‘They’re the priority.’ Arkansas father of twins with Down syndrome hopeful after Pfizer announcement


CONWAY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — This week, Pfizer announced its vaccine is effective in the 5-11 age range. For some parents, this will be a life-changing development. One Conway father said getting his twin sons vaccinated will allow them to return to critical full-time therapy.

Gus King IV and his wife have three children: a 9-year-old daughter and two 5-year-old sons who have Down syndrome and heart disease. Gus V and Roland both needed heart surgeries while they were infants. After one surgery was unsuccessful, the family started quarantining five years ago to protect them.

Gus King IV has three children. His twin sons, 5, have Down syndrome and heart disease. (Photo: Gus King IV)

“We have actually kind of been quarantining before it was cool,” King said.

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic started, King said his family started getting out a little bit for the first time.

“We’d gone to a zoo, we’d gone to a dinner at some friend’s house,” King said. “We were doing stuff we hadn’t done in years.”

When the pandemic began, the family pulled the twins out of the full-time therapy they utilized. The special, tailored instruction helped one of the boys walk, and they had their best chance at living on their own later in life. Since then, King has had to try and fill that gap at home.

“There’s no way I can be an occupational therapist, speech therapist, physical therapist, developmental therapist and their dad,” King said.

Pfizer announced Monday its concluded trials on the COVID-19 vaccine in the 5-11 age range. The company now must submit its data to the FDA for emergency use authorization, which would make the vaccine available to that group.

“Hopefully, we have some kids that have their second doses in them before Thanksgiving and have a lot of kids fully vaccinated by Christmas,” said Dr. Marti Sharkey, Fayetteville’s Chief Health Officer.

King said the shots provide more than just safety.

“This news that the vaccine is closer just gives us hope to get them to the services they need,” King said.

Gus King V and Roland King can both return to full-time therapy after they get vaccinated. (Photo: Gus King IV)

The Pfizer vaccine is a ticket to getting the twins back in therapy, King said.

“Their lives are just on hold,” King said. “My daughter’s doing Arkansas Virtual Academy and loves it, but she misses her friends.”

The pandemic’s taken a toll on society’s collective empathy, King said, and he wants people to care about each other again.

“I have to trust that our world is a great enough place that they’re going to survive and thrive,” King said.

King said he’s going to trust medical experts like he’s had to do for the last five years.

“I’ll just do whatever it takes to take care of my family at this point,” King said. “Everything else is out the window. They’re the priority.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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