In keeping with the holiday season, this month is all about miracles—a remarkable story of a little one who wasn’t expected to make it but did…against odds that seemed to be stacked against her.
We’re talking about little Wan, who arrived on a spring day last year at four weeks old and 2.5 KG, or about five and a half pounds.
Her orphanage suspected that she had a heart defect and turned her over to us for treatment. Not long after we got her, we took her to the hospital and confirmed that she did indeed have a complicated heart defect that we would have to resolve with surgery once she was strong enough.
So, as is the procedure for many of our infants awaiting surgery, it was time to put some weight on her. But it wouldn’t be easy. Not easy at all. It seemed like we’d just gotten her back to our care home when she inexplicably came down with a horrible case of pneumonia. Our medical staff rushed her to the hospital, where she needed to be put on a ventilator. The doctors debated treatment options with our medical liaisons as Wan’s condition worsened.
We needed to get the pneumonia resolved and get her off the ventilator as soon as possible, the doctors told us. Surgery to repair her heart was out of the question, as generally the doctors don’t even start thinking about doing any serious procedure until a baby has reached a weight of at least five kilograms. Wan, at half that weight, was nowhere near the required minimum.
Time was of the essence, and the doctors weren’t very optimistic. They told our medical staff that the situation seemed hopeless. And the longer she stayed on the ventilator, the less optimistic it looked for any surgery at all. The decision was made to take her off the life support and let her go.
It was a long and upsetting day for the medical staff, who were not sure she would make it through the car ride home, let alone till the next morning. The night shift staff at the infant care home kept an eye on her through the long night. And, with yet another unexpected twist of fate, she was still alive the next morning. We had a fighter on our hands.
Lily, one of our Senior Infant Care Specialists, called a different hospital that morning and begged them to give this little girl another chance. She had already made it this far, and we owed it to her to try everything we could. Lily worked her persuasive magic, and we got her admitted despite the fact that she was well below the minimum weight for surgery.
It was nothing short of a miracle when the doctors at the hospital were able to stabilize Wan and do a successful surgery. It was a complete repair of her heart defect!
She came out of the hospital and made it through the summer reasonably well. Look at that signature smile.
But the story wasn’t quite over. In the fall, she started getting sick again. The dreaded pneumonia was back, and no one could figure out why. Throughout those colder months, the staff kept her warm, well-rested, and well-fed. Nevertheless, she didn’t make it through two straight weeks that entire winter without a trip to the hospital. She would be admitted to the hospital for ten days, get better and come home for three days, and then get sick again. It was a rough season, to say the least.
It was discovered that even after the successful heart surgery, Wan was still suffering from chronic pulmonary hypertension, or an abnormally high blood pressure in the lungs that makes the right side of the heart work harder to pump the blood through the lungs. The cause of these symptoms is inconclusive, but it’s possible that she has some stenosis in a heart valve that still needs to be fixed.
As spring came, however, and the year came full circle, Wan got better. She continues to take medication for her pulmonary hypertension, and may be looking forward to surgery in the future. For now, though, Wan has been a source of joy and laughs at Little Flower’s Beijing Baby Home, where she loves to play with the older toddlers, explore, open drawers, knock on doors, and get into everything she’s not supposed to.
She had been a situation that doctors had shaken their heads at, telling our medical staff that sadly, she probably wouldn’t make it through the night. A child that beat the odds and kept on breathing through those long midnight hours. A child we took a wild chance on.
Now, Wan is just a bouncy toddler who loves bananas, long naps, and playing with the nannies. She loves to smile, dance, and hang out with the older babies in the playroom downstairs. She’s just starting to be able to stand up on her own, and will soon be walking, when we’re sure she’s going to get into even more mischief.
Here at Little Flower, we’ve seen our share of miraculous outcomes to seemingly hopeless cases. The holiday season is the perfect time to reflect on how lucky we’ve been to have made a difference in these children’s lives.