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A Dying Man's Race to Adopt, and a Small Miracle

The 2-month-old girl in her arms was pale and spitting up. The young mother appeared distraught.

"I'm not sleeping," she said. "She's not sleeping."

One of the women in the nursery offered to take the baby home for a while. The mother agreed without hesitation.

The McClains added mother and baby to their prayer list, but that was the extent of their involvement — until early January.

The church friend told Tracey that Alyssa had been hospitalized for breathing trouble and dehydration. When Alyssa was ready to be released, the friend asked if the McClains could keep her for the night.

After they got her home, a winter storm hit. By the time the snow had melted off, the McClains were in love.

The mother already had a 3-year-old son. She wasn't ready to be a mother of two.

"Alyssa ... has been passed around to several families that mom did not know much about," a social worker wrote. The mother "has not bonded with Alyssa."

On Jan. 28, social services granted the McClains temporary custody. Less than a week later, the mother signed away her parental rights.

About two years ago, during a family vacation, Marshall became violently ill. His skin turned a sickly yellow, and the already painfully lean trucker began dropping weight.

Over time, Marshall underwent numerous surgeries to clear blockages or take biopsies. He would bounce back after each operation, only to relapse later.

The business was doing well enough that Marshall decided to retire. When Alyssa came along, he was able to devote full time to raising her.

He was the one who, when she awoke crying, declared that she'd just have to cry herself back to sleep. Five minutes later, he was up to comfort her.

He would sit in his recliner and bounce Alli on his leg, singing "Ride the Horsey" or "Jesus Loves Me." He worked hard to make sure her first word was "Daddy" — and it was.

When Marshall first became ill, doctors feared it was pancreatic cancer, but tests came back negative. In late March, that initial suspicion was confirmed.

He had just started radiation and chemotherapy when physicians discovered abscesses in his liver. They ordered intravenous antibiotics.

Danielle and her fiance, Kevin Susigan, moved their wedding up a year to May 14 so Marshall could walk her down the aisle.

The first week in July, Marshall went to Carolinas Medical Center near Charlotte for some tests to see how the abscesses were responding to the treatment. While he was there, one of them ruptured.

When doctors said there was nothing they could do to halt the spreading infection, Marshall decided to spend his last few days at home, with family. Tracey asked him if he was frightened.

"The only thing I'm scared of is leaving you here with all this responsibility," he told her. "But, other than that, I'm ready."

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