'I was combing her hair… and I saw her spirit go': Barbara Bush's heartache at losing her three-year-old daughter to leukemia Talking to her granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager, the former First Lady, 87, reveals the loss she and former President George H. W. Bush experienced
17:50 GMT, 20 November 2012
Barbara Bush, former first lady and grandmother to reporter Jenna Bush Hager, has spoken about losing her three-year-old daughter to leukemia over half a century ago.
In an intimate interview with Jenna, the 87-year-old reveals the heartache she and former President George H. W. Bush, who is called 'gampy', experienced after little Robin Bush, Jenna's aunt, was diagnosed with only two weeks to live.
'I was combing her hair and holding her hand,' Mrs Bush recalled on Today. 'I saw that little body, I saw her spirit go.'
Scroll down for video
Brave Barbara: Barbara Bush (right), former first lady and grandmother to Today's Jenna Bush Hager (left), has spoken about losing her three-year-old daughter to leukemia over half a century ago
Born on December 20th, 1949, Robin was the youngest of three brothers; and two years younger than her brother, and future 43rd President, George W. Bush.
Jenna said, referring to Robin, who would be 63 years old if she were still alive today: 'Gampy actually said recently he hopes when he passes away that's who he will see first.'
'It is who he'll see first,' said Mrs Bush.
My girl: Mrs Bush recalls Robin being 'quiet and gentle, and she had lovely little blond curls'
Heartache and loss: In an intimate interview with Jenna, the 87-year-old reveals what she and former President George H. W. Bush went through after little Robin Bush was diagnosed with only two weeks to live
'She was quiet and gentle, and she had lovely little blond curls,' she added.
At age three, Mrs Bush began to notice her daughter's energy waning, and took her to the doctor for a simple check-up.
She said: 'She was listless, she didn't want to do anything, just wanted to rest, go out and watch cars go by, so I called the doctor and said, “Can I bring Robin out I think she has spring fever,” and the doctor sort of laughed.
Recalling Robin: Mrs Bush tells Jenna on Today, 'I was combing her hair and holding her hand. I saw that little body, I saw her spirit go'
Devoted granddaughter: Jenna Bush Hager, who would have been Robin's niece had she survived, talks to her grandmother about her 'angel'
'We went out and she had a few bruises on her and the doctor took a blood test and said I'll call you.
told that is Robin had leukemia. “What do you do for leukemia” Well,
she said, “You don't do anything. She's going to die,” and we said, “No,
I don't think so”. And she said, “My advice is take her home, love her
and in about two weeks she will be gone.”
Instead, the couple took Robin across America to a hospital willing to try treatment on a child.
Seriously sick: It wasn't until age three that Ms Bush began to notice her daughter's energy waning, and took her to the doctor for a simple check-up
Family of four: Born on December 20th, 1949, Robin was the youngest of three brothers
“They took bone marrow tests which were painful,' Mrs Bush said. 'A lot of blood. they put her on chemo, and poor gampy, every time she got a blood transfusion he's have to leave the room.'
Seven months later, almost age four, Robin died. Then Mrs Bush made the easy decision, she said, to donate her child's body to research.
'I think it made gampy and me feel something good is coming out of this precious little life and today, almost nobody dies of leukemia,' said Mrs Bush.
Family time: Robin, pictured with her father and brother, George W. H. bush and George W. Bush, was diagnosed with leukemia and give only two weeks to live
Don't give up: Mr Bush took Robin across America to a hospital willing to try treatment on a child
Brotherly love: Robin, who Mrs Bush describes as 'her angel', was two years younger than President-to-be George W. Bush
Today, the survival rate for a child surviving leukemia is 90per cent.
At St Jude's Children's Research Hospital, which was founded nearly a decade after Robin 's death, the hospital's National Outreach Director, Marlo Thomas explained that its first doctors were willing to try new techniques to beat leukemia.
She said: 'We still have cells and DNA from patients that we treated in the
1960s, and now that technology has gotten better, we can go back and learn what
caused those cancers and why some children were cured and others
Not yet four: Seven months later, almost age four,
Robin died. Then Ms Bush made the easy decision, she said, to donate her
child's body to research
Never forgotten: Mrs Bush remembers her daughter as 'an angel; she's not a sadness or a sorrow'
Mrs Bush said: 'What on earth could be better in the eyes of god than a hospital that saves children's lives' before adding, 'George and I do talk about it. Maybe more recently in the last two or three years than before.
'We're getting older, and – and robin to me is a joy. She's like an angel to me; she's not a sadness or a sorrow. Those little fat arms around my neck.
'She's still with us. We need her and yet we have
her. We can't touch her, and yet we can feel her. We hope she will stay
in our house for a very, very long time.'
Watch the video here:
Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy