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SHALLOTTE—It started as a typical autumn weekend for the Goodman family.
Molly Goodman, 3, watched her older brother Justin’s football team, the Shallotte Pirates, play a game. Then the family went out to dinner to celebrate. Molly went to her grandmother’s house in Southport.
Brian and Tangela Goodman, Molly’s parents, got a call at 5 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 11, saying Molly was throwing up, hadn’t slept and was really thirsty.
Brian immediately drove to Southport and picked her up. What the family first thought may have been food poisoning turned out to be a medical nightmare that left the little girl fighting for her life.
Molly was born with a rare blood disease Hereditary Spherocytosis. She was diagnosed at 3 weeks old. Tangela said Molly has had between 20 and 25 blood transfusions, mostly before she was a year old. She said it takes Molly longer to heal and she has a compromised immune system.
When Molly got sick and because of her medical history, her mom started to check Molly’s spleen area.
What she found surprised her.
“At first we thought it might be food poisoning,” Tangela said. “When I touched her, it felt like there was a boulder in her stomach. It was rock hard.”
“There were no red flags. She put on her PJ’s, brushed her teeth and woke up 30 minutes later screaming,” Brian said.
The Goodmans decided to take Molly to New Hanover Regional Medical Center where they knew blood was available in case she needed a transfusion.
But they didn’t make it.
“We were crossing (N.C.) 211 and her lips were turning blue and her eyes were rolling back in her head,” Tangela said.
They stopped at Brunswick Novant Medical Center where X-rays were taken.
“The doctor showed me the X-ray and said there was massive air in her stomach and that a helicopter was on the way,” Brian said.
Molly was airlifted from Brunswick to New Hanover.
Brian and Tangela drove on to the hospital.
“It was a long ride. We were so scared,” Tangela said.
“It all happened so fast. The night before we were all together as a family,” Brian added.
When they got to the hospital, the Goodmans waited for news. At first they were told it may be a ruptured spleen so a CT scan was done.
“We were expecting a ruptured spleen. We were talking to the doctor and getting a forecast when the radiologist called,” Tangela said. “When the doctor came back in he said, ‘We are taking her to the OR now.’”
“That’s when it all became real,” Brian said.
“I was laying in the bed holding her and I looked up and saw 15 to 20 doctors. They were talking to me but I didn’t understand what they were saying,” Tangela said.
“The surgeon came and told us they were going to do exploratory surgery,” Tangela said. “We were told they were going to cut her from side to side and take her insides out. We were told they were going to explore her intestine.”
“When they wheeled her away, Molly was screaming,” Brian said.
Brian and Tangela waited while their daughter underwent surgery. For three hours they sat without word from the doctors. There were no updates.
Finally the surgeon came to explain what was going on.
“We were told she made it through surgery,” Tangela said. “The surgeon told said, ‘The only thing I can say is her stomach died.’”
Surgeons had to remove one third of Molly’s stomach.
“They said it looked like a bomb had gone off in her body. There was a hole the size of a golf ball in her stomach that caused poisons to go into her body causing severe infection in her body,” Brian said.
“They have no idea what caused it,” Tangela added. “She is being used in medical research.”
After the surgery, Molly’s lung collapsed. She was on life support for the first five days of her 20-day hospital stay.
“It was so hard watching a machine breath for her,” Tangela said.
Two days before Thanksgiving Molly was able to stand up and take two or three steps—the first in nine days.
“We came one week after Halloween, we missed Thanksgiving and when we get home it will be Christmas. It’s so hard,” Tangela said.
Both Tangela and Brian have stayed at the hospital by Molly’s side. Brian returned twice to Brunswick County to get items they needed from home.
Last Wednesday when a Beacon reporter stopped by the New Hanover hospital, Molly was up and moving around. She had yet to eat on her own—a stipulation of her release.
In the days after the meeting, Molly began to eat and was released to go home on Friday evening.
“She is expected to make a 100 percent recovery,” Brian said. “She will just have to eat smaller portions more times a day.”
The Goodman family has been overwhelmed by the support of the community. Molly’s brother Justin’s football team coined the phrase “Pirate Strong, Molly Strong” and created bracelets with “Molly Strong” on them. His Union Elementary School class made cards to send to Molly.
Molly’s Brunswick County Sweetheart pageant family rallied around her with “Prayers for Molly,” a campaign to raise funds and prayer for the Goodman family.
Molly, a former Tiny Ms. Brunswick County, was named Brunswick County Honorary Tiny Miss Princess this fall.
Molly’s friends in her Tiny Tots class and her dance classes also offered support. Tangela found comfort and support from people she didn’t even know on Facebook.
“Facebook has been my outlet. I’d get messages that’d say, ‘I don’t know you; you don’t know me, but I am praying for you.’ It has been amazing,” Tangela said.
The Goodmans know Molly’s recovery has been miraculous.
“Even the doctors have been amazed to see her walking,” Brian said. “They can’t believe she is still alive. It was way worse than I ever could have imagined.”
“She is a walking miracle,” Tangela said. “All over the world people we never met have been saying prayers and her story has been changing their lives. It has really brought our family together.”
The family understands all too well how close they came to losing Molly.
An account has been set up at First Community Bank in the name of Prayers for Molly for anyone wanting to make a donation.
Tangela underwent gall bladder surgery earlier this fall and missed more than a month of work and now she has again missed another month. Brian was laid-off just before Molly became ill.
“We don’t know what is going to happen,” Tangela said. “Our focus has been to get Molly well. We are so thankful to everyone who has helped us and prayed for us.”
In the near future, Tangela would like to host a thank-you dinner for everyone who has reached out to them.
While the Goodmans and the doctors still don’t have answers as to what caused Molly’s illness, they are all thankful she is alive to share her smiles.
Rachel Johnson is a staff writer at The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.