Another child featured in An Incredible Journey with Celine Dion: 12 Heroes Among Us is Donald.
When he was 12 years old, Donald lived through one of the most destructive disasters in American history, Hurricane Katrina. As the water filled up his house, Donald climbed on top of the refrigerator, and his mom got on the counter. "The more the water rose, the more we panicked," he says. "The windows shattered from the wind. The water's getting up high where we can't touch the floor anymore. My mom didn't know how to swim, and I didn't know how to swim."
Eventually, Donald's mom lost her grip on a curtain rod and drowned. In that moment, life without his mother seemed so unbearable that Donald decided to end his life. "I completely gave up. I decided to, you know, just sink to the bottom," he says. "I didn't hold my breath, because I just wanted it to happen as quick as possible."
Donald says as water began to fill his lungs, his will to survive took over and he paddled toward the only light he could see—a shattered window. "I think some spiritual force or God shattered that window as a final attempt of escape," he says.
Donald paddled out, cutting himself on the shards of glass sticking out, and climbed to the roof of his house. For the next 13 hours, he stayed on roofs above the flood line, waiting until help arrived.
Three years after Katrina, Donald is now 15 and living with an aunt. He says the moment when he considered suicide, something told him it wasn't his time. "I did a lot of thinking to myself in those short few seconds," he says. "Something, almost a guardian angel, said, 'Live and move on because you have extraordinary things ahead of you.'"
On the roofs of houses, Donald says he and another young man he met waited for their rescue. They were able to signal for help with the light of the other man's cell phone.
After their meeting in Montreal for An Incredible Journey with Celine Dion: 12 Heroes Among Us, Celine says Donald's story of survival is an inspiration. "I wish for my son to have the strength that you have," she tells him.
Two months before he was born, Eliot was diagnosed with Trisomy 18—a genetic disorder with a very low survival rate. His parents, Matt and Ginny, began writing letters to him daily.
"Dear Eliot: Right now you are two months from being born," Matt wrote in one letter. "Doctors tell us that you won't likely make it to birth. Your mom and I are praying against that. We're praying for healing. We are praying for nothing less than a miracle. You're our first child, and the day of your birth couldn't come sooner."
Against the odds, Eliot survived his birth. "You are already a miracle to us," Matt wrote that day.
Every day that Eliot lived, he beat the odds. The median lifespan for children with Trisomy 18 is just five to 15 days—but Eliot just kept on surviving.
Matt and Ginny's letters to their infant son continued for 99 precious days. They turned their letters and literally thousands of photos of Eliot into a video that has now been seen nearly a million times on YouTube.Watch their moving video celebrating Eliot's life.
Matt and Ginny join Oprah and Celine from their living room in Fayetteville, Arkansas. And they have some big news—they are expecting another baby!
Matt says their tribute to Eliot started as a blog, which they used to keep friends and family updated on his status even before he was born. "Once he was here, we just took a lot of pictures and took a lot of video, and we knew we wanted to put that together in some way to tell the story of his life."
"We knew from day to day that we had that day," Ginny says. "I would tell Matt a lot: 'I'll be sad later. I'm going to enjoy every second now.' So even though his diagnosis never changed, we just decided we were going to enjoy every second that we had."
Celine is moved by that idea. "Life imposes things on you that you can't control, but you still have the choice of how you're going to live through this," she says. "Once you know the diagnosis and it's not good, then you make the best of it."
"We celebrate you," Oprah says. "What an inspiration your family has been to the world."
In September 2008, Oprah and her producers were among the 13 million people who saw 16-year-old Charice Pempengco
sing on YouTube. After a showstopping rendition of "My Heart Will Go On," Charice met the song's original singer via satellite—Celine!
Celine left Charice speechless with an offer to perform a duet at New York's famed Madison Square Garden. "I was a puddle when that was over," Oprah says. "I was thinking, 'That is a miracle that this child grew up drawing pictures of you with herself imagining this moment—and then that moment happened!"
Celine says in spending time with Charice, she realized how comfortable the young singer really is performing. "She rehearsed the song three times and each time she sang the song differently, and it proved to all of us that she's very comfortable. Because when somebody is very not sure, they sing the same. They learn the same stuff. They go by the book, and they don't move," Celine says. "She's not like that. She's extremely talented, but she's got this sense of what it takes as well to be flexible and to have the momentum."
Celine's son René-Charles has grown up in the spotlight, but he's no toddler anymore. "He's 7 1/2 and 3/4," she says.
In all his years, one thing about René-Charles has always remained the same—Celine and her husband, René, have never cut his hair. "I've asked him many times, 'Do you want me to trim your hair?' And he says, 'No, Mom, I like my hair like that.' We've talked about it many, many times."
Celine says she doesn't care about what René-Charles looks like, only that he grows up well. "I prefer that he has long hair, he's succeeding in school, he's doing well, he's a great human being, he's adaptable...than to have a kid with short hair who's selfish and a brat and he's not happy," she says. "We kind of decide as a family what's good for us, because what's good for us might not be good for that family. And what's good for that family might not be good for us."
Celine says she and René have thought about having another baby once her current tour ends. "I would love to be blessed again," she says. "Hopefully we are pregnant and are parents again. If not, that's fine. That's fine. We have a beautiful child."
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