There is a part of Rachel’s story that has not been told, yet it is the most miraculous of all. So miraculous, that I have struggled to find adequate words to tell it. Part of my struggle is in communicating my deep belief that, regardless of how God chooses to work and move, He is good! It is easy to proclaim God’s goodness when His sovereign choices agree with our personal desires. But He is equally as good when His answers to our deepest prayers are disappointing and sometimes heart breaking. His Lordship over all things often includes both. In the giving of Rachel’s new heart and the answer to our desperate prayers, God’s way meant the devastating loss of life for another. This is hard for me to come to terms with. Peace only comes when I recognize that God alone holds the power of life and death. My deepest desire is to bless His name in the giving of life and the taking away. May my heartfelt praises always be... "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."
Rachel’s new heart arrived in the operating room where she was waiting at approximately 4:50 AM on May 6, 2015. The moment it arrived safely in the ordinary cooler that contained it, her broken heart was clamped in her chest and man-made machines would artificially sustain her life until the healthy heart was stitched in its’ place and could take over the role of pumping life-giving blood through her body again. For all practical purposes, that moment marked the end of Rachel’s life that God had chosen to sustain for almost 11 years, in spite of a very broken heart. The choice to bring new life through the gift of another’s heart lay solely in the hands of God… He alone could breathe new life into our precious daughter. Man can remove a beating heart from one and stitch it into the chest of another, but he cannot breathe life into that heart… God alone is the Giver of Life!
Rachel’s beloved cardiologist, Dr Fricker, was a part of her story even before she came home from China, and has now become more like a grandfather to her than a cardiologist. He will forever be a special part of our family!
God has used Dr Bleiweis to bring healing to our girl as an incredibly skilled surgeon and, in our opinion, rivals anyone in the country as one of the best at repairing and replacing broken hearts. He encouraged us with hope for Rachel’s heart the moment he read her file from China. How fitting thathe would be the man performing Rachel’s heart transplant when the perfect match was finally found. We would have it no other way!
YET… without God breathing life into Rachel, each and every moment of every single day, her story would not be the unfolding miracle it is! He alone deserves all the glory for the work He has done in and through her!
Throughout the night, reports from the operating room were glowing. There was a lot of scar tissue to work through, collateral vessels to gather, and even an aorta which had attached itself to the back of Rachel’s sternum that had to be disconnected before she could receive the healthy heart that was now on its’ way. But Rachel was stable and things were progressing just as everyone had hoped. The timing in removing the old to make way for the new was proceeding right on schedule and hopes were high that this transplant would go without a hitch!
By around 7AM, Rachel’s broken heart had been removed and a perfectly healthy one had taken its’ place inside of her. Everything was stitched into place and it was time to let that new heart take over for the machines that had been keeping Rachel alive throughout the night.
But as the transplant team began to make the transition in allowing that heart to beat, it did not…
The operation that appeared to be going perfectly, suddenly was not!
Human hands had done all they could, but they could not make Rachel’s new heart beat! A decision was made to clamp all blood flow surging into the new heart for a period of 20 minutes and allow the machines to carry the load, while giving it a chance to “rest” and acclimate to its’ new home. Then they would try again and hope for a better outcome.
I am told that the energy in the operating room suddenly fell flat. What had been a flawless surgery, had taken a very bad turn, and tensions were very high. While letting the new heart “rest”, Dr Bleiweis left Rachel’s side and sat down nearby in nervous disbelief. How could we have waited over three years for the perfect match to now be met with such a disappointing result? This was not what anyone expected after such a successful surgery and the alternatives for Rachel should this heart not begin beating seemed unacceptable.
It is difficult to understand the immense burden on the shoulders of Rachel’s cardiologist, Dr Fricker, in that moment unless I share with you something I have not done so before. When Rachel became ill just over a year ago, many believed that she would not be able to live much longer with her very broken heart. Several very difficult conversations took place between Doug and I and the team of people caring for her, headed up by Dr Fricker himself. Would we be willing to hospitalize Rachel until a new heart came? And if her heart finally gave way, would we let her go or place her on life support in hopes that a heart might be found in time instead?
Rachel wanted only one thing and she never once wavered. Rachel would live waiting, but she would not wait to live! She absolutely refused to die lying down! She had suffered a horrid existence inside the four walls of an orphanage for the first seven and a half years of her life, and now that she had been redeemed to a new life with a family she loved, she intended to live it! Through the lips of a nine year old, with the understanding of a grown adult, she told me repeatedly that if God did not bring a new heart in time, we were to let her die. She insisted that this was a “win-win” in her book, since living meant doing so for Jesus, and dying meant being with Him instead. Either way, she “won”…
"For me to live is Christ and to die is gain" Philippians 1:21
Who was I to stand in the way when she asked Dr Fricker to sign a DNR on her behalf, should she suddenly collapse while living life to its’ fullest? He resisted at first, but finally did so with tears in his eyes. Now, if the heart that he had waited so long to accept for the little girl he loved, did not beat on its’ own, he would be forced to put her on the very life support she had asked him to deny. My heart feels heavy just typing it…
I was lying alone in Rachel’s hospital room when a call came from Dr Fricker’s cell phone. It was 7:30 AM and I expected to hear the happy news that Rachel’s new heart was beating inside of her! Instead, I detected nervousness in Dr Fricker’s voice immediately. “Listen,” he said, “things are not going well, and we are all very worried. Rachel’s new heart is “sluggish” and not wanting to beat on its’ own. We are going to let it rest for 20 minutes and then try again. We really need you to pray. Just pray…”
I hung up in disbelief. Everything had been going perfectly! What do you mean… “Her new heart doesn’t want to beat”? How could this be? I had not even allowed myself to believe that a heart would finally come after three years of waiting, and now that it had, I was stunned that it might end this way…
Doug had made his way to the capital of India and was there waiting for a flight bound for Paris. I dialed his number to Face time with him and pray. He, too, was stunned at this update and immediately turned his questions into prayers. I cried and agreed with him as he voiced our pleading to The Lord. I have never heard my husband beg God for anything… but in those moments, he literally begged God to spare the life of his daughter~ that the precious gift of this heart would not result in the death of two, but that God would bring life through the one. We encouraged one another with the Truth. We had not been promised a happy ending. God’s sovereign will would win and we would trust Him in that. We vowed to glorify Him no matter how He answered and we hung up to wait.
We didn’t know then what we know now… In those very moments of our desperate praying, sometime between 7:30 and 8 AM, God was weaving a miracle in the heart of our daughter! At His Word- He breathed LIFE into Rachel and her new heart began to beat on its’ own in perfect rhythm! What a surgeon could not do… God DID!
Then the God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. Genesis 2:7
I believe with everything in me, that God perfectly purposed this event to demonstrate HIS power over life and death. Let no man or woman, mother or father, doctor or surgeon, ever believe that the power to breathe life into a human being comes except through HIM! Rachel lives today, because God reached out in mercy, touched her new heart, and caused life-giving blood to beat through it! To HIM belongs all the glory!
“You alone are the . You have made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them.You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You." Nehemiah 9:6
We don’t know how many days this new heart will bring for our daughter. It may be many- it may be few. But we have learned through Rachel, to live whatever days He gives to the fullest, and we will do so glorifying HIM- The Giver of Life!