Joyce: 5 Hearts, 7 Days
Alone, with no money, and out of options, Lydia stepped out onto the street crying holding her very ill baby close to her heart. She simply had no strength left to hide her despair.
Lydia had just been told that the complex heart surgery her baby girl Joyce needs to live could not be performed anywhere in all of Uganda. The hospital staff told her that she’d have to travel abroad and would have to find help on her own.
Noticing her tears, a kind stranger on the street stepped carefully toward Lydia to ask about Baby Joyce and offer a few minutes of comfort. Before stepping back into the crowd, this mysterious woman handed her a slip of paper with a phone number on it.
That phone number was the miracle Joyce’s mom had longed for.
The number was for Ronald and his wife, Joyce. Their son, Kaniel, was the very first Ugandan child for whom Love Without Boundaries had helped receive heart surgery. Ronald has since gone on to become LWB’s medical manager in Uganda. After hearing of her child’s critical need, Ronald knew that Joyce and her mom needed LWB’s love and support.
The beautiful and amazing part of this story is that to this day, neither Lydia nor Ronald has any idea as to who that thoughtful stranger was who connected them.
Baby Joyce was born with anal atresia (AA), a congenital defect where the anal opening is closed or misplaced. She had to be whisked away from her momma right after birth for an emergency surgical repair. Soon after, she underwent another surgical operation to create a colostomy, which is an artificial opening in her abdominal wall that bypasses her damaged colon. The result of this defect is a lifetime of daily bowel management.
Lydia found herself in an emotional whirlwind as doctors then explained that anal atresia is often accompanied by other congenital defects.
Joyce’s medical battle had just begun. Next, she was diagnosed with an atrioventricular (AV) canal defect. She has a large hole in the center of her heart, impacting both the upper and lower chambers. This dangerous condition requires highly complex heart surgery that must be done out of Uganda.
In the middle of their overwhelming fight for life, Joyce’s father deserted his wife and very sick child, taking with him two of their other children.
Abandoned and alone, Lydia has had to carry the full weight of navigating this medical crisis. She’s managed life with a struggling child and grappled with how to pay for their food, shelter, and medical supplies, while also administering Joyce’s daily medical care. Sadly, mothers and children being abandoned after a difficult medical diagnosis is a common reality for many Ugandan women.
It was under a tree in Ronald’s yard in Uganda where we met Joyce and her courageous mother.
Though weary from their medical crisis, Lydia keeps pushing forward. She prays boldly to find medical care and dreams of reuniting with her other children after Joyce is healed and whole.
In our time together, Lydia reported that her daughter has needed oxygen several times and that her little hands stay cold. Little Joyce tries to scoot around but tires easily, leaving her unable to move much. Rather than learning to walk like most kids her age, she is quite listless and mostly sits very still.
Lydia showed us how she covers Joyce’s colostomy with the cleanest strips of cloth that she can find. She’s doing her best for her child but is very worried.
Instead of progressing steadily through normal growth and learning milestones for her first year, Joyce’s life is very much on hold. Her future is contingent upon significant medical intervention.
Listening to how that mysterious, compassionate messenger brought hope into this mother and child’s painful situation challenged us to intercede on their behalf as well.
Love Without Boundaries is looking to send Joyce to India for her complicated heart surgery. Lydia didn’t have a phone, so LWB gave her one with enough data to be ready to receive the call she’s been desperate for — the call that Joyce’s surgery has been funded. A phone call can change her life.
Your donations are needed. Together, we can help Joyce and Lydia find their happy ending.
This week’s guest blogs are written by Rebecca Radicchi, author and adoptive mom