"Once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act." Proverbs 24:12

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Meet Angel - Part V (The last and final chapter!)

(I apologize this is so long. I had no idea when I started this story how much time it would consume and I really did not want to extend it any longer, so I finished it in this last post.)
I hadn't realized I had fallen asleep holding Maria's hand until the neonatologist walked in with his team. I gently stirred her to awaken her and she opened her eyes. She immediately realized that the nightmare she was having was real. Along with the doctors, a Spanish speaking nurse had entered the room carrying a clipboard filled with papers.

We listened attentively to what he had to say, which was all translated to Maria through the nurse. He introduced himself and asked Maria if she wanted the baby's father present. She said, "No, the baby's father has taken no responsibility." He then said, "Your baby is in critical condition. His lungs are very underdeveloped and he appears to have hydrocephalus, water in the brain." We both sat there motionless and unable to speak. He continued, "A shunt may be needed to be placed in order to drain the fluid and he must remain under extreme observation in the NICU. Unfortunately, we don't have the type of care he needs here at this hospital. He needs to be transferred immediately to the Children's Hospital if he has any chance of surviving".

Maria looked at me as I had turned to look at her. She then asked the doctor, "When will he be transferred?" The doctor replied, "A neonatal team is on their way right now." She then asked if she would be transferred with the baby, the doctor said that unfortunately, she would have to remain at that hospital while the baby was at the Children's Hospital about 30 minutes south of where we were. She started to cry. I held her hand and told her that she needed to take care of herself so that she could care for her baby. I tried reassuring her that he would be under great care there and as soon as she was discharged, I would take her daily to see her baby.

The nurse then approached with a mountain of papers for her to sign, including birth certificate information. Maria was still under sedation and not thinking clearly, so I asked if that information could wait until the following day to be filled out. They agreed. They had her sign the baby's release papers and authorization for treatment.

Up until that time, no one had seen the baby. About 15 minutes later, the neonatal team from the Children's Hospital entered the room. They also introduced themselves and asked if we had any further questions. They placed special "bands" on both Maria and myself that would allow us access to the NICU at the Children's Hospital when she was ready to see him. In addition, they had given her the number to the nurses station in case she wanted to call for any reason. Maria asked if she could see her baby before they took him. They said yes, they would bring him to her room on the way out. It wasn't long after the team left the room that an incubator was being wheeled in. He was tiny, but seemed so perfect. He measured 15 inches and weighed 2.25 pounds. We said a quick prayer and Maria kissed her hand and placed in on the incubator. Seconds later, he was quickly being wheeled down the hall and out of our sight.

Everything was happening so fast. Part of me wanted to take off after the ambulance and be with the baby, but I knew that there was nothing I could for him. So, it was an obvious decision that I needed to stay with Maria. She was in pain from the c-section and her heart was breaking over all that had transpired. She really didn't speak much after they left and I just said, "You have to keep trusting God." She smiled and closed her eyes. I sat down on the small recliner in the cold room and tried to catch at least 2 hours of sleep. It was a futile effort.

The next morning the doctor came in. They removed her catheter and told her she should try and get out of bed. About an hour later, her breakfast had arrived. I tried making her comfortable and sitting her up to eat. She ate almost nothing. I then called the hospital to check on the baby. None of the nurses on staff spoke Spanish, so I had to do all the speaking and translating. The baby was doing well under the circumstances, but they told us that the next 72 hours would be crucial. They still had not put a shunt on him. They did suggest that, if possible, she pump breast milk and it be taken to the baby.

After breakfast, I asked if she would be OK for me to leave. I still had Amanda at home to care for and Scott had been late to work that morning to take her to school. She said she'd be fine. I called the nurse in and told them I was leaving for a few hours, to please call me if anything came up.

I drove home, showered and headed to the Children's Hospital. Upon arriving, I was allowed into the NICU to see the baby, whom still did not have a name. Something Maria hadn't even brought up yet. But then again, I'm sure delivering at 28 weeks under those conditions was the furthest thing from her mind. She had been in no rush to name the baby.

He was beautiful and tiny. He still remained in the incubator, but I was in awe at how perfectly formed he was at 28 weeks. His fingernails were perfect as was every little part of his tiny body. His eyes were covered for protection against the UV lights needed to prevent jaundice and he was on a respirator. My heart ached with each breath he took, as I watched his tiny chest struggling for air. I prayed over him and left to find the nurse.

The nurses were wonderful at the hospital. I explained Maria's situation and asked if it was possible to borrow a breast pump for her to start storing milk for the baby. They immediately returned with an electric breast pump and a box full of plastic baggies for her to deposit and freeze the milk in. I thanked them and headed back again to the other side of town to Maria's hospital.

Upon arrival there, I told her I had seen the baby and her eyes lit up. She seemed to be feeling better and the nurses had helped her up to go to the bathroom and for a short walk. I then opened the bag with the breast pump and told her that she needed to start feeding her baby. She said, "Already?" I said, "Yep! We need to fatten up that little guy." Our first attempt at extracting breast milk was pretty comedic, but after she got the hang of it, she was able to fill about a quarter of a baggie, which was all the baby needed for a feeding. I remained with her until the afternoon when it was time for me to pick up Amanda from school. I left with my breast milk-filled baggies in a bucket filled with ice.

I picked up Amanda, went home took out something for dinner, waited for Scott to come home and then left to Children's Hospital to drop off the baby's milk. I did a quick detour into the gift shop, grabbed a little bear for him and wrapped a rosary around the bear. I then went upstairs to see the baby. They had removed his eye patches and he was no longer in the incubator. His temperature was normalizing. We had moved a small baby step forward!

I then left the Children's Hospital and drove back to Maria's hospital to check on her. She was doing well and had pumped a few more bags that the nurse had put in the freezer there. While sitting by her watching TV, the nurse from the previous night came in again with the birth certificate information. I said to Maria, "You need to name this baby. Do you have any ideas yet?" She said, "I already know his name. It's Angel Gabriel." My eyes watered. My thoughts immediately went back to the baby that my 11 year old daughter had been praying for during the Spiritual Adoption Program. Remember she had chosen the name "Angel"? Maria had no way of knowing that. I knew then that God had used Amanda to pray for baby Angel every night, even before he was conceived.

I told Maria that I thought the name was beautiful. She said, "I've been thinking about the name and it has so many special meanings for me. The Angel Gabriel was sent to let Mary know that she would be carrying the Baby Jesus. I could just imagine how scared she was. Well, that's how I felt when I found out I was pregnant. I know now that the Lord sent this baby to me as a messenger, just like he sent Angel Gabriel. I also love the name because of The Gabriel Project and how much it has helped me." I was so moved that God had completely transformed this young girl. She then said, "But one of the reasons I chose Angel was because you were my Angel throughout all of this." Of course, by then I was bawling. Angel Gabriel was a perfect name for a perfect baby boy.

My routine of staying at the hospital till midnight and traveling back and forth from hospital to hospital continued for a few more days until Maria was finally discharged. I had taken her home the morning of her discharge and told her to rest and I would be back to pick her up to go visit the baby. In the meantime, I was looking to see if I could find some arrangement for her to stay at the hospital, but there was nothing available at the Ronald McDonald house by the hospital.

As I was driving home, I received a phone call. It was the NICU. The doctors had tried reaching Maria at the hospital and had found out she was discharged. They needed her at the hospital right way. Angel was going downhill fast. I told them we'd be there within an hour.

I turned the car around and headed back to her house, which I had only left maybe 10 minutes earlier. When I arrived, Lucy had settled her in bed because she was having pain. I told Maria about the phone call and pretty much told her that it really sounded bleak and that she must go to the hospital.
I helped her into the car and off we went. When we arrived at the hospital, I asked someone at registration if I could borrow a wheelchair. Then I ran out to the parking lot with the wheelchair and wheeled Maria up to the NICU. Angel was back in the incubator and was really struggling to breathe.

The nurse came to get us and told us the doctors wanted to speak to us in the conference room. I knew it wasn't going to be good. We sat around the table. I was again the translator. The doctor looked at me and very point blank said, "We're doing the best we can. His breathing is very erratic, which is making his heart work extra hard. We don't know how much longer he could fight like this." I asked what was his suggestion. He said, "You are Catholic, right?" I nodded. He looked at me and said, "Call a priest."

I took in a very deep breath. I could feel Maria's eyes boring into me, waiting for me to tell her what was happening. I thought, "Lord. How do you expect me to say this?" I turned to Maria and said in Spanish, "The baby's very sick. The doctors are doing all they can, but they don't know how much longer the baby could fight. Maybe we should call a priest to have him baptized." I looked down and could still feel her eyes on me. She then said, "Is my baby going to die?" I looked up and said, "Maria, Jesus is the only one that knows the answer to that. You can't give up hope. Let's get him baptized and let's pray." I noticed her stirring in her chair and almost grimacing with pain. I knew it was both from her heartache and from her incision.

The nurses called the priest from the local Catholic church and within 2 hours he was by our side. Before he arrived, Maria asked me, "Would you honor my son by being his Godmother?" I was once again moved to tears. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be going through this rollercoaster when I moved into this town just 10 months prior.

The priest baptized the baby and the nurses allowed Maria to hold him for the first time. After about 3 hours there, I could tell Maria really needed to rest. I told her she had to go back home. I was only 15 minutes from the hospital and if God forbid something happened, I could be there right away or go back and pick her up. I double checked that the nurses had my phone number and Lucy's since Maria no longer had a phone. I had them reassure her that if the baby got worse, they would call.

The following morning, we were back by his side. We both noticed that he had a little bit of pus oozing out of his right eye. I mentioned it to the nurse and she said she'd noticed it, too. She would let the doctor know. That evening, an opthamologist came by to see the baby and prescribed some antibiotic.

Two days went by and Angel was slowly improving. We were storming the Heavens with prayers and believing that God would heal him. The fluid in his brain had not increased, but had not decreased. His temperature was again normalizing. But his eye continued to secrete mucous. I called the opthamologist that afternoon with Maria by my side. He said he would order additional testing.

The following morning before I had left my house to begin my now common routine of driving 60 miles a day and going to the hospital, the phone rang. It was the NICU again. They wanted to know if Maria was going to the hospital on that day. I said yes that I was picking her up in about an hour or two and we would be there around noon. The nurse said, "You may want to come a little earlier. The opthamologist is here and wants to speak to her." So, again I rushed and headed out the door. I called Lucy from the car and told her to get Maria up and tell her that I was on my way. When I arrived, Maria was waiting. We hopped in the car and drove back to the hospital.

Upon arrival, the now familiar nurses we knew by name told us to wait and she would get the doctor for us. Within minutes, he was standing before us as we followed him into the dreaded conference room. We sat around the table and the doctor explained to us that Angel had developed a dangerous fungal eye infection. The infection was quickly spreading and that the hospital was not equipped with the care he needed. I immediately thought, "Wasn't it just over a week ago that we had heard those same words?" I was angry and couldn't help thinking, "What the hec good were these hospitals for if they couldn't ever provide the help needed." I turned to the doctor and said, "So, now what? You're moving him somewhere else?" He could tell I was very agitated and in a calm manner said, "One of the country's best eye institutes is The Bascom-Palmer Institute in Miami. If anywhere his eye could be saved and the infection can be stopped from spreading it would be there." I thought to myself, "Miami? That's over 2 hours away." Again, I took a deep breath and turned to Maria. I explained what the doctor had said and my questions to him, along with his response. She remained quiet. I'm sure at that moment her mind was as bogged with thoughts as mine was. Where would she stay? She was only 2 weeks post-op. How would she get there? What about my family? What will she do for money? So many questions and not one answer. The only thing we knew for sure was that the doctor was standing before us waiting for the OK to call the hospital in Miami to send a helicopter to fly the baby there. There was no option. Angel was heading to Miami, and so were we. We went into the NICU and said our goodbyes.

On the way back to Maria's, I called TGP and told the director, whom had no clue up to this point about anything, what had occurred. I told her I needed help. I was exhausted, both physically and mentally. She told me she would arrange for Maria to stay at the Ronald McDonald house at the hospital. They provide housing and meals and TGP would pay the $11. per night that they required. She could stay there for up to 60 days. Maria had not yet received a release from her obstetrician to drive, therefore I would be driving her to Miami, checking her in and coming back to the west coast.

After packing everything up that she would need, we headed to Miami. We arrived at the hospital just after 9 p.m. The doctors had checked the baby and run all the tests they needed, but would not be able to meet with us until the following day. That night I spent at the Ronald McDonald house with Maria.

By 6:30 a.m., we were in the NICU again. The doctors made rounds around 8 a.m. and we wanted to make sure we didn't miss them. When we arrived, the nurse told us we would be seeing all of the doctors at once in a meeting that was being scheduled for late morning. Some tests results were still not in and they hoped to have them all in by then.

Almost all of the staff at the hospital spoke Spanish, which was a huge relief to both Maria and myself. One less thing to worry about when she's on her own, which I knew would be soon.

It took forever for our 11:30 appointment to arrive. As the group of doctors that included a neonatologist, a pediatrician, a neurosurgeon and an opthamologist gathered around the table we nervously waited to hear the news. It came fast and hard. "We're not able to save Angel's eye due to the extent of the infection. We need to perform surgery as soon as possible to remove it, cleanse the area behind it and administer antibiotics both topically and through his IV. If it spreads to the brain, it could be deadly." We both sat there stunned. He asked if we had any other questions. Maria gathered the strength to ask if there was no other solution. His answer was simple. "No, I'm sorry. If there were, trust me, we'd be doing it."

Next was the neonatologist. The baby's lungs were still very underdeveloped and they would be continuing the Surfactant treatment he was receiving to try and prevent his lungs from collapsing.

The neurosurgeon then pulled up his clipboard, reviewed some notes and said, "We must implant a shunt as soon as possible now. The fluid in his brain is not draining and it is beginning to put pressure on the brain." Again, silence from both of us. I couldn't even fathom what Maria was thinking.

Fast forward two days, both procedures had been performed. Angel's right eye was removed and a shunt was put in place. I returned to the west coast and Maria settled into the routine of living for the next 2 months at the Ronald McDonald house during the evenings and caring for her new baby at the hospital during the day.

I would travel to Miami about every 2 or 3 weeks or whenever a serious procedure had to be done to Angel. With some research and the help of some friends from my old hometown, we found Maria a great place to live within walking distance from the hospital. She also now belongs to a church community and has found genuine friendships with other Mothers of babies she met at the Ronald McDonald house during her two month stay there.

Angel slowly began thriving. Although he still continues to have some issues like a blocked shunt (which he just experienced two months ago) once in a while and some developmental and speech delays which he receives therapy for, he's a healthy and energetic four year old little boy.

Last week on one of my visits to Miami, I went to visit Maria and my precious Godchild, Angel. I was amazed at how big he was. He is in his last year of preschool and will be heading to kindergarten this fall.

Maria and I often talk about how God put us each exactly where he wanted us that very moment and how being obedient to what His call was has blessed us both immensely. We will forever have a friendship that was no doubt formed by God.

As to Maria's thought about her struggles with Angel's start in life, she continues to believe that Angel has "saved" her and that she would not know what path her life would have taken had he not come into her life. Those words are frequently followed by, "I don't want to know. I just thank God daily he's here." She truly treasures the gift God gave her. Angel's dad has completely remained out of the picture since her pregnancy, although they have spoken once or twice and he does know about how Angel's coming into the world came to be.

One thing before I end this, I just have to say that God has used Maria in a BIG way. If you have not had a chance to read the story of how God brought our baby, AJ, into our lives, please do so. Maria was "the friend" we visited who was watching a baby that led us to say yes to A.J.

And for God's glory, the most remarkable part is that the same baby Maria was watching that day we visited, was a baby that was going to be aborted. Maria asked God to use her to allow this baby a chance at life. She told the mother she would take the baby. Today that baby lives with Maria and Angel and calls her Mama. The birthmother has given her full power of attorney and since has left the country. Maria is now a legalized resident in the U.S. and is taking English classes and caring for her family on her own.

Now, the moment you've been waiting for. Are you ready for some "Angel"cuteness? MEET ANGEL!

Angel's preschool graduation picture last year.

(In case you're wondering, this tough little guy refuses to wear his eye prosthesis. :)

Maria, Angel and myself (taken last week).

Admiring my adorable Godchild.

Total Angel Cuteness!

(The quality of this picture is terrible. It was taken with Scott's Blackberry.)

* No part of this story or blog or the related files may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the author and/or those involved.


Jill said...

Oh Ohilda!
What a wonderful story and what INCREDIBLE pictures!! Angel is just GORGEOUS! God truly had a plan for ALL of you! PTL!!
Have you thought about trying to get this published?
Hugs, Jill

Sherri said...

You are a very good writer, Ohilda.

This is an amazing story.


sara said...

what an amazing and beautiful story, Ohilda! I was so blessed while reading this the last couple of days. So glad you were obedient and allowed God to use you in a might way!!

Love you, girl!

Jill said...

Just finished reading Ohilda!
Thanks for sharing this amazing story.
I was waiting and hoping there would be current photos of sweet Angel!

The Princess's Mommy said...

Oh Ohilda...I am at a loss for words. What a beautiful story. You really should try to get this published. What a blessing this story would be to others in this situation. May God bless you richly for the part you played in this sweet baby's life. You are amazing.

Love you,

Ruth said...

What an AWESOME story!! Thank you for sharing - I am sure you will never know this side of Heaven how many lives have been changed because of your "moment" of obedience!!!

Amy said...

Yeah!!! Oh Ohilda, I was really on the edge of my seat there. What a BLESSING! What a SERIES of blessings create the story of this precious little boy's life!

You and Maria are amazing. I love how your incredible friendship was orchestrated by God, and that through it children are living and thriving who may have not had a chance at life. You are a "good and faithful servant," O'. And the rewards are visible!

Also, a special shout out to Scott for keeping things going well on the homefront while God needed you with Maria and Angel. You guys are a match made in Heaven!

With Love and {{{{BIG Hugs}}}}, Amy

waiting4Isabella said...

Hi munny,

I agree with all your friends. You are a great writer and you should try and get that story published. I cried and cried during the last chapter. It is an honor to serve our mighty GOD and to see his work blossom.

Truly it was wonderful being able to finally meet "Maria" and Angel and all the rest of the kiddos.

YOU certainly earned a precious space in the heavens above for this work.

Love you.

Aus said...

You know well the depth of the story - and your and Maria's witness to your Faith. There don't need to be any more words spoken - but Blessings and Prayers for both you guys and your families!

Hugs -

aus and co.

The Ferrill's said...

Ohilda, we are having to stay home from church today because of sickness and lack of sleep, etc...and let me just tell you I just had a whole church service here in front of my computer reading this beautiful story! THANK YOU FOR SHARING IT!!!!! I have praised the Lord, cried, stood amazed, laughed....Oh thank you Jesus for letting me hear God's Word on this Lord's Day preached like I've never heard it preached before!
And I agree with everyone else, Ohilda....this needs to be a book!!!!!!!!!
Maria is BEAUTIFUL and Angel is a DOLL!
Love you and your sweet heart for Jesus,

Michelle said...

Note to self: Should have worn waterproof mascara to read Part V. Should have worn waterproof mascara to read Part V...

What an amazing and beautiful story. One that was beautifully written by you, but amazingly crafted by God. You really should get this published. Thank you so, so much for sharing.


Carmen said...


I love that God opened your heart to a child through Maria and that God opened Maria's heart to the unborned through you.

I also love that you are CRAZY enough to be used by God in big ways. In my adoption story I was led by the words of a pastor who said "Be crazy for God!!"

The suspense in your story reminded me of a book I know we both love and were inspired by "The strength of mercy". You are a gifted writer so write on and get publishing

Tami said...

This is such a beautiful story!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing. You were truly an ANGEL for this woman and child. What an unbelievable blessing in all your lives. It never ceases to amaze me what GOD can do when people say 'yes' to Him. You have truly warmed my heart and soul today. God bless you!

Holly said...

Glory to God! What a testimony!
Yes, I agree, you should write a book my friend. You could use the money wisely, I'm sure!

Patricia/NYC said...

WOW!!! I just finished reading all of this AMAZING story!!! I am speechless!! But I totally agree with Maria...as I was reading it, I kept calling YOU an Angel!!

a corgi said...

I read Part IV/V tonight and am crying; what a wonderful story!! So fantastic how you were blessed through this all because you chose to follow the Lord and do his will; just awesome!

I agree with everyone's comments; you need to get this published! it is an amazing story that the world needs to hear about


tracy's corner said...

Praise the Lord!!! What a wonderful testimony!!!!

Undercover-Princess said...

Praise God. He has used her and you in mighty ways. What a beautiful, tough little boy.

Waitingfaithfully said...

Sitting up in the middle of the night to read your Angel story, all five parts. WOW, and WOW again. What a mighty God we serve. Thank you Ohilda for your obedience, I know that you give God all the glory, but what a beautiful vessel you are!

Sweet precious Angel Gabriel . . . and Amanda's faithful prayers for "Angel". Amazing grace. Amazing God.

Thank you so much for sharing Ohilda, and thank you for changing the world, one tiny heartbeat at a time.

Blessings to you my friend~


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