Baby Angela ready to celebrate 2nd birthday
Baby Angela Morales isn't a baby anymore.
She will turn two years old on Wednesday.
"It's just an incredible feeling," Sonia Morales, Angela's mother, told NBC 10 News. "We are overwhelmed with pure joy."
When Sonia was 16 weeks pregnant, doctors told her that her unborn baby had anencephaly, which is the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp. It can occur during embryonic development.
Doctors said her child would probably be stillborn or only live a few hours to a couple of days.
But Angela, said Sonia, is a survivor.
"It is amazing to see how well she has done," Sonia said. "She's fighting the odds and I am very proud of her."
These days, Angela has two teeth. She continues to grow and smiles and coos when cuddled or tickled.
Angela has also overcome a few obstacles during the last 24 months, as she battled two bouts of pneumonia and was hospitalized during the winter. Now, she's recovering from an upper ear way obstruction and respiratory infection.
"When Angela was in the hospital, so many doctors were so amazed that Angela is still here defining the odds," Sonia said. "She has needed oxygen, but hasn't needed invasive treatment."
Dr. Angela Anderson is the director of pediatric pain and palliative care at Hasbro Children's Hospital. She met Angela shortly after the child turned 8 weeks old.
"She's exceeded our expectations in everything she's been able to do and accomplish," Anderson said. "I don't think that anybody was expecting that she would be able to smile or roll over. To some, it may seem like a small feat, but to Angela, it was a big feat."
Anderson said not only is Angela an inspiration to the medical staff at Hasbro, Sonia also awes everyone.
"She is able to see what a gift Angela is, even with her challenges," said Anderson, who also noted that while Angela faces struggles, she isn't in any pain. "Sonia is still able to see the beauty that Angela has brought into her life and the lives of her family. She has embraced Angela and accepted her the way she is. It's a lesson about life for all of us. The whole family has inspired me in that way."
Sonia and her husband Rony, as well as their six-year-old daughter Elizabeth, said their faith in God keeps them strong.
"We are happy that God chose our house to care for this baby and love her unconditionally," said Sonia, who is a parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Providence. "We have our fair share of ups and downs, but we walk by faith and we are following God's will."
Sonia's mother, Maria Orellana, shared similar sentiments.
"Despite her prognosis, it's a divine intersession here," Orellana said. "It's a true miracle from God and that makes our faith stronger."
Sonia also said she is encouraged by a community of people she met on Facebook. Shortly after receiving the diagnosis, Sonia created "Baby Angela: A Miraculous Journey with Anencephaly," a Facebook page that promotes a pro-life message and raises anencephaly awareness.
"It is so amazing to see how many lives Angela has touched around the world," Sonia said of the page, which has more than 18,500 followers. "She hasn't said a word, but her testimony of life and love has reached more than 50 countries. God chose Angela before she was even born. She might never walk or talk or go to school or run a marathon, but she has done more than I have ever done in my entire life."
In recent years, people like Sonia have turned to social media looking for information and support. As a result, they unified individuals and families from throughout the globe who are caring for children with disabilities or serious illnesses.
For example, the Praying for Dorian Facebook page helped capture the attention of the world and led to the #DStrong movement. Sadly, on March 8, a post on the Dorian Murray page noted that the 8-year-old boy from Westerly "gained his beautiful angel wings."
"That amazing little boy touched so many people and now, through his courage, he is showing people that this isn't the end," Sonia said. "Death is not the end."
While doctors are uncertain how long Angela will live, Sonia said she and her loved ones cherish each moment they share with Angela.
"We don't know how long she is going to be here, but we never thought we were going to get these two years with her," said Sonia. "When it is time to let her go, we are willing to let her go. Her soul will never die and we are enjoying every single minute because life itself is a miracle."
Elizabeth agreed. She certainly adores her little sister.
"She is my love," Elizabeth said of Angela. "I love her a lot."