One evening less than two months after bringing home our second son from China, I told my husband that I wished we could adopt an older child someday too. In both of our travel groups, there were older children who were adopted. These had made such an impact on my heart! They understood the idea of adoption and seeing their beaming faces and the way they were soaking in the love of their new families was absolutely beautiful.
We certainly weren’t expecting to see our son the very next morning.
Pingchuan was on our agency’s waiting child page, a 9-year old with bright, intelligent eyes and a slight smile. There was a video of him reciting a Chinese song and in the middle of it, he turned to the side and broke into the cutest grin. That split-second moment sealed it for our family.
We asked for his file.
We anxiously waited a week for another family to make their decision, and then we received his file. The brief paragraph on Pingchuan’s medical history was dated 2013 and sounded more serious than we’d anticipated.
Five pediatric cardiologists across the USA reviewed Pingchuan’s file for us. One by one they all told us the same news… Pingchuan likely has double-inlet left ventricle (DILV) with transposition of the great vessel (TGV).
This is a rare and complex form of congenital heart disease. Pingchuan had a band placed around his pulmonary artery at age four, but was otherwise untreated in China. The doctors told us that there was a high likelihood that Pingchuan had suffered irreversible damage to his lungs (hypertension), and that he had dangerously low oxygen levels and would be very blue. This terminal condition is called Eisenmenger’s Syndrome. When this develops, surgery cannot be performed.
Our family agonized over this information.
We saw him as a very smart boy, able to read and write Chinese (impressive for living in an orphanage his entire life), whose biggest dream was to have his own mommy and daddy, who showed such a lively spirit, despite his medical condition, in his handful of photos. We needed a full two weeks to bring our heads and our hearts together.
We said yes.
We said yes knowing that we were taking the biggest leap of faith of our entire lives. We said yes thinking that no matter what, Pingchuan would be happier and healthier with our family.
We said yes to his dream of having his own mommy and daddy.
On November 20th 2016, Cove Junjie (handsome and outstanding) Pingchuan (peaceful ship) walked into my arms in a hotel in Jinan, Shandong Province, China.
He was absolutely beaming.
Our only biological son, Nicholas, and I spent two weeks bonding with Cove in China as we finalized his adoption and prepared to bring him home to his four older sisters and two younger brothers in California.
Cove had conversations with everyone in China, everywhere we went, and made everyone laugh and smile. He explained to people asking about his blue fingertips and lips that he has a heart condition. He proudly told everyone about his big, new family of 10! He was so proud to show off his very own mommy, loved holding my hand, and didn’t ever let me out of his sight.
Cove handled the long flight home very well. I was extremely concerned about his weight and his eating habits. In China, Cove only ate plain ramen noodles and plain steamed rice. He refused all other food. I immediately got him PediaSure and slowly began introducing nutritious food.
Cove is deliriously happy with his new family and looking healthier already. He didn’t take too long to officially become a California boy by eating an entire In-n-Out cheeseburger and fries! Cove gained nearly three pounds in one month and had newfound energy. He is full of boisterous laughter!
Exactly two weeks after coming home, on December 15th, Cove had his first evaluation with our pediatric cardiologist. He was unexpectedly and immediately admitted to the Children’s Hospital for cardiac catheterization due to very low oxygen levels.
We would finally know the real story of his heart.
I felt full of hope waiting for the results, hoping for the best, preparing for the worst. (My husband, an active-duty Marine deployed to Iraq, anxiously stood by a phone that had connectivity to the U.S.) My name was finally called in the surgical waiting room and the doctor took me to a private room to talk.
She described the complicated anatomy of our son’s heart, indeed DILV with transposition of the great arteries, and the further issue of the pulmonary band that has been left on for so long. It is way too tight and is so imbedded that it would be too risky to remove.
She finally told me that the pressure in his lungs is so very high (his lungs are, in fact, irreversibly and extremely damaged) that he will not ever be able to have surgical repair. There is nothing that can be done for him other than taking medicines to hopefully provide him with a little more oxygen.
My own heart felt like it stopped.
I felt like it wasn’t really me talking when I broke the news to my husband, telling him the worst-case scenario about a son he hasn’t even met yet. A pulmonary hypertension specialist came to talk to me about medications, and soon Cove was waking from the anesthesia.
Then I saw his sweet face, looking at me so adoringly as I approached his bed in recovery, and I knew this devastating information had changed nothing. Our family said yes to giving this boy all the love in the world and yes to making many happy memories together.
That will never, ever change.
Cove belongs in our family and not only did his dreams get realized, so did ours.
None of us have promised time, but all of us can choose happiness like Cove does every day.