Monday, May 07, 2007

Healing Hearts

Anyone who knows the history of LWB knows that our assistance in China started because of some very special children with heart disease. I can remember with exact clarity the moment that the doctor from my daughter's orphanage pulled me to the back wall of a baby room to see a tiny little boy who was blue. The doctor touched two fingers to his heart and then sadly shook his head, and I remember standing there feeling so completely and absolutely HELPLESS as I had no idea how to get him the medical care he needed. With my own heart beating a thousand times a minute as I tried to process that the child would not live without surgery, I then was taken to the toddler room, where the children were sitting down to eat their lunch. I kneeled down to hold the hand of a beautiful little girl, and when I looked at her face, I realized that she was even more blue than the baby boy...and her hands were like ice. She was so thin, and the doctor told me through a translator that she had severe heart disease and that the local doctors did not feel anything could be done for her. She had the most solemn face of any child I had ever seen, and the aunties told me that it was because just breathing took so much effort on her part. As I kneeled beside her holding that tiny was like time stood still for me. Would it be possible to help them?

Because of an incredible outpouring of support for these kids, we were able to heal not only the first two children with heart disease that I met in China, but even more. And the most wonderful part of it all to me is that the first children we healed are now adopted into the most loving of homes. I actually get to write back and forth with the little girl I first met, and each time I get a letter in the mail from her, I am overwhelmed with such gratitude to everyone who believed she could be made well, that I have to wipe away tears before opening the envelope. Her whole life was changed thanks to people taking the time to believe in her.

Many of you might also remember the story of Kui. She was the very first child with heart disease that we were unable to help because she was deemed "inoperable" by every heart surgeon who reviewed her file. I would stare at her photo and could not believe that a child at the age of 2 really could become inoperable. The human body is a powerful thing...with an incredible determination to live. When a child is born with heart disease and is struggling to get enough oxygen because of it, his or her body will do anything possible to live even one more day. Unfortunately, the very things a body does to try and survive lead to conditions such as pulmonary hypertension or collateral vessels between the heart and lungs, and these can make it impossible to perform surgery. Sweet baby Kui had such high pulmonary hypertension, even at the age of two, that nothing could be done. She passed away a few weeks after I learned of her in a loving foster home, and I struggled to make sense of the words, "we were too late".

Our foundation never wants to be too late again. And the orphanages we partner with understand now the importance of early intervention for children with severe heart disease. Because of this...the numbers of children with heart disease we are being asked to help has risen and risen and risen again. In 2006, over 100 children were helped. Incredibly, in just the first three months of 2007, we have already been asked to help provide heart surgeries to 75 orphaned children. While it is amazing to think that a child's life can be saved for just $5000....when you multiply that times 75 or 100 or even 200 children this year, we will need to spread the news of the children waiting.

I believe completely that our foundation has the absolute best heart surgery program in China. As soon as we hear of a child with heart disease now, they are sent for an echo, so we can know exactly when the ideal time for surgery will be. We use the top heart surgeons in China, and we only use those surgeons who treat children who live as orphans with complete respect and compassion. We have signed contracts with the hospitals we use and receive discounted prices due to the number of children we heal. We have our Heartbridge Unit in Beijing, and many foster care programs throughout China, in order for children recovering from heart disease to get the most individualized care possible. We ask every orphanage to file adoption paperwork as quickly as possible on the children we heal, so that every child is given not only the chance at life, but the chance of a family.
But the need is just so great.

On May 18th, LWB will hold its fourth annual Born in My Heart art auction to benefit children with heart disease. The items donated this year are spectacular, and while the auction is definitely a fun event, with lots of great bidding and friendly competition....its purpose is completely serious. Every penny raised during our heart surgery auction will go to heal orphaned children in China who were born with heart disease. Many times we hear of a child who may not survive if we have to wait to raise the funds needed for her surgery. The art auction funds allow us to move critically ill children immediately for their operations. The art auction funds TRULY save lives.

I encourage everyone to mark May 18th in red on your calendars, and let everyone you know hear about this wonderful event which will give the gift of life. We are hoping that when the auction goes live, that every supporter of LWB will take the time to post information on the heart auction on their personal blogs. The success of this auction depends on us spreading the news that it is happening. We truly need your help. I know for many people, it goes outside of their comfort zone to ever ask anyone for anything. Believe me I know this all too well, as it was a huge leap of faith for me to step out and ask people to help me heal the first few heart children. But I took a deep breath and dove in, and my life has never been the same since. I hope everyone reading this will take a deep breath on May 18th, and help us spread the news that there are children in need of heart surgery...children who might not make it without our help. We have a motto for the auction of "Be a Hero...Heal a Heart". Every person who has donated items, every person who places a bid, and every person who prays for these precious and wonderful children to receive the surgeries they need truly is a hero in our eyes.

THANK YOU for believing that by working together, we can truly change lives. I hope that everyone who wins an item in our auction will look at it forever and know they gave the gift of life to a child in need. May 18-23rd....five little days that will help some really amazing children have a lifetime of being healed.

Amy Eldridge