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Mighty Marisol’s Story of Hope

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Today we look back at a very special girl who we came to know as “Mighty Marisol” from our China Medical and Healing Homes programs. This tiny child fought her way through a very complex heart defect and serious post-operative complications that threatened to take her from the world. She is a survivor, and we are delighted to be able to bring you her story of hope and an update on her life 10 years after she graduated from LWB care.

Baby in an orphanage bundled in blankets

Born in early 2010, Baby Marisol suffered from a very complicated heart condition that most likely led to her abandonment. In her first book, The Heart of an Orphan, LWB’s CEO Amy Eldridge writes, “She was just two months old when I first saw her, wrapped in a red orphanage blanket tied up tightly with an orange string. She had the most extraordinarily expressive dark eyes, and we gave her the Western name of Marisol. Her orphanage had called us when she developed severe pneumonia, and local doctors told us that she was too fragile to undergo testing to accurately diagnose her heart defect. Just a few weeks later, she went into severe respiratory distress, so we moved her to Shanghai with the hopes that the doctors at Fudan University would be able to help her.”

Tiny baby bundled in a striped blanket

The heart surgeons at Fudan told us that Marisol needed immediate open-heart surgery to survive and that the operation would be very difficult. Knowing it was her only chance to survive, we told them to move forward and waited through the night for news on how she had done during her operation.

In the morning, we were overjoyed to learn that Marisol had survived the surgery and was resting in the ICU. She was breathing with the assistance of a ventilator, which is not at all uncommon for the first few days after complex heart surgery.

Prolonged use of a ventilator can lead to airway trauma, infection, and emotional trauma that can come from being connected to a machine long-term, so it is important to wean a patient from a ventilator as soon as possible.

Baby being covered up in a hospital

Unfortunately for Marisol, efforts to remove her from the ventilator caused her oxygen levels to drop and her heart rate to increase. Her little body just wasn’t ready, so she was placed back on the ventilator.

One week went by, and then two. Each time they would try again to wean her from the ventilator, Marisol was not ready. Soon a month had passed, and then six weeks — and still this tiny baby girl remained in the hospital, hooked up to hoses and machines. As an orphaned child in an ICU in China, Marisol had no parents to comfort her. Even her orphanage nannies were not allowed in; her only support came from the hospital nurses who changed shifts every 12 hours.

Each day our staff would ask for an update, and each day they were told that Marisol could not yet breathe on her own. Our calls would always end with, “Let’s give her one more day.” By day 60 of Marisol being on the ventilator, we knew the odds of her ever being weaned were very slim.

A decision had to be made as to how long her treatment could continue. The funds we had raised for her care were long gone. Even though the hospital had cut their costs substantially, we knew her treatment couldn’t continue much longer. We finally made the decision to give her one more week before making the heart-wrenching decision to remove the ventilator for good. Our staff in China, and volunteers and supporters around the world could only pray that a miracle would take place.

On day 66, that miracle happened. Doctors removed Marisol’s breathing tube, then checked and rechecked her vitals before reporting back to our China staff. Mighty Marisol had somehow found the strength to breathe on her own!

Baby with pacifier sleeps in hospital

Marisol’s Story of Hope Continues

This lovely girl was finally able to be discharged to our China Healing Home known as Heartbridge (in partnership with Hope Foster Home, near Beijing). We all fell in love with those big, beautiful brown eyes and the sunny personality that began to emerge as Marisol continued her recovery.

Smiling baby on a colorful bed

Marisol experienced a number of setbacks with recurring respiratory infections (and a case of the chickenpox!), but she proved her resilience over and over again.

Baby who has chickenpox wearing an oxygen tube

Mighty Marisol was truly living up to her nickname!

Over the next three years, this smiley girl learned to sit up, eat solid foods, pull herself up on the furniture, walk, talk, run, and explore the world around her. She developed quite an outgoing personality and could always be counted on to light up a room with her silly antics. She became a real favorite with the healing home staff as well as our volunteers and supporters around the world.

Toddler girl standing up holding onto a drawer

By the first quarter of 2013, we received the incredible news that Marisol had been chosen for international adoption! Saying goodbye to this sweet and spunky little girl was bittersweet as we did not know if we would be able to follow the rest of her life’s journey.

Closeup of a toddler girl in a brown flowered pajama set

10 Years Later

Thankfully, Marisol’s family has stayed in touch over the ten years since her adoption, and we are thrilled to be able to share this update with you from Marisol’s mother:

Amara Grace (aka Mighty Marisol) came home at 3.5 years old and upended everything her dad and I thought we knew about child rearing! She has taught us more than we ever could have imagined about ourselves and life. We are better people for it. She was and remains the most feisty and strong headed of all of our children. The “mighty” never left her!

Little girl in a pink shirt that says, "I may be small but I am MIGHTY"

Amara has four brothers and two sisters and keeps them all in line. She loves animals and is especially connected to her cat, Meowlin. Basketball and soccer are her favorite activities She doesn’t like the cold and loves to escape with me to Florida almost every winter. The two of us make good beach bums together! She also enjoys fishing with her dad and swimming with her sisters (standing on either side of her in the photo below).

Three sisters wearing dresses stand on a patio

We are eternally grateful for LWB’s support of Amara during her early years and the continued support of all of the children who need love. We know many of you rooted for her and sent love during her rocky start. You are good people with big hearts!

We are grateful to be the family chosen for her and are so excited to have this opportunity to let you know she is happy and healthy! Much love and thank you all!

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