Anatomy is a class no one ever wants to take because it is long and boring.....wwwwaaaayyyy too much detail to remember.
Well, let me tell you. Here is the story of our referral, and it's called "anatomy" of a referral for a reason. I just wanted to remember every little detail, and I couldn't bring myself to leave any of it out. So, grab some coffee or something. And if you have ADD, I'm sorry. This is my journal, and I want to remember every bit of the anatomy of these days of my life.
It all started with an e-mail.
On July 9th, my dear, dear friend, Kelly, sent me an e-mail at 1:55PM with the subject line "Evan" that said this:
Hi Jenna, I've been thinking about you. I got an email from a yahoo group
that said a number of New Day's kids are on the shared list right
now and still waiting for their families. One of those kids is Evan.
I have been involved with New Day for a long time, and we love the work they do. This e-mail immediately caught my attention. We pray for the New Day kids DAILY, and so I e-mailed her back immediately asking for more info. What's strange as I look back now is that she specifically mentions "Evan", like we had talked about him previously or something? Weird, because we hadn't. Anyway, she forwarded me the message Amy, from Lifeline Children's Services, had posted on the Yahoo group advocating for these kids.
I went to New Day's website to check out the bios of the kids to get an idea of what their needs were. I knew it would give me an idea if any of them had needs we felt we could handle. At first glance, the answer was "No".
But, I kept wondering why Evan's name was ringing a bell for me.
Since late 2009, I have been volunteering for New Day editing some of their sponsorship updates. Basically, I am assigned several kiddos, and every month when their nannies or foster moms write their monthly updates, I edit them for flow and grammar stuff after they have been translated from Chinese. I can say that it has been completely my honor to be able to help New Day in this small, small way. I look forward to the 18th of every month to read the updates, and had come to call the group of boys I edited for "My New Day Kids". I asked to have pictures of them so I could try to keep each of the boys straight.
And, each month as I typed out each edited update, I would pray for those boys. Mostly, as I read how sweet and charming each boy was and as I got to know their personalities, I would pray that God would match each boy with their family....and soon!
Anyway, after I checked out the kiddos on New Day's site, Evan's name was still nagging in my head. I all of a sudden realized that I might know why. I went back and checked my most recent sponsorship updates, and lo and behold, I had been editing Evan's sponsorship updates for more than 6 months.
And, I had been praying for him every month......to find a family willing to bring him home.
(Here is where I warn you to be careful what you pray for, because in praying for someone to go, God may very well be preparing your heart to be the one to go! :) )
Scot was working from home that day and was sequestered in our room in the middle of a conference call. No matter, I ran right up the stairs, barged in, quickly gestured to make sure the phone was on mute, and I blurted out, "One of the boys I write the sponsorship updates for at New Day is on the shared list right now! I am going to print out his picture and his bio and bring it up to you."
In hindsight, that might NOT have been the best plan, but.......I was not thinking at this point, I was reacting.
You see, Evan's bio said he had been "quite cyanotic" even to the point of having difficulty eating during his first year of life before his heart surgery. Those are not words comforting to the heart of a prospective adoptive father who has a history of being quick to get scared. (That's not me judging, I swear....just keep reading, you'll see.)
Scot looked at me like I had lost my ever-loving marbles, and said, "Jenna, this sounds really serious." I told him he had had his surgery already and seemed to be doing well.
I then went downstairs and pulled up all the sponsorship updates I had edited for the last 6 months, cut and pasted all of Evan's updates onto one document, and ran upstairs to give it to Scot (still pretending to be on a conference call! :) ). (Thank you, Lord, for knowing we'd need this anticdotal information to see our son and not his medical need, and for providing it for us in such a wonderful way!)
I said quite casually, "Oh, he's perfect for our family- he loves Tom and Jerry!" (Our kids love Tom and Jerry, and you know how having similar TV interests is often a great way to see if a child fits in your family! ;) ) It was a silly little thing, but I think it's the moment Scot decided to look at Evan's file.
It was the week before Camp KidsWay (our church's version of VBS kinda), and for me that means being OUT STRAIGHT. It had been a busy few weeks, and we had not enjoyed much summer yet. So, I had plans that afternoon to turn it ALL OFF that afternoon and go to my parents house down the road with Scot and the kids and just swim and enjoy some time with them.
It didn't work out that way.
Kelly sent her original e-mail at 1:55pm on a Friday afternoon.
The rest of the afternoon was met with discussion by Scot and I (which was pretty casual if I recall, and that's ALL I recall......), and at some point, he must have given me the green light to lock his file so we could review his medical records.
My next e-mail to Kelly was at 4:32 pm telling her we were going to try to see if Evan was still on the shared list and if he was, we were going to lock his file. I asked her to contact Amy Hart to find out, because I knew she'd be able to find him quickly (or at least Lifeline would).
Here's what I remember about that afternoon:
- It was H-O-T. Hotter than heck. Everyone was in the pool except me. So much for spending quality time with the kids!
- I couldn't get a half-decent cell connection without standing in a large plant in the corner of my parent's "big room". (I've never had a problem with a cell signal there before.) It just added to the difficulties.
- And, with it being 4:30 pm on a Friday afternoon, we were running out of time to lock his file and be able to find the doctors necessary to review it for us.
- I got to TALK to Kelly for the first time- like 100 times! :) (So silly, I know, but when you know someone through their blog, then get to talk to them in real life, it's different. But, it was like we were old friends picking up where we had left off.)
The complicating factor? Our social worker at our agency was not in the office that afternoon, and we were told she was the only one who could look up a file for us. I pushed back and suddenly someone else COULD look- but they wouldn't look him up unless we had his Chinese name.
Hmmmm? How was I supposed to get that? Thanks so much for the help.
I called Lifeline Children's Services who had posted about the kids on the Yahoo group. (And it LITERALLY felt like a Lifeline to me at that moment!)
I spoke with a different Amy who is in the China program, and I told her our situation. She looked Evan up on the shared list for me, and gave me his Chinese name. (Thank you, Lord, for people who put KIDS first and will do ANY.THING. to see kids find their families- regardless of what agency I'm committed to!) She also told me he was still available on the list.
I called my agency back, and armed with his name, birthdate, medical need, and home province, I asked for this woman to look him up. She did and called me back a short time later to tell me that she could not find him.
I e-mailed Kelly. She asked me to give her his info so she could "see what she could do". (Thank you, Lord, for people who will go WAY above and beyond on THEIR Friday afternoons because they want to see kids find their families!)
A short time later, while we were on our way to get Chinese take-out (TOTAL coincidence), Kelly called back to say that he was indeed still on the list. I called our agency back, and the lady who couldn't find him originally said that our social worker would be home "shortly" and would call us when she got there and would look up his file for us. I resisted the temptation to say, "Define 'shortly'."
Meanwhile, I cold called a cardiologist that had been recommended to us. He's kind of a big deal in these parts, and I basically just called his office and told them our situation. I didn't have high hopes for cooperation- you know how doctor's offices can be- especially without a referral and without an actual, you know, patient. I spoke with the nice receptionist, and a very kind nurse who assured me they would see what they could do for us. To my utter shock, a few short minutes later, the cardiologist HIMSELF called me back. He was very interested in helping, because, he explained to me, adoption was close to his heart. He brought his daughter home several years ago form China. I explained where we were at, and he gave me his number and e-mail and told me that if we were able to lock his file over the weekend, that he was on call and ready to look at "Evan's" file. (Thank you, Lord for the unexpected blessing of an amazingly human, gracious, wonderful cardiologist- who has traveled this road before!)
Fast forward to 8:00PM- several hours after we had been told our social worker would call us "shortly". I was flat out irritated. (This was sort of the proverbial straw on my camel's back.) However, I continued to remind myself that IF this was the child God hand-picked for our family, I did not need to worry about it. If his file is already gone, then God has another plan.
Shortly after 8PM, with no other option, I sent an e-mail to my social worker asking if she was indeed planning to call after all. 5 minutes later the phone rang. She didn't seem much interested in talking to me on a Friday night, but did try to find his file for me. She told me after searching his name, that he was not on the list. I told her that "Yes, he IS on the list. You just need to find him."
Lo, and behold. She did. Then, she proceeded to tell me that I did realize he's not in the age range we requested and that he also was Hepatitis B positive.
Now, the previous week, we had received a referral (like a phone-call-out-of-the-blue referral) for a little girl who was missing her right arm. We thought God had matched us with our daughter. But, then our pediatrician told us that he felt it sure she was also Hep B positive because of her lab results. We had not researched Hep B at all, and really, we didn't feel comfortable with it (mostly due to us not knowing anything about it). Anyway, we ended up turning down the referral (there's a bit more to that story, but it doesn't pertain to this story).
I was irritated that she seemed to be trying to talk us out of locking Evan's file. But, I also looked at Scot when I said, "Oh, he's Hep B positive?" and I knew this was most likely a deal-breaker for him. Our social worker told us that he had been on the list since JANUARY, and that with the combination of this gender, his age, and his special need, that he would "definitely" still be on the list Monday morning. We decided to not lock his file just yet. (This is so hard for me to write now, and I feel anxiety just writing it thinking of what would have happened if we had missed him.)
I e-mailed Kelly and Amy the update, and I went to bed.
And, then came another couple of e-mails both from Amy at Lifeline. The first I read when I woke up at 6:00AM. During the night, she had sent us an e-mail with Evan's lab results on it telling me to take a look. She said that she was not a doctor, but she certainly didn't see a Hep B diagnosis, and from what she could tell from his lab results, he did not have Hep B- it was possibly resolved or that he had simply been exposed. I looked, did some research, and had to agree with her. Because my doctor had explained ALL the lab results in the Hep B "panel" just the week before, I knew she had a point. (Thank you, Lord, for Amy. Had she not had the boldness to e-mail that file and to suggest we take a closer look what we may have missed. Thank you for using her to turn our heads again in the direction You wanted us to go!)
I told Scot I thought we had made a BIG mistake not just locking his darn file. WHY had we let our social worker freak us out??? He reminded me that he'd still be on the list Monday morning, and we could lock it then.
Then came one more e-mail from Amy at 6:57 that morning. She said:
I just got an email saying he is gone from the list....your agency said he is there so I am a bit confused...unless he was locked in the last few hours....let me know
and remember it is in Gods hands and he already knows your child's name....
You know, it might be then that I knew, because my heart felt like it broke.
I forwarded Kelly both of Amy's e-mails. We were heading out to a family reunion quite a distance away that day- again, God put me in a place where I had NO internet and barely any cell service- and Kelly said she would again ask her contact at yet ANOTHER adoption agency to look again to see if his file was, in fact, still there. She said she'd call me if she heard anything. (Lord, have I thanked you for Kelly yet? Thank you for "blogging" friends who are oh-so-much more than that!)
I did all I could to enjoy that day. I see my family once a year, and I wanted to enjoy them all. However, I had been in the door no less than 15 seconds before someone asked me if we knew anything about the newest member of the family yet? Ugh....how many times would I get that question that day? (Turns out, several more!)
At some point in the afternoon, Kelly called to say that Evan was indeed still on the list. There seems to have been some confusion about the spelling of his name, but he was still there. I felt relief wash over me like a cold rain- really- it felt almost physical.
At least now, Scot and I would have a long ride home to talk (with sleeping kids in the back) and we could think and pray over the following 24 hours about what we should do.
Remember, the next day was Sunday, and that began my week of Camp with a bang- Scot was leaving for a week-long business trip, and the kids and I would be at the church for 12 hours that day doing the three services at church, and then setting up for the week. This was not a week when I had even a minute of spare time and that's when Scot IS home to help. Without Scot home to help, this was going to be a marathon week. To throw reviewing a file with this level of seriousness on top of everything.......I don't know what I was thinking.
Monday morning, while all the campers were out at their activity stations, I snuck out and called our social worker. (I told only my one closest friend who was there with me what was going on- she covered for me all week as I had to sneak away. Thank you, Lord for friends like Liz who will do whatever it takes when you need it.)
I asked her to lock Evan's file for us. She said, No, she couldn't lock his file for us unless we were SURE we were going to adopt him. HUH? I'm no dummy. I had been around the block enough to know that's not how it works. How can we say "Yes" to a child whose medical files we had not read yet??? She said she would send us the files for our review and for us to have reviewed by doctors, but she would not lock his file for us.
I didn't have time to argue. I asked her to yes, please send the files. Later that day, she and I had a nice, emotional heart-to-heart, and in the end, she locked Evan's file for us. The clock was now ticking.
With the limited time I had, I contacted the pediatrician, the cardiologist, and an international adoption specialist who, apparently, has a reputation for giving you the "worst-case scenarios". Then, I waited.
Tuesday morning during camp, I snuck out to see if the cardiologist had e-mailed. He had. In short, Evan was very, very sick just previous to surgery, but he felt like Evan got a good repair and had a great prognosis. Regarding the Hep B, he said "No, he doesn't have it....it looks like he may have had it, but that it was resolved". WOW- that sounded good to me. I forwarded it to Scot so he could read it to.
Now, I was still waiting for the call from the international adoption specialist who I was looking forward to talking to the most. I knew I would have limited time with her, so I wanted to be able to really focus on listening to her. However, she called at the exact moment camp let out when I was standing in a room of 100+ people, mostly kids, and I had both my kids with me. I was NOWHERE near a pen, a piece of paper, or anything resembling silence. I literally threw my kids at the nearest adult I recognized, and while saying hello, I ran as fast as I could out of that room, kicked a bunch of people out of the closest children's ministry classroom, grabbed a marker, and some scrap paper, and tried not to sound out of breath.
She told me all sorts of things....some of which sounded pretty scary, but the funny thing is when she said the scary stuff, my gut told me that it just wasn't true. I found myself wanting to defend him and say, "Oh, but if you read his sponsorship updates, you'd know that's not the case." At the end of the conversation, she said to me, "He's a "Rea*der's Digest kid."
I had never heard that phrase before, so I did a very uncharacteristic "Jenna" thing: I asked a question: "I'm not familiar with that phrase, what does that mean?"
She told me that it means that "This kid defeated the odds. He shouldn't be alive, but he is, and he's doing spectacularly well considering the condition he had been in. He's the kind of kid you read about in Read*er's Digest who should not even be here, but who goes on to do great things."
About the Hep B, she said, " Those lab results are a non-issue." She offered a couple of very simple explanations for the funky lab results, but said that it was not something that we should worry about.
On the way home from camp that day, our pediatrician called. What a great guy he is. He had walked with us through the difficult decision the previous week to not accept a referral, and he called the following Monday to check up on us. Anyway, he thought everything looked good too. He said that he felt Evan didn't have Hep B either.
At the end of the conversation, he asked me what I wanted him to do with the file. "Should I shred it or hang onto it?" he asked.
I told him to hang on to it.
That night over the phone, I relayed all of this to Scot. We talked about it a bit, but we were both still hung up on the serious of his heart condition combined with Hep B results that made us really nervous. We agreed we would pray that God would give us both an answer that night. We'd sleep on it, then we'd talk in the morning.
I called Robyn that night to talk to her about ToF - what they've been told and what her experience has been.
I e-mailed Andrea (whose blog is private), a blogging friend form early on in this adoption journey, and she encouraged me (oh so rightly) to look at the child, and not the medical issue(s).
And, I talked to Kelly for a LONG time on the phone that night. I filled her in on what all of the doctors said, we did some more research, and who knows what else. But, during the conversation Kelly said one thing that I do remember. She said that it is clear from what I had learned about Evan that the hand of God has been on his life. He was brought to New Day, his life was saved, and that God clearly has big plans for Evan's life. And, that no matter what Scot and I decide to do, we could rest assured that God's hand would STILL be on Evan's life.
It was just what I needed to hear in that moment.
That night I fell asleep praying.
When I woke up, I couldn't shake what Kelly had said. When Scot called, we went around and around a bit talking about what scared us, what terrified us, and what all our unanswered questions were. We just got it all out on the table. At the end of all that, I told Scot what Kelly had said, and I told him that what it ultimately came down to for me was this: God's hand truly is on Evan's life- that much was clear to me. So, we could choose be a part of the story God is writing with Evan's life or we could choose not to.
I told Scot that I thought we should be a part of it- I didn't want to miss it. He agreed.
We were scared, but in that moment, we knew that Evan's story was our story too.
So, later that morning, while some of my dearest friends were shepherding kids from art to games to music at Camp KidsWay, I stood next to the pond where it was quiet, dialed our adoption agency, and with tears in my eyes and a zillion unanswered questions, told them, that our LOI was on it's way to them.
"Evan" was our son.
Thank you, God. I'm speechless when I think of all you did in a few short days to bring our son to us and for the many people whose voices you used to speak to us during those days. We are humbled to think that you'd use us at all, but that you'd write us in to a story you are so clearly authoring in Cooper's life when you could have included anyone else leaves us truly amazed. We feel truly privileged to be his mom and his dad, and to be able to have a front-row seat to Your work in his life. May the glory be Yours in it all.