Power of prayer helped little Grace Jordan recover from life-threatening illness, claim parents
Family of girl (3) at death's door after meningitis diagnosis tell the remarkable story of their faith and thank medics who helped save her
As a joyful Grace Jordan skips and plays in the summer sunshine on the family farm in Co Down, it is impossible to believe that less than a year ago the three-year-old was fighting for her life.
In what has been described as a remarkable story of great faith and a modern-day miracle, she not only conquered death after contacting a rare strain of meningitis but when doctors wanted to amputate her leg and fingers in a drastic move to save her life, Grace's parents confidently refused permission as they held to a promise that the Lord would heal her completely.
Giving thanks for their little girl's full recovery and the fantastic work of the medical team in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Grace's parents Rachel (30) and Kingsley (29) are throwing open the gates of the family farm in Waringstown this weekend to welcome people for a huge fundraising auction, tractor run and family fun day.
Grace took ill very suddenly on August 15 last year and within hours her life hung in the balance.
She spent seven days fighting for her life in hospital, and during that time her story went global via social media as friends of the family urged others to pray for her.
It is these prayers which her parents believe saved her life, along with the good work of the medical teams who they both are now fundraising for to show their gratitude.
Kingsley, a beef and poultry farmer, tells how very quickly their little girl went from being perfectly healthy and enjoying a summer picnic in the park with her mum, sister Faith (4) and baby brother Bobby who is now one, to being at death's door.
He said: "It was a Sunday evening and Rachel had taken the kids to the park for a picnic and we had put them to bed. Around midnight Grace started vomiting. It happened every two hours throughout the night and she had a high temperature.
"We thought it was a bug but Rachel got an appointment at the doctors and took her there after dropping Faith off at nursery.
"As she drove to the doctors Rachel could see Grace in the seat behind her nearly passing out.
"When she got there, the doctor came out immediately and gave her an injection of antibiotics and called an ambulance."
A frantic Rachel had to leave five-month-old Bobby with the reception staff in her local doctors until his dad arrived while she went with Grace in the ambulance to Craigavon Area Hospital.
When Kingsley arrived at the hospital a short time later, a paramedic urged him to leave his Jeep in the ambulance bay and get to his daughter as quickly as possible.
Kingsley recalled: "That really hit me as I didn't even have time to park the car. When I went inside and saw Grace I was shocked. She was deteriorating in front of our eyes. I had seen her two hours before, and now she looked like she was dying in front of us."
The couple's parents, their pastor and his wife from Donaghcloney Elim Church very quickly arrived at the hospital to offer their support.
Arrangements were being made to take the gravely-ill Grace to the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children and her parents were told that a medical team needed to travel with her and they should follow. Kingsley added: "It was like something you see in a film or on TV and not real life.
"It was like you had to pinch yourself that it was happening; it was like a bad dream. Grace was so full of life and so happy and the last one to get ill. It was hard to take in what was happening.
"We are a Christian family. We just prayed as hard as we could, we had our faith and that helped."
It was as they waited for the ambulance from Belfast that medical staff informed the family that they were having some problems and they should not leave the hospital.
Unknown to Rachel and Kingsley, medics had lost Grace and battled for six minutes before they got her back.
It was at that moment the couple are convinced a miracle happened. A peace came on them which they say never left, even during the tough battle which lay ahead.
Rachel explained: "Before it had all happened, I had asked the Lord to renew himself in my life as I had been struggling with my faith. Faced with my daughter so ill, I had to trust in the Lord and it was as if the Lord was saying to me, I am going to show you how strong I am.
"When the doctor told us there were some problems I just started to pray and I said 'Satan get your hands off my daughter' and at that moment everything changed and everybody in the room felt it.
"It was spiritual and I had never felt anything like it before. God took over in that moment, I have no doubt.
"We were then told they had lost her for six minutes but got her back. When you see things happen in front of your eyes it is a bit overwhelming and even the doctors couldn't believe how Grace came through it."
Kingsley added: "Whenever Rachel prayed in that moment something happened.
"We didn't know they had lost her at that stage but everyone, our parents and our pastor and his wife felt it.
"Everybody had a peace and only the people in that room that day could explain it, but we all knew everything was going to be all right."
Grace still had a battle ahead and as she fought for her life in intensive care, prayers were being said not only by the congregation of the couple's church in Donaghcloney but throughout the local community and worldwide.
In the days that followed, as she remained unconscious, doctors couldn't give the family any assurances that Grace would pull through.
At one point the couple were told to prepare for the possibility that if she woke up, Grace would be severely brain damaged as a result of her brain being starved of oxygen when they lost her.
Doctors were also shocked when test results came back revealing that Grace had a type of meningitis seen only in teenagers - meningococcal septicaemia type W. In fact they were so sure she couldn't have it, they tested her twice.
Kingsley explained: "They retested because they couldn't believe it was type W and said Grace was the youngest child they had ever seen with it. Usually at that age it is type A, B or C and it is only teenagers who usually get type W. They couldn't believe it."
In the first few days Grace's body started to shut down and the blood wasn't circulating to her hands and legs. Her parents were told that amputation of her leg and some of her fingers were needed to save her life. However, a composed Rachel and Kingsley said they wouldn't allow it.
Rachel said: "There is a meeting hall at the end of our lane and everyone in it was praying for Grace to be healed.
"One of the men from the hall was driving up the road one day when he had a vision of Grace's leg completely black and then it turned a beautiful colour of pink.
"When they wanted to amputate and we told them that her leg would get better, they must have thought we were completely mad. Thanks to that vision, we had a real peace about it."
Doctors also found a bleed on Grace's brain which couldn't be operated on because of its location, but again this seems to have disappeared with no adverse affects.
Grace continued to astonish medical teams with her slow but sure recovery, and seven days after taking ill she was able to return home. She had a long road ahead with daily physio, and had to learn to walk and talk again.
Her dad said: "At first it was like she was just making baby noises again and before she had been talking and running around.
"Slowly, with a lot of exercises and Rachel doing two to three hours physio with her every day, by Christmas she was walking and running again.
"She is also talking perfectly and if anything is doing better than she ever was. She has made a full recovery.
"We believe 100% it was the Lord and of course the doctors and nurses and all the medical staff. The service in the children's intensive care unit is unreal. The service they give is second to none.
"People complain about the NHS but it is there when you need it and the commitment from those nurses is unreal. Hats off to them, money wouldn't pay them and a medal wouldn't be good enough."
To thank the hospital staff for helping to save their daughter, the couple are hoping people will again get behind them and come along to their farm this Saturday for what promises to be a fun day.
A charity tractor run starts at noon and there will be entertainment from Fiddler Adam, ice cream, burgers, tea and coffee, a kids animal farm, bouncy castle and charity auction.
Local DUP MLA Carla Lockhart will be among the many people in the local community who hope to attend and who prayed for Grace throughout her ordeal. Kingsley added: "We just wanted to do something to help the hospital as they have done so much for us. We've had a lot of local businesses sponsor the event and it really has been unreal how generous people have been and we just hope to raise a lot of money."
Rachel said: "It is the scariest thing that can happen to you. Faced with a difficult situation, I had to trust in the Lord, and God took over and from that moment.
"Grace just kept getting better and I can't believe she is here and as well as she is. Even the doctors couldn't explain how well she was doing.
"It is a miracle that her left leg is so good even though they wanted to amputate it. People were praying worldwide for Grace and we can't thank them enough."