HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush is in “failing health” and won’t seek additional medical treatment, a Bush family spokesman 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,” spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement.
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, had heart surgery in 2009 for a severe narrowing of her main heart valve and was hospitalized a year before that for surgery on a perforated ulcer.
“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.”
Former President George H. W. Bush, left, and his wife Barbara Bush listen to one of the eulogies praising longtime family friend and former Mississippi congressman, G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery, at the Temple Theater in Meridian, Miss., Tuesday, May 16, 2006, during Montgomery’s public funeral. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)
Former first lady Barbara Bush listens to her son, Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speak during a campaign stop at Wade’s Restaurant, in Spartanburg, S.C. The former First Lady is making sure to keep her alma mater up to date on what’s going on in her world. The Boston Globe reports that Bush wrote a dispatch for Smith College’s alumnae magazine this month. She says: “I am still old and still in love with the man I married 72 years ago.” Bush dropped out of Smith College in 1944 and married George H.W. shortly after. The school awarded her an honorary degree in 1989. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
Former first lady Barbara Bush prepares to throw the ceremonial first pitch before the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park in Boston Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2005. (File photo by Elise Amendola, AP)
Former first lady Barbara Bush speaks at the Loma Linda University Church of Seventh-Day Adventists on Wednesday, November 28, 2007. Bush was on hand for the dedication of the Pettis congressional papers. (The Press-Enterprise/Stan Lim)
Former first lady Barbara Bush listens to her son, President Bush, as he advances his Social Security reform proposals before a hand-picked audience at the Lake Nona YMCA Family Center in Orlando, Fla., Friday, March 18, 2005. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Former President George H.W. Bush, right, and Barbara Bush, left, respond to questions as they stand in front of the childhood home of George W. Bush in Midland, Texas, Tuesday, April 11, 2006. The Bushes were on hand for the official dedication of the home Tuesday. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Barbara Bush, the former first lady, smiles after receiving an honorary doctor of humane letters degree, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2005, at Albion College in Albion, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Barbara Bush, left, joins her husband former President George Bush as he signs a book for Wendy Cantor, right, during a VIP reception at Chapman University’s Beckman Hall in Orange on Saturday April 17, 2000. (File: Photo Janine Swiatkowski/Orange County Register)
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.
President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement Sunday evening that “the President’s and first lady’s prayers are with all of the Bush family during this time.”
She’s known for her white hair and her triple-strand fake pearl necklace.
Her brown hair began to gray in the 1950s, while her 3-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 color to the public’s perception of her as “everybody’s grandmother.”
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 husband, 94, also has had health issues in recent years.
In April 2017, he was released from a hospital in Houston after being treated for two weeks for a mild case of pneumonia and chronic bronchitis. Months earlier, he was at Houston’s Methodist Hospital for 16 days, also for pneumonia.
The nation’s 41st president also was hospitalized in 2015 in Maine, where he and his wife spend summers at their home in Kennebunkport, after falling at home and breaking a bone in his neck. He was hospitalized in Houston in December 2014 for about a week for shortness of breath and spent Christmas 2012 in intensive care for a bronchitis-related cough and other issues.
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 World War II, 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.