*Ester was the fourth child we hosted from Guatemala who came to us through a humanitarian relief program “Healing the Children”. Geisinger brought her through the five heart operations and then we were able to proceed with her adoption which took nearly four years. “Healing the Children” is not an adoption agency but is a volunteer organization available to children from families overseas who are unable to get the medical treatment needed in their own country.
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“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck” (Psalm 69:1).
What a powerful description of hard times the Psalmist gives us in the text. There have been several times in my life when it seemed that “the waters have come up to my neck.” Here’s Brooksyne’s narrative story about our daughter, Ester. It is prayerfully dedicated to those who feel the water has come up to their necks.
Ester entered this world with the odds stacked against her. Her birth mother chose to give her up for adoption upon her birth. She was born on March 9, 1989 in a remote village on the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. The doctor immediately detected that Ester had a very serious heart condition which was later diagnosed as Pulmonary Atresia (a hole in her heart). Ester remained very critical but survived three months in primitive conditions in an orphanage in Guatemala City. Her only chance for survival would be to come to America for a heart operation, if she could survive the plane trip.
On June 14 Ester was placed into my arms and immediately won my heart. But she was a very sick and blue baby weighing only five pounds.
Within five days of her arrival in the U.S. she was admitted to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA and remained there for the next three months. She remained very weak, having endured two heart operations and a 6 week IV therapy to treat Endocarditis (an infection of the lining of her heart.) I remember the doctor saying, “We didn’t think she was going to make it.” It was a glorious celebration when we finally brought her home, even if we had to contend with oxygen and a feeding tube over the next year.
Every heart operation Ester endured brought about complications too numerous to mention. Her third operation almost took her life, but she experienced another life-saving miracle. That’s a different story for another writing. I’m going to skip ahead to her fifth and final open heart surgery she underwent in 1992 when she was three and ½ years old.
The surgery went without complications but the recovery was not as smooth. Ester had extreme difficulty awakening from the anesthesia. For two days she was unable to speak or open her eyes. Her brain had swollen and the doctors, warning that it may be a permanent condition causing irreversible damage, hinted that she would likely go to a rehab. Many tests were run but Ester was unresponsive.
On day three she occasionally opened her eyes but did not focus. From early morning until around midnight I held my precious 3 year old daughter in my arms, wires and tubes all over her little body. I stroked her hair, sang lullabies in the midst of all kinds of beeps and alarms that constantly were ringing in ICU and quoted Scriptures of hope and promise. Our church along with many other brothers and sisters were upholding Ester in fervent prayer.
On the fourth day I walked over from the Ronald McDonald House to start the daily regimen and the nurse met me. She said Ester whimpered when she accidentally pulled her hair trying to comb out a tangle. The nurse quickly assembled all the wires so that I could once again hold Ester. Within minutes she opened her eyes and for the first time since her operation she looked directly into my face. I’ll never forget the earnest words she spoke barely above a raspy whisper, “I love you, Mommy.” I wept with joy and so did the nurses who witnessed that incredible miracle.
Ester had lots of overcoming with her speech, neurological complications, etc. but she came through that ordeal over the next month. I had memorized Psalm 112 during an earlier surgery and it became my source of strength throughout Ester’s long recovery. “Even in darkness light dawns for the upright…he will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes” (Vv. 4, 7 & 8).
At about seven years of age Ester came to know her need for a personal relationship with Jesus. It was during a church service in Taunton, MA where we pastored at the time. During a Sunday service she was having great difficulty with self-control so Mom and Daughter exited the sanctuary and took refuge in a Sunday School class. I talked to Ester about her need to ask Jesus to come into her life to forgive her of her sins. We prayed in the corner classroom where years later she would receive Bible instruction from one of her favorite Sunday School teachers.
At 17 years of age she continues to face challenges daily, but we remind her constantly that she is an overcomer!! We reflect upon the blessings she has received in the midst of incredible difficulties. Sometimes the frustration that comes from her learning issues and ongoing medical needs seems unending, but our God is faithful to meet those needs and reassure us that Jesus never fails.
Written from a grateful mother’s heart,