Even when all seemed horrible — the head-on collision, the snap and crack of Jevon McBride’s bones, wife Julie suddenly thrust into premature labor — the young Air Force couple wanted to believe that God was with them.
As Juliana, born 15 weeks early at 1 pound 11 ounces, lay inside the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Luke’s Hospital and later at Children’s Mercy, with blood pooling in her brain, the McBrides held fast to the notion that it was all happening for a higher reason.
Today, less than seven months after their daughter on Oct. 8 was forced into the world following that late-night car crash on a Warrensburg, Mo., roadway, the couple is convinced:
The point was to bring hope to others — and, for themselves, to find forgiveness.
“I feel that our story is out there for couples: Yes, your relationship can withstand anything,” Julie McBride said, speaking from her home in Warrensburg, the sound of a largely healthy and cooing Juliana heard over the phone. “It can be for family members just to have hope to have faith.”
In January, with Juliana still at Children’s Mercy, The Kansas City Star recounted the McBrides’ ordeal in the story, “First came love, then came marriage — then, after a head-on wreck, a beautiful baby.”
Picked up by the military publication Stars & Stripes, the story went to out to military bases worldwide. It told of how the couple had tried for a decade to get pregnant, enduring hormone shots, three miscarriages, repeated disappointment and tears before Julie, two years ago on Mother’s Day, found out the couple finally had a successful pregnancy.
Then, at 25 weeks gestation, came a head-on wreck on Oct. 7. A young driver had taken his eyes off the road and veered into the McBrides’ lane. Doctors could not guarantee that the baby, taken by emergency Cesarean section, would live.
“I did have all the faith in the world,” Julie, now 31, told the Star in January. “I did want God to bring us through. I did want a miracle.”
In many ways, they got it.
At home now, Juliana has grown large and chubby.
“She’s breast feeding. She’s bottle-feeding. She’s moving on to her right side,” Julie said with excitement. “She’s rolling over. Everything they said they didn’t know whether she’d be able to do, she is doing.”
The moving around is important, Julie said, as she was told that there was some possibility that Juliana could have cerebral palsy and have limited movement on her right side.
But that is not the case.
“I mean she is using all of her limbs and muscles,” Julie said. “I look back at pictures a lot. I look back at moments and I remember, even though we trusted God and had our faith in him, doctors are telling you one thing and you’re so afraid. … Is my child going to be able to grow up and play with other kids and be happy?”
Julie said she is not naive. She knows there is still the possibility of real challenges. It is good news that the severe bleeding that pooled in Juliana’s brain has receded, but it is still too early to tell whether she might still have some learning delays or behavioral effects, although her most recent MRI shows promise. The eye problems, known as ROP, for retinopathy of prematurity, have resolved.
Jevon, 32, still has injuries requiring care. On Monday, the staff sergeant underwent yet another surgery to help correct his cracked right femur, which is not healing properly.
On May 7, however, he hopes to be far enough along in his healing to stand up and walk on his own for a short bit when he, Julie and their baby take part in the March of Dimes’ annual March for Babies, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in the Power & Light District.
Dedicated to helping improve the health of babies by preventing premature births, birth defects and infant mortality, the March of Dimes has found the McBrides’ experience compelling enough that, beginning in 2018, their story and images will highlight the nonprofit’s national published materials.
“I think part of it definitely is their strength and in how they have approached their situation,” said Jennifer Robinson, the March of Dimes’ regional communications director. “Many families don’t know how strong they are until they are placed in this situation.”
Not that it’s been easy.
Julie said that at times, she and Jevon still suffer side-effects from concussions, including exhaustion, head pressure and periods of headaches that for Jevon can lay him out for hours.
But the joy comes from watching, playing with and just being with Juliana, Julie said.
“She’s 6 months old, but really 3 months old,” Julie said. Before being born three months’ premature, Juliana’s full-term due date was to be Jan. 16. “She’s doing things that a 6-month-old ought to be doing, or a 5-month old.
“… A few weeks ago, a lot of things happened all at once. She found her hands. She was trying to suck on her hands, She was putting her hand up in her face, like ‘Oh, my god, I have hands!’ And it was so awesome to watch her. The look on her face was priceless.”
Another joy is hearing how their story has reached others. Julie has been faithfully chronicling her story on her own Instagram page, jppaige, including posting a dramatic photo of them holding hands in the moment just before they went into surgery after the wreck.
Julie has heard from people who have read their story from as far away as Germany and Africa.
Among the comments she’s received:
“Thank you for giving me hope. My newest babylove is a new 25 weeker and we are all terrified. Your little fighters triumphs lift me up. Your story is a testimony to all who do not know the power & strength of God.”
“I was telling my sister the other day about your story with Juliana,” wrote another. “It’s enough to bring faith back into anyone’s heart.”
“God bless you,” one woman wrote. “My daughter has a 31 weeker she has been following you and you are helping her. Thank you.”
But one of the most significant messages Julie received was the one that ended up helping her.
She had been going through a dark time, thinking about Jevon and her daughter and feeling her own pain from the effects of the crash. For weeks and longer, she said, she continued to feel anger and resentment at the young man who crashed into them. There was little forgiveness in her heart.
“It was looming over me,” Julie said.
The young man had never sent them a word of regret or apology. He was not charged by prosecutors.
In a note, a stranger responded.
“I am sorry that this has happened to your family and it hurt to read that the driver hasn’t apologized,” the woman’s note read in part. “I urge you to continue to pray to God to help you forgive so you can continue to enjoy His amazing grace.
“It is in forgiving that we are forgiven. I know it’s hard, I’ve been there. … God forgives us every single day. So let go, and let God. … You are blessed beyond measure and always will be.”
In that moment, Julie said, she forgave. Indeed, the McBrides feel truly blessed.