Former Bears, Bills, and Buccaneers fullback/tight end Evan Rodriguez and his wife of three months, Olivia, display their profound faith in the most painful of ways, eschewing aborting their terribly damaged baby and choosing life, though it may only last a few hours.
The child, already named Layla Sky because Evan attests that that he will often “zone out and look at the sky and wonder what else is out there,” has been found to have anencephaly, leaving her without parts of her brain and skull. Her birth, due in December, will occur because the couple feels that they must leave the matter in God’s hands.
— Ashley Glass (@ashleygTV) August 19, 2015
After the couple visited the doctor in July, looking forward to the sonogram, they received the worst possible news. Evan recalled hearing, “I don’t want to make you guys nervous or anything, but her head doesn’t look all there.” He added, “They’re telling us this, and it’s eye-opening. I’ve never heard of this, ever. I’m like ‘There’s nothing you guys can do? There’s no cure?'”
Evan said that at that juncture, “They give you two options. Terminate the baby or you can continue with the process.” Olivia prayed, “God, show me what it is that you want to do through all of this. What’s the good to come out of it?” After a week of discussing the issue, the couple decided to continue with the pregnancy, as Evan asserted, “Just like if your child has cancer, you’re going to fight for whatever time you’re given with that child.… Who are we to determine the child’s life? We decided to leave it in God’s hands. We hope for the best, even if it’s 10 minutes, three days, a year. It will mean more than anything.”
The couple used social media to amplify their mission. Olivia wrote on Instagram, “God often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad of our greatest calling.” On Facebook, they created a page titled “The Fight for Layla Sky,” and wrote, “Most the time we plan on teaching our child about the world never expecting you have to teach the world about your child.” After the Buccaneers cut Evan, Olivia wrote, “I just ask everyone to help me pray so my husband gets on another team quickly. Our insurance runs out end of the month and it’s important to keep Layla on close watch and care.”
While Evan played for the Buccaneers, he wore a Layla Sky towel at each practice. Olivia, who can feel Layla kick, says, “At first, I felt kind of lonely and hopeless. I think the outlet for me was promoting awareness. I’m still learning and getting all the facts, but I want people to know more about this.” The hashtag “The Fight for Layla Sky” has already generated attention brought to the disease afflicting the Rodriguez baby.
To help prevent anencephaly, a pregnant mother should consume a daily supplement of folic acid even before she tries to get pregnant. The condition is more prevalent in the Latino community. According to the CDC, 1 in 4,859 babies born each year will have anencephaly; virtually all will die just after birth.
The former Bear and Bill, who was released by the Bucs in August and is hoping to catch on with another team, said he knows he will see his daughter again. He said quietly, “She’ll be waiting up there saying daddy. So, there’s a time and place for everything.”