Damon Hill, Formula 1 world champion in 1996, has a child with Down Syndrome, Oliver. During a conversation with the Foundation in 2000, he talked about being a father. [Extract of the interview of 2000]
Your son Oliver has Down Syndrome. How did you receive the news?
We knew he had Down Syndrome when he was born. We hadn’t run any tests beforehand. It came as a shock. When we found out it was too late. Today, we don’t regret anything because if we had run those tests, Oliver wouldn’t be here and, yet, he is what makes us happy. Oliver truly is an important person in our life! We love him and he is such an adorable little man. I think he has a quality life, fulfilled and happy, as happy as anyone else’s.
Were you ever discouraged?
When you see a baby and that that baby is yours, you tell yourself that nobody in the world will love it as you do. So you can’t stay away. I told myself: “Right, I don’t know what future has in store but today we must do with what we have and see how things can get better”. There was never really any deep reflection. As any parent, I wanted to give the best to my child.
Do you think there is a lack of information from the doctors?
Yes. It is unbelievable! The picture given by the doctors was appalling. He is everything apart from what they had described. He didn’t have too many medical problems. The more he is active, the happier he gets. He is a child who lives a normal life, who goes to school. He is completely integrated but goes to a specialized school. He knows how to use a computer. He is like any other child. He has his own character, fights with his sister and is jovial, funny. He has a lot of humour.
Did Oliver change your life?
In the same way any child changes your life. But, most of all, he made me realise that society is not ready to welcome disabled people. Society suggests that there be no more disabled children: “We can get rid of them before they are born’. But this doesn’t take into account the feelings and emotions the parents can have. It is a question everyone should ask themselves, it is fundamental because soon, we will be asked: “How would you like your child? Would you like a cappuccino one or a cinnamon one? Do you want a boy or a girl? What colour do you want his eyes to be? We want others to be perfect and it really is pathetic.