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Lehighton mother takes challenges one day at a time

“I am beautiful. I am worthy. I will persevere. I will be successful.”

These are the words that Mary Christo of Lehighton says to herself every morning as she prepares to face a new day. If a new day has been anything like so many of her past days, this registered nurse will need every bit of her strength, faith, and courage to confront the demands of her family life.

Unconditional love

Mary is the mother of three boys: 16-year-old Jesse and 14-year-old twins Shane and Wyatt, who both have Down syndrome. She is the wife of Eric Waksmunski, who has had multiple surgeries over the past two years and was literally brought back to life by his surgical team after he had died from complications during lung surgery.

Juggling her duties as a night and weekend shift nurse, Mary tends to her family’s needs without thinking they are a burden in any way.

“It’s what mothers do,” she said. “We love unconditionally.”

Her twins each have different issues and as Mary says, “They are thriving but fragile.” Both have asthma. Shane has a particular type of arthritis that often makes it difficult for him to walk. Wyatt has only half a diaphragm that can make him exceptionally tired when he exerts himself.

“They are wonderful boys. Shane looks out for Wyatt who has less control of his actions. If he could, Wyatt would be happy to run somewhere and hang out with strangers,” said Mary with a laugh. “Jesse is their big brother. He looks out for their well-being which is a big help to me.”

At death’s door

Mary met Eric in 1992 and they have been married since 2006. Her “best friend” has had a series of health issues dating back to November of 2022.

He had successful surgery for diverticulitis, but the problem resurfaced so he needed a resection surgery in January of last year which then led to hernia surgery in June.

In December of 2023, Eric needed an entire resection of is abdominal wall. Complications then put him back on the emergency operating table to relieve a pulmonary embolism is his lungs.

“The doctors said that it was really bad and they couldn’t guarantee he’d make it through the surgery,” said Mary. “After the procedure, one doctor told me, ‘He walked through death’s door, but we pulled him back.”’

Mary has no complaints about the life she has with her husband and children. “We always take life one day at a time. What else can you do? We’ve built a foundation of family many years ago and sometimes there’s a crack or two so we just put another rock into the foundation to keep us strong.”

The torch has been passed

Her philosophy is simple. Love can get you through anything, “I never play the ‘woe is me thing.’ My mother was my role model. She was very ill when I was growing up yet she was the kindest and most compassionate person I’ve ever known.”

After a pause and through tears, Mary said, “My mother’s love sustains me. She passed the torch onto me. I can feel her in me every day.”

When asked what she does for herself in the little free time she has, Mary said with a chuckle, “I get my nails done. Actually, I’m pretty much a homebody. Eric and I like to watch movies, especially comedies. That’s our escape. The kids have the Disney Channel, too.”

As Mother’s Day approaches, Mary plans to celebrate with her family. “It’s a day to reflect about what motherhood means. As mothers, we nurture our children and we are fiercely protective of our families.”

So nurturing and so protective, Eric sent this note to the Times News about his wife. “…She’s continued working. The kids never missed a day of school. She’s held the family together under extraordinary circumstances. She should be the “Mom of the Year.”

Mary Christo of Lehighton, with sons, Jesse, and twins, Shane and Wyatt. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO