The Miracle of Molly

In the Fall of 2000, Denver’s Lisa and Jack Nash genetically engineered a baby in an effort to save their dying little girl. Pastors and pundits said it was the first step down a stem-cell-paved road to Hell. Five years later, the Nashes give us an exclusive look at Heaven.

August 2005

Down the Drain

On a January morning, seven months before her August due date, Lisa stood in her shower, under the warm water, gently rubbing her belly and smiling at the thought of having two healthy children. The agony was instantaneous. Pain seared through her abdomen, and blood suddenly rushed down her legs. The shower drain was awash in crimson red. Lisa crawled from the shower and collapsed onto the bathroom floor. She dialed Schoolcraft's office and was told to come in immediately. When Dr. Buck in Chicago heard what had happened, he said only one word: "Fuck."

In the examining room Lisa could not bear to look at the ultrasound monitor. She knew what was happening. She knew the baby was gone—and so was Molly's last chance. Two children. And then there were none. Schoolcraft informed the Nashes that the placenta had torn away from the uterine wall, leaving a hole that was bigger than the baby. Schoolcraft found a faint heartbeat. He sent Lisa home and prescribed a strict dose of bed rest. She was allowed one shower a week and three daily trips to the bathroom. Back home on bed rest, Lisa lay with Molly curled beside her.

Molly's blood count was grim. Her 5-year-old body was gray, lethargic, and feeble. When every other little girl in her ballet class was learning new dance steps, Molly struggled to walk. She was blood-transfusion- dependent. She endured frequent needle sticks so nurses could keep tabs on her falling blood counts. The steroids that once boosted her marrow were useless now. Doctors tested her bone marrow every six months for preleukemic cells. The agonizing test, which punches through the pelvic bone to extract the thick, red liquid, was sometimes preformed without anesthesia. Those were especially bad days. But even on good days, Molly had had enough of needle sticks, IVs, and hospitals. Each appointment was an exhausting battle—Molly's will against the nurses'. She would put up a good fight, crossing her arms firmly over her chest and fixing steely eyes on those who dared to come close. She threatened to bite. Inevitably, Molly would lose the standoff and dissolve into a hysterical tantrum. In May 2000, 20 out of 20 bone marrow cells tested showed signs of preleukemia—Molly's bone marrow had all but shut down.

Jack and Lisa couldn't just sit around and wait. They had to live all they could with Molly. In May, they took a family trip to Disney World. Molly had always wanted to go. They were reserving the trip for after the transplant, a celebratory time, but now who knew if there would be a tomorrow, let alone a transplant. Jack rented an electric scooter for Lisa. There they were: the dying child, her bedridden, pregnant mother, and the father walking a step behind and trying to keep it together. Lisa and Jack did their best not to let Molly see their tears. They snapped picture after picture.

One month later, in June, the Nashes flew to Minnesota to retest Molly's marrow. There was a glimmer of good news: The preleukemic cells had not progressed, meaning Molly would likely make it through Lisa's delivery and until the transplant without developing leukemia. But 6-year-old Molly's platelets were virtually nonexistent. When Molly's skin was punctured her blood dribbled out purple.