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After 50 years, Patricia Fisher still beating the odds

January 31, 1997

By JENNYLYNN BROWN

Staff Writer

KEEDYSVILLE, Md. - In 1947, many premature babies did not survive. But Patricia Ann Fisher beat the odds, even though she also had cerebral palsy.

Today, she celebrates her 50th birthday.

Mabel P. Fisher, now 84, left the hospital after her daughter's birth, but Patty remained hospitalized and in an incubator.

Mabel said it was one of the snowiest winters, and Patty had to have breast milk to live. Her husband, Lester, rode through "snowdrifts as deep as this kitchen" to Keedysville on horseback with Mabel's breast milk in a bottle. From there, he drove his brother-in-law's car to Hagerstown to see Patty at the hospital.

"He did this every day for six weeks. Six weeks," she said.

Patty arrived home two months later, but problems persisted. "She wouldn't drink the lactic acid formula ... She wasn't growing," her mother recalled.

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A physical therapist in Bethesda, Md., recommended goat's milk.

"Goat's milk. We came home, went to Waynesboro and bought a goat," she said. Right away, Patty drank six ounces. "It made her grow, but the damage to the brain had already been done."

"It's amazing,'' Mabel Fisher continues. "That's what I said, to make 50 after a start like that, it's amazing. I just can't believe it.

"Doctors at Johns Hopkins wanted me to put her in a home. We wouldn't settle for that. No way. I took care of that child. She was mine, and I was going to take care of her."

"It is a milestone," said Maria Long, an RN supervisor at the United Cerebral Palsy of Central Maryland's day program, where Patty Fisher is enrolled.

Not so long ago, people with cerebral palsy were not expected to live past 30 or 40, she said. "But now, more families are keeping their children at home ... It's a whole different environment from an institution."

Cerebral palsy is a condition in which the brain has been damaged before, during or after birth. It is marked by defective muscle control.

"She's a very happy person who loves everybody,'' said Nancy McHenry, Patty's instructor at the center. "Her heart's just full of love. When she smiles and says, `I love you,' what you're doing is worthwhile."

Her mother agrees. "It makes me feel good, real good, that I was able to help her all this time,'' Mabel Fisher said. "You have to do what God gives you to do. I think that's why he's leaving me to live as long as I have.

"When Patty says, `I want to sit on your lap.' I say, `Yes, Patty, but you're too big to sit on my lap. ` She cuts up a lot. We laugh a lot together. And she loves for me to read to her. She's always liked books."

Patty has no trouble communicating with her mother, Mabel Fisher said. "She sings `Happy Birthday' to herself each night."

Mabel Fisher asks her daughter if she wants ice cream and cake for her birthday.

"Yes," Patty replies.

A big cake?

Again, Patty answers "Yes."

"What do you want for your birthday?" her mother asks.

Patty's reply: "I've got everything."

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