A Hole in Her Heart: Stories From China


There was a little girl the came to us one night, arriving on the late train from one of the northern provinces.  As we unwrapped layer by layer the blankets and towels she was bundle up in, we saw the blueish hue of her skin and the tiny muscles of her chest wall working hard to support her labored breathing.  She was a very sick baby.  

Our movements were swift and our care was directed at supporting her breathing so that her condition did not worsen.  When I think back on that night, what I love most is that even in the midst of caring for a critically ill baby and with all the initial hustle and bustle that came with bringing a new child into our care, Justin stopped and gave her a name.

We gazed at the screen of the ultrasound machine while she cried because of the cold jelly and probe that we had placed on her chest.  Through grainy images of black, white and gray on the screen, we saw that she had been born with a hole in her heart.

Many of the children we cared for had holes in their heart.  Some were operable, some were inoperable.  The hole in this little one's’ heart was operable.  But she also had some other heart defects, many which we did not know the full extent of at the time, but what we did know was that she needed surgery. Multiple very complex surgeries.

We feared that she may not live through the night.  It was nothing shy of a miracle that she was able to have her first operation so soon after arriving in our care.

She had a long road ahead of her but when she made it through that first night and made it through her first surgery.  We thanked God for the life of this little girl that he was clearly sustaining.

She went on to have another one of the heart surgeries she needed while in our care.

Although she remained small in size for her age, she continued to grow, hitting key developmental milestones.  We watched her grow, heard her baby babbles and giggles.  We saw as she learned to roll over and began to grasp objects in her tiny little hands.  Her dark hair grew in thick and she had the brightest and brownest eyes you’ve ever seen.

We grew to love this little girl very much; she was quite the darling.

And then, by no choice of ours, she went back to the northern province where she was born.  

And and that’s where the story ends.  It isn’t an ending really, more of an abrupt stop to the story.  

But that’s just it.

We don’t what the end of the story is.

We don’t know if she was able to complete her series of surgeries.

We don’t know if she was able to make a full recovery.

We don’t know when or if she learned to walk.

We don’t know if she was matched with a family.

We don’t know if she was adopted.

We don’t even know if she is still alive.  

We just don’t know.

But, what we do know is that we believe in a God who holds us and sustains us just as he held and sustained her tiny and sick beating heart that night she came to us.  We believe in a God who is good and we believe in a God who is merciful and kind.

We don’t know what happened to her and I don’t know that we ever will.  But what we do know is that Jesus is holding her close, whether she is still here on this earth or in heaven.  And in that, we find rest, comfort and hope.