After a baby was born with Down Syndrome, doctors told her mom to commit her to an institution. The girl proved they had it all wrong 15 years later.
Kennedy Garcia was just a newborn when doctors told her mother Renee that she wouldn’t have any quality of life because she had Down Syndrome. They said Kennedy would be in diapers into adulthood and would be better off in an institution, Metro reported. One medical professional even said to “just give her up for adoption.” Rather than heed their advice, however, the Colorado mom kicked them all out of her hospital room, and Kennedy grew up to teach everyone a lesson.
“The night Kennedy arrived, I was heartbroken to learn she had the condition because I was being fed nothing but a negative, bleak picture painted by doctors and nurses who really had no idea what my child’s future really held,” Renee recalled. “It was only the next night when a kind midwife told me Kennedy was beautiful and just like her daughter, who also had the condition, that I felt a glimmer of hope,” she added. That hope would make all the difference, and it’s something Renee has shared throughout the years:
“The first thing I asked was if her daughter could walk, because I really didn’t know what having the condition meant, and she just laughed. Her daughter was 16, and of course, she could walk,” Renee said. The nurse’s stories about her daughter sounded much like other teenagers Renee knew, and she said, “It gave me hope for the future.” Armed with that hope, Renee’s ongoing dedication to her daughter and time would prove wiser than all the doctors’ advice.
Although Kennedy definitely faced her fair share of challenges, she defied the gloomy predictions of medical professionals in extraordinary ways. After battling cancer and overcoming leukemia, Kennedy required a dangerous surgery to stabilize her neck and spine. Through it all, Kennedy Garcia showed an iron will, displayed steadfast bravery, and proved obstacles are meant to be overcome.
View this post on Instagram
Twelve years ago today, I was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. I’m so glad I kicked cancer’s butt. It’s just one small part of my story. #cancersucks #acutemyelogenousleukemia #leukemia #leukemiasurvivor #kickedcancersbutt #baldisbeautiful #vanderbiltchildrenshospital #cancerwarrior #danceragainstcancer #survivor
View this post on Instagram
Eleven years ago today, we woke up in a hospital in Philadelphia and the surgeons took Kennedy back to the operating room to fuse her spine. Her longest, most complex surgery to date. . Atlantoaxial Instability and Atlanto-Occipital Instability (AAI/AOI) is one of the "ghosts" of Down syndrome. Many doctors wave it off with indifference and tell parents that the AAP doesn't even recommend that x-ray at age 3 anymore. . If Kennedy's pediatrician had waved it off and dismissed it, Kennedy wouldn't be here today. She had no symptoms, but the gap in her spine would have lead to a catastrophic event… leaving her paralyzed… or worse. . Parents of kids with Down syndrome, please don't let your child's doctor blow off this very important x-ray. Please make sure they order flexion/extension views or they could be inaccurate. A few films can save a life. It saved Kennedy's life. . We will always be thankful to @shrinersphilly and Dr. Samdani for taking such good care of our sweet girl. Eleven years… feels like a lifetime ago. . . . #theluckyfew #downsyndromeawareness #spinefusionsurgery #spinefusion #atlantoaxialinstability #atlantoaxialsubluxation #atlantooccipitalinstability #ghostsofdownsyndrome #shrinershospital #beaware #mompost
“She’d just recovered from leukaemia when we learnt the top of Kennedy’s cervical spine was separating from the base of her skull. It was a miracle she hadn’t been paralyzed already,” Renee explained. The surgery was a success, but Kennedy Garcia was forced to spend 6 months in a halo, a metal frame screwed into her skull to keep her neck immobilized.
“Kennedy tolerated hospitalization and medical procedures well, never failing to smile. During her recovery in the halo, she spent a lot of time watching dance videos, and as soon as she was well enough, I took Kennedy to her first dance class,” Renee recalled. “She was absolutely in her element, and we haven’t looked back since.”
At 15, Kennedy Garcia also proved to be like most girls her age, doing “normal” teenage things, such as attending a homecoming dance with her devoted boyfriend Matthew, an artist and actor who also has Down syndrome. “She has a posse of friends who adore her, she loves to dance, sing and experiment with her hair and makeup. She goes to the cinema with her brother and their friends and sometimes breaks the rules,” Renee explained.
“She has brought so much joy and laughter into our lives and has grown into a gorgeous, funny young woman with the world at her feet,” Renee said. Indeed, as the saying goes, the world is Kennedy’s oyster, and she’s taken advantage of all the opportunities life has had to offer. After beginning dance at age 5, she has competed in state-wide dance competitions.
View this post on Instagram
Such a great time walking Denver Fashion Week and making new friends! Thank you @pleiades_designs for letting me show off this beautiful dress for you!! #dfw #denverfashionweek #denverfashionweek2018 #modelwithdisabilities #modellife #modelwithdownsyndrome #teenmodel #coloradomodel #pleiadesdesigns
Kennedy Garcia has also modeled for top US brands, including American Girl and Justice Clothing, and even appeared on a nation-wide US census television advert. She’s a social media star with tens of thousands of Instagram followers, and she was even signed with KMR Diversity and Dream Talent Management agency. She regularly flies from her Colorado Springs home to Hollywood and New York to audition, take part in modeling jobs, and work as an extra on TV shows.
Watching Kennedy and all of her success leaves Renee with a sense of awe. “This was the same child doctors told me needed to be put in an institution. It’s shocking how misinformed they all were, and it was only 15 years ago,” she said, recalling the moment she watched Kennedy spinning around in the A-line teal dress for homecoming. “I feel sad that I wasted time grieving for moments like prom dress shopping as I really had been led to believe none of the normal milestones would be reached.”
View this post on Instagram
It’s all about confidence and how you feel about yourself. There is no such thing as perfection. Your imperfections are what make you unique. ~ ~ ~ ~ #bewhoyouare #confidence #teenmodel #teenactress #teeninfluencer #beunique #diversity #diversityinadvertising #diversityinfilm #diversityinhollywood #younghollywood #industrykid #ryhtalent #rockyourhair
Renee never wants others to feel like she did in those first moments, so she returned to the hospital where Kennedy was born on her daughter’s first birthday and left a special care package on the labor and delivery floor for new mothers of babies with Down Syndrome. It contained copies of books that helped her understand what the chromosomal disorder meant for her child and cute onesies with slogans celebrating these unique babies.
“I left my contact details there and begged the midwives to pass my card on to new mothers of children like Kennedy,” Renee said. “Many reached out to me over the years because of that basket, and I hope having a positive conversation with me and hearing everything Kennedy has achieved saved those moms from the unnecessary trauma and anguish I went through.”
Renee has given informative talks at schools, teaching children what Down Syndrome is and how they can support classmates, friends, or relatives with it, and Kennedy has joined her. “For years, I used to stand up and do the talk, but now Kennedy is the one telling her story and talking about her life. She has a power-point presentation she likes to use, and she always speaks with such truth, clarity, and confidence,” Renee explained.
“We’re all incredibly proud of her and everything she’s achieved. She’s a wonderful girl, and we are all so lucky to have her in our lives,” Renee concluded, and the rest of the world is lucky too. This is a beautiful story of triumph over all odds by a little girl who refused to let anything stand in her way. Kennedy Garcia’s journey proves that just because someone is different, they aren’t any less capable of achieving great things. Our circumstances don’t define our destiny; our determination does. Thanks to a nurse, Kennedy’s mother was able to realize this when doctors couldn’t.