A Journey of Hope
Every journey begins with a single step.
This journey begins with tragedy and ends with Hope.
The life of Angie and Earl Odom and their daughter Bethany Odom Ellis changed forever in February 2013. That is when Hope came into their lives. Now the Odom family is sharing the story of their Hope with others and recently traveled back to where the story all began.
Baby Hope is truly a miracle baby, Angie said.
Angie and Earl met Hope in February 2013, and within a couple of months became her custodial guardians. They later adopted her.
Hope was born in trying circumstances and many – even the doctors caring for her birth mother – did not think she would survive. Hope’s birth mother, whom Angie refers to as Marie, was living in Florida in 2012 when she suffered a poly-substance overdose that left her in a coma in what doctors described as a “persistive vegetative state,” Angie said, adding that Marie was placed on life support at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Fla. Marie was eight weeks pregnant at the time of her overdose.
“The doctors at the hospital wanted to remove her from life support and even told the family that there was no way that the baby would survive,” Angie said, adding Marie’s family refused to allow doctors to remove life support. “Despite the fact that her mother suffered an overdose, endured severe brain damage and was in a coma, Hope continued to grow and develop.”
“Despite infections, placenta issues, distress in the womb, her mother going through drug withdrawal and all of the medications which were being used to treat her mother, Hope continued to fight and to grow,” Angie added. “During this whole time, Hope’s mother remained in the hospital under medical care so that Hope could be given a chance.”
Hope was born Jan. 18, 2013. She spent 17 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit before being released to the care of Marie’s mother, who later gave custody of Hope to Angie and Earl.
The family began sharing Hope’s story of survival against the odds with others, Angie said, not only as a testament to the miracle God had performed, but as a way of giving hope to others.
“We felt like if we don’t share the story then God doesn’t get the glory,” she said.
Earlier this month, Angie, Earl, Bethany and Hope traveled to Pensacola, Fla., to do just that… to share the story.
Angie had been in contact with Sacred Heart Hospital since she became the custodial guardian of Hope. Together, Angie and the hospital orchestrated a reunion for Hope and all of the people who had been a part of her miracle birth.
Everyone – from the emergency medical personnel who responded to the scene when Marie overdosed and the emergency room staff who cared for her when she arrived, to the nurses who cared for Marie through her pregnancy, the doctors who delivered Hope and the NICU nurses who cared for Hope after her birth – was present at the reunion.
“I wanted to meet the people involved in their care and share the full story of the miracle they played a part in,” Angie said. “They were part of a miracle, but they didn’t know what a miracle it was because they didn’t know the whole story.”
Angie said when she and her family walked into Sacred Heart Hospital, a Christian hospital, the first thing she saw impressed upon her that God has a plan for everything – a large cut-glass cross in a lighted display case.
She said just days before Hope came into their lives, she and Earl had been preparing to help lead a marriage retreat. As part of the retreat, she said, each couple is given a cross to carry to signify their commitment. Before the crosses are presented to the couples, the retreat leaders carry the crosses for a time and pray over them.
“As soon as I walked into that hospital and saw the cross, it hit me; they had been carrying Hope’s cross and praying over her,” she said.
The reunion was an emotional time for not only the Odoms, Angie said, but for the caregivers at the reunion. She said many told her they very rarely get updates or know the outcomes on people they have cared for.
“One dispatcher said that in 30 years she has never heard back from even one call until now,” Angie added.
Some at the reunion told Angie they were “amazed” when they saw Hope, because they had believed she would not survive the pregnancy.
“One nurse told me that even though she did not believe in abortion, she had felt the hospital and the family had made the wrong choice in allowing the pregnancy to continue because she didn’t think the baby had a chance,” Angie said. “She told me after meeting Hope, she knew she had been wrong. She said ‘I will never again question God.’”
At the reunion, Angie told the story of Hope, from the circumstances of her miracle birth to how she has grown and developed. She also shared with them an update on Marie’s condition as well as some of Marie’s personal story – including the problems Marie faced that led to her overdose.
While she was speaking to the group, Angie said she realized that her daughter Hope was only alive because of the care and attention of the people she was speaking to. “I was looking at that crowd of people and I thought to myself ‘God really does send an army when needed,” she said. “That is how I saw them, as God’s army of caregivers who helped Hope fight her battle.”
The Odom family presented plaques of appreciation to all of those involved in the care of Marie and Hope to commemorate their involvement in this miracle. Angie said many of the people at the reunion thanked her family repeatedly for visiting them to share their story.
“I was feeling so grateful for them and all they had done but they felt grateful of us for taking the time to share this story,” she said.
Angie said her family enjoyed the meeting and said the family felt the reunion was something that needed to happen to share Hope’s story.
“I felt like this trip was a full circle journey,” she said.