Melinda Loe of Arden Hills, Minnesota was lying in bed the first time she saw the baby’s photo.
A friend on Facebook had posted the photo, taken at Little Flower Projects, a medical foster home in China that cares for special needs children. Suffering a serious heart condition, the child’s future was uncertain. Although she was being cared for in an exceptional facility in Beijing, the odds were against her living a healthy and productive life.
The photo stopped Melinda from scrolling down any further on her newsfeed. Something about the image struck a chord within the mother of five, and she took a screenshot of the baby to show her husband, Mark.
“I felt like she might be our child,” she said.
She started investigating. The girl, who would later be named Jaelyn, had received a lifesaving heart operation in the first few months of her life, but more surgery would be needed. Another photo of Jaelyn arrived two weeks later, by which time all of Melinda’s family had taken an interest in the baby.
This was the beginning of a long process to adopt the infant from China. A trip to China would be required to bring Jaelyn home, which proved a challenge for a family of seven.
“Flights for seven people to China seemed insurmountable,” Melinda said. But through research and prayer, the family found flights for $450 each and were all able to travel. By March 9, 2016, the entire family was back home. Shortly after returning home, it became apparent that Jaelyn’s heart would need intervention soon. Melinda sought out Dr. Stephen Langley, Chief of Pediatric and Congenital Cardiac Surgery at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. As Surgical Director for Little Hearts Medical, Dr. Langley had reviewed Jaelyn’s case and the family had become close through numerous emails and phone calls.
It was Dr. Langley who offered to treat Jaelyn in Tampa. The Loe family, concerned about Jaelyn’s health, agreed and in April 2016, Melinda and Mark arrived with Jaelyn for an interventional catheter procedure. Jaelyn’s lungs required treatment after the procedure and a one-night stay turned into five nights in the cardiac intensive care unit at St. Joseph’s.
During this stressful time, the family found refuge at the Tampa location of Ronald McDonald House. Melinda found relief in the peaceful atmosphere and relaxing environment, where she could gather her thoughts and prepare for the day that followed.
“There is an unspoken understanding with other parents here; they all have sick children.” Like most of our families, the Loes found RMH a great blessing, comforting them when they needed it most.
Jaelyn was eventually released and the family went home to help her recover. The family decided to continue treatment in Tampa due to the strong reputation of St. Joseph’s and Dr. Langley’s familiarity with the case. So in July 2016, once Jaelyn was well enough, Dr. Langley scheduled her for open heart surgery, and this time, Melinda, Mark, and their children, including their nine-year-old daughter Rachael, came along for support and comfort. Jaelyn’s surgery was considered a success and her heart is now fully functioning.
The Loe family believes that God led them to their newest addition. From that first moment Melinda was struck by the photo of Jaelyn, to finding Dr. Langley, and getting through the maze of paperwork and managing to adopt Jaelyn – these all fall under the category of miracle in the family’s view.
Health issues may always be present for Jaelyn Loe, but she has found herself in the midst of a loving Minnesota family, who are thrilled to have this beautiful child call their house home.
About Little Flower Projects:
Their focus is on providing specialized care to abandoned infants and nurturing the growth and education of older disabled orphans. According to CNN, the number one reason why children in China are abandoned is due to the difficulties of caring for a child born with complex medical conditions. Often, families lack not only the financial means to provide treatment for their child, but also the medical knowledge to understand treatment options and make good decisions for their child’s medical care.
By Alison Barrick and Joe Harless