For such a little girl, Clara has always made a big impact on the people who care for her. Today, she is surprising everyone with her amazing strength and consistent progress. However, for most of her life, Clara has impressed people by how weak and fragile she was as she struggled to survive.
Clara entered the New Day North program in October of 2014. Only about five months old at the time and recently abandoned, Clara was seriously ill. She was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and multiple congenital heart defects. She was also very malnourished, only weighing about 8 ½ lbs, and her heart defects caused her to turn blue when she cried.
The next couple of months for Clara were quite difficult. While she needed to gain strength before transferring to a Beijing hospital for surgery, Clara was instead becoming even weaker. Continuously sick, she had to be admitted to the hospital multiple times for treatment. On one occasion, Clara’s condition became quite critical, and she was rushed to the local hospital in heart failure.
As many prayed for her, Clara’s situation finally stabilized enough for transfer to Beijing for evaluation by some of the top hospitals for pediatric heart surgery in the country. One by one, the doctors came back with the hard news. Even if Clara gained weight, heart surgery was going to be dangerous, and her chance of a good recovery was small. Clara had high pulmonary hypertension, so even if her heart was completely repaired, her lungs and the rest of her body would struggle to recover and support her little body.
Since heart surgery was her only hope, Clara was admitted on February 6, 2015 to one of the best Cardiology hospitals in Beijing, and had open-heart surgery the next week. The surgery was a success! Clara pulled through and surprised everyone with a good initial recovery from surgery. However, though her heart had been repaired, Clara’s little body was struggling. Within a few days after being discharged from the hospital, she went into respiratory distress and had to be put on oxygen, and readmitted into the hospital with severe complications.
The next two months were like a roller-coaster for Clara. As doctors and nurses continued to care for her, and people all over the world continued to pray, little Clara continued to fight to recover. After a week in the hospital, she had stabilized and was released – only to be back in the hospital again just ten days later. This time, Clara had pneumonia, as well as pleural effusions, abnormal amounts of fluid surrounding her lungs. Once again, Clara bounced back, and left the hospital on strict fluid restrictions. These measures helped Clara stay free of effusions and pneumonia, but also made it hard for her to gain weight.
Finally, after staying in Beijing for another month and remaining stable, although still quite thin, Clara returned to New Day North on May 12th. Clara weighed less than 11 lb on her first birthday, but she was full of life, able to play and interact and even roll around a bit.
Since her return, Clara’s nannies have cared carefully for her, and she has remained healthy without any medical emergencies. She is also finally gaining weight, despite still being on fluid restrictions. Within the first two months after returning from Beijing, she gained 2 ½ pounds and became more active and capable every day.
Little Clara continues to make a big impact on the people around her, surprising them both with her frailty, as well as her hope and determination. Her life is a miracle, and a beautiful picture of grace and transformation.
Little Tim arrived into our care in March, 2015, just two months old and suffering from serious heart disease. He was so small and fragile that the doctors wanted to wait to do surgery, but by May he had to be admitted to the hospital because his heart was so unstable and he needed treatment for pneumonia.
This was not our usual hospital for heart surgeries, but the surgeon strongly recommended that Tim needed surgery immediately because his heart function was deteriorating daily. We were faced with a decision; to go ahead with surgery, or try to have him transferred to the hospital that we usually use, who were recommending a different approach. After a long meeting with the surgeon, we decided to go for immediate surgery, so on May 29 he went into the operating room.
Even the journey from the PICU to the operating room was an anxious one, with a long wait for the elevator, the doctor ‘bagging’ Tim to keep him breathing. Then there was a long wait while the surgery was underway. The plan had been to avoid open heart surgery, as Tim was considered too weak to survive it, and instead to attempt a minimally invasive surgery. When they tried to place a patch, the heart wall was too thin for it to hold, so they had to perform open heart surgery after all.
The surgery went well and we had a miracle…Tim was stable. The doctors did have to leave his chest open for two days because his heart had enlarged too much to close it. We waited to hear news about his recovery, hoping that there would be no infection.
Three days later he was still on the ventilator and had a lung infection. The days went by and we kept on hoping…
On June 9 his infection was getting better and we danced a happy dance when he heard that he had been taken off the ventilator! On June 16 he was back on the regular ward, with one of our nannies there to take care of him.
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.
Update 10 August, 2015
Since her release from the hospital after surgery to remove the tumor from her kidney, Connie has been recovering in our Critical Care Unit but also returning to hospital to have regular chemotherapy treatments.
On Monday 3 August she was admitted to the hospital 30 minutes from New Day to have her 5th round of treatment, but as soon as she walked in the ward she vomited so they weren’t able to start the treatment. Instead they spent the week running tests and trying to find out what the problem was, and by Thursday she was diagnosed with an intestinal blockage and was scheduled for surgery in a Beijing hospital on Friday.
This was clearly bad news, but the timing of it was amazing. If the symptoms had begun to present themselves even hours later, Connie would have started the next round of chemotherapy and her immune system would have been too weak for her to be able to have the surgery that she urgently needed. This sense of miraculously good timing continued throughout Friday, as Karen explains:
There was a massive line of cars waiting to park outside the hospital, so our driver dropped us off at the hospital entrance and joined the line for a parking space. In the hospital, we could clearly see on the X-ray that there was a blockage in her system, from the place where the tumor had been removed. She needed to have a CT scan to figure out what the blockage was, but the hospital didn’t have a CT machine, so we needed to take her to another hospital to do it.
Connie was unstable and we needed to move fast. The hospital we’d transferred her from that morning had put her on an IV to try to give her enough strength for the journey, but now it was going to take even longer. We called the driver and he didn’t pick up his phone, but when we walked out of the main doors of the hospital he was right outside, having just reached that point in the line for a parking space! Then, at the other hospital, there ‘just happened to be’ a parking space right by the entrance, which is highly unusual to say the least.
We lined up to pay for the CT scan and then went to a different building to have the scan. There was no line at all, which again is highly unusual. Even right after we got there, six more people suddenly appeared in line behind us.
After the scan we took her back and she was put on an IV to get her ready for surgery. Then we were able to go down to get the results of the CT scan. The films slowly came off the computer, followed by the report explaining the results. I watched Sharon’s face as she read it (I don’t read Chinese well enough). A big grin appeared. “The report says that it’s not another tumor”.
It turns out that part of Connie’s intestine had been damaged, either by the massive tumor in her kidney or during the surgery to remove it. At 4 pm she had surgery and the surgeons were able to remove the damaged section. Three days later and she was out of ICU, and we look forward to having her back at New Day again soon.
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.
Little Zeke 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 Zeke was then rushed to the hospital via taxi. It was nearly midnight when Zeke was finally admitted into the hospital and diagnosed with anal atresia. By 6:45am Zeke was in surgery.
The emergency surgery on tiny Zeke took five hours but the surgeon's report was not hopeful. It was too late. Zeke'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 Zeke 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. Zeke'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 Zeke 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 Zeke to die, we prayed that he would live.
And Zeke did live.
Two days later, January 12th, the report from the surgeon was hopeful, although still nerve-wracking. The doctor's report was that Zeke 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 Zeke 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.
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 Olivia 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, Olivia 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.
Olivia 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
Olivia 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 Olivia needed to have surgery right away. Her condition was stable, but Olivia was by no means ready for a major open-heart surgery. But there was no other option - without immediate surgery, Olivia 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, Olivia was very unstable post-op. Her left lung, weak and damaged after months of improper blood flow and hypertension, had collapsed. Olivia' 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 Olivia' 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 Olivia 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, Olivia 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, Olivia would have a mama to hold her in the hospital and to comfort her when she cried. Olivia 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.
Olivia 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. Olivia 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 Olivia' 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.
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.
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.