Sunday, February 21, 2016

Day 21 - Zara MeiEn

Our story starts with a text from an unnamed sweet friend of ours. Her text simply said this, “Would you adopt a little girl who needs a heart transplant??” Followed by a thumbs up and 4 yellow hearts… Our answer?

Uhhhh no…

I know, you weren’t expecting that. Anyways, we received that text on November 26th, 2014, along with this picture. She was 9 months old at the time and I… well I’m too old to have a 9 month old!

Man oh man, is she cute. But a heart transplant??? We were signed with an agency and awaiting a match of a girl with a mild to moderate special need. “Major heart” sure wasn’t on our medical checklist. Over time there seemed to be small “signs” that kept her little life alive in our hearts. As the next few months passed the Lord was beginning to change me and my husband’s heart and it was becoming increasingly clear that she was meant to be ours.

Once my husband and I felt the Lord’s nudge to pursue her, it was (cautiously) full speed ahead. We had the information we needed to request her file from our agency and waited…. Certainly not many families are waiting for a child who needs a heart transplant? And through the Lord’s provision, her file arrived at our agency and I received “the call”!

Xiao Ran—Meaning “little light” and she sure has proven that name.

After having many cardiologists review her file, the consensus was in. She was a very sick little girl… BUT somehow, she was thriving. Her diagnosis from China was Endocardial Fibroelastosis, simply meaning her heart muscle is hardening more and more each day. I knew what I was possibly getting into by requesting her file, yet, the reality of possibly losing a child was much more real once the file was ours for the taking.  Could we actually do this? Why would someone choose this difficult road? My flesh was saying, “are you crazy? Life is so good and easy.” Despite our many, many (selfish) reasons to say no the Lord intervened and said, “I choose this for you and you cannot do this without me” and on February 20th, 2015 we said YES. We said yes because of this…

John 14:18

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

God wouldn’t leave us as orphans… so why would we leave her?

We all celebrated because we finally found our girl! We decided to expedite her adoption because of her failing heart. On April 19th, 2015, our Zara MeiEn was placed in our arms forever. She was MAD. SO MAD. Man, that little girl has some serious strength, spunk, sass, and attitude. But soon she attached to her daddy, then changed her mind and attached to her big sister, then ever so slowly attached to her Momma. We visited her finding spot soon after receiving her… a park across from the local hospital in Kaifeng, China. Our hearts broke thinking of her birth mother. She mothered Zara for 2 months but clearly knew something was wrong. We respect and love her mom for the brave, brave decision she made to give up her child. If only she could see her now!!!

When we arrived home on May 1st, 2015, all was great. We had a cardiology appointment scheduled for a week later but since she was low on one of her heart medications, the doctors wanted to see her sooner. On May 5th, we were told that our sweet Zara, did not have Endocardial Fibroelastosis. PRAISE THE LORD… we rejoiced and cried together.

Instead she had a congenital heart defect called Anomalous Left Coronary Artery to the Pulmonary Artery (ALCAPA). This meant her coronary artery, which supplies blood to her heart, was connected to her pulmonary artery instead of her aorta. That meant part of her heart was dying. The doctors were amazed that she was thriving at 13 months old, as children don’t survive past 12 months with this condition. So… she did not need a transplant, but surgery one week later!

Since Zara was at high risk for a heart attack, there was no time for adjustment or attachment. On May 12th, I carried my baby to the operating room, handed her to the nurse, and kissed her goodbye. And just like that, Zara underwent her first open heart surgery. We were so thrilled the Lord was going to heal her birth heart.

Surgery went well and Zara only had one complication. Her coronary artery had closed off, so they had to do an angioplasty through a catheterization. After a few days recovering, they told us that her heart function was not improving and since her surgery came so late, her heart may never fully recover. Despite this news, Zara was released just 8 days after surgery with a “stable” heart and began to thrive at home.

During our yearly vacation that summer however, something was wrong. Zara began sleeping a lot, stopped eating, stopped wanting to play, and started sweating a lot… like she did when she was in heart failure. My gut told me something was wrong. We called her cardiologist that day who said to take her to the ER immediately. A Momma just KNOWS.

Later that night, Zara became unresponsive and was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh the next morning. When she arrived she had a heart cath and was found to have her coronary artery collapsed again and surgery was scheduled for the next morning. Our thoughts…? “You’re kidding me.” But we’d do what we would have to for our girl.

On July 10th, Zara underwent her second open-heart surgery in 2 months.

Zara needed her coronary artery repositioned and her severely leaking mitral valve repaired. Zara again, proving to be the fighter she is, did wonderful through surgery. Even though, the mitral valve repair failed, she did well. She suffered a collapsed lung and there was discussion about a mitral valve repair and whispers about a transplant in her future but, all we could do is wait for her body to “fail to thrive” before a decision would be made. Zara came home just 10 days after surgery.

Want to know what makes all of this worth it? The Gospel is being proclaimed every time someone hears our story. Countless nurses and PT’s and OT’s and doctors were coming to Zara’s room from all over the hospital to ask us “Why??? Why would you adopt a child knowing she was so sick?”  A perfect open door to share the gospel, the Good News of Jesus, His death and resurrection to make a way for a relationship with us! We shared how God has adopted us and loved us despite all of our so-called “special needs.” We should do the same.

Since then, Zara again, has thrived. Recently we just got the report that her heart finally, FINALLY looks significantly better despite her severely leaking mitral valve. She is adored and in return adores her 3 big sisters, 1 big brother, and 2 nieces… Yes I said nieces… I have a 29, 23, 20, 5, and almost 2 year old… and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. CHD was never a need we were open to, but Zara has been worth it all… All the scary moments, all the meds, all the shots, all the sleepless nights... I’d do it all over again just to have that sweet girl hug me. Miss Zara has a long road ahead of her but God has proven time and time again that He provides… He provides strength, peace, love, and joy. He provides it all.  This journey has been hard and painful but, most of all it’s been beautiful and we are so grateful God chose us before the foundations of the earth to be Zara’s forever family.

Ephesians 3:20-21

20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.


MartaJoy said...

Zara. The baby who's story I heard almost a year ago and found her sister's Instagram through a China adoption hashtag. And was lead to Meredith's Instagram. Zara. The baby who melted my heart for adoption. And I finally said YES after years of my husband asking. Thank you brave little Zara. Thank you God for watching over her brave little heart! What a beautiful story.

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