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Former first lady Barbara Bush in ‘failing health’

Former first lady Barbara Bush is in “failing health” and won’t seek additional medical treatment, a Bush family spokesperson said Sunday.

“Following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors, Mrs. Bush, now age 92, has decided not to seek additional medical treatment and will instead focus on comfort care,” spokesperson Jim McGrath said in a news release.

McGrath did not elaborate as to the nature of Bush’s health problems. She has been treated for decades for Graves’ disease, which is a thyroid condition.

“It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself — thanks to her abiding faith — but for others,” McGrath said. “She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages and especially the prayers she is receiving.”

From left: Barbara Bush, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Laura Bush are seen in April 2013 in Dallas, Texas.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Bush is one of only two first ladies who was also the mother of a president. The other was Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams.

She married George H.W. Bush in 1945. They had six children and have been married longer than any presidential couple in American history.

Eight years after she and her husband left the White House, Mrs. Bush stood with her husband as their son George W. was sworn in as president.

She’s known for her white hair and her triple-strand fake pearl necklace.

Her brown hair began to grey in the 1950s, while her three-year-old daughter Pauline, known to her family as Robin, underwent treatment for leukemia and eventually died in October 1953. She later said dyed hair didn’t look good on her and credited the colour for the public’s perception of her as “everybody’s grandmother.”

From left: Former first ladies Rosalynn Carter, Barbara Bush, Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton are seen in January 2003.(Reed Saxon/Associated Press)

Her pearls sparked a national fashion trend when she wore them to her husband’s inauguration in 1989. The pearls became synonymous with Bush, who later said she selected them to hide the wrinkles in her neck. The candid admission only bolstered her common-sense and down-to-earth public image.

Her 94-year-old husband also has had health issues in recent years.

In April 2017, the nation’s 41st president was hospitalized in Houston for two weeks for a mild case of pneumonia and chronic bronchitis. He was hospitalized months earlier, also for pneumonia, and spent time in 2015 at a hospital in Maine, where he and his wife have a summer home in Kennebunkport, after falling and breaking a bone in his neck. In Houston in December 2014, he was treated for shortness of breath and spent Christmas 2012 in intensive care for a bronchitis-related cough and other issues.

Mia Trumble, 7, sits on Bush’s lap after the former first lady spoke at ceremony for Literacy Maine in Biddeford, Maine, in June 2011.(Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

Bush, who served as president from 1989 to 1993, has a form of Parkinson’s disease and uses a motorized scooter or a wheelchair for mobility. He also served as a congressman, CIA director and Ronald Reagan’s vice president.

Barbara Pierce Bush was born in Rye, New York. Her father was the publisher of McCall’s and Redbook magazines. She married at age 19 while George Bush was a young naval aviator. After the Second World War, the Bushes moved to Texas where he went into the oil business.

Along with her memoirs, she’s the author of C. Fred’s Story and Millie’s Book, based on the lives of her dogs. Proceeds from the books benefited adult and family literacy programs. The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy began during her White House years with the goal of improving the lives of disadvantaged Americans by boosting literacy among parents and their children. The foundation partners with local programs and had awarded more than $40 million to create or expand more than 1,500 literacy programs nationwide.


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