Michael Hichborn, American Life League

‘God has answered’: How my daughter got her name

Michael Hichborn, American Life League
By Michael Hichborn
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Note: Michael Hichborn is the director of American Life League’s Defend the Faith project.

July 3, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - June 29th was our 10th wedding anniversary, and as my wife Alyssa and I drove home, the intense storm and downed trees that met us along the way reminded us of the intense drama of just 17 months ago.

In December of 2010, Alyssa was eight months pregnant with our fourth child.  One quiet evening, as we were cleaning up after dinner, our 5-year-old daughter, Sonya, was practicing writing her letters.  As we were discussing names for the new baby, Sonya would interrupt by handing Alyssa a sheet of paper filled with scribbled letters and ask, “What does this say, Mommy.”  She had been doing this for weeks, and normally the letters spelled nothing more than “pbthfsa,” or some such nonsense.  But on this particular evening, what she handed my wife was “Elia.”  We thought it sounded like a name, and suggested that perhaps if it held some meaning, we might consider naming the baby “Elia.”  Little did we know how prophetic this event would soon become.

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On January 27th, our new little girl made her grand entrance into the world.  With a healthy new baby, and a wonderful home-birth experience, we could never have suspected what was about to happen.  Less than 36 hours after delivery, Alyssa woke me up, screaming in agony with intense pains in her lower right back.  Of course, we thought it was nothing more than post-delivery spasms, so I did everything I could to make her comfortable, and stayed up most of the night tending to her and helping her as much as I was able.  That morning, I called the midwives to ask them to see her, and when they arrived, they told me that something was wrong and I needed to take her to the emergency room.

On this day, everything seemed to go from bad to worse.  When we arrived at the emergency room, the triage nurse attempted to take her vitals, but couldn’t get her blood pressure.  Needless to say, it was a matter of minutes before they set her up in a room, and then whisked her away for an MRI.  As I nervously waited to hear from a doctor what was wrong, I called for a priest to come anoint her.  When he arrived, I saw my first miracle that day.

When Alyssa came back from the MRI, her vital signs continued to crash.  Her blood pressure was dropping, her temperature was falling, her heart rate was rapidly increasing, and her color was draining.  The on-duty doctor, who was overly perky and lacking in answers, finally told me that they detected a lot of blood around her kidney and her bladder, but couldn’t find the cause.  And while Dr. Perky was attempting to explain the possibilities to me, Fr. Bresnahan came into the room, and gave Alyssa the Church’s sacrament for the sick and dying, and then Holy Communion.  From that moment on, though the situation got much worse, I never saw her vitals dip below where they were.  I am thoroughly convinced that our Blessed Lord, through the ministry of His Holy Church, preserved her life though these powerful sacraments.

Shortly after her anointing, a specialist introduced himself to me, and explained that Alyssa had a ruptured aneurysm in her kidney.  We discussed options, and he suggested an arthroscopic procedure that would effectively seal the artery going into her kidney.  She was going to lose the kidney whether they took it out, or sealed the artery, so I agreed to go along with the less traumatic approach.

By this point, family and friends had put out the call to prayer, which had reached thousands of people across the country.  E-mail prayer chains through our Christendom College alumni association, Facebook posts, and a network of family and friend e-mail chains had reached every state in the country, several convents, and countless priests.

Alyssa was scheduled for surgery at around 4:00, which meant I would have about an hour to run to the house, check on the kids, take a shower, and pick up some supplies.  When I got back to the hospital, I got a call from the doctor that there were some unforeseen complications.  My heart sank into the pit of my stomach and the blood drained from my face as he explained that she suffered a sudden vascular spasm, which prevented them from completing the procedure, and from removing the arthroscopic line they ran through an artery in her leg.  I asked him what this meant, and he said that they hadn’t stopped the internal bleeding, and were concerned that she now might lose her leg.

All of a sudden, I was all alone in a room full of people.  The doctors were doing what they could, but no amount of sympathy from family or friends could fill the massive void growing in my heart.  My children were unaware that anything was wrong, and all I could think of was how I would have to go home to tell them that Mommy isn’t ever coming home again.  I locked myself in a bathroom for a few minutes and wept.  And then I prayed.  I prayed like I had never prayed in my life.  On my knees, I thought of Christ’s passion.  As I remembered Jesus’ words, “I make all things new,” I begged him to make my wife new.

When I saw Alyssa again after the failed procedure, she never complained, but only apologized for how much she had inconvenienced me.  She told me about the pain she was in, but also how she thought of so many people that were suffering worse than she was.  She told me about someone she knew who was suffering terribly, and said that she would offer her suffering up for that woman.  Selfishly, I wished I could trade places with Alyssa because the pain in my heart was unbearable.

As the day waned on, her condition continued to deteriorate.  I consulted with the surgeon, and we decided that he had to go in to remove the kidney.  I walked my wife to the operating room and gave her a kiss.  I really didn’t have anything to say, but to tell her that I loved her, and she chastised me for “doing that thing again.”  I asked her what she meant, and she said, “you know, that thing where you worry so much when you know that everything will go according to God’s plan.”  I gave her another kiss, they wheeled her into the operating room, and I sank to my knees.

For what seemed like an eternity, family and friends joined me in the waiting room, where we prayed the Rosary on our knees.  About half-way through the Sorrowful mysteries, a hospital chaplain came in to see me.  He assured me that he had no news of the operation, but was only there to talk or pray with me.  I told him that we were praying a Rosary, and though he was a protestant chaplain, he joined us on our knees, reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the end of every decade.

Fourteen units of blood, a removed kidney, and the longest two hours of my life later, and the doctor entered the waiting room to tell me that the operation was a success, and all of her vitals had returned to normal.  He couldn’t account for the success of the operation because when he looked, he said her kidney had completely dissolved.  Instantly, the room filled with a celebration of tears, hugs, and smiles.  A second miracle had occurred.

But the most remarkable thing about this ordeal comes back to our new baby’s name.  For each of our children, we chose names with strong Catholic significance.  Brendan Xavier after the great navigator saint, and the powerful Jesuit missionary; Sonya Elaine, whose two names mean wisdom and light; Sebastian Alexander, after two great martyrs, one a soldier and the other a pope.  We had settled on our baby’s first name, Tatiana, after the Russian patroness of students, but still wondered about her middle name.  But her middle name had to be Elia, because when we looked it up that night in December, we found that it was a Hebrew word which means, “God has answered.”  God had answered, indeed.


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Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

African researchers warn early sexual activity increases risk of cancers

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

A report on rising cancer rates in Africa delivered at a conference in Namibia last week warned that oral contraceptives and engaging in sexual activity from a young age lead to an increased risk of breast and reproductive system cancers.

Researchers presented the "2014 Integrated Africa Cancer Fact Sheet & Summary Score Card" during the 8th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) conference, held in Windhoek, Namibia from July 20 to 22, noted that cancer is a growing health problem in many developing countries and that breast and cervical cancer are the most common forms affecting African women.

The report said that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) play a major role in reproductive system cancers and that young girls who engage in sexual activity risk getting, among other STDs, the human papilloma virus (HPV), some strains of which are linked to cervical cancer.

The report said although HPV infections are common in healthy women, they are usually fought off by the body’s immune system, with no discernible symptoms or health consequences.

The Cancer Association of South Africa points out that of the scores of HPV types, 14 of the more than 40 sexually transmitted varieties are considered "high risk" for causing serious illness, while two, HPV-16 and HPV-18, are linked to cervical cancer.

“Long-term use of oral contraceptives is also associated with increased risk [of cancer], and women living with HIV-AIDS are at increased risk of cervical cancer,” the report said.

Dr. Thandeka Mazibuko, a South African oncologist, told the conference attendees that when an 18-year-old is diagnosed with cervical cancer, “this means sex is an important activity in her life and she indulged from a young age.”

Mazibuko said the standard treatment for cancer of the cervix is seven weeks of radiation therapy.

“After the treatment they cannot have sex with their husbands or partners. They cannot bear children because everything has been closed up. Some may still have the womb but radiation makes them infertile,” Mazibuko said, according to a report in The Namibian.

Statistics from the Cancer Association of Namibia show that cases of cervical cancer have risen from 129 in 2005 to 266 in 2012.

The SCCA Conference theme was, "Moving forward to end Cervical Cancer by 2030: Universal Access to Cervical Cancer Prevention."

In his keynote address, host and Namibian President Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba urged African countries to help each other to expand and modernize health care delivery in the continent.

"Within the context of the post-2015 Development Agenda and sustainable development goals, the provision of adequate health care to African women and children must be re-emphasized," said the president, according to AllAfrica.

The Namibian leader urged mothers to breastfeed their children for at least six months as a measure to prevent breast cancer.


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Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

Allow ‘lethal injection’ for poor to save on palliative care: Lithuanian health minister

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By Hilary White

Euthanasia is a solution for terminally ill poor people who cannot afford palliative care and who do not want to “see their families agonize” over their suffering, Lithuania’s health minister said last week.

In an interview on national television, Minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė added that the Belgian law on child euthanasia ought to be “taken into account” as well. 

Šalaševičiūtė told TV3 News that Lithuania, a country whose population is 77 percent Catholic, is not a welfare state and cannot guarantee quality palliative care for all those in need of it. The solution, therefore, would be “lethal injection.”

“It is time to think through euthanasia in these patients and allow them to make a decision: to live or die,” she said.

Direct euthanasia remains illegal in the Balkan state, but activists tried to bring it to the table in 2012. A motion to drop the planned bill was passed in the Parliament in March that year in a vote of 75 to 14. Since then the country has undergone a change in government in which the far-left Social Democrats have formed the largest voting bloc.

Šalaševičiūtė is a member of Parliament for the Social Democrats, the party originally established in the late 19th century – re-formed in the late 1980s – from Marxist principles and now affiliated with the international Party of European Socialists and Socialist International.

Fr. Andrius Narbekovas, a prominent priest, lecturer, physician, bioethicist, and member of the government’s bioethics committee, called the suggestion “satanic,” according to Delfi.lt. He issued a statement saying it is the purpose of the Ministry of Health to “protect the health and life, instead of looking for ways to take away life.”

“We understand that people who are sick are in need of funds. But a society that declares itself democratic, should very clearly understand that we have to take care of the sick, not kill them,” he said.


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Islamists in Mosul mark Christian homes with an Arabic "N" for Nazarene.
Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.

We must open wide our doors to Iraq’s Christians

Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.
By Gualberto Garcia Jones J.D.

On July 18, the largest Christian community in Iraq, the Chaldean Catholics of Mosul, were given a grotesque ultimatum: leave your ancestral home, convert to Islam, or die.

All but forgotten by the 1.2 billion Catholics of the world, these last Christians who still speak Jesus’ native tongue of Aramaic and live in the land of Abraham and Jonah are being wiped out before our very eyes.

As a way of issuing a thinly-veiled threat, reminiscent of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Arabic letter “N” (for Nazarean) has been painted on the outside of the homes of all known Christians in Mosul.

These threats, issued by the fanatical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) known for its bloodthirsty rampage of executions, have been taken very seriously by the several hundred thousand Christians in Mosul who have left with little more than the clothes they were wearing. 

At least most of these Christians were able to flee and find temporary protection among the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region.  However the Kurds do not have the resources to defend or shelter the Chaldean Christians for much longer.

On Monday, during an interview on Fox News, Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, who recently joined with 54 other members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Obama asking him to act to protect these communities, stated that while Iraqi President Maliki had sent military flights to Mosul to evacuate Shiite Muslims, the US has done nothing to protect the Chaldean Christians.  Rep. Wolf also stated emphatically that President Obama has done “almost nothing” about the genocide taking place.

The silence from the White House is deafening.  But the lack of leadership from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America has been shocking as well.

Nevertheless, the plight of these Iraqi Christians is beginning to be taken seriously.   This is due in large part to the heroic efforts of local Iraqi religious leaders like Chaldean Patriarch Sako, who has gone on a whirlwind tour of the world to alert us all of the plight of these Iraqi Christians.  In a statement demonstrating his character, he told the Christians of Iraq last week, “We are your shepherds, and with our full responsibility towards you we will stay with you to the end, will not leave you, whatever the sacrifices.”

Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched there were approximately 1.5 to 2 million Christians living in Iraq.  Today, there are believed to be less than 200,000.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Now that the world is beginning to be aware of the genocide in Northern Iraq, many of us ask ourselves: what can we do?  As citizens and as Christians blessed to live in nations with relative peace and security, what can we do?

The answer is quite simple and unexpected.  Demand that our government and church pull its head out of the sand and follow France. Yes, France.  

Yesterday, in a heroic gesture of Christian solidarity that would make Joan of Arc proud, the government of France opened wide its doors to the persecuted Iraqi Christians.  

”France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness," Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, France's interior minister, said in a joint statement on Monday.

"The ultimatum given to these communities in Mosul by ISIS is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat that jihadist groups in Iraq, but also in Syria and elsewhere, pose to these populations that are historically an integral part of this region," they added. "We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil.  We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them.”

The French statement drives home three crucial elements that every government, especially the United States, should communicate immediately:

  1. Recognize the genocide and name the perpetrators and victims.

  2. Officially condemn what is happening in the strongest terms.

  3. Offer a solution that includes cooperation with local authorities but which leads by making solid commitments such as offering asylum or other forms of protection.

With regard to the Church, we should look to the Chaldean Patriarch and the Iraqi bishops who shared their expectations explicitly in an open letter to “all people of conscience in Iraq and around the world” to take “practical actions to assure our people, not merely expressions of condemnation.”  Noticeably, the last section of the letter from the Iraqi bishops, before a final prayer to God, is an expression of thanks to the Kurdish government, which has welcomed them not just with “expressions” of goodwill but, like France, with a sacrificial hospitality.

On Friday, July 25, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did issue a statement, but unfortunately it lacked much in terms of leadership or solutions.  We should encourage our bishops to do better than that, be bolder and stronger for our persecuted brothers and sisters, name names and offer concrete sacrificial aid. In a word, be more like the French.

In 1553, Rome welcomed the Chaldean church into the fold of the Catholic Church.  Nearly 500 years later, Catholic Americans must find ways to welcome these persecuted people into our country, into our churches, and into our own homes if need be.

I say, I am with you St. Joan of Arc.   I am with you, France.  I am with you, Chaldeans!

Gualberto Garcia Jones is the Executive Director of the International Human Rights Group, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, that seeks to advance the fundamental rights to life, the natural family, and religious liberty through international law and international relations. 


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