This true story, written last year by Amy Eldridge, director of the charity Love Without Boundaries, has recently been re-posted on a couple of the Yahoo groups I read. It is so moving, and so worth reading, that I have to put it here:
From: "Amy Eldridge" >
Date: Sun, 5 Feb 2006 00:21:26 -0600
Subject: [chinatrip] The Story of a Boy
Sometimes children have such a strong will to beat the odds that their stories deserve to be told. Sometimes children give me so much inspiration that I keep their photos by my desk in order to feel their strength when my own is faltering. Sometimes there are children that I know are destined to impact the world in some wonderful way. This is the story of one such boy.
This little boy was born with a severe cleft lip and palate, and when he came into the world, he was already too tiny to survive. But he did. When the police brought him to the orphanage, he weighed just 4 pounds. You couldn't really call him a beautiful baby, but immediately the orphanage knew he was a determined baby. Even as a newborn, he would lie awake in
his crib looking around. His orphanage was a poor one, down a long rural road, and even though the women who were caring for him were extremely kind, they were also extremely busy trying to make sure all of the babies in their care got at least a few bottles a day. This little boy couldn't eat well. When you are born with a cleft lip and palate, often the simplest act of
drinking from a bottle is next to impossible. You WANT to eat, (boy do you want to eat), but when the milk comes out fast from a regular bottle, you choke and gasp and sometimes even give up trying. This little boy wanted to eat, he really did, but it just wasn't working for him. And so as the months went by, he didn't seem to grow any bigger.
The aunties and orphanage director were really worried about him, but there was no one in their town that knew about cleft lips, and so they honestly didn't know what to do. They kept trying their best, but the baby still didn't gain weight.
In September, we took a cleft surgery team to China in order to perform surgery on as many orphans as possible. We had heard about this little boy from an adoptive parent who had visited the orphanage, and so we called the director to see if he could possibly come to Luoyang. Now that I have been in much of this province, I realize what a long journey it can be to get city to city. We were on one side of the province, and they were on the other. Yet when we called them to say "we would be happy to help this baby", the orphanage was so filled with hope for this child that they were in the car with him 30 minutes after our phone call. Six hours later they arrived, and I will never forget them hurrying into the room to bring him to me. They had him all bundled up, and immediately I could see that he was far too tiny for his age. And yet there was something so amazing about his eyes. They stared out at you as if to say "please don't give up on me".
Our whole team fell in love with this tiny little boy. Our volunteers gave him a warm bath, and we put him in clean clothes and wrapped him up in a new blanket, and then we got out the cleft bottle. These bottles cannot be bought in China. None of us have been able to figure out why yet, but we sure are asking a lot of companies to look into it for us. Cleft bottles
are often ESSENTIAL bottles to the tiny babies with cleft who are unable to feed well. They are soft bodied, so a caregiver can squeeze the formula into a baby's mouth. We filled up one of these bottles with warm formula, and "Hercules" (as he came to be known on that mission) had the first full bottle of his life. I don't think any of us had a dry eye when he finished.
All through the night, our volunteers rocked him and held him and most of all fed him. One mom curled up on a cot and placed baby Hercules right next to her to sleep. He was all bundled up and warm, and I am sure he had some of his sweetest dreams ever that night.
By the next day, he was already looking so much better, but he was nowhere near heavy enough to have a cleft operation. We required our babies to be at least 10 pounds for their safety during surgery, and he was only up to 7.
He had a ways to go. When we broke the news to the orphanage staff, they were so disappointed. They had been so hopeful that he could be healed. We sent the aunties home with a bag full of cleft bottles and several huge cans of the best formula we could find. We assured them that as soon as this little boy hit 10 pounds, we would make sure he had surgery.
All of us hated to see him go. We had all enjoyed holding him, and I think since he was the size of a newborn, all of us moms enjoyed sitting on a cot rocking him and cooing at him. Boy did he have a tight grip! He constantly reached out for your hand and would grab onto one finger and refuse to let go. When he left, I have to admit that I started to cry, wondering if he could keep that fighting spirit inside of him. Every day after I got back home, I would pray for baby Hercules.
In December, a few months after returning from China, I got a feeling in my heart so strong that I had to go to his orphanage. I knew that was crazy..as we are in the process of adopting and I would be going back again in the spring. But I heard it so clearly.."go to Henan".
When I told my husband, he was understandably skeptical. Who wouldn't be? He knew I would be going in the spring to bring our son home, and of course..we were saving for our adoption and an "extra" trip to China wasn't exactly in our budget. Everyone with our foundation pays their own way to China each time we go, and this trip definitely wasn't in the "game plan".
But over and over I kept hearing, "you need to go to Henan."
I think I told everyone the funny story about it being our 20th wedding anniversary in December. My dear husband was trying to figure out the best gift to give me, and when he googled "20th anniversary wedding gift", he just stared at the results that came back, for the traditional gift that a man gives his wife on year 20 is CHINA. Now of course the old giftmakers meant china as in plates, but thankfully my husband looked at that and just started laughing. God was giving him a very clear sign that his gift for me was to head overseas. And so I did.
As I walked into the orphanage baby room in January, there was only one baby on my mind, and he was in the second crib over. There was little Hercules, sucking on his two fingers the same way he had on the cleft mission, and looking just as wise as ever. Oh he was still so tiny, and as I held him, I knew in my heart that he was getting more and more tired of fighting.
I just can't say enough good things about the workers in this orphanage. They told us over and over how much they wanted him to gain weight but that he just couldn't eat well since there were so many babies and not enough
hands. "He needs one on one care", they told me. And even as they said it, I knew exactly where he needed to be. This little boy needed to go to Beijing, to the Hope Foster Home, where he could have his own aunty who was trained to work with little fighters like him.
I knew that the Hills often have a long waiting list of babies with special needs who require extra care. We have asked them many times to help with children we meet who medically would be called "critical". With a deep breath, I borrowed my friend's cell phone and rang Joyce Hill. "There is this baby...." (I began as always).. "How fast can you get him here?" (she answered right back).
As I hung up the phone, I knew that this little boy was going to make it. I knew that HE was the little boy that we were in China for. Would you fly all the way across the world for just one little child? I know we all would. There is a very good reason we chose "Every Child Counts" as our motto, and little Hercules had proven once again that each child we can touch is a blessing beyond belief. His life and ours had crossed months before on the cleft mission, and now they were going to continue together until he was well.
The next day, we started our treacherous journey through the snow and ice to the airport, with two very near misses of what could have been fatal accidents. We sat in the airport for almost two days, with no heat and a blizzard going on outside, and all flights out of Henan cancelled. People around us were angry...people all around us were frustrated and upset. But my friend and I could not stop smiling. We both had a peace inside our hearts that I cannot even describe. It didn't matter that we were snowed in, it didn't matter that we couldn't feel our toes anymore. All that mattered is that we had come to China to see one tiny little boy, who would soon be on his way to healing. We were laughing and smiling, and we must have been so out of place amongst all of the anger and frustration because more than one group of people came up to us to say "you are having too much fun so let us in on your secret." To which we replied, laughing once more to each other, "oh we are just SO HAPPY!"
Since there was a major snowstorm in the region, getting the baby to Beijing was going to be difficult, but the orphanage said that as soon as they could move him they would. All of the trains were sold out for the Chinese spring festival, but they finally were able to find space on a train leaving New Year's Day. This is a day typically spent with one's family,
and no one who can avoid it works on that day, but as I said...these aunties want to help their babies so much that they said, "we'll take those tickets" without a second thought. And so on New Year's Day, two aunties and baby Hercules boarded a train to his new life. We have already received photos and updates, and he is downing a full cleft bottle every 3 hours and charming everyone with his wise little eyes. Until his adoption, he is now "home". And I know he is going to thrive because I have seen the strength inside him.
I told you that I have photos all around me of children that have beaten the odds. Their faces stare out at me from my office walls, and sometimes when I am up late at night, I will take a moment to look at each one of them and say a prayer of thanksgiving that they are in this world. One of my dear friends told me that it is impossible to fully measure the worth of one person's life, because that person will go on to touch others, who will touch others...in a never ending cycle of humanity.
Now Hercules' photo stares out at me, and I pray for him each day and know he will "do great things" on this earth. Maybe he will be a doctor, maybe he will be the one to invent a cure for cancer, maybe he will be a loving and gentle daddy someday. I cannot wait to watch him grow. I hope someday I will see him adopted, and that his family can tell him how many people loved him and prayed for him when he was just a tiny baby boy. How his aunties drove so far in September with tender hope in their hearts that our doctors could heal him....how two moms from America flew all the way to China to make sure he was doing okay...how his caregivers agreed to leave their own families on New Year's Day to travel by train to Beijing, clinging once more to the hopethat he could find help. And he did.
That's a pretty good story already for a little boy just nine months old, don't you think? And as I
stare at his photo tonight..I know with such certainty that it is just the beginning of a TRUE story of great things to come.
With a very grateful heart,
If you're still reading this through a blur of tears, you might want to help. In the US, an organization called "Fujian Kids" ( http://www.fujiankids.org/assist/cleft.shtml )is trying to make sure that cleft nursers get to children like Hercules in China.
If you are in Canada, you can donate to support their efforts. You can also donate directly to Love Without Boundaries (see link on the right). Or, if you are travelling to China, you might want to consider purchasing some cleft nursers and bringing them with you for an orphanage donation. With over 27,000 cleft-affected children born each year in China (most of them ending up in the orphanage system), all orphanages can make good use of these cleft nursers. The bottles can be ordered on-line, or contact the Cleft/Craniofacial Team at your local children's hospital and see if they can be purchased through them. In our case, our Cleft Team donated a case of nursers- we broke down the box and the individual cases of 6 nursers fit perfectly in a large suitcase we took along. They weighed almost nothing, and we had a great empty suitcase in which to bring home souveniers!
I hope this "Story of A Boy" inspires you as much as it does me. Every child *does* count.