The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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February 3, 2013

Parents see child’s survival as miracle

While the surgeon put her daughter back together — carefully placing tiny intestines back inside a tiny body — Vicki Frank prayed.

Prayed not so much to save the child’s life, but for the child’s soul. Frank knew it was over; the little girl she’d carried in her womb, a twin whose sister was thriving, was about to lose her long medical battle.

The little girl had fought hard, but this was enough. Modern medicine was out of answers. To prolong her life with heroic measures seemed pointless and would only result in a beautiful little girl spending a year or so in agony. No more suffering. Just let her go. It’s OK, Elea. You can let go.

This procedure was supposed to be relatively simple and last roughly 30 minutes. But 30 minutes turned into an hour, which turned into an hour and a half.

As it continued to go beyond the estimated 30 minutes, Vicki’s mom, Cindy Wendt, wondered whether the girl had possibly improved.

“We’re not the kind of people who get miracles, Mom,” Frank admonished her mother that day.

An hour and a half turned into two hours, which turned into 2 1/2. And when the surgeon finally emerged, the gravity of his clinical utterance at first wasn’t clear to Vicki Frank.

“She has 38 centimeters,” he said.

“What does that mean?” Frank asked.

“It means it’s liveable.”

And just like that, Elea Frank — a girl who doctors said had no future and concurred with the family’s wishes to let her die — had stared down death ... and death blinked.

“The chaplain said, ‘I’ve seen many miracles in my life, but nothing to the magnitude of Elea,’” recalled Wendt, Elea’s grandmother.

In a few months, a benefit will be held for the family and for Elea. But the truth is, Elea’s breathing body is gift enough for Frank.

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