Sometimes I almost can't stomach the thought that Zoya went through that surgery all alone. I know, in my heart, the Lord was there with her, and I hope that she was not scared, going through that all alone. My human mind can't imagine how she could have such a strong will to live to make it through that surgery, nor can it fathom our tiny little Zoya girl going through that without us by her side (especially, as I said in the post linked above, after seeing Mila go through open heart surgery). I know my God is capable of wiping those memories from her little memory bank and I pray for that!
I want to remember how thankful I am to Zoya's orphanage director for reaching out to a colleague who offered to do Zoya's heart surgery. The director told us that Zoya became more and more sick as time went by and finally she was not eating at all, not breathing well, and losing weight. We understand how big of a miracle it is that she actually DID have the opportunity to have open heart surgery as an ORPHAN. It doesn't happen often. However, with Zoya's specific heart defects, had she been born here, she'd have likely had her heart repaired by the age of 3 months...at the very latest 9-12 months old if she was gaining weight and doing well. She was 16 months old when she had her heart surgery in Ukraine. We committed to her in September 2009 and were told she would need heart surgery when she got home. We were praying for her because we knew we probably wouldn't travel for at least 5-6 months after that. Sometime in November 2009, I opened my email while on my lunch break at work and saw the email from our facilitation team that said she had gone through open heart surgery on October 14th. My first thought was complete sadness, followed by thankfulness. It was such a mix of emotions. All I could think was she went through that alone, but thankful thoughts quickly followed. After talking to the director during our adoption of Zoya, it's clear she couldn't have waited until we got there, and we simply can NOT imagine our lives without our sweet girl. We are so grateful to God for orchestrating that!
Zoya had a recent cardiology check up and we are back to annual visits instead of every two years. When we first had Zoya's heart checked when she was newly home, the cardiologist said the right side of her heart was bigger than it should be. He explained that it was large because it had worked so hard for so long with blood flowing in the wrong direction. At that time he told us that this may play into her life expectancy (much into the future), although obviously nobody can know. Over the next few cardiology visits the size of the right side of her heart appeared to be getting smaller and healthier. At her last visit he brought up again, that the right side of her heart is showing a little dysfunction but not enough to cause any problems at this point in time. He thinks, at this point in time, her heart is functioning as good as can be expected and she won't likely have any congestive heart failure issues any time in the near future. He said any changes that may happen would happen slowly over time. So while that made us feel better, it sure reminds us how precious life is. We are so thankful for every single day the Lord blesses us with each one of our loved ones. It's a reminder to make each and every day count! Tomorrow's not promised...heart defects or not.
We have a total of 5 pictures of Zoya that were taken before we met her. It's like putting together pieces of a timeline with very few clues. I'm grateful for these pictures as they give a glimpse into her life before us. Again, it feels like she's ALWAYS been here and it almost seems like a cruel joke someone is playing on me when I'm reminded she went through 22 months of life without us. When I look at the pictures below, I see our Zoya girl, trapped, and scared. You can't deny the look of fear and lack of love in her pictures. Knowing her now, and looking back at these pictures, I can best describe them as a candle's flame nearing the end of it's light...there are flickers of hope I see in her eyes, but flickers of despair as well and, well, that just kills me.
This is the picture that was on Reece's Rainbow that we (Shawn!) fell in love with! We thought for sure she'd have red hair. Instead she's more of a dirty blonde with strawberry highlights!
We were told these pictures were recent when we committed to her. However we committed in September and with the Christmas tree behind her, I'm pretty sure these pictures must have been taken in December the year before (2008). That would mean she was 6.5 months old in these two pictures. Notice the hand holding her head up? Look at her tiny fingers and her HUGE blue eyes. Those ears can't be mistaken for any other child and her heart shaped mouth is just so perfect too!
The orphanage director gave us this newborn picture, along with a baptism certificate and cross that belonged to Zoya. Those eyes are unmistakable! I always look at this picture and wish so much that I could have known her then, held her then, and loved her then. She looks well taken care of in this picture with that beautiful sweater. I'm not sure if this picture was taken at the hospital or the orphanage. Oh my sweet girl!
And these pictures were also given to us by the orphanage director. I'm assuming they are from Christmas 2010. We were only about 3 months away from meeting her when this picture was taken! She looks much healthier here than in her previous year's Christmas picture....clearly doing much better (medically speaking) after her heart surgery. She was about 18 months old in this picture. They sure dressed her up pretty for her Christmas picture that year! They knew she had a family coming!
Oh, what I'd give to just hold this sweet girl and tell her it was all going to be okay! So thankful,now, that I can do that every day for the rest of my life!
HAPPY 4TH HEART DAY ZOYA! I'm sorry I wasn't there to hold your hand through your surgery, but Jesus held your heart in His hands, which was much better than what I could have done anyways. I'm so thankful that your heart was fixed so you could spend your life with us. We don't deserve the unconditional love you give us, and we feel forever grateful for that sweet little mended heart of yours!