When a couple were told by doctors to not have much hope for their newborn son who was mentally and visually challenged, the parents relied on their faith and decided to give him a chance; and in doing so they have overcome numerous hardships and defied the odds.
“This is the story of how we learned through our … son what is truly important in God’s sight,” Joyce Jones told The Epoch Times via email. “This is our story of how we are so thankful that we believed God and not the doctors that said, ‘Just put him in a home and forget about him.’”
When Joyce was pregnant with Darren, she experienced headaches in the first trimester. However, doctors told her she shouldn’t worry as every mother had headaches.
Joyce and her husband, Tom, welcomed Darren on April 18, 1973. He weighed only 5 pounds 14 ounces (approx. 2.6 kg). Joyce wondered why he was so tiny despite having a full term.
After Darren's birth, Joyce said doctors diagnosed him with Microcephalic, which is a birth defect where the baby’s head is smaller than expected, often due to abnormal birth development.
"Though his body would grow, he would likely remain helpless as long as he lived—little more than a vegetable. As to treatment? There was none. ‘Don’t get your hopes up. Don’t waste your time and money,’ they told us,” the mother of four said, recalling the doctors' words.
However, despite the doctors' advice, Darren’s parents decided to forge ahead to find Darren's potential, even if that meant seeing a little “progress.” They tried to erase the negative thinking and only focused on the positives.
“Keeping a diary about his condition and our feelings became a therapy in itself,” Joyce said. “Writing helped us cope with the daily hurdles we faced and was an instrumental guide as we structured our approach to life in those most difficult of times.”
The parents also focused on early and prolonged intervention. As soon as Darren was home from the hospital, they gave him nutritional supplements. “Grinding up pills, mixing them with jelly, peanut butter, or anything to get Darren to take the supplement was not fun,” Joyce said.
From when Darren was born up until the age of 2, various doctors insisted that the little boy would never sit up, see, or talk. However, Darren defied the odds and his parents were overjoyed when he began to take his first steps, see a little bit, and talk at the age of 2. “I still cry with joy thinking about it,” Joyce said.
The first time Darren uttered a word, Joyce said, was when he was 20 months old. The family at that time was remodeling a 100-year-old house while raising two children. As they were refinishing doors of the house's dining room, Darren tugged his mom’s skirt and instead of crying he appeared to say his first word which was “oor.”
Joyce further asked him to show her what he meant, and the little boy ran towards one of the doors in the dining room, and pointing at it, kept repeating the word “oor.”
“I picked him up and hugged him, tears brimming in my eyes. And so, the 'door' to speech was finally opened for Darren. More words came slowly at first and always without the beginning sound, but they came,” Joyce said.
As Darren grew older, he encountered challenges on his path, but with the strong support of his family, he could conquer them with ease. At the age of 3, he was bullied by kids in his neighborhood who considered him different. Instead of getting upset with them, Joyce explained to them the truth about his condition and from then on the neighborhood kids forged a special bond with Darren.
When he was 4, Darren mastered the “big wheel." The little boy was able to separate the tasks of balancing first and then pedaling.
“It usually takes a 6-year-old to master riding a two-wheel bike,” Joyce said. “He jumped on the bike and was peddling down the sidewalk just as though he’d been riding a two-wheeler all his life.”
After many failed attempts of joining a special education school, Darren was finally eligible to attend special education in a public school. At the end of the year, Joyce was asked by his teacher to make Darren read pages 1–4 of the worksheets. Joyce thought Darren would have made some progress through the year but didn’t anticipate what was to come.
The little boy surprised his mother by reading each word of the story. “Not without some stumbling and long pauses, but he read it!” Joyce said. “And I cried and I still cry when I tell the story.”
Darren also went on to learn swimming and participated in a Special Olympics swim meet where he won state gold, leaving everyone in shock.
Darren continued to surprise everyone around him by attempting to talk, walk, swim, and master the wheels; but the biggest amazement to his family came when he began drawing.
“Darren only sees peripherally. He has no central vision,” Joyce said. “At about 8 feet Darren doesn’t recognize us when out and about unless we speak.” An eye specialist even once told his parents that, “Darren’s eyes are the worst he has ever seen other than a completely blind person,” Joyce said. However, art still happens to be his favorite activity.
In 2017, Darren took part in a statewide drawing contest for the disabled and won 5th place out of the 255 entries submitted to the Missouri Art contest.
His presentation, titled “Blind Inspiration,” was a story of his life that was presented through the movie “Cars.” Darren explained that he was like Mater, who was handicapped. “Mater was rusty, had no hood, only one headlight, but he was kind and considerate to others and wanted to help others,” Joyce said, referring to Darren's presentation. "McQueen does not have headlights. Race cars rely on the lights around the track. Darren said, ‘I rely on the light from the Lord.’”
Thus a large poster of Darren’s life came to life.
Despite the challenges the family faced, such as navigating through Darren’s behavior issues, and more, they held onto a philosophy that was “Trusting in God ... not yourself,” Joyce said, and thus they have been able to brave through every storm.
“Our book is about searching outside the box for success when your child seems less than what you hoped for,” Joyce said. They have since received an overwhelming response from people inspired by the book.
As for Darren, who is currently 47, he enjoys working, talking, listening to books on tape, and caring for the family’s rescue dog.
“He is a joy to be with and we are blessed to have him here,” Joyce said.