ATLANTA -- Ignoring the beeping monitors and fluorescent lights, Kristal Lofty laid her head on the corner of her daughter's pillow and closed her eyes.
The young mother patted her 20-month-old, whimpering baby girl, Kinley, as she dozed in the miniature hospital bed.
It had been 11 days since doctors told 23-year-old Kristal and her husband, Whit, that their only daughter likely wouldn't make it through the night. The news came hours after paramedics had restarted her heart -- which hadn't beaten for nearly half an hour.
But now it was functioning at less than 10 percent, they had said.
The Varnell, Ga., couple had cried, prayed and sent out messages to get hundreds of church members to beg God for a miracle.
Six days later, Kinley had opened her eyes, looked up at Kristal and whispered, "Mommy."
Now in early December, Kinley thrashed in her bed and cried softly in the intensive care unit room at Egleston Children's Hospital in Atlanta, surrounded by bright yellow posters with even brighter messages: "We love you and God's got a plan for you; Remember God's there for you," among others.
She had recently begun to breathe on her own, but a feeding tube ran up into her nose, and monitors were taped to her chest and wrapped around her toes to track her body's every function, making her uncomfortable.
While it was too early for doctors to tell whether Kinley had suffered minor brain damage, or whether she would lose her right foot or toes to gangrene, she was alive.
"She is truly a miracle," said Dr. James Fortenberry, pediatrician-in-chief at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
Thanksgiving weekend, Kinley had snuck out of the house. The Loftys were visiting family during the holiday weekend in Milton, Ga.
After the turkey had been carved and all the food eaten, Kinley, her three older brothers and their cousins went to the basement to play. Kinley discovered how to unlock the downstairs door.
Minutes later, Whit's mother found Kinley floating face-down in the backyard pool. Later, she would tell the family she heard what sounded like a voice in her head tell her to go outside and check the pool.
Family members ran to find Whit next door. When he reached his daughter, her body was limp. She wasn't breathing and had no pulse.
As the approaching ambulance sirens blared, Whit scooped up his daughter and sprinted to the road to meet paramedics.
When CPR didn't work, paramedics pulled out a long drill filled with adrenaline and stuck it in the toddler's leg down to the bone. Then they whisked her away to North Fulton Hospital, while the Loftys followed behind.
"Is she breathing?" Whit asked as he stormed through the emergency room doors.
On the way to the hospital her heart had begun pumping faintly. Later, doctors would marvel that she had gone 30 minutes without a heartbeat.
But don't get your hopes up, doctors warned the Loftys. Her heart is weak.
So the family had prayed. Hundreds of their fellow Salem Baptist Church of Dalton members prayed around the clock.
Twenty-four hours later, her heart was functioning at 34 percent of capacity.
Then Kinley developed a blood clot in her leg. Gangrene spread quickly and doctors said her leg would have to be amputated from the hip down.
Just give us a day, Whit told the doctors. So the Loftys gathered and prayed again.
Doctors were shocked the next day when they checked Kinley's leg, finding a pulse where there had been none. The infection had also drained to only her foot.
Then her liver wasn't working. When the family saw healing, they also prayed for her lungs and kidneys.
Each day, the news got better.
"Whatever they said that morning we would gather around the bed and pray," Kristal said. "Then the next day they would come back and the prayer was answered."
As Kinley continues to recover, more people are seeing their faith strengthened, church members say.
"It has been a shot in the arm to all of our faith," said Pastor Noel Caldwell. "To see a manifested miracle take place that you can actually witness, not just read about, has helped us grow closer to God."
Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...