Former First Lady Barbara Bush 'in good spirits' despite failing health

Barbara Bush
Barbara Bush
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Former US first lady Barbara Bush, who was reported to be in "failing health" over the weekend, is in "great spirits" and the family is grateful for everyone's prayers and thoughts, her granddaughter said.

Jenna Bush Hager, an anchor on NBC's Today show, told the programme that Mrs Bush is resting comfortably with family.

"She's a fighter. She's an enforcer," Ms Hager said.

"We're grateful for her, for everybody's prayers and thoughts, and just know the world is better because she is in it.

"We are grateful for her. She's the best grandma anybody could have ever had ... or have."

Bush family spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement at the weekend that "Mrs Bush, now age 92, has decided not to seek additional medical treatment and will instead focus on comfort care" at home in Houston following consultations with her doctors and family.

Mr McGrath did not elaborate on 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 taken to hospital a year before that for surgery on a perforated ulcer.

Media reports say she has also suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and has used an oxygen tank in recent years.

Mrs 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, the nation's second president, and mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president.

Mrs Bush married George HW Bush on January 6 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 Bush was sworn in as the 43rd president.

Ms Hager said the former president "still says, 'I love you Barbie' every night," describing their grandparents' close relationship as "remarkable".

Mr McGrath said Mrs Bush was concerned more for her family than herself.

"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," he said.

President Donald Trump's press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement on Sunday evening that "the president's and first lady's prayers are with all of the Bush family during this time".

Mrs Bush's 93-year-old husband, the nation's 41st president, who served from 1989 to 1993, has also had health issues in recent years. In April 2017, he was taken to hospital in Houston for two weeks for a mild case of pneumonia and chronic bronchitis.

He was treated months earlier, also for pneumonia. He has a form of Parkinson's disease and uses a motorised scooter or a wheelchair for mobility.

Before being president, he served as a congressman, CIA director and Ronald Reagan's vice president.