Part 3 in a series
Emily Palmer had come too far and fought too long for the life of her unborn child to give up the fight now. The experimental procedure of injecting saline solution into her womb to mimic the missing amniotic fluid had shown promise, but it looked like all hope had been dashed when doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland believed her water had broken during her 25th week of pregnancy.
As they had done many times during a difficult last month-and-a-half, doctors recommended Emily abort her son Clayton.
If God was ready to take her child, she could live with that. But to Emily, choosing abortion would show a lack of faith in God. She had prayed for a miracle, and if that miracle was to happen, now was the time.
By Sunday, Oct. 6, Emily hadn’t slept in 48 hours due to numerous procedures and what seemed like an endless stream of doctors coming to talk to her about her limited options. She also had not given birth within the 24-hour time frame doctors expected once they had detected her water had broken. Emily had about decided the doctors at Johns Hopkins could do nothing else for her, and she made preparations with her OBGYN in Texas to have a NICU team ready as soon as she returned home.
Exhausted both physically and mentally, she turned to a source of familiar strength. Emily was able to watch a live streaming video of her church’s worship service online.
The only people who knew about the potentially tragic setback from a couple of days earlier were close family and her friend, Brenda Patterson, who was in Baltimore with Emily. That’s what made what happened next so amazing.
“Our church in Chico (U-Turn World Ministries) has a live feed, and Monica, a wife of one of our pastors, said, ‘I don’t know why, but we have a member of our church family in Baltimore and she really needs our prayers right now.’ And all of the church went down to the front and prayed that everybody would be fine,” Emily said.
Seeing and hearing that made her “a new woman” and made her “ready to face tomorrow and continue this battle,” Emily wrote in her journal that evening.
JOURNAL ENTRY: OCT. 6
“I had an amazing dream last night that my son was healthy and whole! That we went in to receive another infusion and before the procedure they were looking at everything on the sonogram – Then the doctors all stepped back and were silent. They said “Mrs. Palmer we don’t have to complete the infusion today…we don’t know how this has happened, but baby Clayton has produced his own amniotic fluid and no longer needs it from us. His kidney must also be functioning.” Even in my dream I gave all the glory to God and told every doctor there that if they didn’t believe in God before there was no denying him now. When I woke up from this dream, I could just hear God telling me It is finished. His healing was finished when I was on the cross. I know my son will be healthy and whole!”
Emily’s husband, Hunter, had flown to be with her for this critical moment in her treatment. With Hunter and Brenda at her side, believing in the power of the prayers from her church family and comforted by the dream of healing, Emily was ready for the moment of truth as doctors agreed to try another infusion on Monday, Oct. 7.
Doctors used a smaller needle this time, meaning the infusion would last longer than normal. As was the case with every infusion, the needle was inserted into her belly without the benefit of any pain medication.
The procedure was challenging, not only for Emily but for the doctors as well. At one point, a doctor used the word “impossible.” Brenda quietly whispered, “You remember Emily nothing is impossible for our God.” Although the words were spoken entirely too softly for the doctor to hear them, he quickly apologized, saying, “Impossible is not the right word to use.”
During the infusion, doctors performed another blue dye test to check for a rupture in the amniotic sack.
The results left the doctors stunned, Emily said.
“It came back 100 percent normal,” she said. “Nothing was torn. They were baffled. They said, ‘You were completely ruptured on Friday, and now you’re not. I don’t understand.’”
Emily was not leaking fluid. Either the doctors had been wrong about the rupture, or God had healed her, Emily wrote in her journal on Oct. 8.
What’s more, the fluid that had been removed during Friday’s procedure had been tested. Once again, the results left the doctors without an explanation.
“The test came back 100 percent amniotic fluid,” Emily said. “It means his kidney had to be producing amniotic fluid. They couldn’t explain how that happened. There is no explanation for it except God.”
The saline injections had been meant to mimic amniotic fluid, not help create it. Yet the tests seemed to show that was exactly what was happening.
As with previous infusions, monitors showed baby Clayton drinking in the saline solution and begin using his lungs. Measurements of his lungs showed growth.
The infusions were working, and another infusion was scheduled for the following Monday.
JOURNAL ENTRY: OCT. 9
“I had a wonderful conversation with a doctor today. She even asked me and Brenda exactly what we believe in because she needed to know. She said that whatever we were believing in was working, and she was on board the crazy plane with us. We were able to tell her that we are Christians who are nondenominational and go by exactly what the Bible says. We were able to talk about what Jesus did for us at the cross and about how he went to the cross and paid for Clayton’s healing and that is why Clayton is going to be healthy and whole in Jesus name. It was amazing! God has got everything under control! We are not wavering from our faith, and God rewards that. To tell people who only believe in science and they can’t wrap their heads around what God is doing in my son….it is amazing to witness.”
With the infusion and the tests on Oct. 7 all coming back positive, Emily was able to leave the hospital. But instead of going back to a motel, she had been accepted into the local Ronald McDonald House. Even that had been a blessing, since the home is for the families of children undergoing treatment, not expectant mothers.
Emily had been away from her daughters, 4-year-old Cheyenne and 1-year-old Chloe, for two weeks. The family wasn’t used to being separated for such a long time and had never been separated by such great distance. It’s 1,500 miles from the Palmers’ home in Runaway Bay to Baltimore, Md. Emily talked to her girls daily, but her daughters often cried into the phone and wondered why they couldn’t be there with their mommy.
The Palmers weren’t the only ones feeling the pains of separation. Emily’s friend Brenda had promised to stay with her, at least until other family members could be at her side. She wasn’t about to let Emily face this alone. But a joy awaited Brenda back home in Texas. Her daughter had just given birth, so Brenda had a grandchild to meet.
As it turned out, another blessing was just around the corner.
JOURNAL ENTRY: OCT. 11
“Yesterday Brenda and I were just getting some drinks from the vending machine and someone approached me out of the blue – we hadn’t discussed anything about my situation previously with my girls coming up – and they offered to pay in FULL to get my kids/parents here and get Brenda back home!!!!! I was in so much shock I dropped both of the drinks I had in my hands on the floor and just cried. Brenda fell to her knees just crying and thanking Jesus! What an amazing surprise!!!!”
During the early morning hours of Oct. 11, Emily couldn’t sleep, so she logged onto Facebook. A former co-worker who now lived in North Dakota wrote that she had given her life to God and was a believer as a result of Emily and Clayton’s amazing story.
“Just to think that my baby has reached someone on the other side of the country and is bringing people to Jesus makes every difficult procedure worth it!” Emily wrote in her journal. “How amazing … God definitely had better plans than me sleeping this morning. I am excited to see what God is going to do next!”
Throughout their time in Baltimore, Emily and Brenda had relied on taxis or other forms of public transportation to shuttle between the hospital and where they were staying or trips to the grocery store. One day at a local Wal-Mart, Brenda met a man who worked at a Christian radio station. She told him Emily’s story, and he said he would have the station pray for her. A few days later he called Emily and told her the station would provide her with a car for the remainder of her stay in the city.
“I am speechless, and God continues to provide for our every need. It is amazing to see what God can do when you give everything to him!” she wrote in her journal.
On Monday, Oct. 14, Emily had another infusion, the hardest one yet, she said. But the painful one-and-a-half-hour procedure was worth it to see Clayton once again respond to the fluid. Doctors measured Clayton and confirmed what Emily already knew in her heart. Clayton’s lungs were growing.
Later that week, Emily got to see her girls.
“I think having them here is the best medicine I could have,” Emily said.
Another infusion followed this past Monday, and doctors have decided to increase the infusions to twice a week.
No one can say what will happen next. Emily is in uncharted territory with this unique treatment. She and the doctors will take it day by day. On Monday, she will reach the 28-week milestone. The next goal will be to get to 30 weeks, then 32, then 34.
“When I make it to 34 weeks, then it’s a different ballgame,” Emily said.
Her faith has brought her and Clayton to this moment, and along the way she has inspired doctors, friends and even strangers.
Emily hoped for the miracle of life for her son, but she’s come to realize that perhaps the miracle has become even bigger than she could imagine.