It’s been way too long since I’ve blogged and I’ve missed it. I think I can easily blame fb for my lack of effort and I’m going to regret not having this “journal” to look back at some day. So, here’s to updating a little bit more.
It’s been a crazy year filled with more doctor appointments than I can count… appointments with 7 different specialists just for one kiddo plus all of the other routine stuff. As you all pretty much know, Ryan, Cora, and I traveled to Boston with hopes that a bi-ventricular repair would be successful. After a cardiac catheterization, Dr. Marx and Dr. Emani were confident that she was an excellent candidate for such repair. So, on Sept. 2 we handed her over to someone we had only met once and prayed that God would hold her and give her back to us. We waited at the end of this LONG hallway for our hourly updates. We have done this surgery wait game too many times before but we always had friends and family to help pass the time. This was extremely different.
After 8 long hours, we met with Dr. Emani and Dr. Marx who reassured us that the repair was successful and then we waited to see our beautiful girl.
She was in the ICU for 6 nights with many ups and downs. Our scariest day was when they pulled her PA line. We knew that her blood was thinner than they like to see for this step but it was the one thing holding her back from progressing. So, they had blood products in the corner of her room “just in case”.
I remember assuming that they were being cautious and didn’t think we would actually need them. The Dr. pulled the line, tied the stitch, cleaned up his tools, and then started to walk out of the room. I looked at my beautiful girl and watched her face and hands go sheet white. Her lips were gray and all color was gone from her face… in a split second. The nurse looked at the monitor and told the dr. he wasn’t going anywhere. She was indeed bleeding from her PA. Within seconds, her room was filled with doctors, nurses, RT’s., and our prayers. We sat back on our bench as we watched them working on her. That cooler was opened and the contents saved her life. We sat there and fearfully prayed. After several scary minutes, she was stabilized and then the next few hours were spent getting her blood volumes back where they needed to be. We were blessed with the most amazing nurse that day and we are so incredibly thankful for her.
That evening, they let her rest and then in the middle of the night, they decided it was time to get her off of the ventilator. Let me just say that it couldn’t have been worse timing as far as we were concerned. We were emotionally and physically spent from the events of the day and if we had known that it wasn’t going to be smooth sailing, we probably would have asked for them to wait. But, we didn’t know and they didn’t ask. So, 3 days post op, she was extubated. She wasn’t quite ready to fly solo so she quickly ended up on the bi-pap machine which she hated.
That awful mask was basically clamped to her head so she couldn’t yank it off and we spent the next 24 hours in a battle of getting her strong enough and ready to be off of it. I watched my sweet girl go from fighting it to surrendering to it. That surrender was the worst part. I prayed for her fight to come back because I knew we were stuck until it did.
We had an amazing nurse who did chest PT and suction on the hour which Cora hated but it kept that awful mask off so we soldiered through.
After 6 nights in the ICU, this girl made her way to the step down unit and we continued to see little glimpses of our sweet Cora return each day. We were able to go on walks around the hospital and even out in the garden. She loved getting out of her room and we knew that her discharge was coming soon.
My favorite and most frustrating thing about my girl? Her stubborn, independent self. There was absolute no bribing this girl to do something she didn’t want to do. We were able to bribe Maggie along in her recovery to help her get stronger, but not Cora. If she didn’t want to eat, walk, go to the bathroom, or even show the dr. her incision, she wasn’t going to. Period. However, it’s this fierce determination that has brought her to where she is now and this determination is pretty darn adorable too.
So, after 10 days in Boston Children’s, we said goodbye to the two men who had given our girl a whole new chance at life. God used these two to give her a quality of life that we never thought possible. We are forever indebted to Dr. Marx and Dr. Emani and they will always hold a very special place in the hearts of our family.
As Dr. Marx walked out of Cora’s room, we just kept saying thank you and he just kept giggling with that contagious smile. He turned and look at us and said, “if only you could know… if you just knew.” This is a man who truly cares for each of his patients and he was overjoyed to see such an amazing outcome.
Then, there’s this man. He looked too young to know what he was talking about but he’s a genius. He reworked her wonky heart to an even better wonky heart. Seriously, her heart is still wonky but it’s a good wonky. He’s quiet and humble and so precious to us.
So, we left that place… “Cora’s hospital” with hearts over flowing in gratitude. Somehow, she still has fond memories of it and even asks to go back. I don’t know how that’s possible after all that she endured but I think somehow she knows. She knows that’s where she started feeling better… feeling as a child should feel.
We kept her discharge a total surprise. It killed me to not shout it from the rooftops but we didn’t want anyone spoiling the surprise for our kids. After arranging the surprise with my parents and the kids’ teachers, we stayed the night near the Boston airport and flew home bright and early in the morning. We surprised the kiddos at school and that was THE BEST. They had no idea we had even left the hospital yet. So, seeing their faces was indescribable. We walked out of Crosspoint with ALL 5 kids better than ever and so incredibly thankful to the Giver of all Good Gifts.
Since then, Cora had some struggles with her heart and lungs catching up to the huge changes. She had pretty significant pleural effusions for the first 3-4 weeks after coming home. As of December, she is off all medications except one aspirin a day and doesn’t see cardiology for a whole year. She is happier than ever and thriving.
The Liggett Family
I’ve known Sue for a few years through our MOPS group but it wasn’t until a few months after we adopted Reid that I really started to get to know Sue. She is a friend who I respect and admire greatly, and I always know that when I ask for her input or advice that she will not give it without great thought.
Bruce and Sue are Mom and Dad to 6 and soon to be 7 amazing children. Molly is 19, Mark is 17, Jamie is 15, John is 14, Julie is 7, and Jesse is 4.
After a very lengthy process, Bruce and Sue finally brought Julie home in November 2010 and they worked on settling in and doing the whole adoption transition thing. In September 2014, the Liggett family of 6 traveled to China to become the Liggett family of 8 as they welcomed Jamie and Jesse with open arms.
Their transition from 6 to 8 has had many bumps and I’ve watched as Sue and Bruce have taken each twist and turn with grace and strength.
My journey to Cora and back was 16 days… At the beginning of the journey it didn’t seem that long. I thought it would be no big deal, but it was a huge deal. I have never been so homesick before, and I was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted before Cora and I even started the 28 hour trip home.
The 28 hour ultra marathon home requires a blog post all of its own because it was pretty much a nightmare. Let’s just say that almost everything that could have gone wrong pretty much did short of missing our flight and Cora was not the most angelic traveler. So, stepping off of that plan in St. Louis was as close to heaven as I might ever see on this side.
I could not wait to see the many faces that awaited us. What a pleasant surprise it was to see all who came to welcome us home.
I could not wait to get my hands on the other 4 who I had missed more than I’ll ever be able to explain.
And they couldn’t wait to get their hands on Cora. The girls could not stop loving on her. Cora warmed up to Evie and Maggie pretty quickly when they started blowing raspberries on her belly. The boys weren’t quite sure what to think of her for awhile.
Cora Hope handled all of the new faces like a champ. She was just fine as long as she was attached to Mama. It was amazing to see some of our dearest friends and family there to cheer us home.
Pretty soon it was time for Cora to warm up to her Daddy. He was pretty happy to get his hands on her, and she didn’t mind too much either.
The Grandparents were all very patient and are letting Cora get used to all of the changes even though we know they’re dying to get their hands on her.
Seven looks pretty good on us!
On our way home to figure out this whole thing.
This was the longest day of my life and probably the most stressful. Seriously, we couldn’t have ever imagined the drama that would follow us through our trip. We were traveling back to the U.S. with 2 other couples, and I am so thankful for them!
We left our hotel bright and early, but not early enough. Our travel guide assured us that we would have more than enough time to catch our flight. Well, he was almost VERY wrong. From the moment we arrived at the airport, anything and everything that could have gone wrong did.
It took us an hour just to check in at the ticket counter and check our luggage. Then, we had to get through the airport security which proved to consistently be a nightmare in Chinese airports. Let’s just say that running through airports would be a theme for the day… we only needed theme music.
After barely making our first flight to Shanghai, we settled in for a 3 hour flight. Cora did not behave herself… at all. She fussed almost the entire flight. It was not a good foreshadowing of the rest of our day.
After landing, we had 2 hours to collect our luggage and get checked in for our flight to Detroit. Seemed like plenty of time to all of us. We waited for what seemed like an eternity for the luggage to come. When it did, everyone’s came except mine. We waited about 30 more minutes for it to never come. I headed to the office to report missing luggage. At this point, I was almost in tears but as I stood there, I realized no one spoke any English.. NONE. So, I was about to call it a HUGE loss and decided that making my flight was more important than anything in those suitcases. As I turned around, Meredith was running towards me telling me that our luggage had come. More running, gathering luggage, and sprinting towards the ticket counter. We now had to just get our tickets, re-check our luggage and then make our flight… no problem, right?
Oh, so very wrong we were. It then took a good 40+ minutes to get our tickets and we were the only people in the line. Meredith and Tyler were amazing and made sure I had everything I needed. Once we got our tickets, we had to make it through security. We learned before our last flight that our kids were the magic ticket. They got us through a faster line and this is the only thing that allowed us to make our flights. Cora and I sprinted down the what seemed to be a mile long trek to our gate. I had her stroller, diaper bag, rolling suitcase, and my purse PLUS her strapped to me… all 33 pounds of her. Cora and I reached our gate as they began boarding… our travel companions were no where in sight. I assumed they had already boarded, but I didn’t see them on the flight anywhere. About 10 minutes after Cora and I boarded, they walked on… in tears. Sheila and Kyle had a huge ticket mess to sort out. The airline had seated their 2 yr old daughter separately from them… yep? not good and wasn’t gonna work. They got it worked out just in time and they were able to all sit together and got situated just in time for take off. Now, time for our 13 hour flight. While that was beyond overwhelming, we were so thankful to be sitting on that plane with our luggage.
Cora and I sat by a really nice and understanding young Dad flying home to his baby. He was, I’m sure, thankful for his noise canceling headphones as Cora was pretty awful the entire flight. She slept for MAYBE 2 hours of the entire flight… maybe. Detroit was a welcome sight. It felt so good to be on U.S. soil and as we made it through the immigration line, Cora Hope became a U.S. citizen! We said goodbye to our new, amazing friends and made our way to our gate… quite smoothly. Chinese airports have much to learn from U.S. airports. I’ve kind of sworn I will never travel back but I doubt that to be true.
We settled in at our gate for dinner and a nap before our last flight to HOME.
Our last day, was laid back. We worked on getting everything packed up. We had tons of souvenirs to figure out how to fit in our suitcases, but we got it all in!
Then, we went to the nearby park for a walk and a few more pictures. It was our last day in Cora’s country and I wanted to enjoy every minute.
This park was so beautiful! I could have spent the entire day there. Beautiful landscape, stone pathways, and Banyan Trees.
After lunch at our favorite noodle place and a nap, it was time to pick up Cora’s visa and then head out for a night time dinner cruise complete with Papa John’s Pizza. Yep, we go authentic! At one point, we even saw Cora’s temper when she threw her pizza because I wouldn’t give her something she wanted. Sorry, Sheila! Thanks for being such a good sport.
It was a magical last night in China with my sweet girl!
Visa Interview Day! Our entire travel group loaded up into 2 buses and went to the U.S. Embassy in Guangzhou. This was the day our kiddos would have their visa interview which was basically just turning in all of our documents so that their visas could be processed. However, it was our final thing we HAD to do before coming home.
After the visa interview, we went back to Shamain Island in hopes of getting the traditional pictures with the little statues. Well, Cora wouldn’t have it. She wanted nothing to do with the cute little kid statues.
So, a picture with mama is all we got.
Our day started with tears as it was time for Mandy to head home. I cannot tell you what it meant to Ryan and I for her to be there with me. It was one of the most incredible things anyone has ever done for me. She left her family during one of her busiest times of the year, helped me in every way possible all while she was 20+ weeks pregnant. She sacrificed so much to make it happen, and I will always be so thankful. I can’t imagine doing that trip by myself.
As you can see, Cora loved Aunt Mandy so much and while she didn’t really understand what was happening as Mandy walked out the hotel door, she cried and did not want her to go. I hated for her to have one more goodbye in her short little life, but that was a “see ya later” not a “goodbye”. Thankfully, we had a full day planned with a trip to the Chimelong Safari Park. It was an incredible day with so many beautiful animals.
We were exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel after a full day out and about so McDonalds across the road was a welcome treat. We ate and then snuggled in for the night.
This might have been my favorite day of our trip. We went to church in the morning which was amazing. There’s nothing like worshipping with fellow believers around the world in different tongues. It was a Chinese/English service so we sang some songs in both. Being a world from home during Christmas time was really strange, and singing carols did my heart good.
After lunch and a nap, we headed to a nearby park for a photo shoot totally unsure of how it would go. It was perfection. Cora loved seeing all of the sights at the park and having some freedom to roam free. Mandy captured all that I was feeling for my beautiful daughter who in just 6 short days had worked her way deep into my heart.
Our first full day in Guangzhou began with
appointments I mean cattle herding at the Visa Medical Office. All of the children being processed for adoption visas had to have exams. So, after the 2 buses unloaded we made our way upstairs for the exams. It was kind of a free for all. As soon as we were given our paperwork, we picked one of the 4 stations and waited our turn. Then, you went to the next station. It was pretty crazy! Cora was a trooper for the first 3 stations.
The last station was her TB blood draw. China is not exactly the best at Family Centered Care and parents were not allowed to go in with their child for the blood draw. We handed our child to them, they closed the door, and the screaming began. Thankfully, they were quick but it was pretty awful to not be able to hold them through it like we would have done here. Cora was not a fan. After all of the families were finished with their exams, we made our way back to the hotel for some rest and tears.
Later in the evening, our adoption guide took us to the Jade and Pearl market and helped us finish up our souvenir shopping.