Man With Down Syndrome Celebrates 77th Birthday, Defying Doctors’ Expectations

Georgie Wildgust was born in England in 1942. Soon after his birth, the doctors told his mother some heartbreaking news. When they realized she was having a baby with Down syndrome, they told her that her child wouldn’t see his 10th birthday.

On Aug. 16, Wildgust celebrated his 77th birthday.

Despite the lack of medical research, Down syndrome awareness, and quality care for people with Down syndrome in the mid-20th century, Wildgust has proven doctors wrong. In 1950, the average life expectancy for a person with Down syndrome was just 22 years old.

Wildgust has even defied more modern expectations, as the average life expectancy for a person with Down syndrome is now about 60 years old. Wildgust is believed to be the oldest person in Britain who has Down syndrome. Bert Holbrook, a man from Minnesota, lived until the age of 83 and was recognized by the Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest person with Down syndrome.

Wildgust’s niece, Nikki Wright, credits his recent birthday celebration to his pleasant childhood. At the time Wildgust was growing up, many parents who were having a baby with Down syndrome chose to send them to live in an institution. However, Wildgust’s parents kept their son at home and he spent his youth playing in the neighborhood with all of the other children.

“Nobody picked on him; they all took him under their wing and looked after him. It was one big happy community who looked out for each other. So he’s always been very sociable,” said Wright.

According to Kandi Pickard, the president and CEO of the National Down Syndrome Society, early care has helped dramatically increase the life expectancy of people with Down syndrome in recent decades. She says that speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy have made a major difference in their health and quality of life.

Medical advances have also made a significant impact. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 50% of all babies with Down syndrome are born with a congenital heart defect. However, advances in surgical and medical care have allowed doctors to detect and correct this condition. They can also provide better treatment for sleep apnea and thyroid disease, two other co-occurring conditions that are often present in people with Down syndrome.

No matter the exact reasons why Wildgust has been able to celebrate 77 years of life, they’ve certainly been wonderful. Wright says that the retired gardener now has a girlfriend named Lorraine and lives in a group home with 12 other residents. He enjoys spending his days there eating ice cream, coloring, and dancing.

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