Mother, Daughter: Her Story is My Story
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Mary and Angie Hurley are mother and daughter. Mary was 15 years old and living on the streets when she became pregnant with Angie. Now, Mary is the Chief Orthopedic Surgeon at Kaiser Fontana, and Angie is the clinic manager for Outside In, a program for youth who are homeless. HRC’s Wendy Grace Evans talked with them both to share their inspiring journey of recovery, determination and love.
Mary Hurley, MD is the Chief Orthopedic Surgeon at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center in Fontana, CA. She was the keynote speaker at the National Health Care for the Homeless Conference in June 2009. Angie Hurley, Mary’s daughter, is the clinic manager for Outside In, a program for youth who are homeless in Portland, Oregon.
“When I was twelve I left home because there was no home to leave. I grew up in a typically dysfunctional home with significant alcoholism. My mother was an alcoholic and my father left. There didn’t seem to be any place to be, so I left and got up to no good until I was pregnant with my daughter Angie in California at 15,” explains Mary Hurley, Chief Orthopedic Surgeon at Kaiser Fontana.
This is the story of Mary Hurley and her daughter Angie.
“Her story…her story is my story because my mom was fifteen when I was born and so she grew up with me. The two stories cannot be separated,” says Angie Hurley. Angie talks about her mom with a kind of realistic reverence. “I love to tell my mom’s story because telling it allows me to communicate how incredible she is and how incredible our world is. I have complete admiration for my mother.” My mom doesn’t see her story with the same ‘wow factor’ that I do. She always says, ‘I just put one foot in front of the other.’”
Mary says, “I was young and immature and selfish and I didn’t do all the things that you are supposed to do as a mother. It was incredibly difficult. Being a parent is hard work. Although I think there were some advantages to being fifteen. I didn’t know how hard it was. I was just so happy to have someone to love. I probably treated her more like a doll.”
Mary Hurley was homeless from age 12 to 15 and lived mostly in San Diego. When she realized she was responsible for a life, she made her way back to Minnesota where she believed she would find her father. She found him. He had remarried a woman whom Mary adores, but she explains that there was no place for her in their lives, especially as a belligerent teen.
“My grandfather offered her [Mary] all kinds of incentives to give me up for adoption. He thought he was doing the best he could. How could a fifteen-year old take care of a child? After I was born, a social worker came to the hospital and told my mom to wait two weeks before making a decision. She decided to keep me, but I was placed in a foster home and then the foster home burned down,” explains Angie.
After the fire, Angie and her mother Mary were placed in foster care together. To this day, Angie calls her foster parents Grandma and Grandpa. “I spent my entire childhood with them, until Mom graduated from high school and we moved into our own place.”
“I considered myself uneducated and uneducable, but I am a voracious reader and read all the time.” Mary Hurley was self-taught until she decided to go back to school. She graduated high school early and earned a full scholarship to the University of Minnesota.
“I am not sure how I got that scholarship, but I wasn’t prepared. I was 16 and living alone on welfare with a two-year old and trying to negotiate the university. I was swamped the first minute. I quit very quickly after that and worked any job that I could get. I was a maid and I worked in bars. Anything I could get to make an income until I met the man who is my husband and Angie’s father to this day. We embarked on life together after that,” shares Mary.
After moving to Montana, Mary took classes at Flathead Community College. She weight lifted at the time and her coach was also an instructor for an anatomy and physiology class. “He got a monkey and a human cadaver for the class and he held a contest to allow the top two students to dissect the cadavers. I had what can best be described as a spiritual experience. I totally connected with doing that and then I just understood life. After that I decided that I was going to be a doctor. Everybody laughed.”
It turned out that laughter was no barrier.
“I have never found words to describe what it is like to grow up with someone like my mom. My dad and I call it being ‘Hurleyed’. She is just a powerhouse and not in a bowl- you-over kind of way. If something needs to be done, she says, ‘you just do it.’”
Mary was accepted to the University of Denver pre-med program on a full-ride and much to her surprise graduated at the top of her class. “I consider this to be a total miracle by the universe,” says Mary. “How did I get into college and learn physics, when I had never learned basic math? It was something outside myself.”
After finishing her undergraduate degree Mary applied to one medical school and was accepted. “I didn’t know you were supposed to apply to more than one.” She found her niche in surgery. “I really liked how you could have an immediate effect by fixing people’s broken bones.”
Following this, Mary was accepted to the San Diego Residency Program, one of the top residency programs for orthopedic surgery in the country at the time. “It was a very competitive, all male, six-year program,” says Mary. She then completed a fellowship in pediatric orthopedic care.
“I had so much support from the recovery side. People stay sober because they stay in the program. It is so much a part of our lives. I can’t separate the two. Life and recovery can’t be separate. This is my story and I am sticking to it,” says Mary.
“I could never say I couldn’t do something. She didn’t just tell me. She showed me and that informs a lot of my parenting. I have to show my daughter what is possible, not just tell her,” says Angie.
Visit the HRC Parenting and Homelessness Topic Page to learn more about the latest research on parenting and homelessness.
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