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'Miracle' Grantham baby given just months to live celebrates 104th birthday



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A woman given just months to live as a baby and who recently survived Covid, has celebrated her 104th birthday

Irene Miller marked the special occasion on Friday, (November 19) surrounded by generations of her family at Belvoir House Care Home, in Brownlow Street.

It is all the more special for Irene to reach the milestone after being given just months to live as a baby.

Five generations of women in the same family - clockwise from left, Ruth Toole, Ann Fox, Faith Ballaam and seated, Irene Miller holding baby Phoebe Toole, aged just three months at the time of the photo. (53266907)
Five generations of women in the same family - clockwise from left, Ruth Toole, Ann Fox, Faith Ballaam and seated, Irene Miller holding baby Phoebe Toole, aged just three months at the time of the photo. (53266907)

Irene was born in 1917 and was the only child of farmers Fred and Florence May Cottingham. She was born with a large tumour on the side of her face and her devoted parents were told she would not live beyond the age of two without surgery to remove it.

Following a struggle to find a surgeon willing to operate, they finally found one based in Harley Street, London – although he said her chances of survival were slim.

At just 11 months old Irene underwent surgery and beat the odds to survive.

Staff from Belvoir House Care Home helped Irene Miller celebrate her 104th birthday.
Staff from Belvoir House Care Home helped Irene Miller celebrate her 104th birthday.

After such a tough start in life, Fred and Florence lavished their daughter with love and devotion as she grew up and Irene went on to lead a long life with her late husband Fred Miller who she married in secret two years after getting engaged on Irene’s 21st birthday.

The couple went on to have three daughters, Ann, Veronica and Betty and a son James.

After the sudden death of her husband in 1970 and caring for her mum for many years, Irene moved to Marston in 1996, where she remained until she became a resident at Belvoir House in 2016.

Irene Miller as a baby.
Irene Miller as a baby.

Daughter Ann Fox said: “We were very worried when Mum got Covid last year at the age of 102, but she survived. She is amazing.”

She is highly regarded by staff at the care home, who decorated the home with lots of balloons and bunting for the special day.

Irene also tucked into a special birthday cake and enjoyed a glass of Bailey’s to wash it all down with.

Care home general manager Wendy Kaya was delighted to celebrate with Irene, especially after Irene’s family were unable to visit her on her 103rd birthday in 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Wendy said: “At 104 years old, Irene can have whatever she wants. We decorated a special seating area for Irene and her family. We always like to celebrate each resident’s birthday. We always go all out to make the day extra special for them and to create a lovely atmosphere in the home. They deserve it.

“If their birthday falls when I am not at work, I always make sure I FaceTime them so I can wish them many happy returns.”

Irene has recently become a great-great grandmother for the fourth time, after the birth of Imogen Toole three months ago.

When Imogen’s older sister Phoebe was born in 2015, it marked five generations of women in the same family.

Irene is also a great-great grandma to four-year-old Grace and Eva, one.

Baby Imogen will be christened next month wearing the same christening gown that was made for Irene as a baby. The dress has since been worn by all the generations of their family.

Many happy returns Irene!



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