MIDWAY — Heather McColl's cell phone rang about 11 a.m. Dec. 14 as she and her husband, Mike, organized donated Christmas toys at Midway Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
It was the couple's adoption attorney, telling them to go to Destin, Fla., to get a child they had known nothing about.
"I was just sort of in shock," said Heather McColl, the church's minister.
McColl started crying and handed the phone to her husband, Mike.
The news came as a blessing to the couple, who had lost two children in less than 16 months.
Sarah Ann was born Dec. 24, 2008, and slept in a nursery painted red with ladybugs. It wasn't long before the McColls noticed signs something was wrong with their daughter. For example, at the age of 6 weeks, Sarah couldn't keep her head up.
A neurologist told the McColls Sarah probably suffered from spinal muscular atrophy, which is genetic, but tests would have to confirm it. As tests were being processed, Sarah was having trouble eating and breathing.
She died Aug. 20, 2009, a day before doctors confirmed she had spinal muscular atrophy.
The McColls decided they would not try to have another baby because there was a 25 percent chance the child also would have spinal muscular atrophy, passed down from Mike McColl's side of the family.
SMA is a rare, inherited disease that causes muscle degeneration and loss of motor function, according to the Web site of the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Foundation in New York, which works to find a cure.
The McColls decided to start the adoption process immediately although, still grieving, they knew they were not ready for another child. Heather McColl said she imagined it would be years before an adoption came through.
"We wanted to make it through Sarah's first birthday," she said.
On Dec. 24, 2009, the anniversary of Sarah's birth, the couple made dinner of stuffed shells for the staff at Kentucky Children's Hospital.
"That staff was amazing when Sarah was there. Amazing," Heather McColl said.
On Aug. 8, the McColls were matched with a woman in Pensacola, Fla., who had health issues that probably would not allow her to carry her baby to term.
Doctors planned to induce labor in mid-December if the woman had not given birth by then. The McColls planned to leave for Florida on Dec. 14 to adopt Gabriel Thomas.
They told stories of Sarah and cried and laughed while repainting the nursery blue with a sea theme.
When the birth mother in Florida went to a medical appointment Dec. 6, doctors could not find the baby's heartbeat.
The McColls were prepared for adoption to fall through for various reasons, "but we never expected it to fall through because she lost the baby," Heather McColl said.
The McColls moved forward with Christmas plans and church obligations.
Then the call from the adoption lawyer came Dec. 14 — the day the couple had planned to go to Florida for Gabriel. The lawyer said a mother had given birth the day before and had contacted the adoption agency.
A few hours later, the McColls were on their way to Pensacola.
Mike and Heather McColl returned to Midway on Dec. 21 with their daughter, Hannah Grace. She slept in Mike McColl's arms as the couple talked about the last two years while seated at a table inside the church.
"We needed her as much as she needed us," Heather McColl said. "She's just a great baby."
"It's still a little unbelievable," said Mike McColl, who is minister of children and youth at Crestwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Lexington.
At night, Hannah would rather cuddle than sleep in a crib. She probably won't care that her nursery is blue, her parents say.
The McColls said they have been on an amazing journey that was all about timing.
If the birth mother had called earlier, Hannah would have been placed with someone else, Mike McColl said.
Heather McColl said she knows Sarah picked Hannah out just for them.