Eight years ago, I held a tiny baby boy who was struggling to survive with heart disease in the corner of an orphanage baby room. Those who know me understand this was a moment that changed my life forever. Back then, I knew I needed $5,000 in order to save this child’s life as the orphanage did not have the funds to pay for his surgery. That amount of money seemed impossible to me at the time, but hundreds of people came together to raise what was needed. That baby is now a handsome young boy who is now healthy and adopted into a wonderful family. His story is one that I wish every child born with a medical condition could experience.
Recently I went to our medical donation page and looked at the amounts that we now must raise to give children like Joshua, above, with heart disease a second chance, and it took my breath away for a moment. Our work has gotten harder over the years as more and more babies are abandoned with very complex medical needs. We used to be asked to help with a lot of the “easier” heart defects. Those who understand these conditions know those would be the more common defects of VSDs and ASDs. The Chinese government then put a wonderful program into place which now provides many surgeries for babies born with these less severe conditions. We are so happy that babies born with these heart defects are regularly healed and placed for adoption. What it means for LWB, however, is that we are now asked to help with the kids with really complex issues – conditions that many local hospitals feel are inoperable. The babies who come into our hands now are children whose hearts have multiple defects – and who rarely survived in China even ten years ago. Only a few hospitals in China are qualified to attempt these surgeries, and orphanages throughout the country contact us weekly with their most serious cases.
Now, instead of needing to raise $5000 for a child’s surgery, we often need to raise $15,000-$20,000 per surgery. I know a lot of people would probably look at that figure and say that is too much for one operation. I have had spirited debates with other charities doing medical work on how much should be spent per child. Those talks have always made me quite uncomfortable because I think of all the children over the years who had more complex conditions…children whose lives we have saved and who now live all over the world in permanent, loving homes. I believe that a child’s life is without price, and I believe one of our recent children is a good example.
Volunteers to Blake’s orphanage met him this past spring. He was very blue and his fingers were “clubbed” from a lack of oxygen. The orphanage had never attempted surgery because local doctors had said nothing could be done. They said he had a single ventricle, mitral atresia, a single atrium and pulmonary stenosis – a whole lot of issues for one little boy’s heart. But the volunteers returned and told us about this kind and intelligent little boy and asked us if we believed anything could be done to give him a second chance at life. We sent him to one of the best heart surgeons in China who examined him closely and then told us he felt he could be healed. Blake went into his complex operation blue, with an oxygen level of less than 80%, and came out of the OR a healthy pink. Within days he was eating better than he ever had and walking around to all of the kids in his hospital ward, making friends and playing with the babies with a newfound energy. This wonderfully kind young boy now has his whole life in front of him, thanks to many generous donors who stepped forward to fund his $16,000 operation. His orphanage has promised to file his adoption paperwork, and I will be cheering with tears in my eyes when I hear that some lucky family has decided he is their son.
We are so grateful to everyone who gives from their heart to allow these second chances to happen – as the reality is that it only happens with your help. Whether you pitch in $5 or $5000 toward our medical program, I hope you realize you are truly saving lives. I know with absolute certainty that this world is better with Blake in it. And while many people wouldn’t blink at spending $16,000 on one of these:
I am so very thankful that there are also incredible people in this world who realize the value of spending $16,000 on children like these:
To know that Blake now has the chance to grow up healthy and make his own mark on this wonderful world brings me so much joy. So when you go to our medical page and see the amounts that even make me as Executive Director take a deep breath, just remember that we have seen amazing things happen again and again when we come together with our donations to say “this child’s life is worth it.”