Tuesday, October 22, 2013


October 14, 2013 marked the FOUR YEAR anniversary of Zoya's heart surgery. Zoya had open heart surgery in Ukraine at 16 months of age. Last year I blogged about my feelings on Zoya going through open heart surgery alone in Ukraine. You can read that post HERE.

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! 


  1. OK - so I've had my cry (sob) for the day! What a sweet gift that God has given in the joining of Zoya and you guys for this life!! I will pray for her precious heart - both in the physical and the spiritual. I'm very certain that any memories she might have of those early days are quite overshadowed by all of the love she experiences these days!! Love you guys!! (((BIG HUGS)))!!!

  2. I have to say again your writing is so heartfelt and touching. I can only imagine what you guys as her mama and daddy must feel thinking of her going through such a major thing as heart surgery alone --that is something that most ADULTS couldn't handle all alone. But thankfully, as you pointed out, the Lord was there with her whispering in her ear "Hold on precious child, your mama and daddy will be here soon. I am not ready for you yet for you have much life left to live and of a much better quality!" I can see what you mean when you point out the flickers of despair in her eyes...they seem so sad and yet empty but there is also such a fighting spirit in your beautiful Zoya! I'm so glad that is behind you all and she is where she belongs now with family and friends who cherish her and her sisters! Lori

    1. Thank you Lori! Knowing and truly UNDERSTANDING her going through that surgery alone, and having been able to experience Mila going through it, I really think the Lord orchestrated all of that so we could have a better understanding of Zoya and her anxiety....I"d never have been able to understand it as well had we not walked that road with Mila. It was a big piece of our understanding of the extent of the trauma she'd been through (among other things), so we're thankful for this perspective even if it hurts us to know how badly she must have hurt physically and emotionally going through that surgery alone!

  3. Sarah - I've been a reader/follower of your blog since shortly before you traveled to get Sofia and I must say yours is one of the absolute BEST I've ever come across. You blow me away with your words and how you are able to so eloquently express your feelings and your experiences. And your girls are ADORABLE! I was just curious if the girls have any understanding of being adopted - I'm guessing the two little girls don't yet, but what about Zoya? I'm not exactly sure how old she is (off the top of my head, although I could probably figure it out) ... Also, you've shared a lot about the physical and occupational therapies you do, could you share about their language level at this time? I'm just curious. (If I've missed info on language that you have shared, please forgive me!) I love seeing your updates and seeing how all three girls are just beyond thriving and truly shining. Their smiles just make my heart burst! I can only imagine how you feel - seeing them all day every day! :-) Thanks! And God bless!