When Love Conquers All

ByABC News
August 24, 2006, 10:23 PM

Aug. 25, 2006 — -- The world hasn't seen many marriages like the one that was prepared for Carrie Bergeron and her fianc$eacute;, Sujeet Desai.

They would have two weddings, Hindu and Christian so the plan went and two magical celebrations. But more important, they were bringing their families; a community; their religions and a cause along with them a cause that could have kept them apart.

Carrie Bergeron, 29, was born with Down syndrome. Technically, it means that she has an extra copy of a chromosome in her genetic makeup. As a result of this genetic abnormality, people with Down syndrome have learning disabilities that can range from mild to severe. Heart defects are common and there are also physical symptoms such as an enlarged tongue and extra folds of skin under the eyes.

Doctors used to brutally describe Down syndrome as mongolism and recommend that people like Carrie be institutionalized. But Carrie's parents sought care for her from the beginning.

"We had therapists and speech pathologists and people coming in constantly," said Carrie's mother, Peggy Bergeron. "They would come every week, two hours a week to work with us. So developmentally, we always knew where she was."

Despite her own developmental difficulties, Carrie grew up to become an advocate for others with Down syndrome. She earned a certificate as a teacher's assistant from a community college and works as a volunteer aide in a day care classroom at Upstate Cerebral Palsy's New Discoveries Learning Center in Rome, N.Y. But as a teenager, she knew there was something missing, and her mother noticed, too.

"When she was about 15, I really noticed the loneliness," Peggy Bergeron said. "It was looming, big time. And I just could see that when her sisters or her brother went off with friends, there was just a look in her eyes as if to say, 'I wish I could do that.'"

Carrie admitted that she felt ostracized from her friends.

"I was very lonely because my friends, they don't have any special needs," Carrie said. "They can do things that I couldn't do, like having a job and also hanging out with their boyfriends and, and girlfriends. And I was very lonely because I didn't have anyone."

Life changed in unexpected ways when Carrie met 25-year-old Sujeet Desai, who was also born with Down syndrome. His parents both work as dentists in upstate New York. As a child, it took a long time for Sujeet to learn the right words to express himself, but his parents found that music helped stimulate him. And although he struggled, he learned, and now he plays six instruments.