At age 28, Denise Marhong is an active member of her parish despite doctors' predictions than she wouldn't live 48 hours past her birth.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE FAMILY

At age 28, Denise Marhong is an active member of her parish despite doctors' predictions than she wouldn't live 48 hours past her birth.

May 12, 2014
RUANE REMY
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER

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

MEDICAL ISSUES

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 she and her husband.

PARISH SUPPORT

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," she said.

Denise's siblings were inspired to work in health care in large part because of their sister.

DEEP IMPACT

"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 email to The Register.

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

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 email.

"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."