Standing Together, Standing Proud

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This article is excerpted from Minoti’s book, Beyond a Parent’s Love, which is available from Amazon using the link on this page

Caring for multiple children with special needs requires complex legal and financial planning as well as a strong support system. Children with disabilities need different levels of care and families must find and navigate a tight network of advisors and advocates. Parents also must consider who will provide care after they pass.

The family clan motto gracing David and Jane Mandy’s eventual burial plot mirrors their life’s conviction: “BYDAND.” It is Scottish for, “Stand fast. Stand firm. Stand together.” David and Jane have been living those ideals for the last 50 years. They are unwavering in their love and commitment for their three children. All three are cognitively impaired and will need care and supervision for the rest of their lives.

Their deep concern for their children keeps them awake at night. They remain steadfast and strong in their beliefs.

“You have to fight for your child. You have to listen to your child,” David said. “It is important to understand that the word impossible only describes a degree of difficulty.”

In my 28 years of working with families of children with disabilities, David and Jane Mandy stand out as an exceptional couple and will always have a special place in my heart. I met David, a pediatrician, at a special needs workshop in Macomb County, Michigan in 1992. He handed me a questionnaire at the end requesting a consultation. I noticed immediately he listed three children as dependents with disabilities. Holly was then 17, Joshua 12 and Drew was 10.

I wondered how they coped. Most families struggle with one child with a disability and they had three. Over the years I developed great respect for David and Jane and learned how they refused to accept limited options, focusing on dedication, endless love and potential for their family.

None of their three children had obvious signs of cognitive impairment at birth. Holly was growing and developing well at 15 months when David noticed her head nodding one evening as she played by his feet. Jane said she had noticed as well. David was alarmed and took her to Dr. Michael Nigro, a pediatric neurologist. He confirmed Holly had infantile spasm seizure and mild cognitive impairment. While her seizures were soon controlled, David and Jane’s lives changed forever.

David was a young resident doctor and already working long hours. The months after Holly’s diagnosis in the mid-1970s were a blur of confusion and search for care. As a pediatrician, David was very aware of what Holly’s diagnoses meant and how it could impact their family. He said they just dug in and got to work.