Six weeks ago, 17-month old Bronson Staker was pronounced dead in a Utah hospital. He had drowned, when his mother Sara Staker was distracted briefly and left the room to attend to something, and returned to a nightmare–finding him face up and limp in the bathtub.
“It was horrible. It was the most helpless feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” Sara told TODAY’s Lester Holt Friday in New York. “There was no question in my mind that he was gone. He was white, his lips were blue. His eyes were rolled back.”
He had neither pulse nor breath. She tried CPR on him while she waited for the EMS team, but she couldn’t revive him-and then on the frantic ride to the hospital-neither could they.
At the hospital, Bronson was pronounced DOA-dead on arrival.
Yet last week, a completely normal and healthy Bronson played and chattered on his father, Matthew’s lap as the couple was interviewed on national television for the Today show.
The reporters had to call it what it was-a miracle. (See a video clip of the story here)
After his arrival at the hospital, doctors finally restored a heartbeat after 40 minutes while Bronson was on a ventilator pumping oxygen into his lungs.
Then they suggested an experimental technique that is gaining interest in the medical community and they thought might give him a chance of recovery-therapeutic hypothermia. It meant lowering Bronson’s body temperature to 91 degrees which would reduce his metabolic rate and putting him into a coma to reduce brain swelling for a period of 48 hours, and then gradually rewarming him for another 16 hours.
When Bronson didn’t re-awaken on his own, but stayed in a coma when the warming was completed, it was a sad day.
The doctors warned the Stakers that it was likely that Bronson would never regain his intellectual and physical abilities and that they could count on months-maybe years of rehabilitation-if he woke up.
They told the Stakers that if he lived, he would have to be taken out of the hospital in a wagon.
But on the 11th day in the hospital, something happened that nobody anticipated. Bronson not only awakened, but gained strength quickly, rushed headlong through all the phases of development in two days, and left the hospital on day 13, completely himself. Bronson had risen from the dead. He is the same little boy his parents knew before.
As the Stakers sat anxious, and sometimes, tearful in the pediatric intensive care unit of the hospital watching their drooped son swathed in tubes and lines, Sara began a blog. That it was such a detailed and loving blog is one of the reasons the Today show was interested in telling their astonishing story.
Although the Stakers originally turned down the offer to be on the Today show, what finally convinced them was the chance to bear their testimony of the Giver of miracles.
While the story led talking about the medical miracle of the therapeutic hypothermia technique, Sara made sure she acknowledged the deeper source of the miracle. When asked what she had learned going through this ordeal, she unabashedly bore testimony saying, “God is a God of miracles. He is a loving Father in Heaven. He hears us. He knows what we need. He answers our prayers. He answered the prayers of the thousands of people that we don’t even know who were praying for us.”
She told Meridian, “This miracle was not just given for us. Usually feature stories on the Today show are three to four minutes-and we were pushing nine minutes when I acknowledged God. Since the red light was blinking on the camera, I knew I just had to go for it and give credit to where it is due.”
Remarkably, not only did the Today show make this segment twice the length of most they run, they ran it twice, again on Saturday morning, because they had such a huge viewer response. A television executive told the Stakers that he had never seen that happen in all his years working with the program.
She said, “It is incredible the amount of momentum this thing has gathered. It doesn’t have anything to do with Matt or me or Bronson, but the Lord has found a way to use us as an instrument.” She also worries about “all those people who are just as deserving, who have maybe prayed harder, but their miracle occurred differently-maybe their child was called home.”
Sara’s blog is a record of remarkable faith in the face of anguish, of two parents who supported each other when their knees were feeble, and of love of God.
She said at first she thought she was creating a record of the last few days of her child’s life on earth. Then when things started to look better, she thought, “If I am going to have a miracle, I want to know exactly how helpless I felt, how bad it was, so I would appreciate what happened.”
“When you are in that place that is so dark, if you just know where to look, Heavenly Father feels you with something so much sweeter than you could ever find on your own.”
She remembered something that Mother Teresa had said, “I am but a little pencil from a loving God who is writing a love letter to the world.”
Here are excerpts. Read them remembering that as Sara wrote them, she had a child before her with vacant eyes, unable to move, and did not know the happy outcome of the story.
Feb. 1: [She describes the pit of despair they were all flung into when she tried to administer CPR the day before, having found Bronson drowned.]
I blew again, pleading with him. He had no pulse. I pressed down on his chest with both hands shaking, counting. Praying.I blew into his mouth and nose again. Air filled him. He sputtered.
I blew again, hard.Any second… Any second. Any second his eyes would flutter and he would take a breath. Any second he would sit up. Any second I would wrap my arms around him and thank God for the close call. Any second he would be back with us. Any second… but he did not wake up.
[When Matt arrived at the hospital, Sara was beside herself with guilt and pain that she had left the bathtub unattended].
“I’m so sorry! I’m so, so sorry.” Over and over I apologized. I don’t remember what I said or he said in that frantic moment. But I do remember the sweet feeling of relief as I received forgiveness he would not even admit he was extending. “How could I be mad? Why would I ever be angry?” spoken in love and genuine sincerity. They were the sweetest words I would never even have dared to hope to hear. Lifting a perceptible weight.
We knelt and prayed. Matt poured out his heart on behalf of our son. A Nurse came in and ushered us to the room where they were working on Bronson. Our sweet, tiny boy.
They have finished the long 16 hour warming process and Bronson is now at 36.4 degrees celsius, and so far he is holding steady at regular body temperature. They have taken off the top hypothermia blanket. He is no longer getting a paralytic drip to keep his body medically paralyzed. They have lowered the dose of sedative by half to allow him to slowly wake up from his medically induced coma.
I am typing from his bedside and he is just now starting to flutter his eyes and show reflexive movements, but nothing major yet.
Just as I typed that Matt saw fidgeting fingers and a few toe curls! That is the first of the minor motor skills we have witnessed so far! We have been advised to wait to really stimulate him until he is more fully awake. We want to reserve his energy until he is alert enough to show us what he can really do. We don’t want to wear out his muscles before he is conscious. I am signing off to go hold his little hand and sing. “Do As I’m Doing” is his favorite! Sing with us! Let’s see what this guy can show us!
Feb. 5 [Bronson had not come out of his coma as the doctors had hoped]
I know we are not the only family dealing with heartache…I pray you will not tire of our ceaseless requests for your faith and your prayers. We are humbled to our very cores…To the very fiber of our souls.
If there is anyone watching and waiting with us, this afternoon, we plead, one more time, for your prayers. Things are not going so well here today…I have never been so afraid…Even Matt, my rock, is wobbling a bit for the first time. His solid faith being chased out by the fear of the reality
The once confident doctors are worried…We can see it in their kind eyes, written in the creases of their weathered, experienced faces. They do this every day. I could never…There seems to be no logical reason for his sudden decline. They’ve sent him for an MRI. He’ll be gone an endless, torturous hour. The results back a few after that. We’ll have a better idea this evening. But for now, if you are able and willing, please petition to heaven for our family. Please ask our loving Father, creator of Heaven and earth, and all things in them to heal our broken boy.
Chasing Out Fear, Choosing Faith
Our Stake President stopped in to see how we were doing. He found us worried. Well, terrified. Faltering in our faith. Sick. Matt gathered himself and they offered Bronson a Priesthood Blessing.
Matt… Oh, my Matt…He turned his little body and mind back over to the God who had helped us to create him. Asking for the faith to discover Heavenly Father’s will and the strength to follow it.
President Francom counseled and advised. Hugged and encouraged. What a blessed servant of the Lord. He left us and I plead for your prayers. They took Bronson down for the MRI. Matt and I held each other in that empty little hospital room and fell apart in each others’ arms. Sobbing and clinging to one another, praying. Pleading for our son with every ounce of strength we could muster. Sealing our hearts together. Like never before.
Fear is the paralyzing agent of the adversary. A first line of his defense. And so I made a choice.
I’ll have to beg your apologies…We are all tired tonight, so I’ll have to keep you waiting.
Right now, my biggest concern is if my baby can get enough oxygen to keep himself alive
Sacrament Meeting is held in an auditorium on the 3rd floor at 10:30. We walked into the room hand in hand to meet the warm, welcoming gazes of doctors, nurses, parents, various patients and the angel volunteers. It was a group of about 60. We sang and we prayed with strangers we felt strangely akin to.
The Sacrament was blessed and passed. I thought how broken our hearts were. How contrite our spirits. Now, more than ever before. The Sacramental Prayers had new meaning as I heard the promises again with tender, new ears.
Oh, how grateful and unworthy I am to take His name upon me. Oh, how I need to remember Him, always. Oh, how I need His spirit to be with me, to comfort and guide me. And oh, how grateful I am for His cleansing blood. Which was shed for me.
We have a miracle happening here in Room 2314. I want to shout it from the rooftops! My fingers can barely type, I am shaking…Bronson is awake! He is here! He is looking at me! He is tracking the teddy bear with his eyes! He smiles at me when I tickle and pray with him! He reaches for things with reason! He responds to our commands! Words can not express.He is in there after all! Lights on! He looks just like my boy. Just like our boy.
We called Daddy. He wept. He is driving as fast as he can to get here safely. He told me of the prayers and scriptures he and our big boys had read together last night. The tender prayers and the first fast of Bronson’s sweet brothers have done this. The faith of his Daddy has brought this to pass. The prayers and faith of all of you, collectively petitioning Heaven on his behalf. The will of God has been shown…To use our tiny sweet strong and incredible boy as an instrument in His hands. To unite strangers and loved ones in faith. To bear testimony of His love and His power.
We thank you for your prayers. We thank you for the power of your fast. We thank you for your faith and sustaining love and support from across the globe.
God is a God of miracles. Let us never never forget! Let us never be afraid to share our testimonies boldly. Unabashed. I have a million things to share, but will keep this short, so I can go and be with my boy. He is back! Oh thank Heaven he is back!
Matt told me of an incident that.that occurred when I called him from the hospital that wondrous day. Sobbed into the receiver that I needed him to come. That Bronson was awake. He ran to his truck and sped the 45 minute drive, as fast as he could safely get there. But when he started his engine, there was a CD playing. It was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing. “Glory to God on High.”
Fitting…He sobbed. The next song that came on was a Men’s Chorus. “Rise up, oh men of God, Be done with lesser things…” He sobbed harder. Said it struck him through the core. He arrived at the hospital, still shaking.
As I think of that now, I realize that this is the time. The time for me, as well, to be done with lesser things. The time to focus on what is most important. Most lasting. Most eternal. More than ever before. Not the good things. Or even the better things. But the best things. The very best things.
Here is the video the Stakers made to document Bronson’s Miracle