The story of Dude:
“You have truly been our inspiration,” said the first Persian Gulf War soldier who arrived back to the U.S. after the war ended to the American people.
On this day, March 8, 1991, my son was born and I saw the name of the city, Dhahran, on the news where the first soldiers boarded a plane for home. An Arabic pharmacist told me that word means vision, as Dhahran is a high visibility city. I decided to name my baby Dhahran, yet unaware of the Down syndrome diagnosis. It took a week before that discovery. We went home and he was called “Dude” for a year, as I hadn’t legally named my child. On his first birthday, I thought back to the soldier’s statement and officially named him Dude Dhahran because he was and still is truly an inspiration and I developed a vision for his life. I wrote a poem that day, titled “Dude has Downs” that I distributed to new mothers of babies with Down syndrome. On Dude’s 22nd birthday last year, I published a children’s book that describes the doubts, fears, and joys of being a mother of a person with Down syndrome.
This year Dude serves as an Ambassador for the Down Syndrome Research and Treatment Foundation’s “Race for Research” to be held in North Carolina, starting in Raleigh and ending at Charlotte’s NASCAR Hall of Fame (June 14-16). He’ll be wearing his favorite top hat and shades cheering for participants. We’ll be celebrating his 23rd birthday at the Great Wolf Lodge IDSC meet up weekend (March 7-9) and hopefully I will release a second children’s book entitled “Same Faces, Different Races”.
As an African-American mother in the world of Down syndrome, during my 23 years of experience, I realized racism doesn’t exist for us. That is so refreshing and inspirational. The rate of Down syndrome affects all races and nationalities exactly the same. Even with language barriers, a mother’s warm, special smile communicates more effectively than words. We genuinely, unconditionally love and want the best for all people with Down syndrome.
Dude loves music, dancing, the swimming pool, and cartoon characters Spongebob and Dora—a combination of his personality! It took some time for me to distinguish the baby from the man, but with the guidance of his two sisters and two brothers, who love attending Ds events, I got it now.
Dude has truly been our inspiration!
The IDSC also wants to wish Dude the happiest of birthdays! We hope your celebration is as grand and amazing as you are, Dude.