When 14-month-old Liberty Feesey visited her GP with a persistent cough, her father, Paul, had no idea that only 24 hours later she would be in intensive care fighting for her life
Pandemonium greeted Paul Feesey as he stared through the small window onto the intensive care unit at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital where Liberty lay, tubes sprouting from her neck. Alarms sounded in the background as doctors doing chest compressions flanked his tiny daughter.
“I’ve got children. You don’t want to see this,” warned one of the medics as he dragged Paul and his wife, Becca, out of the room. “Her heart has stopped, but we’re trying to bring her back.”
Just 24 hours earlier, 14-month-old Libby had happily been eating her lunch in her local hospital waiting to be examined. She had a persistent cough, but the Feeseys weren’t overly concerned – it seemed mild.
Even when she was diagnosed with pneumonia and blue-lighted to the Evelina, Paul remained calm: “From what we’d been told everything seemed pretty routine.” But once they reached the hospital – 35 miles from their home in Crowborough – their youngest daughter’s condition rapidly deteriorated.
Doctors immediately set about draining the fluid around her heart and lungs, but this seemed to create a new problem. “There was air getting into the chest somehow and they didn’t really know where the air was coming from…they wondered whether they might have punctured her lung in the process.”
The Feeseys wouldn’t discover the cause of their daughter’s distress until much later. At 6am Paul was called urgently to the hospital to find that Libby was “crashing”.
Panic and peace
As Paul paced the corridor outside intensive care, painful thoughts raced through his mind:What are we going to tell the other girls? How are we going to tell them their sister has died?
“I remember thinking: There’s no way she can come back from this. She just didn’t look well and I thought: If your heart has stopped, this is bad.
There were thousands praying for her
That’s when Paul contacted his Christian friends and colleagues: “We need a miracle – just pray!” he urged them. In response, the Feeseys’ church held an emergency meeting over Zoom that evening. “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that at some point there were thousands of people praying for her,” says Paul. “I remember coming out of that meeting thinking: It’s fine now. We’ve given it over [to God].”
Paul didn’t believe praying for Libby would necessarily result in miraculous healing – “I know that’s not how it works” – but he did experience a deep sense that God was holding them all. And soon after, a doctor arrived to tell Paul and Becca that Libby’s vital signs were improving. She was getting stronger.
A week after Libby was rushed to the Evelina, the doctors finally had some answers. Libby, who had continued to improve after treatment and several surgeries, was diagnosed with kaposiform lymphangiomatosis (KLA), an extremely rare condition in which the vessels that carry lymphatic fluid throughout the body expand and interconnect, causing damage to surrounding tissue, bones and organs. KLA is so rare that even the doctors treating Libby admitted they had never before heard of the condition.
Libby is now on medication for life and will have regular monitoring at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Despite setbacks, which have included a stroke and relearning how to walk and talk, the now nearly 3-year-old is exceeding expectations in many areas.
Reflecting on the difference his Christian faith made during their time at the Evelina in 2021, Paul says: “We felt God’s presence with us and were just at peace. There was no logical reason for us to feel peaceful about what was going on. We were having conversations with parents in the hospital whose minds were boggling about how ‘together’ we were.
“There was very much that sense that if she dies, it’s not the end of everything for us…I never doubted the goodness of God in it.”