The ultrasound at a local imaging center in Springfield, MO showed Heather Morgan she was having a little girl. “I was so excited,” she says. “I couldn’t wait to go to my doctor’s office for their ultrasound, so I went to the imaging center first. I was so happy!”
Her impatience was born out of the fact that Heather and her husband Joe waited almost three years before having their son, Gavin. Told she had “unknown infertility” problems, Heather was delighted to find out that she was pregnant again just six months after Gavin was born.
Two weeks after that ultrasound, Heather went to her ob/gyn for an in-office ultrasound. “The doctor left and didn’t come back for awhile, so I knew something was immediately wrong.”
Heather texted a close friend:
“At ultrasound. Everything isn’t okay. Please pray.”
Her friend responded immediately: “I praise you—Psalm 139:14.”
More friends began texting the full biblical verse: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
A maternal-fetal medicine specialist came into the exam room and told the couple the news — Heather’s little girl had a severe form of spina bifida called myelomeningocele, a birth neural tube defect in which the bones of the spine do not completely form, resulting in an incomplete spinal canal leading to an exposed spinal cord and its nerves. Further evaluation found that the baby also had developed Hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain), a side effect associated with spina bifida.
The Morgans, who were in the midst of a move to St. Louis, were referred to the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. There, the Morgans put their daughter’s health in God’s hands and in the hands of skilled specialists, including Samer Elbabaa, MD, the Reinert Endowed Chair in Pediatric Neurosurgery and Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and Director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon.
“I personally have two kids of my own,” says Dr. Elbabaa. “I put myself in their shoes and said that we were in this fight together to take care of their daughter.”
A team of specialists joined Dr. Elbabaa to care for Heather during the remainder of her pregnancy. They included genetic counselors, nurses, and plastic surgeons at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon and a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital – St. Louis.
Evie Grace Morgan was born three weeks premature at SSM St. Mary’s on May 7, 2013. Heather reached out to touch her newborn’s hand and then Evie was whisked away and transported to SSM Health Cardinal Glennon. Joe made the five-mile trip to the pediatric hospital by car.
“I beat the ambulance there,” he says. “It was an out-of-body experience because I was torn between staying with my wife and following Evie.”
His daughter was born with an open wound on her back where her spinal cord was precariously exposed. At just 14 hours old, she underwent a delicate microsurgical repair of her spina bifida defect by her neurosurgeon Dr. Elbabaa. A plastic surgeon then closed the skin defect. Weeks later, Dr. Elbabaa performed another delicate procedure to treat the fluid build-up in Evie’s brain.
Now 17 months old, Evie is army-crawling around the house and pulling herself up to stand. Along with Gavin, three dogs, a cat and fish named Nemo, all make the Morgan’s home a typical, chaotic family household that’s interrupted by regular visits to physical and occupational therapists, a dietitian and doctors.
“We’re as aggressive as possible with Evie’s therapies to give her the best possible outcome,” says her doctors. “With her progress so far, she has the potential to walk with assistance.”
The family is still friends with two special nurses in SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Dana Brown Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). “If it wasn’t for Lindsey Martin, Evie would still be in the NICU. She was such a great nurse. And Holly Hanak was our strength. I remember Holly sitting outside of Evie’s room and she was reading her Bible. She later wrote us a letter and stuck it in Evie’s bed.” Says Heather with tears in her eyes, “She quoted Psalm 139:14. She didn’t know that the same scripture was sent to me when I was pregnant, so it’s come full circle that God has a plan for Evie. She’s perfect and wonderfully made!”