Adopting a Child with Congenital Heart Defects: One Family’s Story
Over the years, America World has been honored to match children born with congenital heart defects with their forever families. As this month is American Heart Month, we’d like to share a beautiful story from one of our families who continues to wait to bring their son home from China. As you will read below, this sweet little one was born with a very rare congenital heart defect and desperately needed an urgent open-heart surgery just months ago. We hope you will be encouraged while reading this family’s story and allow it to remind you that our God is a faithful God who is always in every detail of our lives. Never a day goes by where He is not constantly working things out behind the scenes. Today’s story is a perfect illustration of that.
Our Son’s Miracle Surgery in China
By Charity Hodges
“If we desire our faith to be strengthened, we should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried, and therefore, through trial, be strengthened.” ~George Mueller
Hoping for a Girl
When our family started our adoption journey just over four years ago, my husband and I told our adoption agency that we were open to either a boy or a girl, age 0-3; yet, in my heart, I only wanted a little girl. After all, my daughter was in high school, and I already had two boys. I wanted to experience the glitter, pink, and dolls again.
We had reviewed the files of several little girls, only to hit one roadblock after another. Every door closed for different reasons. I remember the day our adoption agency called us: “I know you really want a little girl, but we have a child’s file, and we thought of your family… only, it’s a little boy.” Reluctantly, I agreed to look at his file. For the full two weeks we were given to make a decision, we prayed over this little boy.
How God Changed Our Hearts
Through scripture, the Lord changed my heart during these two weeks, and I knew He was matching this little guy with our family. God also changed my daughter’s heart as she badly wanted a sister. She had prayed for years that we would adopt again and that it would be a little girl.
After praying over this little boy’s file for a few days, she came to me and said, “Mom, this little boy needs a family. He has a heart defect. We know heart defects. Who am I to stand in the way of God’s plan if He would rather give me another brother? Let’s bring him home.”
I was amazed at how the Lord changed my daughter’s heart.
On the other hand, my husband knew the minute he opened our son’s file, “There he is- there’s my son!” But he didn’t tell me he wanted to pursue this little guy until he gave me time to let the Lord work on my heart. I’m so grateful.
A Health Crisis
We were within a month of travel when things in China shut down due to Covid. That was over three years ago. During this wait, we have been extremely blessed to have received some updates on our little boy. In one such update in February, our son’s lips were dark in his pictures. The written update stated that his lips turned slightly purple after 30 minutes of dancing, and his fingertips and lips turned blue after strenuous exercise. He hadn’t gained any weight or height in almost half a year. We knew his health was declining.
Since we had no clue when our son might come home, my husband and I contacted our agency and asked if we could get him to see a cardiologist in China. America World responded quickly and told us they would reach out to see if anything could be done.
A couple of weeks later, I received a call from our adoption agency, who told us that Forrester (as we have named him) had an appointment with the cardiologist in the morning. His testing came back that he had an enlarged right ventricle. This condition is often due to the heart being under stress. It also could have meant his lung pressures were high due to pulmonary hypertension. His oxygen levels were also extremely low. He needed open heart surgery as soon as possible to avoid further weakening his heart.
A week passed. Because of the conversations our agency and our family had been having, we learned that the orphanage decided to take Forrester to a larger hospital for further testing. We also needed to obtain an analysis of his test results from our cardiologist here in the states. We were in awe that the orphanage was working so hard on behalf of his declining health.
Our family obtained a letter from a leading pediatric cardiologist in Atlanta. In this letter, he stated that our son needed open heart surgery as soon as possible and needed to have a top cardiologist in China perform his surgery, as it was an extremely rare heart defect. He advocated having it done in Beijing, where some of the best pediatric cardiologists in the world are and have terrific outcomes in their surgeries. His recommendations meant that Forrester would have to be transported between provinces. That would be no easy feat amid Covid lockdowns in China. Unless we were to bring him home in the next month or two, he needed to have his open-heart surgery now, or there would be an increased risk for a future heart transplant or even of his heart being inoperable. We all started praying.
A lot of conversations were happening behind the scenes. America World shared that different organizations were willing to pay for our son to be transported to Beijing. We couldn’t believe their generosity and support! Our agency was able to have the top pediatric cardiologist in Beijing look at his file. He then confirmed that he could do his surgery, provided the orphanage would agree to the transfer. God answered another prayer! Getting him transferred between provinces because of Covid lockdowns was now the last major hurdle.
A few weeks went by. Our agency kept assuring us that a great hospital in his province could possibly do his surgery if the orphanage did not agree to transfer him to Beijing, which was still a concern due to Covid. We didn’t want to hear this and still advocated our hearts out for Beijing. Finally, we asked our agency if they had heard any information about possibly transferring him to Beijing. He couldn’t afford to continue to wait, so we needed reassurance from our agency again that his local hospital was okay if they would not allow him to transfer to a different location for surgery.
Our agency told us again that the hospital in his province was a great second-best option. Someone in the states well-versed in congenital heart defects and pediatric hospitals in China confirmed this information with our agency, as AWAA was seeking to ensure our son would receive the best possible care for his complex heart defect. It wasn’t what we wanted or advocated for, but we had to try to give him his best shot. So many people were working so hard to make the transfer happen for our son. However, it couldn’t and didn’t happen, but the Lord was still in all the details.
A Successful Surgery
By this time, five months had gone by. We received an unexpected phone call from our agency on July 27th. Our son had completed his open-heart surgery! The orphanage took him to a children’s hospital in his province on July 15th. They insisted that our son be on the waiting list for the top pediatric cardiologist at that hospital to perform his open-heart surgery. On the 22nd, the hospital contacted the orphanage and said the surgeon had an unexpected opening. The orphanage took him in to have his surgery! Even though my family couldn’t be there to help him through it, we found out that he was never alone as the orphanage hired a professional caretaker to be with our son 24/7. This knowledge brought our hearts a lot of peace.
He was in the hospital for 15 days and came through with flying colors. His heart health is doing great. We are in awe at how the Lord moved heaven and earth to get our son the help he needed to live a long, full life. Our adoption agency was wonderful, the orphanage went above and beyond in caring for our son, other organizations were willing to pay for and help with his transfer, and the surgeons, nannies, doctors, nurses, and prayer partners all worked hard to help our little boy.
We continue to wait for our son to come home. Even though this journey is not how we thought it would be, we are grateful that the Lord loves us and loves the orphan. He sees our son, our family, and all of the families who continue to pray and wait for their children to come home. He is a faithful God. “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14.
God Works Miracles
Thank you, Charity, for sharing your family’s story. We are always in awe of how God works miracles, even when there are days when it might seem like there is no hope.
Each year we are amazed by stories like this one and thankful for how God continues to work in the hearts of families to draw them to adopt children with congenital heart defects. Have you ever considered adopting a child with a heart condition? Heart defects vary greatly from mild to complex, and we continue to see children in many of our programs who are born with a heart abnormality. They are placed in a loving home where they can receive the care they need.
Consider Adopting a Child with a Congenital Heart Defect
If your family is interested in adopting a child with a congenital heart defect, our team would love to speak with you about our Ecuador or India programs. You can email our team at email@example.com or contact us by phone 800-429-3369. We are always looking for new families to join these programs and be open to this medical need.
Will you pray and consider if God is leading your family to consider adopting a child with a heart defect? Will you join us in praying for the children who continue to wait in China and for their families who desperately long for them to come home?
May this story remind us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9