Parents of an unborn baby girl, whose doctors suspected she had a chromosome disorder, refused abortion when they were told their baby was "incompatible with life." God, they believed, knew better. Six years on, their daughter has defied her prognosis.
Now her proud mom is a social media manager on behalf of Simon's Law, an act requiring doctors to obtain parental consent before withdrawing life-sustaining treatment or placing a "do not resuscitate" order on a child's medical record.
Former preschool teacher and homeschooling mom Heidi Murphy, 54, lives in Amesbury, Massachusetts, with her second husband, Kenny Murphy. Of Mrs. Murphy's six children—aged 34, 31, 28, 20, 18, and nearly 6—Sajjona is the youngest and was a welcome surprise.
The Murphys were shocked to discover they were expecting in April 2017. Mrs. Murphy was 48 years old at the time.
"I wasn't feeling right, but I didn't know I was pregnant. I went to walk across the floor, and I couldn't really walk without being in pain," Mrs. Murphy told The Epoch Times, adding that she ended up having blood clots in her legs, and when she went to the hospital, they found out she was pregnant.
'God Doesn't Make Mistakes'Already two months pregnant, Mrs. Murphy made an appointment with her obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN) at a hospital in Boston for the first ultrasound. She and her husband were ushered in to speak with a doctor when the tech noticed an abnormality.
"The doctor's first words were, 'It could be Down syndrome, it could be trisomy, but you deserve a good life; you can just get an abortion,'" Mrs. Murphy said. "It blows my mind that's the first thing that came out of her mouth.
"We sat, we cried. Then I looked at her and I said, 'I'll tell you what, that's not happening. God put this baby here for a purpose. We're having the baby. ... God doesn't make mistakes.'"
After a 3D ultrasound, Mr. and Mrs. Murphy met with a team of medical professionals, including a specialist who doubled down on the option to abort.
Mrs. Murphy said, "He goes, 'You're gonna change your mind about abortion now ... because she's missing half her brain, her hands are clenched, her mouth is way over to the side, she's got heart problems ... you have other kids; this baby is going to be nothing but a burden to them and you.'
"In 2017, the law was they had to offer you an abortion if there was something wrong with your child," Mrs. Murphy said, adding, "I wouldn't let them take my blood. ... They speculated, and I said, 'You don't know for one hundred percent that Sajjona has a problem?' He goes, 'No, I can't tell you that.'"
Refusing to risk her baby's life, Mrs. Murphy refused an amniocentesis, an invasive prenatal test for the chromosome disorders trisomy 13, trisomy 18, and Down syndrome. She left the room with her husband. It felt "almost like a movie," she said.
"I looked over at him [her husband] and I said, 'You're not for abortion, right?' He said, 'Absolutely not.' I said, 'We are not coming back here,' and we walked down the hall," she said.
'Incompatible With Life'Through her research, Mrs. Murphy found another doctor who pledged her full support for the Murphys' decision. Mr. and Mrs. Murphy "prayed a lot." The expectant mom ate well and stayed active, spent time with her kids and grandkids, leaned on her homeschooling community, and forwent a baby shower to focus on the health of her baby.
Sajjona was born at on Oct. 3, 2017, weighing 3 pounds, 9 ounces (approx. 1.61 kilograms). Owing to a complication with her contractions, Mrs. Murphy gave birth via emergency cesarian section. Her baby was not breathing when she was born.
The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) team "did everything to save Sajjona," who had numerous holes in her heart. Then came genetic testing. Sajjona tested positive for trisomy 18. The Murphys met with a team of 25, including doctors and social workers, and an OB/GYN who shocked them with his statement.
Mrs. Murphy said: "He was very sarcastic: 'Your daughter does not have Down syndrome, she has trisomy 18. Do you know what that is? ... she's incompatible with life. If you're lucky, she has two weeks to live.'"
"[It] wasn't done in kindness," says Mrs. Murphy, remembering her anger as the doctor continued: "She'll never walk, she'll never talk, she'll never laugh, she'll never smile. She'll never be like other kids."
The hospital's treatment of Sajjona changed after her diagnosis, said Mrs. Murphy; she remembers a NICU nurse who pushed Sajjona "into the corner" after undergoing surgery. "She let her oxygen drop after her surgery. She didn't do anything, she didn't call anybody; she didn't say, 'Emergency, come help!' Nobody came in," said Mrs. Murphy. "But God had another plan for Sajjona, and she did live."
Living, ThrivingThe Murphys brought their baby girl home right after Thanksgiving 2017 but there was little celebration.
"When a preemie graduates, they have a lineup, usually, and people clap, 'Oh, you're graduating from the NICU!'" Mrs. Murphy said. "They didn't do that for Sajjona. ... when I got home, I sat here and cried."
Without hospital support, the mom learned how to take care of her baby girl from a friend. Sajjona spent nine months in and out of the hospital, since "every time somebody coughed or sneezed around here, Sajjona got sick." Her mom quickly became her biggest advocate.
Today, Sajjona's "completely amazing" team visits her at home every six months to check on her welfare. Mr. and Mrs. Murphy are proud beyond measure that their daughter is living and enjoying her life and that the doctor who gave her two weeks to live has been proved wrong.
"She does everything typical children do," her mom said. "She goes to Sunday School, she goes to our homeschool club, she goes for walks, goes to the park, she has friends. ... Her understanding of language is very high.
'God Sends Children to Teach'
Sajjona has become a major inspiration to her mother in helping other parents fight for their unborn children's lives.
"God sends children like Sajjona down on Earth to teach other people love, kindness, patience, understanding, and acceptance," Mrs. Murphy said. "Sajjona has not been without trials, moments we thought we would never hold her in our arms again. [W]e've all learned so much ... and realize our faith is what kept us from giving up."
The mom of six is wary of the discrimination Sajjona may face as she gets older. Yet, in a world that fears difference, she is grateful for a daughter who will send the world a positive message, and she encourages others to interact with Sajjona and other children like her.
"When you see a child that is born as special as Sajjona, talk to them like a person; just because they don’t talk like you doesn’t mean they don’t understand," Mrs. Murphy told The Epoch Times. "Sajjona is a teacher, and she has taught so many people in her life already."