“She is a miracle”: How God kept His promise to a mother whose baby’s skull was abnormal
Where is God when it hurts? This Christmas, Salt&Light brings you a series of stories of God's light in the darkness when it matters most.
Rachel Geneveive Chia // December 19, 2022, 2:25 pm
When Sharmila Jeffery (2nd from left) found out she was pregnant with a girl, she was ecstatic. But little Natasha's health scares would take the family on a rollercoaster journey from fear to faith. All photos courtesy of the Kannan family.
Sharmila Jeffery had always wanted a daughter.
So each time she got pregnant — thrice in all — she prayed for a baby girl.
Her first child, Joel Dhidiyan, was a boy, but God answered her prayers the second time she conceived.
The week before Sharmila was due to deliver, the foetus’s heartbeat stopped.
“I was excited when the doctor said it was a girl,” says Sharmila, 45. She and husband Kannan Muthu, 50, waited eagerly for their little girl’s arrival.
But the week before Sharmila was due to deliver, the foetus’s heartbeat stopped.
“The doctors were worried that she might not be alive,” Sharmila says. “But I prayed. God promised me to bring her back to life on the day of my delivery.”
He delivered. Baby Natasha was born in October 2002 — an angelic, chubby bundle, with a full head of black hair and big, round eyes. She was healthy and normal, according to medical checkups.
But little did Sharmila and Kannan know their trials were not over.
The ordeal began after Natasha crossed her 10-month milestone.
The doctor in charge of her regular paediatric checkups was on leave, so a standby doctor stepped in – something Sharmila believes was a holy intervention.
“All the while, (the usual doctor) kept saying Natasha’s growth was normal,” she says.
But this doctor noticed the infant’s fontanelles – which are soft spots on a baby’s skull that give the brain room to grow – were closing abnormally fast. Fontanelles typically close completely when an infant is 18 months old.
The doctor quickly ordered an X-ray, which confirmed the suspicions.
“We were referred to a plastic surgeon and a neurosurgeon to cut open and restructure Natasha’s skull. They told us that if we don’t do surgery immediately, it might lead her to becoming disabled,” says Sharmila.
A second consultation with another doctor resulted in a similar prognosis.
“We were very young parents at that time. When we heard that, we were broken and devastated,” Sharmila says.
Deep inside, she knew God wanted her to put the baby on the operating table – and in His hands.
As doctors were concerned the infant’s skull might close rapidly, the Kannans were required to make a decision — go for the surgery, or not — within a week.
There was a 90% chance of recovery, the surgeons said. But Sharmila’s heart was focused on the one in 10 chance she might lose her baby.
“We were completely lost, and our only hope was God,” she says. “In that week, I went around all the churches, seeking a miracle healing so that Natasha didn’t need to go for the operation. But it didn’t happen.”
A friend had told Sharmila that as long as she went to a particular church and prayed, her daughter would be healed. Others advised her not to proceed with the operation.
But, deep inside, she knew God wanted her to put the baby on the operating table – and in His hands.
“I will be with her. That was the promise that was given to me,” she recounts.
So, with fearful hearts, the Kannans gathered their things and checked their 10-month-old into KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital one night in August 2003.
The surgery started in the morning, and lasted nine hours.
It was not uneventful. Natasha woke up in the middle of the operation and began pulling out the tubes attached to her body, even as surgeons were cutting her open, doctors later told Sharmila.
“That was the promise that God made me, that He would not abandon Natasha.”
Staff had to tie down the infant’s hands and legs, and re-inject her with a higher dose of anaesthetics.
During this time, her parents remained outside the operating theatre, praying. The words from Deuteronomy 31:6 came to Sharmila: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.
And again from Psalm 27:10: For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.
“That was the promise that God made me, that He would not abandon Natasha,” she says.
The surgery was a success. But as their baby lay in the intensive care unit (ICU) ward in the evening and her parents’ watched from a distance, their hearts broke.
“She would look at us from afar and cry, wanting us to carry her,” says Kannan.
“We could not even touch her,” adds Sharmila. “It was a painful moment.”
“I couldn’t take it. I was praying, crying to the Lord for healing upon this child.”
All around Natasha were tubes, one of which was siphoning blood away from her skull. As it was transparent, her parents could see the red liquid streaming down. “It was coming out non-stop,” Kannan remembers.
The bleeding was profuse. When doctors who had operated on the infant came by to check on her at 7.30pm – the first of two rounds of post-surgery checks expected for the night – they told Sharmila the knife had gone deep into the right side of the baby’s head.
If the bleeding did not stop by the second check, they would have to open up her skull again for a re-operation, they said.
Upon this news, Sharmila fell to her knees after the doctors left the room.
“I couldn’t take it,” she says. “I was praying, crying to the Lord for healing upon this child.”
Adds Kannan: “We prayed for God to heal her, to bring her back to us.”
Sharmila had been born into another religion, but her family had converted to Christianity when she was 11. She is an only child.
“The Spirit of the Lord came upon me and I started prophesising that God would heal Natasha completely.”
“My mum was going through a life-and-death situation,” she says. “The week after she accepted the Lord, she passed away.”
“Over the years, when I’m crying out to God in my prayers, when I feel that I’ve lost all hope, that’s when He will speak to me.”
After their marriage, Kannan converted to Christianity as well, and the couple prayed together at home. So he was surprised when his typically private wife prayed right there on the floor in the ICU ward, where a nurse was present.
But Sharmila did not care, for God was speaking. He told the anguished mother that He would stop Natasha’s bleeding before the second round of checks. In My name, this miracle will take place, he told her. Do not fear anything, for I am with you.
“The Spirit of the Lord came upon me and I started prophesising that God would heal Natasha completely,” she says.
“We saw the miracle taking place in front of our eyes.”
“That He would not only stop the bleeding, but this was the first and last head operation that she would go through in her life. He would not let any doctor touch her skull again.”
Soon after, the prayer, Kannan saw that the bleeding from his daughter’s head had stopped. The blood in the tube was beginning to dry up.
“We saw the miracle taking place in front of our eyes,” Sharmila adds. “We felt so much joy in the promise that the Lord had given us.”
But she was still afraid that it was a false prophecy. “I feared failure and was waiting for this prophecy to be real, to be from God.”
When the doctors came by again at 10pm, they could not find any bleeding, just as the Lord had promised.
Within two days, Natasha was discharged.
Faith, hope and love
Today, Natasha is a bright and giggly 20-year-old business student with wavy black hair.
She attends Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Her aims are to get into university, and “serve God more”. She describes herself as good at memorising theories.
These are big blessings for Sharmila, who says doctors had been monitoring Natasha’s brain development using her mathematical ability as a proxy.
“The scar (on my skull) doesn’t bother me, but my nose bone isn’t straight because they opened me up,” Natasha said with a laugh, adding that all she remembers of the incident are her many medical appointments.
From age 2, she began complaining frequently of headaches, and Sharmila would quickly ship her off to the hospital for an MRI scan.
“God has been a great God and a faithful God. Day by day, all these years, we saw these miracles taking place.”
“Each time, we’d pray and surrender to the Lord,” says the mother. When Natasha was a toddler, the hospital had rung Sharmila up to check on the child, after another baby girl who had undergone a similar surgery was no longer functioning well three years after her operation.
“They couldn’t promise us what would happen,” Sharmila says. “But God has been a great God and a faithful God. Day by day, all these years, we saw these miracles taking place.”
Today the Kannans – including littlest son Nathaniel, 9, serve in Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church as a family. But Sharmila had kept Natasha’s story mostly untold until a pastor shared a testimony about a sick baby girl late this year.
“I felt that God was giving me an opportunity to share this testimony, as there are some who might be going through the same as us and I was hoping that it would help to make a difference,” she says. “We have learned to trust God, despite the challenges that we face as a family.”
And as the Kannans prepare to celebrate Christmas, one question pops up – why name an October baby Natasha, which means ‘birth of Christ’?
“I liked the name when I first heard it,” Sharmila says. But perhaps there is also something deeper, for the sufferings of her baby have brought forth deeper faith, hope and love for Jesus in the family.
“She is a miracle baby,” the mother declares. “Truly, she is a gift from God.”
MORE STORIES OF GOD’S LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS:
“In our heartbreak, we’ve found comfort and peace in God”: Parents whose son was swept away by waves in Australia
“I thought everything I touched would turn to gold”: He was a wildly successful businessman – until he lost everything
“The most painful part of my life was also the most joyful”: Though her kidneys failed her at 35, she saw unexpected miracles
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