Story of Healing

Ella Grace Smith

Tensas Parish


"I looked around at my husband standing next to me after a stroke and this beautiful girl in my arms and realized he was right. Ella Grace is my miracle baby."

When Leslie Smith of Newellton, Louisiana found out she was pregnant with her second daughter, it was a complete shock. Leslie, who had a 27-year-old daughter at the time, thought she was suffering with Sciatica, before her doctor confirmed that the pain she had been experiencing was because she was pregnant. The Smith family would soon find out that this unexpected pregnancy would be the first of many surprises for them.

At Leslie’s anatomy scan, doctors found that the baby had three holes in her heart. At first, Leslie’s doctors thought that the baby may not live, and she was referred to a specialist in Shreveport. Good news came from their trip west. After a closer look at the baby’s heart, it was determined that she had patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), an opening between two blood vessels leading from the heart. Leslie’s doctor said that these holes will likely close on their own and that he would continue to monitor the baby.

The next unexpected turn of events came when Leslie was seven months pregnant. Her husband David suffered a stroke and miraculously survived. While Leslie nested and waited for the arrival of her new baby in Tensas parish, David was staying nearly four hours away in New Orleans at Touro’s Rehabilitation Center. Leslie recalled being so worried about David being so far away, when she could give birth at any moment.

On March 19, 2019, Leslie’s water broke at home, and she delivered Ella Grace via cesarean section at a hospital in nearby Natchez, Mississippi. David made it to the hospital right after Ella was born, and doctors told the parents that their new baby had Trisomy 21 or Down Syndrome. “When they first told us, I was upset,” recalled Leslie. “But David said, ‘don’t be upset, we are so blessed.’ I looked around at my husband standing next to me after a stroke and this beautiful girl in my arms and realized he was right. Ella Grace is my miracle baby.”

After Ella was born, she went straight home with her family with the plan to visit Children’s Hospital New Orleans to see a pediatric geneticist. At five-months-old, Ella and her family made the trek to New Orleans for appointments with audiology, cardiology, endocrinology, otolaryngology, and genetics. The news was great. The holes in Ella’s heart had closed and she was growing and hearing well. This good news meant that their trips to visit Children’s Hospital would be much less frequent than expected.

“We loved everyone at Children’s Hospital, especially Ella’s geneticist, Dr. Michael Marble,” shared Leslie. “He was worth every minute of that drive.”

Now at two-years-old little Ella is, as her mom describes, “a walking, talking miracle.” Ella started walking at ten months old and hasn’t slowed down since. “She’s two-years-old now and of course her growth is a little slower,” said Leslie. “She loves to jump on the trampoline, make music, and play the tambourine. Everyone is amazed by our Ella Grace.”