This story is from Jeff D’Antonio, and originally appeared on his blog. He gave us permission to post it here. It’s about miracles, synchronicity, spirit contact, and the incredible endurance and resilience of an infant. We’ve shortened it and provided some of the background material.
When Jeff was six years old, he met Jill, who climbed into his tree house and introduced herself. From then on, they were best friends. He was there when she learned to ride her bike, when her father died, when she left for college, when she graduated, when her mother died, and on the day she got married. He was there the day that Katie, Jill’s daughter was born, and there on the day that Jill‘s husband passed away. He was also there on the day that Jill was diagnosed with breast cancer and there on the day that Jill knew the cancer would beat her. He was there for Jill the day she asked him to take care of Katie, and there on the day that Jill died. His moving tribute to her is here.
In the winter of 2007-2008, Jeff’s wife, Jenny was pregnant. She was in the second trimester of what had been a difficult pregnancy. It was the snowiest winter on record and the weather forecaster were calling for “the blizzard of the century,” with a total of 30 inches of snow expected.
“The howling wind was blowing the snow around so hard I couldn’t even make out the tree line at the far end of our back yard. A great day to stay home and sit by the fire drinking hot cocoa and reading a good book.
“That’s what I was hoping, anyway. Then I heard Jenny calling me from upstairs. I could tell by the sound of her voice that something was very wrong.
I ran up the stairs and found her sitting on the bathroom floor with blood running down her legs. She was in the second trimester of what had already been a very difficult pregnancy, and there had been several scary moments in the preceding weeks. Fearing the worst, I grabbed my keys and prepared for an emergency trip to the hospital. In the middle of The Blizzard Of The Century.
“I knew there was no way an ambulance would make it up the mountain, so we were on our own. I loaded Jenny and the girls into the Jeep, and off we went. We made it to the hospital in record time, over winding, unplowed mountain roads, in the middle of a blizzard.
“Turns out she had a placental abruption, which meant the placenta had torn and partially detached from her uterus. The baby was okay for the time being, but the damage to the cord and placenta meant she was still in great danger. She was barely at 5-1/2 months, so it was way too early to deliver. They kept Jenny at the hospital on complete bed rest, and told her she would have to stay there until the baby was born. We hoped and prayed for our baby to stay in there as long as she could. Every day counted.
“Four days later, I was sitting by Jenny’s bedside while she talked about how hard it was going to be to stay in bed for that long, when suddenly her eyes rolled back into her head and she lost consciousness. Machines started beeping wildly, alarms were going off, doctors and nurses rushed into the room with carts full of strange looking equipment. And then they told me they had to deliver the baby right away.
“It’s too soon, I protested, but the doctor quickly explained that the uterine tear had progressed, and if they didn’t get the baby out NOW, they would both die. Jenny almost bled to death on the way to the operating room. After they got the baby out, they couldn’t stop the bleeding and they had to do an emergency hysterectomy. They saved Jenny’s life, and I will forever be grateful to those surgeons for that. That was the most terrifying hour of my life. The thought of losing her almost killed me.
“The baby was 3-1/2 months premature. I didn’t even get a chance to see her before they put her on a cart and whisked her away to the NICU. Jenny was still in danger, so I stayed with her. If ever there was a moment when I wished I could be in two places at once, it was that moment. After what seemed like forever, the NICU doctor finally came and told us what was happening with our baby. As soon as he came into the room, I could see in his eyes that he didn’t have good news for us.
“He told us that she would die within hours. He didn’t say “might die.” He didn’t say “maybe,” or “possibly,” or “probably.” He said she will die within hours. Her lungs were too underdeveloped, and there was no way for her to get enough oxygen to survive outside the womb. We begged him to tell us that there was still a chance, no matter how remote, but he was all but certain. He said it was only a matter of time.
“We were heartbroken. After six years of waiting and hoping and praying for another baby, and coming this far along through a very long and difficult pregnancy, we just couldn’t believe we were going to have to say goodbye to her now. It was the most horrible moment of our lives.
“Then they asked us what her name was, so they could write up the birth certificate. And then the death certificate. Up until then we always just called her “the baby”. We hadn’t decided on a name yet. We always thought we had more time. It felt so strange giving her a name, knowing that she was going to die so soon. We had to think about it for awhile before we settled on the name Christina.
“We sat with Christina in the NICU, watching the respirator breathe for her; watching the heart monitor record her weak and often unsteady heartbeats; watching the blood oxygen monitor register values way too low to keep her alive. She was so tiny she would have fit in the palm of my hand if I were able to hold her. The nurse stayed with us through the night and tried her best to reassure us that Christina couldn’t feel any pain or discomfort. That nurse was an angel. How hard it must be to sit with parents under those circumstances. Jenny and I held each other while we waited and watched and prayed and cried.
“I can’t even begin to describe what it feels like to sit there waiting for your baby to die. There are no words.
“But Christina’s heart just kept beating. Her blood oxygen level held steady – low, but steady. The nurse said she couldn’t believe Christina had made it through the night. At one point she called the doctor in to see what he thought. They talked for a few minutes and then brought in another doctor to consult. I remember hearing them talking, and thinking how strange it was that their job was supposed to be to keep people alive, and yet they were standing there discussing why she wasn’t dead yet. It was surreal. Part of me wanted to punch them. Another part of me wanted thank them for giving us just a little more time with her.”
For weeks, Christina just kept getting stronger. Every medical expert who examined her couldn’t understand why she was still alive. “Then one day a neonatal pulmonologist who was visiting from Boston asked us if we believed in miracles, because he had seen her chart and he had no other explanation. This was one of the best doctors in his field in the entire world, who had seen probably thousands of babies die with lungs in much better condition than Christina’s – and he had no explanation except a miracle. He said it was almost as if she was getting oxygen through some kind of invisible umbilical cord that none of us could see.”
Four months passed and finally, Christina was ready to come home. On January 18, 2010, Christina celebrated her second birthday. “There is no doubt in my mind that someone was helping her along in that NICU. There is no doubt in my mind that we witnessed a miracle there.”
“Doctors had been telling us for years that she wouldn’t be conceived. And when she was, doctors told us she would never be born alive. And when she was, doctors told us she would die within hours…and when she didn’t, one of the best pulmonologists in the world had no explanation other than to call it a miracle. Something allowed her to be conceived when doctor after doctor said it was impossible. Something allowed her to survive in a damaged womb that provided her with less than half of the oxygen and nutrients required for her to survive. Something allowed her to survive those first hours and days and weeks in the NICU, when all the medical knowledge of some of the best doctors in the world said it was impossible.”
Move ahead to September 2010. Jeff and Jenny were looking through old photo albums with their daughters. “Christina was pointing out pictures of people she recognized and telling us who they were, when she came across an old picture of Jill, who was 21 or 22 in the picture.
“Jill was wearing an old pair of jeans and a tee shirt. Her hair was longer then, and that’s the quintessential image of Jill as I like to remember her. It’s the version of Jill I see in my memories more than any other – the clothing, the hair, the facial expression, all perfectly capture the essence of who she was. Even though Jill was gone before she was born, Christina knows who she is – there’s a picture of her in Katies’s room, and we speak of her often by name. But she was younger in this picture in the photo album, her hair was longer, so I guess she looked different enough that Christina didn’t recognize her as Jill.
“As she turned the page, Christina’s eyes fixated on this picture of Jill, and she said, “That’s the lady from the hospital. The one that held my hand and told me to keep breathing.”
Jeff and Jenny were stunned.
“She comes into my room sometimes and tells me stories before I go to sleep,” Christina said.
They pressed her for more details, but she refused to say more.
“From the very beginning, I’ve always believed there to be some kind of connection between Jill and Christina. Her birth was a miracle, her survival was a miracle, and I’ve always felt as though Jill had a hand in that somehow. The grown-up, scientist guy in me says that’s preposterous.
But my heart so wants it to be true.”