A caring and brave little girl with an indomitable spirit, a wife whose faith remained strong, a message painted on the side of a mountain in Juarez, Mexico, and a purple bracelet found in a photography studio at Sam’s Club – all of these had a profound effect on Brad Baldwin’s life.
Brad and Tamara Baldwin watched as their little girl, Ally Jolie, or “Bird,” as was her nickname, fought bravely and gracefully against cancer, until her passing just before her third birthday.
Brad clung to a purple bracelet at first believing it was protecting Ally. However, watching his daughter fight and seeing the words “Faith in Miracles” on the bracelet, something more profound happened for Brad.
“Before I found this bracelet and witnessed Ally’s caring of others, I didn’t believe is Jesus Christ at all,” Brad said.
The story begins a month before Ally was diagnosed with cancer. Brad flew to El Paso, TX to pick up his father who was terminally ill. The plan was to bring him back to Michigan so Brad and Tamara could take care of him.
During his cab ride from the airport in El Paso, Brad noticed a mountain on the Juarez, Mexico side of the highway. On the side of the mountain were letters painted in white that read: “La Biblia Es La Verdad – Leela.” Curious, he asked the cab driver what it meant.
His driver translated it as “Read the Bible. It’s true.” Brad, at the time, though it a mere coincidence.
Several months later in late July, after Brad’s father passed away and Ally’s cancer diagnosis, Brad and Tamara were preparing for Ally’s chemo and bone marrow transplant. Ally had gone to bed and Brad was sitting in the living room on the couch when his wife Tamara walked in. She knew immediately how down he was.
“It is going to be okay, God told me,” Tamara said. Brad responded: “I do not want to hear this. Where did he talk to you and why? Are you crazy?”
Brad remembers, though, that Tamara was kind and gentle with him.
“She told me not to worry because everything was going to be okay,” Brad recalled. However, refusing to be mollified, Brad was still angry with her. Tamara didn’t push the issue. Instead, she walked over to Brad and hugged him.
The next morning, the Baldwins decided to go to Sam’s Club to get supplies for what they knew would be a lengthy stay in the hospital – a minimum of 30 days is what the doctors told them. This particular morning at Sam’s Club a photography studio had been set up with an old fashion theme.
Brad thought Sam’s Club was an odd place to get family photos but due to the circumstances it seemed perfect. The Baldwins dressed up in the old fashioned clothes and enjoyed the photo shoot with Ally. Just as they were finishing up, Brad put his hand into one of the pockets of the bib overhauls he had chosen.
Out came a rubber, purple bracelet, inscribed with the words, “Faith in Miracles.”
At the time, Brad thought it all might be a coincidence, despite remembering the conversation he recently had with Tamara. Brad took the bracelet up to the counter to give to the photography representative, believing some kid would come back looking for it. However, the representative told Brad to keep it because the overalls had been in the bin since winter.
“It was like a Lifetime episode because this type of stuff doesn’t really happen,” Brad said.
Brad wore that bracelet every day for 8 months and 3 weeks, never taking it off until Ally’s death.
On the morning of April 5, 2012 Brad and Tamara were told by the attending ICU doctor they should consider taking Ally off life support. Brad was adamant that he wanted to keep fighting, asking the doctor if Ally had a chance to recover.
The doctor could not give a definite response.
Brad asked him if he had any children. The doctor acknowledged that he did.
Brad recalls telling the doctor: “Since you do not know if my daughter has a chance there is no way you will take her off life support. Furthermore, you will treat my daughter as you would try to save your own. And if you cannot do that, leave the room and get Ally a new doctor immediately.”
The doctor said that was all he needed to hear and continued to fight for Ally’s life. It was at this time Ally’s oxygen levels began coming back up and it appeared she was on the road to recovery once again.
But her recovery was short-lived. Ally’s oxygen levels were once again subsiding to lower levels than what they had been before. Tamara was notified by Palliative Care who were called in to help her and Brad to prepare for Ally’s death.
Brad did not believe Ally would die. He told the Palliative Care to leave the room because they weren’t needed.
“They did not know Ally and how she always recuperated from the worst of cases,” Brad said.
Ally’s primary physician, Dr. Savasan, came into the room and took Brad aside. With tears streaming down his face, Dr. Savasan said to Brad: “I told you from the beginning I would always be honest with you. Ally, does not have a chance and will die a terrible death and will go into cardiac arrest.”
Brad does not remember seeing them but there were many doctors, nurses, and care providers in Ally’s room at the time. He took off the purple bracelet off for the first time and with tears in his eyes, dropped it on the end of Ally’s bed.
He turned to Tamara and said: “What was this all about then?”
A couple of seconds later, Brad suddenly realized what it was about. He put the bracelet back on and said to Tamara: “God gave us a beautiful and innocent daughter who only cared about others instead of her own sickness. We were blessed to have her for the time we have had.”
Brad believes this purple bracelet is one of many non-coincidences that helped him recognize Ally’s purpose on this earth. The fact Ally was so caring about others, despite her own ailments, taught Brad and Tamara, and everyone who knew her, how to love and to be thankful. Ally did not have food for 8 1/2 months and water for 7 ½ of her life. Ally was an example of how to be thankful for even the bare necessities we often take for granted.
Watching Ally also taught Brad the importance of faith and accepting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
“Even through Ally’s death it would have been much easier to hate, not believe and be angry with God,” Brad said. “This would have been my normal response but because of Ally, I witnessed a miracle. And as the bracelet says, I too began to have faith in miracles.”
The experience with Ally convinced the Baldwins to start a foundation in 2012, in her memory, to help provide patient care services to other children with cancer. Today, the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation successfully funds a Child Life Specialist position at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan dedicated to enhancing care for children facing cancer.
The foundation is also looking at ways to provide funding towards pediatric cancer treatment and research. Children facing cancer in Michigan will be forever touched by the foundation that bears Ally’s memory and name.