Westmont Magazine A Miracle in the Making
Dean ‘97 and Susan Rhea ’97 Wilson live on a Goleta cul-de-sac with other Westmont families who have become good friends. The neighbors tore down the fences in their back yards so their children can play together freely.
The expanded neighborhood —and their supportive church — became an extended community for the Wilsons during a difficult time in their lives.
In January 2002, two weeks before Ella, their second daughter, was due, an ultrasound showed an enlarged head, indicating fluid on the brain. Susan prepared for an emergency delivery .
Turning to the Scriptures, the couple took Matthew 21:21-22 as their word from the Lord: “Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt … you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.’”
When they arrived at the hospital, the doctor told them he couldn’t distinguish a developed brain, a condition “not compatible with life.” Even if Ella survived, she would probably be severely retarded or paralyzed. “We kept praying,” Dean recalls. “Sometimes we just said the name of Jesus over and over again.”
Their suspense ended with Ella’s birth. Tests showed a developed brain. She had suffered a stroke, the best possible outcome under the circumstances — and a miraculous outcome given the doctors’ opinion. She underwent four surgeries to install a shunt in her head to drain spinal fluid. After many hospital trips, emergency room visits, seizures, breathing problems, shunt infections and additional surgeries, Ella finally went home in March.
“We returned home to a supportive church — a community of people who loved us and supported us and believed with us and prayed with us,” Dean says. “Our community has overwhelmed us with love.”
The massive stroke on the right side of her brain made a significant impact on the left side of Ella’s body. But the miracle keeps unfolding. “We are watching the unseen become the seen. We watch her make progress every day,” Dean reports. “She kicks with her left leg, smiles with her whole mouth, is gaining control of her vision and eye movements, uses her left arm and is coming along with her left hand.
“She is vigorous and spirited. She is responsive and active and happy. We don’t think in terms of what the average 17-month-old is doing or what she should be doing. We thank God for the miracle and watch it unfold.”
At Ella’s most recent check-up, the pediatrician was surprised to see her progress and the latest CT scan showing the regrowth of Ella’s brain. She looked Susan in the eye and asked, “Do you think this is because of prayer?”
Susan said, “Yes.” The doctor replied, “This is amazing. Every time I see her she has reached a new milestone. This is a miracle!” And Dean and Susan agree.
Dean is vice president for investments at Prudential Financial in Santa Barbara. Susan worked as an editor for a publishing company after graduating from Westmont, but now works full time at home caring for their two daughters, Hannah and Ella.