Little Girl Red

February 6, 2015 complex heart defect, Family Stories, February 2015 Feature, February 2015 Feature - Heart, heart defect, PDA, VSD 0 Comments

Sometimes I put my head to her chest and listen.

Lub, dub. Lub, dub.

Oh the beauty of that sound. It sounds like life and hope, sadness and struggle. I think about her heart in the first months of her life. Her first breath in the world, a whoosh of air into her (most likely premature) lungs, a gush of blood through her defective PDA and the hole between her ventricles. A broken heart.

Born into a broken world.

I imagine her heart still slowed with peace when her mother held her close. I imagine she slept the contended sleep of a beloved baby when her mother kissed her for the last time, pinned a note to her clothes and laid her in front of the orphanage.

“Please take care of my baby. We have no money.”

No money for a much needed heart surgery. No money for the pneumonia and bronchitis that plagued her so often those days. No money for formula even though the four month old weighed four kilograms when she was brought into the orphanage.

Big eyes, broken heart.




Lub, dub. Lub, dub.

When we decided to adopt, Matt and I had three kids. Jack, Kate, and Noah. We had felt God coaxing us to adoption for awhile. We talked about it a little when we were first married but time marched on and life got busy. After Noah was born, I felt the pull to adoption so strongly that I would spend hours on the internet, reading blogs and watching Gotcha Day videos. We were both so convicted that this was the right thing for our family.

So with a little prayer and trepidation, we filled out that first application in April 2012. Soon after, we filled out The Checklist. It feels unnatural checking those boxes, knowing there are actual children attached to the diagnoses. Heart defects were an automatic check. Our son Jack, 7 at the time, desired nothing more than to be a cardiac surgeon and he told us he wanted a baby with heart defects so that he could go to the doctor’s appointments. I checked it, along with many others, simply because I felt that we could handle whatever heart defects might crop up.

In August I was perusing our agency’s photo-listing and saw that picture above. Even though we were months and months away from being logged in to the system, I showed Matt her file and we agreed she would be perfect and if only we could find a little one like her when it was our time to be matched. Surely she wouldn’t still be available in 9 months or so. They named her “Peggy,” although she was originally named “Piggy” because she sucked down so much formula when she first arrived.

Two days after we got our LID date, our agency called and said they had a file for us.

It was Peggy. We immediately knew she was our daughter. Her file said she had: malnutrition, CHD, VSD (hole between ventricles), PDA (the artery that didn’t close like it was supposed to at birth), delayed growth development, and multiple heart valve problems.

We asked how it was that she was still available in April when we saw her picture the last August. They explained that she wasn’t really available then, her picture was just posted. Her file had only just been released because she was so sick with recurrent pneumonia and bronchitis that they thought she would die several times.

We named her Talitha Ruby. In Aramaic, Talitha means little girl. Jesus spoke it when raising a girl from the dead. Ruby means a precious red jewel. Rubei was Talitha’s Chinese name, Ruby was my beloved Grandmother’s name.

Little Girl Red.

A charity in China offered to provide her surgery if only the orphanage could get her to Shanghai, some 1033 miles away. They didn’t have the money so she waited. And waited. And waited.

Lub, dub. Lub, dub.

Finally we locked her file and offered to pay the fee to get her to Shanghai and back. We had a daughter who was ours but not ours. Talitha had heart surgery in early July 2013, two months before we were to travel to get her. We spent several anxious days, calling, emailing, trying to find out what was going on. The surgery was delayed, she was sick. The surgery was back on. The surgery had actually taken place yesterday. We prayed. We fasted on rice alone (Jack prayed that Tali would get better soon because “we are all sick of eating rice. Amen.”).

It was terrible, knowing she was in pain and alone (the orphanage worker couldn’t stay, a charity worker stepped in). Her sad little tear-stained face haunted my dreams. She is stronger than I will ever be. She has suffered the loss of her family, the loss of her nannies, the loss of strong, loving, familiar arms to hold her after heart surgery.

My Little Girl Red is a Warrior.




She stayed in Shanghai for a month, sick with a disease that we think was pneumonia. When we got her, she was better than earlier reports. No longer turning blue, no longer sick. Still much too small for her 22 months (15 pounds), unable to stand and shoveling food in her mouth like she may never get the chance to eat that much again.




We brought her home and got her checked by a wonderful pediatric cardiologist who had kindly followed her progress during the adoption process.

Her heart was almost perfect. Still some leaky valves, still a small PDA. Nothing they would have done differently in the States. The surgery in Shanghai was “textbook perfect” according to her cardiologist, something they expect from surgeries in Shanghi, Beijing, or Hong Kong.




Talitha has been home a year this past September. Adoption is a terrifying and glorious gift. I close my eyes and whisper my thanks to a God who heals hurts we cannot see and listen to the beat of this amazing little heart.

Lub, dub. Lub, dub.




One less broken heart in a world we are hopefully making a little less broken everyday.

—¬†guest post by Jessica who blogs at On The Edge of Beautiful

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