Monday, July 2, 2012

Alea's Amazing Story

He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.
Job 5:9

June 10, 2012
Beginning with the moment Alea was born, and even before that day, there was a plan for her life. She would become a marvel to many, and her life would bring praises to the Sustainer of Life.

In February 2012 we received a phone call from an orphanage. They told us about a new baby girl whose serious medical needs could not be treated in any of the local hospitals. They asked for our help. We didn’t know if we would be able to help, but we said “Yes.” As we called the orphanage back, agreeing to do our best to save Alea’s life, we wondered if what we could give to her would be sufficient.

Alea was suffering from biliary atresia, and because her liver was so damaged she was not a candidate for the Kasai procedure that would have postponed her need for a liver transplant- she was going to need a transplant soon. When Alea arrived at NDFH, the first thing we noticed about her was how jaundiced she was. Her skin was orange and her eyes glowed yellow-green. Alea’s abdomen was also very distended, yet another sign of how damaged her liver was.

In China, organ donations are virtually non-existent. It isn't a culturally accepted practice, so they simply just don’t happen. So when Alea was put on “the list” we didn’t give the possibility of a liver being found in China for her much thought. We didn’t think that it would happen, so if she was going to survive, we would have to come up with another way to save her life.

We explored surgery in the US; we talked about a super-quick adoption; and we begged the Lord every day that he would give Alea a new liver, just like that. With all of the life-saving options Alea had, and with each one of them being miraculous and impossible in their own way, we wondered just how Alea’s precious life would be saved.

But Alea’s time was running out. She was nearly eight months old and her doctors said she had just ten months left, maximum, before she would begin to deteriorate and all hope would be lost. Prospective adoptive families were coming forward for her, funds were being raised... it seemed like hope was rising for Alea.

Then, May 11, 2012, she vomited a mouthful of blood.

Terrified that Alea could be experiencing acute liver failure, we admitted her into the one and only hospital in Beijing that does liver transplants. Alea went through many tests evaluations and scans, and then the doctors told us to “be emotionally and financially prepared for a liver to become available this month.” We were shocked. Maybe Alea’s miracle would come from the place we least expected it?

Alea, a baby abandoned when she was three months old with a condition her birth parents probably could not dream of finding a way to repair, was not only on the list, she was at the top. Two weeks later a liver became available, but Alea’s doctor said that it was “not good enough” for her. She had a doctor fighting for her in the hospital, whose promises to us began to illuminate the hope that was indeed rising.

For two more weeks Alea waited. She was sleeping poorly, malnourished, and even required a blood transfusion. She seemed to be deteriorating, and there was nothing that could be done but wait and pray that the right liver would become available.

June 9th we received a phone call late in the afternoon. A suitable liver had been found! Things fell quickly into place and we raced to the hospital to meet with the doctor. A liver was indeed ready and waiting for Alea, but this surgery was not going to be easy.

She was malnourished, which would make recovery risky. Alea was running a low fever, and the immune-suppressant medications she would be on after surgery would increase her risk of infection. Alea’s bile ducts would need to be attached to her new liver, and this part of the surgery was complex, as well as extremely difficult. The surgery would take at least ten hours and though statistics for adults were good, children often did not survive. There was a chance that Alea wouldn’t make it out of the surgery room... were we willing to sign?

But what was the other option… to just let her die? “We are willing,” we said, and signed the papers, knowing that this was not just a last-ditch-effort to save Alea’s life; it was a pre-ordained miracle to give her the abundant life she deserved.

Still, our hearts were in our throats as the hours ticked by after we handed our precious little girl over to the surgeons. Midnight passed, then the wee hours of the morning crept by... our nervousness was coupled with excitement. God was going to do something in Alea; we just knew it.

Ten hours later and she was not out of surgery. Eleven hours later and no news… Finally, at 10:00 am Sunday morning, eleven and a half hours after Alea had gone into surgery, they were closing her up. The head surgeon came out to talk with us. “It went well,” he said. He also explained to us that Alea’s liver had come from a two year-old child who died of brain damage. This child’s parents wanted their child’s organs to be donated, to save another child’s life. A selfless choice in a time of unspeakable grief made by any family, made even more miraculous by the fact that this is China, a place where organ donation is rarely considered.

Thirty minutes later and Alea was being transferred into ICU from the operating room. The surgery was done, she had survived. Alea still has to recover; her little body must accept its new liver, and she has a lot of strength to gain. The doctors have told us that her color will be changing daily. The next time we see her, her skin might be pink, and those big eyes will probably be encircled with white, rather than green.

A miracle has happened. We texted the director of Alea’s orphanage, telling her that Alea had just survived the desperately needed liver transplant. In reply, we received this message, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for saving her life.

We didn’t save her life – our best thought plans of what might work to rescue Alea didn’t happen, but God’s plan did. He was the miracle worker and He saved Alea’s life.

This is Alea post-op. The picture was taken by the nanny who is staying with her, with the nanny's cell phone.


  1. What a blessing for Alea. God has big plans for this little sweetie. Thank you for sharing!

  2. what an amazing miracle child. her story brings tears to this mom of a baby who also underwent a liver transplant. sending lots of positive thoughts and hopes for a speedy recovery

  3. Amazing! God's might hand is indeed at work in Alea's life.

  4. Praising the Lord. I am simply overwhelmed with tears. She looks amazing. Tammy Patterson