Monday, July 21, 2014

Sweet Selah

Selah arrived at New Day South in January this year, and this Summer she came up to Beijing to have surgery to treat severe heart disease.  She was here with us for a short time before she went into hospital, and once she was well enough to leave the hospital she returned here.  The decision has been made that she will stay here with us in Beijing, as she will need follow-up hospital appointments.

We asked Catherine, one of our regular Summer volunteers, to write about the time that she spent with Selah.

She arrived back at the foster home on Monday, July 7th following her heart surgery.  We were all anticipating her arrival with great excitement and couldn't wait to meet this heart-warrior beauty.

When I first met Selah, I was just amazed at her resilience.  She has soulful eyes and a dainty little body.  Just coming from the hospital, she was quiet and somewhat somber as her body was still in recovery mode and quite weak.

The first few days, I barely heard her utter a word.  She sat on a pillow and her nanny lovingly looked over her, bringing toys to her pillow and interacting with her.  Selah was still weak and a little shaky, but made progress each day both physically and emotionally.  At that point, Selah would smile, but she was particular about who she would give her smiles away to!  She was still learning her surroundings and didn't like people to get to close to her until she became familiar with them.

By the following Monday, Selah had turned an amazing corner!  She was no longer shaking when holding a toy, cookie, or block, but was feeding herself and even throwing a ball across the room!  She has the most contagious laugh, and really belly laughs if you play peek-a-boo with her or talk to her in a funny voice.

As Selah has gained strength, she has decided she wants her independence back and began walking just a few days after she arrived home.  At first she was very cautious, holding onto both her nanny's hands, then gradually just one, and now no hands at all!  Her nanny will walk right behind her and encourage her every step of the onto moving around a bit more in the playroom.  She was hesitant at first, but the other day, I noticed that she really wanted to join in a game some of the kids were playing with a musical toy.  I called to her and asked "ni yao ma?"  ("do you want to?").  She nodded her head yes and so I said "lai" ("come') and motioned for her to come.  She looked at me for a moment and then crawled right over into my lap, clapped her hands, and began playing.  What a huge accomplishment for her!  All the nannies in the room were cheering and saying "Great job!!!".

Selah LOVES music and will happily listen to you sing "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" many times in a row!  I used to have to point to each body part for her, but now that she is strong and comfortable, she does this all on her own.  When the song is over, she signs for "more" and will say "more" too.  Often times she will want to include her belly in the song, saying "duzi" and pointing to her tummy so you can tickle her.

Not only does she love music, but she highly enjoys reading books as well.  We have many "touch and feel" books in our playroom and Selah loves to turn the page and touch and feel the different textures.  The animal books are always her favorite and if you tell her the animal name, she will repeat it loudly in the most heart-melting-sweetest-voice you ever, ever heard. She will even act out many of the motions that go with the pictures, especially if it is a lion or tiger or rabbit.  Just this week, she decided she was ready to see the rabbits we have in the backyard in person and not just in a book.  She was sitting on her nanny's lap outside and I told her I would be going to have a look at them and asked if she would like to join me-she smiled, clapped her hands, and then lifted her arms up and said "bao bao" ("carry").  I carried her back there and the rabbits were all hiding so she called to them "tuzi- guo lai!" ("rabbits, come here").  And what do you know?  The mama came hoping to the edge of the cage and Selah was in heaven!  She watched the mama for several minutes and had the best time.  It brought me so much joy to watch her experience new things and see the world just open up before her.  I can't wait to see what her future in this world holds for her. I think it's lots of big things!

It has been such a privilege to get to know Selah.  I can't help but just stand in awe at this living, breathing, miracle of a girl.  She is smart, adorable, joyful, determined, independent, beautiful, curious, and more.  She holds an incredibly special place in my heart and has her tender spirit wrapped around my finger.  Though it breaks my heart to return to America and not see her daily, Selah closed out our time together just as she says good-bye to me everyday- with a big wave, a little "zai jian" ("goodbye"), and a kiss blown from her hand. There is nothing sweeter!

Thank you, Catherine, for the time that you spent entertaining, encouraging and loving Selah.

You may not be able to come spend your Summer here like Catherine did, but there are other ways that you can be involved in changing the lives of children like Selah.  Now that she has transferred from New Day South, Selah needs sponsors to help cover the costs of her daily care.  Also, we have a big bill from her heart surgery Would you like to be part of Selah's miracle?

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