Stephen and Aimee couldn’t wait to share the good news. They were expecting their first child, a baby girl. “We did a big reveal. We had balloons and everything. When I saw those pink balloons come out of that box, I could not have been happier. A baby girl is everything I ever wanted,” said Stephen. “We just hoped to have a happy, healthy family that loves each other and serves God together,” said Aimee.
Aimee’s pregnancy went as planned until the seventh month when she was diagnosed with preeclampsia — a complication of pregnancy that caused a spike in her blood pressure and the potential for seizures. Doctors put her on bed rest for a month. Then on December 18, 2013, labor was induced at 33 weeks when Aimee’s condition worsened — and little Ella was born.
“I guess it just takes a little bit for it to click that you’re a mommy, but it was great. It was great to see her little face,” said Aimee.
Ella was too fragile for Aimee and Stephen to hold. When she began straining to breathe, doctors determined she was losing oxygen and diagnosed her with pulmonary hypertension. Nurse Nancy McFadden cared for Ella the next day in the neonatal intensive care unit. “She was on a special ventilator and really high settings on everything that we had for her medically. By the end of my 12-hour shift, she was getting worse,” said Nurse McFadden.
Ella’s condition continued to deteriorate. Aimee and Stephen called upon family and friends to come to the hospital to pray. “There were a lot of people in her room and then I could see that they were praying. We could see her vitals were starting to go down,” said Nurse McFadden.
“I got by myself in the parking lot of the hospital. I remember yelling out to God as loud as I could ‘God, what am I supposed to do? I’m helpless.’ God said, ‘Believe.’ I remember thinking, Believe what? And loud and clear, heard, ‘Believe that you will bring Ella home alive and well.’ I went straight up to the hospital room. They were praying. I grabbed Aimee by the face; I looked her right in the eyes, and I said, ‘Aimee, we’re going to bring Ella home alive and well,” said Stephen.
Surrounded by a praying family, Ella survived a second night. But early on Friday morning December 20th, doctors said they had run out of options. They allowed Aimee and Stephen to hold Ella for the first time so that they could say their goodbyes. For 12 hours the family and their loved ones prayed, but there was no improvement. Late that afternoon, Ella looked blue and lifeless. Doctors said she had only five minutes to live.
“No detectable oxygen in her blood. That was not compatible with life,” said Nurse McFadden. “In addition, her pH levels were basically that of a dead person.”
The family was out of time. Again, they turned to prayer but instead of pleading with God, Aimee’s father suggested they praise him. “‘Praise You. You’re an awesome God. You’re a miraculous God. You love us unconditionally.’ And as I said that, my faith started to rise again. I held fast to that promise He had given us. Thank you. She’s coming home alive and well,” said Aimee.
Then Ella’s eyes opened.
“And she started to look around. And I started to talk to her. I said ‘Hey Ella, how are you?’ My husband heard me, and he came over to find out why I was talking to her when her body was lifeless. As he came over, her eyes looked over to him and then her eyes went back to me and back to him. She just kept focusing in on our faces. And my heart just started to leap with joy that now we’re seeing a change,” said Aimee.
“And we just erupted with praise. ‘Thank You, God! We’re going to bring her home alive and well. You’re doing it! This is happening!’ It was amazing,” said Stephen.
The viewpoint of a nurse
“I truly witnessed a miracle, to see a baby who was lifeless but now alive and well,” said McFadden.
Ella’s health began to improve and she was released from the hospital in January 2014. Today she has no disabilities and her development is right on track. “She’s doing so good,” said Nurse McFadden. “A baby who went through what Ella went through would normally, if they survived, have numerous defects, maybe need a wheelchair, not be able to even talk or have a lot of disabilities. And Ella has none. I credit it to the power of prayer,” said McFadden.
There was a lot of praying around the globe and on social media. And the little girl known as the Christmas Miracle baby is a daily reminder to her parents of God’s unchanging love.
“Every time that we start hearing Christmas music, every time that we see Christmas trees… It just reminds us of the miracle that we got,” said Stephen.
“There’s a God that loves us unconditionally. The same God that sent His Son on earth to show the world that He loves them, He cares for them and performed miracles. Jesus raised people from the dead and healed their sicknesses; He still does it today,” said Aimee.
Robert Woods is an engineer with Skanska USA Civil Southeast and a published Christian author. Stephen and Aimee Woods are his nephew and niece, and Ella is his great-niece. She just celebrated her fourth birthday and she is in perfect health and development.