Daniel Fields says the birth of his son, Liam, was the best thing to happen to his body and soul.
Becoming the parent of a child with Down syndrome made him a better person, a healthier person, says Fields, 41, of Crestwood.
Fields says he’s more patient and less grumpy; he sees the rewards of life rather than things about which to complain. Liam has brought him closer to God.
And Fields has lost 120 pounds, down from nearly 300, by changing his diet and exercising so he could be there for his children.
When Liam was born with Down syndrome in the spring of 2011, the disorder was a surprise to Fields, his wife, Rebecca, and their doctor.
The couple have two other children, Eli, 5, and Ellie, 8. Daniel Fields sat at a table on a recent afternoon, watching the children play. Rebecca Fields works during the day, and Fields in the evening. The sounds from the children playing resembled those of a brawl in an old western movie as they rattled their toys.
Fields explains that life is hectic; school for the older children, therapy and special school for Liam.
He recalled his grandmother telling him everyone who comes into his life has a purpose. That hit home.
“I know God didn’t bring Liam into our lives for my need to protect him,” Fields said. “He was brought in to make all of us around him better human beings. I am not who I was before he was born. I’m much more.”
And much less — 120 pounds less.
The saga started in September 2012. Fields had a discussion with a cardiologist who told him to prepare for a heart attack.
“I had heart disease in my family, and he said I’m 300 pounds (and 5-feet, 8-inches tall) and I might as well get ready; it’s coming.”
The doctor also warned him of diabetes and other diseases that plague obese people. That warning languished for months, ignored. “Then one day, I saw Liam, trying to pick up a ball; he was struggling just to pick up that ball.
“I looked in a mirror and said, he’s struggling, and here I am, two working arms, two working legs. … I have to do better.”
He joined a YMCA and began to work out every day. His physician told him to cut calories to 1,200 a day. Fields began to eat cereals and salads and low-calorie snacks. He kept track of his intake with a smartphone app.
By Christmas, he’d lost 40 pounds. As his stamina increased, he began to run nearly every day, about three miles. By the end of 2013, he’d lost about 100 pounds, and more has come off since then.
“Every step along the way, I kept finding people who were supportive,” he said. People he met at the YMCA, “they’d help me get my children to child care. The director came by and cheered me on while I was exercising,” he said. “They were so kind.”
At work as a technical director at KTVI-TV (Channel 2) his bosses helped him put together a schedule that accommodated therapy time with Liam.
He’d not been a people person before then. “I was much more jaded than I am now.”
He spends more time now working with Liam, his own children and children who have special needs he has met through the Down Syndrome Association. They’ve taught him a new way to see the world, he says.
“Kids with special needs see the world as a joy-filled place,” he said. “If we could all see the world the way they do, we’d realize all this other stuff we quibble and fight over wouldn’t be important if we’d have loving hearts.”
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