Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Day 2 - Joseph Rumbaugh

Congenital Heart Defect:  Blue type
Those are two words that should never be in the same sentence..... Heart and blue.

He was sitting there so perfect in the lush grass of the orphanage.  Tiny feet poking out from his yellowed blanket and a perfectly round "cue ball" head.  Had I known to look, I would have seen how bulbous his toes were or realized the fact that he had no hair meant poor nutrition and illness.  All I could see was my next son.  God placed him in my path and I couldn't let go. Little did I know how God would use me to save this child's life and how Joseph would impact the lives of others so dramatically.

"Kaplan" was the pseudo name this baby boy was given by the adoption agency.  China wanted the identity of all their children protected this way.   He was sitting in the grass looking past the camera, no expression on his face.  He was just "there"....existing.   I had come to know that many of the children have this look when they are photographed.  No smile -- no personality coming through the lens.  Kaplan was healthy looking on the outside and I knew God was calling me to a heart baby.

We named him Joseph Robert -- Joseph, the Hebrew meaning for “He will enlarge” and Robert, in tribute to my father-in-law, a man of great integrity.  Little did we know the plans our mighty Father in heaven had for Joseph and our family.  Our journey would stretch our faith and require “giving it all over to Him” every day we waited for our son to come home. It would mean strapping on my “big girl panties” and dealing with government officials in China.  I would find strength and courage where I had none through the challenges of bringing our second son home to the United States.  No one and nothing was going to stop my God and I.

 I was on a plane a set to take off on Thanksgiving Day. Throughout our wait for travel approval, Bill and I had considered taking a nurse on the trip.  As weeks passed, we decided to bring our oldest daughter, Karli, then a college freshman and my mother.  Both had traveled before and knew the ropes….  Don’t forget to carry toilet paper with you and ALWAYS make sure you pee before you go out of the hotel.  Squatty potties are the mode of relief in China and westerners don’t like when they have to squat unnaturally to relieve themselves.  We all prefer the comfort of a cold seat.

We were meeting my sister in Christ, Angela, to stay with her a few days to get our feet on the ground.  Really not much site seeing but enough time to “chill” and enjoy my friend’s company. I could never show my gratitude for her weekly reports on Joey – she had called faithfully to check on him every Monday during our wait for Travel Approval.  They were my lifeline the last two months of waiting.  Little did I know, she would throw me another lifeline the day I got Joey when I needed to “phone a friend” for help.

The morning leisurely passed with anxiety at an all time high for the three of us.  We had no idea what we were going to find as we got ready for our 20 minute drive to the civil affairs office.  I was not scared about his health but, rather, realizing I was going to be a mom again to a child of 26 months who was a complete stranger to me.  No time to get to know his personality as an infant….he was going to be a walking talking toddler snatched from all he knew.  How would he react?  Screaming and crying were common for DAYS after adopting a toddler.  Was I ready for the stress to start?  Could I deal calmly with any other undesired behaviors he might throw my way?  I prayed silently as we drove to the sterile office building where my son’s life would change in an instant. All that he knew gone… because of me.

Shirley quickly ushered us in to the large room filled with other families set to receive their child that day as well.  As soon as we were seated, we heard the commotion outside of small children talking and nannies “shushing” them.   In waltzed two children each with their designated nanny holding their hand and the orphanage director following.  These two children were for the families that joined us across the room.  The kids were quiet and were introduced to their new families one at a time.  Not much time passed and we were joined by an older lady with a warm smile.  Shirley took me by the hand and brought me over to a table to sit with the lady.  This was Joseph’s orphanage director.  I was worried when there was no child with her but she quickly explained he was in another room as she wished to tell me about his care before we met.  Okayyyyy…..  Honestly, I wasn’t listening to much that she said.  I just wanted MY son in MY arms.  20 minutes later, from behind me, I heard a scuffle and turned to see Joseph being placed in my mother’s arms.  She looked at me like a deer in the headlights and her eyes grew larger with each passing second.

He was blue – a purplish blue never meant to describe the color of human skin. His ears, lips, and hands were a color I had never seen nor did I wish to see. My mom had a look of horror on her face and I thought Karli was going to throw up at the sight of his tiny body limp and lifeless next to her.  I quickly walked over to him and looked at him laying there a completely different child than I expected.  Sure we knew he had a bad heart but never in my mind would he be this color and so vulnerable to death. 

After I got into the room, I stripped him out of his full body cast of clothing and allowed him to rest on the bed while I made a bottle of formula.  He was a tiny thing as I took off his four layers of clothing to finally see his blue arms and legs accompanied by bulbous appendages that looked like lollipops on the end of each finger and toe.  My natural instinct was to feed him.  Had I listened to the orphanage director, I would have known what was going to happen next.

Joseph’s blood oxygen plummeted as his body pumped oxygen to his gut to help digest the formula he had drank.  His body turned darker purple than I had seen it all day and he struggled to breathe – his body coughing for air to keep him alive.  He was in crisis for several minutes while he sputtered and coughed for the breath of life.  I was shaken as I watched and called the hotel doctor for help.  He appeared at my door and proceeded to tell me I needed to take him to the hospital immediately. At that moment I knew he was WRONG.  I believed in my heart if I took Joseph to the Chinese hospital he would never leave it.  God gave me a peace about this decision. I never doubted it was what HE wanted and the peace He gave me confirmed it.

I told the hotel doctor “No” and began trying to give Joseph the oxygen from a cannula connected to the oxygen concentrator I brought with me. Joseph just became more agitated with the situation and I gave up on the oxygen for awhile. Meanwhile, the doctor was furious with me and left the room.  Joseph’s oxygen registered 45/100 on the pulse oximeter.  (To put this in perspective…you and I would be in a coma at around 70)  I had called Shirley and asked that the director be made aware of the situation. During this time mom and Karli had arrived home.  Karli stayed in the adjoining room as she prayed and sent messages to everyone to “storm the gates of heaven” for her new little brother.  Later she told me that she could not be in the room for fear he would die while she watched him.

Minutes ticked by and finally Joseph slept soundly in the bed.  The orphanage director arrived after all the events but quickly told me I had fed him too much.  I needed to give him small bits of food many times a day so he did not go into another crisis like the one I witnessed.  It was at that point that she told me she was a medical doctor.  I couldn’t believe what she said but it all made sense now. God had placed this warm hearted woman in my son’s life to keep him alive for me.  All the time I was waiting impatiently, His provision was there in the form of this director and doctor…. There, taking care of him and making sure Joseph was alive when I arrived. The gift of this director was not lost on me and to this day I know she saved his life.
Don’t ever doubt that the Lord’s timing is perfect and that His provision is given when needed.  I learned that very quickly as our harrowing journey continued.

The civil affairs director was very kind as we filed into the stark room the next morning.  He seemed to expect me to hand over Joseph and tell him we could not proceed.  I am sure he thought we were crazy when I said, “Yes, He is suitable for us.”  I wasn’t the least bit concerned with fighting God’s will at that point and he HAD CALLED our family to adopt JOSEPH…not someone else. Papers were signed and I was ready to start bucking the system when my pen left the paper that finalized Joseph’s adoption.   He was mine and from that point on… God was calling the shots through me.  I requested that Joseph’s passport be expedited and told them we wanted to leave for the Guangzhou as soon as possible.  I had to get Joey home and the only way to do that was to hasten the process at all costs from that moment on.  Our guide, Shirley, tried to talk me into staying longer to “shop” and to enjoy the touristy things of Wuhan.  I almost laughed at her when she told us to stay a few more days longer and sight see with a dying child.

God kept my hopes alive when Shirley called me to say that the passport would be ready Wednesday and we could leave directly to the train station afterwards.  She said in her 20 years of adoption guiding she had never seen the civil affairs office and the police station get a passport done so quickly.  She was astonished and I told her about Christ working on Joseph’s behalf that day.  The Consulate had made arrangements for us to be expedited through the process for the American side of the adoption and by Saturday we were heading home to our family and the medical care Joseph needed desperately.
On Monday, as we entered the Johns Hopkins outpatient building and made our way up to the cardiac floor, we knew this was the beginning of Joseph’s healing. Bill and I walked in confidence that God had a plan to prosper our son and give him a hope and a future.  Dr. Brenner met us at the doorway and walked  us to an exam room.  I had sent him a video of Joseph the first night. we had him.  His full staff was there to address Joey’s needs that morning.  Blood tests were ordered as well as a complete color echocardiogram.  We had been told to keep Joey from eating and drinking that day in case surgery was necessary.

As the nurse tried to draw the blood for the labs, she said the blood was coagulating as soon as it hit the container.  Joseph’s blood was so thick it hardened when in contact with the air.  The staff finally put anticoagulant in the syringe before the blood was drawn to be able to get what they needed for testing.  The echo cardiogram was not easy either; Joey was not very cooperative as he was scared, tired, and hungry.  He was turning bluer moment by moment that his agitation grew. Finally, they said they would try a sedated echo later that day.  Dr. Brenner was quick to point out the fourth degree clubbing of Joeys fingers and toes from lack of oxygen.  They were so bulbous he said he had been severely lacking oxygen for a very long time.  Doctor, med students, and nurses from other areas of the hospital were called in to see the clubbing.  The fact is that there are never any children in the US that go without treatment for that long.  They had never seen an actual patient with severe clubbed fingers and toes.

Dr. Brenner escorted us up to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit himself. Everyone was prepared for Joey and a crib was waiting for him. We then met many of the staff and other families in crisis with their sick children. I was now in a club I didn’t wish to be in but I knew God was in control and in the healing business.

The following day, the echo had been read and they knew much more about Joseph’s anatomy.  The diagnosis from China was incorrect and Joey’s heart defect was called Tricuspid Atresia.  It meant he had no left ventricle in his heart.  He had a three chamber heart that was very inefficient.  Joey also had pulmonary stenosis which is why he was still alive.  The stenosis protected his lungs from being damaged and deemed him OPERABLE.  He was a candidate for a two stage repair: one open heart surgery now and another when he was four years old.

The surgery would be dangerous and the surgeons would be in uncharted territory because of Joseph’s age at repair and his blood issues. Two surgeons would be best for his surgery but one was slated to go out of town --- until God showed up in another miracle.  It was a heart.  A heart had been found for a transplant patient in the PICU.  His surgery had to be done by both surgeons and it had to be done that day.  The surgery ran long and Joey’s surgery was pushed to Wednesday so that a well rested staff could be used.  One more day was nothing because we were in God’s hands and he was supplying all our needs.

The next day Joey was wheeled into surgery in the morning.  Johns Hopkins always allows a parent to accompany a child back to surgery.  I prayed with the staff and kissed my baby boy good bye after he drifted to sleep.  It was time for God to take over and for me to let Him do his thing!

We received hourly updates from the OR staff and we were kept abreast of what they were encountering.  Much of the surgery was routine and Joseph was rolled out of the OR about 5 hours after surgery had begun.  He was full of tubes and wires and was laying there barely clothed in a diaper.  The fresh gauze covered him and the tubes were bloody red coming from his chest.  The moment I pulled my eyes from the tubes I saw his fingers.  They were PINK.

It was my new favorite color! PINK PINK PINK!  Joey was PINK!

Joey’s recovery from his first surgery was quicker than expected.  He became a nurse favorite as his smile drew them in and his personality started to develop more.  He became more active with each day passing and began to eat full meals without sleeping afterwards.  This little miracle was my son.  Gifted to me and sustained for me by Christ the Sovereign King. Joseph’s story is full of miracle upon miracle as the Lord of all creation cared for the least of these with tender love.

Not only did Christ sustain Joseph but he sustained me from the true reality of Joey’s health for months.  He girded me with courage and gave me the fortitude to challenge what most would say was an uphill battle.  Don’t ever doubt His calling and don’t ever doubt His ability to equip you for the journey ahead. Christ means business and He doesn’t want you to take your calling lightly.  You may feel that you are unworthy or unqualified for the task you are given.  My answer to you is NO.  Allow Christ’s power to be used in your life.  Tap into the very essence of strength and grace. Stand tall and take pride in the fact the God wants to use you and show others His glory through you. Accept your calling and sit back and watch God work through you.  You don’t want to miss the feeling he gives you of victory over your self-doubt and feeling of insecurity.

Smack in the center of God’s will is the best place to be.

**Joey is now ten years old and is thriving. His second surgery was done when he was 4 years old and that concluded his palliative care.  His heart will never be made whole but it has been fixed to the point of being efficient enough to be a normal active kid who loves baseball.  The only time we see Dr Brenner is for our yearly check up!


Andrea O. said...

I loved reading your beautiful story of faith and love. Thank you for sharing!

Faith M. said...

Such a beautiful story of love and hope. Thank you for sharing your heart. Joey is absolutely beautiful.

sandykreps@yahoo.com said...

I just can't get over how BLUE his hand is!! Such a beautiful story!

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