The boy's father called him a "living miracle" for surviving a precarious birth that claimed the life of his mother. But now, a Florida family has suffered additional heartbreak after deciding to remove their baby from life support.
Matthew Accurso Jr. was born April 29, the first boy after three girls born to high school sweethearts Lauren and Matt Accurso.
Lauren, 37, died of complications during childbirth, but the couple’s newborn clung to life in the neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. Initially, the baby showed strong vitals and appeared to do well.
But a Facebook update Tuesday by Matt Accurso, shared by the family's pastor, revealed the infant's prognosis had worsened considerably and that the decision was made to take him on life support.
On Thursday, the pastor, Matt McCloghry, told TODAY that Accurso and his three young daughters were "enjoying every sweet moment and spending as much time" as they have left with baby Matthew.
"They really feel like they have been able to hold onto a miracle, and baby Matthew is a miracle," McCloghry said. "They are really seeing this from heaven's perspective. The name Matthew means 'gift of God.' They are choosing to see him as a true gift."
McCloghry added that while the family has faced the unimaginable, they've been drawing strength from the prayers and messages of support they have received.
"The family appreciates prayer right now for the girls as they are coming to terms with life without mom," he said. "Matt is truly grateful for the outpouring of support. People around the world have rallied around this family and lifted baby Matthew up in prayer and he wants everyone to know that if anything, his faith has been strengthened through this."
In a heartbreaking Facebook post shared on Tuesday, Accurso described what was "one of the hardest days of my life.
"Unfortunately, the last thing I ever thought I would have to talk about as a father was now very real and happening," he wrote.
Accurso said his son suffered "significant brain injury" because of a prolonged lack of oxygen during his birth.
"As a result, several serious complications related to cognitive function and development have become a reality for Matthew. At this time Matthew is being supported by a breathing machine requiring an airway tube, and also a feeding tube," he said.
Efforts to wean the infant off the life-sustaining devices "have not been positive."
"Today, I was faced with something no father should ever have to face," Matt wrote. "The decision to place Matthew on endless life supporting contraptions and medications or allow God to carry him where He will."
Accurso said he refused to see his family's story as "an awful tragedy" or a sign of God's absence in their lives.
"Matthew is a living miracle," his father wrote, describing how the infant, "without an ounce of oxygen," made it through an ambulance ride and into the NICU.
"Matthew then defied all odds and opened his eyes, breathed on his own, pumped blood through his strong heart, moved his limbs without rigidity and even made coo noises," he said.
"Often times we consider things miracles when the miracle looks how we want it to look. What I've learned is that miracles are miracles whether we choose to see them or not. My miracle was having my soul mate by my side for almost 20 years and then being so blessed to give her 4 gorgeous babies."
Accurso and his wife shared daughters Ali Rose, 8, Naomi Belle, 5, and Layne Louise, 2.
"My miracle is holding my son for as many precious moments as possible and when the time comes, lifting him up to his mommy so that she can hold him for the first time in paradise," he said.
Accurso has asked for prayers in the coming days "as we work with the doctors and medical staff and plan to see Matthew off to his mommy and Heavenly Father."