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Miracles from Heaven: History vs. Hollywood

Starring Jennifer Garner, Martin Henderson, Queen Latifah, Kylie Rogers | based on the memoir 'Miracles from Heaven' by Christy Beam

Jennifer Garner
Born: April 17, 1972
Houston, Texas, USA
Christy Beam
Born: June 8, 1972
Birthplace: Abilene, Texas, USA
Kylie Rogers
Born: February 18, 2004
Dallas, Texas, USA
Annabel Beam
Born: September 10, 2002
Birthplace: Fort Worth, Texas, USA
Martin Henderson
Born: October 8, 1974
Auckland, New Zealand
Kevin Beam
Born: April 11, 1972
Birthplace: Texas, USA
Brighton Sharbino
Born: August 19, 2002
Flower Mound, Texas, USA
Abbie Beam
Born: February 20, 2000
Birthplace: Bryan, Texas, USA
Courtney Fansler
Adelynn Beam
Born: December 2, 2004
Birthplace: Fort Worth, Texas, USA
Queen Latifah (born Dana Elaine Owens)
Born: March 18, 1970
Newark, New Jersey, USA
Angela Cimino
Born: November 9, 1970
Birthplace: USA
Eugenio Derbez
Born: September 2, 1962
Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Dr. Samuel Nurko
Born: December 31, 1956
Birthplace: USA
John Carroll Lynch
Born: August 1, 1963
Boulder, Colorado, USA
Pastor Scott Sharman
Born: 1956
Birthplace: USA
I believe that I was cured because whenever I went to heaven, I asked Jesus if I could stay with him and he said, 'No, Annabel. I have plans for you on Earth that you cannot fulfill in heaven,' and he said, 'Whenever I send you back, there will be nothing wrong with you.' -Annabel Beam, Fox and Friends, April 2015

Questioning the Story:

What disorders did Annabel Beam suffer from?

The Miracles from Heaven true story reveals that when Annabel Beam was five years old she was diagnosed with two rare life-threatening digestive disorders, pseudo-obstruction motility disorder and antral hypomotility disorder, which resulted in frequent hospital stays ( The former is characterized by altered and inefficient contractions (peristalsis) of the muscles in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which help to move food content along. Instead of food content being passed efficiently, the intestines react as if there is a blockage, leading to inefficient absorption of nutrients. The latter, antral hypomotility disorder, is characterized by weak contractions in the antrum part of the stomach.

The real Anna Beam (left) had suffered from two rare digestive disorders. Actress Kylie Rogers (right) as Annabel Beam in the Miracles from Heaven movie.

Did they really take Annabel to Boston to see a gastroenterologist?

Yes. In search of help for Annabel's digestive disorders, they made trips to both Austin and Boston to see specialists. Dr. Nurko (Eugenio Derbez) is based on real-life Boston doctor Samuel Nurko. Like in the movie, he was one of the few doctors in the country still allowed to prescribe Cisapride, which had been taken off the market due to certain side effects. The real Dr. Nurko has a cameo in the movie. When the journalist, Ben Wexler (Wayne Pére), asks Christy (Jennifer Garner) to step out into the hall to talk, the real Dr. Nurko can be seen walking passed them.

Did Kevin Beam run his own veterinary clinic?

No. Though he had dreams of a family business, Kevin Beam had been working as part of a team of doctors at the Alvarado Veterinary Clinic since around 2002. Despite the family being stressed financially, the movie exaggerates the weight on Kevin's shoulders by adding the stress of trying to get a family business off the ground as medical-related bills are flooding in. In the book, Christy Beam says that Kevin's partners at the clinic were very supportive when he had to miss work and readjust his schedule. -Miracles from Heaven book

Did Christy and Annabel really go to Boston without an appointment?

No. Though Christy says that "it took several months and a lot of persistent prayer" to get Annabel an appointment to see Dr. Nurko, they already had an appointment with him when they embarked on their first trip to Boston. Fact-checking Miracles from Heaven revealed that Christy's sister Angie, who is not shown in the movie, went with them on the trip. -Miracles from Heaven book

Did Christy and her daughter Annabel first meet Angela at a restaurant?

Yes. As we investigated the Miracles from Heaven true story, we discovered that Queen Latifah's character, Angela Bradford, is based on a real-life woman named Angela Cimino, a single mom of three. Like in the Miracles from Heaven movie, they met Angela when Annabel accidentally knocked over a large glass of Sprite at the hotel restaurant. Their busy waiter dropped off a few cocktail napkins. Angela stepped in with a stack of paper towels. They got to talking and she offered to show them the city the following day. They became friends, and like in the movie, Angela helped them on future trips to Boston, including giving them a place to stay. In real life, Angela is white, not black.

Did an airline ticket agent really help Kevin Beam get tickets when his credit cards were declined?

Not exactly, but a similar act of kindness supposedly did occur in real life. On his way to the airport with daughters Abbie and Adelynn, Kevin Beam called each credit card company and tried to get them to extend his limit. Abbie handed him card after card until he finally found himself speaking with a customer rep who gave him a "tentative go-ahead." She couldn't raise the maximum but told him to try the card anyway. "You never know," the rep told Kevin. "It might go through." -Miracles from Heaven book

The real Annabel Beam during one of her hospital stays for her digestive disorders prior to the accident.

Did Kevin Beam really sell his motorcycle to help pay for the travel and treatments for Annabel?

No. Though he did own a motorcycle, the real Kevin Beam sold his "tricked out" pickup truck to help pay for the hospital-related travel and treatments for Annabel. -Miracles from Heaven book

Is the journalist whose daughter has cancer based on a real person?

No, it doesn't appear that Ben Wexler (Wayne Pére), the journalist who initially doesn't believe in God, is based on a real person. In the movie, Ben's daughter suffers from cancer and is a temporary roommate of Annabel. Ben sees how much pain Annabel is in, and after Annabel's sudden recovery, he finds himself believing that she's telling the truth. The character Ben and his daughter Haley do not appear in Christy Beam's Miracles from Heaven book.

Did Annabel really fall headfirst into a hollow tree trunk?

Yes. In December 2011, Annabel Beam fell 30 feet headfirst down into the rotted-out trunk of a cottonwood tree. Several hours passed before emergency personnel were able to harness Annabel to safety.

Exactly how long was the real Annabel Beam stuck in the tree?

"She was in the tree about five hours," says her mom, Christy Beam ( Unlike the movie, emergency personnel convinced Annabel to tie her own harness and she was conscious when they hoisted her out of the tree (

Was she stuck upside down the whole time she was in the tree?

No. In fact-checking Miracles from Heaven, we learned that Annabel was not upside down the entire time. "She at one point was able to right herself," says mother Christy. "So, she was in a fetal position for the majority of the time."

The real Beam family in 2015 in front of the tree that changed their lives. From left to right: dad Kevin, Adelynn, Annabel, mom Christy, and Abbie.

Was Annabel injured during the fall?

No. Luckily, despite supposedly being knocked unconscious during the fall, she survived without injury. As a precaution, she was life-flighted to the hospital.

Did the symptoms of her digestive disorders really disappear after the fall?

Yes. In researching the Miracles from Heaven true story, we learned that according to Annabel's mother, Christy Beam, her daughter's symptoms miraculously vanished after the fall. Prior to the accident, Annabel had been in "severe chronic pain all the time" for a significant portion of her childhood.

Did Annabel's digestive disorders cause her so much pain that she told her mom she wanted to die?

According to Annabel's mom Christy, this is true. At one point, Annabel told her that she wanted to die and live in heaven with Jesus. "She was just in severe chronic pain all the time," says Christy. "Her belly was greatly distended all the time. Eating and drinking was a challenge."

The real Christy Beam (left) says that her daughter told her she wanted to die and go live with Jesus in heaven. Jennifer Garner (right) portrays Christy Beam in the Miracles from Heaven movie.

Did the real Annabel Beam claim to see her grandma in heaven?

Yes. "Whenever I fell, I saw heaven and it was really bright," Annabel said, "and I saw my MeeMee who had died a couple years back. And that's how I knew I was in heaven. She looked a little bit younger than she had whenever I last saw her."

What does Annabel say that Jesus looked like?

"Well, he had like a brown beard and brown hair and a long white robe," Annabel told Fox and Friends during a 2015 interview, roughly four years after the fall.

Did Jesus tell Annabel that he was going to cure her?

According to Annabel, during her visit to heaven, she asked Jesus if she could stay with him so that she could escape the pain she was in. She said that Jesus responded by saying, "No, Annabel, I have plans for you on Earth that you cannot fulfill in heaven ... Whenever I send you back, there will be nothing wrong with you."

Was Annabel really symptom free after the accident?

While fact-checking Miracles from Heaven, we learned that according to Christy Beam, Annabel's mom, her daughter has not been hospitalized for her digestive disorders since before the fall, and she no longer exhibits the associated symptoms. During a 2015 interview on Fox and Friends, Christy said that her daughter was currently taking no medications.

The real Christy Beam (left) and daughter Annabel Beam (center) pose with actress Jennifer Garner (right). Courtesy Christy Beam.

What do the doctors say about Annabel's miraculous recovery?

"They just say that she's asymptomatic," says Annabel Beam's mom Christy. "They've released us from the care of a pediatric gastroenterologist, specialist. ... They say that they don't know, but that she shows no more symptoms and she is on zero medications today."

Is it possible that Annabel Beam's story is a hoax?

Yes. Supposed true stories about people visiting heaven have increased in popularity in recent years. Though there is often no real way to prove them true or false, a few have turned into cash cows for their subjects. With the case of the Beam family and Miracles from Heaven, one could conclude that financial worries led the family to fabricate the story, but there is currently no way to prove that assertion. Is it possible that Annabel was knocked unconscious during the fall and had a dream? Should we simply dismiss Annabel's sudden recovery and explain it as the mesmerized doctor suggested in the movie, that bumping her head might have knocked things into place with regard to her nervous system? Or is that in itself a miracle?

Other stories of trips to heaven include Heaven is for Real, the story of a toddler's visit to heaven. The book was on The New York Times' best-seller list for 59 weeks and the film adaptation earned $91 million in the U.S. alone. The family in that story also struggled financially before the book was published. Another successful book, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, was revealed to be a hoax when its young subject disavowed the story and stated that his visit to heaven was a fabrication. The boy, Alex Malarkey, had been left a quadriplegic after a severe traffic accident. His father, Kevin Malarkey, helped to author the story and capitalized on his son's injury.

Annabel Beam Interviews & Related Videos

Delve deeper into the Miracles from Heaven true story by watching the Christy and Annabel Beam interviews below.

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