Welcoming a baby into the world should be one of the happiest moments of a person’s life. However, when doctors declared one woman dead during labor, all that her husband could do was look on in horror. But he refused to give up, and that’s when he uttered some inspirational words that may have sparked what some see as a miracle.
Melanie and Doug Pritchard come from Phoenix, Arizona. Melanie is a passionate Catholic and works with pro-life and pro-family organizations across the state. And when she isn’t involving herself with other people’s families, she’s busy raising her own.
In 2010 Melanie and Doug were already the parents of one child, a boy named Brady, and were preparing to welcome their second baby. Given that they had been through the process before, they felt calm about what laid ahead.
“We thought it was going to be a really the run-of-the-mill pregnancy and birth, labor and delivery,” Doug admitted in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network in 2012. However, their experience turned out to be anything but straightforward.
Melanie’s contractions started at midnight on July 28, 2010. At this point, everything was going to plan. She called her mom to let her know what was happening and had Doug take her to the hospital. Little did Melanie know, however, but that phone call would be the last thing that she’d remember about her second baby’s birth.
After arriving at the hospital, Melanie’s labor continued to develop as normal. Doctors subsequently gave her an epidural to help her cope with the pain of her contractions. Then, at the break of dawn, the medical team decided to break Melanie’s waters.
Shortly after that, though, Doug grew worried for his wife’s welfare. “Melanie started complaining that she didn’t feel well,” he revealed. “Then I see her kind of slump over to one side. Her eyes roll back, and she starts convulsing.”
Suddenly, Melanie’s monitors started flashing, and all her readings turned to zero. It was then that Doug had the devastating realization that his wife was no longer breathing. With her life hanging in the balance, Melanie’s doctors unplugged her bed. Then, they rushed her into an operating room.
Once there, the medical team conducted an emergency cesarean. It turned out that Melanie’s major organs were shutting down due to an amniotic fluid embolism. Fluid from Melanie’s amniotic sac had escaped into her bloodstream, leading to her suffering a heart attack.
As a result, doctors had to work against the clock to prevent both mother and baby from dying. During her cesarean, however, Melanie lost over one gallon of blood due to internal bleeding. According to Doug, part way through the procedure, his wife was clinically dead.
“They thought there was absolutely no way that she could come back,” Doug later explained. “That she looked deader than dead. We were going through an emotional rollercoaster. My first thought was, ‘I’m a widower.’ And we’d only been married three years.”
Amid the chaos, doctors delivered a beautiful baby girl. “I look at her and she’s got blond hair and blue eyes, just like her mother. Not at all like me,” Doug said. “It was probably the most bittersweet moment I’ve ever felt in my life. The bittersweet part of it is that Melanie may not be there, and that I may have to raise this little princess on my own.”
Doug decided to name her Gabriella, which means “the heroine of God.” Now, more than ever, he needed to find some strength in his faith. So, he called up all of his family and friends and asked them to pray for Melanie and their baby.
The Pritchards’ loved ones spread word of Melanie’s plight around the Catholic community. Consequently, their request for prayers went viral online. And before long, thousands of people were believed to be praying for the young mother.
Meanwhile, Melanie’s immediate family were holding a bedside vigil at the hospital. Although doctors had managed to resuscitate her, it still looked unlikely that she would regain consciousness. “I just remember sitting down,” Doug explained. “We just held hands and we prayed and we just pleaded with God that he may just bring her back.”
Eventually, though, Melanie’s condition began to deteriorate and doctors asked her family to say their goodbyes. But Doug apparently refused to give up on his wife. “I remember asking her vividly, ‘If you have any fight left in you, then fight!’” he said.
And it seems that her husband’s words of encouragement may have somehow resonated with Melanie. Because against all the odds, she regained consciousness. Doug had just enough time to tell her that he loved her and to show her a picture of Gabriella, before she went in for more surgery.
Thankfully, though, her operation went to plan. She started to breath on her own, and within just seven days Melanie was well enough to return home. “I woke up with this incredible peace,” she said. “My first memory was just asking them what happened, you know.”
And incredibly, Melanie has no suffered major side effects from her ordeal. Her amazing recovery was indeed a marvel. However, her husband had another word for it. “Her recovery’s a miracle. Her survival was a miracle,” he said. “I think it’s very clear that God answers prayers.”
And Melanie agrees that such forces had a part to play in her survival. “I remember just weeping and crying and thinking, ‘How could these people love me so much, like a stranger even?” she said. “I believed in the power of prayer, but now that I’ve lived through the power of prayer, I believe it a 100 times more.”