Congenital heart diseases are caused by improper heart development during fetal development. A human heart has four sections; the two top sections are the atria, and the two bottom sections are the ventricles. Defects can occur in any of these sections, as well as in the valves that control blood flow, the arteries and the veins. While heart disease may sound scary, many heart defects can be treated through medicines and/or surgery.
Some defects are mild and may go unnoticed with no apparent symptoms. Some defects are more severe. Symptoms may include the following:
- A bluish tint to the skin, fingernails or lips
- Trouble breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Feeding problems or poor weight gain
Children with congenital heart defects who receive treatment often live long, healthy, active and productive lives. The sooner congenital heart disease is diagnosed and treated, the better the chance the child has to live a healthy and normal life.
TYPES OF HEART DEFECTS
There are many different types of heart defects. The following are the most common:
- VSD (Ventricular Septal Defect) This is a common heart condition where one or more holes occur in the muscular wall that separates the lower chambers of the heart. This hole often causes increased blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries and lungs. VSDs range in size from small to large. Small VSDs usually allow only a small amount of blood flow between the ventricles. Most small VSDs do not cause symptoms in infants and children. Most VSDs often close on their own by school age and rarely need surgery to close the defect. Moderate VSDs are less likely than small ones to close on their own. They may require surgery to close and may cause symptoms during infancy and childhood. Large VSDs allow a large amount of blood to flow from the left ventricle to the right ventricle. A large VSD causes more symptoms in infants and children, and surgery is usually needed to close it.
- ASD (Atrial Septal Defect) This is a defect of the upper chambers of the heart (atria) where the wall between the right and left atria does not close completely. Many children with small ASDs have no symptoms at all. Many larger ASDs can now be closed with a catheter and do not require opening a child’s chest for surgery. PDA (Patent Ductus Arteriosis) is when the baby is in the birth mother’s womb, there is a blood vessel that is open in all infants which allows blood to bypass the baby’s lungs. At birth this vessel is supposed to close. When it does not, a child then has a PDA, which allows extra blood to pass to the lungs. Children with PDAs often have a heart murmur and shortness of breath.
- TOF (Tetralogy of Fallot) This more serious heart issue has four defects, including a ventricular septal defect, a narrowing of blood out of the right ventricle to the lungs, an aorta that is shifted to the right, and enlargement of the right ventricle since it must work harder. TOF children normally have lower oxygen levels and may have spells where they turn blue from crying or feeding. Surgery should be done as young as possible.
- SV (Single Ventricle) Normal hearts have two ventricles, but some children are born with only one, or the second one might be poorly developed. Babies with single ventricle often appear quite blue. These children will most likely require two to three surgeries done in stages. With surgery their outlook is very promising.
Some heart defects do not require treatment.
If treatment is necessary, physicians can choose from a variety of therapies—including medicines, therapeutic catheterization and surgery.
*Medical information courtesy of LoveWithoutBoundaries.com.
“When we were first researching adoption, we felt overwhelmed by the choices we had to make. We began prayerfully considering which agency to use and which country to adopt from. A family member had read about AGCI in a magazine and encouraged us to find out more about them. We requested a packet and read “The Strength of Mercy.” Almost immediately we knew we wanted to work with AGCI. At that time they were working with another agency for Vietnam adoptions. We feel that the Lord led us to All God’s Children! From the very beginning, they were quick to respond to all of our questions and concerns. Because we have a large adoption community in our area, we have heard a lot about other agencies. We feel that AGCI does a superior job both preparing families for the challenges of the adoption process, as well as supporting us once we are home.
We brought home our third son from China. He was born with Tetrology of Fallot, a heart defect, that was repaired in China. Simeon continues to do great! His cardiologist said that it appears the repairs made in China were done as well as they would have been done here in the U.S. He does not have any physical restrictions at this point. He will have bi-annual check ups with his cardiologist for now, but we do expect him to need some procedures to be done as his heart grows. Overall, Simeon is a very bright and healthy child. We are thankful he was able to have surgery as a baby while in China. We feel very blessed to have him in our family!
Our adopted children are precious treasures! We cannot imagine life without them! It is comforting to know that anytime we have adoption related issues with our kids, we can always call or email AGCI to ask for help. The continued support means so much as our kids mature and continue to think through their past. We always recommend AGCI to anyone that asks.”
“We are amazing. We had tubes put in for some thick, stubborn, nasty fluid that would just not leave him alone. He has been a jabber box ever since. He is full-on boy. All dirt, crazy, wild, spirited, spunky, pestering, loving, messy, funny, running, silly, and all mine. I just look at him sometimes and get all weepy. I can’t believe he is home, he is mine and my love for him is so deep. The doctors are all impressed with how well he is doing, and are very optimistic. They feel that he has the opportunity to live a full life. When we had his heart cath last month they said maybe even into his 60s. They said that was VERY optimistic but we will take it!”
“In spring of 1997, Jeff came to me and said that God was telling him that we were supposed to adopt. We prayed about this for weeks until we both felt sure that this was what we were supposed to do. We then started researching agencies and found AGCI. It was very important to us that our agency be a Christian agency with a heart for missions.
After completing our dossier for Guatemala, we were sad when Guatemala closed to international adoption. Thinking that the closure was temporary, we waited for over a year. During what became a two-year wait, I questioned if this was truly the path that God had set us on.
We then talked again with AGCI and discovered the Bulgaria program that had just re-opened, having been closed when we started this journey. We again gathered papers for yet another dossier. Yes it does get easier each time that you do it!
We registered with the MOJ in 12/2009 for a healthy girl 2 to 5 years old. In 6/2010 we read an email about a “Special Treasure” from Bulgaria–a little 6 year old girl with a heart condition. She was our little girl that was 4 when we started this process! God confirmed for us that yes she was the one. We had to change our home study again to accommodate her special need and her age. In October we finally were able to travel to meet her. There are no words to describe the feeling of meeting your daughter for the first time. It was a wonderful, exciting week spending about five hours per day with her.
This process has molded us as well as our children as we strive to take care of the orphans. Our children now see that there are many kids in the world less fortunate than them, and they too are called to do something to help. It has continued to focus our long-term goals for missions. This adoption has blessed us so richly with not only a daughter, but also with an opportunity to be used by God to do part of his work.”
“God placed this precious little girl in our family two and a half years ago and since then, God has blessed all of us more than we ever thought! Caili recently turned five years old. She is a beautiful little girl, beloved and chosen–full of life, confident in whom she is, and secure in a family that loves her very much. She is generous, loves to snuggle and give kisses, funny and quite mischievous at times.
When we first seriously considered adoption, we looked at several agencies and chose to work with AGCI for our adoption because of their mission. AGCI is focused on helping children to be placed in Forever Families and they also have compassion for and provide for children who may never be adopted. Everyone at AGCI was very helpful and a great encouragement to us.
We started the adoption process in the “non-special needs” program but God quickly and clearly showed us that we were to adopt a little girl with “special needs” from China. And special she is!! When I saw Caili’s picture, God clearly spoke, reminding me of Psalm 31:14 – “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say ‘You are my God.’” Over and over I was reminded of this scripture as we prayed, “Is this the little girl You have for us?” We knew that God was leading us to step out in faith.
We were told that Caili had a congenital heart defect. Caili’s heart defect was confirmed to be a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) when we arrived back home in late 2009. This did not slow her down at all, but after careful consultation with her doctors, she is scheduled to have surgery this summer to repair her VSD so it will not cause problems in the future. We trust the Lord as He leads us on this journey. Adoption has forever changed our family for the good–we are truly blessed!”
“Our journey to Helen did not begin as a result of infertility, as many do. I had always had a desire to adopt; even had a name ready, years before our journey began. But my husband did not have any desire to adopt at all. He had a deep-seated fear that he would not be able to love a child not conceived by us, and after all, we already had three boys. I prayed for God to put this in his heart or take away my burning desire to adopt. God began to answer my prayer and prepare my husband’s heart for a child from afar. After accepting the fact that God has called his servants to care for orphans, my husband conceded. His fear was still real, though.
During the process, my husband began to change. He often spoke about the upcoming events with a cheerful desire and anticipation, much like he did during all of my pregnancies. I knew he was going to love “Helen” just as much as his birth children, even though he was still unsure. He was still adamant our child be young, and so I agreed to request such. He was initially also very closed to special needs children, claiming we were much too busy to be tending to those needs. We prayed about this and realized that special needs children were even more likely to be left behind and never have a chance at a normal life. He decided to accept a “few things”, but was not very specific. This prompted me to start looking at the “Special Treasures” sent in the newsletter each week.
One night, while scrolling through names and descriptions, the name of an 18-month-old little girl with a “heart defect and chronic hepatitis” struck me. It WAS her, I just knew it. We were still quite early in the application process, but I inquired anyway. I was told another family, farther along in the process, was interested, and we still had a lot more stateside paperwork to do before being able to consider these children. Saddened, I still felt “Sashka” was the one. A few weeks later, we received a phone call from AGCI asking if we were still interested. Without a pause I replied “yes.” We had only a few days to get things in order and our paperwork was expedited. Ten months later, she came home to her forever family.”
“When God called us to adopt a child, we sort of went along kicking and screaming at first. But when God is clearly calling you to do something, I have found that he also gives you the strength and courage to get through whatever it is he’s calling you to do. It has been over five years since we traveled to bring our daughter home, and it was at least a 2-year process before that as we prayed and searched our hearts for God’s will for our lives, and then began the process of adoption. I have grown more in those 7 years than I have ever grown before in my Christian walk.
As I began to search out an agency to help us along I was completely clueless. I had no idea how to go about adopting a child, much less a child from across the world – from a land that seemed so foreign to me. I began literally by contacting agencies through the internet and asking for information. From the very beginning AGCI stood out. They didn’t necessarily have the fanciest packet, but there was something there, from day one, that “felt” different about them. I especially liked the fact that they were in constant contact with me. I treasured those weekly check-in phone calls from Tiffany. Going through the process of an international adoption is long and weeks go by without anything changing or happening, but there was something about knowing that Tiffany was going to call and we were going to talk about our baby girl that helped me get through the process of tedious paperwork and seemingly endless waiting. My questions were always answered, I always felt like AGCI had time for me, and I always knew that AGCI wasn’t just a business that was helping us bring a child home – they were a ministry praying us through the process. They were honest with us about the realities of bringing a two year old home and into our lives. And it was this integrity that made the difference for us and for our child.”
“We were blessed to be able to add to our family after having 4 biological children when God called us to adoption in 2006 and then again in 2008. Both children were on the special needs waiting children’s lists and yes, they are just that- special. Special in that these children have completed our family in such incredible ways…they both bring such love and joy into our home and we are all richer for it.
Mary Catherine was adopted at 15 months of age with Hepatitis B. She needs no treatment currently as her blood disorder is so far dormant in her body. We visit the specialist once per year at Children’s Hospital in Boston and monitor the antigen levels in her blood. She is healthy, full of energy and is every way a typical 6 year old.
We were called back to China in 2008 to adopt Daniel, almost 3 years old who had a repaired heart defect (ventricular septal defect). We visit the pediatric heart specialist every 3 to 5 years and Daniel has been given a clean bill of health…you would never know anything had ever been wrong with him by watching him climb trees, do cartwheels and flips in gymnastics class, and downhill ski. He is an amazing child.
I call these children my ‘pseudo twins” as they are both 6 years old and both in first grade. We are a homeschooling family so I have the honor of spending a LOT of time with them each day! They are a ton of fun and their enthusiasm for learning is wonderful.
I am grateful to Tiffany at AGCI who gently suggested filling out the special needs forms even though we were adamant about adopting a healthy infant in the early adoption stages. Thank you, Tiffany and Kate for your insight and wisdom in guiding us through our adoption journeys!”
“When we were considering a special needs child, we were apprehensive at first about a lot of the special needs that were on the list of what we would consider. But after researching some of the issues, we realized that many issues are not as scary as they may seem. Lucky for us, we did check off the box for minor heart defects and, within a short time, we had a file for a little girl with a corrected VSD to consider. In our case the corrective surgery had been a complete success with no complications, and in our opinion, our daughter is not special needs.”
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all our ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“I was feeling very unsettled with my life. I was single, with no prospects for marriage or family on the horizon. I was bored in my job. I felt like I had no purpose, no ministry. It was a very dark period because I would pray and pray, but I felt that God was being silent.
I was working one day, when I felt God say “China.” He didn’t say it out loud, but I did feel that He spoke it into my heart and mind. I knew someone in my church who was doing summer mission work there, so I thought God was prompting me to give money. I agreed and dismissed it from my mind. Several minutes later, He spoke again, “China.” Again, I thought I knew what He was saying, so I dismissed it. The third time when He spoke the same thing, I finally said, “What is it, Father? I said I would give.” He spoke to my heart, “No. you will go.”
I did not immediately obey. Several months passed and I was still disillusioned and confused about what I should do with my future. One day, mother asked me, “what is the last thing you truly know the Lord said to you?” I immediately responded that it was when He told me that I would go to China. My mother encouraged me to obey, and so I made plans to travel to China with some friends to spend time praying in some of the rural towns and villages.
The trip seemed to have His hand strongly on it. I could hear Him speaking very clearly for the first time in a long time. As I asked God why He was sending me to China, one day He responded with a phrase that will ring in my heart forever: “You have to love the people because that’s where your child will come from.”
That clearly was NOT the answer I was expecting! Like most girls, I had thought that I might get married and have children someday. I even thought that I might adopt a child someday. I had never considered traveling to China, much less adopting from China. I had certainly never considered doing such as a single person! Even so, the Lord seemed to be laying out a path in front of me.
I left for China, and the minute the plane touched down, I knew I was in love. I loved the people and the places and the landscape and the food and the architecture and everything else about China (okay, I didn’t love the squatty toilets or having fish heads in my soup, but those things are minor!). I came home with a renewed passion for people and for travel and for the Lord Himself. What a blessing that first trip to China was in my life. I ended up getting the opportunity to travel to China a second time in October 2005. Again, I found myself loving the place and the people in a way I have never experienced before.
After coming home, I began to pray about this child who would come from China. I prayed many times before He spoke again. This time, it was just a quick flash in my head of a picture of a Chinese little girl and a whisper, “Amelia.” I had never loved or planned the name Amelia, but there it was. I felt as if my Father Himself had named her. Thus began my adoption journey.
I was expecting to adopt a young, healthy baby. Somewhere on the three-year journey, the Lord changed my heart. I told my agency that I was “open” to a child with a special need, but I didn’t know what need. I didn’t know what child. I only knew her face – the face I saw that day as I was praying. I described her face as best I could and waited. Then, one day, the call came. Kate called told me she had a file she wanted me to see. She told me the child was older than she thought I wanted, but the face fit. I told her to send me the file. When I pulled it up on my computer, there she was. “Ai Chun” – My Amelia. I couldn’t have told you if it was exactly the same picture I saw in my head – but it was close enough that I immediately said “yes.”
Imagine my shock when I realized that my Amelia was born ten years to the day that my beloved Grandma Burch went to be in Heaven and that her first name, “Ai,” had the same meaning as my own: “beloved.” Two months later, on my mother’s birthday, I received updated photographs from China. I immediately burst into tears – THIS was the face I had seen. I was not 100% certain after the referral pictures – close enough to say “yes” but not certain. When I received the updated photos, though, I knew. This was MY child.
When I sat down and did the math, the results were startling: I first heard “China” in the summer of 2003. My mother told me I must obey in December 2003. I booked my plane tickets to China in January 2004 – the same month Amelia should have been conceived. I went to China in March/April 2004 – my Amelia was in the womb. In September 2004, I had the strong sense that time was urgent – my child would be born soon. I thought it was “silly” since I was getting a baby. It turned out not to be so silly! Amelia was born just weeks later. In October 2005, I went to China the second time. Without knowing it, I was in China – in Amelia’s same province even – the week of her first birthday. Simply amazing! Yes, I was meant from the beginning to mother THIS child.
I have had many doubts and fears along the way. Pursuing adoption as a single person, especially when I come from a very traditional family and have prayed so long for a Godly, loving husband, was an enormous decision. I was scared – scared of being a mother, scared of doing it alone, scared about how I would ever be able to afford it all. Going forward truly required me to exercise a level of faith that I had never exercised before. It required me to trust that I had truly heard the voice of my Father and be willing to obey. That kind of trust and obedience has never been my strong suit, either!
The scariest moment was the morning I was to leave for China, but even then, My Father met me in my fear. I awoke terrified, but then the name “Joshua” came suddenly to me. I don’t know anyone named Joshua, so I went to the book of Joshua in the Bible. There I found a verse that I never knew existed: “Stretch out the spear in thine hand toward Ai, for the Lord has given [her] into thine hand.” What confirmation. He knew Amelia’s Chinese name, and He told me to go get her!
I could go on and on – the miracle of the cardiologist telling me that Amelia’s heart appears to have been repaired “by the Finest of Surgeons,” though we have no record of surgery in China and no scarring; the miracle of being called “Mama” within 24 hours of meeting my daughter; the pronouncement, while we were still in China, that China was closing to singles, meaning God’s timing of my adoption was not one day early or one day late; the look on Amelia’s face the day she pondered to herself , “I happy.” The miracle is simply Amelia – she is an amazing gift from God. I have truly learned a lesson in trust and obedience. Our Father does know best.”