did,” Meghan said.

Meghan loves to learn, but says school was always a struggle because she learns differently. However, she did not let that stop her. One of her struggles is with executive function. A problem with the brain functions that impairs a person’s ability to analyze, plan, organize, schedule, and complete tasks.

“Sometimes it might take me a while to process things that you are saying to me, I don’t process it all right away and it may take some time for me to get comfortable in a new place, but eventually I will open up.”

Anxiety was an issue during her teen years that kept her from being social and attending school regularly. “My anxiety kept me from really enjoying anything fully and I would often cancel plans at the last minute.”

She began home schooling and tutoring in High School and graduated in 2014. Currently she attends class at Grand Rapids Community college.

As Meghan is maturing, she finds different ways to cope with her differences, like writing and encouraging others. Instead of focusing on her weak spots, she focuses on the things in life that are positive and can lead to a positive future. Meghan’s positive attitude is overflowing, and you can’t help but to feel her energy and passion in her voice or her writings.

“There are so many good things in life, if we could just look at the things we can do, and not the things that we maybe can’t do. Because when you actually look at the positive side, you will notice there is more that you can do than you think!” said Meghan.

“Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do. You are stronger than you think, just believe in yourself that you can do it!” Meghan shares. This strength has helped her to complete one of her greatest accomplishment of being featured in the Fall 2017 magazine “Shine Brightly”, from the Gem’s ministry.

Budding Model

Nadia Zimmerman

(updated February 2019) Since the original submission, Nadia ran her first Half Marathon in 2019 – 13.1 miles –  for the 22q community, sporting a Saquon Barkley jersey with the International 22q11.2 Foundation logo on it!  Always great to get updates from our friends who share their stories!

My name is Nadia Zomorodian and I am 22 years old living with 22q. I was diagnosed at 2 years old and as soon as the doctors saw me, they told my parent’s she has Velo-Cardio Facial Syndrome. I have had 4 surgeries. Three when I was younger and the last one I had was 2012. I have had a lot of trouble with school, but I have never been held back I was always determined to do my best so I could stay with my best friends. Thank god I did because I got to graduate high school with them and now college. I just graduated college with a degree in photography. I have four jobs. I work in a clothing store where I am now on the register. I have been working in retail for three years, but never did the register because I was afraid I would mess up until I got my second job as a photographer at Daytona International Speedway and they wanted me to try it. Little did I know, I loved it. I told my boss at the store that I want to try the register now and she allowed me to. So now I am on register at both of my jobs. I also just got a job for a film as a promotional photographer and an intern for a studio where I photograph weddings and events. My speech is really good. I do acting and modeling when I am not taking photos. I was in a few plays in high school and did acting school. That helped me become more outgoing. I was in speech therapy after I had my platelet surgery which was 3 to 9th grade. It was a good feeling when I was done with speech. I just want to tell you guys that your kid will be fine and don’t worry too much. Let them explore and have them find out what they do not like and do like. It will get easier when they get older.

Aaron Rumsey


Never give up!!! Always strive for your dreams. And I’ve done just that.I would like to take a moment and share my success with Q22. I was diagnosed with Q22 on July 14, 2010. Prior to being diagnosed with Q22 I’ve had 5 previous cardiac surgeries. 2 major and 3 minor. Tetrollogy of Fallot at the age of 4 back in 1984, a I.C.D. aka defibulator implant in 2000 after finding that I could produce a tachycardia arrhythmia at rest, a I.C.D. replacement in 2007, a Pulminary valve replacement in January 2010 and another I.C.D. of April 2010. I’ve started my martial arts journey back in 1985 with studies in Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido and Tai Chi. I currently hold an international rank in Tae Kwon Do of 2nd Degree and a school rank of 3rd Degree. With Hapkido I’m currently a 2nd Degree black belt and is recognized over in Korea. In April of 2014, I was inducted into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame in Indianapolis Indiana. I am the owner of Dearborn County School of Martial Arts and currently teach 33 students in Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido and Tai Chi. The martial arts is my passion in life and love seeing my students grow in character and becoming the students I know they can be. Throughout my life outside of the martial arts I currently am full time employed with Krogers and have been with the company for 4 years. With schooling, growing up with grade school and high school I was never an a/b student but did maintain a C average and did a couple of years in college. In school the activities outside of the martial arts I participated in was I was on the varsity Tennis team in high school and participated in band all four years with a percussion background. Prior to high school I played baseball all the way up through Babe Ruth.

This past Saturday, February 28th I had the distinct honor in participating along with my students in a demonstration / seminar / question and answer session on Q22 with Bettsy Leech with Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati Ohio. Some of the questions that was asked of me prior in an email was the following;

  1. What did you enjoy most in school? – What I enjoyed the most in school aside from being around my friends was the activities such as band and tennis that I participated in.
  1. How did you get involved in Tae Kwon Do? – My mother was the first that introduced me into Tae Kwon Do by putting me in a class that was here in Lawrenceburg and she knew the instructor. But also around that time back in 1985 after I was cleared from my doctors Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Karate Kid was very popular at the time. And that was what peaked my curiosity in the arts.
  1. When did you find out about 22Q and how were you informed? – I was informed that I had q22 through a fish study through Children’s Hospital of Cincinnati back in 2010
  1. What are some of the biggest things you want to accomplish? – Though the Hall of Fame induction was a great honor, one goal I have is to see my students through their goals and achieve there dreams in the arts. But as a another goal. I do have a goal of opening up my own store location for my school here in town for as I currently run out of two rec centers with my classes. Also I plan on testing for my Master’s degree in Tae Kwon Do in 2017. But for a major goal when the time comes to test for my 5th Degree I plan on testing in South Korea at Tae Kwon Do’s head quarters. And just to grow in my other arts I study as well. Plus I would love to see through Tae Kwon Do to be included in the Special Olympics.

Outside of my studies in the martial arts one goal would be to be able to work with Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati in some way shape or form in connection with Q22 and help continue to spread the awareness of it. And to help others cope with Q22.

Never settle for second best. Always continue to set goals and strive them no matter how big the goal may be. I’ve never felt any different from anyone else. My step-dad asked me this same question after finding out about this and my exact words was no different. So never give up !!!!!! Always strive for the best in life and meet your goals in life.

“A teacher is never a giver of truth – he is a guide, a pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself. A good teacher is merely a catalyst.” – Bruce Lee

Living Resiliently with 22q 

LINDSAY FLAX – Author, Teen With A Heart

Lindsay Flax is a beautiful young woman living resiliently with 22q. At the age of 22, she is living independently as she transitions into adulthood. Lindsay’s parents found out almost immediately after her birth that she had a heart murmur. She was then diagnosed with the heart condition Tetralogy of Fallot.   Soon after that, doctors discovered there was something different about her DNA and after doing a FISH test she was diagnosed with 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome. At the age of 4 months, Lindsey had her first open heart surgery, which would be one of many surgeries for her heart, feet, throat and just recently, a procedure on her artificial heart valve.

These struggles have not been a deterrent to Lindsey at all, in fact this is what drives her to accomplish her dreams. Lindsay attended private schools for children with learning differences for most of her K-12 years and graduated from High School in 2014. She is currently a Senior at Beacon College in Florida, the first accredited college to offer four-year degrees to students with learning differences. Lindsey has a caring heart and proves this by spending most of her free time working and volunteering. She has volunteered with Camp Brave Heart, her local Jewish Community Center and currently is working as an intern with the 22q Family Foundation and this summer she is working at a Jewish camp in Atlanta as an intern taking photos and teaching art. Lindsay has created a Blog: Teen with a Heart, which she started with the intention of reaching out to teens struggling with 22q, but says it has been just as helpful and followed by adults seeking answers for their children. There is also an e-book available on Etsy by the same name, Teen With a Heart, and was written as a guide for teens with 22q Deletion Syndrome.

Etsy Page


Not many people would look at their differences as a benefit, but this is not so with Lindsay. Besides her parents and younger sister, who she says are the most influential people in her life, she attributes her success to the confidence she has in herself and what she can do, “I have learned so much from my Mom and when moments/days are hard, I just push through and make a way to get done what I can, if it’s in the way, I don’t let it be.”   With all Lindsey has accomplished so far she says her greatest accomplishment is, “Just being where I am today!” So, what is Lindsay’s advice to others with 22q? “Always be yourself, things will not always go as you plan, but as life comes to you, never give up.”

Living Brilliantly with 22q!

Imagine you are 32, have a successful nursing career, married with 2 children and you are diagnosed with 22q! How could this be possible, one could ask…. Read on!

Robin Gramke was born December, 1985, 2 months premature. She struggled with feeding and reflux as a baby and toddler, having to be fed sitting straight up, by her parents.  Robin was healthy with no known medical issues as a child, although she did have speech therapy throughout her childhood and always had a very nasal-sounding voice. At age 14, due to an illness that turned out to be rheumatic fever and Sydenham chorea, she discovered she had a soft-closed palate, which doctors attributed to her premature birth.

Through Robin’s eyes, she lived a pretty normal, healthy life. She had lots of friends, and like most kids, loved and hated school– but performed well, especially in Science and Art. Even though she was bullied in elementary school for her nasal voice, she says, “I never let that bother or define me.”

Robin graduated high school in 2004 and became a State Tested Nursing Assistant (STNA), in 2005. She says, “I didn’t want to go to college right away because I wanted to travel and have fun!” She traveled around several states in the US and then returned home to be with her family during her mother’s battle with cancer. She went back to school in 2006 to become a medical assistant and then nursing school in 2009. In 2010, on a Saturday in May, she completed nursing school and 2 days later started her first real nursing job. She was not officially a nurse until June 1, 2010, after passing the NCLEX exam (on her first try), and has worked as a full-time nurse ever since!


After starting her career, Robin met her soon to be husband and after a short romance (3 months) they wed in October 2011. Madison, their first child, was born October 2013 at 41 weeks with no complications via C-section (after Robin had been placed on bed rest due to preeclampsia). Robin continued working as a nurse until her second child, McKenna was born in December 2017 at 39 weeks a scheduled C-section. Robin loves her career and continues to work although with taking care of Madison and McKenna, it can prove to be taxing at times.

So, how does a healthy 32-year-old, successful, Licensed Practical Nurse and mother of two find out that she has 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome?

After a normal pregnancy, her second daughter, McKenna was born with Truncus type 2, an interrupted aortic arch type B, and had a seizure shortly after birth (due to very low levels of calcium). McKenna tested positive for 22q11.2 Deletion syndrome, so her Genetic Counselor with the 22q Clinic at Cincinnati wanted to test Robin and her husband as well.

As many parents know, this was not an easy task. The insurance company did not want to approve testing since they claimed it did not affect McKenna’s quality of life or well-being. The Geneticist resubmitted the request for a FISH test instead of a Microarray test, the insurance approved and it was confirmed Robin had 22q. Robin then had an echocardiogram, which revealed an aberrant right subclavian artery, which can be associated with 22q.

So what is 22q to Robin?

It is a loving and uneventful upbringing in a great family, a good education and now a full adult life with a family and career.

“I realize I am not a typical individual with 22q”, Robin adds. “I had a very healthy childhood and I now live a great life. If McKenna was not born with 22q, I would have never have known about myself, so I want to raise awareness and help as much as I can with this,” says Robin. “I believe this is my calling now and my purpose.”


Gordon – Inspirational Speech

“My life experiences have taught me to accept things I cannot change and focus on things I can change through my efforts.”  Gordon Lu

Congratulations to Gordon, a member of our 22q11.2 family graduating this year!  Gordon will attend George Mason University (GMU) this Fall… and thank you to Gordon’s family for sharing his inspiring speech.   Click here to hear more about Gordon’s journey.  

What I’ve Learned From 9 Years Parenting a Child With a Rare Disorder

My daughter turns 9 this week. It hardly seems possible when I1 think of how quickly time has passed between her swift arrival on a crisp, gray day and today. The nine years that have passed have taught me more than all 27 years before she became my daughter. Unlike the first weeks and months after I first held her, my thoughts are not frozen with fear or worry. Today, I woke up and knew with certainty that there is no way I could feel this happy had I not experienced the sorrow that accompanied her first years.
I have kept a tattered page from the book “The Prophet” in my dresser drawer since my daughter was a tiny baby, when she was recovering from heart surgery, nursing every hour and struggling each day to even breathe comfortably. I read this quote in the book and it struck me so profoundly that I actually ripped it out and shoved it in my messy drawer, for later, for when the joy presumably arrived and the fear subsided. “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” I tore the page out and held it, glancing at it over and over again over the past near-decade and marveling in the highs and lows at how true it rings. It has never been more true than it is today.

Over the years, I have learned that the 22q11.2 deletion that once defined how I thought of my sweet baby girl, that once took my breath and my dreams away, has faded into simply a word on her chart and a source of hope when I read it in the latest article on stem cell therapy’s incredible promise. I look at my daughter Nadia and I don’t see her deletion, heart repair or missing kidney. I marvel that she has the sweetest and biggest soul I have ever seen in a child. I don’t see her speech delay. I don’t see her low tone or foot braces. They are long gone. She gave up signing at age 4 and never looked back – although she often uses hilarious gestures while she is dancing and singing in the shower. I don’t see her learning difficulties. She just read me an entire chapter book and giggled at the funny parts with such delight that I found myself captivated by a children’s story. About hippos.

I don’t see her doctor visits – 20 in the past three months. When we left her appointment last week, she clutched my hand while skipping and told me that “our date” was her favorite part of the day. I don’t see her fused spine, because she surfs and skis and does cartwheels and she literally bounces with joy. Most days, I don’t even see her immune deficiency. Through magic, impossibly wonderful teachers and friends and loads of prayers, she not only goes to school every day, but loves school every day. I think our luck is quite simply otherworldly. Honestly, I think her love and fairy dust have healed all of us and blown into every little corner of our world.

In utero and at two months, we were terrified about what would happen if we lost our baby, our precious baby. We were told that things might work out, but she was little. But her labs were off. But her numbers were low. But they didn’t know. But she had this deletion. We prepared for a long heart surgery that would bring a grown man to his knees. That did bring my doctor husband, the one who never worried or cried, who tended to gunshot wounds in trauma centers, to his knees.

We shut off the radio. We went to bed at 8. We slept fitfully, in between her feedings, and laid solemnly in bed until we had to get up and face the day. We stopped talking to friends with healthy kids because it was impossible to relate to teething and solid food debates when we were researching Duke doctors to do thymic transplants, or finding specialists to help with surgeries. We curled up and rocked our baby, more for us than for her, and needed our own moms and dads more than we had since we were children. I wondered if I had taken more prenatal vitamins, eaten more wheatgrass, more green smoothies, avoided whitening toothpaste, gotten more sleep in pregnancy, if I could have made a difference – spared my baby girl the list of anomalies that stared at me from the hospital’s brochures that accompanied each visit to a different specialist.

And then, the sun came out. It was brighter than anything you have ever seen. Nadia, even as an infant, had a smile so sparkling and brilliant, that it made her eyes scrunch shut. Apparently, the well that sorrow carved was indeed deep enough to hold a lifetime of joy in the smallest imaginable package – 20 pounds at 2 years, 30 pounds at age 6, 40 pounds at age 9. Despite her size, she packs a serious punch. She takes everything in stride and has such a big personality that sometimes I am surprised when I see the scale.

I think we often want our kids to be like us, to meet our standards, to make us proud with their achievements and mimic us so we can relate. We want to show the world how successful and bright our children are – an extension of us. In this case, I think the opposite is true. I think we more often strive to be like her, to accept her for precisely who she is and for what her best is rather than “the best.” She loves so deeply, enjoys so richly and feels joy so intensely that it is like watching a beautiful sunrise and feeling the heat of the best summer day, all at once. She isn’t reserved or self-conscious, like me, and our journey has let me see the best and most beautiful parts of everyone. So, on her birthday, I felt compelled, contrary to my nature but so fitting with Nadia’s, to share something personal with the world, without worrying what others will think.

Since that cold and overcast day nine years ago, we have witnessed countless quiet, unspeakably beautiful acts of kindness towards Nadia and towards us. She has turned our world, our friends, our coaches, our teachers, our neighbors, into family. From the friend who brought me her pillow when I first checked into the Children’s Hospital with Nadia because she was a nurse and knew that her pillow would be softer, more comfortable, to the stoic neighbor who brought soup and dropped it on our doorstep, along with a tiny note and an angel pin that remains affixed to the shade of her infant car seat that I just can’t part with, I am left in awe. From my sister and family who have listened to every high and low and sifted it out for me with such grace that I swear they walk on water, to the friends who gave us a little jar of glitter fairy dust that still sits on Nadia’s dresser and will surely be sprinkled somewhere on her wedding day, the world has rallied around us and held us together.

Nadia recently made rainbow loom bracelets for practically the entire team and stands at my son’s basketball tournament. She took such delight in each gift, in sneaking up and delivering them, in selecting just the right colors and in seeing the look on their faces when she gave them her gift. I was touched, but honestly more grateful for the brilliant guy who marketed rubber band bracelets and kept her occupied for a day in a gym. However, the next weekend, when I saw, not one, not two, but practically a dozen people—coaches, grandparents, teammates, roll up their sleeves, just a bit, or sneak a little wink, to show her that they had worn it for good luck, I saw her light up and stand taller. And I knew. Right then.

This is the story of Nadia. She hugs bigger. She burns brighter. She loves deeper. And she seems to be the happiest little girl, despite her differences, despite everything. I think she is here to teach us that our well can run over with joy if we just live simply, happily, and with loads of love for the world. She accepts everyone just as they are. On her birthday, I hope the world can see, above everything else, that love and acceptance is indeed all we need.

I still worry about her as she grows up, that her differences might matter more. To others. To her GPA. To herself. To colleges. To peers. But I recently watched a video, 1,000 Miles of Luca, and realized a simple truth. We don’t spend time with people because they are the smartest, the most academic, the most athletic, or the most articulate. We spend time with people because of how they make us feel. I hold fast to that today because I am celebrating my amazing daughter and the ripples of joy she has spread in only nine years. The sky’s the limit, baby. The sky’s the limit.

“22q Mom”

My daughter is the brightest light I know and despite the many clouds that have covered her sky in the past decade, her star remains, forever twinkling. My daughter, Nadia, has 22Q11.2, a chromosomal deletion that made her early years almost unbearable in their uncertainty and responsibility, the sterilized smell that permeates every hospital and doctor office still brings me instantly back to those dark and stormy days, her surgeries and those long and sleepless nights. Yet even when Nadia was an infant and toppling toddler, I always knew that no matter what her deletion had taken away from her, her spirit had given her this enormous dose of joy, unparalleled and raw. Her happiness sparkling all the more in such stark contrast to the despair I felt in caring for someone whose needs that were not in the index of my well-used parenting book from rearing my firstborn. My teary uncertainty always balanced by her surprising ability to seem to know just what we needed to keep the faith–to belly laugh before I knew she could hear what I was saying, her coy smile beaming at me from her infant car seat on the way back from long specialist appointments, her jokes in sign language after speech therapists told us to consider a laptop to type her thoughts, her ability to dance the macarena with ankle braces and not miss a beat. For years, we have tried our best to find the right path for her, with doctors, teachers and life, but without a doubt, Nadia has lit the way…in her inexplicably fearless way.

All along we have been saying to ourselves that it is remarkable that Nadia’s spirit, unlike her immune system, remains uncompromised. In the 29 years before her arrival, I never realized all of the things I took for granted. I honestly never gave a thought to how little it would take to make me happy after seeing our dreams crumple when our daughter was first born and we realized she would always have to struggle with things we had never before counted as blessings–the luxury of two kidneys, a normal immune system and hearing, a typical working memory and number sense. Even after heart surgery at 5 pounds, kindergarten at 5 years and a whopping 28 pounds and middle school at 10 years and under 4 feet tall, Nadia still appeared, until recently, to be larger than life, her loud chuckle enough to spread cheer on even the hardest of days. Her joy and her boundless affection the perfect antidote for her silent battle with a missing piece of chromosome, one that robbed her of a sequence of about 3 million DNA building blocks (base pairs) on one copy of chromosome 22 in each cell. Something that sounds complicated when I read about it, but incredibly, is even more convoluted in real life, the almost 200 known health and developmental issues 22Q causes in children impacting Nadia in big and small ways, in the past, present and future, like a dark unknown lurking at every corner. We try to ignore the list of worries and doctor visits and carry on with our chin up and our big, fat bucket list, determined to enjoy every step of the way after her tumultuous start. But, it isn’t easy, particularly when I see Nadia’s light flicker, dimmed by life, by IEP’s, by cruel kids, by differences and ignorance, by things that matter to her, the simple, but the oh so complicated.

As Nadia enters her third month of middle school, I will admit that the transition has been akin to expecting to drive over a speed bump and instead finding ourselves driving up Mt. Everest in a Yugo. I say driving up, because we haven’t yet reached the pretty part, the part with the view, the part with the downhill, the easy coast at the end. This appears to be the part where I am putting the pedal to the medal and yet accelerating just to gain enough momentum to move my car, my daughter, slightly, imperceptibly forward. It is a big mountain, and most days, I honestly can’t tell if I have made any progress, or more importantly, if Nadia has made any gains, because the view up the huge mountain looks the same. Daunting. Nearly impossible. Never-ending.

I keep referring to Nadia’s IEP like it has all of the magic answers to scaling the mountain of public education with a daughter whose IEP has health and learning components that are supposed to help her in almost every possible area of school–from germ patrol for her severely compromised immune system to gym patrol for her fused spine and joint pain and solitary kidney to reading, writing and math, for the areas of her brain and memory that were all impacted by that missing minuscule piece of chromosome 22 . Apparently, that sequence of 3 million DNA base pairs had a lot it was supposed to do. Go figure. Unfortunately, asking a new middle school team with a complicated schedule of teachers, aides and classes to accommodate Nadia’s deletion based on her IEP is like trying to ask Nadia to drive herself up the mountain, with limited directions, no license and no GPS. She may be able to stay on the road, she may even be able to keep up with the other cars for awhile, but she would have no idea where she is going, other than going with the flow. No, she isn’t causing accidents and holding up traffic. She isn’t flagging someone down to say she’s lost. But, she has no business being behind the wheel. She doesn’t know how to navigate the road ahead, she doesn’t even know where she’s going. Sadly, this is precisely the way her middle school day progresses. When I ask for feedback, for special directions, for a navigation system, for modifications so that Nadia can see over the steering wheel, can get to where she wants to go, the teachers seem puzzled, frustrated and disjointed, their part of the trip a small part of the journey, unaware that without each piece, Nadia isn’t moving forward. That she might, God forbid, crash. The teachers don’t see her when she comes home at night, crushed and feeling completely lost.

As Nadia continues to come home each night with an empty planner with the exception of “Read,” despite 8 classes in her schedule, my hope in special education, in appropriate, individualized instruction dwindles and Nadia, my larger-than-life little one, finds her confidence shrinking as well. “How’s Gym?” I ask her, hoping to find a neutral topic. She replies, “I bombed it.” “Gym?” I ask again. “No, German. Or Gym,” she replies. “That’s too bad. How come, peanut?” I ask, feeling my heart sink as she shrugs her shoulders, “I’m not sure.” She switches gears, “I am supposed to make a flag of John Cabot, though.” Hmmm. That’s a new one for me, but it turned out to the epitome of why switching classes and teachers multiple times a day in middle school is the less-than-exhilarating uphill climb.

I proceeded to ask Nadia about John Cabot, who is apparently an Explorer that she’s learning about in Social Studies. I said, “Well, what do you know about John Cabot?” “He’s from 1492,” she says. “Were you born then?” she asks, staring at me with her big brown eyes. “Nope,” I say. “That was a really long time ago, Nadia.” “Was Dylan?” she wonders, even though he is her 13-year old brother, her deficiency in her sense of time not allowing her to understand the timeline of events, past or present. ” Nope,” I say again, wondering if I should explain how long ago it was, but she interrupts, “He was an Indian explorer from Italy, I think. I make notecards.” “Do you have a test coming up?” I inquire. She ignores me and continues, “He sailed seven seas. I think, and I have to find his flag and color it.” She walks over to our computer, googles “John Cabot flag” independently, pulls out a piece of white paper and starts sketching the flag. Perfectly. She colors it in and as she does so, I feel ever-so-slightly reassured. I compliment her, “WOW. I didn’t even know explorers had flags. That’s impressive, Nadia. What did he do when he was an explorer, do you think?” She contemplates the question, and guesses, “Mine died. Looking for gold?” Hmmm. Without knowing who John Cabot is, I try to summarize my surprisingly limited recollection of explorers, thankful it is was recently Columbus Day and I refreshed my memory, and she replies, “Did you know those explorers?” “No, sweetie,” I say, tears suddenly stinging my eyes. As she’s coloring, she says with a big smile that lights up her face, “That would have been exciting, wouldn’t it?” Yes, yes it would, I think, staring at her twinkling eyes. Deep down, Nadia is still happy and she is healthy enough to attend school. I need to keep my eye on the prize, I tell myself. On her extraordinary light.

I read a quote recently from Yogi Bahjan, part of my more-zen, less-wine approach to our middle-school struggles, and every time I reread it, I can picture Nadia, my shining star, “Every human needs loftiness: exaltedness, self-confidence and appreciation. To be grateful that we are alive at this moment and we are alive together. It’s like stars in the sky on the same night. Some are big, some are small, some are shining. Some come late. Some come earlier. But in the brim of the night, all are lit on their axle. On their orbit, they exist. That is the condition of every human.” For Nadia’s joy and sparkle, and simply having her here with us, I am grateful. For today, for now, despite the uphill middle school climb, I try to remind myself that is all that matters.

“22q Mom”

Inspirational Poems

I find myself
I find myself crying when I think about your past
When I gaze upon a newborn, sleeping without scars
When I listen to a toddler, talking without fault
When I watch surrounding children, growing up carefree
Then I gaze upon your scars
Then I listen to you struggle
Then I feel a wave of sadness, so deep it drowns my heart
I find myself crying when I think about your future
I have surrounded myself with stories of blackness,
With tales of hollow and lives of despair.
I am worried for you, but I am scared for myself –
If I miss the signs then I lose you, a fate I could not bear.
So I find myself crying over things I hope may never come.
I find myself crying when I think about you now
When I think about the bravery you show
When I hear your joyous laughter
When I feel the strength of your pure love
When I see the way you make the sun shine through the clouds
So I find myself crying, but this time happy tears.
You are a perfect reminder to not look back and to not worry ahead
But simply find comfort and joy in the present.
Through you I have found myself.

by Lucy Jackson, Mother

Inspirational Music & Videos

  • From 5 young women with VCFS who, together with a Dutch singer/songwriter Maud Wilms, produced a beautiful song about the challenges they face every day, and their love for life! Two of the women play the piano and flute in this song. The song has English subtitles. Watch now! 
  • Todd Simpson – Accomplished musician with 22q11.2 DS. Learn more!
  • What would you tell yourself?  This beautiful and inspiring video is a montage of parents and their heart-warming advice to others with special-needs children.
  • Knocking Down 22q – An inspirational video of a young adult sharing the ways in which she copes with 22q


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