Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An Interview With Melissa Bastian Black

God sends you friends. Melissa Bastian Black and I have talked over the past months trading blog comments and Facebook encouragements. Recently, she sent me this:

Hey Greg and the Batiansila Family. I'm doing a 5k this morning and I'm running in honor of Zoe. I want you to know that I am inspired by your family and your little girl. Right now I am battling my weight and have a goal of doing an Iro...nman in 2012. My battle is nothing compared to your little Zoe's and she and other children keep me going. If they can do it and battle every day of their young lives then I can do it and swim, bike, and run in their honor.

Then, she followed up with this:

Hey Batiansilas. I just ran my best 5k ever. I have never been able to do it in under 50 minutes and I did today. I did it in 47:19. Zoe helped me especially in the last mile. Give that little girl a hug and kiss for me. I couldn't have done it without her.

Which made me think. We all need to know more about Melissa Bastian Black. Here's part one of that interview.

Q: I had never heard of Trisomy before we had Zoe. How did you become aware of Trisomy?

MBB: My trisomy journey started on September 6th, 2008. I have been doing sprint triathlons and had decided that I wanted to eventually do an Ironman, so I decided that I would volunteer at Ironman Wisconsin.

The Saturday before the race I volunteered at gear check. I got to meet so many of the athletes and help them check in their gear. In walks this Cowboy with the biggest grin on his face. I helped him put his gear where it needed to go and noticed his hat. It said, "tri-ing for trisomy." I asked him what trisomy was and that is when I first learned about it.

He told me all about this precious children and their families. He told me that most doctors and medical professionals consider these children non-compatible with life and a lot of couples are encouraged to abort their babies. A lot of these children don't live long after they are born or don't make it to their first birthday, but he told me about kids who are making it past their first birthday and beyond. He was so passionate when he told me these things.

He told me how he was racing his Ironman races to raise awareness and was heading to break a world record. I believe Ironman Wisconsin was his 13th race that year and when I made a comment about that he would not let the conversation turn to him, but rather back to these children and their families. This conversation really touched my heart and I knew that day that my heart had been changed forever.

Q: How long have you known Michael Hennessey and how did you come to know him?

MBB: I met this Cowboy at Ironman Wisconsin 2008. When I asked him his name he told me that it was Michael Hennessey. After we talked I asked him how to get in touch with him after IMWI. I believe he gave me a card. I put that card away, we finished talking, and he left to finish his Ironman journey that weekend.

I got to see Michael on the run of the Ironman the next day. He was smiling as he ran through the aid station and I was able to cheer him on, even got a hug. I was working the finish line when he crossed it. He still had that smile on his face. I don't think he ever stopped smiling. That really left an impression on me. I cheered for him when he crossed the finish line.

I might have even given him his finisher's medal. Then he gave me the BIGGEST HUG ever. I didn't know if he would let go. It was not only the BIGGEST hug, but also the Sweatiest hug. I'll never forget it. I was so happy I had met him the day before, so happy to be part of his race day, and I knew during that hug that I had met someone very special with a wonderful cause.

I stayed and worked the finish line until the race ended at midnight. I cheered in the last runner, headed to my car, and then back to my hotel. I emptied my pockets onto the night stand and there was his business card all crumpled up. Before falling into bed I remember that I knew I had to contact this man. I believe I emailed him the next day.

We have been friends now for a little over a year. I am forever changed for the better from meeting Michael Hennessey.

Q: How did you find out about Zoe?

MBB: Michael Hennessey has a blog on his website and he had asked people to pray for this baby named Zoe. I read about her and was very touched by her valiant fight. My kids and I started praying for her. I bookmarked your blog and follow her journey there and on facebook now. I like to call her my Zoe girl or just Zoe girl. She has captured my heart and I love her very much.

Q: How do you think Trisomy is handled and accepted in the U.S. today?

MBB: The fact that I was 34 and had never heard of Trisomy shows me that this is not a priority in this country. I was surprised to learn that Down Syndrome was Trisomy. The only people I have come in contact with that knew what Trisomy was when I talked to them, were families that I know with Down Syndrome children.

The fact that the doctors and nurses, in general, think these children are incompatible with life and never even give these children a chance in their minds shows me that this country is not accepting of children with Trisomy.
These families are not given any hope.

These doctors get to decide who is compatible with life and if it doesn't fit their definition then there is no reason to keep or even give birth to that child. (side note: I know families affected by trisomy that have had great doctors and nurses, so I want to give a shout out to the doctors and nurses who care and who give these little ones a chance.)

It's a shame that in 2009 that there is still so much prejudice in this country. People are prejudice based on race, wealth, and health and so much more. It's time to come together as a country and not judge people just because they are different then you.


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