‘Maybe this will be the miracle.’ Husband and wife among honorees at Pro-Vita Mass
As they came up to receive their Pro-Vita Award, Lexi & Josh Matam held a photo of their daughter, Chiara, who passed away after spending her entire four weeks of life on a ventilator. The Pro-Vita Awards recognize those people who dedicate themselves to promoting the sanctity of all life.
The couple, married four and a half years now, had already suffered one miscarriage, when they went to have a 20-week ultrasound scan for their second pregnancy. The doctors saw something weird – a black spot in the baby’s head.
“We were told we were having a girl and she was missing most of her brain, and she had a lot of fluid in her head,” described Lexi. The diagnosis was extreme hydrocephalus, an extremely rare disorder characterized by an abnormal amount of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain.
“They pressured us to get an abortion many times because she was missing most of her brain. But we didn’t want to, obviously,” Lexi said.
The Matams were not convinced by the doctor’s diagnosis. Even if it was true, they saw value in their daughter’s life.
“They kept saying she’s going to have disabilities. Do you want to have a baby like that? Do you want to take care of someone like that for the rest of their life, who can’t move, can’t walk, can’t talk, can’t do anything. We were like, yeah. We will take care of that baby and that person, whatever they grow up to be,” Lexi said.
Born Nov. 21, a month early by Caesarean section, the infant had a shunt implanted that allowed the fluid to drain. But she started having regular seizures, building up to static epilepticus, where the brain is constantly having seizures. The doctors wanted to do an MRI after six weeks to see if any brain tissue had regenerated, but the seizures continued and her liver started failing.
When her other organs began to fail. The Matams made the decision to take her off the ventilator and allow their daughter to die in their arms.
“It took her five hours to pass away, and she was in our arms those five hours,” said Josh.
They named their daughter Chiara, after Chiara Corbella Petrillo. Now a servant of God, she underwent a similar situation. She refused to abort two children born with disabilities who died shortly after birth. She then waived treatment for her own cancer to protect her third child. She passed away within a year of her son being born.
“Her story really spoke to us as being an exemplar of motherhood. We knew if we were going to have a little girl, we were going to name her Chiara. We feel God sent her to us,” said Lexi.
It was this fellow mother, who died in 2012, who inspired the Matams to be guided by their faith in regards to their daughter.
“We were praying to Chiara Corbella. I was thinking, she’s going to be a saint. She needs a miracle. Maybe this will be the miracle. It will be our family,” Lexi said.
The Matams accepted the Pro-Vita Award to have the opportunity to speak about their daughter and the sanctity of every life.
“When you’re a parent, your instinct is to protect your children. But if they pass away, your instinct is to protect their memory,” Lexi said.
“We want her story to bring people closer to God,” added Josh.
“To me, this young couple really showed their faith in the dignity of the human person in bringing their baby forward,” said Cheryl Calire, director of the Office of Pastoral Ministries.
To mark the 50th observance of Roe v. Wade, the Office of Pastoral Ministries recognized those who have by presenting the Pro-Vita Awards at St. Joseph Cathedral on Jan. 14. Bishop Michael W. Fisher presided over the Mass.
Other honorees include Sha’Kyra Rain Aughtry, a good Samaritan who cared for a disabled neighbor during the recent blizzard; Amelia Greenan, a young adult from Queen of Heaven Parish’s Respect Life team; Avi & Julie Israel, founders of Save the Michaels of the World; and Pastor Al & Vivian Robinson from Spirit of Truth Urban Ministry, who opened up the doors of their church to serve those in need during blizzard.
“We’re the ‘Jesus on Blast’ people. We like to put Jesus on blast with our lives, with our actions, with our words, with our mannerisms,” said Rev. Robinson.
One of their main ministries is work in the addiction field, and helping women recover using neuroplasticity and other methods known to help addicts stop using.