Catholic Vancouver October 29, 2013
'Baby Emily' Rogers celebrates her 15th birthday
VANCOUVER—Emily Rogers, showered with prayers from hundreds of people hoping for her survival before she was born with an anomaly known as a "gross omphalocele," is now a strong and happy 15-year-old.
"I feel like I accomplished what everyone was hoping for, that I would even get a chance to live outside the hospital," Emily reflected.
She's a typical teen, with bright blue eyes and similarly coloured braces. Emily likes photography, riding horses, and eating burgers with hot sauce. Her brilliant smile shows despite the pain she still faces. Emily knows life is precious.
"They told us in the best case, Emily would be in the hospital two to four years: life support, feeding tubes," said her mother Marie.
That's because 13 weeks into the pregnancy, Marie and Ron Rogers found out their daughter's internal organs, including liver, stomach, intestines, and spleen, were developing outside her body. This condition affects one in 10,000 children.
Her parents worried for Emily's life. Their previous child, David, had been stillborn.
Ron and Marie made it clear to doctors they were pro-life and intended to do anything to help their child survive. They interviewed doctors and surgeons and asked Father John Horgan to help them make decisions involving medical ethics. At the time, he had just returned from getting a licentiate in moral theology in Rome.
Abortion was not an option, even though some suggested it.
"Certainly the fact that this little one was born with an anomaly was no cause to reject the life that God gave her," Father Horgan said.
He supported doing what could be done for the baby's survival. "Not only was it morally correct, but it was the most loving thing to do," even if she was too frail to survive more than a few days, he added.
While parents spent countless hours in the hospital, family, friends, neighbours, parishioners, students, and strangers prayed for the child, nicknamed Baby Emily.
"It's that paralyzing to know that you're on the edge of losing another child and you can't do anything to change it," Marie recalled.
Surrounded with prayer, love, and careful hands, Emily was born Oct. 19, 1998, and baptized by Father Mark Hagemoen with sterile water from a syringe before she was taken into surgery for eight and a half hours to put her organs back in place. There was a 30 per cent chance she wouldn't survive.
But she did, and after a week of surgeries and close monitoring, doctors told Ron and Marie their daughter might do fine; exactly a month after she was born, Emily went home.
Now Emily, a member of St. Nicholas Parish in Langley, attends R.E. Mountain Secondary School in Langley, and volunteers at a Langley horse camp. She still copes with chronic pain and frequent visits to the doctor, but doesn't let them overwhelm her.
"Emily is in a really good place emotionally, physically, spiritually. We talk about everything," her mother said. "She's positive. She's not depressed. She doesn't whine about her situation. She's confident."
The young teen wants to be an elementary school teacher when she grows up. "When I was younger, I got a lot of help from my doctors, my mom, my family, and my friends. I want to give back to other people," Emily explained.
"I love children and I love explaining things and helping others. If a kid is going through a rough time, or their mom and dad are going through something, they can come to me and talk about it."
She also participates in fundraisers for the B.C. Children's Hospital and volunteers with her younger sister Alison's Girl Guide group.
"Emily's a resilient little girl," said her father. Her challenges "made me a stronger person."
Ron added that it was one thing to say he was pro-life, and another thing to be faced with a situation such as this one and follow through. "When you're faced with an issue and deal with it head-on, it's a great testament."
Father Horgan agreed. "God wanted to teach a profound truth through this life."
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