When 4-year-old Journi’s health started to deteriorate, donors made it possible for her to move from her orphanage to Holt’s medical foster home in China. Now that Journi is home — and thriving — her mom has a very special message for our Peace House supporters.
My husband, Brian, and I had been in our third adoption process for several months when we received a spotlight email with several precious little faces — all in desperate need of a family.
One little girl grabbed our hearts immediately.
She looked very emaciated, but had the biggest smile on her face. As we read, we learned she had a complex heart condition. Because neither of us were medically inclined, we had never considered a child with this type of condition before. It seemed well out of our sphere of what we could handle.
Despite our limited understanding about her condition, we nevertheless decided to pursue adopting this little one. Immediately, Holt put us in touch with the doctor who had reviewed her file as well as the director of Little Hearts Medical, an organization that advocates for children in China who have complex heart conditions. Time was running out for this little one, and fast forward a week, we learned she was matched with another family who was further along in their process. Of course, we were very sad, but ultimately we knew all that mattered was that she would be getting a family.
This, of course, changed our process. We contacted our social worker to have her amend our homestudy to include heart conditions, and not very long after, we received a call from Beth Smith, the director of services for Holt’s China program, asking to conference with us. We knew exactly what this meant as this was not our first rodeo.
As soon as we all got on the call and Beth talked about another little girl with a complex heart condition, I immediately blurted out “yes”! Beth laughed while my husband, Brian, said, “Wait, shouldn’t we look at her file first and see what we are dealing with?” I responded that no, she was our daughter and that was it. Beth did her best to explain what was wrong with her heart and said she would email her file as soon as she could.
Less than five minutes later we had her file, picture — and we fell in love.
But this was not the first time we fell in love with a picture.
Many things inspired our first adoption, which we completed in 2013. Jenna Grace is from Nanchang and was 21 months old when we brought her home. At the time, we had three boys biologically and I longed for a girl. My mother, who was also my best friend, had passed away at just 52. I longed for a relationship like that with a daughter of my own. My husband had heard the plight of the orphan and knew he had to do something. That was the beginning. Since then, we have also adopted Joy, who came home at almost 14 and is now almost 17. Because of Joy, we advocate for older child adoption and while it has been very difficult, it has also been full of rewards. Joy has grown in leaps and bounds since coming home from China in 2015 and so have we.
To be honest, we didn’t even consider Journi’s medical need. And what I mean by that is, we knew her heart was a mess, but ultimately, it didn’t matter to us. We just knew this little one needed a home, love and a family. We had all of that and more. We knew we would deal with her need just as we did with Joy, who had a cleft lip and palate that was repaired much later than normal. We would take each step as it came and it would be fine.
Shortly after being matched, we learned Journi had been moved to Peace House in Beijing due to her deteriorating health. We were told that without surgery, she would not survive another winter in China. While the news about her health was a little scary, we were assured that she would be given amazing care at Peace House and we were not disappointed. In past adoptions, updates were sparse and pictures almost non-existent, however this was the opposite while Journi was at Peace House. We received pictures almost weekly as we waited to travel and felt we could ask anything regarding the care she was receiving. They also treated us with great respect, requesting our permission before performing any procedures. While Journi did not receive surgery during her stay at Peace House, she was admitted for a diagnostic heart cath. We were informed a surgical team met to discuss the potential for modifying her current shunt. However, after monitoring her closely, it was decided it would be better for her to come home to the U.S. and have her surgery here.
We arrived at Peace House just 24 hours after landing in China and we were welcomed with open arms. Everyone was so friendly and excited to see us. It was very clean, with lots of light, and had every amenity necessary to take care of these children.
Journi looked wonderful. It was obvious they had been preparing Journi for our arrival because as soon as she saw us, she came over with open arms for me to pick her up. We spent about an hour visiting with the caregivers and director. It was clear how loved she was, as several of the women had a very hard time holding back their emotion. As hard as that was to witness, it also warmed our hearts to see their affection for her. They showed us where she slept, talked about play time, what and when she ate, and that she had been fed breast milk to help her thrive.
It also helped us realize just how important Peace House is for children like Journi. She may not have done as well without their care. We are so very grateful for all those who care for these beautiful children waiting for their families at Peace House — and all those who support it so well.
Life since coming home has been anything but boring. We arrived home from China to leave just two short weeks later to consult with her surgeon, Dr. Langley at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Florida. For years, Dr. Langley has traveled to China with Little Hearts to perform all kinds of lifesaving surgeries on orphans with congenital heart defects. He donates his time and talents to buy little ones like Journi time for their forever families to find them. Journi has CCTGA, which is congenitally corrected transposition of the greater arteries with pulmonary atresia and dextrocardia. Dr. Langley and his team opted to perform the Glenn procedure, which would raise her oxygen levels slightly — giving her time to adjust before performing a much more critical surgery in about a year.
She did excellent with her surgery and recovery had only minimal complications. She was released earlier than normal because she did so well. She is no longer as blue as she once was and for a little one living on only 80-percent oxygen saturation, she has more energy and vitality than our whole family combined.
She is a joy and pleasure to be around. She wakes up smiling and is happy to see everyone all of the time. Of course, we had some rough times in the beginning, but that was to be expected given that — for the better part of four years — she lived in an orphanage with a revolving door of caregivers.
Journi has bonded very well with Brian and I, and loves her siblings. We were confident that Journi would fit in well, being a little more than two years younger than Jenna Grace. We were right — Jenna Grace has been a wonderful help as Journi has transitioned. Also, as Joy is still fluent in Chinese, we knew she could help with any kind of language barrier that Journi faced. Even though Journi had very little language when she came home, speaking almost no Chinese, we knew she understood a lot of what her big sister said to her.
Since she is 4, but more like a 2-year-old, we work daily with her on communication and learning all the basics. She is very smart and picking it all up very quickly. Of course, having her 6-year-old sister to help has been wonderful.
Truly, I can’t say enough about the wonderful staff at Peace House. We believe Journi’s stay at Peace House for the last three months before transitioning to our home is one of the many reasons she has done so well.
It is clear to me the staff and director truly love and care for those children, they take great care of the facility and they cannot do any of that without continued support from amazing donors. Our family would love the chance to say thank you to each and every one of you in person, but since that isn’t possible, please consider this our very BIG THANK YOU!
Rachel Maciaszek | Adoptive Mom
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