When I was born and diagnosed with Down Syndrome, my mother was overcome with sadness and disappointment. It was one of the reasons that made her leave the family. My father ordained as a monk, believing that my disability was the result of his own sins.
Since I was a young child, I’ve been slower than others in terms of my learning. I was also physically frail and had breathing difficulties.
I lived with my father in the temple, and attended the Ubon Ratchanthani Special School, for children with disabilities. Because of my ill health, I couldn’t help with chores at the temple. I was always out of breath, and couldn’t take part in physical activities and games at school. I couldn’t speak or communicate very well too.
When I was 8, my teachers took me for a free health screening at my school, conducted by Special Olympics Thailand. The doctors and teachers were shocked to discover that I had major cyanotic heart disease. I had a defective heart valve, and had only two functional heart chambers instead of four, resulting in low oxygen levels in my blood. It explained why I suffered breathing difficulties all these years. It was the first time I had gone for a heart or thyroid check.
I was referred to a cardiologist and started a course of treatment – completely free of charge. The doctor prescribed medication and gave my caregivers a clear set of instructions to closely monitor my daily activities and condition. Over the next few years, my health improved tremendously. With treatment and care, I was soon able to take part in more physical activities and started training in my favorite sport – football.
I am now 14 years old. I love playing football with my friends at school. While I used to sit by the sidelines, I am now able to take part in physical education lessons and play recreational sport.
In 2018, I was even able to share my health journey at a live TV show organized by Unicef Thailand, called the “Blue Carpet Show”. As part of the event, I got to meet one of Asia’s biggest celebrities – K-pop star Siwon! He visited my father and I at the temple and helped tell our story on the show.
My life has been transformed since that Special Olympics health screening six years ago. Without it, I might still be a frail and sickly teenager, and not living a full and active life.
My name is Watchara Moondub, known fondly as ‘Jad’ or ‘Jazz’ by my family, which means bright colours in Thai. Today, I’m confident that the road ahead of me is vibrant and picturesque, and I’ll live my life to the beat of my own heart.