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Mother and Baby Fight To Survive

Shannon Woodland - 700 Club Producer
Danielle Thompson - 700 Club Producer

“I’m losing my mind, honestly,” says Sean. “Let’s just be truthful. I’m losing my mind.”

The doctor’s report had been staggering. Intense pain had sent Sean Johnson’s wife, Laura, to the ER, where they found a hernia four centimeters wide, her stomach twisted, and most of her intestines pushed up into her chest. Surgery was her only chance.

“I took it back to God. I said, ‘Listen, this is what they told me. So now you gotta figure this out cause I don’t work in this kinda stuff, you work in these kinda ways,’” says Sean.

There was also another life in danger...Laura’s 22-week-old unborn baby.

“The only thing in my mind was ‘take care of this pain, so I can finish carrying this baby,’” says Laura.

Right away, the two gospel musicians turned it all over to God.

“'God, you got this. This is your battle, you know. I’m--I understand that you’re--you're using me. It hurts, I’m human enough to say it hurts. But I have confidence in knowing that you got me,’” says Laura.

With such high-risk surgery, Laura had to be taken to Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Then, two days later, when the surgical team opened her up, they found it was much worse than they thought. One lung was compressed, her heart was pushed to the right side of her chest, and three feet of her intestines were dead. Instead of a few hours, the surgery would take days.

Her surgeon Dr. Barry Gibney: “Her survival was of concern. Her long-term quality of life was of concern. And then, of course, if she has any of those things, the ability to carry the pregnancy through and also have viable babies was a concern,” says Dr. Gibney.

“There were times when the doctors would bring me the worst information you could think of in this situation. And, I would forget about my faith, I forget about everything else,” says Sean. "So, I gotta sit here, days go by, and pray that my wife don’t die any day now?”

Then, during day two of surgery, Laura went into labor. The next morning, still unconscious, she delivered baby Alora, on November 21, 2018. Born 17 weeks premature, the baby weighed a mere 1 pound 8 ounces. Even then, Sean had hope.

“I mean, you put her in the palm of my hand, that’s how small she was,” says Sean. “I’m excited! It’s life. It’s life here. And my wife is still here. So I got two people here, instead of none.”

Two days later, Dr. Gibney’s team successfully completed Laura’s surgery. Coming out of sedation, the mother knew something had happened to her baby.

“And she starts pointing her finger like this,” says Sean, gesturing to his stomach. “And I hand up a picture of her footprints. I said, ‘She’s here. She’s fine. She’s here.’ And she started crying. She was really concerned about that the most, was about Alora.”

And for good reason. Over a period of four months, the baby would face a host of life-threatening conditions, including two brain bleeds, hydrocephalus, chronic lung disease, and would undergo two brain surgeries. At one point, the baby was so close to dying, they called the parents in to say their goodbyes. 

“The first thing she was up against was, ‘Is-is she even going to survive this?’” says Laura. “If she did survive it, they didn’t know how functional she’ll be. Great possibility of having the worst case of cerebral palsy. Just everything that develops a child or fetus into the human being was being challenged,” says Laura. “She was almost too fragile to operate on. Whether it be her head, her chest, her stomach, her-her heart, anything else could potentially kill her.”

“I didn’t feel any hope from any of these messages at all,” says Sean. “The only hope I had was me going there seeing her still alive.”

“I felt like an army was fighting for me,” says Laura. “I mean, generals giving orders. Like my dad, he would come and sit at the foot of my bed and just-just sit there; but you could feel that he was covering me. I refused to believe that the Lord allowed me to go through a five-day surgery that they estimated would be five hours, for her not survive after the fact,” says Laura. “I wasn’t taking that for an answer.”

Then, at 5 months old, stable, and able to feed from the bottle, baby Alora was cleared to go home.

“I’m just thankful, just—I know it’s simple, but that’s just the truth,” says Sean. “I’m just thankful. Like I get to literally wake up to a child every day. That’s mine. She’s here.”

Today Alora is a healthy toddler. And as she continues physical therapy, doctors continue to be impressed with her progress.

“She likes to joke. Have fun, laugh,” says Sean. “She can be bossy, but still a fighter. Seeing that she’s going to have these challenges, I’m-I’m up for the fight. We all are.”

As for Laura, she’s fully recovered. She and Sean are grateful for the expert medical care they received, and especially for God’s provision and love every step of the way.

“He’s given me what I need to be able to endure,” says Laura. “I could have been dead, like I literally could be a memory, but I’m not. And I have to believe that I’m here for a specific reason,” says Laura. “There’s a reason He left me here to share this story and so as long as I’m allowed to tell it, I will. He-He's-He's amazing!

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