61 minutes

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One year ago today I delivered my son, a stillborn.   For a moment he was placed in my arms quiet, blue, and limp.  The midwife and her assistant then took him from me and began CPR.  They could not find a pulse.  He did not breathe.  Because we were at home (it was my third, planned homebirth) 911 was called.

While cpr was continued and we waited for the ambulance my husband took water and baptized him using the name we had agreed upon, James Fulton.  I remember sitting on the floor saying, “Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen” over and over again in my head.  I suppose it was as close as I could come to a prayer; I suppose it was my way of asking Archbishop Sheen to interceded for my son.

The paramedics came and rushed James away.  In route, as they tried to restart his heart, they gave him two doses of epinephrine by lines in the shin bone.  Neither worked and one leaked out, turning his whole right leg – from toe tip to buttock – black and blue and purple.   In the ER the doctors and nurses worked on him for another 18 minutes or so.  A nurse practitioner told me she wanted James’ mother to be able to hold him alive for a little bit.  Five minutes, an hour – she just wanted my son to be alive long enough for me to say good-bye.

They did a sonogram of his heart.  It fluttered but it didn’t beat.  A nurse held his foot; she later told me it was cold, like the expression “cold and dead”.  He was intibated and getting oxygen, but there was no way that the chest compressions were adequately circulating the oxygen to the brain and other organs.  Following the orders of the on-call neonatalogist they stopped working on him so they could call time of death.

My little boy, James Fulton, 9lbs and 12oz, had been without a pulse for 61 minutes.

Everyone stopped working.  And then his heart started.

James was admitted to the NICU at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois and was immediately “cooled” – a newer type of therapy where they lower the body’s temperature by a few degrees in an effort to spare the brain and other organs further and ongoing damage.  For three days he was sedated and shivering, covered in tubes and wires.  They thought that he would not live to be a week old.  They thought he would have to lose his right leg because of the chemical burn.  They thought that if he did live he would be a “vegetable”.  They tried to give us hope, but they thought that he would probably spend the rest of his life strapped in a wheelchair, blind, severely mentally disabled, on a ventilator, fed through a feeding tube, in diapers, unable to communicate love.

EEG’s showed very abnormal brain activity.  An MRI showed that the brain had been injured from the severe lack of oxygen.

At times I wondered if we should have just stayed home and never called 911.  I worried that I had become Dr. Frankenstein and had, through other people, manipulated James into life.  I worried that he would be treated like a monster.

In the situation we were in I could either worry or I could hope.  I could fear or I could trust.  We had prayerfully decided to have a homebirth and so I knew that we were following God’s plan for our lives.  I didn’t know where we would end up, but I knew that I could not live in the dark – I had to hope and trust – I had to live in the Light.

So we prayed, and we asked people to pray with us.  Two days after his birth 100 people, many I barely knew, came to the Peoria Diocese’s cathedral.  In the church where Fulton Sheen served Mass and was later ordained, we had a holy hour and Mass.  As a group we prayed for Sheen’s intercession:  Eternal Father, You alone grant us every blessing in Heaven and on earth, through the redemptive mission of Your Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and by the working of the Holy Spirit.  If it be according to Your Will, glorify Your servant, Fulton J. Sheen, by granting the favor I now request through his prayerful intercession – that James Fulton’s body heals and functions normally and that he is spared any brain damage. I make this prayer confidently through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Friends told James’ story on Facebook, in emails, on blogs, and to their prayer groups, prayer chains, Bible studies, family members, and friends.  People in Alaska, New York, Mexico, Peru, Germany, Ireland, and Canada prayed for my son, asking for Sheen’s intercession.  Atheists asked their believing friends to pray for him.  Classrooms of children in Catholic schools throughout Illinois recited the Sheen prayer every day.  Little children adopted him as their main prayer intention.  My dad began attending Mass again on a regular basis.

And God answered the prayers.  Jesus Christ healed my son.  The Holy Spirit filled the hearts His faithful.  And Sheen continued to evangelize through his namesake and my son.  By the time he was a few days old his kidneys, liver, and colon were all working.  His leg was healing.  By a week he was breathing without any assistance.  His blood pressure was good.  He began eating by bottle.  He was taken off pain meds and started to interact with me, his visitors, nurses, and doctors.  At seven weeks he came home from the hospital.  A follow-up MRI showed no more brain damage.  The precautionary g-tube was removed when he was six months old.  Now he rolls over, crawls, cruises, and will walk soon.  He eats Cheerios, picking them up with his thumb and pointer finger.  He squeals with laughter, plays with blocks, steals toys from his older siblings, and has scored in the normal / age appropriate range by his developmental and physical therapist.

My family and I believe that God brought James back from the dead and healed his body.  We believe that He did this through the intercession of Archbishop Sheen.  We believe that God did this for the same reason that he allowed Lazarus to die:  “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”

Today my son is one year old.  Thank you, Jesus, and Happy Birthday, James Fulton!

Angel of Grief photo source.

Bonnie Engstrom

Bonnie Engstrom

Bonnie Engstrom is a cradle Catholic and stay-at-home mom. She married her dashing husband in 2006 and they now have five children: one in Heaven and four more wandering around their house, probably eating pretzels found under the couch. Bonnie lives in central Illinois and gets excited about baking, music, film adaptations of Jane Austen books, and the Chicago Bears. She was a cofounder of The Behold Conference and she blogs at A Knotted Life.

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52 thoughts on “61 minutes”

  1. Avatar

    When we put our trust in the Lord, life can be more amazing and hopeful than many of us often think. Thank you for reminding us of that with your story! Happy first birthday to your son, and best wishes to your family!

  2. Avatar

    WOW. That did not end as I expected. The tears are flowing and I am covered with goosebumps. Praise God! Perhaps you should submit this to the Vatican for Abp. Sheen’s cause? I’m overjoyed your boy is here!

  3. Avatar

    WOW! What an amazing testimony! You are a brave woman to share your memories of what must have been a traumatic day for you. “Everyone stopped working. And then his heart started.” *CHILLS* It’s funny how the Lord works. When we stop, it gives Him leave to start. Continue to share your story, it is one of the most inspirational ones I’ve heard and it will definitely continue to glorify the Lord! Happy Birthday James Fulton! 🙂

  4. Avatar

    I am always humbled by God’s greatness. Thank you for this moving and incredible story.

    Happy Birthday James Fulton

    God Grant Him Many Happy Years

  5. Avatar

    I haven’t quite recovered from the first part of this yet…still crying. Thank you for sharing your miracle with us. God bless you and your whole family including your beloved James Fulton.

  6. Avatar

    What an amazing story. God blessed, and will continue to bless, you because you did not give up on your baby’s life. Happy birthday James!

  7. Avatar

    Just like most of the other comments, I too have a river flowing from my eyes. A very Happy Birthday to your wonderful boy, James Fulton!
    I must now start saving for a trip I promised myself after returning home to the Catholic Church and that was to be physically present when Archbishop Fulton J Sheen is Beatified and hopefully live long enough to attend his Cannonization.
    All Glory to God!

  8. Avatar

    What an amazing story! It reminds me of our 5th child(we have 8) that was also a homebirth. Our son, Stephen was extraordinarily large and got stuck with only his head free from my wife. The tension escalated quickly as my wife was unable t push him out. I feverishly prayed Hail Marys as I sought our Blessed Mother’s intervention with Her Son. At 6 minutes,with no breath being taken by our son,our Christian midwife looked at me and said,”you need to pray!” I responded that I was praying and she yelled,”OUT LOUD!” I responded with a yell of my own,”Sacred Heart of Jesus, please help us!”
    Immediately my son popped out of my wife’s birth canal and took his first breath…I will never forget the wonder I felt at the intimate love Our Saviour has that He was waitng for me to ask for His intercession. God is Great…all the time! Thanks for sharing and Happy Birthday James Fulton!

  9. Avatar

    What a mighty God we serve! What a beautiful miracle . I worked Labor & Delivery, and was always on edge till that newborn breathed and cried.
    I remember watching Fulton Sheen as a child and when he died I thought, I hope they will canonize him . I pray this miracle resurrection of James Fulton will be the miracle that will cinch Fulton Sheen’s sainthood!

  10. Avatar

    While reading your story I almost cried.It was very inspiring and it was true that miracles are everywhere in this world so thank God and believe in His ways.I’m greatful to read your story.James,your so cute little boy.be happy always.God bless!

  11. Avatar

    “My dad began attending Mass again on a regular basis.”

    The miracle for your son happened for greater (and more difficult) spiritual miracles like the one for your father … isn’t that the reason Jesus gives that the man in the Gospels was born blind.
    Lets pray for to Fulton Sheen for many more of those miracles, God knows how miraculous those spiritual resurrections are, and thank you for sharing your experience.

  12. Avatar

    God Bless you, and your son. And Praise God for his intercession. What a wonderful story, and I too, hope ArchBishop Sheen is beatified.

  13. Avatar

    Wow!! Awesome! Best story I’ve seen in a long time!

    I’ve been told that Abp. Sheen is a distant relative of mine (he has quite a few in Central Illinois), plus, I personally know some of the priests in the Peoria Diocese that were involved in his sainthood cause, so I’ll be sure to turn to him for particularly difficult intentions from now on.

  14. Avatar

    Happy Birthday James! What beautiful faith your mother and father have! God bless you James and live a joyful life blessed by God.

  15. Avatar

    Wat a wonderful God,wat a miracle God he has done wonderful things and he will continue to do more in our lives.Happy birthday james fulton.

  16. Avatar

    Thirteen years ago my son was scarring in his brain from trauma when he was six months old. On his third yearly checkup his doctor could not find the scaaring that was supposed to be there. His words were that he is not religous but this is a miracle and that he may reconsider. PRAYERS WORK.

  17. Avatar

    James and I share the same birth date 🙂 What a beautiful baby he is! He’s living proof of the power of prayer. James (my son’s name too) may you have many, many, many more happy and healthy birthdays. You’re a beautiful little miracle.

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