Once Upon A Prayer

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Life is a Gift

Jacques and I received an email from Kyla, the China Operations Director of the International China Concern, who was helping to care for LiHua prior to her passing.  In her message she said, "Her caregivers are heart broken, and they are fearful.  Fear is common around death here, and something we battle in our high needs areas.  The caregivers are still taking care of a palliative baby that will pass any time.  We need to pray that they can embrace him with courage, and will not be too scared to face him and love him."   

Kyla is the brave woman who fought to show the Orphanage staff that this tiny baby had worth, and that a family who desperately wanted her could be found.  And sure enough, one was found - our family!  She asked Jacques and I to write a tribute about LiHua that would be translated and read at her memorial service, which is scheduled for Wednesday, October 14th at 8:30am (China Time). We decided that the best message we could send was one of hope, and where our hope comes from. 

Below is what we sent...

Dear ICC and Hengyang Orphanage staff,

Life is a gift. Every life is a gift. Every child born into this world is a gift. The tragedy is, that not every child is born with the same chance at a great life. Some are born into wealth and have every worldly opportunity to succeed. Others are born into dire poverty and may never have the opportunity to break out of it. Some children are born healthy and vibrant, thriving from day one. Other children are born with medical challenges they may never overcome. Some children are born into homes with parents who love and nurture them. Others are left on doorsteps or dumpsters, discarded by parents who don’t have the means to raise them.

But regardless of the circumstance we are born into, every child is a gift. Every baby matters. Every life has meaning. Li Hua was born into circumstances that broke our hearts. She was born poor and sick, and left by her parents who knew they didn’t have the means or ability to care for such a sick child.  Her parents most obviously loved her and left her when they didn’t know what else to do…they even left provision for her.  That means that everyday of her life until she was abandoned she was swaddled and loved by her birthmother.  And on the day that she was found, God in His care, brought her to a home where people would love her and care for her.  She did not suffer alone.  This brings us, her parents, great comfort and joy. Thank you for the love you showed our precious baby girl.

We fell in love with Hua when we first saw her picture and heard her story. She was lovable, and we began to dream! What would it be like if she came into our family? What would it be like if she had brothers and sisters to love and play with and fight with over toys?  How would she respond to the affection of a Papa and Mommy? What if loving doctors got her the medical care she needed? And the more we dreamed, the more we wanted her to be our daughter. So we made the relatively easy decision – let’s bring her home. We couldn’t wait to see the difference love could make!

This doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. I know this because people say to us all the time, ‘Why?” “Why bring home a child you know may die?” Or, “Why spend all that time and money when there are no guarantees that things will work out”. I’ll tell you why. Love is why!

Love is the most powerful force in the universe. I know this because I am the recipient of the greatest act of love ever displayed. The Bible teaches us that “God showed His great love for us by sending His son Jesus Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). In other words, just like our precious Hua, we were a complete mess.  She was physically sick. We were spiritually sick. Every one of us have done wrong things, said wrong things, and thought wrong things. Every single one of us. The bible calls those wrong things we do “sin”. And sin is a sickness – a spiritual sickness. And while God could have looked at the mess that we were and said, “Why bother with them”, he didn’t. Instead, he sent his son Jesus to die for us. The death of Jesus paid the price for our sin. In other words, God took the punishment we deserved for our sin for us. In so doing, he took our sin away. He healed our spiritual sickness! While we were sick with sin; while we were a mess, he died for us. That is the greatest act of love in the history of the universe. He took our sickness so that we could be well. Now that’s love, and without His love, we would still be a mess!

As people that have received God’s great love, nothing brings us more joy than to bring that same love to everyone – no matter their age or race or circumstance. Love had made the greatest difference of all in our lives. And so we believe love can make the greatest difference of all in the lives of others. Because God showed us His love when we were helpless and weak, we have a heart to bring love to children who are helpless and weak. We have watched with our own eyes the difference that love can make in the three children we adopted already from China – Lily, Mackenzie and Thaddaeus. They are thriving because a family cared enough to risk everything to give them a home. It’s the same thing God did for us. He risked everything to give us a home in His kingdom, and through His love, we are thriving!

We wanted so badly to see Hua have the opportunity to thrive. And it breaks our hearts that she is no longer with us. But we do not regret – not for a second - making her our own! We do not blame God for her death. God loves her, and she will have a home with Him forever.  We live in a world of sickness and pain, and we understand that death is a reality. Death is a certainty for everyone, whether young or old. Death is certain, but it is not final. And one day, we will get to meet her. And on that day, she will get to meet the family that loved her so much that they would go through anything to have her.  And thanks to the God who said, “I will do anything to have us”, we can look forward to that reunion in Heaven! 

You see, there is nothing to fear in death. Because death is not the end! It is the beginning of a life free of pain and suffering and turmoil. Revelation 21:4 tells us so. Jesus says, “On that day, I will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away”. You see; every human who loves God and follows His son, Jesus, is guaranteed that no matter the circumstances they were born into, this promise of new life is for them.

And while we are living in this sin filled, sickness filled, tragedy filled world in the meantime, we are going to bring as much love and hope and joy as we can. Because that is what our God did and does for us.

We are heartbroken that we won’t get to bring sweet Hua home, but we are filled with joy knowing she is not suffering now, and knowing a new life is what awaits her. Thank you so much to all of you who loved her and showed her that there is good all around – even in the middle of the trials! It is our hope and prayer that you will find hope and joy and peace in the love that God has in Jesus Christ, for you!

Jacques and Emily Rancourt
***Please consider spreading HOPE to the other children in the care of the International China Concern Program in memoriam of our sweet LiHua.  There are many ways that you can  donate to help save lives: http://www.chinaconcern.org/donate

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Million Times YES...LiHua

It is with an extremely heavy heart, and eyes that have been streaming tears all weekend that I share this news with you. Our adoption agency called on Friday night at 9:30pm to tell us that our sweet baby LiHua passed away. Yes, you read that correctly...Jacques and I have been expeditiously working behind the scenes to bring this sweet angel home. Her death was sudden and unexpected, and I ask that you pray for the people who loved and cared for her until she took her last breath. This must be so very difficult for them.

We find comfort in knowing that this precious child is now free from pain and broken flesh, and she is resting in the arms of our Savior.

Redeemed. Adopted. Safe.

Although our hearts physically hurt, we are still thankful. Li Hua's short life impacted our family in a huge way. She made me aware that within 10 seconds of reading an advocate's plea for a family to step out on faith to bring home a dying child who needed a liver transplant that Jacques and I would say "Yes Lord, send us!" I am thankful that Chinese officials read our letter of intent to adopt this ailing baby, and then suddenly realized that she was wanted, treasured, and worthy. I am thankful that when I came to all of you with a need of expensive, specialized formula and vitamins to help sustain her life, you all rallied and a provision beyond my wildest dream was collected (I assure you that the formula will still be delivered and used for other babies in need).

HOPE is never in vain because it originates with Him, and He never fails. I am thankful tonight even through this hard eucharisteo. We would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Every life is precious.  Every single last one. Our family will continue to say yes. A million times YES!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Can you hear me? He's my son...

In about an hour, Thaddaeus will be taken down for his first open heart surgery.  This is the surgery that most children who are born with half of a heart have as an infant.  The first thing that the surgeon said to me yesterday was that Thadd is WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY more complicated than Lily Grace.   I asked Dr. Jonas if that is why the surgeons in China would not operate on him - because he was so complex.  He told me that Thadd is too complicated for anyone, and that he has a very unfortunate combination of congenital heart defects.  We are so thankful that the surgical team here at CNMC is willing to try to bring our little dude some relief so that he can breathe easier.  Of course our HOPE, is that this surgery will eventually open the door to more surgical options for our son.

Thaddaeus' heart has two Superior Vena Cavas.  He has Double Outlet Right Ventricle (DORV) where the pulmonary artery and the aorta—the heart’s two great arteries—both arise from the right ventricle.  His pulmonary valve is completely closed, and his body has developed such a complex network of collateral vessels to oxygenate himself that his pulmonary arteries are not even being used.  As a matter of fact, where they typically like to place the BT Shunt that Thadd will receive today, is smack dab where he has two huge collateral vessels.  The team will need to improvise where they place his shunt, and it will not be as effective as it could be.  The biggest risk for an older child receiving a BT Shunt are that they will develop a blood clot in the shunt, or that the shunt will cause him to be oxygenated.  Either one of these factors could require a trip back to the Operating Room, so the team in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit will be watching him very closely.  And so will Mommy.

I am so thankful that the Almighty God of our universe,
who created all of Thadd's intricate anatomy,
is the same God who does hear our prayers.

He is sovereign...He is Faithful.

And only in Him do we find our HOPE!

Don't be afraid, for I am with you. 
Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you and help you. 
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand!
Isaiah 41:10

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Eight months ago today...

Eight months ago today, 
a Hero's heart was placed inside of Lily Grace.

"Thank you"
will never be enough.

He gives power to the weak, 
And to those who have no might He increases strength. 
Isaiah 40:29

Monday, July 14, 2014

Happy Hero Heart Day Lily!

One month ago today, our family received the most precious humanely gift that can ever be given.

On Friday the 13th at 7:10pm I had just finished giving a lecture at the university when I noticed that I had six missed calls and voice messages on my cell phone from numbers that I did not recognize.  The first thing that caught my eye was a voice message that Jacques had forwarded to me via text.  About one sentence into the message, the name of Lily's heart transplant cardiologist caught my eye, and my heart instantly skipped a beat.  Was this THE call?  Sure enough it was...they had a heart for Lily!

I barely remember my drive home, but I will never forget when I opened the door to the house, and saw Lily standing in the school room playing with Soleil.  She immediately ran over to me and asked, "Is Papa joking?  Am I really going to get my new heart?"

I quickly packed a couple bags to bring to the hospital.  At one point Jacques walked into our bedroom and I collapsed into his chest hysterically crying.  Fear gripped me from head to toe.  I could hear every conversation that we had over the past six months with the doctors replaying in my mind about how risky a heart transplant would be for Lily...not to mention the fact that she was turned down from being listed from two of the top heart transplant hospitals for children.  Jacques held me, and reminded me that after two years of pain and suffering, long hospital stay after long hospital stay, this new heart would bring one of two things for Lily.  Either this new heart would give Lily a new lease on life, and she could FINALLY play and run like she has always dreamed of doing. Or, Lily would not survive the transplant or the recovery, and she would spend eternity in heaven with Jesus.  Both options were a win/win situation for our little empress.  Lily has taught me that we must always choose hope no matter what.  So in that moment HOPE is what I chose.

Our dear friend Jan came to the rescue to stay with the other three girls, and before too long, Jacques, Lily, and I were off to Washington DC to get Lily Grace's new hero heart.  We arrived to the hospital around 10pm, and Lily was directly admitted to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit where she took care of getting herself all hooked up to the heart monitor and pulse oximeter machines.

Lily had an EKG, echocardiogram, an IV placed followed by LOTS of blood work, urine collection, and MANY hospital friends stop in to say "hello"!  Lily stayed up until 2am playing playdoh, singing "Let It Go", and thoroughly enjoying her pre-transplant party.  At promptly 5:30am, Lily was wheeled down to the operating room.  She was sedated, intubated, and put on bypass through her groin.  Jacques and I went outside to watch for the helicopter that would bring Lily's heart to the hospital.  Little did we know that Lily's new heart would not arrive until 12pm!

It's here!  Lily Grace's Heart is here!

Twelve hours after Lily's heart transplant surgery began, she was wheeled back to her room in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit by her team of smiling doctors.  An hour after that, Jacques and I were allowed to see Lily Grace, and be introduced to her new hero heart.

There are no words for that moment.

 Lily's hero heart story would not be complete if I didn't share this:

Four days before we received the call that there was a new heart for Lily, we had "THE" heart transplant talk. I knew this day was coming, and I could tell by the way that Lily's questions were escalating in intensity that I was not going to be able to dodge that bullet any longer. Since Lily is only 4 years old, I was hopeful that she would be content in knowing that she would have another surgery where she would get a new heart...end of story.  But on that day, Lily was adamant that she wanted to know exactly how she would get this new heart, when we would get the phone call, and where this new heart would come from. So in the minivan on our way to get Lily's blood drawn that morning I shared with her through many tears how she would come to have a new heart. Lily's first question was, "Hmmmm...will they make sure my new heart doesn't have any germs on it? I need to be very careful of germs ya know." I assured Lily that her new heart will be very clean. The next thing Lily wanted to know was why I was crying. I explained to Lily that my heart was sad thinking about how much the family will miss the little child who will die. Lily immediately suggested that we get Thai chicken noodle soup for lunch since that always helps her feel better when she is sad.  At the Thai restaurant, Lily asked if she could pray for our meal, and she began by praying for the family who will be very sad when their child dies. And then she asked God to help her mommy to not be sad.  This child astounds me.  An old soul, wise beyond her 4 years.  

Lily praying for her heart donor's family

For those of you that know how organ donation works, the fact that Lily and I had this conversation four days before the call for Lily's new heart should give you chills.  "At some point, a potential donor is admitted to a hospital because of illness or accident. Most donors are victims of severe head trauma, a brain aneurysm or stroke. Healthcare professionals work hard and long, doing everything possible to save the patient's life while maintaining the patient on mechanical devices.  When the medical team has exhausted all possible lifesaving efforts and the patient is not responding, a physician will perform a series of tests, usually on multiple occasions, to determine if brain death has occurred. This is usually done by a neurosurgeon or neurologist in compliance with accepted medical practice and state law. Patients who are brain dead have no brain activity and cannot breathe on their own. Brain death is not coma. Brain death is death" (http://organdonor.gov/about/organdonationprocess.html).  This process takes several days, so it is highly likely that Lily was praying for her organ donor's family very close to the time of their death.  I am so thankful that God prepared Lily (and me) for what was about to occur.  As we drove to the hospital on the night of Friday the 13th, a peace washed over me that Lily knew, to the best of her ability, what was about to occur. 

A bowl of Thai Noodle Soup bigger than her head!

Lily's surgeon told us that he believes she is the most complicated heart transplant done in the United States.  He said that he saw a lot of complicated heart transplants during his time at Boston Children's Hospital, but nothing compared to Lily's case.  Shortly after her Fontan procedure two years ago, Lily's right pulmonary artery clotted off and became discontinuous from her heart.  During the transplant, her new heart was attached to her left lung.  Lily's heart donor was not a lung donor due to trauma, so the team was able to take the right pulmonary artery with the hope of attaching Lily's new heart to her right lung someday.  For now, Lily will be a single lung heart transplant recipient.  Lily's recovery has not been easy, but through it all, she has continued to fight for her life.  Over the course of the past month, Lily has amazed the medical professionals with how well she is doing!
 Our response: "Only God!"

 Our family is overwhelmed with how perfect this new heart is for our precious Lily Grace, and how sovereign God was in bringing her this specific heart.  There will need to be a whole blog post devoted to that story someday when we are ready to share!  Lily Grace's life is miraculous.  We have witnessed miracle after miracle throughout her life that have taken our breath away.  From lost to found, orphan to loved...God sets the lonely in families.

For regular updates on Lily's progress 
please follow on FaceBook at  Praying For Lily

May the God of HOPE
fill you with all joy and peace in believing, 
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit 
you may abound in HOPE. 
Romans 15:13

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

It's a BOY!

I am accustomed to parenting girls.
Sundresses, hair bows, wiggly pants, tea parties,
princesses, baby dolls, nail polish, lip gloss...
did I mention hair bows?

I honestly never envisioned myself with a son.
Until, this little man absolutely captured my heart...

I have a fun way that we will reveal his name soon,
but for now we will call him "Noah"
since that is the name his foster home has given him.

Very similar to our Lily Grace, hundreds of families turned down his file because of the scary terminal diagnosis that came attached with each cardiologist's review.  Even though "Noah's" file was designated to a very large adoption agency, none of their families chose to proceed with his adoption.  His file disappeared, until an advocate friend of mine named Brooke found him on another agency's designated list.  Ironically, it was on Brooke's advocacy website that I first fell in love with Lily Grace.  This sweet lady is very dear to my heart!

After "Noah's" file had been found, Jacques and I had a prayerful decision to make.  At the time, Lily had been turned down by three medical centers to be listed for a heart transplant.  I was currently living in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit with Lily, and her future was extremely uncertain.  Our plate was already full and often times overflowing with the responsibility of just trying to keep Lily Grace alive.  We could have easily decided that bringing another critically ill child into our home was crazy, and I think that most of you would have supported us and agreed.  But three years ago, when Jacques and I started down the journey of adoption, we decided that we wanted to live reckless for Jesus.  We chose to put our comfort, security, and financial stability on the line and risk everything to give God the opportunity to show up.  And let me tell you friends, not only did He show up, He has blessed us abundantly in ways that we never dreamed possible.  Jacques and I are at a place right now where we have to rely on God for everything.  Even our day to day living is impossible without Him.  In adopting these children, we have taken on WAY more than we can handle alone.  

But His grace is sufficient, 
and His power is made perfect in our weakness!

Our little dude turned two years old this past February.  He has a combination of heart defects that are very familiar to Jacques and I.  "Noah" has a single ventricle heart just like Lily Grace, and a complete AV canal, which is the same heart defect our Addy Hope had before she passed away.  Unlike Lily, "Noah" has not had any heart surgeries in China.  As a matter of fact, China has deemed him inoperable.  It's hard to tell from the darling, smiling photos but "Noah" fights for his life with each breath he takes.  The medical reports we have on him state that his oxygen saturation is in the 50's-60's resting, and he is very short of breath most of the time.  Lily's cardiology team at the National Children's Medical Center has reviewed his medical file, and they are very anxious for us to bring him home so he can have a heart catheterization.  There are six factors that could in fact exclude "Noah" from being a candidate for the Glenn Procedure open heart surgery, but we will not know for sure until after his heart catheterization.  Due to the progressive nature of what the cardiology team believes is severe ventricular outflow obstruction in the setting of single ventricle physiology, we are desperate to get our boy home ASAP.

Yes sweet boy, that's YOUR Papa and Mommy!

Please follow along, as our family's love story
takes us to China and back again!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, 
for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, 
so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, 
insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. 
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10