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In the wake of the 42nd annual March for Life, we revisit the life and work of Servant of God Jerome Lejeune, French geneticist and pediatrician. The first to discover the genetic basis of a disease, Trisomy 21 or Down syndrome. Lejeune was a tireless defender of human life in its most vulnerable form, and after his incredible discovery, was vilified for his position in defense of human life. We learn of how he lived the virtues to a heroic degree, learn of his family life, and review his biography written by his daughter, Clara Gaymard.
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Life Is a Blessing
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Life Is a Blessing, A Biography of Jerome Lejeune — Geneticist, Doctor, Father — NiceBooks
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In , Lejeune had discovered that an extra 21st chromosome is responsible for Down syndrome, or Trisomy The publication of his discovery appeared in the journal Nature in Some would try to use this discovery to eliminate children with Trisomy 21 before they were born. Lejeune dedicated his life tirelessly and unfailingly to defending them, and all the unborn. When I spoke with Professor Lejeune personally for the first time in July of , I remember that what most struck me were his clear blue eyes, which gave me the sense of almost touching his search for truth and goodness.
After a simple, brief and warm welcome, he explained what I would be doing: I would accompany him during all of the time he was with his patients to learn the clinical side of genetics, so I thought. The rest of the time, I would be behind a microscope attempting to fine-tune a new diagnostic technique for Fragile X syndrome, which is one of the genetic causes of mental retardation and was the subject of my thesis.
Thus began my first session in his service. During the months that I spent at his side, seeing hundreds of patients with genetic illnesses , especially Down syndrome, what struck me was his scientific thoroughness with each one of them. He spent a great deal of his time patiently reviewing each of his patients with extraordinary precision.
He perfectly realized that we doctors are not before illness, but before ill people , and that each person is different and requires our complete attention. During his life, Lejeune would have 9, clinical cases of patients with Down syndrome, from the newborn to the elderly. He was the one who made the commitment to them to search for a cure for illnesses of the intelligence. During hours of appointments, what most surprised me was his love for life. He saw difficult cases: patients who did not improve despite the treatments he gave them.
Patients who suffered and whose families suffered, especially the parents. I remember how he spoke to those parents who had decided to leave their newborn in the maternity ward if studies revealed some chromosomal illness, especially Trisomy words to make the parents and the patients fall in love with life.