A breakthrough nutritional treatment and a revolutionary approach for those afflicted with Downs Syndrome was broadcast on the December 20, 1996 airing of ABC's NIGHTLINE. Succinctly titled, "A Mother's Mission," it presented hope to viewers and a portrait of tenacity and ingenuity.
The inspiring determination of Dixie Lawrence revolves around her quest to find options beyond the established outcomes of failing health and limited intellectual capacities for her daughter, Madison, born with Down's Syndrome.
I watched this mother-daughter saga one night during the season of the Christ child--a season filled with hope and birth. Dixie and Madison beautifully illustrated the traditional five-fold mission of pro-lifers everywhere: Godly revelation, direction, prevention, intervention, and reconciliation. The points addressed included:
(a) to save babies diagnosed with Down's Syndrome from abortion;
(b) to assist families with children by offering a nutritional supplement as a means of altering the degenerative process of the disease;
(c) to encourage the adoption of children with Down's Syndrome;
(d) to affirm the need for the healing of parents who, for a variety of reasons, chose to abort their Down's children and now realize that a different decision could have been made;
(e) to reveal yet another example of the use of fetal tissue and organs in research and, at the same time, reveal the conflicts such research presents when Scripture is ignored as a Guide and Protector of human life.
This article might appear to be written in a style resembling a 6th grade media report. Nevertheless, I am compelled to share this information with the confidence that its importance will be recognized and utilized by the faithful stewards of life as a tool of intervention in these critical areas.
Dixie Lawrence once ran an adoption agency for severely disabled children. About five years ago, she realized that she had an obligation to do what she was urging others to do, so she adopted one of the children. The child was a one-year-old girl diagnosed with Down's Syndrome, a chromosonal disorder that impairs physical and intellectual development. Down's Syndrome is a progressive disease and, up until the age of four to six months, the brain cell development is much the same as those in normal children
"My child is not a Down's Syndrome child," said Dixie. "My daughter is a normal child with a disease; just like a normal child with cancer."
Dixie's daughter, Madison, is the only child with Down's Syndrome in her private kindergarten class. She knows her numbers, colors and alphabet just about as well as any child her age. Dixie gives most of the credit to the nutritional formula she helped devise.
After a blood test revealed that Madison suffered a deficiency of basic nutrients, Dixie placed her daughter on a customized daily dose of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. The chromosonal imbalance on the 21st chromosome, where there are three instead of a pair, play havoc with the body's chemistry and growth. Based on blood profiles, Dixie and other researchers in the medical community feel that children with Down's Syndrome are not digesting and metabolizing the food they eat.
Another battery of sophisticated blood tests can now measure which nutrients the body absorbs. In addition to the vitamins, minerals and amino acids, Dixie has Madison on an old drug called harasatat which has been used with mixed results to boost brain power. Nutritional supplements that were used for children with Down's Syndrome for more than a decade are very similar except that Dixie's version is about 5 to 10 times higher. It also includes a variety of amino acids, one of the body's building blocks, not present in the older formulas. The most significant difference is that technology has removed the guesswork from nutrition. It can now measure what is needed nutritionally to aid in absorption of food by these special children. While Dixie Lawrence has no financial interest, this formula, once used only by Madison, is now taken by more than 15,000 children. The formula, now packaged in this country under the name NuTriVenD costs about $450. for a year's supply. Dixie, a self-taught geneticist and nutritionist with only a high school education, spends hours on her home computer each day passing along information to a network of physicians and scientists.
Dixie has organized a non-profit research and support group and has assembled a 38-member scientific advisory board. Professor Jim Krume and his colleagues from North Carolina State have substantiated Dixie's findings of the detriment of chromosonal abnormalities on the proper absorption on nutrients by children with Downs Syndrome. Preliminary research was done on genetically altered mice - mice specifically altered to mimic many of the symptoms of Downs Syndrome. Upon monitoring the digestive processes of these mice, scientists found that Dixie's claims held up. The mice in the experiment also had difficulty absorbing nutrients.
Last year, Dr. Lawrence Lichtman of Norfolk, VA, compared children taking the formula with those who were not. Lichtman matched the two groups of patients on the basis of age, sex and race. His findings concluded that the children who were on the formula grew better. Other statistics were significant as well. These children had a decrease incidence of upper respiratory and ear infections.
Another positive report came from Dr. Becker from Toronto, Canada, where researchers from the Hospital for Sick Children are looking at another piece of the puzzle. As head of the pathology deparment, Dr. Becker has researched the Down's Syndrome brain. Measuring neurons, the cells responsible for intelligence, he and his colleagues found that, contrary to popular belief, the Down's Syndrome brain at birth shows no sign of retardation. A neuron cell is very complex and its growth can be compared to that of a tree. In the first six months of life, the neurons in the Down's Syndrome brain appear to develop very aggressively but in the second six months of life, they actually regress. It may be possible to improve intelligence if grown factors can be pinpointed.
You can imagine my excitement in learning about Dixie Lawrence's discovery. What hope it offered, both the preborn diagnosed with Down's Syndrome and the parents struggling to improve the lives of their children. Now, however, Nightline's feature took an evil twist.
According to a study published in the Journal, NATURE, scientists from Harvard University isolated neurons from aborted fetuses with Down's Syndrome and compared them to those from normal fetuses. The Harvard researchers found that the normal brain cells, even after seven days in a lab dish, continue to thrive. Those taken from fetuses, with Down's Syndrome began to degenerate. The scientists put the Down's Syndrome brain cells into a bath of nutrients (anti-toxidants) and discovered that the cells flourished. They were growing normally. It was at this point that my heart began to ache. Because I have lost two of my own children to abortion, I often wonder what happened to their poor, little bodies. My focus of concern went beyond myself to other parents. I began to think of those parents that I have counseled following an abortion decision, men and women now in the process of restoration and healing. Hearing this information about the use of fetal tissue could send them reeling back into the pits of horror and despair.
My heart went out to those parents who, through ignorance, weakness and lack of faith, fell to the pressures of the abortion industry and now face an empty cradle. My prayer is that the Church will comfort these mothers and fathers by sharing the gospel message: Jesus came to rescue us from every sin; yes, even abortion is not to great for his grace and mercy.
Another emotion welled up in me. I found myself disgusted with Nightline. They had presented the beautiful, hopeful, exciting story of Dixie Lawrence. The discovery she made out of love and respect for her daughter, Madison, can change the way we look at people with Down's Syndrome. It can change our attitude. Dixie's discovery gives us new insight on the disease itself. Research and monitored studies - without using fetal tissue - were significant to convince the scientific and lay world. However, the media chose to take a beautiful story and manipulate it to make fetal tissue research platable because the ends justify the means.
The product that Dixie Lawrence "customized" has been of considerable benefit to her daughter. And it was produced without the use of fetal brain research. I believe that Dixie's work reflects a confidence in God. God can and will provide. All we must do is commit to finding a way - HIS WAY - to bless life and reclaim it for His glory.
After all, isn't that what we, as pro-lifers, are all about?
For information on Dixie's nutritional supplement, you may write the DIXIE LAWRENCE FOUNDATION, FRIENDS OF TNI RESEARCH, 11718 Barrington Court, #511, Los Angeles, CA 90049 or call 310-472-8778