The truth is I wasn’t going to write for this blog this year. I thought I had pretty much said everything that I had to say about our heart kiddos. I thought it was time to hand the reins to someone else with a new beautiful story to share. Then I received a message on Facebook asking me if I would share the miracle of Eli’s story that I had recently posted about on our family’s Facebook page, Seriously Blessed by Adoption, and I agreed because I LOVE Eli’s story.
I have spent the last couple days reading back through my previous posts on 28 Days of Hearts. These posts tell the story of our journey to our heart kiddos. It’s been an amazing, miracle-filled, heart wrenching, faith building ride.
Adoption brings with it the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I know that people are fearful of stepping up to adopt these children with heart issues, but the truth is, for our family, the hardest part of adoption has NOT been the physical healing of a child’s heart but the emotional healing of a child’s heart. That’s not to say going through surgeries is easy, but the day to day healing of years of hurt has been a much bigger issue.
I recently read a book that deals with this issue. It tells Amy Eldridge’s story starting from trying to get surgery for a heart baby that she met in an orphanage while adopting her daughter and ends with the heart story of our 17 year old daughter, Jasmine, who was adopted two weeks shy of her 14 birthday. Anyone who has adopted from China knows what that 14th birthday means. At 14 you age out of the system, which means you are no longer allowed to be adopted.
Our journey to our heart kids started with Hope.
A baby with hypoplastic left heart syndrome who was left at the hospital to die when her biological parents chose not to treat her and the pre-selected adoptive parents backed out of her adoption. My husband, who was doing his fellowship in neonatology, fell in love with this sweet baby, and the rest is history as they say. There were many, many miracles that brought Hope to our local children’s hospital and many more during the three surgeries that would save her life. She is now almost 18 years old and is doing amazingly well.
When we decided to adopt again, Hope asked us to adopt a little boy with the same heart defect as her.
We nicknamed him Tigger and our family starts praying that we will find our boy.
We find our Tigger and bring him home only to be told that there is nothing that can be done to fix him. The mamas in our China heart group on Facebook recommend that we look to Boston for a second opinion. We do and Ben has surgery but we are told that they can’t close his large VSD because the pressures in his lung are too high. This past May we got the most amazing gift when Ben’s lung pressures were low enough for them to close his VSD. This was something we thought would never happen. Ben is now considered completely healed.
This brings us to Elijah’s story.
After adopting Ben and Maisey, we end up on a crazy ride that leads us to adopting four children at the same time. We had talked with our social worker at the very beginning of starting this adoption process and asked her to approve us to adopt four. We had no idea why God was saying “four” but we knew that is what we were supposed to do. We knew that China only allowed families to adopt two children at a time. We had two adult children, going to college, living in an apartment on our acreage, and my husband who is a physician does most of his work from home and works a 24 hour clinical shift every weekend. Because of our extra help, our social worker approves us for four and we proceeded on our journey.
We saw a picture of a little boy being treated by the New Hope Foundation. He was considered terminal in China and had not been made paper ready. Ben and I fall head over heels for this little boy. Ben knows in his heart that this little boy is his brother and we ask our agency to ask the orphanage to make him paper ready. We let them know that we understand the severity of his heart defect and want to proceed anyway. His paper work is begun but will take an excruciating 8 months to finish.
During this time were matched with a little girl with PKU and waiting for Eli’s papers when our agency sent us the file of a little girl with a severe cardiac disease. Our agency knew this little girl had very little time left and they were unsure if Eli’s paperwork would ever become available, so they asked us to consider adopting her.
I wouldn’t even look at her file because we were waiting for Eli’s paperwork, but Dan did. He said he had a 1,000 reasons to say no but all he could say was “why not?” Trusting God and His plan, we proceeded with our Letter of Intent for Evie assuming we would just go back on a separate trip and adopt Elijah. We were now matched with two.
A two year old with PKU and a 26 month old, 13 pound, very blue little girl (oxygen sats in the low 50’s) who was fighting as hard as she could to hang on until we got there.
Later Dan and I were reading a blog on Love Without Boundaries and came across a story of an aging out girl and even though we had always said we would never adopt an older child, we knew in our hearts that she was our daughter. We asked for special permission to adopt a third child, and since she had only a few months before she would age out, we were granted permission.
We were six weeks away from traveling for our three girls when we got notice that Eli’s paperwork was ready and the director of his orphanage felt like Eli needed to be expedited. We asked our agency to ask China if they would consider allowing us to adopt four at a time. Because of our unusual circumstances - having extra help at home, Eli’s need to be expedited, and Dan working from home - they allowed us to adopt four at a time. Our agency agreed that we could proceed as long as we took one adult for every child on our trip. Lucky for us, our adult daughter had gotten the required shots the previous year.
We were over the moon excited when we heard that they approved us for four and then reality set in. How were we going to pay for this? How soon could you get a loan against your 401k? We had already maxed our credit cards to pay for travel. Could we apply for another card and get it in time? I cried out to God over and over again that morning. How were we going to do this? I remember taking a deep breath and saying out loud to God “I’ve been blown away by everything you have done to make this year possible. I will try my best to not start worrying now. Lord, please give me peace to continue to trust in your plan and show me what we need to do.”
On the very day that we heard they would allow us to bring Elijah home, we received a check in the mail, from the university where Dan did his residency/fellowship, for taxes that were wrongly taken out of Dan’s check for a few years starting in 1995. The amount taken out didn’t add up to all that much but the interest for the past 18 years did. I sat there holding a check that was enough to pay for everything. We were NOT expecting this check and were completely humbled by God’s provisions.
I know people think we were crazy for that year. I remember saying, “God you can’t possibly be saying what I think you are saying.” BUT we heard Him over and over again that year. Each and every time some new issue would present itself, God would provide in amazing ways and it all started with us being obedient to the call to ask for four on our home study. Without that start, we wouldn’t have had enough time to get the paperwork changed to bring Elijah home with the girls.
Eli was born without main branch pulmonary arteries. He now walks around with arteries that were made from his four large collateral vessels and some grafting material, during a 14 hour surgery by Dr. Hanley at Stanford. He is now considered completely healed.
With 16 children, 13 still at home, life can be hectic, busy and loud, but it is also unbelievably amazing watching little hearts heal. Laughter, hugs and kisses fill my days. I have been given the most beautiful gift. Every morning, I get to wake up to these sweet faces. It is a daily reminder of the miracles that we have been allowed to see. Who could ask for more in life?
We are truly SERIOUSLY blessed!