When Battles Turn Brave

November 7, 2017 Attachment, heart defect, Heart System, keloid scarring, Sharon, surgery 2 Comments

I remember the first time I lifted her shirt to bathe her in China. And I shuttered to think how much she had endured without a mother to hold her close, to soothe her tears, or sing away her fears.

As we reviewed her file, the photos were horrendous and I suspect a big reason why her file kept being returned. There was even a family that submitted LOI but didn’t continue with the adoption, and her file came back. The wound from her heart surgery didn’t scare me. I knew she was our my baby, and I wanted her no matter what.

I wanted to take her to doctors and specialists. I knew tetralogy of Fallot and had the best cardiologist that loved my children. I wanted to hold her through the long nights of whatever the future held because I knew she was mine. I wanted to be her mom waiting through any procedures, surgeries, and recoveries to hold her, dry her tears, and love the fear away.

Today has been that day. She was scheduled for a revision on the keloid scar from heart surgery in China. I carried her into the hospital walking by so many families with terminal children and situations much worse than ours. There is always someone hurting more than us, and I prayed everywhere we went, thanking God she was home where amazing healthcare is just a two hour ride from home in one of the best children’s hospitals in the country. It is not something to take for granted.



Reports in her file from China stated the incision from surgery failed to heal, and she endured at least two reentries into the wound for cleaning. After seeing a photo of the infection in her file, I can certainly understand the jagged cut scars and suture marks. It was simply a matter of life and death, and I’m thankful for her life!

I have so much gratitude for her foster mother as well as the sponsor through Grace & Hope for Children for their care. She was actually with her foster family up to the morning she came to us. From that first day I held her, she guarded that scar with all she had…. no washing and no touching. She always kept her hand over it as if was her ultimate job to protect herself.

She was so carefree those first days in our family but the second week was heartbreaking. She grieved severely as she realized her foster mom was not coming back. She cried, screamed, threw huge floor fits, and began to run a high fever. Our guide and other families in our group did everything they could to support us. Sometimes there was NO relief. It was the hardest adoption trip we had ever experienced, and that was just the tip of the avalanche to come.

Our travel home was excruciating. She could not be comforted at all because she was feverish, agitated, and scared beyond understanding. She didn’t want me to hold her, and she didn’t want me to put her down. Scott would take her anyway just to give me rest. We touched down on Friday evening and sat in ER of CHOA Saturday morning.

She was admitted for her first five days home.

We began the series of doctor and specialist visits finding several conditions unidentified. Every time I met with a doctor I mentioned my concern with the sensitivity and protectiveness of the keloid. We were always delayed because of more pressing issues.

Through the past year and a half, she has grown by leaps and bounds physically, academically, and emotionally. Many of her health issues have been resolved or are now on annual review. More than anything she has begun to allow love to fill the brokenness of her heart letting her guard down.

Now when I bathe her I don’t shudder anymore. Her scar is a reminder of the battle she has fought to be the little person I hold in my arms. She allows me to gently touch and clean it while looking in my eyes full of trust. As she covers it with her hand now she says, “Mama, I got this boo boo in China.”

Yes, love, you did. And it saved your precious life.

Finally, this past summer at our annual cardiologist appointment, Dr. Lindsey suggested we consult with a plastic surgeon for his opinion. God completely orchestrated every step as we quickly got an appointment with one of the top pediatric plastic surgeons at CHOA. He was so sweet to Calla and instantly gained her trust. He was sure he could revise the incision and take away all the keloid scar tissue. He scheduled us for surgery just two weeks out.

There is such a fine line when getting a child ready for a big procedure…
How much do we tell them and how often should we talk about it?
Does she really understand what is going to happen?

We kept it simple by saying all the bumps and ouchies would go away. She would have a straight line booboo just like her big sister. A smile actually escaped her little face. I think she really understood what we were doing in her own five-year-old way.

This past week she had the surgery. We had been prepped she would need an overnight stay and coming out of anesthesia would be extremely difficult for her. Because of the invasiveness of the incision, there would be a lot of pain to control. In my mama heart, I went all kinds of places because, you know as well as I do, there are no promises or absolutes when children are put to sleep. I was strong and scared to death all at the same time.

We checked in and did our best to help her cope through the fast until 1:45pm. She never once asked for a drink or even complained that she was hungry but kept asking if she could have ‘ice-a-ceem’. I immediately replied, Yes, as soon as we see the doctor. That little hope made all the difference. She was able to handle the wait with the dream of ice cream and her Trolls movie.



The surgeon and anesthesiologist came in to make us aware of all the important things we needed to know. The nurse came in to give Calla the loopy juice and not long after, I watched them wheel her away with a tear sliding down my cheek. Scott whisked me off for lunch and we brought it back to recovery to await news and honestly for word that she was alive.

One hour later, he walked in and the first words out of his mouth were, “She did great and that is one BRAVE little girl!”

BRAVE. I knew that all along.

He gave us all the details of the surgery and the prognosis of recovery, then surprised us that she would be going home today. I couldn’t believe my ears. Home?

At 5pm, we walked out of the hospital with our brave warrior and drove her straight to Chick-fil-A for her ‘ice-a-ceem’. One she most definitely deserved. She napped on and off as we traveled home. We turned the corner onto our street and we all shouted “HOME, HOME” which is our tradition as we drive into the safest place on earth for our family.

There was the sweetest expression on her face. I think I would describe it as peace. And I felt it too.

Once inside she was surrounded by curious siblings wanting to see all the booboos and hear every story of the day. She lifted her shirt to very proudly show the once-Battle wound to reveal her new Brave mark.

Every eye was amazed at the transformation of her brave mark… straight and clean and looking just like an exclamation point. Yes, that would describe her exactly. An exclamation point.

Now that Brave mark would protect her instead of the other way around.



We know there are more surgeries in her future including big open heart ones. But for now she is giving us the gift of watching miracle after miracle bloom… all because two years ago, we said yes to our beautiful brave warrior.

There are so many still waiting for families to be brave just like them. Step out in faith and say yes. We have to take the first step and God will do the rest!

As National Adoption Month is recognized in November, I hope we all take time to count our every blessing while we pray for families to find their children and those children are counted as chosen. That’s what every person on this earth deserves and desires… to be wanted, loved, and chosen.

It is not easy in the least but anything worth doing is going to refine us in ways we had no inkling we could handle. If we say yes, we get to witness miraculous things God has in store for us – and we don’t miss blessings only He can give. He gets the glory for it all!



None of us are promised adoption will turn out perfectly and our children will come home. Goodness knows, we saw so many children and families so much worse than us, but I have a feeling the mamas and daddies would agree with me: I am so thankful I didn’t miss one of the greatest gifts of my life.

Even on my worst day, I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s on the earth.

Say yes!

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” – Ephesians 3:20




2 responses to “When Battles Turn Brave”

  1. ellie says:

    Shay –

    The tears wouldn’t stop as I read the story of your Brave girl & her Brave Mommy.

    I love you friend! Thank you for sharing your stories. May God use your life and your words to stir hearts to rise up and be Brave for His Glory.

  2. Dawn says:

    Love! Than you for sharing your “big God” journey!
    Dawn

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