Human Interest

80-year-old woman with Down syndrome reunited with long-lost family

Down syndrome

An 80-year-old woman with Down syndrome was mourning the loss of her immediate family, so her caregivers took action, reuniting her with the extended family she never knew.

Martha Cronemiller spent most of her life with her parents and siblings, living with them until they all passed away. With her family all deceased, she had no choice but to live in a care home in Marietta, Georgia. Her caregivers say she’s a beloved member of their community who brings a smile to everyone’s face. “I’ve been in the field for 30 years,” Raeann Harvey, of Complete Care, told WSB-TV. “I’ve never met another Martha.”

Still, the loss of Martha’s family upset her. “She would start crying and say, ‘My family doesn’t know where I am,’” nurse Suzanna Holl said. “We would mourn for her, we would give her her baby doll, and tell her to hold her baby doll and cuddle it, and try to calm her.”

READ: UK mom says she was encouraged to abort at 37 weeks due to son’s Down syndrome

So together, her caregivers took action, hunting down Cronemiller’s family tree. They researched for months, and reached out for help on social media. “She’s a joy to all the people in the group home, and in the community that love her, that work with her,” Holl said. “We’re all interested in some resolution to those feelings, that she doesn’t have family.”

Eventually, they were able to find some second cousins, who traveled to Georgia to meet Cronemiller in person, and now, they have weekly chats online. “What they did in finding us — sure, it made me feel good that Martha responded like that,” Jeff Cronemiller said.

Another cousin, Dale Cronemiller, said, “What they did for her health is just overwhelming. The love they show for Martha and her response to them is just wonderful.”

Harvey said it was an emotional moment for the staff, too. “I cried. I think everybody cried. It was overwhelming to finally find her family.”

The reunion made a huge difference for Cronemiller, whose mindset has dramatically improved. “We thought we’d lose Martha last year,” Sheryl Arno, executive director for the Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta, said. “As soon as they found her family, it’s like she has a whole new lease on life.”

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