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Wife divorces husband after he refuses to give up son with Down syndrome, public generously supports “Leo” on GoFundMe page

by | Feb 6, 2015

By Dave Andrusko

Leo Forrest was born with Down Syndrome. (Photo: Samuel Forrest)

Leo Forrest was born with Down Syndrome. (Photo: Samuel Forrest)

I first read about Samuel Forrest and his son, Leo, when I took a last look at my news feed last night. It’s now 20 hours later and I am just getting to what happened. But I think you will agree, the story should not wait until next week.

You may have heard about Mr. Forrest already—how he went from the high- high of being a new father to the low-low of having his wife file for divorce, all because he refused to give up Leo.

Why would his wife possibly want that? Leo was born with Down syndrome.

Let’s back up a second. Mr. Forrest is from New Zealand, his wife are from Armenia, which is an important part of this story.

According to ABC News, he heard his baby crying inside his wife’s hospital room. ABC News reports

“This pediatrician walks out of the room with a little bundle — that was Leo,” Forrest said. “She had his face covered up and hospital authorities wouldn’t let me see him or my wife. When the doctor came out, he said ‘there’s a real problem with your son.'”

Forrest followed doctors and nurses into a room where he’d finally get to meet his baby.

“When I walked into the room they all turned to me and said ‘Leo has Down syndrome,'” he told ABC News. “I had a few moments of shock.”

After the news had sunk in, Forrest held Leo for the very first time.

“They took me in see him and I looked at this guy and I said, he’s beautiful — he’s perfect and I’m absolutely keeping him.”

Leo was just right, just as he was. When Forrest walked into his wife’s hospital room with Leo in his arms, he got the shock of his life.

“I got the ultimatum right then,” he said. “She told me if I kept him then we would get a divorce.”

Forrest was completely in the dark about how hospitals feel about babies with disabilities. But he got a quick education.

“What happens when a baby like this is born here, they will tell you that you don’t have to keep them,” he said. “My wife had already decided, so all of this was done behind my back.”

But he had decided, too. He was not letting go of his son. A week later, his wife filed for divorce, something Forrest did not want but never had chance to speak to his wife in private about.

Forrest is not a wealthy man; he is freelance business contractor, who plans to return to New Zealand to be with loved ones who will help him. He wants to raise enough of a nest egg so he can work part-time so he can help care for Leo.

But how? He created a GoFundMe page titled “Bring Leo Home.” And the world loved it! As of earlier today, the page had raised over $300,000!

A grateful Forrest posted this note:

Thanks everyone – we are stunned beyond words at the incredible support & love you’ve shown for little Leo.

9 days after we started our campaign, Leo and I found out in the wee hours of morning that we had crossed our target! He is a lucky guy to have the support of thousands of friends like you around the world.

Some of the additional funds that we have raised will be used to secure better living conditions in Auckland, and to give Leo higher quality opportunities when it comes to education – a good home and school cost money, but Leo will have all that and more, thanks to you.

We will use some of the money you’ve given to fund facilities and programs here in Armenia that will support future parents to keep their kids despite all disabilities, and to help better care for the special ones who end up away from their Mom & Dad. We’d also like to share the surplus funds with the only orphanage in Armenia that regularly takes abandoned Down Syndrome babies as well as other organisations that can help these children – thanks to your support we can start to make a difference already

Thanks again for your care and generosity!

ABC News reports that Forrest has been working with disability awareness groups to help educate parents about children with special needs.

“After what I’ve been through with Leo, I’m not going to sit back and watch babies be sent to orphanages,” he told ABC News. “As a child with Down syndrome, that becomes somewhat of a label. If we can get around this label, we’ll see that they’re normal. They’re a little different from us, but they’re still normal.

“They all have niches and I want to work hard to find out where Leo’s special. This little guy is great.”

Categories: Down Syndrome