Today is my younger sister, Barbra's 40th birthday.
This is a milestone birthday for many reasons. Some are obvious. Hello! Forty years old!
And some for less obvious reasons.
When Barb was born she was sick. Like really, really sick. Life and death sick.
She was born with a congenital heart defect that caused her heart to develop in a malformed way. She had a hole between her left and right chamber, the two main arteries flowing from her heart were crossed and not delivering blood properly to her lungs. She was one sick little baby. Doctors told my parents that babies born with that type of a heart condition rarely lived past 5 years old.
My parents were told that she was too weak and too young to withstand open heart surgery. That she would have to gain strength to survive the ordeal of the surgery.
So my parents waited for her to get stronger. And then when she was 3 months old she had a stroke. The kind of thing that old people have, so we thought.
Doctor's advised my parents to "put her away", that's what you did back then. My parents were told that she would never walk, or talk or feed herself. That the brain damage from the stroke was too massive for her to lead a "normal" life. That she would be a burden on our family.
My parents ignored that advise and brought her home. Hard times? You bet. But we were a family and we were going to stay that way. I don't ever remember being told to leave her be, because she's handicapped. Or told to help her or do it for her. If anything it was the opposite. "Let her do it herself!"
Barb endured many, many surgeries in her life: open heart surgery twice, pacemaker installed and then battery replacements, brain surgery, orthopedic knee surgery (after a nasty fall and a broken knee).
But today she turned FORTY. Well past the diagnoses of five.
And today she lives a semi independent life in a group home with two other men like herself and a couple of staff members.
And today she is a championship special olympic bowler.
Happy Birthday Barbra.