Steve Palmer's blog about his son Stanley - who has Down's Syndrome - & the extended family. All about Down Syndrome and learning disability.

Thursday, 17 November 2005

11 May 2002 - and a couple of heroes

This was originally on the BBC Ouch! Website

It's only me.
Stan's just seen his picture with me on the ouch site and signed "Dad". That's my boy. So, why the name Stanley? We all support Stoke City and he's named after Sir Stanley Matthews, who was seen by some as this country's greatest footballer. The 11th May 2002 was a really important day for me. Read why on the following, which was originally on the Stoke City Oatcake message board. This needs a translation for non-Stokies: We had come back from the dead against Cardiff in the semi-final of the 2nd Division playoffs in early May and now faced Brentford in the final at the Millenium stadium......

I was walking between the seats, slapping myself in the face. I didn't even care if people saw me. It was half time in the play off final. We were 2-0 up against Brentford, and Stoke had to win this match: it had become a symbol for whether my younger son would live or die. He was born a few months earlier, on 31st January, and just about the only thing that went right that day was that we decided to call him Stanley. So Stanley came into the world with a fiesty attitude and an extra chromosome. Stan's got Down Syndrome (DS), and guess what, many kids with DS have a congenital heart complaint. But Stan's needed an operation in Great Ormond Street. Several months later, Stan's date was set for 9th May, two days before the Cardiff play-off. We'd been told that there was a chance that the op may be cancelled, so I went and bought a ticket for the play-off final anyway. I figured that £30 was a good gamble, and didn't it just turn out that way. 

The op was postponed with a week to go.We were all devastated that we'd had to wait for the operation but delighted that we could go to Cardiff. Explain that emotion to his older brother! Before that, on 1st May, my little son, aged 3 months old, with his difficult breathing, lay asleep on me as all the action happened at Ninian Park. I remember when James O'Connor's equaliser went in, I was "watching" Radio Wales on Sky, my brother-in-law rang, speechless, giving out a monosylabic whine, it was almost a moment when, Stan's chest held to mine, I was, via James O'Connor, breathing life into my boy. I didn't realise it at the time, but it's perhaps one of the most intense moments of my life. See from 1'25" for the goal here. Stan had a new date, 20th May. So, off to Cardiff for the match.

The first half was a dream, and I "woke up" at half time with the realisation that Stan was going to survive if Brentford didn't beat us. In truth there was only one team that day, and Brentford heads were dropping early in the second half. Try telling me that, though. I have a vague recollection of Stoke fans singing with two minutes to go, but I still thought that Brentford were going to come back and score three. When the final whistle went, it was a religious moment. Wow. Stan had a chance. Job done. On to the hospital. (OK, before we left we danced on our seats to Status Quo's "Rocking all over the World") Stan had his op on 20th May, and the recovery went wrong, he nearly died and he had another operation on 30th May. Football helped me through this awful time.

The next day the World Cup started and Stan started to improve. So May 2002 was all about football, from 1st to 31st. And it was all about Stan. There's no doubt that medical advances mean that he survived when he wouldn't have done if he'd been born ten years earlier. We now have check ups once a year and he may need further surgery. At the moment, though, he's running around, signing instead of talking, and he's started at his brother's school in the nursery.Stan's surgeon was called Victor. Victor is, understandably, a complete hero to me. But so is James O'Connor. Because he scored the right goal at the right time and breathed life back into our beautiful Stanley. Sorry Brentford fans; we had to win that match. And I can't wait to tell Stan about 11th May 2002, one day.

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