Even if. . .
I remember the accident. I remember it like it happened yesterday. I remember it because it was a day that changed me. In truth, it changed a lot of people. It was August 11th, 2004. It has now been 14 years since my little girl, Emma Grace, came face to face with death.
I was working in Chicago that day, and called home during a break to check in on my husband Chad and our two young girls. Emma, our oldest, had celebrated her second birthday 5 days earlier and Rylee was 6 months old.
When Chad answered the phone I knew immediately something was wrong. “Nancy, Emma fell and hit her head. Her eyes keep rolling back and she is in and out of consciousness." I could hear the panic and fear in his voice.
“Keep her awake! Don’t let her fall asleep,” I yelled in desperation. I heard the sirens in the background.
Looking back, I can remember that surge of fear and the anxiety, but my mind was focused on the distance that separated us. I knew I needed to be there for my family. “I’m on my way home, Honey. I will be there as quickly as I can.”
By some miracle, I was boarding a plane to Cincinnati an hour later. Another call home informed me that the doctors believed she had a concussion, and she would be discharged home by the time I landed at the airport.
As soon as the plane wheels hit the ground, I called Chad. No answer. I called my mom. No answer. I called my sister, Ginger. No answer. I called my other sister, Lynda. She answered! And in a calm a voice she directed me, “Head up to Cincinnati Children's Hospital, they are still there. I have Rylee, so no need to rush home.”
She never said that things had changed. Emma was fighting for her life.
There are no certainties in life. We can plan and we can dream and we can try to control things, but it can all change in a moment. I learned this on that day in August.
You see, a little friend of Emma's from across the street was holding my little girl when she fell down the four front steps of our home. Emma’s head smashed into a hard, wooden log surrounding the landscaping. The force of the trauma cracked her skull and severed an artery. The blood moved out and onto her brain, a hemorrhage they call it. Left unchecked, it leads to certain death.
I was on an airplane. I was unaware.
This bleed was not immediately discovered, and Emma was going to be sent home from the emergency room with a concussion. But just prior to the discharge, it was decided that a precautionary CT scan needed to be done. When the results came back the doctors approached Chad. “We have to do surgery on your baby NOW or she will die. You need to say your goodbye’s.”
As I entered the emergency room the sight of my in-laws pastor raised a curiosity in me. Next I saw my brother, face red, tears flowing. Then, it was Chad. He was pale and crying. I had no idea what I was walking into, but I felt something in the deepest part of me. What I KNEW?
Emma was dead.
I grabbed Chad. "What has happened to my baby?!”.
He explained that she's in surgery. He explained that there is bleeding. It's severe. She might die.
At that very moment, my father-in-law Roy appeared at the elevator and said, “The surgeon wants to see only the parents. Right now!”
And I knew. My sweet girl was gone.
We rode the elevator up to the 3rd floor of the hospital. It was now 10:30 at night. As the doors opened, I saw the many faces of our friends and family. They were pacing the floor, or kneeling with their heads buried in chairs. They were crying out to God to spare Emma’s life. I was dumbfounded at the amount of people who were at the hospital this late at night and crying out to God on our behalf.
Chad and I were then ushered into a small waiting room to meet with the neurosurgeon. His face was serious, grim. He was saying words. Serious things about blood and fractures, brains and surgeries. I don’t recall what he said until I heard what I wanted most to hear, “Your little girl is alive. I have no idea if she will live through the night. If she does, she may have long term effects from the damage to her brain."
It was then that I recalled dedicating Emma's life to God. I remember praying “God, thank you for giving her to me, and today I choose to give her back to you.” You see, Emma was never ours to own. She was on loan to us from God, and understanding the blessing of her life allowed me to see the goodness of having her for the time that God allowed.
And I later prayed, “God, I want Emma here with me, but even if you take her now I know she will be with you forever. Help me to be okay with that.”
I had a vision in my head of the doctors working over Emma, and she was sitting on the lap of Jesus watching the whole thing.
Two hours after Emma’s surgery, she woke up. She looked at me and said, “Mommy, I want my paci.”
Three days later, Emma walked out of the hospital with nothing more than a scar on her head.
Chad and I celebrate on the 11th of August every single year. We celebrate because we know that the presence of Emma here on earth is nothing short of a miracle. We know this because at the follow up appointment with Emma, the surgeon looked us straight in the eye and said, “Your daughter should be dead, I don’t know how she survived this.”
But we know.
We know exactly how she survived. PRAYER.
We later learned that people on the other side of the world were praying for Emma. Our associate pastor was on a mission trip in Africa at the time of the accident. On a Monday, he had a dream of a baby coffin. He was distraught over this and called his wife to make sure everyone at home was okay. On Wednesday, he was once again awakened in the middle of night and felt compelled to pray. He woke the entire team of missionaries and they joined him.
This was the exact time Emma was in surgery.
We were told the nurses who completed Emma’s CT scan started praying for her the minute they saw the results. Friends and family sent out requests for prayer, and a chain of believers began to intercede on Emma's behalf.
I believe God was going to take Emma home with him that night. And I also believe He heard the prayers of all the people asking Him to spare her life. In His great mercy He returned her to us.