PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Pearl Ireton has dedicated her life to raising children who, as babies, had little chance of surviving. With her husband, Pat, Ireton has raised and fostered more than nine children.
“They’re basically our kids that we raised. We treat them as our kids,” she said. “The older sisters treat them as their siblings.”
One child, Kori, was born with a flat-line EEG, meaning no brain waves. They didn’t expect her to make it.
“And she didn’t move a lot,” Ireton said. “She just always had a smile on her face.”
That was more than 30 years ago, when they all lived in San Diego. Ireton, a licensed vocational nurse, worked with Kori’s parents.
“We told the parents, ‘This is what to do and we’d like to adopt her if you guys are OK with that,’” Ireton said. “And they both started crying and said ‘You mean, she’s going to live?’ So we worked with them and reunited. She went back to them and we kept real close. We flew down for her high school graduation, then I have a picture of her graduating from college.”
Kori opened up their hearts, she said.
“She was our first and that kind of clinched us,” Ireton said.
The Iretons would go on to welcome six special needs children into their home. Life as both a mother and a nurse became the norm for Ireton.
The couple took the children — Ray, Kristyn, Jennifer, Alex, Noah and Mason — and relocated to an ocean-front home in Pacific City. They lived there for more than three decades.
Like Kori, Mason’s chances of survival were nil.
“He had a g-tube, gastronomy feeding tube, until he was 18,” Ireton said. “I mean, he went to high school with it, to play track, and finally we were able to take it out.”
But he survived. Now in his 30s, Mason is married and living in Portland.
There were painful moments, too. Ireton said five of the children they raised ended up not surviving. There were others who lived with them before going back to their biological parents.
Her husband, always at her side, said that Ireton is truly a “remarkable woman.”
“Pearl’s the most positive, happy, coolest person and beautiful that I’ve ever met,” he said.
For her children, she’s a gentle caretaker and tough protector.
She encourages more people to become foster parents.
“My main thing is — and what I’ll always fight for — is kids need to be in homes,” she said.
“Don’t be in it for the money because it’s not there, but do it because it’s the right thing to do. Plain and simple. It’s the right thing to do. These kids need love,” she said.