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    Miracle of heart transplant puts ‘inoperable’ Rachel, 10, back in the arms of her new family

    May 18, 2015
    By: Jack Strickland

    Rachel McCary has a new heart. The spunky 10 year old is scheduled for discharge this week from Shands UFHealth Children’s Hospital in Gainesville following successful heart transplant surgery.  She has a new lease on life. Her family views it as nothing short of a miracle.

    Shortly after Rachel was born in China she was diagnosed with a malfunctioning heart. No information is available about Rachel’s birth or early medical history.  We only know that she was found in a basket at a bus stop in front of the Shanghai orphanage when she was approximately 9 months old. 

    She was extremely ill and taken to the hospital where they determined that she was inoperable.  Her prognosis was terminal and she was sent to the orphanage to die.  When she was about 5 years old, and still living against all odds, the orphanage listed her for international adoption.  She waited for several years. Her medical prognosis was so grim she was not viewed by most as a viable candidate for adoption. The small child was resilient. She clung to life and showed a special determination not to give up.

    Missionaries Lori and Doug McCary discovered her file online and said they felt “led by the Lord” to bring her home and give her the love she deserved for whatever time God would give. In September of 2011, at the age of 7, Rachel finally came home to begin her new life with her family. The team at Shands was ready to care for Rachel as soon as she arrived home.  Open heart surgery was performed in October 2011.

    Her only hope

    Soon, however, Rachel’s heart began to fail and she was listed for a heart transplant. It was her only hope for survival. 

    Rachel’s heart was broken. It’s performance amounted to less than one half the function of a normal heart. .

    Ms. McCary remembers the instructions she received. Pack a hospital bag and keep it handy. Always be ready to go in an instant. Be prepared to hurry to Shands with Rachel immediately upon receiving a call with notification that a donor heart is available. She said, for weeks, she jumped and prepared to rush to Shands every time the phone rang. As time slowly passed, for three years, she sometimes feared the life saving call might never come.

    Rachel was unfazed. She refused to accept limitations or admit she was handicapped. She lived life to the fullest. For her every day was special. She loved playing basketball and enjoying normal childhood activities with her brothers and sisters. Her positive attitude buoyed the spirits of everyone around her.

    The phone rings

    Then, on the afternoon of May 5 the phone rang at the McCary home. It was Shands. A donor heart was available and it appeared to be a perfect match. Please bring Rachel to Shands immediately. 

    Father Doug had just gone to India to train pastors along the border of Nepal and to carry aid from their local church body for the people devastated by recent earthquakes. Rachel and Lori McCary hopped in the car and headed to Gainesville. Doug McCary made arrangements to fly home, immediately.

    Rachel was admitted to the hospital. News arrived shortly before midnight that the donor match looked good and the transplant was a “go.”

    Rachel was wheeled into the operating room to prepare her to receive her new heart. Her mother pushed her small wheelchair as well wishers gave her hugs and high fives along the hallway leading into surgery. At the door mother and daughter shared a long hug as they parted company.

    A precious cargo

    Surgery began to prepare Rachel for her new heart. 

    Finally word came that the ambulance with with it’s precious cargo on board was arriving at Shands. Rachael’s Mother and friends were invited to go down to the hospital entrance to see the team arrive with Rachel’s new heart. 

    When the ambulance arrived two members of the team exited the back door. The transplant doctor exited the side door. He removed an ice chest.  It was on small wheels like a suit case. Labels on the cooler announced “human organs” and “heart.” The transplant team made its way to the operating room where Rachel and the other members of the transplant team were waiting.

    The transplant was underway. After a while a member of the team called from the operating room to inform Mrs. McCary the new heart was attached and it was beating. That was a hallmark moment.  Everyone could stop holding their breath. Things looked good. Rachel was going to have a new lease on life. A flood of emotion swept over everyone present.

    When Rachel came out of recovery she looked very fragile. She was hooked to machines and tubes were everywhere. Hugging her was very delicate. Her mother held her hand. She immediately noticed a major change. Rachael’s fingers were warm and pink. Before she went into surgery her fingers were blue and cold due to the poor circulation provided by her broken heart.

    Mr. McCary was able to make his return from India the day after the surgery. His presence in the hospital room seemed to be a special tonic for Rachel. She is making a spectacular recovery from the surgery. Three days after she received her new heart she was out of bed shooting basketball at a makeshift goal that was brought into her hospital room.

    Needing a mother’s touch

    ​The McCarys have a houseful of other children at home at Ponte Vedra, including a brand new daughter adopted from China only a month ago. They were needing a mother’s touch. While Dad was covering at the hospital Mom went home for a couple of days to tend to their needs. On Mothers Day the kids insisted that she go sit on the beach, three blocks from their home, to relax, unwind, and reflect.

    Basking in the Florida sun with the beaches invigorating sea breezes, she composed a Mother’s Day message to the mother of the child whose heart now beats in Rachael’s chest. She addressed the message “To the mother of my little girl’s new heart”

    She wrote, “You were my first thought this morning when I awakened to celebrate this momentous Mother’s Day. You are not celebrating today. Instead, you are mourning the loss of your precious child. Your loss brought life to mine, yet I grieve with you. I cried out to God for you as I wept. In your hours of deepest pain, you made a decision that would alter the course of my life and the life of the little girl I love. You, precious Mother, are the hero of this story and your legacy that lives on, now beats inside my daughter.”

    Message is shared with all

    The mother’s entire message can be found at “HopeforRachel.com” or “LoriMcCary.com” under the subtitle. “To the Mother of my little girl’s new heart.”

    Whither the two mothers meet is at the discretion of the donor mother. Ms. McCary said she hopes they can get together. She would like to hand her hero a stethoscope and let her listen to the beat of her child’s heart as it beats in the chest of Rachal, giving her life.

    Rachel’s new life is viewed as a miracle. Ms. McCary wants to remind everyone that all things are possible through God. She said prayer works and “all the glory goes to her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”