Every year at 9:09 a.m. of the ninth day of the ninth month of the year, bells are rung in ever corner of the world as a reminder of the importance of abstaining from alcohol during the nine months of pregnancy. In Happy Valley-Goose Bay every year local FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) workers hold a community pancake breakfast to promote awareness of the 100 percent preventable disorder.
Susie and Regula Schule are regular fasces at the annual event. In fact Susie is adamant that she would like to be the face of FASD.
“I wish I could go to St. John’s or Nova Scotia to talk to real people about FASD so they know what it looks like to have FASD.”
Susie has been outspoken on the disorder for a number of years and she said it’s a good feeling to know she may be helping.
Susie was born early to a mother who drank alcohol throughout her pregnancy. At only a little more than two pounds, she fought to live and still struggles with the problems the alcohol left her with.
Susie has cerebral palsy and has trouble getting around. Like many who suffer from FASD the disorder has affected her brain and body.
“The more I think about FASD, it’s not fair that people look at me and say who is that girl and why is she walking lie that,” Susie says.
Susie has been with her adoptive mother Regula for 33 years-since she was seven years old. For the Schule’s it’s spreading the word about FASD that will make a difference to children who may be born like Susie. Even that Ms. Schule says, is often not enough.
“It’s not easy because when everybody else is drinking around you, it’s hard not to join.”
When Susie was born, FASD was unheard of and Susie’s mother may not have known her drinking would harm her children. But, with all the education of drinking and pregnancy today, the problem persists.
Carla Blake is the FASD file worker for the Nunatsiavut health branch in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. She said there are still plenty of cases of FASD in the region and the best they can do is to educate people and let people suffering from FASD know they are there.
“We have clients whose children are suffering from FASD. It’s already done. We’re here to help.”
The local FASD chapter in Happy Valley-Goose Bay closed its doors last year but the region is still represented in the provincial chapter. The Nunatsiavut government Department of Health hosted this year’s event in partnership with Labrador Grenfell Health. Along with Nunatsiavut, Labrador Grenfell Health also offers FASD supports and the local correctional centre also has a FASD worker.
Ms. Schule goes to the centre for bible study with some of the inmates.
“I go to the jail twice a week and talk to ‘my boys’ and too many of them have FASD. I’m glad they have now a professional involved who addresses that.”
Thanks to people like Susie and her mother and local FASD workers, the issue of drinking during pregnancy is a public one and one they hope community involvement and education will help.