Speaking out for People with
 Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

My Jimmy J.

My Jimmy “J”
Submitted by Fanny Janazzo
We were married for 12 years before our son, James Mark Janazzo was born. He was born on May 15th, 1959 and is our only child.
My husband and I were very happy to know we were going to be parents. My pregnancy was normal and it was going to be a happy occasion. When I saw him he was the most beautiful baby. Today I still think he is beautiful.
My hospital stay was three days. I was informed that maybe my baby wasn’t going home with me because he couldn’t keep anything down. He did come home with me. When I took him home, he hadn’t wet his diaper, plus he couldn’t keep his formula down. Six days later the visiting nurse called the doctor and told him my son was projectile vomiting. In the meantime I noticed he was having convulsions. The doctor gave him shots because he was dehydrated. The doctor came often and said your son will have to go to the hospital. He suggested calling a priest, because I am a Catholic, to have him baptized. He was admitted in the Hartford, Ct. hospital with a police escort to get him there as soon as possible. I was unable to go with my husband so my sister went. A doctor was going to be in the emergency room waiting. Soon after the baby arrived I got a call telling me my baby needed blood, and they wanted it from the mother. So another police escort with another sister.
After examining my son the doctor told us he didn’t think the baby would make it through the night. My husband stayed and I came home. My husband came home and the baby was still alive. On Friday, May 22, 1959 the doctor called and said he would like to do an exploratory operation. My son had no opening from the esophagus to the stomach. The way it was described to us, they made a new hole in his stomach and bypassed the obstruction. The doctor said the intestine was as small as a piece of spaghetti. His progress was not good, very critical. His color was grey, tubes in his nose, hands tied and intravenous tubes in his ankles tied to sandbags. He was having blood transfusions in his head because the veins were too small.
On June 2, 1959 we met with a social welfare worker. She suggested that we place our son in a private nursing home. We didn’t do anything about that.
We were told by the doctor that out son was very, very sick and would not live, plus his brain was so badly damaged he wouldn’t recognize his parents. On Friday, June 5, 1959 the doctor called and said all of a sudden your son is doing well. On June 16th we were told to take him home and give him tender love and care which we did. On June 16th he was discharged from the Hartford hospital weighing 5 pounds ½ ounce. He was born 5 pounds 13 ounces. He had gone down to 4 pounds. He gained weight so fast after I brought him home. He progressed very well and did everything a baby should do. He’d hold a rattle, kick his feet, smiled. He stopped doing those things after 6 months. When we saw the doctor again, he said out son came to a leveling off period. He told us that Jimmy had Downs Syndrome. He mentioned that our son didn’t have the features, like a thick tongue, slanted eyes and the eating habits. He told us he would need someone to take care of him all his life. The doctor suggested we place him in an institution. After we had seen the doctor we came home sick, saddened, devastated, hurt, and all the words that describe sorrow. It was a very hard time in our lives. My husband had to work so I was taking care of my precious mentally retarded son. For two weeks I wouldn’t see anybody, but the family gave me courage. Being a Catholic, my mother gave me words of wisdom, “Jesus Christ was embraced by his mother while he was on the cross, so you have to do the same.” My faith helped me but it was difficult.
It was a very hard time in my life. I made an appointment to see the Commissioner of Mental Retardation because we didn’t know anything about mental retardation or what to do. He was very pleasant and advised us to keep our son at home until we couldn’t anymore.
It took many hours to get him to take his first step. He was 3 years old when he took his first step. At age 4 I registered him at a day care. My husband and I became very active in helping children. My husband was instrumental in leasing a house for one dollar a year from the town to have meetings and a day care. My husband was instrumental in starting a workshop.
I read in the paper that the Gengras Center for Exceptional Children was going to open up. It’s a special school on St. Joseph’s College Campus in Hartford, Ct. Each Classroom had a special education registered teacher and at the same time served as a laboratory for teacher students. My son was accepted even thought he wasn’t toilet trained. I had to pay for him to attend. I would drive him which was about 80 miles a day. I spoke to our superintendent of schools and it was arranged he would get a ride. It was a difficult time when he’d get sick because his vocabulary was about 50 words. When Jimmy “J” was 10 years old his arm was fractured which I didn’t know. I’d put his arm through the sleeve and he’d cry. An X-ray showed he had a fracture and how that happened I don’t know.
Neighbors would come to play but then not come again. At age 16 & 1/2 there was nothing more for my son at the Gengras Center. The director informed me to place him. I placed him in April, 1975 at the Southbury Training School. Just before I placed him he became toilet trained. It was a struggle.
The day we left him at the Southbury Training School was the saddest day of our lives. He is happy there and adjusted very well.My husband and I traveled to different states regarding mental retardation and did our part to help all people.
My husband was chairman and first president for 3 years for a workshop for the Earnest B. Kuhn Sheltered Workshop. He was also instrumental in getting an all year camp for the retarded. He was president of the Home and School Association for Southbury Training School. He was on the legislative Committee for the Voice of the Retarded.
We knew that our son could never fit into our lifestyle as an adult, Placing our son was in his best interest even though it was a difficult time for us.
In my opinion and experience the severely and profoundly retarded need four sheltered walls that house them; and to destroy the concept of training schools is to destroy the retardates themselves.
Thank you
Fanny M. Janazzo