Grateful Traveler: The Miracle Magnet, Part 1, Charity Hosts Sick Kids for Medical Procedures in Developed Countries
For almost a year now, I have been writing about the people I call Eskimos—those people of all ages, colors, religions, economic backgrounds, countries and cultures—who, by reaching out to help when we are in need, teach us that the world is not nearly as scary a place as some would have us believe.
I write about these people because I have been the recipient of their kindness in countless countries of the world.
It’s not that I don’t think Eskimos exist in our everyday lives. It’s that I have always believed that they are easier to spot, and be thankful for, when we leave our comfort zones.
But this Christmas season, I saw enough Eskimos in action right here in Los Angeles to rival the likes of the Three Wise Men and their incense, frankincense and myrrh.
The recipients? A family surely as poor and in need as the one in the Bible. But this time, countless people offered them a room at the inn.
The family is from China, a 27-year-old farmer and his 5-year-old daughter Ying. We first met them three years ago. They had come to America because Ying was born with a congenital heart defect that had her turning blue at 2 and would surely kill her by 5. Because they live in poverty, when Ying was born, the doctors suggested to her parents that they might not want to keep her. Given how poor they were, it might be better to try again for another child, someone who could help them on their farm.
But this was their child and they refused. Instead they had the hospital begin oxygen therapy on their daughter. The cost was $4 an hour. They make $4 a day.
After two months the doctors again suggested they might want to give up Ying. Again they refused.
By now they were deeply in debt, but they would not give up. They took their daughter from hospital to hospital looking for help. No one helped. They mortgaged their farm and took the small bit of money they received to the best heart hospital in China. They were turned away. The surgery was far more than they could afford.
But one kind doctor suggested that they seek out the help of an American group that paid for rural Chinese children—children living in poverty—to get heart operations. This group said they would like to help, but Ying was too ill to be operated on in China, she would need to go to America.
But how? Operating on a wing and a prayer, they brought Ying and two other seriously ill children to Los Angeles. That’s where we came in. We answered an email looking for people who would host a family, which had been sent out to parents who had adopted in China. We were told Ying and her father would need a place to live for a week or two. What they didn’t tell us was that they had no idea how to make the operation happen and no way to pay for it either.
Instead, the group got here and starting dialing for dollars. And amazingly, their call was answered, by a group called Mending Kids.
Now the interesting thing about Mending Kids taking on Ying and the other two children from China is that they have very strict rules about who they will accept into their program.
That’s because almost every week of the year Mending Kids brings children from all over the world and pays for the complicated and costly operations their parents could never, ever afford. To be sure they are in compliance with all government rules and regulations, every “i” is dotted and every “t” crossed. They cannot afford to take kids who land on their doorstep.
So why did they take in Ying and the other two children from China?
Watching Ying’s father for over three years now, I’m convinced that a part of it is that the man is a miracle magnet. Everywhere he goes, people reach out to help.
The other part was just simple luck. A big part of Mending Kids rules involves the host families the children live with. The families have to be approved—with background checks, criminal checks, health checks, social worker visits and fingerprint scans. Without that, Mending Kids will not take on a child.
Surprisingly, (or not, for Eskimo lovers) because both families hosting Ying and her dad had adopted children from China, all this paperwork was in place. Ying and her dad had a home, not for a week, but for the four months of their stay.
And so Ying had her surgery, recovered and returned home. But there was a catch. Because she had multiple heart defects, she would need another operation. When the roof of their home in China fell in last year and Ying suffered from pneumonia for months, this need became a necessity. On Halloween night of this year, Ying and her dad returned.
The same two families, ours and another, stepped up to host them. (In all honesty the other family deserves the bulk of the credit. They have five children to our one; yet take on Ying and her dad with devotion and good cheer).
Having done this before we knew what we were taking on. What we hadn’t expected was the veritable village of Eskimos—people of all ages, colors, religions, economic backgrounds, countries and cultures—who have reached out to help Ying and her dad, making their world a kinder, gentler place.
For more information about Mending Kids, call 661-298-8000 or visit www.mendingkids.org.
By Jamie Simons for PeterGreenberg.com.