Friday, February 21, 2014

Day 21 - Grace Sprengel

When we began looking over all of the medical conditions in our adoption paperwork to decide what
we could handle and what we couldn't, wouldn't, didn't want to think about handling, we felt very
overwhelmed. Our family didn't have any “medical conditions”. Our visits to the pediatrician were
always short and sweet. There aren't any needed specialists for our older children, and I've always been
grateful for that gift, that miracle.

My brother was born with a heart defect. He was 11 when it was repaired. I am 7 years older than him
so I remember a lot of the doctor visits, hospital stays, procedures, and tests. I'm happy to say he is a
healthy adult today and you would never know he had a congenital heart defect. I remember when it
dawned on me that, had he been born in China, he would likely have been quickly placed in an
orphanage and labeled as “special needs”. Wouldn't it be something if our little one had a heart defect?
Wouldn't it be just like God to have it be that our new daughter, our daughter with special needs, have
broken heart and use our family to help heal and fix and give her a chance...

And so it was, midway through our paper chasing I visited a blog that I frequented, typically daily,
called Ni Hao Y'all (please link to: ). There I saw
the most precious little Chinese face I've ever laid eyes on and she took my breath away. She was called
Kate. I read about her heart condition, that she currently was in the care of New Day Foster Home in
Beijing, and that she was the chosen orphan to receive a funded surgery from the sale of shirts that say:
“So Loved”. I immediately forwarded a request to our caseworker asking if she knew if this little one
was paper ready and if there was a chance that she could be ours. Tiffany gently burst my bubble
saying that she wasn't able to locate her on the shared list and didn't seem to be paperwork ready. The
chances of being matched with her were about the same as winning the lottery.

5 months later on a cold Wednesday in December the phone rang. To my surprise, Tiffany asked if we
were ready to consider a referral. Our dossier had just been mailed a week prior, and I had just checked
the New Day Foster Home website to see if “Kate” was still there. She was. My heart sank because I
had been thinking of, praying for, and falling in love with “Kate” despite my best efforts to not get
attached; I mean, who wins the lottery? I exhaled and agreed to consider the referral and prepared as
best I could to let go of Kate and all she had come to mean to me and to our family.

As Tiffany began to share details about her and about her medical conditions, they sounded all too

“ She was born on October 2, 2011...and she has tetralogy of fallot...”
“It's her.” I said

Tiffany had forgotten about our email and my interest in Kate. She would later tell me that it was
unusual for her to be online on a Tuesday evening looking at the shared list of available children for
adoption, but she was; and she saw her file and thought of us since we met all of her requirements for
acceptable conditions. It was her. It was Kate – who we have named Grace. Had she been available
one week prior, her file would have gone to a different family. For God to give us a glimpse of our
daughter months before, knowing that we would fall in love with her; and then, through no effort of our
own, allow her file to come available at the exact time we were ready will always always blow my
mind. He is an amazing God and dare I say, does some of His best work setting the lonely in families.

We accepted her referral immediately. She was 14 months old at the time and despite being chosen for the funded surgery, had not been well enough to have it. She struggled with chronic pneumonia and we
would later learn that she has tracheo-malacia (a floppy trachea) due to an trachea-esophageal fistula
repair at three weeks old. All of our paperwork from LID to TA was expedited in light of her heart
defect. She was frequently cyanotic and it was worsening. Her pulse ox on a good day was in the 70's.
The noise coming from her floppy trachea, and potential complications in her airway made doctors
hesitant to operate on her in China. In early March she spent a week in the hospital in preparation for
surgery. I had never experienced anything like that, wondering every moment for a week whether or
not she would have the surgery, how she was, and fearing the worst. When she was released without
surgery I was disappointed, but ultimately had to believe that it wasn't time for her healing yet and we
had to trust God bring about His healing in His time, whatever that meant.

We left home May 1st for China and on May 6 ( ), just outside the civil affairs office in Urumqi in the XinJiang province, we laid eyes on Grace for the first time. She was terrified, blue, and had just been released from a 10 day stint in the hospital for pneumonia. She needed that surgery and she needed it soon. We traveled with several medicines, a portable oxygen concentrator (which made for interesting moments in the TSA line at airports), and a nebulizer. It was quite the adventure. We landed on US soil on May 19th praising God that we only needed emergency oxygen a couple of times, and that we came home to much cleaner, healthier air than in Beijing. The month we were home adjusting to our new normal as a family of 5 had wonderful moments, but daily TET spells
were not among the wonderdul moments. The were quite terrifying. On June 21st ( my heart nearly ripped out of my chest
as we watched the nurse carry our blueish baby away for surgery. We were told that hers was a “very
garden variety tetralogy of fallot – no extra funny business to complicate things”. The surgery went
very well, they harvested her pericardium to use to repair her pulmonary valve and that appears to be
successful, time will tell. She struggled with pneumonia while recovering from heart surgery, but after
10 days in the hospital we returned home with a much healthier, 15 pound, 21 month old little girl.

I almost don't remember the bluish little girl we met in China. She was scared, sick, noisy when she
breathed, and blue when she cried. I don't think she realized how sick she was, though. When we
brought her home after surgery it didn't take long to see a new Grace emerge. One that has loads of
energy, spunk, and renewed joy. It was as if her life went from black and white to color, just like
Dorothy's in Oz. What a beautiful, miraculous, thing to behold. I am so thankful that she didn't have her
surgery in China. I'm confident they would have done excellent work at the hospital in Beijing, but I
wouldn't trade being her Mama throughout her surgery and recovery for anything in the world. The “So
Loved” shirt and funding helped provide some medical care for her while in China, and I'm so grateful
because I believe she was running out of time. I have no doubt the care she received at New Day foster
Home in Beijing saved her life. I believe she wouldn't be alive today if not for them. The rest of the
funds went to help another orphan in southern China, since Grace was an orphan no longer.

It seems like such a small thing as I look back, this “special need”. It was extremely challenging to wait
to bring her home, trust that God was with her, and believe that no matter what happened He wasn't
surprised by our story to Grace because He authored it. It seems like such a minor heart defect, and yet
it could easily have taken her life. I'm in awe of, and deeply inspired by the dozens of heart mamas I
know who battle daily caring for the babies with much more complicated heart stories and they all say
the same thing I do – it is worth it. If I had to do it all over again – I would in a second. Adopting Grace
has by far produced some of the most difficult moments in my life, but it has certainly also produced some of of my favorite moments. It has grown our faith in the Lord as a family and personally in ways
I would never have known otherwise. She won my heart 11 months before her's was fixed, and never
did I dream I would feel so blessed to be the Mama to a heart baby, and so grateful to have spent 9 days
in CICU at her side watching healing right before my eyes. The surgery saved her life but it was God
who did the healing and there is more healing in store for our Grace, of that, I'm sure.

“He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name.
Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.” Ps.147:3-5


Drea said...

The way you came to be matched is incredible! What a wonderful story!

Debbie Sauer said...


LaKasha Strickland said...

I am inspired reading your story this morning. After adopting our daughter last year, my husband and mine eyes are on New Day Foster right now!! I have shook my head for a few days now thinking how does this work? but God reminded me through reading your story (with exact details because that is how he works) that he has already went before and pathed the way to our next daughter just as wonderfully as our first. TRUST is where I stand! thank you

LisaE. said...

Beautiful story!

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