Friday, March 13, 2015

The End Is Only The Beginning...

The end is just the beginning. I really believe this to be true in many ways, but for now I am talking about our sponsored child, Mek on Entoto Mountain. If you read my previous post about Meki (a few months back), you will remember that God had answered a huge prayer of mine (and many others) for Mek to be able to come to America for an open heart surgery that would save her life. He was so faithful in all of those details so I knew that once she arrived he would continue to rain down blessings over her. I'm ready now to share with you all "the rest of the story."

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.

"sleepover party"

1. relaxing in the swing
2. sister-sister
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
4. Sleepover

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)

On February 1st though, Jessica had to say goodbye and I returned for the week. Two days later, at 5:30 AM, we ventured to the hospital with 2 suitcases prepared to stay for a week. Two hours later, I was giving Meki a hug, praying over her, and starting the long wait for her surgery to be done. Nothing could have prepared me for what the surgeon repaired once he opened her chest though. The two holes in her heart (the ASD and VSD) were HUGE! Even he was surprised at their actual size and how little residual damage she had to her vessels given their size.

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. 

After 4 hours, Mek was being weaned off of bypass and the surgery was complete! She now had the perfect physical heart to match her loving spiritual heart. God had healed her by using a wonderful surgeon and his team! Several hours after this, I was able to finally see "my baby." She was in the cardiac ICU hooked up to arterial lines, two monitors, blood pressure regulating medication, IV fluids, and a light sedative. She had oxygen on and a chest tube in. She had an IV in each hand and a central line in her neck. Despite all of that, she looked like a little angel lying on that bed...and she sounded heavenly when she opened her eyes, saw me, and said "hi mommy."

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.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Living Ephesians 3:20

Ephesians 3:19-20 says :  To know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of ALL the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do IMMEASURABLY more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.  

Friends, I have been living this out and seeing God provide immeasurably MORE than anything I ever asked for in regards to my little Mekedse's heart surgery. I couldn't even begin to think to pray for as much as He has provided and how He has worked so many people into the story and connected all of us in heart and spirit.

Let me go back and shout from the rooftops that Mek was accepted for surgery through the Gift of Life program! She will be coming to the States very soon and for that..well, there are not enough praises to God that I can offer. And what's more is that she will be very close and I will be with her during her surgery and after, and then she will be spending time with my family before she heads back home. God is so so faithful and good!

I want to try to connect the dots for you here as I desperately want you to see how this puzzle all fits together. How God is so interwoven in this story that it should leave no one any doubt as to His existence, His goodness, His faithfulness, and His love for His children.

So here's a timeline:
June 2013 - I met Mek and noticed that she couldn't play as much as the other children
August 2013 - God called me to work with Ordinary Hero in creating a sponsorship program for the children on Entoto Mountain - Mek was the first child sponsored
September 2013 - Mek's dad tells me she has a "tired heart" but gives no other details over the course of my 3 months of asking. I decide to just assess her when I return in 9 months. I notify her sponsor, Jessica, who tells me that she is a pediatric nurse who works on the cardiac unit.
June 2014 - I see Mek again and am able to finally reconnect and assess her - I know immediately what is wrong - ASD/VSD - 2 holes in her heart; God places a strong desire in my heart to help this little girl get her heart fixed!
July 2014 - I post about her on  my blog and a friend I lost touch with contacts me and reminds me that her husband (who I used to work with at Columbus Children's Hospital) used to do medical missions for open heart surgeries and they have a lady I can contact - Shereen. She is the first person I contact. She connects me with Gift of Life; an amazing organization who provides life saving heart surgeries for children all over the world.
July-September 2014 - I am in contact with the executive director of Gift of Life but there is no real movement in Mek's case. I am notified that Meki is extremely sick - she has become jaundiced, her lab work is all over the place, and she is getting nose bleeds with any type of exertion. I notify her sponsor and Gift of Life who tries to speed who through the process with their partner organization Chain of Hope in no avail. Her sponsor and I talk through things and make a decision to put Meki on bedrest until she gets better. Believe me when I say that the two of us (Jess and myself) being nurses had to tell the doctors what tests to perform and what labs to run on Mek because of how horrible the healthcare is over there. Thank the Lord we had Lauren, the field director for Ordinary Hero where I work, to take her to the appointments and tell them what tests we needed done. They wouldn't even do an oxygen level on the poor child whose lips were blue!
September 2014 - I am exhausted. I am tired of waiting for Mek to get accepted. I am tired of the not knowing, and wondering. I am just emotionally spent. I give it up. I literally surrender it all to God and wash my hands of it. The next day, He asks me to pick it back up! WHAT?!? NO!!!!! I felt Him clearly saying "Go back to the beginning, start over." I emailed Shereen - the very first person I contacted about Mek.
  • Shereen was all over it and within a month Mek was accepted! Just.Like.That. 
  • I am notified that we will be responsible for airline tickets so I start a Go Fund Me Page - 2 airline tickets will cost $4000-$6000. I start praying, and get other people to start the prayers too.
  • At the end of that day, I receive a phone call saying that someone anonymously donated Mek's plane ticket cost! WHAT?!? Ephesians 3:20
  • Three days later, there has been $700 raised and the ticket cost for Mek's guardian coming is only $2000. We are getting there. That morning, Shereen calls me and tells me that she is paying for Mek's guardian's ticket! WHAT?!? Ephesians 3:20 - again!
  • A week later I am notified by Lauren, our field director for Ordinary Hero that there are Passport and Visa fees due...which eat up a large portion of that money that was raised. Like nearly ALL of it. But God knew that we would need it for that travel expense and provided that exact amount! 
  • I begin to worry a tad because Shereen has told me that there will be costs over here for clothes (girlfriend has nothing!!!) for winter weather, food at the airports, extra blankets, a dress to wear to the Gift of Life fundraising banquet - she is the guest of honor, etc... Things that she truly NEEDS that we take for granted and don't think about. I didn't think about them.
  • And while I can't go into detail, another donation is made and Mek's expenses for those things are covered and got it, Ephesians 3:20.

Ya'll I just cannot even type this without tearing up at the provisions that have been made. And I had to leave a lot of it out or I would have written a novel and you would have closed this page without getting this far. You actually have no idea how many phone calls her sponsor and I shared, how many other connections we made from the cardiac docs she works with to other non-profits who I contacted (who are now helping me with another heart patient on Entoto Mountain - again, while I thought the process was slow, maybe I was meant to have to wait and contact this group in order to find help for our precious little Amarech who is next on our list and is very very sick). There were countless tears shed for Mek and endless prayers sent. There were sleepless nights for this child. Yet through it all, there was a testimony being born. Her brother began his walk with the Lord again - he had drifted away but because of Mek's heart diagnosis and all of the testing she was enduring etc... he had come back to God and was walking with him again. Just like his sister, his own heart being examined and being made right.  
Even my little Chloe - she was able to pray for Mek for months on end and see how God answers sometimes with a "wait" before He says  "yes." She even reminded me of this one night when we were supposed to get an answer about Mek getting accepted for surgery but we didn't. She asked me if we heard anything and I very disappointedly (is that a word?) said "no." She quickly responded "well mommy, that means God is telling you to wait a little longer." Oh man, she is getting it! God is using Mek to teach my child...and me!

I am praying right now for everyone who may read this...that you will each see how faithful God is - more than you could ever imagine, and how much He loves every single one of you - and will pursue your heart!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Update On My Little Mek

For those who still read my blog though I post rarely as of late, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops that


Details to follow :) 

Thank you to all who prayed fervently for her!!! God heard our prayers and answered in His perfect time.