Nicole and Charlie Parker were no strangers to adoption when they embarked on the journey to bring their daughter Faith home from Langfang, China — they had previously adopted two of their four children. What they were not familiar with was raising a child with a complex congenital heart condition. Faith was born with a single ventricle heart, meaning only one ventricle works properly, as well as tricuspid atresia and pulmonary atresia.
Despite Faith’s diagnosis, the Parkers felt there were signs everywhere encouraging them, from their pastor’s timely sermon on adoption to meeting an Uber driver who was also adopted with a congenital heart condition. “It was just very surreal knowing that she needed to be with us,” says Nicole. The Parkers became a family of seven when they adopted Faith on November 9, 2017 — her fourth birthday and, coincidentally, in the midst of National Adoption Month.
From China to Boston
Prior to her adoption, Faith was cared for at the Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village in China, a mission-based orphanage for children with serious medical conditions. Faith was just 1½ when she had her first surgery, the bi-directional Glenn, one in a series of surgeries that many children with single ventricle defects have to enable their functioning right ventricle to do the work normally done by two ventricles. Only a month after the procedure, Faith had severe complications and needed emergency surgery. She recovered well and stayed at Shepherd’s Field for another two-and-a-half years until Nicole and Charlie brought her home to Florida.
Once home, the Parkers were in need of a heart center to continue Faith’s care in the United States. They asked family friends who had just been through a similar congenital heart journey with their son for advice. They recommended Boston Children’s Hospital.
“Our friends gave us hope,” says Nicole. “They were just raving about how amazing the doctors were and how they felt at peace. We said, ‘Okay we can do this.’”
A team’s willingness
At Faith’s first appointment at Boston Children’s, the Parkers were pleasantly surprised to learn their daughter may have other options in the future besides a heart transplant. Up until that point, they were under the impression a transplant was the only solution. Instead, Dr. Rahul Rathod recommended that Faith have the Fontan procedure, the final major surgery to complete her single ventricle circulation.
Faith’s surgery was scheduled for May 2019 with cardiac surgeon Dr. Christopher Baird. The surgery went smoothly and Faith had a quicker recovery than everyone anticipated. “She went in Tuesday and we were out on Monday,” explains Nicole, “Even Dr. Rathod was pleasantly surprised about how fast Faith was recovering.”
Nicole has no doubt that they made the right choice for Faith. “When you go to Boston Children’s, you see people from all over the world. It’s very apparent you’re at the best place.”
A tough girl with the best laugh
Since her surgery, Faith and her family are enjoying being home. They will return to Boston to check on the conduit placed in her heart, which will expand it as she grows. Faith also sees a local cardiologist, who works collaboratively with the team in Boston to help Nicole and Charlie decide best next steps.
The family also regularly hears from Dr. Rathod. “Dr. Rathod texted my husband a couple days ago, ‘just checking on Faith,’ which is not something we’re used to with most doctors,” says Nicole. “We’re so appreciative of how committed he is to keeping up with Faith’s care.”
This November, Faith will be celebrating her sixth birthday and the anniversary of her adoption. A girly girl with an infectious laugh who loves coloring, stickers, painting, and Peppa Pig, she embodies happiness in every way. “She may only have half a heart,” says Nicole, “but with her strength, personality, and love she’s whole.”
Learn more about our Single Ventricle Program.
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