Baby Ella: A long recovery ahead

Ella's brother, Grady, gets to spend time with Ella after almost a month apart.

Her story has touched hearts around the world -- the heroic rescue of Baby Ella Cain by two Quincy firefighters on Jan. 3, 2012.

Many of you have been following Baby Ella's recovery and even selected this story as KHQA's Facebook story of the Day. But many have yet to hear the whole story behind it. It's a reminder for all of us, of how precious life is and the lengths many people will go to hold on to it.

"The last month has really changed everyone's lives forever. We knew it would when it was all unfolding in the first couple of days. Exactly how much, I don't think anyone realized," Ella's grandfather, Steve Eighinger said.

The fire had ignited on the second floor of the Ginster/ Cain home, just feet away from the crib where Baby Ella lay sleeping. Several family members attempted to save Ella from the flames, but it was firefighters Justin Twaddle and Lt. Eric Becks with the Quincy Fire Department that came to her rescue.

"I could feel the heat from the room. So I did a quick sweep of her bed and found her and scooped her up and got as low as I possible could. Then I got out of the house as quick as we could," Twaddle said.

Ella's room had for the most part melted away, all but her crib, the area untouched.

"Probably 30 seconds to a minute later and the whole room reached ignition temperature and flashed over. The whole room ignited," Twaddle said.

"Someone said, as far as Ella's crib and the area around it, and I'm quoting, 'like there was a couple of wings,'" Eighinger said.

"So any more amount of time, just praise God we were able to get in there and get her out in the right amount of time," Twaddle said.

"The doctor told us the chances of her survival was 70-30, which was hard to hear. Luckily we're on the 70 percent of that," Ella's mother, Sarah Ginster said.

"She lost her skin over more than half of her body and it's a very slow and tedious process and she's only got a couple patches on her body where they can take skin from and then that has to regrow," Eighinger said."It's going to be a long uphill battle especially for the immediate family there."

Ella has lived the last month in an isolation room at St. John's Hospital in Springfield, Illinois.

"She was in a coma and kept paralyzed for the better part of her first three weeks there, because they couldn't have her move or anything," Eighinger said.

It's a day by day worry.

"We have to suit up to go in and see her, with masks, gown and gloves. We can't touch her a lot of the time, because of infection," Ginster said.

"It's pretty moving when you're in there to look at her and think, she's here. I mean, we're so lucky that she is here," Eighinger said. "When she saw her brother for the first time, that was like a light going off. Her eyes opened up, and just smiled ear to ear and tried lifting her arms as much as she could, and it was a pretty emotional moment."

It's been an emotional roller coaster.

"In one day you can be on top of the world because everything is going so perfectly and in five minutes we've got specialists telling us she's got an infection," Ginster said.

But Ella's a fighter.

During her recovery, both firefighters have kept in close touch with Ella and her family. Justin Twaddle made a surprise visit last Thursday to see Ella and pray with her family. Eric Becks is hoping to make the trip down to Springfield soon.

"Obviously, our lives are inexplicably connected for life now, so I can't wait for the time when she can come over to my house and play with my kids God willing and to just share that together," Twaddle said.

"I'm certainly going to attend all the benefits and meet her family and she'll always be in my prayers," Becks said.

Eighinger says Ella could spend up to a year in hospital recovery, at the earliest she may be able to leave in the fall. Ella has stunned both doctors and her family with her recovery over the past few weeks.

Community Outreach

Meanwhile, Ella has "gone global." Churches around the world, including one in India, have told family members they are praying for her full recovery.

Little does Ella know the impact she's made on the Quincy community and around the world.

"I got an email from Chuck Sack over at Madison Park Christian Church over there in Quincy. He didn't have a lot of details, he just said Ella had been burned in a fire and they were air lifting her over here," Gary Winkleman said.

Winkleman and his congregation at West Side Christian Church in Springfield have spent the last month caring for Baby Ella and her parents in any way they can.

"You can't help but fall in love with them. They're just the nicest young couple and then Ella. I kind of got attached to them. I call them my kids around the church here," Winkleman said.

From home cooked meals to prayers and counseling, the church has made a great impact on the family.

"Ella especially, she is a fighter," Winkleman said.

A fighter with overwhelming support from the community.

"I found out about it through Facebook. I live four blocks from baby Ella and her family," Vonnie Tucker said.

Thanks to Facebook and other social media outlets, Tucker is one of thousands of people keeping close tabs on Baby Ella's recovery. She's the organizer of an upcoming benefit.

"Sarah and Steven are really good about emailing everyday and letting us know what's going on," Tucker said.

"We've gotten cards, letters, donations from people as far as California, New Jersey, Saskatchewan, Canada, and Texas. No idea who they are. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, this thing has taken off unbelievably. There's a mortgage company in Chicago where the employees are donating a portion of their paycheck each week to the Help Ella Fund," Eighinger said.

There's even a church in India praying for Baby Ella.

A Benefit for Ella

Sunday, Feb. 12, hundreds of people are expected to meet at Cougars Den in Quincy off South 9th Street. Two dollars at the door will get you a whole day of fun, all for Baby Ella.

"There have been 400 responses saying we will be here so we don't know what we're looking for. We're just hoping to raise a lot of money because their family is so spread apart right now, with [Cain's] two girls in Mendon, and Grady here and Mom and Dad's there, so we just want them to have somewhere to come home to," Tucker said.

With the help of yet another kind heart that will be a reality.

"There's a very nice gentleman in town who wants to remain anonymous, who is supplying an apartment free of charge as long as they need it," Eighinger said.

The Power of Prayer

"Prayer is a very powerful thing, and I believe that as do many people in Quincy," Christy Goode said.

Goode is among the thousands of people praying for Ella. She's planned a prayer vigil on Sunday, Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. at the Crossing in Quincy.

"We may not be in Springfield with them, but we are in prayer. You know, it's all for baby Ella. She's the Tri-States' baby. It's not just Sarah and Elvis' baby, she's everybody's baby," Goode said.

"It makes us feel like somebody out there cares bout our baby as much as we do," Ginster said.

"We'll just keep helping them any way we can while they're here," Winkleman said.

"It's renewed our faith. I know, as a teenager, you're like yea...I'm from Quincy. But now, we're like 'we're from Quincy!' Now we advertise it! We can't wait to go back," Ginster laughed.