The Ledge

November 27, 2016 advanced heart failure, Andrea O., complex heart defect, complex heart defects, Heart System, heart transplant 3 Comments

On November 11, 2013, our 24 month old daughter was in the Cardiac ICU, on the national transplant waiting list, and on ECMO life support due to end stage heart failure. The following day, we would learn that she would receive the gift of life through cardiac transplant.

During that tumultuous time, I had many discussions with her physicians and caretakers about adoption and more specifically, our choice to adopt four children with congenital heart disease.

The following was one such conversation.

(From my journal)

While I was knitting, an ECMO technician and a perfusionist came into her room to take a look at the lines and her clots. I began talking with one of them and he mentioned how he had gone on a medical mission trip overseas and had fallen in love with a little boy with a complex VSD. He said he couldn’t get the little guy out of his mind, and when he arrived home, was just about to start the adoption process. Then, as he put it, “My wife talked me off of the ledge.”
Talked him off of the ledge. That struck me as so incredibly sad. When people say they are “talked off of the ledge”, they are implying that they were about to do something harmful, crazy, damaging, or dangerous… usually to themselves… and another person saved them from doing so. So in essence, he appeared to be saying that his wife, by putting a stop to his plans to adopt a child whom he was attached to and needed a family, had saved him from himself. Utterly and completely heartbreaking.
I took that opportunity to tell him our story, from our having our first child to our first adoption of a healthy child all the way right up to choosing Rini, the child laying on life support five feet away from him. His question was, as it always is, “Did you know that the child’s heart disease was so severe?” Not always, was my reply. But it didn’t matter to us. We have been blessed beyond measure! It’s our privilege to be their parents!
I told him it wasn’t too late. There are thousands upon thousands of children, here and abroad, who would love to call him “Dad”.

“I’m too old,” he said. 

“No you’re not!” was my reply. 

All the while, with every attempt to convince himself of the reasons not to adopt, he was staring intently at the family photos we have up in Rini’s room, smiling and asking questions about our kids.
Later, I was having a cry out on the phone with Eric and I told him about the conversation I had had with the man. I was so upset that he had the attitude that adopting was something he needed to be “talked off the ledge” about. 

“He thinks adopting will ruin his life!” I said to Eric. 

And then my husband said this to me:

“It will ruin his life. It will ruin the life that he has grown comfortable with. It will ruin his ability to look the other way…

It will absolutely ruin his life and it will replace it with a life beyond his wildest dreams!”


Indeed it will. And I thank God every day for that.


3 responses to “The Ledge”

  1. This is a perspective that needs to be heard. A beautifully articulated message that strikes to our hearts. Thank you for sharing, Andrea and thank you for loving and serving your children!

    • Andrea Olson says:

      Thank you so much, Molly! We have been on the ledge many times, and so grateful to God for pushing us over. Through challenges, struggles, and pain, we’ve gained so much.

  2. Amy says:

    I love this so much!!! We call it divinely ruined and It’s the best thing that has ever happened to us. Thank you for this beautiful post!

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