December 7, 2021

Pastoral Nuggets: Stephanie (Part One)

Thirty-seven years ago, on a Wednesday morning, our baby daughter, Stephanie, made her grand entrance into this world.

She was a scheduled repeat cesarean section for Marianne and the pregnancy was routine.

So, we had no clue what we were about to encounter!

I kissed Marianne goodbye as they wheeled her into the operating room. Then I assumed my place in the waiting room to await the blessed event. It wasn’t long until they told me that I had a baby girl.

However, the pediatrician called me aside and informed me something was wrong. He told me that Stephanie had Hyaline Membrane Disease, also known as Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome. He also told me something about a valve somewhere in her body that was supposed to shutoff, that didn’t.

Consequently, something was wrong with the blood supply to her lungs. His direct quote to me was, “Mr. McCollough, you have a very sick baby.” He cleared his schedule for the day and stayed with Stephanie in the ICU portion of the nursery.

They took Marianne back to her room where they purposely kept her sedated. All day long I walked back and forth from the nursery window to Marianne’s room. I remember, as it was yesterday, that on one of my trips to the nursery, I stood beside my brother Billy looking at this tiny child struggling for life.

For the first time it hit me that she wasn’t just some baby, but she was my baby, and unless something happened, she was going to die. I came unglued in Billy’s arms.

Around 4pm the doctor informed me that he had done all he could in LaGrange and he was sending her to Egleston’s Children’s Hospital in Atlanta.

The first time Marianne saw Stephanie was when we stopped by her room on the way to the ambulance. She was under a thing that looked like a clear, upside-down salad bowl. It had all kind of wires, tubes, pumps, monitors, and etc. hooked to it. We both came unglued. Momma was in the room. Tearfully, I asked, “Momma, what are we going to do?”  She said, “We’re going to do what we always do. We’re going to pray and trust God.” And she led us in prayer.

I rode in the ambulance with the nurse as we transported Stephanie to Egleston. About halfway there the nurse gave her a shot. When I asked why she told me that her heart rate was falling and without it she wouldn’t make it to Egleston.

But remember that I told you that this was a Wednesday night? It was about this time that prayer meetings were starting. Prayer warriors began to bombard heaven for my baby!  When we arrived, Dr. Elizabeth Nugent met us. She grabbed Stephanie from my arms and disappeared for about an hour. When she came back, she had a puzzled look on her face.

She told me, “Mr. McCollough. I don’t understand. Your baby is not as sick as the doctor in LaGrange said. However, I am going to keep her overnight for observation.” Around 4am I walked back into the Neo-natal ICU. To my horror, the nurses were holding Stephanie and playing with her. When I asked what they were doing they said, “It’s not often that we get a healthy baby back here. We’re taking advantage of it!” I brought her home that morning!

Whenever I tell this story, invariably someone in the congregation will tell me about their child that died and look at me as if I have an answer for them as to why my child lived and theirs died. But I don’t have that answer. I’m not God. But I do know this: God doesn’t make mistakes.

So, what are the Spiritual takeaways I want you to have from this column today? First, nobody is exempt from life; not even preachers. Secondly, prayer works. And finally, God never makes a mistake, even when we don’t understand! And yes, God would have still been just as good had he decided to take my Stephanie home. I’m glad He didn’t, but He would have been just as good of a God!

Brother Aaron


  1. Debra Atkins says

    So glad you shared this story! I had no idea…

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