Stories of Hope: Joyce
Last February, we introduced you to a tiny toddler in desperate need of help.
Little Joyce had been born with multiple medical needs. Almost immediately after birth, she was whisked away from her mom to undergo an emergency operation for anal atresia.
Days later, she was diagnosed with a complex heart issue as well — an atrioventricular (AV) canal defect. This cardiac condition involves a large hole in the very center of the heart chambers, along with faulty valves. Without surgery, Joyce’s heart would eventually fail.
Upon hearing this news, Joyce’s father deserted his wife and newborn daughter. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for mothers and children in Uganda to be abandoned after a difficult medical diagnosis.
Overwhelmed and now completely on her own, Joyce’s mom, Lydia, had to carry the full weight of navigating her daughter’s medical crisis. Even as she struggled to pay for the most minimal food and shelter, she knew she couldn’t give up trying to save the life of her baby girl.
Lydia found an old megaphone and began pleading on the streets for people to help her daughter.
Each day moved from place to place, begging for funds. Despite being truly exhausted, she told us that she only had to look at Joyce’s sweet face to know she couldn’t give up.
One day, Lydia came to the sobering realization that she would never be able to raise enough money to pay for her daughter’s surgery.
Even with that anguish, she refused to surrender. She walked wearily to the heart hospital and once again raised the megaphone to her mouth. Instead of asking for funding, however, she instead began pleading for the names of any charities that were helping children in Uganda.
And then something absolutely wonderful happened. LWB had recently provided heart surgery for a little girl named Mia. At the exact moment that Lydia was crying out to the universe that she needed a charity to help her daughter live, Mia’s mom walked by.
It was a meeting made in heaven. In a matter of minutes, Lydia had the phone number for one of our directors in Uganda, and soon after we had little Joyce’s medical file being evaluated by specialists.
We were so grateful to LWB supporters when Joyce’s surgery was fully funded. Everything was falling perfectly into place for Joyce to finally get the heart surgery she needed at a hospital in India. Passports were issued; airline tickets arranged. Joyce and her mom were at the Indian embassy in Uganda in early March, waiting to pick up their medical visas, when the news came down that international airports were closing due to COVID-19.
In an instant, Lydia’s dream of saving her daughter’s life was suddenly put on hold.
To say it was an excruciating 8-month-wait would be an understatement, but we never gave up hope. We regularly checked in with Joyce’s mom, reassuring her that the LWB community was praying continually for her daughter. We also provided nutritional support during the lock-down to keep Joyce as strong as possible. We tried our best to give Lydia much-needed peace that she and her daughter would be on their way to India for the long-anticipated surgery the moment Uganda’s airport was open once again for business.
Last month, the day Joyce’s mom had longed for finally arrived when the airport reopened for international flights. This inseparable duo took their very first airplane ride all the way from East Africa to India. What a long journey for Joyce, who seemed to take everything in stride. She was very happy to be presented with the gift of a white rabbit toy shortly after arriving, which she kept firmly by her side for comfort.
Following a host of exams and in-depth consultations, darling Joyce was cleared to undergo surgery.
She received her life-saving heart operation on November 20th, and we all cheered loudly when she was able to come off the ventilator just a few hours later. By the very next day, she was already able to take a few bites of food.
Within days, Joyce was so full of new energy that we joked that her mom was sure going to have her hands full keeping up with her. What a wonderful challenge to have!
Joyce recovered without any complications, and she and her mom were fully cleared by the doctors in Kolkata to return home a few weeks after surgery. Her trusted white bunny from India boarded the plane as well and is still safely by her side in Uganda. Just like Alice in Wonderland…..what an amazing adventure she’s had!
Joyce and Lydia’s story shows so clearly how the Power of Hope can sustain us. Even during her own darkest hours, abandoned and alone, Joyce’s mom continued to fight for her daughter’s life because she clung to the hope that someone would finally hear her plea.
Today, we send our deepest thanks to everyone who supports our essential work with vulnerable children. When we come together in love to answer those heartfelt calls, the most beautiful healing occurs.
Would you like to be part of helping other children like Joyce? LWB is working hard to send six additional children to India for heart surgery as soon as possible. Make a year-end donation to our Power of Hope campaign and give the gift of life to children born with medical needs.