Virginia Barton

16 June 2014: Happy Birthday, Mary!


16 June 2014


On this day our oldest grand-daughter was born in Japan. She was born with Down’s Syndrome and weighed six pounds. Named Mary, she was baptised in hospital the day after her birth, for it was soon apparent that she had severe heart problems. By October, when the risky decision was made to offer an operation, Mary weighed about two pounds. Her parents accepted the risk and an operation was performed for AV Canal Defect and PDA – ground-breaking surgery for so tiny a child in those days. There followed two months in ICU on Life Support, and then it was home for her first Christmas.

Today Mary is an amazing twenty-eight years old.



It is difficult not to be soppy and sentimental about Mary – if you’re on the outside looking in.

For that family on the inside, Mary’s parents, brothers, and sisters, there has been no question for either of these emotions. Reactions towards even me as a grandmother have been curious – to my way of thinking at least:

“Do they know they must have no more children?” They went on to have six “normal” ones.

“Why did they bother to operate?” Would you, could you, seriously say “no” if there was a chance of success?

“Those sort should never be born.”

Those are the kind of remarks that came my way – heaven knows what was said to our daughter and her husband.


Thanks to skilful surgeons, doctors, and a family lovingly devoted to her, Mary survived and today she celebrates her birthday. Every day is a bonus and that is exactly how Mary lives; in the world of Today. She has no heed for tomorrow and knows little of the past.

From Japan to Washington, from the UK to Saudi Arabia and Tanzania, Mary has friends all over the world. Her love of music, dancing, and swimming, and her loathing of snow and sand and lumpy food are famous. Her reluctance to change out of pyjamas, and her joy in hiding so as to be found, are notorious. Mary has a big personality which makes one want to hug her.


One is under no illusions. Bringing up Mary has been tough — on parents particularly, and siblings alike. There have been many black days and as a grandmother I can only guess at the heartache and relentless hard work. But that family have won through to the respect and admiration of all who know them. And Mary, like a shiny star in their midst, seems mysteriously to knit them all together. God bless her.






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