I received a phone call from Chad Judice of Lafayette in the fall of 2010 saying that he was working on a new book, a sequel to his heartwarming volume titled Waiting for Eli: A Father’s Journey from Fear to Faith.
I had edited and our company, Acadian House Publishing, had published his first book, a thoroughly captivating story whose central character is Chad’s son, Eli, a child born with a dreaded birth defect called spina bifida.
Chad explained that his second book would be about the impact of the first, about how Eli’s story had motivated and inspired many who read it. In essence, it would be the continuation of the saga of Eli Judice. It would be titled Eli’s Reach.
At first, I was only mildly interested.
Then Chad pointed out that the new book would contain stories of two or three women who, after reading Waiting for Eli, had chosen to bring their unborn babies to term rather than abort them.
That got my attention.
I became more interested partly because I believe – that is, I know – that abortion is the taking of human life, an act that is rightly reserved for the Divine, not the doctor impersonating the Divine. Also, I was attracted to the project because every publisher worth his salt wants to publish “books that matter” or “books that make a difference.”
A few months after that first call from Chad, I heard from him again. This time he told me he’d written a chapter about a guy who read Eli’s story and, in essence, had a religious conversion because of it.
That really got my attention.
I could now imagine an intriguing bit of writing about how Eli’s story touched the guy’s heart and soul to the point that he was drawn away from a life centered on materialism to one that made a lot more time for God and family. It’s a true conversion story that many of us would do well to emulate.
By now, I was starting to think that perhaps we should take a long, hard look at this manuscript.
But what sealed it for me was Chad’s call to report a miracle involving his son that occurred on an Easter Sunday in a hospital in New Orleans.
Who wouldn’t like to read about a miracle involving a precious special-needs child who survives a life-threatening medical episode?
How could a publisher say no to a book proposal containing such inspiring stories?
So we decided to go forward with publishing the book – about a child whose story touches the hearts of readers; brings grown men to their knees; and evokes a keener appreciation of the value of all human life, including the most vulnerable among us.
It contains several heart-rending episodes, including the evening when Eli had a seizure. Present in the Judice home that night were Chad and his wife, Ashley; Ashley’s parents, Randy and Ann Guillotte; Eli; and his older brother, Ephraim. Chad describes the scene like this:
Randy began running down the hallway carrying Eli and yelling in a calm but assertive voice, “Ann! Ann!” I sat there a moment frozen in time in a state of shock. Quickly regaining my senses, I ran behind Randy in the hallway. Then I heard Ashley and Ann repeatedly saying, “Eli! Eli! Eli!”
When I got to the doorway of our room, Ashley was holding Eli upright and administering back blows to try to force a foreign object from his throat, in case something was stuck there. It was one of the most sobering moments of my life. Laying Eli on his back, Ashley and Ann both said in a panicked voice: “Call an ambulance!”
I quickly dialed 911 and began giving information to the emergency responder on the other end. As I tried to focus on delivering the necessary information I could hear Ashley and Ann administering CPR.
“Come on, breathe!” Ashley was saying with desperation in her voice.
By the time I hung up Eli was lying on his side and crying.
He was breathing! Thank God!
Copies of Eli’s Reach can be obtained online at www.acadianhouse.com.