What I Realized When We Received Our Son's DYRK1A Diagnosis

by Jennifer Carfora
A toddler with DYRK1A sitting down in a leather chair, wearing an orange jacket.
Jennifer Carfora

It’s a day I will never forget, and it seems like just yesterday I got that call.

My day started out like it normally did at 6:30 am, hitting the snooze a handful of times before waking up. I silently walked into the kitchen to make coffee while the boys slept, made breakfast, threw on some gym clothes, and then woke the boys up to get them ready.

A seemingly uneventful morning.

Put the kids in the car and headed to base where our oldest went to VPK, Voluntary Pre-K, from 8:30 am to noon. Usually I went home right after to work out but today I took up an invite to my friend’s house. Which was a decision I am glad I made.

As we were sitting on her black leather couch, sipping coffee, and chatting away while Jaxson played, I got a phone call. It was from an Alabama number so I knew it was our genetics team.

“We got his genetic test results back … we have an answer” she said. I was ecstatic, relieved: we finally had an answer. She then went on to say that the testing revealed that he has what they call DYRK1A Syndrome … wait, what? She continued to say that it was an extremely rare diagnosis, and that they weren’t expecting it to be that at all.

My relief and joy started to fade, and grief began to creep in.

I quickly grabbed a notepad and pen from my friend as she started to describe the features and symptoms of DYRK1A Syndrome. The more I heard the more I feared.

It got to the point that grief completely took over. One might wonder why was I so sad about this diagnosis? I finally got answers! Well, who wishes their child to have a disability? It meant that our child would have many challenges thrown his way as he got older. We were hoping his delays were something he would eventually grow out of as he aged.

We, as parents, want our children to succeed in the world.

I made a follow-up appointment with the genetics team to discuss what they knew, and silently hung up the phone. I am so happy that I took up coffee with my friend that day — that wasn’t a moment to be alone for.

I cried, and I cried.

Went to pick up our oldest from school and made my way back home, where I continued to cry.

I was finally able to get a hold of my husband that evening; he was away for military training at the time. We discussed the results and vowed we would do everything in our power to help our son overcome these obstacles.

To live the best life he could live because his diagnosis doesn’t define him. He can and he will.

Since that day, I’ve met a wonderful new family through our DYRK1A Support group. They are all welcoming and it’s nice to know that there is someone out there who gets it, who truly understands it.

To anyone facing a similar diagnosis, I want to give you some advice: It is okay to have mixed feelings, and most importantly it is okay to seek support.

You are NOT alone.