Answered Prayer for a Bolivian Mother

November 3, 2016 • Bolivia
Children's Heart Project Bolivia

A host father recounts a young boy's healing

Dr. Jimmy Lu originally screened Gustavo for a heart defect in Bolivia. When Gustavo was accepted for surgery in Michigan through the Children’s Heart Project, Jimmy became his host father for the five weeks he was in the U.S. for surgery and recovery. Throughout Gustavo’s stay, Jimmy chronicled the miracle that unfolded.

The Beginning

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Lidia grew up in the countryside of Bolivia with 10 siblings. Although she didn’t finish school, she moved to the city and met her husband. They live with their five kids in El Alto, at an altitude of more than 13,000 feet. Gustavo is the youngest.

Children's Heart Project Bolivia

Lidia knew that something was wrong with Gustavo when he was a baby, but he wasn’t diagnosed with a heart defect until he was 18 months old.

When Gustavo was a baby, Lidia knew something was wrong with him. She could feel his heart beating quickly when she carried him, his breathing wasn’t normal, and he looked blue, especially when he cried. The doctors said he was just malnourished. Eventually, at about 18 months of age, he was seen by doctors because he was sick, and he was diagnosed with a heart defect. They weren’t able to repair his heart defect, but Lidia was able to bring Gustavo to the Children’s Heart Project, and ultimately he was able to come to the U.S. for repair.

Please pray for Lidia. At dinner last night, she was somewhere between distraction and tears, navigating a healthcare system in a foreign country, speaking through a translator, and surrendering her child to strangers for open heart surgery. Some things are born of great faith, some of hope, some of desperation, and sometimes at the intersection of all three. Pray that she will know that she and Gustavo are in the best hands—the hands of the One who brought them here.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

They took Gustavo back for surgery. It really is an incredible thing to give consent for someone to take your child to surgery. The surgeon did an excellent job explaining things simply through the translator. However, it amazes me that even though there is so much that Lidia cannot understand about what is to come, she has no questions for the surgeon. Is she scared? Absolutely. Does she trust him? Completely.

Cardiac surgery to me is a microcosm of life. In any other context, if I were to cut someone’s chest open, saw through the sternum, and remove parts of the heart, it would be an unspeakably horrible act. I would wind up on the evening news or in a horror movie.

Children's Heart Project Bolivia

Lidia trusted that the surgeon in Michigan would be able to fix her child’s heart problem, even when her friends told her it was too risky.

Yet we consent to the surgeons because we know there’s a purpose, something that needs to be fixed or removed. We accept the risks, the pain, and the recovery because we know we need the help. I know the surgeon—he’s a wonderful person and a great surgeon. But he’s still human. He can be technically excellent, yet many things are still outside his control. If we can submit to the surgeon, shouldn’t we submit even more readily to the Lord?


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Gustavo is doing well. It looks like he’s had a beautiful repair, and his heart has responded as well as we could have hoped. He did well enough that he was off the ventilator before his mother even saw him.

What warmed my heart most today, besides seeing Gustavo awake and giving his little wave and thumbs up, was seeing Lidia knitting. When we were waiting, she fasted and read her Bible. I think she was too worried to do much else. Just the little thing of seeing her free to do what she enjoyed, comfortable enough to know that her little boy was OK and just sleeping peacefully, spoke volumes about how things are going.

Gustavo is in fact doing quite well, progressing as if this were just routine. He got up and walked the halls while the nurses cheered. He’s eating some, sleepily kicking a ball around with his foot, and blowing bubbles. He’s getting back to being a little boy—not just a heart patient.

Children's Heart Project Bolivia

Gustavo was able to leave the hospital just three days after surgery.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Gustavo is supposed to leave the hospital tomorrow, three days after surgery, which is really difficult to fathom. When his case was discussed before the surgery, a lot of people were nervous about his hospital course. When doctors call a case “interesting” (code for “I hope I’m not on call when that kid comes back sick”), you know things are serious. For him to fly out of the hospital like this is really incredible.

God made this little guy’s body, and it held up longer than it should have to more stress than it should have. God put him in the right place at the right time to find himself in the U.S. in a place that could take care of him. And not only did he survive and do well, but he’s also leaving quicker than many kids with “routine” surgery. It’s hard to believe he had open heart surgery two days ago.

We often attribute miracles like this to any number of things instead of the real source. I pray that we will grasp what an incredible thing we all got to witness and be able to tell folks what we’ve seen.

New Life

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Children's Heart Project Bolivia

After surgery, Gustavo is now able to do all things that healthy 3-year-old children can do.

Gustavo was discharged from the hospital yesterday. As part of the regular discharge process, the nurse went through all the discharge instructions, patiently explaining everything through the interpreter.

When we went through the preoperative process, Lidia didn’t ask many questions. She was in a position of utter need and complete surrender because there was nothing she could do to heal her son. But now, going forward, she wanted to grasp her responsibility. It was a neat example for us to think about how we respond to the healing we have received.

Lidia’s questions were fascinating. She asked about the medications she used to have to give to keep him from sweating so much at night. She was told that he didn’t need those anymore. The rules have changed, and he gets to go forth with completely different physiology in his heart so that he can live a new life. He doesn’t have to do the same things as before or live with the same limitations.

Another question she asked multiple people was, “Can he cry?” She had been told before that she shouldn’t let him cry because his heart was working too hard and he couldn’t handle it. The answer now is yes, he can cry, and his heart can handle it.

And the fact is that yes, he will cry. He’s got brothers and sisters at home. Some girl some day will break his heart. He’s not just going forward to a happily ever after. But he’ll be able to handle it.

Children's Heart Project Bolivia

Gustavo recovered at a miraculous pace after his surgery.

So Gustavo left the hospital into a new life. Gustavo wasn’t healed so he could stay in the hospital but so that he could live a new life. Lidia mentioned this morning that one of the reasons she felt OK with leaving the hospital so quickly was because she was going home with a doctor.

How neat of a picture is that? We who experience God’s healing, who are rescued from whatever past haunts our dreams, are called to go forth into new life, not encumbered by the past rules or ways of life. But we don’t ever go forth alone. The Physician walks with us wherever we go.

Now What?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

God has done a mighty work here. But the mightiest work may still be to come. This is just the beginning. Even this healthier heart will stop some day. We need to be praying faithfully that Gustavo’s family will understand this gift, not just as the answer to what they’ve been hoping for, but as a sign of the gift that Christ offers them, the healing that lasts for eternity.

It’s so easy to lower our sights for the things of this world, even good-sounding things like health and love and happiness, when they are just a shadow of what is to come. The work isn’t done yet. Please keep praying for opportunities to share the Gospel in the days ahead.

To Be Continued

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Children's Heart Project Bolivia

Although Gustavo and Lidia have now returned home, their story isn’t over. They have an amazing testimony to share with their community.

We’re starting to think about Gustavo leaving. They only have about a week and a half left here, so the preparations have already begun. On one hand, it reminds us of how transient life is. On the other hand, it’s a reminder of how deeply we can be impacted by crossing paths with others, even in a short time.

Up until a few weeks ago, Gustavo was some person in another country that the girls prayed for. Now, he’s the little brother they never had and the one person who could finally get them interested in Spanish.

It’s been an incredible time. We’ve shared some of the stories already, but the most exciting thing is that the stories aren’t over yet. It’s been such a privilege to be a part of Gustavo and Lidia’s story. However, their journey will continue, just as ours will, even if they separate for a while. God is doing something amazing here, and whether we see the end, we just want to be faithful to play our part.

We had a chance to talk with Lidia last week. At church, we had heard about God calling Samuel and how God speaks to us. We asked Lidia what she thought God was saying to her through this experience. She explained how thankful she was for everything that had happened.

However, she also didn’t want to make a promise to God she couldn’t keep. We reassured her that this was not about getting a certain response or promise out of her. God’s doing something genuine here, and it’s not about our arm-twisting and making sure we get that prayer or commitment.

She shared with us how around the time of surgery, her husband sent her a message that he was praying for their family. Lidia was shocked. She said that she didn’t think Jesus could reach him because he plays soccer instead of going to church.

Goodbyes and New Hellos

Friday, October 14, 2016

Gustavo and Lidia are back home in Bolivia now.

This difficult parting was the very moment that we had been praying for—not that Gustavo would just get here, or have a good time, or even get his surgery, although we did pray for all of those things. We prayed that he would be able to go home to his family healthy.

Children's Heart Project Bolivia

Gustavo, Lidia, and their interpreter together with their host family

He didn’t come here for our benefit, that we could feel good about having done something or so we could have a nice cultural experience or play with a cute kid. He came here to go back home, physically healed, and hopefully one day spiritually healed.

Gustavo’s story is but one in a sea of stories of God’s glory. How many other stories are there waiting to be told? God knows each of them, and He’s working in each of their lives.

So what now? Does this become just a nice little story to tell? It should remind us how God still answers prayers, still works miracles, and is not done yet—in our lives, and in lives we have yet to meet.