Doctors told Denise Marhong's mother that Denise would not live 48 hours after birth. Denise is 28-years-old. Photo courtesy of Bernadine Marhong

Parents remain thankful for their disabled child

By 
  • May 1, 2014

TORONTO - A month before Bernadine Marhong was due to give birth, doctors recommended that she abort her unborn baby. The baby, whose name would be Denise, was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a condition where fluid builds in the brain and causes brain damage. The doctors thought Denise would have no cognitive function and would die within 48 hours of birth.

On July 31, Denise Marhong will turn 29.

If Bernadine were to speak to other parents considering abortion because of an unborn child’s illness, she says, “as a Roman Catholic, I would like to tell them not to have the abortion. I couldn’t take a life.”

Though the Marhong’s knew they wanted Denise, Bernadine felt confused and her husband David went to visit their parish priest, Fr. John at Epiphany of Our Lord parish. Bernadine says Fr. John told her husband that doctors are not God and the baby deserved a chance to live.

Living with hydrocephalus has meant a lot of medical issues for Denise, some days being more difficult than others. She has a wheelchair, but her hydrocephalus has subsided. Her mother says she has been speaking since age two and enjoys life. She loves to bowl, visit Niagara Falls, Centre Island and Canada’s Wonderland. Every year she goes to the Canadian National Exhibition, a popular end-of-summer ritual in Southern Ontario.

“She loves to pray, she loves to go to Mass, she loves taking up the gifts to the altar. She loves people. She’s a social butterfly. And she just radiates love, all the time,” Bernadine said. “Denise has progressed so much in life… I did not give up on Denise.”

Bernadine hopes Denise feels loved and empowered by her and her husband.

She thanks the community at Epiphany of Our Lord for supporting her family, assisting in caring for Denise and helping improve her quality and progress in life.

Dena Amara, who works as Denise’s planner, describes her as compassionate.

“I would say Denise’s faith in God and her love for life has brought her a long way and she has an amazing heart and personality. I feel very fortunate to have crossed paths with Denise and her family,” she said.

Denise’s siblings, Lisa and Jonathan Marhong, were inspired to work in health care in large part because of their sister.

“Growing up with such a blessed and loving sister has impacted every facet of my life. Denise embodies life in the truest sense,” said her younger brother Jonathan, a doctor, in an e-mail to The Register.

“Her life has also served to teach me about what it means to be understanding and accepting towards others.

“With gentle kindness, an open heart and a respect for human dignity, I hope to embody for others the lessons taught to me by my big sister,” he said.

Lisa, Denise’s older sister, has had to advocate on her sister’s behalf.

“Denise’s voice has always brought joy and love to any room that fills it,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Her life has taught me that people in need do not always have the loudest voices, and it has inspired me to pursue a career in health care where I could continue to be a voice of advocacy for those with special needs.”

Comments (1)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Knowing Denise for many years, I must say I admire her dedication and effort in attending the 1:00pm Sunday Service.
Denise is a kind and loving person. May The Lord shower his Blessings upon this family with Love, Understanding
and Caring for...

Knowing Denise for many years, I must say I admire her dedication and effort in attending the 1:00pm Sunday Service.
Denise is a kind and loving person. May The Lord shower his Blessings upon this family with Love, Understanding
and Caring for each other.

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Linda Ohrstrom
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