Kiffin, Ole Miss family give thanks

After the Dallas Cowboys face Oakland on Thursday and the Ole Miss Rebels complete their regular season that night at Mississippi State, finally, they can all gather -- Monte Kiffin, the Cowboys' defensive coordinator, his wife, Robin, their children, Heidi, former USC coach Lane and Ole Miss defensive line coach Chris, the kids' spouses and all seven Kiffin grandchildren.

Then it will be time for Thanksgiving.

Chris and his wife Angela have celebrated this holiday with every midnight feeding and diaper change since Sept. 17. On that warm Tuesday in Jackson, Miss., Christian Monte Kiffin was born at Batson Children's Hospital. He was 6 pounds, 14 ounces of miracle baby, according to the team of doctors who awaited his arrival.

He came out "kicking and screaming and red as could be," Angela said, a far cry from the condition she and Chris were told to expect.

Hours before his birth, after three uncertain months that followed their unborn son's summer diagnosis with a serious heart condition, doctors advised Chris and Angela that the baby might appear blue at delivery, that he may not move or cry.

Best-case scenario, doctors said a week prior: The baby would require heavy medication, a catheter and breathing tube but no surgery right away, and that he would remain hospitalized for three to five days.

More likely, he would immediately need the first of three heart operations and an extended hospital stay.

Christian went home after less than 48 hours. He spent his first night in the neonatal intensive care unit, attached to monitors, which found no sign of heart trouble. Subsequent visits to the pediatrician back home in Oxford, Miss., revealed no problems.

"They don't have an explanation," Angela said this week. "The heart doctors came to see us, and they just said it was amazing. They said, 'Congrats, he's a little miracle.' That's honestly what one of them said to me, that he's a miracle baby.

"I'm still in shock."

Chris and Angela have an explanation.

"We believe in the power of prayer," Chris said. "He's our baby boy, but we were not in this alone."

The Kiffins, amid the backdrop of a rocky football season for their family of coaches, received unending support from Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss program. Chris and Angela said they never lost faith that their son would arrive in good health, largely because of daily encouragement delivered by the Ole Miss coaches and their wives and their family and friends.

"We're surrounded by a great group of believers," Angela said.

And now, on this holiday, comes their time to give thanks.


Last fall, as Chris Kiffin helped Freeze take the Rebels to a bowl game for the first time in three years and organize the nation's No. 5-ranked recruiting class, Angela miscarried at 14 weeks.

The Kiffins have two girls, Grace, who turns 4 next month, and Taylor, 2.

Chris badly wanted a boy. So after the heartbreak, with the OK from Angela's doctor, they quickly tried again. In the spring of this year, after they learned Angela was carrying a boy, she said it was the happiest she'd ever seen her husband.

Then in mid-June, at a routine checkup, an ultrasound technician noticed what looked like white spots inside the baby's chest.

"My heart just dropped," Chris said.

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