Most people who’ve heard the story of Love Without Boundaries know that it all began with one baby boy born with congenital heart disease and a group of parents who wanted to help him. Since 2003, we’ve provided life-changing operations to thousands of orphaned and impoverished children, with over 750 of those receiving heart surgery.
Thanks to the partnerships we’ve built with some of the top cardiac hospitals in China as well as the generosity of our incredible supporters, we’ve been able to repeatedly celebrate the remarkable health transformations that can come through open heart surgery.
It is truly amazing to watch a child come into our hands, blue and weak from struggling with heart disease, who then leaves the hospital a few weeks later a rosy pink with a second chance at a healthy life. Some of you might remember the story of little Colin, for example, who arrived in Shanghai with purple lips, feeling so very tired from his complex heart defect.
We can now share the wonderful news that he has been adopted to the Netherlands following his successful heart repair in China!
But the reality is that open heart surgery is never routine, and many of the babies who now enter our medical program are dealing with often complex congenital heart defects. Every time a child heads into the operating room and has their tiny chest opened for repair, we wait with bated breath for the news of how things went. We have learned again and again that even the babies who seem like “certain success” cases can experience severe complications post-op.
Little Philip is a gorgeous, rambunctious one-year-old from Fujian, who isn’t afraid of strangers and who loves nothing more than being up in his nanny’s arms.
When he was moved to the hospital to repair his TOF heart defect (a condition where there are four defects in one small heart), we all were hopeful he would sail through surgery. He was chubby, and very energetic, and everyone on the hospital ward who met him fell in love with his sunny personality right away.
He actually went into the OR the day before my birthday in April, and I remember thinking his successful surgery would be a wonderful way to celebrate. That night I got the news his repair had gone perfectly, and I was confident he would come off of the ventilator a few days later and soon be transferred to our healing home. That was over a month ago now, and precious Philip has still not been able to be weaned from the ventilator. He has had mycoplasma pneumonia, which is caused by a different bacteria than typical cases, and he still hasn’t been able to breathe on his own. Today doctors decided that he actually needs an additional and immediate surgery to slow the blood flow to his lungs, in order to allow him a chance at healing. Baby Philip needs every good thought sent his way.
Another baby we recently helped was little Selah from Jiangxi province. This beautiful and tiny six month old was born with a large ASD and VSD heart defect, and her orphanage told us that she struggled with breathing and had frequent lung infections. Surgeons evaluated her heart and decided she needed immediate intervention to save her life, and she was so pale and weak when she arrived to the hospital that we all worried whether she could come through a major operation. Selah needed oxygen even before she underwent surgery, and so I worried greatly about whether she would be able to be weaned from the vent.
Doctors repaired Selah’s heart at the end of April, and two days later she was breathing on her own and bouncing back in every way. She has already been discharged to our healing home, and we of course are giving thanks that her operation went beautifully, while honestly being a bit amazed at how quickly she’s recovered.
Baby Arthur also came to us from Jiangxi province, born with pulmonary atresia, a VSD, and patent ductus arteriosus. When he came into our hands, he was just five months old, with serious cyanosis.
The doctors told us it was actually incredible that Arthur had survived for as long as he had. His lips and fingers were a deep purple, and even the whites of his eyes were tinged with blue since he wasn’t getting the oxygen he needed.
Doctors performed a first-stage surgery on little Arthur, the BT shunt, and we all celebrated when he was able to come off of the ventilator 12 days later. His blood oxygen levels rose from a scary 58% to a respectable 85%, and I was giving thanks that he would be able to feel so much better overall while his file was submitted for adoption.
Just a few days later, however, this adorable little boy developed a severe case of resistant pneumonia, which caused high fevers and plummeting oxygen levels. Arthur battled this infection for weeks and weeks, with no improvement despite multiple antibiotics being given through his IV. This past weekend, I was heartbroken to get the news that baby Arthur passed away in the hospital. An absolutely precious little boy, gone far too soon.
Helping children who are often in life and death situations is of course emotionally complex. Many times on the same day we are celebrating the healing of one child, we are praying for the survival of another, and we know that you also become deeply invested in their lives as well. We are beyond grateful to everyone who joins with us to give children who are struggling with congenital heart defects a second chance at life. Each one is a miracle to us, and the surgeons who work on their tiny beating hearts are true heroes. Babies born with heart disease have so many obstacles to overcome, and those who are orphaned often face many more.
There is rarely a time now that we don’t have at least one child in the hospital receiving medical care for a heart issue. Thank you for standing beside us with your encouragement and your gifts for these littlest of warriors.
~Amy Eldridge, Chief Executive Officer