Sarah Rodriguez was emotionally drained as she stood alone inside of a hospital bathroom, desperately pleading with God to heal her infant daughter.
The grieving mother was living out a parent’s worst nightmare: doctors had just recommended she remove her two-week-old baby girl from life support after the child contracted Bacterial Meningitis and Sepsis.
“Basically, they told us that she would not live, and if she did, she would be in a vegetative state,” Rodriguez, author of the new book “From Depths We Rise,” recently told “The Church Boys” podcast. “A decision had to be made to remove the (ventilator).”
LIFE CHANGED IN AN INSTANT
The tragic circumstance started when Rodriguez noticed one day that baby Ellis was incredibly lethargic and warm, so she took her to the pediatrician. Doctors — clearly alarmed by the baby’s condition — immediately sent Ellis to the emergency room, and the situation quickly deteriorated.
“By that evening, my beautiful, healthy daughter was on a ventilator fighting for her life,” Rodriguez said.
Doctors delivered a dire prognosis, as Ellis suffered seizures and strokes amid the intensifying health crisis. With the future looking bleak, Rodriguez faced the difficult task of deciding whether to remove her daughter from life support.
But as she stood in the bathroom that day collecting her thoughts just moments before doctors planned to take Ellis off of life-sustaining machines, the grieving mother couldn’t help but wonder why God had allowed such a traumatic circumstance.
Rodriguez believed Ellis’ very birth just weeks earlier had been a miracle, as she and her husband, Joel, struggled a few years to conceive; the two turned to IVF well before Ellis’ birth in a quest to start their family — a quest that was initially hampered by other unrelated health woes.
Just as the couple was preparing to begin the process, they received tragic news: Joel had kidney cancer, something Rodriguez said was a “huge shock” considering he was healthy, active — and just 32 years of age at the time.
Joel went through chemotherapy and surgery, and eventually went into remission — a joyous occasion for the family.
With his health finally in good shape, they decided to pursue IVF and were overjoyed when they welcomed their first child — Ellis’ older brother, Milo — into the world.
But unfortunately, tragedy soon struck once more.
HER HUSBAND’S PROCLAMATION
“A few days after (Milo’s) birth we got a phone call that my husband’s cancer had returned,” Rodriguez said. “By that point, he had to go back into chemo.”
This time, though, Joel suffered strokes and other complications from the disease that he never recovered from, and he tragically passed away at the age of 35. Rodriguez was suddenly a single mother left to raise her son all on her own.
Amid that struggle, she recalled a conversation she had with her late husband shortly before he died.
“He said, ‘I need to tell you something. You and I are going to have another child and it’s going to be a girl,’” Rodriguez recalled. “I’m looking at him, thinking, ‘There’s no way we’re going to.’”
In addition to remembering that conversation, she also recalled a dream she had years before Joel’s death in which she was holding a baby girl named Ellis. When she woke up she told Joel all about it, and the two agreed they’d eventually consider the name if they were ever blessed with a little girl.
With these thoughts floating around Rodriguez’s mind, she found herself thinking about Joel’s proclamation as well as the two embryos she was still storing at a clinic. Realizing that a part of her husband still remained, she wondered whether she should consider trying to conceive once again — a tough decision that required quite a bit of consideration now that she was alone.
“It was the hardest decision I’ve ever wrestled with,” she explained.
In the end, Rodriguez decided to implant the embryos, feeling as though the situation would unfold however God wanted it to. Not long after, to her surprise, she discovered she was pregnant with a baby girl — Ellis.
QUESTIONING GOD’S PLAN
So, standing in that hospital bathroom less than a year later while being faced with what seemed like such a cruel decision left Rodriguez with so many questions and internal struggles. She recalled asking God, “Haven’t I endured enough?”
“I didn’t understand why the miracle of her life, why her name, why this conversation with my husband — if it was all going to end at this point,” she told “The Church Boys.” “It was the lowest I had ever (been).”
Still, Rodriguez didn’t waver in her belief that God could heal, as she cried out to him before heading out to say goodbye to her baby girl. She said, “God I don’t know if you will, but I know that you can … so please, please don’t allow her to die.”
Moments later, doctors laid Ellis on Rodriguez’s chest and unhooked her from every tube aside from one machine that continued to monitor her vitals so that nurses could come in and let her know when her daughter had passed away.
“We had music playing and I was singing to her,” Rodriguez recalled. “She let out a cry and she was moving and wiggling around, and she wasn’t seizing.”
Doctors said the child likely wouldn’t survive very long without the machines, but, as the minutes forged on, Rodriguez and her family members started looking at one another in disbelief, wondering what was happening. Ellis continued breathing on her own.
WITNESSING A MIRCALE
“It was just a moment of, ‘Oh my goodness — are we witnessing a miracle?” she said.
At first, Rodriguez said doctors dismissed Ellis’ survival by saying she was a “fighter” but would likely still pass away as the hours forged on. But, once again, the baby defied the odds.
“They were dumbfounded that she was able to go (from) not breathing on a vent (to) breathing room air on her own,” she said. “By the end of the week, doctors and nurses were just coming in the room and saying, ‘We want to look at her, because she’s a miracle.’”
And now, nearly two years later, Ellis is thriving. While doctors once warned she wouldn’t survive or would be in a vegetative state, she’s hitting plenty of benchmarks — and her only medical appointments are physical and occupational therapy and occasional routine pediatric check-ins.
“She inspires me every day,” Rodriguez said.
The mother of two is using the miracle healing to encourage others, releasing a new book earlier this month titled, “From Depths We Rise: A Journey of Beauty from Ashes” — a book that documents her “marching toward purpose out of the pain.”
As for why Rodriguez believes God allowed for such suffering in her life, she was candid.
“I think that that’s part of the mystery of God, and I think he keeps somethings a mystery, because it keeps us seeking him always,” she said. “We never want to talk about suffering. We always want to talk about blessing. In suffering, I’ve become a better version of myself.”