Sunday, February 26, 2017

Day 26 - Magnus

On September 3rd 2015, my eyes fixated on a picture of one of the most beautiful babies I had ever seen. I gasped out loud as I knew in that instant I was looking at my child. My husband, Mike, and I had already decided to wait to be matched by our adoption agency but on that special day, it all changed. And thank goodness it did! Dressed in a mismatched outfit with a pink blanket in the background, I assumed this gorgeous child was a girl but as I looked down at the advocacy name of “Forrest”, I knew in fact that he was a boy. Oh heavens, a boy! Surely that would shake things up in our home as we had three daughters with lots of bows and tutus to match! I read the short description about his age, personality, and special need, and there it was in black and white…complex congenital heart defects. The exact words God had placed on our hearts earlier that year.

You see, when we started the adoption process months beforehand, we thought we wanted to grow our family with a child “as young as possible with a minor special need”. That’s what we told our social worker at our first home study visit. As the days and weeks passed, we realized God was calling us to a child with CHD. Starting with a soft whisper in our ears, we heard Him speaking straight to our hearts that our child would have a little, broken heart. Our family, friends, and even our social worker were all concerned as we changed our medical needs checklist to include minor and moderate cardiac needs. But with an assuring nod to each other, we knew this was the path the Lord intended for us to follow. We continued the paper chasing portion of the process while keeping busy with our sweet daughters, Anya who was 8 years old, and Eliza and Juliette who were 5 years old. We worked as fast we could on paperwork, home visits, and appointments, always keeping in mind that there was a little hand waiting to be held half-way around the world.  

By the beginning of September, our dossier was almost complete and we were waiting on immigration approval when I “accidentally” but thankfully came across that picture which would change our lives forever. I called Mike immediately and asked if I could request “Forrest’s” file as well as another heart warrior’s whom were both listed with WACAP. Shockingly, he said yes and we received them the next day. We excitedly and impatiently waited to look through them until after the girls had fallen asleep that night. I knew in my heart that “Forrest” was our son so we decided to open his file first and never ended up looking at the other boy’s file (who later would be adopted by a wonderful family!).

Without knowing any cardiac medical terminology, we researched each heart defect – transposition of the great arteries, double outlet right ventricle, atrial septal defect, ventricular septal defect, and severe pulmonary stenosis. With tears streaming down our faces, we realized how serious his cardiac needs were and that he needed immediate life-saving heart surgery. We cried throughout the evening as we discussed what this would mean for him and for our family. Without knowing if his heart could be fully repaired, we talked through having to settle for palliative surgeries and possibly burying a son. What would that do to our daughters? To us? The questions continued but each was met with “he is worth it”. He is worth every ounce of fight, pain, and sorrow. Come what may, he is WORTH it! And in that moment, our minds were made up no matter what anyone would tell us. We had found our son! Since we were required to have at least one physician review the file, we sent it to cardiologists at both Boston Children’s Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital. We were told he may be a candidate for a full bi-ventricular repair but we wouldn’t know with certainty until he was home and could undergo testing. We were given so much HOPE for this precious boy!

With an extra pep in our steps, hearts bursting, and prides swelling, we signed our letter of intent to adopt our first son. We switched agencies and expedited the process to bring him home. We kept him a secret for an entire month (aka eternity!), not sharing our exciting news with anyone but our family photographer. We told our daughters we were going to have an adoption photo shoot with some cute props but little did they know we were going to give them the surprise of a lifetime! One even better than the time we told them we were going to Disney World that same day. It was a memorable afternoon filled with jaw drops, giggles, smiles as wide as their faces, and tears from Mike and me. From that day forward, the girls told anyone willing to listen about their brother – from friends at school to the cashiers at Target. They beamed with pride and showed off his picture in each of their lockets.

After a long search for the perfect name, we decided that he was our Magnus. I had always liked this name and when we discovered it means “strong warrior”, we knew we had found the perfect name for our perfect boy. We busied ourselves preparing his room, filling his closet with adorable outfits and shoes, and adding some cars, blocks, and balls to the toy chests. We created a blog for our family and friends to follow our travels in China ( and set out on the journey of a lifetime to bring Magnus home in January 2016. After several incredible days in Beijing, we arrived in his city of Nanchang and prepared to meet the newest member of our family the following day. Hours before I looked into his eyes for the first time, I wrote him a letter and posted it to our blog so family and friends could get a glimpse into my heart.

I have so much to show you and so much to teach you. But first and foremost, I will teach you LOVE. Because above all, that is my most important job in this world. To teach you that you are so very loved and adored. That no matter what, I will be your protector and not allow any more unnecessary pain to descend on you. You have already had more than most people do in their lives and yours has been but two years. My son (oh how good that feels to say!), I will move mountains for you. None will be too great. We have a difficult and winding road ahead but with your hand in mine, we will travel it together. Because in a couple of hours, you will be alone no more. Never again. I promise to love you. Protect you. Hug you. Kiss you. Make you laugh. Dry your tears. Teach you. Encourage you. Make you feel special. Be proud of you, so proud. Never let you forget from where you came nor your culture and heritage. I promise to give you wings so that you may fly. And I will love you, Magnus Michael KeQin, until my dying day.

Our Family Day was better than I could have dreamed or imagined! Magnus slowly walked to me and I gently picked him up while kissing him on the cheek. He was quiet, calm, and stoic but I could feel his heart working hard as it raced. He was so brave yet his eyes were full of sadness, his body was drenched in sweat, and his breathing was labored. I realized how very sick our baby was and I wanted to hurry home so he could receive the medical care he desperately needed. As the day progressed, he let us slip multiple layers of clothing off his tiny body but we stopped as we reached his shoes which he adamantly wanted to keep on as security. The next day was full of appointments as we bustled around the city. Finally, we were all so happy to relax in our hotel room and played on the floor together for hours that night. After hearing his sisters’ giggles for minutes at length, Magnus cracked his first real smile and we heard him laugh for the very first time. It started as a giggle and turned into an all-out “someone call a timeout because I’m having trouble breathing” belly laugh. From that moment on, he started to bloom and showed off his big personality.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in China and could have stayed three more weeks but knew it was time to cocoon at home. Once back in St. Louis, Magnus had multiple appointments with our pediatrician, cardiologist, and at the international adoption clinic. His cardiac diagnoses were confirmed and we were informed he needed open heart surgery within the next couple weeks to months. After extensive research and countless prayers, we made one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever had to make and decided to bring him to Boston Children’s Hospital for a full bi-ventricular repair.

Mags and I arrived the week before his surgery for pre-op appointments including a cardiac cath and MRI. Mike arrived over the weekend and we celebrated my first Mother’s Day as a mama of four! The big day (which I had both dreaded and looked forward to) followed on Monday and though we were filled with some nerves, we had much more faith in the One who led us to our son. As Magnus’s team wheeled him to the OR, I knew we could be handing our precious boy back to his Father. And if it was His will, we would learn to cope without being able to kiss those chubby cheeks and lips somehow.

As we sat in the waiting room, watching every other family get called back to see their child throughout the day, we prayed fervently and knew our son’s heart was in Dr. Sitaram Emani’s skilled hands. After nearly 10 hours, we were finally reunited with our little hero and informed that everything went exactly as planned! In Magnus’s CICU room, my eyes studied every part of his tiny body, focusing in on his chest for it held a heart that miraculously was beating as it always should have been. I wasn’t prepared to see how pink his little piggies and fingers were as I stared at them in disbelief. Pink had become my new favorite color and I couldn’t love it any more! And if that wasn’t enough, the nurse pointed out his 100% oxygen saturation on the monitor! Praise be to God, our baby’s perfectly imperfect heart was now functioning at 100%! I stroked his arm, held his hand, and told him how brave he was and that I was so proud of him. His little eyes fluttered and opened at the sound of my voice. He showed off how much of a little fighter he was and the nurse quickly increased his sedative so his body could rest. For an extremely emotional person, I somehow found the strength just as I did in China and did not shed one tear during his surgery or in the days to follow. I know with certainty that it was because I put my full trust and everything I had in the Lord.

The days to follow were filled with the expected ups and downs which accompany the recovery of such a big heart surgery. Despite being sedated, he charmed every person who walked in his room, especially the nurses. Some were moved to tears after hearing his story and were all anxious for him to wake but no one more than his mommy and daddy. We missed his spunky personality, deep brown eyes, loud giggles, and even his infamous growls. On post-op day two, his paralytic was lifted and his breathing tube was removed. We were thrilled with our strong Superman to say the least! He continued to do so well that he was moved to the step-down inpatient unit two days later. His doctors and nurses were astounded with his progress as they had prepared us to expect a three-week post-op recovery. After only spending three days in the step-down unit, Magnus was ready to be discharged to everyone’s shock and admiration. We walked out of the hospital together and never looked back! Just as Mike said to us as we left two weeks prior, he proved he was "Boston Strong"!!

Ten months have flown by since Magnus’s life was saved and he has continued to blossom into the most wonderful son, brother, grandson, great-grandson, nephew, cousin, and friend. Sure, we have some hard days because adoption IS hard. But we have many more “time-of-our-life” days! I have so many dreams for him in this world and know he is destined for greatness, as is every child. Finding Mags has changed me in ways that I never could have imagined. God led us directly to him and when He called, we answered. Our moments of fear have been quickly followed with answers of peace from Him…

And one of those answers is that we have another heart warrior son waiting for us in China! Soon upon arriving home from Boston, God started whispering in my ear that we had another child still waiting to be found. In August 2016, I found him and waited until Mike heard God’s call again.

On this courageous, little boy’s birthday in December 2016, Mike said YES again and we began the race to bring him home. Since he also has a very special and complex heart with a single ventricle, dextrocardia, atrial septal defect, ventricular septal defect, severe pulmonary atresia, and requiring oxygen while he sleeps, we are expediting the process again. In a couple months, we will continue to follow another red thread and bring our 4-year-old son home! We are still working on the perfect name for our perfect son and I will happily write about his incredible story next year! Will it be a difficult journey? Yes. Will it be scary? Yes. Will there be tears? Yes. But as you can guess, he is WORTH it! I will move more mountains for another chosen, loved, and priceless son. I am forever changed because we said YES…and I would do it all over again in a HEARTBEAT!

If you’d like to read about our journey with Magnus and follow our upcoming travels in China and Boston, we will be resurrecting our blog at

We also made a video of Magnus’s first year home with us to celebrate our Family Day anniversary! You will be able to see us meet him for the first time and hear his unforgettable first giggle! You can view it at


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