Shaddai Jireh Leija was born on Aug. 2 in Corpus Christi. She was undergoing treatment in the neonatal intensive care at Driscoll Children’s Hospital when the threat of a hurricane emerged.
Baby and mother were uprooted as Hurricane Harvey threatened to hit the Texas coast. Mom’s prayers carried them to Fort Worth.
Sahddai was among 10 fragile babies transported from South Texas to Cook Children’s Medical Center — an 18-hour effort. Planes from the Corpus Christi hospital, Cook Children’s and Children’s Health in Dallas transported the babies.
“I am grateful to God that the United States is a good country,” Nereyda “Nery” Rangel said in Spanish. “I am grateful to God because they sent us here.”
On Tuesday, Rangel, 31, said North Texas caregivers had welcomed her baby and strangers had reached out to help. Sahddai was in the NICU at Cook Children’s, awaiting to have her lungs drained of fluids and then heart surgery in about 15 days.
Shaddai was diagnosed with several problems, including heart issues and a closed esophagus, before birth. Because of that, Rangel was sent to Corpus Christi — about 2 1/2 hours from her Rio Grande Valley home — for her delivery.
Shaddai was delivered in an emergency C-section at 38 weeks and whisked immediately away to the NICU. Rangel spent long hours at her daughter’s side, praying and singing religious songs.
“Even though I can’t see you, I can feel you,” Rangel sings to her daughter in a video she keeps on her cellphone. “I can feel you. I know you are here.”
But then the hurricane was on its way and a new set of fears took hold: Power outages could leave Sahddai and other babies in NICU more vulnerable.
Rangel said the hours leading to their evacuation were a spiritual test. She recalled sweeping emotions — from fear to defiance to faith.
“ ‘God, you have the power to stop this hurricane,’ ” Rangel prayed. “ ‘Or you do something in the life of my daughter, or I leave with her.’ ”
That she was able to accompany her daughter on the plane felt like answered prayers. She had worried that she would have to make a 10-hour drive in bad weather or that her baby would be alone in North Texas.
“Thank God, the paramedic, it was the first thing she told me, ‘Are you ready, Mami? Let’s go. You are going with your baby.’ And I said, ‘Wow, OK, let’s go.’ ”
Rangel has been staying at the Ronald McDonald House Fort Worth when not visiting her daughter.
While some of the babies may be returning to South Texas soon, Rangel said she plans to stay longer. She is relying on family in Dallas and her prayers.
“I think, ‘Yes, this is the hand of God moving over my life,’ ” she said. “It’s a miracle. My daughter is a miracle of God.”