I had never even considered adopting a critically ill child. Never. Not once.
The life I am now living, was simply NOT a part of my plans! I’d chosen the non-special needs route for our first adoption, and then the most “manageable” special need I thought I could handle for #2. My plans included another adoption, perhaps, but it would be of a healthy, older child if I had my way! I look at my life today and sometimes wonder just HOW I got here??? People ask constantly if I “knew what I was getting into” when we adopted Rachel. I can almost hear the words behind the question they’d dare not speak, because no one in their right mind would actually “choose” this road…would they???
Our decision to adopt Rachel was made in split seconds! Literally! I had actually tried to avoid what was then just a postage size photo for over a week. But the words written beneath that photo almost haunted me. “A family pursuing the adoption of this child should be aware that her medical needs are critical” When I finally forced myself to call the agency holding her file, I had a strange out-of-body experience answering that now familiar question for the very first time…. “Are you aware that this little girl is considered terminal?” Out of nowhere came my response… “Yes, of course! But aren’t we all?” I think the woman on the other end of the phone was as surprised by my answer as I was! She sent the file within minutes, and the rest, as they say, is history!
The moment I read the hopeless story of the precious little girl that would become my daughter, the unexpected decision had been made! I took the computer to my husband… surely he would be thinking a little more clearly than I was! I read the short bio to him… “7 years old, severe congenital heart defect, considered inoperable, “terminal”, sent to the orphanage to die….” I turned the computer around to reveal the face of the precious child behind one of the saddest stories we’d ever heard. He hardly took a moment to consider his response… “Are you OK with leaving this little girl in an orphanage to die alone, without ever knowing the love of a mommy and daddy, or ever hearing about the love of Jesus?” I most certainly was NOT! “Then let’s go get her!” DONE! Not a single piece of paperwork had been filled out, much less notarized, certified, or authenticated! But less than 5 months later, we were on a plane headed to Shanghai, China to bring home our precious new daughter, Rachel Hope McCary.
We brought Rachel home without a single promise attached. Maybe a miracle was waiting at home that could fix her broken heart. Maybe not. It’s been more than a year since we first asked those questions and we still don’t have the answers. Doctors feared that her lungs were too damaged after 7 years of life on a single right atrium and a single left ventricle and at first gave us very little hope. They finally decided that there was a small window of opportunity to do the surgery she should have had only months after she was born (the Glenn) and they performed open-heart surgery 2 short weeks after she had arrived home from China. She rebounded quickly and was back home within a week. The Fontan could be done in the next year and a heart transplant could hopefully be put off until adulthood.
Sadly, though, Rachel’s single ventricle began to fail within a few short months and any hope of another surgery to put off the heart transplant was dashed. She was no longer a candidate for the surgery she needed to save her life. On March 8, 2012, Rachel was listed and began her wait for a heart transplant. I can’t believe, as I type, that it has been 11 months of around the clock waiting, and we are still….waiting.
I would be lying if I said that this was easy. And yet the waiting has proven to be a miraculous journey in itself. We have been forced to answer some of the “life and death” questions most people avoid… and to face the realities of loss that another family must know for Rachel to have life. Each day of strength is a new miracle and we’ve learned to enjoy many of the things we’ve always taken for granted. Jesus has become the center of our conversations and we’ve begun to dream of the life to come that He promises, even more than the one we’re living now! Just tonight, Rachel looked at me with those glistening eyes and said, “You don’t have to be afraid to die, because it just means you will get to go to heaven!” I reminded her how upset I’d be if she got there before I did and she responded with the sweet giggle and twinkle in her eye that perfectly define just “who” Rachel is! There is not a single ounce of dread or fear…. No anger or bitterness for the realities she faces. She does not whine and never utters a single word of complaint. She is filled with such happiness and joy, it seems to almost seep from her pores!!! Her spirit is contagious and we’ve discovered the incredible joy that has come from the most unexpected places.
I’ve tried to imagine in the past how a family could possibly face challenges like these with grace, and yet now that I find myself on this unwanted journey, I’ve discovered a grace from God that I could simply not have imagined would be possible! People look at us and wonder (out loud) how we’re doing… “I can’t imagine what you must be going through!” If only they knew the absolute peace we have found! Or the sheer joy of living day-to-day, moment-to-moment in a life suddenly put into perfect perspective!
When “Make A Wish” came to our home to interview Rachel, she’d only been home from China for 5 months and I honestly wondered if she would even understand what a “wish” was… much less have the ability to verbalize the wish that would make her most happy. Her sisters grew frustrated as she rejected every single “wish idea” they could imagine! “No… nothing!” she kept saying. I was pretty convinced that she was clueless. Why else would she turn down the opportunity to have what most kid’s only dream of having? I half uttered under my breath…”She doesn’t get it!” But before I could even finish my thought she grabbed my arm… “No mommy! I KNOW!!! It’s like…. I wish I had a Mommy and Daddy!” What more could she possibly wish for???
To think that a little girl abandoned on the streets of Shanghai… dying of pneumonia … “terminal”… sent to an orphanage to die …and endured treatment there, I can’t even bring myself to type, IS FINALLY HOME! She is surrounded by people who absolutely adore her! She has a Mommy and Daddy that will never leave her and she has discovered the love and HOPE of Jesus! In Him, ALL of her wishes have come true! Who could ask for more?
Would I choose to do it again? You bet I would!!! IN A HEARTBEAT!!!
You can follow Rachel’s story of HOPE at www.HopeforRachel.com
or at the website www.LoriMcCary.com