“My name is Finbar Barry and I would like to introduce you to my son, Thomas. Thomas was the youngest of seven children born with Down syndrome, as well as a host of other serious illnesses: Perthes disease, Hirschsprung disease, heart murmur, underactive thyroid, hiatus hernia, stomach reflux, and severe anemia. Most of these illnesses started to develop when he reached the age of about 18 months old!
Thomas almost died at birth and was put in an incubator immediately. We were advised to have him baptized, as there was little hope he would survive. But after 2 months, much to the delight of all the family, we got the news we could finally take him home. Thomas was showing us even at such a young age he was a fighter. Weeks passed into months and his other illnesses began to develop—firstly his anemia,
which became very severe, and as a result, he had to have many blood transfusions. The two units of blood he received lasted him 6 months, then he would receive more blood and that would last for 5 months and so on until two units of blood would only last for 6 weeks. When he was about 4 years old, he was diagnosed with a hiatus hernia close to his heart and had to have an 8-hour operation to try to correct it,
plus a tummy tuck to repair his diaphragm which was quite loose as he could not hold down his food. When he was 8 years old, Thomas began to feel unwell. He was admitted to the hospital, and while tests were being carried out his condition became worse and he almost died. After the results were back, he was diagnosed with Hirschsprung disease. He was transferred to the ICU for intensive care and was in inpatient for 6 months. As time passed, he complained about a pain in his knee.
When the doctor examined him, he commented the problem might not be his knee but his hip. He was recommended pain relief, but some weeks later, the hip totally dislocated and he was brought to the operating room for surgery. He was 9 years old at the time. As his parents, both my late wife and I were heartbroken at the level of pain he had to endure on a daily basis in his short life to date. I can recall we often wished to take his pain to give him some relief so he didn’t have to cry himself to sleep each night.
As time passed, he complained about a pain in his knee. When the doctor examined him, he commented the problem might not be his knee but his hip. He was recommended pain relief, but some weeks later, the hip totally dislocated and he was brought to the operating room for surgery. He was 9 years old at the time. As his parents, both my late wife and I were heartbroken at the level of pain he had to endure on a daily basis in his short life to date.
I can recall we often wished to take his pain to give him some relief so he didn’t have to cry himself to sleep each night. When Thomas reached the age of 14, the Perthes disease had spread to the other hip, which meant more surgery. He suffered 14 years of pain before finally becoming the youngest person in Ireland to have a total hip replacement at 28 years old. Not long after his surgery, Thomas began to talk to me about getting a job. He was constantly telling me to make lunch for him. I suppose he got the idea of going to work from watching his older brothers and myself going out to work, so he thought he would do the same.
Every time he brought up this subject, his mother and I would tease him and say, “Oh yeah, Thomas. You’ll get a job. Maybe next year.” In reality, Thomas will never be qualified for a steady job because of an intellectual and physical disability, but this did not affect his creative desire to express his inner self. Anyone who knows Thomas knows that when he makes a decision about something, he carries it out with great determination.
For years, I have been looking for some options, hoping to give Thomas some way to make him feel like he can have a job like everyone else (considering his disability), and the answer is right in front of me. Thomas always played with socks, putting one sock in the other, and balancing between his toes for several hours. After years of practice, he is an expert in this area. He never played with toys when he was young, but if he didn’t have socks, he wouldn’t go anywhere.
This is what he had to face each day when he opened his eyes, yet he still was able to put on the most beautiful smile that would melt your heart. His story has touched many people from around the world—we still get messages from people who are totally inspired by how well Thomas coped with all he went through and how he runs a business. The message from Thomas is clear: no matter what your situation is (and everyone’s is different), get up and do something about it.
If you need help, ask for help, if you have a dream, please realize it. Remember, if you don’t try, it won’t happen. Thomas’ socks business started in 2019, but it actually started on the day he was born in 1985. Thomas’ business is booming now, we buy socks from suppliers, but in the near future, we hope to make socks. In our own country. We look forward to the day when we can make our own Thomp2 brand socks. Thomas also likes to be considerate of others, so we also donate 5% of our profits to our charity partners. ”