Monday, September 26, 2011

An Extra Chromosome...Or Two.

So why Does Nadge wear number 47?
It's no secret that I am a Manchester United supporter. My father was a United supporter of course, and my grandfathers, and Unc. It was Unc who played United v City with us in the garden, who tutored us in the folklore, who related to us the tragedy of the Munich air disaster, and who regaled us with stories of Duncan Edwards, Georgie Best, and The King (the original king of Old Trafford), Dennis Law. I remember the excitement of watching the teleprinter chatter out the results as they came in, waiting with baited breath as first the time appeared, and then the teams, and then the score, all magically rushing across the screen as the funny bobble thingy bobbled up and down in fits and starts. In turn, I have fulfilled my fatherly duty and passed this unconditional love and support and devotion to my children from the moment I knew that a fetus had been created. Some babies are serenaded with Mozart in the womb – mine were treated to "Glory Glory Man United" as they swam happily in their amniotic fluid, digesting pure red sound waves. 

Just before the millenium, Mrs Nadge became pregnant again and her tummy was treated to my full repertoire of United songs. Thankfully, we had not had any trouble with any of the previous pregnancies and there was no reason to suggest that number 5 would be any different. As Mrs Nadge had reached the grand old age of 35 she was advised to do an amniocentesis in the fourth month, a routine if slightly risky test whereby a sample of the amniotic fluid is drawn off to be tested for any fetal abnormalities, one of the most common being Down's Syndrome. Three weeks later the phone call came from the hospital, telling us that there were "memtza'im" – a Hebrew word meaning "findings" or "results" and when could we come in. They wouldn't say anything else on the phone. Just "findings". A word saying everything yet nothing at the same time. I remember Mrs Nadge being shell-shocked. She slid down the wall of our narrow hall, and ended up on the floor leaning against the wall for support. We didn't know what to say. All sorts of horrible thoughts come to you, all the worst-case scenarios.  

A few days later we kept our appointment with the genetics department at the hospital. Mrs Nadge has a background in the sciences, with a degree in physics. I, on the other hand, managed to navigate the English grammar school and university system, ending up with a BSc, whilst never having passed a science exam in my life. Up until the moment I walked into the doctor’s office I’d barely even heard of chromosomes, and I certainly didn’t know what they were or how many make up a human body. Well, every cell in our bodies has 23 pairs of chromosomes, 1 pair of sex chromosomes and the other 22 pairs containing the rest of our genetic hereditary information. That makes 46 chromosomes in total. When there is a problem with our genetic make-up, this is typically manifested by abnormalities in our chromosomes – too many, too few, deletions, insertions, inversions and translocations. 

So, whilst trying to assimilate all this general information with which we were being bombarded, we had also to take in the fact that our baby boy had a structural abnormality in one of the chromosomes. There was a marker, an extra bit, chromosome number 47. “So what does it mean?” we immediately asked. They couldn’t say. “How risky is it?” They couldn’t say. “What should we do?” They couldn’t say. WikiGenetics puts it most succinctly – “With marker chromosomes there is a risk for fetal abnormality, which ranges from a very low risk to a risk of 100%.” Well, that narrows it down, doesn’t it? I seem to remember them saying that there was maybe a 2% chance that everything was fine. So, more tests then. They said it would take about two weeks or so for some complicated and expensive tests to be completed, tests that would have to be sent off to Jerusalem. Meanwhile, they would do a blood test on each of us to see if they could discover anything that way. 

It’s common in times of stress and misfortune to make vows to ourselves. You know what I mean. If only such and such will (or won’t) happen then I’ll never swear again, or I’ll give a million pounds to charity or some other such nonsense. In this instance, I promised myself that if all being well, everything turns out for the best, I’ll put the number 47 on my next Manchester United shirt. Something viable and simple, something meaningful to me that will always act as a reminder of trying times. 

Millenium Nadge still waiting for his 47
I’m pleased to report that I love chromosome number 47. Shortly afterwards, the blood test showed that yours truly also has an extra chromosome – and it’s not affected me has it!? They recommended us to do blood tests for the rest of our kids too, a boy and 3 girls. It turned out that number 1 child – the boy – also has 47 chromosomes, and he also proudly wears the number on the back of his Manchester United shirt. 

Number 6, the baby of the family, duly came along. We were less worried this time when the call came from the hospital saying that there were “memtza’im”. Except in this case I made a promise to put the number 48 on the back of my next United shirt. Yup, two markers showed up this time, really unusual. Everyone expected it to be a boy in light of the three males in our family. Our baby is now 8 and she still loves it when I put on her shirt.


  1. For you daddy. Anyway I remember that day and it was very scary to see mummy go all white and start crying, but thankfully all ends that ends well. Numbers 5 and 6 were born fine and to this day are acting as they should- Annoying little siblings.

  2. Abi, that's such a lovely comment. You are totally bi-lingual and my Hebrew will never be anywhere near your level of English. However, the saying is: All's well that ends well. And you are right - it did end well. xxx

  3. Wow, another great article!!! now i understand the significance of 47!!! WELL DONE AND SHANA TOVAH!!

  4. So interesting. Great that it's being celebrated on a shirt!

  5. What a great read (as usual), I must admit, I was wondering about number 47, so glad that you cleared that up for us all. LOVELY!!

  6. Abi - annoying? Never!! None of you are ever annoying :)

    Nicole and motherporridge - Thank you.

    MSM - we're thankful that everything is fine

    and Shana tova, happy new year, to everyone.

  7. Dina - you got in a comment as i was writing mine lol. Thanks for the kind words.

  8. what a wonderful post! i love the way that you write... and happy new year to you! x

  9. ever hopeful mummy - this is Rachel, though I'm sure Nadge will answer you himself later. I know that chromasomal abnormalities don't always turn out to be nothing and so I thank you for your generous comment. God bless you and your family xxx.

  10. ehm - many thanks for the kind words, and best wishes to you and your family. x

  11. Hey very interesting blog!