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Doctor creates clinic aimed at comprehensive care for patients with Down syndrome

Dr. Rebecca Partidge (left) talks with Michelle Peterson (right) and her son, Jack, during a recent checkup.
Gabriel Spitzer
Dr. Rebecca Partidge (left) talks with Michelle Peterson (right) and her son, Jack, during a recent checkup.

Kids travel from as far as Spokane to see Dr. Rebecca Partridge at her clinic in Issaquah. Caring for people with Down syndrome, and their families, is her mission.

Six years ago, she started the clinic with Virginia Mason Hospital. It’s the only one of its kind in the Northwest, focusing on the unique medical needs of children with Down syndrome, a chromosomal disorder.

Down syndrome affects virtually every part of the body.

Without a clinic like the one started by Partridge — who knows Down syndrome inside and out, both professionally and personally — patients with the condition are often left seeking routine care from a patchwork of specialists.

On a recent visit, Partridge heads into an exam room to meet Michelle and Chris Peterson — and their crazy adorable 18-month-old son, Jack. It’s been a few months since the family’s last visit. 

“It’s been a big three months,” Jack’s mom tells the doctor. “The fact that he’s walking is actually really remarkable.”

That’s because most kids with Down syndrome don’t walk until about 23 months old. “Jack’s ahead of the curve there,” she says.

Partridge currently has more than 300 patients with Down syndrome. Her goal is to care for them from birth to end of life. 

During her checkups, Partridge refers to patients as “our children.” She has a 17-year-old son with Down syndrome named Joshua.        

Partridge was pregnant during her final year of medical school when she got the call from her doctor.

“I immediately started sobbing,” she says of the day she found out about her unborn son’s diagnosis. “I considered in that moment that the life I had built and all of the dreams I had were over.”

But Partridge experienced a turning point. Her pediatrician had a daughter with Down syndrome. He invited her to sit in his office, and the two talked about what that life was like.  She left feeling a sense of support.

“When I saw his face for the first time, my first words to my son were, ‘I can’t believe I was scared of you,’” she recalls. “He was just this perfect little baby.”   

Partridge talks fondly of her now-teenage son, even when recalling his mischief — such as the time Joshua ordered $353 worth of pizza from an online account he created through the restaurant.

“Ninety-eight percent of me was incredibly angry,” she says, “and 2 percent of me was incredibly proud.”

Listen to the full story above.