A year ago today, we began our 30-hour adventure home. We were apprehensive yet confident, weary yet expectant.
I remember so vividly waiting to board our plane. My mind was racing with the reminder that after studying William’s files in 2012, leading pediatric cardiologists had told us that his heart wouldn’t be strong enough to endure the flight to the US. And just a year later, many of those same physicians looked at his file and determined that his condition had miraculously improved. And although he still needed surgery, there was no imminent danger in bringing him home. Yet still, as we waited to board, all the “what if’s” flooded my mind. What if something went wrong? What if the flight somehow complicated his medical condition? What if? What if? What if? Yet the Holy Spirit continued to remind me that He who began this work in us, would be faithful to complete it. He faithfully completes everything He starts!
And so at 1 am, we boarded a short flight from Hong Kong to Seoul, South Korea, where we would board the long flight to Atlanta. Although I was tired, I had determined that I would stay awake and allow Samantha to rest. I set an alarm to remind us of medication times and sat back and prayed, as I watched William’s chest rise and fall with each new breath. The flight was largely uneventful until we were about 30 minutes away from Seoul. William was asleep when Samantha abruptly woke up and told me she wasn’t feeling well. As she reached for the airsickness bag, immediately she collapsed and fell into the seat in front of her. I asked her if she was ok, and she was completely unresponsive. Trust me when I say it was an intense moment, but looking back on it now, it was pretty comical. I stood up and shouted, “Is there a doctor on the plane?” As I looked around all I saw were Asian people who were mostly sleeping. And it was obvious that the ones who were awake spoke little to no English.
Yeah, it’s funny now but in the moment, I was terrified! What in the world was going on? Inside I’m thinking, “Girl, you better wake up! I didn’t sign up to do this alone!” Still standing in the aisle looking for someone to help me, I noticed a stewardess coming my way. She looked at Sam and screamed. I know, right? Some help she was. I’m making this sound like forever, but it really couldn’t have been more than about 60 seconds….but it felt like an eternity to me. Eventually, Sam woke up and by that time we were surrounded by every flight attendant on the plane. They put an oxygen mask around Samantha and in broken English one flight attendant kept telling me to calm down. Honestly, I was calm. I guess he was trained to say that. The funny thing was, William slept through the whole ordeal.
Well, as soon as we landed, we were met by a wheelchair and Samantha was wheeled through the airport at breakneck speed….literally. I was running behind carrying three or four pieces of carry-on luggage and William who still was fast asleep. Samantha kept saying, “James, where are we going? Where are we going? I am fine!” Before we knew it, we were taken through customs and into Korea to an airport hospital. Now, I guess you could call that place a hospital. Seemingly, I had more medical knowledge than the so-called doctor. Maybe I’m being harsh but I did have to suggest that we take Sam’s blood pressure. Anyway, after she did a Google search her words were “She either has vasovagal syncope or some terrible brain disorder that needs to be treated immediately.” We were like “Great….thanks for that….especially since we are about to fly for the next 24 hours.”
Keep in mind, our faithful Father allowed William to continue to sleep through all of this. What a blessing that was, as these events would have made him so afraid. Really, there are so many more details that I could share including the fact that the so-called doctor told me that I had to pay her for her Google medical diagnosis. She said we had to pay to receive a medical certificate to fly. I was a little angered and said, “Ma’am I’m not Korean. To which she said yes sir, that is very obvious.” When she told me her Google medical diagnosis was only $20, I gave in and paid her the money.
Once we were back in the terminal, I was able to get in touch with my family, who got us in touch with our family physician who is also our good friend. He told me that knowing Sam’s medical history, likely she did have vasovagal syncope, which can cause you to black out when you experience pain. He said, “James, you don’t need to worry. Get on that plane and come home. Sam is going to be fine.”
At that point, once I was able to relax a bit I realized that somewhere along the way, William had peed all over me as I was holding him in my arms while he was asleep throughout this entire ordeal. I also realized that I had an unusually toxic case of BO that seemed to have come about as a result of the marathon wheelchair race through the Seoul airport. Yep, reeking of pee and BO, we flew for the next 24 hours!
Oh yeah, did I mention that William did just fine? Not only was he fine medically, he simply couldn’t get enough of the airplane. God was so faithful through every step of the journey.
I share all that to say, this first year as a family has had its scary moments. To be honest, January through May-ish were incredibly challenging. It seemed like we were going to a different doctor every day, all the while we were trying to teach him English, and all of us were learning to become a family. Then of course in May, William had surgery to have his left kidney removed.
Yes, there have been some moments where it felt like we had no clue what was going on and how things were going to turn out, but time and time again we were reminded that our God faithfully completes everything He starts. Immediately after surgery in May, we were able to decrease William’s blood pressure medication from 7 doses a day to half of 1 dose, once a day. Oh and get this, as of yesterday we are now in the process of weaning him off of his medication entirely. Isn’t that crazy, 364 days after we came home, we are now in the process of coming off of our last medication! On top of that, William’s doctors believe that there will be no lasting damage done to his heart! To God be the Glory! What man said was impossible, what man said would never happen has happened! To God be the Glory! Nothing is impossible with God.
Without question, 2014 is a year we will never forget! Thank you for the many ways you have helped us throughout this year. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for cooking us dinner. Thank you for giving so generously! Thank you for loving us and being the hands and feet of Christ to us!
We are amazed by all that God has done. Not only does William speak fluently, but he is thriving in kindergarten and learning to read. The more time we spend with him and really get to know William, the more grateful we are. He has such a sweet, kind, and generous heart. We love being his parents. Truly, he is such a joy and a gift from the Lord!
Today, William said, “You know guys, God always has a plan for our lives.” That’s right little man! He does! And I for one can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for William’s life. Knowing and seeing all that the Lord has already done, there must be great things ahead!
We love you! Thanks for loving us so well!
You may have seen some of these images before, but here are a few of our favorites of 2014! This year was filled with so many firsts!
Getting on the last plane of the trip ~ Atlanta to Tri-Cities!
Finally, we’re home! Meeting Nai Nai for the first time!
First snow of the year!
What’s up Ralphie??
Photo shoot with Uncle Mike. He looks so little!
Hanging out at his favorite place ~ SWEET FROG!
William’s first time in the ocean ~ Spring Break Trip with The Well.
First fishing trip with Yaya!
When he’s not playing with the worms, the kid loves to fish!
Coloring Easter Eggs for the first time. William asked, “What do eggs have to do with Easter, Dad?” Good question!
A boy and his grandpa – Easter Parade
Meeting his best bud Cora Boo Boo for the first time!
Digging in the dirt for caterpillars!
This smile was captured by putting the caterpillar he found in the previous image, on top of the camera lens.
YIKES! Checking out the polar bears at the Cincinnati Zoo!
Surgery Day at Cincinnati Children’s ~ William wanted to make certain that Clifford was prepped and ready!
A fun day meeting the Gery/Rumley cousins!
Hilton Head Vacation with the McNeills
The kid loves to swim!
Birthday Party Fun!
Docs said he would never be able to get on a plane but because of the generosity of our good friend Dan Miller, not only did he get on a plane but he got to fly one as well!
A late summer day in Blowing Rock ~ I can’t say enough about how incredible of a mom Sam has become!
No caption needed! What a gift from the Lord to be able to go to Providence Academy!
Our favorite time of the day, bedtime stories.
William’s first UT game. We had to get there early and take it all in! He’s still convinced that I could take out any of the football players. I’ll take it while I can!
First time picking out a pumpkin!
We don’t normally go to the beach more than once a year, if that! HA! I guess 2014 was a special year! Fall Break in Hilton Head.
Taking it all in!
Dress up like your favorite book character day at school!
First time jumping in the leaves!
Cutting down our first family Christmas tree. William did it all by himself. Just kidding!
Decorating Christmas cookies with Nana and Papa. What a special day!
Meeting Santa for the first time. William carried on a conversation with Santa for at least 10 minutes. He asked Santa, “How many reindeer do you have?” Santa answered by saying, “11.” William said, “That’s funny. I thought you had 9 including Rudolph.” Quick on his feet Santa said, “Well, I have two on reserve.” When he left our table Santa came over to me and said, “William is very talkative and knowledgeable.” HAHA!
Dressed as a shepherd for chapel at school.
Making Christmas cookies ~ decorating some, eating most!
Gotcha Day Celebration and Child Dedication at our home.
Smiling as I showed some videos of our trip to China to bring him home.
Gotcha Day 2014! Celebrating our first year as a family.
Christmas Eve ~ a very McNeill Nativity.