Chelsea Banton was a tiny special needs patient in the pediatric ICU suffering from pneumonia and a collapsed lung. Moments after Chelsea's mother, Colleen, made the heart wrenching decision to take her daughter off life support, an image that many believed to be an angel appeared on the hospital security monitor.
Almost immediately, Chelsea recovered, and the doctors and nurses treating her couldn't explain her survival. Was it the result of the apparition on the security monitor?
Indre and Randall travel to Charlotte, North Carolina to meet Chelsea Banton and her mother, Colleen. Prior to meeting the mother and daughter at the Banton home, they examine a piece of evidence.
"This is actually a photograph of the monitor," Indre says. "I don't think the video camera actually records. I think it's a live feed. So we don't have access to the recorded image directly from the monitor. The phenomenon appeared about 4:30 in the afternoon for five days. And [the hospital staff] definitely hadn't seen anything like this before."
When the Miracle Detectives arrive at the Banton home, Colleen describes what happened the day of the apparition, "[Chelsea] had been in and out of the hospital all of her life???this time when she went into the hospital that's the sickest I think I've ever seen her???every time they'd try to take her off the ventilator, she wouldn't last more than 30 minutes. They wanted me to make a decision on what to do, and they said that she'd been on the ventilator for so long that her lungs wouldn't be able to support her and that she would have to have a trach put in."
"You know, it's in God's hands whether she's healed here for us to enjoy her or he takes her to heaven," Colleen says. "I had made the decision when this image appeared. When I saw the image that was my answer. That was me being told by God that I'm going to take care of her whether it be here or on the other side." When the nurses turned off the machines Chelsea's condition improved dramatically. "They were just amazed."
After hearing Colleen and Chelsea's story, the detectives go their separate ways in search of evidence. Randall interviews Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown, a family physician who has spent the last 20 years researching the connection between medicine and faith.
"The more I understand about science, the more I lean towards that there has to be a power greater than ourselves to bring all of this together the way it is," she says.
Randall is pleased after his conversation with Dr. Garmon-Brown. "She does have one foot in each world and doesn't feel torn," he says. "She has a foot in the world of science. She's an eminent physician. She's the head of the County Medical Association. And she's also a woman of deep faith."
While Randall investigates the relationship between medicine and faith, Indre brings in video expert Jim Underdown, the Executive Director of the Center For Inquiry in Los Angeles, to see if he can re-create the angelic apparition on the security monitor.
While Underdown works on the re-creating the lighting and video recording conditions of the hospital corridor, the Miracle Detectives attempt get a better understanding of how and why people perceive ambiguous images the way that they do. They visit the University of Southern California to meet with Irving Biederman, a neuroscientist who researches how the brain processes images.
Biederman shows Randall and Indre the basic outline of what is commonly recognized as a typical angel shape. "[What] often happens when images are ambiguous or faint or blurry, we interpret them typically in terms of an inanimate entity. It could be a face. It could be a body. And with angels, there's a very simple shape. There are the two wings and the head and three lobes." Irv compares his outline with the photograph from Chelsea's hospital monitor, and notes the similarities.
Nurses Bevin Hemby and Pam Austin cared for Chelsea during her months in the hospital, and were on duty the night of her miraculous recovery. They were the ones who first noticed the image on the security monitor and alerted Colleen to its presence.
"My initial thought was, wow," Pam says. "What a gift from God that He would show the family there is more, perhaps. You know, I'm going to take care of Chelsea because medically, I, after 30 years of nursing, I did not feel like she would survive."
After viewing the results of Jim's re-creation of the hospital corridor and security monitor, Indre and Randall come together to share their conclusions.
Indre: This ray of sunlight came in and created the image on the monitor, which was then interpreted by the nurses and by Colleen as an angel. It allowed her to come to terms with the decision that she has just made, which is probably the most difficult decision a parent could ever make. And that was to take her child off of the life support machines. The entire room must have gone from a state of very intense anxiety to acceptance and calm. And given how quickly Chelsea picks up on the emotional atmosphere of the room, I know that she would have responded to this new atmosphere in a much more positive way than she would have to a very tense atmosphere.
Randall: Your argument is not implausible. It makes sense. I don't believe it. It's too limited. When something happens exactly when it needs to happen it's either an extreme coincidence, or it's help from beyond. To me that's a miracle.