November 11, 2011 a little girl was born in East China. But all was not as her family might have pictured those precious early days with a new baby... she was born with anal atresia and an intestinal fistula. Sadly she was abandoned three days later, a gravely sick newborn baby girl.
Because her body was unable to expel its waste, surgery couldn't wait. In her home province on December 8, Lydia had emergency surgery to create an anus. She was not yet a month old, and in the rush to save her life, the doctors failed to do certain tests that would have led to the discovery of another, very serious, congenital disease.
Only two weeks after the emergency surgery, Lydia was brought to New Day Foster Home. The next day she was admitted into the hospital with pneumonia. Tests were done which showed that Lydia had a serious heart defect, Tetralogy of Fallot. She was released from the hospital two weeks later, frail and weak, with even more hurdles to overcome.
But Lydia had already overcome her first hurdle – she was already a miracle. In almost all cases, doctors are unwilling to perform a non-heart related surgery on a child with a heart defect. It can be very dangerous, but Lydia survived her first anal atresia repair without doctors even knowing her heart was so broken.
For five months, Lydia was in and out of the hospital with pneumonia. During her most recent stay, Lydia’s lungs had improved, her cough was gone, but there was still a persistent fever. We wondered if there could be an underlying infection and hoped that the antibiotics she was on would clear it all up. But Lydia’s fever remained.
After nearly a month of hospitalization, we asked a doctor who specialized in anal atresia to take a look at our little Lydia, who was remaining stable in PICU, but unable to shake her fever. The doctor examined her, and suggested that he do the final repair on her anus. The initial emergency surgery had not been done very well, and the doctor wondered if maybe that could be part of her problem. Surgery was scheduled for the next week.
It was Tuesday, May 22, that Lydia went in for surgery. Three hours after she went into the operating room, the doors flew open and Lydia raced past on a stretcher. There were tubes and wires everywhere. The doctors were bagging her and everyone was running as they transferred her from surgery to ICU.
We waited expectant, and a bit nervous, to hear the doctor’s news. We wondered what had happened, and if Lydia was going to be ok.
The surgeon’s report was astounding. During Lydia’s emergency surgery back in December, an anus was created and attached to her intestine. The repair was not done well and had been leaking. Excrement had been slowly trickling back into her abdomen, creating the perfect conditions for many, many deadly infections. No wonder she had always been running a low fever… it was a miracle she was alive at all.
Under the surgeon’s skillful hands, Lydia’s intestine was examined and found to be too damaged to repair. The damaged part would need to be removed, cut off, and then her intestine would be sewn back together. Lydia’s intestine was too enlarged at that time for the repair to be done. If the surgeon had made the necessary cuts, the two pieces would not have fit back together. So, he decided to wait, to allow her intestine to recover and return to its normal size. For this to happen, her damaged part of her intestines would have to remain outside of her body for two weeks until the final repair could be done.
17 days later Lydia had her final anal atresia repair. She made it through with flying colors and is now ready to gain weight and strength in preparation for heart surgery somewhere down the road.
She shouldn’t be alive today, but she is. Research and conversations with medical practitioners have confirmed that for Lydia to survive 5 months with the kind of damage she had in her intestine is medically impossible. But here she is today, recovering and alive... nothing short of a beautiful miracle.
***pictures taken on Lydia's homecoming, Friday, June 15th.