Opening Your Heart to the Children Who Wait

Robin and Randall Bridgeman brought their daughter, Charlotte, home in 2010. Born with a congenital heart defect, Charlotte’s care in both Korea and the United States was extensive. But through the support and prayers of her family, and a little help from some unknown friends along the way, Charlotte came home and is now a happy and healthy 3-year-old.

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My daughter, Charlotte, is one of my greatest joys. She is the spirit of our family, a child whose very presence will bring a smile to your face. She is our child who sings and dances her way from room to room, rather than merely walking.

Looking at Charlotte now, one would never guess that her life got off to a bit of a rocky start. You see, my precious daughter was born with a congenital heart defect (CHD), which means her heart had to work very hard to do its job. Tasks that you and I take for granted, such as eating, took a lot of energy for Charlotte, and, as a result, she struggled to thrive during her first year of life.

We were matched with our daughter via Holt’s waiting child program in early November 2009. Though our daughter’s initial paperwork suggested a minor CHD, the pediatric cardiologist suspected after receiving her paperwork that we were looking at something more serious. Within a week of receiving her paperwork, we got an update confirming the doctor’s suspicions; we were looking at a heart defect that, while likely correctible, was more significant and would most certainly require open heart surgery.

I still remember the wait to bring her home. Over the next few months after getting her referral, additional issues cropped up. Each update seemed to bring more difficult news and more uncertainty for our sweet baby. While Charlotte’s medical needs presented some risk and there were a number of “unknowns,” we were certain of one thing: she was our daughter, and we were committed to her. With that in mind, we waited and worried and waited some more.

We finally got permission to bring Charlotte home in late April of 2010. She was beautiful, yet petite, not even on the growth chart. She tired easily. Generally speaking, I think everyone who met her would agree that she was having a rough go of it. In addition to her known issues, as a result of the heart defect, she had developed some ancillary issues related to nutrition that needed to be addressed.

We spent the next several months working with the doctors and clinicians at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital to address her feeding and nutrition issues and to determine a game plan for addressing her CHD. In mid-September 2010, Charlotte underwent open heart surgery. The surgery was a complete success, and Charlotte’s heart defect was fully corrected. Though Charlotte will need periodic follow-up, both her surgeon and pediatric cardiologist expect her to have a normal lifespan with no restrictions on her activity.

Open heart surgery was like a rebirth for Charlotte. Our child who once struggled to engage with people, who never smiled, and who seemed so unhappy, blossomed almost overnight. Literally within days of getting out of the hospital, Charlotte had energy and joy to spare. For the first time, we saw her smile. We were so happy for her!

Charlotte after her heart surgery -- full of life and a healthy appetite!

Charlotte after her heart surgery — full of life and a healthy appetite!

An Unexpected Blessing

A handful of months following Charlotte’s surgery, I was looking through Holt’s website and spent some time lingering on the sponsorship page. We had been longtime supporters and proponents of Holt’s child sponsorship program, but had never really considered the possibility that either of our children was a part of the program. On a bit of a whim, I sent a message to the sponsorship team asking them if either of our children had been sponsored. I received a reply saying that while our son was not part of the program, yes, in fact, our daughter had been sponsored. Not only had she been sponsored, she’d had several sponsors supporting her.

It’s hard to describe the feelings I had upon finding this out. Grateful. Blessed. Humbled. To find out that several families had each chosen to generously make a financial commitment to a child they did not know, who lived half a world away, to help ensure she got the care she needed…we were beyond touched. Those funds helped cover things like her echocardiograms and other diagnostic testing in Korea. Those funds helped her stay in a loving foster care environment. Those funds helped ensure she got the care she needed while she waited for a family.

It’s been almost 3 years since we brought our daughter home. Charlotte is healthy and thriving. She loves to sing and dance. She has energy, personality and charm to spare. I sometimes just sit back in wonder at how far she has come. I am still humbled and grateful for the role Holt played in matching us with each other. I am profoundly thankful to her sponsors for supporting her. I am blessed beyond measure to be her mom.

 

Robin Waterstradt Bridgeman | Tualatin, Oregon

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