A Sweet Noelle: (un)broken


“Why heart defects? Why Iraq? Why orphans?”

Friends and family asked me these questions over and over again as I advocated for children with broken hearts, and tried to raise funds for their surgeries. Even more incredulously, they asked, when I moved to Iraq to provide heart surgeries for critically ill Iraqi children. Over and over again I answered:

Because. Of. Brooke.

I met Cai Wei, or “Brooke” (her given English name), while interning for a special-needs orphanage in China. She was 18 months old, and, on my first day of work, I was assigned to work one-on-one with her.

Immediately, I fell head-over-heels in love.


She, however, was not so quick to love—distrustful and guarded due to emotional trauma in her past. Born with only half a heart—along with four other complicated defects—Brooke arrived at this orphanage, an incredible place called New Day Foster Home, when she was only 10 months old. She was very blue and very sick, desperately needing a surgery to survive. Soon after, she received her first open heart surgery, and this truly saved her life.

People that I will never meet this side of heaven donated funds to give my Brooke a chance to live. They gave her a priceless gift that can never be repaid. She was given a future full of beautiful hope.


As the summer wore on, she gradually began to trust me, and we eventually became the best of friends. However, I still worried every day about her physical heart, knowing how much she needed another surgery. I left China and “my” Brooke Cai Wei at the end of the summer with my own heart broken, and returned home resolved to find her a family.


Only God could orchestrate the events that followed in the months after returning home, but 8 months after saying goodbye to Brooke in China, my family was on a plane headed back to bring her home- forever to be ours. Brooke and I were waiting for them to arrive in China…and the moment I placed my baby sister is my mother’s arms for the first time is a moment that will   never, ever be forgotten. 


Life was a whirlwind with our new little one, but 7 weeks later, we placed Brooke Cai Wei into the arms of her capable surgeon, as she went in for yet another lifesaving open-heart surgery. While Brooke’s heart can never be “fixed”, this surgery gave her incredible hope. It gave her a chance for a future.

Because of Brooke, I see hope for children all around the world with heart defects, waiting for their chance at life.


I remember too vividly the despair that is felt, knowing the child I loved needed a miracle to survive. While in Iraq, I hurt with each family, as they bravely handed their precious children over for surgery, not knowing the outcome. When I hear that a child’s repair has been successful, I can almost feel the beat of Brooke’s newly repaired heart under my hand. I know in my soul the relief that is felt when these families see that their children have been given a hope for life.


YOU can join me. You can bring hope to another little one, desperately needing a chance

This precious one is another sweet girl, waiting for her heart surgery, just as my Brooke waited for hers. This little one’s name is Noelle, and she lives at New Day South, the same organization that cared for my Brooke and quite literally saved her life. Noelle has incredibly complex heart defects, and needs her second open heart surgery that will cost $10,000. Expensive? Yes, incredibly. But her life? Friends, her life is priceless.


  For me, heart defects are no longer just a statistic, just another medical condition. Brooke Cai Wei has given them a face, and her heart-story has rewritten my own.

You can make a tax-deductible donation to Noelle’s surgery by following this link. She is worth it, friends. Please help us make her broken heart whole.


Every child, like Brooke, deserves the gift of hope.

Now that I have seen, I am responsible. Because of Brooke, I am here. Because of Brooke, I will fight for every child with a CHD to have access to hope. Join me in praying for Noelle and help us heal her heart!




6 thoughts on “A Sweet Noelle: (un)broken

  1. Pingback: Sweet Noelle {an unbroken heart} » ashleyannphotography.com

  2. Hi Meredith-

    Thank you for the work that you do and for sharing Noelle’s story. I too am an adoptive Mom. My husband and I began our adoption journey a little over five years ago when we lost our newborn son to CHD. Four years ago we were led to our son through domestic adoption. We have been thinking about the China waiting children’s program for quite some time. Your post has encouraged is to begin the process. Do you have any information as to how Noelle could be placed through the program. After looking at New Day Souths blog it looks like they are not part of the facilitation process. Any insight you could provide would be helpful 🙂


    Thanks so much!

    Katie Brousseau

    • Kelly, thank you so much for thinking of her! Unfortunately, she has been sick and in and out of the hospital, so has been unable to have her surgery yet. They are hoping she will gain a little bit of weight and then will be able to have it in the next couple of months! Thank you so much for checking up on her!!

  3. Pingback: I Want To Be A Storyteller | Arise and Go

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