Love, Patience and Family

Maria Padilla, wife and mother to five, hails from a small, picturesque town in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. She resides in Little Rock where, with the help of her large family and the team at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ Kids First program, she helps her youngest, Jeronimo, navigate Down syndrome to lead his life to the fullest.

By Amy Gordy, Photography by Brian Chilson

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SAVVY: HOW MANY CHILDREN DO YOU HAVE?
MARIA PADILLA: I have five children, the oldest is 27, the second is 25, the third is 18, the fourth is 13, and the youngest, Jeronimo, is 3 years old.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A MOM? I love to see my children thrive, and I enjoy their love and company.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO AS A FAMILY? We love to cook and enjoy meals together, which is a big Mexican tradition. We also love to take walks in the park and watch television together.

WHAT IS YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM LIKE? I have all my family to help— especially my husband and older kids. I believe that family unity is a great support, like strong walls, for any problem you might be facing. If you have your family by your side, everything is possible.

YOUR SON JERONIMO HAS DOWN SYNDROME. HOW AND WHEN DID YOU RECEIVE HIS DIAGNOSIS? When I was six months pregnant my doctor did some blood tests and told me that my baby could have Down syndrome. At that time I felt very sad, devastated with the news, and was very much afraid. I didn’t know what to think or what to do. The only thing I knew and was certain about was that I wanted to have my child because he was my baby.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER FAMILIES WHO RECEIVE A SIMILAR DIAGNOSIS FOR A CHILD? My advice to all the families that receive a similar diagnosis is, please don’t feel bad and afraid. A child with Down syndrome is a child with great capabilities and incredible qualities despite the disability. They are incredible, smart, funny and add so much happiness to one’s life that I cannot even describe it. Personally, it has been a beautiful experience that I would never exchange for anything in the world. Please thank God for such a blessing, and accept them with all the love you have—they are adorable kids!

WHAT ARE SOME OBSTACLES YOU HAVE FACED AND HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME THEM? The fear of not knowing how to best help Jeronimo to thrive with his diagnosis. I’m thankful there is so much available information to guide me, and especially thankful for the wonderful early intervention program of UAMS Kids First and its staff that has helped us in so many ways.

DESCRIBE THE CARE AND SUPPORT YOU HAVE RECEIVED AT UAMS. HOW HAVE THEY BEEN ESSENTIAL TO YOUR CHILD’S PROGRESS? It’s awesome and has provided great support for Jeronimo and me. At UAMS Kids First early intervention program, where Jeronimo receives speech, occupational and physical therapies on a daily basis, he has become stronger and has learned so much.

WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR STORY? I want the readers to know that to have a child with Down syndrome is the most wonderful experience that you could ever have. Please do not be afraid. Get informed and take advantage of all the wonderful programs available to help you be a skillful and successful parent to help your child. These kids will bring incredible surprises to your life and challenges that I believe God gives you to make you strong. We can all do it if we have these essential ingredients: love, patience and family unity!

For more information about the UAMS Kids First program visit arpediatrics.org/kidsfirst.