On January 4th at 10:30 PM, Mek boarded her first flight ever in order to come to the United States of America for heart surgery. She was so excited...actually giddy! The plane was almost more than she could take between the meals, drinks, and TVs on the back of each seat. It was so fun watching her and the excitement was contagious to all of those around her.
Once in America, she settled in at my home with my family for 3 weeks while waiting for her surgery date to arrive. During this time, she experienced many things including snow, riding a bike, a trampoline, the TN Aquarium, Chuck E Cheese, gymnastics class, playing instruments, and being read to and tucked in every single night in a warm and cozy bed. She learned what it was like having 2 siblings close in age and a dog in the home (I will just say that our 10 year old cocker spaniel has grown on Mek...kind of). She quickly got accustomed to opening the pantry and food being there without doubt. She learned to like American food and we experienced our fair share of Ethiopian meals as well. The time she was here before surgery was glorious, hard at times, rewarding, and overall just something that I can hardly find the words to describe.
1. relaxing in the swing
3. learning to eat from the ice cream carton
4. first trip to Chuck E Cheese - don't knock the Santa hat
I didn't have the heart to tell her no...
1. Japanese steakhouse (her fave "American" food)
2. TN Aquarium
3. First snow
On January 24th, we made our way to Indianapolis for her impending surgery on the 29th. We left at 5:00 AM and only stopped once. We were on a mission; you see, she was meeting her official sponsor for the first time ever once we arrived in Indianapolis. Her sponsor flew up from Charleston, SC to spend the first week with Meki as she underwent her pre-op testing and surgery. As fate would have it though, surgery was postponed to the following week so the two of them got to spend lots of quality time together outside of the hospital! They toured around, made new friends through the Gift of Life program who sponsored her surgery, and watched a lot of High School Musical!
1. Gorgeous drive on the way to Indianapolis...
but someone named Mek wouldn't know...she fell back asleep!
2. In front of the wall at hearts at the Ronald McDonald house
3. At the hospital ready for her pre-op testing
Meki with her official sponsor!
With surgery postponed...
1. she was treated to a trip to the Indianapolis Children's Museum
2. then to the rhythm museum
3. Then her sponsor took her to Dr. Kinnaman's (Gift of Life coordinator)
home for some play time. Haha!
4. and finally she had time to close out a
Rotary Meeting in Indy... (the Rotarian Club here partners
with Gift of Life to fund the surgeries)
waiting for her turn to be taken back to the OR
1. prayers for God's protection over her and his wisdom and guiding hand over the surgeon
2. These were the size of the holes in her heart. Actually, these are the
patches that are in her heart now...cut to the exact size of the holes.
I leaned in to tell her that her surgery was finished and her heart was all fixed. I told her that I was so proud of her and how brave she was. I let her know that I loved her to the moon and back and that her only job now was to rest. She drifted back into sleep and rested well that evening.
The next several days were a blur. She was progressing so well that she was moved out of the ICU 24 hours after surgery and was discharged just 4 days after having her chest and heart cut into! She left the hospital only on Tylenol and Advil and didn't really need it after 2 days. As a matter of fact, that little cutie danced upon arriving back at the Ronald McDonald House! There is a psalm says "let us praise His name in dance"...and she did.
After spending a week in the city with a family friend of her sponsor, she returned to my home and stayed another 3 weeks. During this last bit of time we have had with her, she and I have been having talks about "her story." Everyone has a story to tell and I have told her that God has given her a story that brings great glory to His name. We have talked about how He has given her a responsibility to share her story and tell about how she once was sick, but God healed her for her good and His glory. I've told her that her story will show people the love of God and how much He pursues us and wants us to know and love Him. I wasn't sure it was sinking in, but then yesterday, she brought me a piece of paper with a lot of Amharic writing on it. She said "mommy, I've been working on my story. Can I read it to you"? It was perfect! She is ready to share her story with anyone who will listen... allow me to tell you what she said it says:
"Hello. My name is Mekdelawit Girma. I am from Entoto Mountain, Ethiopia. I am 11 years old. My heart was very very sick and I could not do anything like run or play soccer with my friends. Then I met my mommy,Kelly Blevins, and she found out my heart was sick with two holes and helped me come to America to get it fixed. I had big surgery and then got better. I thank my God, mommy Kelly, Jessica, Dr. Turrentine, Stephanie, and everyone. I am so happy now to go home and jump rope and play. I will tell everyone my story. That God fixed my heart."
Be still my own heart! What a precious little girl who took the time to write her story. She was so proud of herself and I beamed with joy.
Know that your prayers, the ones you spoke relentlessly for our precious Meki, were answered and that God WILL receive all the glory and praise for it!
Goodbyes were spoken this morning as I accompanied her to her flight back to Ethiopia. We parted ways with many tears and much sadness as she boarded the plane and I watched her depart. Our home is going back to a family of 4 instead of 5. We will miss the giggling, the incessant movie watching with her, even - dare I say - Chuck E Cheese and watching her dance with that overgrown rat.
The end has come for her in so many ways. The end of fatigue, the end of sickness, the end of breathing problems. However, this has allowed her a brand new beginning with life filled with hope, joy, and great health. I hope you will pray for her to always boldly share her story and encourage others in their own trials.
CHANGE THE WORLD FOR ONE...MEK IS ONE!