The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 18, 2012

Her legs don't work, but 6-year-old has a good life



Gillette is the hospital behind the “Cure Pity” campaign, a marketing initiative that aims to take the pity out of how society deals with people with disabilities. An incident that occurred last summer in Milwaukee, Gillette says, was a perfect example of why the campaign exists.

She was on a tour bus with her family when she exited the bus. Her parents remained on the bus. After Madison was gone, the bus driver said, “I always feel sorry for children like that.”

“We just sort of thought about it for a while,” said Pam Harbarth, Madison’s mother. “I thought, ‘Do people really pity her?’” Rick Harbarth, Madison’s father said he didn’t feel like the driver meant anything bad about it. He just felt sorry for her. But that’s the point. And Rick felt like he had to respond.

“I just told him, ‘Listen, you don’t need to feel sorry for her because she’s got a pretty good life,’” he said.

Medically, Madison’s existence was definitely more of a challenge for the Harbarths than a “normal” child would be. Even before she was born, doctors offered the family options, one of which was terminating the pregnancy. Why? In other cases, babies born with sacral agenesis syndrome are much more severely compromised physically and mentally than Madison was.

For a moment, Rick said, there was a slight amount of doubt about what to do. They’d never been exposed to someone with a disability. He started worrying about what others might think of their child and their family. And then his pastor said something to him that made the decision simple.

He told him that, when he dies and goes before the Lord, and the Lord asks him if he had done the best he could with what he had, would he be able to say “yes”?

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