With his wife in a seemingly irreversible coma, Michael Smith brought his children to Bethesda North Hospital in Cincinnati to say goodbye to their mother before she was pulled off life support.
But Lori Smith’s 8-year-old daughter Megan wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Instead, she said, “Mom, if you love us and you hear us, move your eyes.”
“Lori moved her eyes, and that was the first sign that I knew Lori was there,” Michael Smith said. “I didn’t know if Lori was being mom for the last time or what, but God really gave us a miracle and brought Lori back to us.”
Heart stopped twice
Some 56 days after Lori went to the hospital for what appeared to be a no-drama birth of the couple’s fourth child, she is — despite long odds against her — back at the family’s home in Morrow, Ohio. Michael and Lori, along with children Megan, Katie Beth, Hayden and newborn Delilah, appeared live via satellite on TODAY Monday to tell Ann Curry the awe-inspiring story of what is called the case of the Miracle Mom.
Lori Smith entered the hospital on New Year’s Eve, and at 4:19 a.m. on New Year’s Day, delivered baby Delilah. But things went horribly wrong for Lori shortly after she greeted her newborn.
“First Lori had a headache, then 15 minutes later she started throwing up, and then was totally unresponsive,” Michael told TODAY. “They couldn’t wake her up. They called the Emergency Response Team. They couldn’t do anything — they thought she was dying.”
Lori’s heart actually stopped beating twice during an agonizing 49-minute period before doctors and nurses managed to get a regular heartbeat again. They learned Lori’s system shut down because blood clots formed in her brain, liver and kidneys, and that she had also suffered a stroke that went to her brainstem.
She drifted in and out of consciousness for the next several days before finally fading into a coma. After 13 days, doctors sadly informed Michael Smith his wife was unlikely to ever recover.
“The neurologists said they didn’t think there was much hope, and they wanted to know what me and Lori talked about, what we would want to do with Lori, if we’d want her to live in a home the rest of her life that way, or take her off the respirator,” he told Curry.
Smith had resisted bringing Katie Beth, 12, Megan and Hayden, 6 to see their mother while she was in a coma, believing the experience would be “too traumatic,” he said. But Smith said he realized he had to prepare the children for their mother to be taken off the respirator.
“I was bringing the kids for the first time to see Lori and say goodbye to their mom,” he said.
While the sight of the comatose Lori responding to daughter Megan’s prompting stunned onlookers, Megan told Curry she had never lost hope she would get her mother back.
“I thought she would be able to come back to us,” Megan said.
Since awakening from her coma, it’s been a long, often slow but steady progress toward recovery for Lori. Initially, she would wake up in spurts, and move her mouth a bit when the family played her music from her Ipod. After three days, she began to speak a few words, and she was moved to the nearby Drake Center for a month of intensive therapy.
She had to relearn how to walk and use her hands — even now, her left side is markedly weaker than her right, and she suffers some eyesight problems.
Happy homecomingStill, she progressed well enough that after 56 days, doctors sent her home Feb. 25. Not only were her new child, grateful husband and adoring children waiting for her, but some 70 family members and well-wishers who organized blood drives and prayer circles while Lori lay in a coma.
“It’s not about me; it was God’s will,” Lori told TODAY of her recovery. “I got here because of all the prayers and help. I could have had the plugs pulled out by the doctors.”
Lori added that the whole traumatic experience is little more than a blur to her at present.
“I don’t remember giving birth at all,” she told Curry. “I remember going up and signing my name on the paper, and then walking back to deliver her, but that’s all I remember. I’m hoping that maybe that memory would come back to me.”
The animated family clearly reveled in being able to appear on TODAY to tell their miraculous story — none enjoying it more than plucky Megan.
“I would also [like to] send a shout-out,” Megan told Curry. “I have a teacher at my school and she would like to say that, Matt [Lauer], she loves him and she thinks he’s very hot.”
Lori Smith added to Curry with a smile that daughter Katie Beth “wants your anchor position.”