Maggie was the first child that came into the care of New Day Foster Home and had a liver transplant in her first 24 hours with us!
Almost-one-year-old Maggie had been in the care of another foster home in Beijing, but they were not able to pay for the liver transplant that she would need so they asked us if we would be able to help. Initially we did not have a bed available for her to come straight to New Day Foster Home, but we went ahead and had her name put on the waiting list for a liver.
On the morning of Monday the 11th of May, we got the call that a liver had become available for Maggie. It sounded like a perfect match for her, so we quickly headed to the hospital to meet with the doctor AND to meet Maggie for the first time. Maggie was still in the care of the other foster home when we got the call, so we let them know the news and they rushed her to the hospital.
Maggie spent the day being rushed all around the hospital for tests and scans to see if the transplant was going to be possible. She was so sweet and brave, and quickly won our hearts in those hours before she went in for surgery. At 5 PM we signed the surgery papers, and handed Maggie into the arms of the surgeon, having been warned that the surgery was quite risky and could take over 12 hours. The waiting began.
Just after 2 AM we got word that Maggie’s new liver was in, and they were starting to close her up. At 2:45 we caught a glimpse of her being transferred from the operating room to the ICU. The doctor said that the surgery had gone well, and just six hours later we got another update; Maggie was awake.
By Tuesday morning she was off the ventilator and breathing on her own. We were amazed by the speed of her recovery! On Thursday she was able to move out of ICU and onto the regular ward, which meant that one of our nannies could be with her.
We are just in awe of the miracle that has happened in Maggie’s life. She still has a fairly long road to full recovery, but we know that now she has a bright, hope-filled future, and we are privileged to walk this part of the road with her. Her new liver came from a 7 month old baby. We don't know much else about Maggie’s donor, but we are so thankful for the family that decided to provide hope to others, even in the midst of their loss and grief. It’s truly beauty from ashes, and Maggie’s life is going to be beautiful.
“The condition for a miracle is difficulty, however the condition for a great miracle is not difficulty, but impossibility.” – Angus Buchan
‘No hope’. This is what Connie’s doctor said, in English, to Karen. The tumor that was growing in Connie’s kidney had become so large that it was pressing on her other organs and causing internal bleeding. The hospital had hoped to be able to do chemotherapy to try to shrink the tumor first before operating, but it was too late for that. Connie needed a miracle, and soon.
One-year-old Connie had arrived into New Day’s care just two weeks earlier, on March 26, only nine days after she had been found at the gate of her local orphanage. Her abdomen was very swollen from the large growth in her kidney, and she had needed a blood transfusion before she traveled so that she would be stable enough to survive the journey. We hoped that chemotherapy would be able to shrink the tumor before she had surgery; just three days after she arrived, however, she began to bleed. We took her in to the hospital, and could see that she was in a lot of pain.
A blood test showed that her blood platelet levels were dangerously low, so low that it is amazing that she survived. She needed to be admitted to the ICU, but there was no bed available so they gave her a blood transfusion and kept her in the emergency room for observation. When the doctor examined her the next day, he kept on saying how serious her condition was; she needed to be stable enough for chemotherapy and surgery in order to have a chance of surviving. All they could do was continue giving her blood transfusions.
Then Connie vomited blood, and there was still no bed available for her in the ICU. It was at this point that the doctor told Karen that there was ‘no hope’. We knew that her impossible situation was a condition for a great miracle! Yet we had to make a difficult decision – to do another blood transfusion, or bring her back to New Day and just hold her? Eventually we were able to make contact with the surgeon who had successfully operated on another New Day child with the same kind of tumor, and she was willing to attempt a surgery, even though she warned that it would be very high risk. Connie was moved to the surgical ward.
Connie was in such good hands. The medical team decided not to attempt to remove the tumor at this stage because she was too unstable, and instead performed a less risky procedure to cut off the blood supply to the kidney where the tumor was growing. This was urgently needed because the tumor was growing so fast, increasing by 2 cm in just two days. The surgery went well, and Connie was eventually transferred to the ICU after a long wait in the operating room because a bed was still not available. At this point it was a miracle that Connie was still alive, when the doctor that had examined her earlier had warned us that she would probably not survive the day, but she still urgently needed to have the tumor removed. They were not able to take her off the ventilator because the tumor was making it hard for her to breathe. Surgery was scheduled, but blood tests showed that she had an infection and her platelet count was too low.
Through the Easter weekend, which happened to coincide with a Chinese holiday, Connie remained on the ventilator in the ICU, stable but sometimes running a low fever. On Wednesday 8 April, Connie went into the operating room and underwent a three-and-a-half hour surgery to remove the 1.2 kg tumor. It was successful; they saw that the massive tumor had ruptured, which is what had been causing her internal bleeding. After almost a week, Connie was finally able to come off the ventilator, and a few days later she was transferred out of the ICU onto a regular ward.
Connie still has a lot of recovering to do, and will still need chemotherapy to prevent the cancer from recurring. But she is alive, and her life is already proof of what can happen when we refuse to accept ‘no hope’ as a prognosis.
Eli came to us at the end of May, 2014. He was two months old, and he was tiny, weighing just 2.8 kg (6 lbs). His skin had the grey-blue tinge of severe heart disease, but he needed to grow bigger and stronger before he would be able to have surgery.
In October his situation took a dramatic turn. Eli had been battling a fever for a while, but one night he developed breathing difficulties and was crying inconsolably. Amy (the foster home manager) and his nanny rushed him to the hospital. His oxygen levels had dropped very low, showing readings of 22, and his nanny was very worried. They administered oxygen in the car and got his levels up to 40/50, which is still low but a lot better.
When they got to the hospital there were no beds available. Eli was very blue and he vomited. The hospital staff were seriously concerned and said his situation was very dangerous. They wanted Eli to be transferred to another hospital because they felt they were not able to help him.
When they reached the bigger hospital, Eli and his nanny had to stay in emergency room overnight. The doctors had wanted to put him on a breathing tube, but Amy questioned this, raising the concern that it would be hard to get him off it again. They called the head doctor and he agreed, so Eli was set up with an oxygen tent instead.
The next day he was able to be transferred to the heart hospital, the beginning of a long stay. He kept running a fever and getting diarrhea, so he was not a candidate for the surgery that he badly needed. Thankfully the hospital did not just discharge him and send him home to get well, and Eli was eventually able to have surgery on November 4.
The surgery took just under three hours and the doctors said that it went well. Eli remained in the ICU for 10 days before he was stable enough to move to the regular ward. How we rejoiced when we heard the news that, just two weeks after his surgery, Eli was being released from the hospital! Our tiny treasure has not had an easy start, but he has been safely held in strong hands and he¡¯s survived. We are so glad to have Eli back with us, and we are full of hope for his future.
Reese received his much-needed liver transplant on February 12 and the operation initially appeared to have been a success. He adjusted well to his new liver and his color improved almost immediately. However, he has not been able to breathe on his own, so he is still on a ventilator in the ICU more than a month after the transplant. This is possibly the result of the transplanted liver being slightly too large, preventing his lungs from functioning sufficiently. For a long time his condition was 'stable but not good', then he started running a fever due to an infection in his IV port.
We have become aware that this extended recovery period is relatively normal for children receiving organ donations. It makes us even more amazed at the miracles of Alea, Talia and Mark's liver transplants (links to their amazing stories) and their comparatively short stays in ICU. We long to have Reese healthy enough to bring back home to New Day, so that he can recover and grow strong here like they did. His long stay in ICU is draining our funds and denies him the care of his loving nannies, as they are not able to stay with him in the ICU.
Update March 27 ,2014
The doctors didn't tell us that Reese stopped breathing twice during extubation trials. They didn't tell us until we went to meet with his surgeon and to visit him in the hospital March 26th, 33 days post-transplant, that he crashed - flatlined - and that they had to resucitate him while scrambling to set the ventilator up again, a scary 5-minute process. Twice.
"We've never had a child unable to extubate for this long post-transplant before," his surgeon apologetically told us. But when we visited with Reese and the whirring of the ventilator was much quieter than the last time we had visited him... watching his eyes, no long yellow, dart back and forth to keep up with the action in his ICU ward... watching him pick up a toy and shake it... we have hope. The doctors are hoping that he will be completely weaned off of the ventilator by April 5th. We're still in the midst of Reese's fight, but there is victory in sight.
Update April 1, 2014
On March 28th we got a call from Reese's surgeon. He expressed his concern that, because Reese had been on the ventilator for such a long time, the risks were high and that it would probably be in his best interest if he had a tracheotomy. In most situations, the hope is that the child will be able to come off of the ventilator in hours after surgery, days at the most. If the child needs to remain on the ventilator for morethan a few weeks, a trach is consideredbecause the risks of infection, tissue damage and otherdangerous complications become more andmore likely as time goes on. Reese's situation is an incredible miracle, as he has avoided mostcomplications from intubation so far, after over five weeks of being on the ventilator!
However, we agreed that for his more safe and successful recovery, a tracheostomy would probably be a good choice for Reese. We signed the surgery papers that day.
Monday, March 29th, Reese had his tracheotomy procedure and it was a success. By the next day he was able to be successfully weaned off of the ventilator. The doctors are hoping that in a few days he will be able to be released from ICU and into the regular ward.
Update April 9, 2014
There was great rejoicing here at New Day when we finally got the call saying that Reese was ready to leave ICU and transfer to a regular ward. Grace, our medical director, and one of Reese’s nannies from the Foster Home went to the hospital, excited to see Reese and start caring for him. They had a long wait, but eventually Reese appeared, in the arms of his ICU doctor. He has clearly been winning the hearts of the ICU staff during his long stay, the doctor was calling him “my child” and spent time explaining his favorite foods and toys. Even the ICU director came out to check on him, which is most unusual. Reese has been a very special patient, and we learnt that a member of the ICU staff was by his side 24 hours a day, giving him the very best care.
Reese is now off of most of his meds and the IV. The swelling in his throat (the result of being on the ventilator for so long) still needs to reduce before he will be able to come home, but we’re hoping for him to be home for his birthday on April 17th. Will you believe with us for that?
Update April 21, 2014
Reese continues to recover well, although he was not able to come home in time for his birthday. Further proof of the special place Reese has in the hearts of the hospital staff came in the form of this picture and message from his doctor-
"On the ventilator for 52 days after the liver transplant surgery in the ICU, there were three times heart stopped and breath off, he overcame all this and transferred from ICU to the regular ward in a stable situation.
I want to thank all the doctors and nurses in the ICU and all the college of Institute of Transplantation and also all the people who support this little boy from NEW DAY FOSTER HOME, because of you all --not giving up, not abandoning, Reese is able to go through those tough times and recover smoothly."
We hope to have Reese back from the hospital very soon. It has been a long fight, now it's time for him to come home, recover and grow strong.
Update June 11, 2014
Reese went into hospital to have his liver transplant on February 12. His fight has been LONG and tough. We rejoiced that he was able to have the transplant, and that it initially appeared to have been a success. Then we grew worried, because he just couldn’t breathe on his own. Six weeks after his transplant, Reese had a tracheotomy, which meant that he was finally able to come off the ventilator. Almost two months after his transplant we finally had cause to rejoice again - Reese came out of the ICU and onto the regular ward, meaning that a New Day nanny could go to take care of him.
For a long time we were hoping and hoping for Reese to be released for the hospital. For what seemed like such a long time the update was “he’s doing well…he’ll be home soon…”. Finally, late afternoon on June 6, the foster home van splashed through the puddles in the front yard. Reese emerged, in the arms of his nanny, to a well-deserved hero’s welcome.
Now Reese is home. We need to work on getting him strong and healthy enough to be able to have the tracheotomy procedure reversed. His Amazing Story so far has been very amazing indeed, but there is more to come, and we are so glad that we get to be a part of it.
Reese's Amazing Story here on earth came to an unexpected end on October 2. It seemed that he had been recovering well, but he suddenly developed breathing problems and passed away. We miss him, but remain thankful for the privilege of caring for him and fighting for him. His story has impacted many, and he will not be forgotten.
Little Grady was found at about 5pm, January 9th and it didn't take long for the orphanage to see that he was a very sick little boy, only three days old, in need of emergency surgery. The next day the orphanage made arrangements for him to come into our care, and we met them at the bus station where Grady was then rushed to the hospital via taxi. It was nearly midnight when Grady was finally admitted into the hospital and diagnosed with anal atresia. By 6:45am Grady was in surgery.
The emergency surgery on tiny Grady took five hours but the surgeon's report was not hopeful. It was too late. Grady's body had already begun to deteriorate before surgery, and his blood struggled to clot during the operation. A blood transfusion didn't seem to help and Grady was still bleeding and there was a high chance of infection. If the surgery had been done even one day sooner, he might have made it... but it was too late. Or so the doctor said.
A few hours later we heard back from the surgeon. Grady's situation was still very critical and the next few hours would decide his fate. His stomach was not working right and his color was very poor. The hospital told us to mentally prepare that he wouldn't make it.
Mentally preparing for a child to die is painful. It hurts. Even though we had only known Grady for a few hours, we struggled and grieved at the thought that he would not live to see the next morning... to learn how to smile, crawl or babble... that he would never have the chance to know the unconditional love of a forever family.
So, instead of preparing for Grady to die, we prayed that he would live.
And Grady did live.
Two days later, January 12th, the report from the surgeon was hopeful, although still nerve-wracking. The doctor's report was that Grady was not getting worse, and his intestines seemed to still be moving. His stomach was still distended but the doctors felt like it was acceptable and, if he continued to remain in his current condition without any changes for the worst, then in a few days he would be considered "stable."
January 15th Grady was removed from the breathing machine and seemed to be making small improvements bit by bit. He is still in ICU, but our hope for his life is being realized and we cannot wait to welcome him home.
Christopher's orphanage was very worried about him. His first operation to repair his very complicated heart defect in July 2012, when he was seven months old, seemed to be failing. Christopher's color was worse and he was struggling. The orphanage doctor wondered if his shunt, the piece in his heart re-routing blood so that his lungs could oxygenate it and fuel his body, was becoming blocked. She knew that if this was the case, Christopher would not last long. His oxygen saturation was dipping into the low 60s.
After consultation with some well-respected US cardiologists and cardiac surgeons, we told the orphanage that we might be able to help, that there might be hope for Christopher. He arrived at New Day November 1, 2012.
Within a few weeks, Christopher's oxygen saturations had already improved significantly and he was showing stats in the low-to-mid 80s. A check-up showed that Christopher's shunt was functioning well, and that he simply needed to gain weight in preparation for his next heart surgery.
We rejoiced at the miracle of Christopher's life and recovery, and he remained mostly stable for the next few months, although weak and slow to gain weight.
With a poorly functioning heart, Christopher struggled to gain enough weight to meet the 10kg goal set for him by the doctors. Month after month we weighed him, hoping for a large increase. Each month he only gained fraction of a kilo... and he still had a long way to go.
Finally, in November 2013, the doctors said that he was ready. He wasn't quite big enough, but the heart repair needed to happen sooner rather than later. We consulted with a few different hospitals, trying to get the best surgery plan in place for Christopher's very complicated heart defect, and settled upon his original surgeon, who had the lowest-risk plan to do the 2nd part of a 3-part heart operation, the 3rd of which could be done in the US, hopefully with Christopher's future adoptive family.
November 15th Christopher went into surgery. It should have been a basic operation, but when the surgeon opened him up, it was discovered that Christopher's heart was surrounded with scar tissue. The whole procedure should have taken only five hours, but four hours into the operation the surgeon told us that he was still in the mist of trying to separate the scar tissue. Another complication was Christopher's pulmonary hypertension. It was in the 30's. The doctor told us that if it did not come down to a normal range soon (about 14) then the surgery would have to be called off and Christopher would lose his chance to have a repaired heart.
Heartbroken that Christopher, our vibrant, loving little boy, might not make it out of the surgery room, we prayed, asking for healing, for stabilization and that Christopher's surgeons would have wisdom.
A few hours later we got another call - the surgery was done. It had been completed! After administering some medication, Christopher's levels had dropped to a level that made completing the operation possible. He had received his repair - we rejoiced at the miracle this was.
Christopher's recover was not easy, though. We worried many times that he might not make it out of the ICU. But in less than a week after heart surgery, on November 19th, Christopher was released from ICU into the regular ward. Six days later he was released from the hospital, home at last.
The battle wasn't over yet, though. Less than a week after being released from the hospital Christopher developed some concerning post-operative complications and we admitted him back into the hospital November 30th. He was suffering from pneumothorax, a common although very dangerous, post-op issue, and needed to be put on a special diet and have drainage tubes inserted. For a month Christopher healed in the hospital, and finally, December 30th, he was released.
We are so thankful for Christopher, his whole life is an amazing story.
The doctors in the hospital where she was being treated for pneumonia said that she was too sick to travel to Beijing. For two weeks her little body had been given IV medication, but it was making no difference. Tiny baby Iris was getting sicker and sicker, and her orphanage was becoming seriously concerned.
Once we received the call asking us to help her, and a bed in a Pediatric Intenstive Care Unit became available, train tickets were booked. Against the doctors' advice tiny, Iris set off on a long journey, accompanied by two nannies from her orphanage and supplies of oxygen to help keep her alive while she travelled.
She made it. At the hospital in Beijing they ran tests and it turns out there was a very good reason why the pneumonia medication had not been helping her. The X-rays had indeed shown a large white area on the lungs, but this was not fluid resulting from an infection. Instead it was the results of a serious condition called 'cardiac pulmonary edema', where blood backs up from the heart into the lungs.
Iris needs a heart operation soon, and we are waiting and hoping for her to be stable enough. If she had stayed in the local hospital being mistakenly treated for pneumonia much longer then her story would probably be over already, but now we believe that it is just beginning.
November 22, 2013
Iris was admitted into the PICU ward of the Army hospital upon her arrival to Beijing, a place that would become her home for the next five weeks. For nearly two weeks she lay alone in an ICU bed, medical staff and monitors as her only company. On December 4th, the doctors told us that Iris needed to have surgery right away. Her condition was stable, but Iris was by no means ready for a major open-heart surgery. But there was no other option - without immediate surgery, Iris would deteriorate and all hope would be lost.
The surgery took three and a half hours and while it was successful and the surgeon was able to repair her heart, Iris was very unstable post-op. Her left lung, weak and damaged after months of improper blood flow and hypertension, had collapsed. Iris' heart was enlarged and her heart rate was so low and unstable that the doctors had to resort to medication to attempt to stabilize her. 24 hours after surgery she was still not stable enough to have her chest closed, and remained in dangerous condition.
Each minute of Iris' recovery was touch-and-go. But she kept fighting, and two days later the surgeons were able to close up her chest. Extubating was another story, though, and for eight days after surgery Iris depended on machines to breath. Multiple times the doctors attempted to wean her from the ventilator, but not until December 22nd was the transition from complete intubation to CPAP successful.
As the days went by, Iris slowly improved. She began receiving nutrition through an NG-tube, and continued to be fever-free. On New Years Eve she was transferred from PICU to the regular ward, which meant that for the first time in her life, Iris would have a mama to hold her in the hospital and to comfort her when she cried. Iris was abandoned as a newborn and admitted into her local PICU right away, she never had anybody who was there to care just for her.
Iris was getting better, but because she was still so tiny and weak, we anticipated that she had at least a few more weeks in the hospital to regain her strength before she could come home. Each step of her journey - her travel to Beijing, surviving heart surgery, learning how to breath on her own - was a miracle. On January 7th the most incredible miracle happened. Iris was released from the hospital. She weighed only 2.7kg (about six pounds), and was severely malnourished. She is not yet the strong and healthy little girl that we hope she will become, but she's alive. Her eyes are bright and alert and there is someone to cradle her close and adore her during each moment of her day.
With each chapter of Iris' story we have seen many miracles occur and stood in awe of a powerful, healing God. We cannot wait to see what's next for her... it's bound to be breathtaking.
Several scientific and medical studies have shown that a lack of love can stunt children’s physical, emotional and intellectual growth. There is even a name for this affliction; “psychosocial deprivation." When Zoe arrived at New Day in November 2012, we believe that she was suffering from just that. But it didn't take long for us to see a transformation in her life that amazed us, and gave us hope for children affected by such deprivation.
Zoe came to New Day shortly before her fifth birthday. She came from a very poor orphanage where the ratio of nannies to children is very low, and her development was severely delayed. When Zoe arrived, she had only recently learned how to walk, was very small for her age, and had a serious look about her. She was also in need of heart surgery.
The change we saw in Zoe during her first few months at New Day was nothing short of dramatic. She was tenderly loved and cared for by her foster family, and in the first six months that she was with us she grew nine centimeters (3.5 inches). She became, in the words of her foster mom, “a very happy, spunky girl who laughs often." In the summer of 2013 she had the heart surgery that she needed and made an amazingly quick recovery.
These days, Zoe continues to soak up the unconditional love and affection of her foster family. Her favorite activities are listening to stories and cooking, and she has a close bond with her foster sister. She attends preschool in the Foster Home and enjoys opportunities to learn and play with her friends.
Zoe is a beautiful demonstration of the healing power of love. It was love that was needed to make her little body grow and begin to thrive, and it's love that sends us hunting for bigger clothes for quickly-growing Zoe. Love works miracles, and Zoe's life is proof.
When he was four months old Mark was abandoned at a hospital. We can only speculate what motives led his birthparents to leave him alone that cold, November day. His assessment at the hospital revealed that Mark was born with a very large hernia and Biliary Atresia. We begin to understand... Biliary Atresia is a life-threatening GI defect that, if not treated in the first few months of life, will require a liver transplant within the first 18 months of life. At the latest.
Mark's local orphanage lacked the recourses to provide life for this sweet little boy, and so he was transferred to our Beijing facility. Successfully having arranged for two liver transplants, in cooperation with a hospital in the city and their valiant head surgeon, we had hope that Mark's life would be yet another miracle.
For an orphan to receive a liver transplant is technically impossible, but we had seen it happen before and so we believed that Mark's life would also be saved.
Then Mark arrived at New Day June 19, 2013, and our faith wavered a little bit. His liver disease was more progressed than we had ever seen. His abdomen was so distended with ascites (a sign of liver failure) that he could not roll over. His eyes were golden where they should have been white and his skin was a burnt shade of orange.
Mark's case was so severe that he needed to be admitted into the hospital July 2, 2013, to receive treatment for his ascites. The necessary tests were also done and he was put on "the list." Every few days we would contact the doctors, asking for an update on Mark's condition. Each time they said that his condition was "very serious" and that he would need a transplant soon. They weren't sure that he was going to make it. Dr. Li, the head surgeon, told us July 16th that he was concerned that Mark would go into liver failure before a liver could be found for him. We were also warned that Mark was approaching a hepatic coma. He wasn't going to make it.
As the weeks stretched on the doctor's updates became more and more grim. Twice we had close calls with potential livers, but they both fell through. July 30th Mark contracted pneumonia and so was not a candidate for a transplant until he had recovered.
August 9th we got a call at 5pm. A liver was on its way to Bejing. Mark's pneumonia was gone and the liver was a good enough match to risk the surgery. But Mark was in very bad condition. His coloring had become so bad that his skin was nearly black in places. He was miserable, weak, and very sick. The surgeons warned us that his surgery was very high-risk, that his situation was much more serious than the other operations that they had done on our kids. They were concerned that he wouldn't make it and yet everyone agreed that without the surgery he had no hope at all.
Mark went into surgery at 7:45pm that night. The tireless surgeons worked through the night and, 13.5 hour later, they were done. They gave us little more information than that the surgery "went well" and was "successful." But still we couldn’t help but worry - would Mark survive the intense recovery that his ill body needed to go through?
Our fears were unfounded five hours later when Mark woke up and was extubated. Three days later he was released from ICU and into a regular ward. And each day after that Mark made more and more improvements.
His miracle came at just the right moment. It's in our books as one of the most marvelous we've ever seen.
"Remember the wondrous works that He has done, His miracles, and the judgments he uttered." Psalm 105:5
In June we got a call about a newly abandoned baby with a very serious heart defect. The orphanage contacted us, asking if we could help. Sadly, we had no open beds. We had to say no. It hurt. But we hoped that the little one would survive, we hoped that she would hang on and prove the doctors wrong. We wanted for her to have life.
A month later the orphanage contacted us again. The little one was still hanging on, and this time, because of a few recent adoptions, we were able to say "yes."
Adia arrived at New Day Foster Home on July 10th.
She was rushed straight to the hospital for a full evaluation We were sure that she would be scheduled soon for surgery. We hoped that surgery would be possible.
The news was almost too good to be true. Somehow, for some unknown reason, Adia's heart was not as serious as before believed. In fact, she didn't need surgery right away at all! We brought Adia straight home to New Day, rejoicing that she wouldn't have to stay at the hospital... rejoicing that she had hope.
There isn't really any other explanation for Adia's healing other than a miracle. That's okay, we don't need another explanation. A miracle is just fine by us.
This is the stuff that miracles are made out of. Impossibilities. "Nevers." Dreams that you didn't even dare to dream coming true. This is Talia's story.
Talia was born on a cold February day in Northern China. Four months later she was abandoned - left alone in a hotel room. Her birth parents must have been watching their little girl with a cleft palate slowly grow thin and frail, her skin gradually become jaundiced, her belly distended and her once-white eyes glow yellowish-green. Something was terribly wrong with their little one. Maybe she was dying?
We will never know just how much Talia's birthparents knew about her situation when they abandoned her on that June day, but we can guess that their decision to leave their baby girl alone was a desperate measure to give her a chance at survival, and Talia would need a miracle to survive.
When she arrived at the orphanage Talia was diagnosed with a cleft palate, a heart defect and a liver disease called "Biliary Atresia." Biliary atresia is a congenital defect where the bile ducts between the liver and the intestine are either malformed or not formed at all. If caught and treated early, the child can avoid a liver transplant for a few years. If not, they have about 18 months to get a new liver or they will die. Talia had just one year remaining to get a new liver or she would die.
Talia's orphanage knew that she would have no hope at all if she remained where she was. The hospitals in her province could never do a liver transplant, even if an organ were to become available. We knew that it would take a miracle for Talia to survive, because organ donations are so rare in China. Only 1 person of every 150 gets the transplant that they need, and Talia's position in society as an orphan would technically make her chances non-existent.
Still, we knew that we had to try to give her life, and so Talia arrived at New Day Foster Home July 26, 2012.
Deep sadness greeted us when we met her. Abandoned only a month earlier and then living in a hospital had damaged the already broken heart of this little girl. We knew that on top of good nutrition, medical care and access to top hospitals, Talia needed a triple dose of love and so we gave it to her.
It didn't take long for Talia's grim expressions to be replaced by giggles of joy. Her personality made us laugh and getting to know her was an awesome privilege. But the smiles and the giggles were not independent of the discomfort and pain that Talia experienced on a daily basis. We watched as her color grew more jaundiced and her belly more distended. We worried that Talia's miracle wouldn't come in time.
It was 5am on a Friday morning at the end of May when we got the call. There was a liver on its way to the hospital and if Talia could get there on time and was healthy enough for surgery, it would be hers. By 8am she was at the hospital running every test imaginable. She had spiked a fever early that morning, but her lungs looked clear and this was her chance at life. By late morning she was in surgery and 9.5 hours later the doctors told us that it was a success!
However, the next few days would show us whether Talia's body would accept the new liver or not. After the first day she was still running a fever, was restless despite being sedated and her liver enzyme levels were through the roof. The next few days showed gradual improvement, and on day three Talia was taken off of the ventilator.
After a month of tweaking medications, and keeping an eye on Talia's incision, she was released from the hospital July 2nd, 2013.
Talia is home. She still has some surgeries ahead of her, but her life has been saved in the most incredible way: a miracle.
On a lonely day in May, a five month old baby girl, blue from lack of oxygen, her heart fluttering and murmuring in ways a heart should never beat, was left at the front gate of an orphanage. For another five months the staff at the orphanage tried to care for this frail little baby, but she was too weak and they knew that if she didn’t have surgery to repair her heart, she would not survive. October 10th, Leila joined the New Day South family.
Physically Leila struggled, her heart working too hard each day to provide her body with what it needed, but Leila began to thrive in other ways. She learned quickly that she was loved and we began to see smiles and hear the most joyful giggles. In November, Leila was admitted into the hospital. She wasn’t doing well and the doctors arranged for heart surgery right away. The surgery on November 13th went well and Leila recovered quickly. She was released from the hospital and returned home, doing well.
A few weeks later, however, Leila developed bronchial pneumonia. It was right before Christmas, and Leila was admitted into the hospital again. Her heart was doing fine, but Leila’s condition was not improving. January 19th – after nearly a month in the hospital, the doctors discovered that Leila had developed a hard-to-control bacterial infection. A few days later, after running many tests, the doctors diagnosed Leila’s infection – endocarditis. In addition she was diagnosed with Chylothorax Effusion, which in China is basically a death sentence.
And so we prayed. We prayed for health and healing for Leila, that she would be restored and renewed and that her life and her recovery would be a stunning miracle, blowing the doctor’s minds and strengthening our faith.
At first, it didn’t seem like our prayers were being answered. Leila’s condition remained stable through Chinese New Year. Her appetite improved, her spirits were good and her white blood cell count decreased. But still the infection did not disappear and Leila’s lungs continued to dump fluid. The doctors put her on a six-week antibiotic treatment plan, began parenteral nutrition and diet control. But six weeks later the news was not good. Leila’s veins were too fragile for the parenteral nutrition. She was developing thrombus on both sides of her groin and the doctor felt like there were no more options left.
The doctor said that he would try his best, but he hinted that all of the patients he had like her in the past had died.
So it seemed like our prayers weren’t being answered. Leila’s condition was now desperate… she had little hope to survive. Leila’s life was in His hand… that’s where it had been all along, and if she were to survive, it would be because He worked a miracle.
That’s just what happened. Leila should have been deteriorating, but she gained weight. Leila’s lungs should have kept pouring out fluid because the doctors knew no way to stop the flow… and yet the drainage slowed down. One at a time, Leila’s lung tubes came out and then, as if all of a sudden, although we had been waiting for this day for months, the doctor mentioned the word, “release.”
The last time we had talked to the doctor he said that Leila would probably die. Now he was telling us that she could come home. When all hope is gone, that’s when the most mind-blowing miracles happen. Humbled, amazed and knocked to our knees in awe, we welcomed our sweet Leila home April 7, 2013.
The hospital in Wayne’s home province that had been treating him for pneumonia and meningitis sent him home to die. They said that his case was hopeless. One of thirty babies assigned to two nannies in a new orphanage, no one had ever been trained to feed Wayne, who was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. Aspiration must have led to infection and, because of the severity of his case, Wayne’s orphanage knew that he wouldn’t last long. But the orphanage chose not to give up so quickly. They contacted a foreign organization for help on Friday, November 2nd. A few phone calls later and our Formula Project Coordinator and PR staff, Wayne, received a message from his friend who had heard of the dying baby’s plight.
We were at full capacity, but because one of our children was in the hospital, we had an empty bed. Wayne relayed to us the message from his friend, “This little baby has been given up on. His special need is not so serious, but because of his situation and circumstances, he has no hope. He’s going to die unless we help.” Saying a desperate prayer for the little one’s safety, we called the orphanage and said, “If he’ll make it, send him.”
Early Sunday morning, November 4, 2012, baby Wayne was admitted into a hospital in Beijing with one of our nannies. He survived the long trip, but was running a fever. We called the hospital on Monday to ask about his condition, and were told that he was no longer running a fever and that his pneumonia had improved drastically. Although Wayne had previously been diagnosed with meningitis, the doctors here ruled it out, saying that he showed none of the symptoms. On Tuesday Wayne was doing great, and he was released from the hospital on Wednesday, totally healthy.
When we prayed that short, desperate prayer late Friday afternoon, we hoped only for survival. In His abundant grace, God gave us a miracle. He did the impossible. When Wayne in the office saw the smile on baby Wayne’s face after coming home from the hospital, there were tears in his eyes. The child that was given up on had been saved. The baby who was once lost in a sea of faces in an orphanage now has a name and a home and a hope. Wayne’s Chinese name means “victory.” The Father to the fatherless has already won a great and marvelous victory in little Wayne’s life. He has reminded us to believe in miracles.
October 9, 2012
Her story began with life June 2, 2012, the day she was born, but in less than a week it already looked like a tragedy. Left in a bundle at the local hospital, Annabel’s tiny, frail body struggled to survive. A treasure born into a broken world, abandonment and illness were already making their tragic way into Annabel’s story. But Annabel was found, and then admitted immediately into the hospital where she was diagnosed with a very complicated tracheal esophageal fistula – disorder of the digestive system in which the esophagus does not develop properly. Annabel’s condition was so complex that the doctors were unable to place a feeding tube, and so she survived on IV nutrition for nearly two months, until she came into our care.
The weather forecast for July 26, 2012 gave a 90% chance of rain. Flooding was expected and our hearts were in our throats as Annabel was disconnected from the IV nutrition and oxygen that had sustained her life for two months and carried into the car that would drive her the six hours from her orphanage to the hospital in Beijing. We prayed that the car would not get stuck in the floods and that she would survive. Those prayers were answered in marvelous ways. It didn't rain a single drop, and as we stood waiting at the entrance of the hospital, Annabel was carried from the car – alive. She was rushed into an already-reserved bed and immediately put on oxygen.
As Annabel’s condition was examined, the doctors were very concerned. On the evening of July 29th we were called to the hospital to talk with the doctors about her case. Half of her one lung had collapsed and was bleeding. She was in serious condition. We prayed, and while Annabel didn't improve, she didn’t get worse either. But as the days went by and Annabel didn't gain strength, the chances of her surviving the impending surgery grew slimmer… and then Annabel began to deteriorate. For Annabel to have a chance at survival, her doctors were going to have to leap at the fast-narrowing window of opportunity and operate.
August 13th the doctors scheduled her for surgery – a last-ditch effort to save her life. The 4 hour surgery on our 5lb treasure was successful, but Annabel was not out of the woods yet. Her lung was still collapsed and she was very, very weak. But it was a miracle that Annabel had survived the surgery, that her orphanage had contacted us when they did and that Annabel was able to make it to New Day.
Annabel’s miracle continued to develop, and in the following days, Annabel improved. Her lung slowly recovered and she began receiving nutrition through a feeding tube. Within a few weeks, she was drinking formula, for the first time in her life.
September 28th, 2012, two months after Annabel had arrived at New Day – though she never actually stayed on the grounds, Annabel was released from the hospital. She is still quite weak, but is gaining weight and smiling. When her story began, it looked like a tragedy. But today? Annabel is very much a miracle and her story is full of overwhelming hope.
November 11, 2011 a little girl was born in East China. But all was not as her family might have pictured those precious early days with a new baby... she was born with anal atresia and an intestinal fistula. Sadly she was abandoned three days later, a gravely sick newborn baby girl.
Because her body was unable to expel its waste, surgery couldn't wait. In her home province on December 8, Lydia had emergency surgery to create an anus. She was not yet a month old, and in the rush to save her life, the doctors failed to do certain tests that would have led to the discovery of another, very serious, congenital disease.
Only two weeks after the emergency surgery, Lydia was brought to New Day Foster Home. The next day she was admitted into the hospital with pneumonia. Tests were done which showed that Lydia had a serious heart defect, Tetralogy of Fallot. She was released from the hospital two weeks later, frail and weak, with even more hurdles to overcome.
But Lydia had already overcome her first hurdle – she was already a miracle. In almost all cases, doctors are unwilling to perform a non-heart related surgery on a child with a heart defect. It can be very dangerous, but Lydia survived her first anal atresia repair without doctors even knowing her heart was so broken.
In the following weeks and months, Lydia fell victim to the vicious cycle of an unrepaired heart defect. She was too tiny for her much-needed heart surgery so the doctors said to wait. But waiting with a poorly functioning heart left Lydia susceptible to illness, and she was admitted to the hospital after catching pneumonia. Unable to gain weight and strength while battling pneumonia, Lydia remained too tiny for surgery.
For five months, Lydia was in and out of the hospital with pneumonia. During her most recent stay, Lydia’s lungs had improved, her cough was gone, but there was still a persistent fever. We wondered if there could be an underlying infection and hoped that the antibiotics she was on would clear it all up. But Lydia’s fever remained.
After nearly a month of hospitalization, we asked a doctor who specialized in anal atresia to take a look at our little Lydia, who was remaining stable in PICU, but unable to shake her fever. The doctor examined her, and suggested that he do the final repair on her anus. The initial emergency surgery had not been done very well, and the doctor wondered if maybe that could be part of her problem. Surgery was scheduled for the next week.
It was Tuesday, May 22, that Lydia went in for surgery. Three hours after she went into the operating room, the doors flew open and Lydia raced past on a stretcher. There were tubes and wires everywhere. The doctors were bagging her and everyone was running as they transferred her from surgery to ICU.
We waited expectant, and a bit nervous, to hear the doctor’s news. We wondered what had happened, and if Lydia was going to be ok.
The surgeon’s report was astounding. During Lydia’s emergency surgery back in December, an anus was created and attached to her intestine. The repair was not done well and had been leaking. Excrement had been slowly trickling back into her abdomen, creating the perfect conditions for many, many deadly infections. No wonder she had always been running a low fever… it was a miracle she was alive at all.
Under the surgeon’s skillful hands, Lydia’s intestine was examined and found to be too damaged to repair. The damaged part would need to be removed, cut off, and then her intestine would be sewn back together. Lydia’s intestine was too enlarged at that time for the repair to be done. If the surgeon had made the necessary cuts, the two pieces would not have fit back together. So, he decided to wait, to allow her intestine to recover and return to its normal size. For this to happen, her damaged part of her intestines would have to remain outside of her body for two weeks until the final repair could be done.
17 days later Lydia had her final anal atresia repair. She made it through with flying colors and is now ready to gain weight and strength in preparation for heart surgery somewhere down the road.
She shouldn’t be alive today, but she is. Research and conversations with medical practitioners have confirmed that for Lydia to survive 5 months with the kind of damage she had in her intestine is medically impossible. But here she is today, recovering and alive... nothing short of a beautiful miracle.