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A Mother’s Faith in an Urgent Prayer

A mother holds on to her faith and starts a prayer chain when she learns her daughter might die.

Mother starts prayer train for daughter

Friday, 12:15 p.m. There wasn’t much time. That was clear.

The doctor assured me the woman in the critical-care-unit bed was my daughter. But she looked nothing like Marianne, her skin covered in purple blotches, her face bloated.

“Your daughter has probably been unconscious for twenty hours,” the doctor said. “I don’t have the expertise to diagnose her. I only know that if I can’t find someone to treat her soon…” His voice trailed off.

Already a half hour had passed since I’d gotten the call. A maintenance man had found Marianne collapsed in her apartment, her two-year-old son, Jalen, nearby.

Without putting the receiver down I’d phoned my sister Mary Jane. I wanted her to go to Marianne’s and get Jalen then pick up his brother, 10-year-old Levi, from school, who’d been staying with us. She needed to bring them to the hospital where my husband, Stanley, would watch them. And call my two sons. But first I needed her to…“Call the prayer team at church,” I said. “Marianne needs their help!”

Now, as the doctor’s words began to register, I wondered if Mary Jane had reached anyone. Would the prayers of a few people at a country church even matter? “Doctor,” I said, “I’m not giving up. This momma needs her baby.”

The doctor shook his head. “We’re calling other hospitals. But we don’t have much time.”

I stood by Marianne, holding her limp hand, searching for an eye blink, a finger twitch, any sign of life. Something had gone wrong with her circulation. Beyond that the doctor was at a loss.

“Can you hear me?” I whispered to my daughter. My heart cried out, Please, God. Don’t let my child die. Over and over I prayed, but felt little comfort.

The ventilator’s rattle seemed to grow louder. Was anyone else praying? God, keep her, make her whole. Each time I said the words I could feel the minutes passing.

1:00 p.m. Head bowed, I almost didn’t notice when Kay, a friend from church, slipped into the room.

“I got a message and came as soon as I could,” she said. “There’s ten of us down in the waiting room, praying and calling everyone we know. I need to get back. I just want you to know we’re here for you.”

She gave me a small white cloth blessed by a minister that another friend had brought by. I wove it through Marianne’s soft brown hair, then took her hand again and continued my own silent prayers.

God, help her. Keep her. Make her whole. God, help her… I pleaded, words tumbling over each other. I started massaging her arms and legs, hoping I could restore some circulation.

2:00 p.m. Where was the doctor? I wished I could see Stanley, but he had to stay with Jalen and Levi. And I can’t leave Marianne. She needs me here.

Finally the doctor returned, grim-faced. “I’ve reached four hospitals. But all of them say she’s too far gone to transfer. I’ll keep calling. But at some point we’ll have to make a decision.”

I stroked Marianne’s puffy cheek. Could a mother’s loving touch reawaken her? Was I praying for the impossible? What if God was calling her home? What if that was his will even if every cell in my body resisted it?

4:00 p.m. Footsteps in the hallway. I looked up to see the doctor.

“We’re airlifting your daughter to a hospital in Huntington, West Virginia,” he said quickly. “I know it sounds like good news. But I have to caution you. With the air-pressure changes and stress of the transfer, she may not survive the flight.”

Stanley, Levi and I nearly ran to the car, me holding little Jalen’s hand. That drive up Interstate 64 took two hours, the longest two hours of my life.

“I’m so afraid,” Stanley said. “What if she doesn’t make it?”

“We just have to have faith,” I answered. I held my head in my hands, trying to block out my fears. I tried to picture Marianne, tried to imagine her healthy, going shopping with me again.

6:00 p.m. Stanley dropped me off at the door of the hospital. A doctor met me at the ICU, his face serious.

“Your daughter has a tumor inside her heart, throwing off blood clots,” he said. “If we can get her to a specialized cardiac surgical hospital, there is a ten percent chance of survival. But it’s only a matter of time before a clot hits a vital organ and kills her.”

I’d been praying for more than six hours. Now, with the diagnosis, the odds seemed insurmountable. I took out my cell phone and called Kay. “Is the prayer chain still going?”

“Remember those missionaries from New Guinea who visited your friend’s church?” Kay said. “Someone e-mailed them. They’re praying for Marianne.”

New Guinea? I wasn’t even sure where it was on a map, and now people there were praying for Marianne. No matter where they were praying, time was still slipping away.

Saturday 12:00 p.m. Friday turned into Saturday. The doctor was still searching for a hospital that could do the difficult surgery.

All those prayers, from people all over the world. Why is God waiting so long?

Standing by Marianne I massaged her legs again. They felt so cold. I pushed myself to keep praying, but it was a struggle just to keep my eyes open. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I could feel myself growing weaker.

It was one in the morning. The hospital was eerily still. Two o’clock. No word. Three. I jerked myself upright as I felt my eyes closing. Stay awake!

4:00 A.M. The doctor burst into the room. “The Cleveland Clinic has agreed to take Marianne. We’re flying her there within the hour.”

Stanley, Levi and Jalen were dozing in the waiting room. Cleveland was another six-hour drive. I called my oldest son, Kevin. He would come to Huntington and drive me to Cleveland.

I hugged Stanley before he left to take Jalen and Levi back home to Arnett. “Keep praying,” I said. Too nervous to sleep, I alternated between praying and sending thoughts to Marianne as Kevin drove. Hang on. We’re almost there.

12:00 p.m. We reached the Cleveland Clinic 24 hours after that first call.

It’s a massive medical complex, dwarfing anything back in Arnett. Kevin and I walked down corridor after corridor before we finally found Marianne and her doctor. “With surgery there’s still a chance your daughter will live,” he said. “But I can’t make any promises about her quality of life.”

“In Huntington they told us there was a ten percent chance,” I said, my voice quavering. “Is there?”

His face grew serious. “Don’t let anyone tell you the odds of life. She has a chance, but only God knows the odds.”

I kissed Marianne on the cheek and removed the prayer cloth from her hair. It had been with her all the while. For the first time I felt a weight lift off me, like someone else was shouldering my burden.

As the doctor followed Marianne’s gurney out of the room I told him, “There are a lot of people praying for Marianne, so I just want you to know that you’re in God’s hands now.”

The doctor turned back. “We’re all in God’s hands,” he said.

In the waiting room I picked up my cell phone. There was a message from Kay: “Wilma, I’ve just been counting the e-mails I’ve received. Do you know there are people from more than 120 churches praying for Marianne? Vancouver, Washington; Troy, Michigan; Anchorage, Alaska; Tokyo; Jakarta. Our prayer chain has gone viral.”

How many prayers had I said in the last 24 hours? I wondered. At least a couple thousand. What if I added in all the other people? A quarter million prayers? For one woman from a small country church, it was more support than I ever imagined possible.

4:00 p.m. After four hours of surgery, the doctor found me in the waiting room, my head still bowed in prayer.

“We removed the entire tumor from Marianne’s heart, so there’s no danger of it shedding any more clots. She’ll need more surgeries, so it’s early yet. But things are headed in the right direction.”

Then he smiled. “You tell your people to keep doing what they’re doing,” he said, “because I’ve done everything I can do today.”

My people.

I thought about all those people praying for Marianne, in places I’d never heard of: Roan Mountain, Tennessee; Santee, California; Little Harbour, Newfoundland. I could see their faces, hundreds of people, maybe thousands. I felt like that guy on the cell-phone commercial. I had a prayer network behind me as far as the eye could see.

With God’s blessing the doctors at the Cleveland Clinic performed a miracle.

It would take another three months of therapy and recovery, but when Marianne came home, she was able to walk in the door on her own, bend down and give Jalen and Levi a monster hug.

I still think about all those prayers and the support each of us can give to one of God’s children, whether in Arnett or across the world. We’re connected, not just by technology, but by God’s love, the most powerful network of all.

Download your FREE ebook, A Prayer for Every Need, by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.

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