Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The truth about Down syndrome

The truth about Down syndrome.

Still smiling in the face of adversity


For many Ottawans, Marc Tuschak Day might have gone unnoticed last week.

But for Tuschak, his family, friends and colleagues at the city, it was a very special day.

Tuschak, who has Down Syndrome, has worked at the city and region for 17 years, working in the print shop half days.

With an engaging personality and a quick wit, Tuschak has inspired those around him and brought smiles to their day-to-day lives.

At a lunch honouring Tuschak last week, Innes Coun. Rainer Bloess read the proclamation, declaring it Marc Tuschak Day on behalf of Mayor Larry O'Brien.

"WHEREAS, Marc Tuschak has inspired fellow staff with his courage and tenacity in overcoming all barriers to employment in the service of the Ottawa community.

"WHEREAS, Marc Tuschak has further served the Ottawa community by joining with friends and family members in the development of the Down Syndrome Association National Capital Region.

"WHEREAS, Marc Tuschak has marked himself as an outstanding athlete in the Ontario Special Olympics.

"WHEREAS, Marc Tuschak is an enthusiastic hockey fan of both the Ottawa Senators and Ottawa 67's. He is a longtime season ticket holder of the 67's and his high-fives are appreciated by coaching staff and players.

"THEREFORE, I, Larry O'Brien, Mayor of the City of Ottawa, do hereby proclaim May 29 as Marc Tuschak day in the City of Ottawa, in recognition of Marc's important role in serving our vibrant community."

For his colleagues in the print shop, the 39-year-old Tuschak has not just been a valued employee, but someone who helped to add joy to their work day.


"He's been excellent, almost a dream employee," said Bill Scharf, his supervisor in the print shop.

"He makes sure he knows how to do a job, gets it done and then goes looking for more work. He was just one of the guys."

City clerk Pierre Page, whose department includes the print shop, said Tuschak is very special.

"He means a lot to people around here. Obviously, it's partly an issue of giving (someone with Down Syndrome) an opportunity. It shows they can be very independent when you provide them with that opportunity," Page said.

It was clear at last week's luncheon Tuschak really is just "one of the guys" as Scharf described him.

Joking at the microphone, Tuschak gave instructions on how to use it properly, and quickly took over the master of ceremonies from Page, drawing laughter from all in the room.

Missing from last week's luncheon was his wife of 10 years Julia, who also has Down Syndrome. She was away at a swim meet.

Sadly, the luncheon and day honouring him wasn't held simply for a job well done, or even to admire his many accomplishments.

Tuschak has recently been diagnosed with a deadly form of leukemia, and while chemotherapy has bought him more time, his prognosis isn't good.

While everyone is hoping for a happy return, that day isn't expected.

True to form, Tuschak is remaining upbeat.

"Thank you everyone for all of this. I'm hoping everything works out. Now, let's have lunch," he said to the crowd.

The news has left his colleagues and family reeling.

"It is devastating news. The prognosis is the worst. He's been quite brave about it," said Krysia Pazdzior, his sister-in-law.


While this story is sad, there are many reasons to write it.

It shows what some individuals, faced with adversity, can do with their lives. And Tuschak has been exemplary.

It reflects well on the city as an employer, and on Tuschak's colleagues, who clearly embraced the likable employee as one of their own.

Bloess said people of Tuschak's integrity help remind us all about what is possible.

"Everybody has different lives, you see a guy like him, he makes the most of it. He rises above it all."


The truth about DS is this: it is a gift.


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