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Family prays for miracle for Zephyrhills child who fell into Erie Canal

The last time Yvonne Clanton saw her daughter conscious, she was drinking lemonade outside a Ronald McDonald House in New York.

"She had a big smile on her face. I think that was the first time she had ever tasted lemonade," Mrs. Clanton told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday, about a week after 8-year-old Selah and her brother, Sam, were pulled from the Erie Canal when their jogging stroller rolled down a 10-foot embankment with the two special-needs children strapped inside.

Selah was submerged for some time before rescuers and passers-by pulled her from the water. She remained on life support over the weekend. Now, she can breathe with the help of a thin tube in her windpipe that is put in place when people can't cough or clear secretions. She also requires a feeding tube. She has made a few movements and even shed tears.

"All the movements we see are really basic brain stem activity," Mrs. Clanton wrote in her blog, which she has updated regularly since the accident. "They are great but since they are not combined with some of the other things … it doesn't give us much."

The Clantons, who live in Zephyrhills, adopted Selah a couple of months ago from the Ukraine, where she had been housed in an adult mental institution because of her severe disabilities. Sam is their biological child. On Aug. 15, the Rev. Jon T. Clanton took the children out for a stroll on a path that runs along the canal. He let go of the handle momentarily to check the time on his phone, and the stroller rolled into the water.

The father jumped in after his children and managed to keep Sam's head above water. Sam, also 8, was released from the hospital Saturday.

But the doctor, whom Mrs. Clanton described as a "man of faith," has told the family Selah faces slim chances for a full recovery.

"I know he would love to be wrong and hopes there is a miracle, but miracles don't always happen the way we want them to," she wrote. She said she expects the family, who was in Rochester, N.Y., for eye surgery on another of their three adopted children, to return home to Zephyrhills in a few weeks.

Mrs. Clanton said she will know more later about Selah's prognosis. For now, she has focused on her faith, which she said has not wavered despite this tragedy and others she has endured during her life.

"I'm not bitter," said Mrs. Clanton, 46, who grieved over her stillborn twins and later had a child — Sam — with a rare genetic disorder. "Bitter is not good. Accidents happen. We live in a fallen world."

She said the support from hometown friends has been "wonderful." People have offered to pay for flights home and even set up a fund for Selah's care. The district superintendent of the Assemblies of God, the denomination affiliated with Grace Church of Zephyrhills, where the Rev. Clanton is the pastor, has "been right alongside us," she said.

Help also has come when they least expected it.

On Sunday after worship at a Rochester church, the family ate at a restaurant. When the meal ended, the waiter came over with a gift card donated by another family who had just left.

It moved them to tears.

Mrs. Clanton said she hopes that how they handle their ordeal will show others that God is faithful. She knows he will equip her to insert breathing and feeding tubes and care for Selah, along with their two biological sons and two other disabled children the couple adopted from overseas.

She urged those who want to help to continue praying for Selah, whose name appears frequently in the Psalms. The Hebrew term means to "pause and reflect."

"I hope when people hear her name," Mrs. Clanton said, "they'll stop and think about God."

Family prays for miracle for Zephyrhills child who fell into Erie Canal 08/21/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 10:23pm]
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