How My Sister's Heart Defect Led Me to Iraq

“Why heart defects? Why Iraq?”

Friends and family asked me these questions over and over again when I applied for an internship with Preemptive Love, and over and over again I answered:

Because of Cai Wei.

I met Cai Wei, or “Brooke” (her given English name), while interning for a special-needs orphanage in China. She was 18 months old, and, on my first day of work, I was assigned to work one-on-one with her.

Immediately, I fell head-over-heels in love.

She, however, was not so quick to love—distrustful and guarded due to emotional trauma in her past. Born with only half a heart—along with four other complicated defects—Brooke arrived at this orphanage when she was only 10 months old. Soon after, she received her first open heart surgery.

As the summer wore on, she gradually began to trust me. However, I still worried every day about her physical heart, knowing how much she needed another surgery. I left China and “my” Brooke Cai Wei at the end of the summer with my own heart broken, and I returned home resolved to find her a family.

Only God could have orchestrated the events that followed: eight months after I said goodbye to Brooke in China, my family flew back to bring her home—forever ours.

Seven weeks later, we placed Brooke into the arms of a capable surgeon, and she went in for yet another lifesaving open heart surgery. While Brooke’s heart can never be “fixed,” this surgery gave her a chance for a future.

Because of Brooke, I see hope for children all around the world with heart defects—children waiting for their chance at life.

I remember the despair I felt, knowing the child I loved needed a miracle to survive. Here in Iraq, I hurt with other families as they bravely hand their precious children over for surgery, uncertain of the outcome. I read the stories of children whose hearts have been repaired, and I know in my soul the relief their families feel because their children have hope for life.

This is why we’re here. This is why I am here. For me, heart defects are no longer just a statistic, just another medical condition. Brooke Cai Wei gave them a face, and her heart-story has rewritten my own.

Every child, like Brooke, deserves the gift of hope.

Your donations do exactly this—give real children a chance to live! Do you know a loved one who has dealt with CHD? Make a donation in honor of your loved one here:

Give children like Brooke hope for a future!

About Meredith Toering


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How My Sister's Heart Defect Led Me to Iraq
How My Sister's Heart Defect Led Me to Iraq
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