It was supposed to be a joyous moment on July 10 when 39-year-old Jannelle Villarreal of San Antonio, Texas, welcomed her baby girl. But just minutes after the planned C-section, things took a turn for the worst, leaving both mother and child fighting for their lives.
Jannelle, who lost a baby boy last year at just 21 weeks, went into the hospital on June 30 so doctors could closely monitor her because they suspected she had preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system. Her baby girl, Eden Raine, had been developing slowly and she was told she’d be on bed rest anywhere from two weeks to two months.
But at just 31 weeks pregnant, Jannelle’s liver enzymes began to skyrocket.
“She immediately had to deliver the baby,” her husband Daniel Villarreal, a pastor with Grave Avenue Church in Frisco, tells PEOPLE. “She then started to really decline.”
Doctors told Daniel that his wife had developed HELLP syndrome, a life-threatening, severe variation of preeclampsia.
“They started watching her and she just got worse,” says Daniel. “Her blood pressure was dropping. It was really, really bad.”
After Jannelle was transferred to the ICU, her family was told she’d need a liver transplant. She was then transferred to another hospital for surgery.
“There was internal bleeding on her liver and then her kidneys stopped working so she was retaining fluid,” Daniel says. “At one point she couldn’t breathe because her lungs were filled with fluid.”
At the same time, Eden Raine was also struggling to stay alive.
“It was incredibly painful to watch,” Daniel says. “I have my wife and baby both on a CPAP mask and they’re trying to breathe. I was bouncing back and forth between hospitals praying over them both.”
It was in those dark moments that Daniel — who also has a 12-year-old daughter with Jannelle — thought he might lose his wife.
“I saw the looks of the doctors around me,” he says. “In my heart I didn’t believe we were going to lose her, but what I was looking at, it looked like we were losing her. It was very bad.”
After Jannelle’s lowest point — when she was “on death’s door,” say Daniel — she slowly began to make small improvements. She slowly began to speak and got the color in her face back.
Daniel says it was only on July 19 — nine days after she gave birth — that he began to see “incredible victories” for her.
“The liver transplant is off the table,” he says. “Some miraculous things are happening with her turnaround, but her kidneys still aren’t functioning fully, so that’s the next miracle we need.”
As his wife continues to improve, baby Eden Raine is still fighting.
“My little girl is losing weight,” Daniel says. “By now [the doctors] want her to have gained weight, so they’re making some adjustments.”
A GoFundMe page has has been created to help the family with medical bills and other related expenses.
The family is also asking for prayers from everyone around the world. The waiting room at both hospitals have been filled with people who are offering their endless support.
“That really kickstarted a surge for me both physically and emotionally,” says Daniel. “It’s very inspiring. There has been constant positive faith-filled encouragement. It’s been phenomenal and amazing.”
Daniel says he cries when he needs to cry, eats healthy so he doesn’t crash, sleeps when he can and gets back up to do it all over again.
While his mind is only his wife and daughter, he has also tried to stay “focused on the power of a miracle and the power of prayer.”
He adds “We believe that God can turn this around. There is hope.”