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Stories of the Heart: Warrior Cousins Bethany and Haley

When we turned down the road headed towards their home, they were waiting at the corner:  smiling, waving, flagging us down. Little Bethany was holding tight to both of their hands, her mama and baba.

Before we were even out of the car, they were lifting her up and holding her out for us to see.

“Look! Look! Look how much she’s grown! She’s so much stronger now! She can walk and run! She is getting into EVERYTHING!”

Her mama placed her in my arms, and Bethany looked at me with eyes full of a little shock and a little intrigue. Then her mama peeked around my shoulder and caught her eye, coaxing a grin and then a full-blown giggle as they played peek-a-boo from side to side, a mama and her baby girl.

They showed me her scar and told me how well it healed, pride and joy beaming from their faces as they watched their healthy, happy girl toddle around.

It’s hard to believe she once was so sick. Bethany had a large hole between the ventricles of her heart that caused her little body to catch pneumonia over and over again. Her mama told me how they hoped beyond hope that it would close on its own, believing the high cost for heart surgery to be forever out of reach. Then the hospital suggested that they reach out to LWB’s Unity Initiative for financial assistance with Bethany’s heart surgery.

It never gets old, hearing how a once-broken heart has been made whole.

“Come, come!” they gestured and led us around the corner. Bethany’s cousin Haley, a brave heart warrior as well, waited with her parents and both girls’ grandparents.

At 10 years old, Haley had waited for so long for healing for her heart, fighting fevers and pneumonia year after year. It wasn’t until Bethany’s birth that their families connected the dots between the pneumonia, the fevers, and the sickness. Haley too was finally diagnosed with a heart defect, requiring open-heart surgery as soon as possible.

The family packed up both of their heart warriors and took the train north, searching for a possibility, for a chance, for hope for these two broken hearts.

Both Bethany and Haley were admitted into LWB’s Unity Initiative, and mountains were moved so the hospital could coordinate their surgical schedules.

In October, these two brave-hearted cousins were taken back into the operating room, and both returned with fully repaired, beautiful beating hearts. Finally healed and whole.

Bethany and Haley recovered together in that hospital ward, with their families right by their side.

As I ran around with them in their courtyard that cold December afternoon, I could hardly believe just six weeks prior, these girls were fighting for life in that CICU…and today they are home.

Home and loved and hearts forever healed, growing up together as the little warrior cousins they truly are. I tapped Haley on the head and told her now that her heart was fixed, she would grow tall and strong.

“As tall as you?!” she gasped and laughed, and spun little Bethany around.

Maybe not quite as tall — but certainly as strong. These brave, spunky girls with their hearts healing strong will surely take on the world…and oh, what hope ahead.

~Meredith Toering is LWB’s Director of International Cardiac Care

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