A Birthday worth celebrating

Agassiz family celebrates a special milestone with part at the Legion hall

Cathy celebrated her birthday with family and friends at the Agassiz Legion hall.

A mother’s intuition is rarely wrong. At least it wasn’t for Maureen Baker when Cathy was born.

“I had an indication by the hush in the room,” she says. “As soon as she was born, I looked around and could tell by the look on their faces that something was wrong.”

Cathy was born with Down syndrome, simply meaning she has three copies of the 21st chromosome instead of two. It didn’t matter to Maureen. She asked to hold her daughter. She put her on her chest and Cathy just snuggled right in.

“We bonded,” Maureen recalls.

Doctors didn’t make promises to Maureen about Cathy’s future. They said she would be hampered because she had basically no muscle tone. She was spastic and they didn’t paint a rosy picture of her future. Doctors encouraged her to put Cathy in Woodlands, an institution that was in New Westminster. Maureen, a determined mother, brought Cathy home instead.

“I was told when she was born at Vancouver General Hospital, that she would probably never walk and talk,” Maureen shares.

But when you meet Cathy at her parent’s home, she will walk to the door to answer it. She will offer to take your coat, and tell you how much she likes dancing, music and playing computer games. She will tell you Bette Middler is one of her favourite artists and how she’d love to meet Mark Madryga from Global TV. She will tell you how she loves to read and write poetry and how excited she is for her birthday party. And she will tell you about her mom, as Maureen sits smiling at her daughter.

“She’s wonderful,” Cathy exclaims. “I’m loving her and her warm hugs.”

Maureen, Cathy’s older two siblings and father lived in a camp on Vancouver Island when she was born. So there was no specialized help such as physiotherapy for Cathy growing up. Maureen kept her stimulated with music and sounds. They taught her to walk by placing her on their feet and holding her hands. They raised her “by gosh and golly,” says Maureen, leaning on their parent’s intuition to raise their bright young daughter.

Cathy celebrated her 50th birthday on December 27. She celebrated 50 years of defying those doctor’s expectations. Fifty years of beating the odds. And 50 years of love in a family that has seen her through life’s challenges and watched her thrive.

“She’s just blossomed. It’s amazing how far she’s come,” says Maureen. “She’s an independent, proud young woman.”

Cathy had a wonderful time at her party, held at the Agassiz Legion hall.

“She was so enthralled with seeing everybody,” says Maureen, “She was busy greeting and graciously accepting gifts.”

Maureen lives in Agassiz, while her daughter Cathy now lives in the care of a young, energetic couple in Abbotsford where she attends a day program for people with special needs.