Friday, February 15, 2013

Day 15 - Olivia Behling

I've always known I was meant to adopt “someday”….I grew up with several families who had adopted, and I had a book “The Family Nobody Wanted” that I read over and over.  In 2006, I realized I was ready and eager to become a mom, and began looking for a single’s spot for China.  I had heard of the plight of Chinese girls for years, and felt like my daughter was there.  On 12/18/06, CCAI offered me a spot, with the knowledge that my paperwork had to be IN China before 5/1/07….that was a mad dash, but everything fell in place and my LID was 4/20/07.  Then the wait began.

Initially, I did not consider the SN program, but as the months became years, and I watched online friends become moms through the SN program, I thought “I can do this”.  So I met with my SW, and sent my SN checklist to CCAI on the last week of June, 2009 (which turned out to be the week my daughter was born in China!).  Being a cardiac ICU RN, I was hoping for a cardiac SN, to stay in my “comfort zone”…boy, be careful what you wish for!!  I was expecting to wait another year or so, but on October 22, I received an email, asking me if I was interested in seeing the file of a <6 month old baby girl with a major heart defect.  This baby hadn't even been registered yet for IA; in fact, her orphanage had labeled her as terminal.  If a family was found, they would register her ASAP, but if not, NOTHING further would be done for her.

On 10/23/09 I received the file for “Liu Ni”, aka NiNi, a 4 month old baby girl with TGA and ASD.  Her file at that time had 1 picture, and 2 sheets of paper, most of which turned out to be not true.  I took a deep breath and said YES, I want this baby!!  I was told that there was a good possibility that this baby wouldn't survive the wait, but that everyone would do their best.  I knew if I could JUST get her home and to surgery, she could be a healthy girl with a normal life. The next couple of months were s-l-o-w, waiting for all the paperwork to happen.  I had a cardiologist write a letter, asking for NiNi’s file to be expedited in order to get life-saving surgery for her.  In January, I received updated pictures, and NiNi looked good, which helped ease this mom-to-be’s anxious heart.  China did expedite her paperwork, once she was registered; on 2/1 I received LOA, on 2/15 I received TA (3 years ago today!), and we left for China on 3/3, with Gotcha Day on 3/8.  5 days before leaving, CCAI called me to tell me NiNi had been in the hospital for 2 weeks with pneumonia, and they were unsure if she would be alive when I arrived.  Her orphanage didn't have heat, and it was snowing in her province.

Gotcha Day was an overwhelming day.  I finally held my precious baby girl and kissed those sweet cheeks- I was a mom!!  But if you look at my face in the pictures, you can see the terror I was feeling.  She was blue, her fingers and toes dark purple, and I could hear her rattling lungs across the room before they handed her to me.  All I could think was “Dear God, how am I going to keep her alive for 2 weeks and get her home?”  The other babies in our group all cried, but NiNi was actually asleep when I received her.  I walked around (holding her upright to improve oxygenation), talked softly to her, and when she opened her eyes and looked at me, she sighed and snuggled closer, no crying.  It was as if she knew we were meant to be family.

She was tiny, in a 0-3 month size.  She hadn’t grown or gained weight since her referral information from early October.  The next few days were scary: temp of 103.5, that horrible cough, portable oxygen (looked like nylon camping pillows with a roller clamp on a piece of rubber tubing), unable to drink more than an ounce or so because she turned a vivid shade of purple and had such difficulty breathing.  We went to the hospital in ZhengZhou…that was quite a trip.

This hospital was filthy, crowded, freezing, we were in the hallway on a “cot”- plywood on sawhorses covered with a few blankets.  Somehow, this destitute place found a cardiac monitor, an IV pump, & a nebulizer for my girl.  Her first O2 sat was 53% (normal is over 90).  They gave her IV antibiotics, breathing treatments, and we stabilized her enough to get to Guangzhou   We rode the bullet train from ZZ to Wuhan to GZ- a trip of 10.5hrs with a blue infant and several air pillows, plus my 14 y/o niece!  I spent 1 night at the White Swan, but the next day NiNi went into heart failure at the clinic.  The head doctor told us bluntly “this child is going to die…do you know CPR?”  Terrified, I packed up NiNi and went to the nearest ER.  It was a rough day, my precious girl nearly died in my arms in that ER.  No one would help me, and all she needed was to be suctioned.  Her sat was 42%; I have never seen a human turn that color that didn’t die…I have never prayed so hard, or felt so helpless.  I am a cardiac nurse, I have helped thousands of critically ill people during my career, and all I could think was “God, did you send me 8000 miles to watch my child die?”  In that noisy, hopeless, abandoned place, I baptized my child with spit on my thumb (water and the Word), surrendering her to Him. Less than a minute after that, in walked the transport nurse (we’d been waiting 2.5 hrs) and she suctioned my child, opening her airways and allowing her sats to return to the 50’s.  (Don’t tell me miracles don’t happen!)  At the Women and Children’s hospital, the staff worked with me (once they understood that I was NOT going to allow them to use her as a lab rat- they wanted to try out procedures on my baby!), placed a feeding tube, suctioned her regularly, and started IVs.  She got lasix and antibiotics, nebulizers, q2h tube feeds.

 My insurance screwed up emergency transport for us, and tried to force me to go to Beijing to have NiNi’s surgery- I quit talking to them at that point.  I remembered that we still had our JAL tickets, and on 3/20, we left the hospital and took the train to Hong Kong.  3/21, we flew to San Francisco, with oxygen rented for the trip.  NiNi did fabulous, slept almost the entire 16 hrs.  The ambulance was waiting at the gate at SFO, and we went straight to Stanford (LPCH).  The first night, the docs told me that NiNi might not be viable- I about fainted, after all we had already been thru, and I hadn’t been a mom for 2 weeks yet!  The next day she went to cath lab, and her numbers were better than anyone could’ve hoped for.

She had TGA w/ ASD, but also a PDA that had been missed on all her previous echoes!  She had 2 open heart surgeries (we love Dr. Reddy!!) over the next few weeks, spent 17 days on a ventilator, and then perked up. It was so thrilling to be able to hold her after 3 weeks of watching.  We came home after 31 days- LPCH called my daughter a miracle, and used her as their case presentation that month for 6 different disciplines!  We ended up coming home on oxygen for 7 weeks, as she developed some PH post-op.

Today, NiNi is a happy, healthy, incredible almost-4 year old!  She is petite, 35.5”, 27.5#, but mostly caught up to her peers developmentally.  Her first year at home, she grew 7” and doubled her weight! She sat up for the first time on her 1st birthday. You would never know she had been sick, much less dying.  We only see cardiology once a year, to be sure that her shortened pulmonary artery grows with her and that her heart stays strong.  She sings, dances, takes gymnastics, loves animals and babies, and is the joy of my life.  She is a tough cookie at times, stubborn doesn’t begin to describe it- but that is how she survived, so I try to celebrate that and re-channel the energy!  J   Her laughter is infectious, and her smile lights up the room.  Her latest mission is asking for a “sissy” or “bubby”…but I am not QUITE ready to open that door yet!  We will see what the next few years bring.  I am thankful every day for my precious girl.  I love you, Olivia Grace LiuNi Behling!


Drea said...

What a wonderful story of love, strength, and perserverance to begin the day with! Thank you for sharing!

KHM said...

Oh Bonnie - what a story. I knew she was a rough case, but my goodness she needed someone with your background to pull this off for her.

Love seeing her healthy and of course I think she looks a bit like our NiNi too.

Drea said...

I loved waking up to this beautiful story of strength and love!

Debi said...

What an awesome story! She is absolutely adorable! I love how God knew she needed YOU for her Mama. My daughter's nickname in China was also NiNi, short for Yu Ni. We also kept her Chinese name as a second middle name.

Wife of the Prez said...

I remember following her journey home. I hadn't read an update in so long. It is so good to see her updated pics and read about her HEALTH! I like her wish for a sissy or bubby too. ;) Thanks for sharing her story.

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