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Life over death

"Life over death" Continued...

Issue: "How Mark Souder fell," June 19, 2010

The Cascias brought Gabriel an outfit and had him baptized in the hospital room. "It's odd," Cascia said, looking back on the day. "It wasn't a morning filled with grief and mourning and tears. The sadness came later. Everyone was feeling blessed that they even had an hour and a half with him."

Monica Rafie, a native Chicagoan, came across an online discussion thread called "Termination Due To Illness" during her second pregnancy. It was filled with heart-breaking stories.

Only a few months later, in June 2001, Rafie sat in a doctor's office, struggling to deal with the diagnosis that her unborn child, a girl already named Celine, had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome: Only the left side of the heart was forming.

Rafie thought back to the women on the message boards. "I felt in my own mind these words: 'Now you will walk the walk.'" She dismissed abortion: "Even if my baby were not going to survive, I would want to spend whatever time I could with her and meet her at the end."

But a specialist soon discovered that Celine had been misdiagnosed; she had Right Heart syndrome, a condition that offered slightly higher chances of life.

The family chose aggressive care to try to extend her life. "I thought that it was our responsibility as her parents to try to take the course of treatment that could extend her life," Rafie said. "We thought she would want to live."

Celine underwent three surgeries-at 6 days, 9 months, and 18 months-to "replumb her heart," ensuring that it could function on one ventricle. Now 8 years old, she lives her life "full speed ahead."

Rafie had already been active in the pro-life community. In 2002, she launched benotafraid.net, a website that offers encouragement and resources to parents who are faced with a serious prenatal diagnosis.

Liz Ledoux of Farmington, N.H., learned of her baby's medical condition at 26 weeks, when doctors told her that baby Cynthia had Exencephaly-her brain was forming outside of her skull. The doctor pressured her to terminate and said that her daughter would "look like a frog."

"It was not my choice to make," she said. "We knew that the condition she had was not 'compatible with life.' But in my mind, it was up to God when she returned to Him."

Cynthia, born on Dec. 5, 2009, died that day after living for 90 minutes. "My daughter did not look like a frog," Ledoux said. "She was beautiful . . . the smile, and the perfect little fingers, and the perfect little toes. . . . Was it difficult? Absolutely. But I don't regret it. I had-in my eyes-one of the most beautiful babies in my arms for an hour and a half."

-Cody Holt is student at Patrick Henry College

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