Part 2 in a series
After a month of being told her baby had no chance to survive after birth, Emily Palmer of Runaway Bay had found a glimmer of hope when a doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore agreed to review her case.
There was no guarantee the doctor would agree to use an unusual treatment – injecting saline solution into the womb to replace missing amniotic fluid – but it seemed to offer the only hope that baby Clayton’s lungs and kidneys could begin developing normally.
Emily had been praying for God to open a door, and this seemed like it.
JOURNAL ENTRY: SEPT. 24
“There is no end to a mother’s love! With every strong kick inside my belly I gain the strength to continue. Clayton moves so much that it really amazes the doctors who said he can’t move around because there is no fluid. I can’t wait for the day our miracle is complete and we have a strong and healthy baby boy! You better believe I will take the time to go to each and every doctor and show him off who insisted on abortion! Give it three more months and that day will come!”
The last 24 hours had been a whirlwind. On Sept. 23, Emily was in Wise County making an appointment for the next day in Baltimore. Within the next few hours, she was calling her OBGYN, packing, buying a plane ticket, running to the pharmacy to fill needed prescriptions and rushing to the airport.
On the plane, two young babies screamed for the entire two-and-a-half hour flight. Another pregnant young woman on board kept complaining and giving awful looks.
“I prayed for her because that girl has no idea what she is in for in the next few weeks when she has her baby,” Emily wrote in her journal Sept. 23. “My heart was with the two moms because I have been there before, and there is nothing you can do when you are stuck on a plane.”
Emily would not be alone in Baltimore. Although her family had to stay behind, her friend Brenda Patterson made the trip with her. She would provide the support Emily would need to face the challenges that lay before them.
And more challenges did await them in Baltimore.
First, the motel wasn’t anywhere close to the hospital. Then Emily was surprised to find out she wouldn’t be meeting with Dr. Jessica Bienstock as she had hoped, but rather Dr. Irina Burd.
During the initial visit at Johns Hopkins, a sonogram showed the baby in an upside down position, and the heart rate was 118 beats per minute. Clayton’s heartbeat had never been below 134 in previous checks. The doctor feared the baby might have a heart condition.
Dr. Burd began telling Emily about the challenges and the low rate of success. To Emily, this was yet another doctor recommending abortion. When Emily told her that wasn’t an option, the doctor continued to explain the challenges. Emily would have to agree to stay in Baltimore for the remainder of her pregnancy, and the cost to keep a child in NICU is about $2,000 per day.
Her God, Emily explained, would provide whatever was needed.
The sonogram technician came back in to check the heart rate again. This time, it was normal.
Still, Dr. Burd told Emily she wouldn’t take the case – but she agreed to present it at a meeting the next day to 14 other specialists, to see if anyone would agree to provide the needed treatment.
But before even that could happen, a piece of Emily’s placenta would have to be removed for genetic testing, and the tests would have to come back normal. In addition, Clayton’s heart would have to be tested by a fetal cardiologist to make sure it was normal.
Without hesitation, Emily set up the genetic testing for the next day and the heart test for Friday, Sept. 27.
The genetic testing would be anything but simple. Doctors would have to go through her belly with a long needle to extract part of the placenta – the membrane that surrounds the developing baby – while being careful not to hit the baby.
The procedure would be painful, and Emily would have to lie perfectly still.
JOURNAL ENTRY: SEPT. 25
“I was bound and determined that I would not let them know – no matter how bad the pain was-that I was even hurting. I was going to use this opportunity to show them that I have the strength from Jesus and I am fully committed to every lifesaving procedure needed for my son! No matter how bad any pain comes and with nothing but the strength of Jesus himself I was going to keep my mouth shut. Through his strength I did just that. … I didn’t stop praying the entire time silently to Jesus to take my place and for him to lay in my place and let me not even feel anything. I didn’t move, just quietly breathed calmly and didn’t jump. There is no way I could do that on my own.”
No one said the journey would be easy. Emily understood that. So when the doctors asked her if they could go back in to take a second sample, hearing her baby’s heartbeat in the background provided the only answer she could give.
“Once I heard his heartbeat I told them, ‘as long as you let me hear the baby’s heart beat before you go in, I will do this 10 times if that is what it takes. Lets do this again,’” she wrote in her journal entry.
The second time, they got the sample they needed.
Emily’s strength impressed everyone who was in the room. The doctors and sonogram technician said they had never seen anyone lie so still and be so cooperative throughout the painful procedure even one time, much less twice. Emily told them it was only through the strength of Jesus.
On the day of the heart testing, Emily saw other signs – reaffirmations – that Jesus was indeed at her side. While the sonogram technician was completing the procedure, a water faucet in the back of the room kept turning off and on by itself. The tech said she couldn’t explain why that was happening.
Emily said she could.
“I told her that I didn’t know what her religious beliefs were but that I was a strong believer in Jesus Christ and that was him letting me know that he was there with me and I wasn’t alone,” she wrote in her journal on Sept. 27. “I told her that God does have a good sense of humor, and He wants us to feel joy and be happy through this entire situation. He doesn’t want us to cry. Then the sono tech said that it was like someone was standing there because that was the only way to turn the water on. I assured her that someone was standing there, and it was Jesus. She was blown away.”
Later, when the cardiologist was in the room discussing the results of the test, the lights in the room began to pulsate like strobe lights. Perhaps it was like fanfare for the good news that was about to come. Everything was normal, except the heart was slightly off from its normal position. The cardiologist said because the chest was compressed due to lack of fluid, that probably explained the positioning.
Emily asked if this was a positive or a negative, knowing that a negative might just close a door.
“It was positive,” the doctor reassured her.
The testing hurdles had been cleared, but a doctor would still have to accept her case. Once again, she and Brenda put the situation in God’s hands through prayer.
JOURNAL ENTRY: SEPT. 27
“I received a call from Dr. Burd from Johns Hopkins, and she had all of my results from procedures today and Tuesday. … And the plan was on Tuesday to meet with her on the labor and delivery floor to start THE AMNIOTIC INFUSIONS! THANK U JESUS SHE IS TAKING MY CASE! … She said that if this is a success it could change many other babies’ lives in the future.”
The doctor, who just three days earlier had told Emily she wouldn’t take her case, had just had a change of heart. Emily had no doubt that God had just allowed the door to be opened. This was the miracle she had prayed for.
Hunter could not be at his wife’s side to share the joyful news. He was back home, working to provide for his family and to maintain the needed health insurance benefits. But he sent a special recorded message. Emily held the phone to her belly so Clayton could hear his daddy’s voice.
“Hi baby Clayton, it’s Daddy. I just want you to know that I love you more than anything in the whole world. I would do anything to be with you and Mommy right, now but Daddy has to take care of the family right now, but I love you so much. I want you to be strong, son. I want you to be very, very strong. Daddy loves you.”
The day Emily hoped for arrived Oct. 1 when Clayton would receive his first infusion of saline. The procedure consisted of multiple injections. Without anesthesia, the injections were quite painful for Emily. She found strength through the prayers of both her and Brenda. And her hope came from watching the monitors, where they could see Clayton try to start using his lungs as soon as the fluid reached him.
JOURNAL ENTRY: OCT. 2
“Dr. Burd was amazing the entire time. To hear her voice when she saw the fluid brought tears to my eyes. She grabbed my hand during the procedure and after. She was AMAZING! She even asked me how my husband was and my girls. She thanked Brenda for staying with me so I wasn’t alone. I know that God is working in her life just as much as baby Clayton & mine.”
Emily had a second infusion of fluid Oct. 4, and everything appeared to be progressing smoothly.
Then came terrible news.
Fluid had apparently leaked from the amniotic sac. All indications were that Emily’s water had broken. If that was the case, it meant Baby Clayton would have to be delivered within 24 hours, and there was likely nothing doctors could do to save the child.
From 9 p.m. Friday through 3:30 a.m. the next day, Emily endured procedure after procedure as doctors tried to determine if her water had indeed broken and made what they thought would be a last-ditch effort to help the baby’s lungs develop as much as possible.
For hours on end, doctors would come into Emily’s room offering somber advice.
“They said, ‘Go home so you can bury your baby,’” Emily said.
Doctors once again outlined the case for an abortion.
But Emily’s answer had not changed.
“Who is anyone to try to play God?” Emily asked in a journal post Oct. 5. “Who are they to decide on when to stop and give up? Who are they to tell me what GOD is capable of and not?”
Still, it was not clear that the doctors would be willing to continue the treatment.
In Part III, Emily finds the strength to push forward, and what happens next defies any scientific explanation.