In April 2019 Monique Goldring made the heart-wrenching decision to turn off her baby’s life support. She knew it was for the best, but, of course, that didn’t make the decision any easier. She’d said her final goodbyes. However, no one could have predicted what happened next.
Goldring’s daughter, Phoenix Da’Vine, had put up a brave battle from the day she was born in Temple Hills, Maryland. It had been less than an hour into her life that doctors conducting routine checks had noticed a heart irregularity. And further tests revealed the baby’s condition to be even more serious than they had first feared.
Baby Da’Vine underwent two major surgeries in the first few months of her life. It is, of course, a lot for anyone to take, never mind a newborn baby. The stress proved too much for the infant, and aged just seven months old, she suffered a heart attack that left her with ongoing health problems.
Doctors hooked Da’Vine up to a life support machine. However, it was their belief that, due to the significant damage to her brain, she would never experience a fulfilling life. Then, with a choice between her daughter being kept alive by a machine or placed into hospice care, Goldring told doctors to turn life support off.
As Da’Vine’s mother, Goldring, naturally, had her daughter’s best interests at heart. And, when she got home from the hospital that April night, she was convinced she had made the right choice. But nothing could have prepared the devastated parent for the news doctors had for her when she phoned the hospital the next morning.
Phoenix Da’Vine was born on August 25, 2018. Although Goldring’s pregnancy went by without a hitch, the mom-to-be experienced a prolonged headache in the period before her daughter’s birth. However, rather than dismiss it as nothing, her mother insisted Goldring raised it with her doctor. And it was a good thing she did.
As Goldring described to the Daily Mail newspaper in August 2019, “I had migraines for like a week straight and my mother [said], ‘You’re going to the doctor.’” After assessing Goldring’s wellbeing, doctors found a problem that required immediate attention. Having had no issues throughout the entire pregnancy, it no doubt came as a shock to the expectant mom.
“They found out I had pre-eclampsia,” Goldring explained. Although it’s unclear precisely what causes pre-eclampsia, it’s believed to be related to the placenta, which connects the mother’s and baby’s blood supplies. Goldring said, “I had a clean bill of health my entire pregnancy, so they decided to do a C-section then.”
Indeed, the only remedy for pre-eclampsia is for the baby to be delivered. The good news was that Goldring was far enough along in her pregnancy that an immediate caesarean procedure was possible. She may not have expected to give birth that August day, but nevertheless she welcomed Phoenix Da’Vine at a healthy 7lb 2oz.
Nurses whisked newborn Da’Vine away for her routine checks while Goldring waited in recovery. It was then that the medical professionals discovered a problem. They noticed the infant had a slightly irregular heartbeat. And while such murmurs can often be harmless, doctors believed Da’Vine’s to be a symptom of something more serious.
The oxygen levels in Da’Vine’s blood were way down on where they should have been. With this in mind, the newborn was placed in neonatal intensive care and more tests were undertaken. Doctors performed an echocardiogram – a screening that produces a detailed picture of the heart and how it’s working. It helped identify the problem.
Doctors learned that Da’Vine had a condition called Double Outlet Right Ventricle (DORV). In simple terms, her heart wasn’t working as it should. The heart contains four connected chambers, the left and right ventricles and left and right atria. From these chambers, arteries and veins pump blood to and from the lungs and around the body.
Now, in a healthy heart, the main artery (called the aorta) connects to the left ventricle, and carries oxygen-rich blood out of the heart to be distributed around the body. Meanwhile, the pulmonary artery is connected to the right ventricle and transports deoxygenated blood to the lungs. For Da’Vine, however, both the aorta and pulmonary artery were connected to the right ventricle.
With both arteries connected to the same chamber, then, the heart was struggling to circulate oxygen-rich blood in large enough quantities. The baby’s life was in grave danger. And although the condition could be fixed, the operations required were major ones, especially for a newborn baby. Goldring, understandably, was beside herself.
“I was devastated,” Goldring explained to the Daily Mail. “I was told that to survive she would need to have four open-heart surgeries. But I knew that she needed them to live.” And Da’Vine needed them urgently. Indeed, the first operation was scheduled when she was little more than a week old.
During Da’Vine’s first surgery, in September 2018, doctors inserted a pulmonary arterial band. Its function was to restrict the excessive blood flow into her lungs. However, the procedure didn’t reduce the blood pressure sufficiently and a further operation was required a month later.
Aged two months old, then, Da’Vine underwent the second of the four surgeries she needed. In October 2018 a shunt was inserted in order to help guide the blood flow around the infant’s heart. At first, Da’Vine appeared to respond well to the procedure. Sadly, however, that improvement was not to last.
In March 2019, Goldring noticed her daughter had a badly bunged-up nose. And, although that in itself doesn’t sound bad, it was, in fact, the first sign of something far more serious. One day soon after, Da’Vine’s nose started to bleed profusely. Deeply concerned, Goldring drove her to Annandale, Virginia’s Inova Fairfax Hospital, which regularly treated the infant.
The hospital was only around a half hour drive away. As Goldring recalled to the Daily Mail, “Halfway there she was cranky and very fussy, but eventually she got quiet. She looked like she was asleep.” But Da’Vine wasn’t sleeping. As Goldring further described, “We get to the ER and she was completely blue.”
“I shook her arm and face, she did nothing. I screamed her name, nothing,” Goldring remembered. “I pulled out the car seat and rushed her to the ER and said, ‘My daughter’s not breathing!’ They rushed her in and it felt like forever.” Goldring feared that her daughter was already dead.
Doctors eventually resuscitated the infant. However, Da’Vine’s brain had been starved of oxygen for too long and, as a result, the seven-month-old infant was severely brain-damaged. After the infant had spent a month on life support, doctors informed Goldring that in their opinion her daughter would never live any kind of normal or fulfilling life. The distraught parent faced an awful decision.
Goldring had a choice between watching her daughter grow up on a life support machine or sending her to hospice care to see out what remained of her all-too-short life. Naturally, it wasn’t a decision she took lightly. To help her decide, she looked to the person her decision would affect most: her daughter.
“I prayed with my family and friends,” Goldring told the Daily Mail. “And one day I said, ‘Phoenix, if you’re tired, let me know.’ Phoenix was facing towards the TV, and she looked at me when I said that. That was confirmation for me.” Goldring took her daughter’s response as a sign; she knew what she needed to do.
Seeing her daughter’s exhausted face, Goldring made the painful decision to have Da’Vine’s life support switched off. Nevertheless, she had a short time left in her daughter’s company, as doctors believed it would take around six hours for her to slip away. The whole family gathered to say their last goodbyes.
Doctors and nurses, too, wrote heartfelt messages to the eight-month-old, of whom they had clearly grown fond over the months they had spent with her. “Watch over your mommy in heaven. We will never forget you or your family,” one message read. Then, on April 23, 2019, Da’Vine’s life support was disconnected.
Goldring spent what little time she expected to have left with her daughter by the infant’s side. The six hours doctors had anticipated passed as day turned into night. Eventually, leaving her still-breathing daughter in the safe care of nurses, she went home for some well-earned rest, feeling in her heart that she had made the right decision.
“I went home that night,” Goldring recalled to Washington D.C. TV station WJLA in August 2019. “A lot of people will think that’s crazy, but I was at peace with her.” Indeed, although many mothers may have stayed with their child until the very end, Goldring knew her baby was in the best possible care.
Nevertheless, Goldring checked in with the hospital the next day. She may have expected them to tell her about the final few hours of her daughter’s life, and how she had passed away peacefully during the night. However, what they actually told her was perhaps the last thing she expected to hear.
“I called [the hospital] the next morning and they said [Da’Vine] was up and hanging out,” Goldring recalled to WJLA. Indeed, the six-hour window of life that doctors had estimated Da’Vine had left had long since passed. Surely it wouldn’t be long before she passed with no machinery to keep her alive?
However, hours eventually turned into days, days into weeks, and weeks into months. Goldring has witnessed her daughter continuing to defy doctors’ expectations. Now at home in Temple Hills, preparations were recently being made to celebrate a milestone no one expected baby Phoenix to reach.
Indeed, on August 25, Da’Vine was set to have reached her first birthday – something doctors didn’t think would ever happen. Tonosha Johnson is a pediatrician who helped care for Da’Vine. She said, “She is continuing to defy the medical odds by living and thriving beyond what many expected.” Baby Phoenix, however, still faces many challenges.
Although Da’Vine was allowed home from the hospital in May, she remains on hospice status. What that means is that doctors don’t expect the patient to survive. Nevertheless, treatment is still offered, with relief from pain, physical strain and anxiety provided where necessary.
In order to prolong her life, Da’Vine is in need of two further surgeries to correctly route her blood flow around her body. However, doctors don’t believe the infant would survive the operations so have no plans to perform them. Indeed, Phoenix will quickly outgrow her shunt, a situation that will prove fatal.
“That’s kind of hard for a mother [to hear],” Goldring explained to news outlet CNN in August 2019. “The longer she’s here with me, the more difficult it gets for me.” Nevertheless, Goldring is hopeful that she might find another hospital willing to take her daughter’s case forward and perform the operations she needs.
“I am desperately hoping that somebody will look at her case and perform this surgery on her,” Goldring further explained to WJLA. However, doctors foresee a bleak future for baby Phoenix should she continue to defy the odds. It’s one in which she would have restricted functions and she would still need round-the-clock care.
“The doctors say she won’t walk, won’t talk,” Goldring told WJLA. However, the hopeful mom holds a more optimistic point of view. She said, “I stress that she may not be doing those things right now, but I was also told that she would be gone in six hours.” So what’s her plan?
“I am just going to sit back and watch her thrive,” Goldring defiantly stated. Indeed, she has already watched as Da’Vine beat her odds of survival. And, despite her daughter’s reliance on a constant oxygen supply, feeding tube and multiple medications, Goldring remains level-headed about Da’Vine’s predicament.
“Falling apart about it is not going to change the circumstances,” Goldring explained to CNN. “She’s clearly not falling apart about it, so I get my strength from her daily.” As well as 24/7 oxygen and a feeding tube, Da’Vine takes medication to aid ingestion, fight pain and prevent seizures.
Nevertheless, Goldring still watches her baby grow and reach milestones that, as a mother, she never thought she’d experience. Indeed, Goldring never thought she would see her baby’s first tooth come through, much less celebrate her first birthday. In fact, she had a big party planned to mark her daughter turning one.
Indeed, more than 100 family and friends were expected to attend a huge birthday party to celebrate Da’Vine’s first birthday. There was to be lots of food, face painting, games and even a piñata. “I’m just elated,” Goldring told CNN recently. “I don’t know what the future is, but I’m excited for what’s to come.”