Angel Intervention Strikes Again, Giving Me the Nudge I Needed

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by Helen Baldwin |

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connecting with angels | SMA News Today | main graphic for column titled "We're Not in Kansas Anymore," by Helen Baldwin, depicting a blue wave offset by green nature scenes

My husband, Randy, and I had been married 23 years when news of a surprise third baby, um, surprised us. Jeffrey hadn’t been planned (by us, anyway), yet we forged ahead almost sanely in anticipation of our expanding family.

Our oldest child, Matthew, then 10, undoubtedly knew just enough about the birds and bees to be mortified upon hearing the news that his mother was — gasp — pregnant. Our daughter, Katie, then 7, claimed the opposite end of the enthusiasm meter. She was ecstatic from the moment she laid eyes on the sonogram I held up. How she knew what the sonogram indicated remains a mystery, but her delighted squeals surely rattled eardrums all the way to Alaska.

Jeffrey burst forth in May 1997. Regardless of homework assignments and extracurricular activities, Matthew and Katie doted on their adoring baby brother whenever possible.

Summer brought more time with Jeffrey, and baseball, softball, and birthday plans for Matthew and Katie. It also brought a whammy way beyond our comprehension: a diagnosis of SMA for our sweet baby boy. He was 2 months old.

We didn’t have much time to outsmart SMA’s deadly progression and prove the “experts” wrong. Jeffrey snagged his wings before he was 6 months old. As it turned out, though, the biggest impact from our assignment ended up coming after our perfect little guy was snuggled safely in the arms of Jesus.

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Learning to see

I’ve referred to (and relied upon) angel intervention for almost 25 years. The twinkling star the night Jeffrey died made a memorable impression on Matthew and me, the only ones still awake late that night. After that, however, I wonder what I missed before God rendered our entire family speechless with a top-of-the-line signal on our little mountaintop that all was OK with our sweet Jeffrey — and those of us left behind.

Angel intervention has made its mark untold times, in untold ways, through the years and continues to bring comfort, a smile, or both. It has even dictated the direction of this column.

A guiding light

Columnists at BioNews, the parent company of SMA News Today, are divided into teams with a designated leader to help keep us all on course. Our team’s lead, Halsey Blocher, excels at providing support and encouragement to her team members, especially when a new columnist joins our group and pens a first column.

While my life can be considered anything but restful or sane, these past few weeks have been the icing on the proverbial cake. As I scramble in myriad directions, my brain seems to vanish into thin air at times. When a column is due (this one, for example), that’s not a reassuring feeling.

Angel intervention, via Halsey, to the rescue.

SMA and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are both motor neuron diseases. These progressive neurological nightmares destroy motor neurons that control breathing, swallowing, walking, and talking.

A sweet neighbor who doted on us during our Jeffrey assignment revealed that one of her daughters was recently diagnosed with ALS. I immediately shared links to Dagmar Munn’s “Living Well With ALS” and Juliet Taylor’s “Thunder Road” columns to help provide a bit of essential support to the family.

I couldn’t know that ALS would provide the spark for this column until Halsey introduced another newcomer to our group.


I hate to admit that I’ve read only a handful of other columnists’ work. If time allowed, I would eagerly read everyone’s columns, as everything I’ve read has been informational and/or inspirational. Unfortunately, time currently isn’t on my side.

That said, I was “nudged” to read the maiden column (for BioNews, anyway) of my newest teammate, James Clingman. James, assisted by his daughter, Kiah, will be writing about his life with ALS in “Outspoken.”

I promptly recognized some interesting connections. James used to race bicycles; Randy (my husband) also raced bicycles and unicycles as a teen and worked in a bicycle repair shop for years. Among numerous other impressive accomplishments, James participated (five times!) in the Assault on Mount Mitchell, a brutal bike race that includes a stretch along the Blue Ridge Parkway; Randy and I live just under 5 miles from another segment of the parkway, and our North Carolina county — Ashe — hosts the annual Blue Ridge Brutal, an equally not-for-sissies bike event that also incorporates portions of the parkway. In addition, James and his wife, Sylvia, moved from Ohio to Greenville, South Carolina; Randy and I moved from Texas to Columbia, South Carolina. Our daughter and son-in-law share ties with James to Charleston, South Carolina.

The fact that our grandson’s name is also James was a bonus.

James’ brand of lemonade will be a big draw for readers wondering what to do with their own lemons.

I never know how angel intervention will come into play. I’m just mighty appreciative that it does.

Welcome, James.

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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