When Hunter and Emily Palmer’s home in Boyd was devastated by fire in March, it seemed like the low point in life.
A week later, in the midst of trying to find a new home and restart their lives, Emily learned she was pregnant.
When a kidney stone caused pain like she had never experienced, it didn’t seem like things could get much worse.
Then an ultrasound revealed information that led doctors to conclude her baby had absolutely no chance of survival.
How could she tell her two daughters that their unborn baby brother wasn’t going to make it?
It was a reality Emily couldn’t accept.
Standing strong in her faith, she decided she would fight for the life of her unborn son.
JOURNAL ENTRY: AUG. 20
“Chey was saying her prayers tonight and she prayed that her baby brother would hurry up and get here. Today was her first day of school and she said one day my brother will be in school just like me. She kissed my belly and told the baby she loves him or her (but she always says brother). My heart broke … Praying even more for a miracle because I really don’t want to break her precious little heart.”
Earlier that day, Emily and Hunter had been told to expect the worst. Doctors used phrases such as helping “to make the baby’s birth as painless and suffer-free as possible,” and mentioned giving the family “time to mourn.”
The following day, the MRI results came back. Emily’s baby didn’t have a right kidney. The left kidney was multi cystic dysplastic, which basically meant it was not functioning. There was no fluid in the bladder.
“This is not compatible with life,” was the cold fact relayed to her by doctors.
Even as doctors were delivering this shocking news, Emily could feel her child kicking inside her womb.
JOURNAL ENTRY: AUG. 21
“Cheyenne heard Hunter and I talking and crying together and she came in our room crying. She said she loves the baby and she won’t bury the baby because her Jesus will fix the baby. … My heart is broken…I am lost…The only one who can help me is Jesus. Holding on to God’s word and promises and ready for a new day tomorrow!”
Since the fire on March 18, Emily and Hunter, along with 4-year-old Cheyenne and 1-year-old Chloe, had been staying first in motels and then in a rent house in Runaway Bay. What should have been a happy day – closing on their home – just added to the stress as an agreement could not be reached with the sellers.
The Palmers knew that as bad as the fire was, it could have been worse. No one was home at the time. Emily had gone to the grocery store when a malfunctioning stove ignited the blaze. If the family had been home and sleeping, it could have ended tragically.
Now, tragedy was staring at them in the face.
Cheyenne woke from a bad dream. She ran to her mom’s room, crying, telling her she dreamed the baby had gone to heaven.
Emily knew otherwise. She could still feel her baby moving and kicking inside her.
JOURNAL ENTRY: AUG. 26
“Have spent the last hour-and-a-half fighting with doctors. They are wanting me to have an abortion and think I am having pre-pardum depression since I won’t. It truly has nothing to do with that. I have to be able to stand before God with the choice I make and I have to be able to live with my choices for the rest of my life. This baby has a strong heartbeat is growing and moving inside of me. I’m standing on my faith! It is one thing to deliver the baby and give this baby every opportunity for life and the baby not make it, but killing my baby is not going to happen!”
Emily had already had surgery for a kidney stone. It turns out that might have been a blessing in disguise. After surgery, it was a follow-up sonogram that first alerted doctors that something was terribly wrong with her pregnancy. Now her kidney pain was back full force. A nurse told her she would be in a lot less pain if she terminated the pregnancy.
“I told her I would suffer every day if that was what I had to do to prevent an abortion” she wrote as part of her journal entry dated Aug. 28.
The pain intensified, and she was admitted to the hospital for a severe kidney infection.
This time, she found herself on the labor and delivery floor. She could hear the cries of newborns down the hall. But the sound that brought her the most comfort was hearing her baby’s strong heartbeat.
Some of the nurses who came in to check the baby’s heart rate didn’t know the full diagnosis. They asked the normal questions of an expecting mom:
“Is it a boy or a girl?”
“Are you excited?”
“What do your other kids think?”
Emily answered them as honestly as she could. She tried her best not to go into detail about the real challenge she and her unborn child were facing.
JOURNAL ENTRY: SEPT. 6
“I got a call this morning from an excited and hopeful friend that was watching the Today show and heard the story that I posted the link below. Their story is not identical but extremely close to ours and their baby is ALIVE!!! They were told the same things that we were by all the Dr’s and everything! It is definitely a glimmer of hope and a matter of finding a Dr. that is willing to try the procedure!”
Throughout her ordeal, Emily had prayed for doors. She prayed that God would open the doors that needed to be opened and close doors that needed closing. When she saw a story on the “Today” show with a family going through a similar situation who had overcome the odds and delivered a baby doctors said would not survive, she saw a door.
But it remained to be seen if that door would be open or closed.
The family in the story had found a doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore who offered an experimental treatment. Saline solution was injected into the womb to replace the missing amniotic fluid.
Without amniotic fluid, the baby’s lungs and kidneys could not develop properly. In the case of the family on the television program, the treatment worked, and the baby began to develop normally. The child will still need a kidney transplant, but even the doctors called the birth “a miracle.”
A miracle was what Emily had been searching for.
Earlier that day, she said God had laid it on her heart to find a name for her child.
She and Hunter had always known that, if they had a boy, he would be named after Emily’s best friend, Clay Lisby, who died in 2011 in an accident at a natural gas drilling site. Lisby, who was also a volunteer for the Boyd Fire Department, left behind a wife, Cassie, and a 3-year-old son, Jayden.
Emily and Clay had been friends since they were little kids and had always been there for each other. She remembered a time when she was pregnant with Cheyenne, and Clay asked her to put the phone to her belly so he could speak to the unborn child.
Bringing Cheyenne into the world had been one of the great joys in her life. She and Hunter had tried for four years to become pregnant. It had taken a year to become pregnant with her second child, Chloe.
The baby now inside her had been a complete surprise.
If this miracle happened, his name would be “Clayton Jayden.”
Despite this glimmer of hope, the road ahead seemed incredibly daunting. Emily was still miserable from her kidney infection. Her family had still not been able to sign the papers on their new home. And finding a doctor who would take her case would be a huge challenge.
JOURNAL ENTRY: SEPT. 9
“I know God is still by my side but some days I feel so lost and alone. Nobody understands how much I am enduring right now and there are days that if it wasn’t the pure strength that God passes on to me I would not be able to handle this situation and I would give up. I am going to rise up and keep fighting the good fight of faith. I am choosing to hold onto God’s words and promises and I wait every day for the joy to come in the morning.”
Emily was able to leave the hospital on Sept. 11. But that good news was quickly overshadowed by bad. A specialist told the Palmers they needed to come to terms with the fact they would have only minutes with Clayton once he was born. The doctor told them “this is close to the worst case he has seen,” according to Emily’s journal entry on Sept. 12. The words were hard to hear, but the Palmers continued to pray for a miracle.
On Sept. 18, they went to what Emily called “the last hope for our baby” – a neonatal specialist. The baby still had no fluid, and the doctor echoed the words Emily had heard nearly one month earlier: “This is not compatible with life.”
When Emily told him they were praying for a miracle, the doctor told her “there is no way that can happen,” according to Emily’s diary entry on Sept. 18.
Emily wouldn’t let her faith be shaken. God was still in control.
The next glimmer of hope came on Sept. 19 when she was able to speak to someone at the office of Dr. Jessica Bienstock at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She provided the hospital with the requested information and then waited a few days to hear back.
On Sept. 23, she received a call from the financial director at Johns Hopkins. They couldn’t take her case if she was 24 weeks pregnant. At that point Emily was “23 weeks and a few days,” she said. The only available appointment in that time frame was for the next day.
She was going to Baltimore, and fast.
It seemed the door was beginning to crack open.
In Part II, Emily faces new challenges and seemingly insurmountable odds to save her baby in Baltimore, but through her faith, she presses on, praying for a miracle.
To read the story and watch the “Today” show segment mentioned in this article, visit our shortcut at wcmess.com/miracle.
WANT TO HELP?
A fundraiser for Emily Palmer is 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Bridgeport Pavilion, 910 Cates St.
“Barbecue for a Baby” will feature barbecue plates $10 for adults and $5 for kids. It will also include a silent auction, bounce houses and live bands. Proceeds will be used to help the family with medical expenses.