Twenty six-year-old Brittney Dennis didn’t let the news of her daughter Gyasi’s diagnosis of Down Syndrome shape her child’s quality of life.
Gyasi Brielle Dennis was born a preemie on December 21, 2009. Although she suffered from a few minor complications such as difficulty eating and breathing at the same time, Down Syndrome was certainly not something that worried Brittney. She received the preliminary test to the Amniocentesis during her pregnancy and the results were negative.
Brittney was baffled when months after Gyasi’s birth a visit to Gyasi’s great grandmother sparked a debate on whether or not Gyasi had Down Syndrome. As a registered nurse for 42 years, Gyasi’s great grandmother had ample experience recognizing the symptoms of Down Syndrome.
A visit to a pediatrician shortly after this debunked all thoughts of Gyasi having Down Syndrome for the time being. The pediatrician did give Brittney a script to get Gyasi tested to ease her mind but Brittney decided against it.
It wasn’t until about a month or so later when Gyasi developed a sty on her eye and began to show signs of Down Syndrome features that Brittney decided to take her back to the pediatrician. The pediatrician then urged Brittney to take Gyasi to be tested.
Weeks later, the words Brittney dreaded to hear became her reality. She was informed her daughter tested positive for Down Syndrome.
After the initial shock the day Brittney received the news she looked at her daughter extensively.
“I didn’t even see Down Syndrome. I just saw my baby girl and from that moment forward I knew we were going to be fine.”
Brittney decided to not take the news as something negative, instead she focused on how she could uplift her daughter and become her biggest advocate. She began by giving Down Syndrome another name.
“The word down has a negative connotation to it so we call it ‘Up Syndrome’ in our family…just to kind of lighten the mood. We try to stay optimistic with everything that comes our way…we just try to stay up.”
Gyasi isn’t the typical child with Down Syndrome. Brittney described her as a very high functioning child.
“She walks, she talks, and she comprehends. Gyasi has Down Syndrome but she does not have most of the physical and mental ailments that comes along with it such as heart issues, thyroid issues, or blood issues. She has some of the features on any given day but people usually cannot tell at all.”
Ms. Dennis exclaims her main focus is to advocate for Gyasi. She became involved with the Down Syndrome Association of Hampton Roads (DSAHR) once she found out about Gyasi’s diagnosis. Brittney became aware of the association from the pediatrician Gyasi was seeing at the time but it was the inspiration she received from Donna Robel of DSAHR that heightened her excitement to join forces with the organization.
“She was very encouraging and made me want to advocate for Gyasi even more because of her passion for Down Syndrome and her passion for children.”
Two years later Brittney is still involved with DSAHR. Just this past Saturday, she contributed greatly to the Step Up for Down Syndrome 5k and Awareness Walk sponsored by DSAHR at Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach. Not only did she take part in the 5k but Brittney also earned the title as the top third fundraiser raising $2,000 for the association.
When asked how she felt about raising a large amount Brittney said,
“It feels really awesome and it’s not because we’ve raised lots of money. It’s more about Gyasi being able to say I have all of these people behind me so whatever I aspire to do they are behind me no matter what.”
In a nutshell to describe her thoughts about her daughter and what she means to her, Ms. Dennis stated “she’s the best little girl I could ever ask God for.”
October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. To learn how you can help become an advocate for DS please visit the Down Syndrome Association for Hampton Roads website.