Teresa was born on December 25, 2006 in China. She was born with a very complex heart condition. In July 2010, GOD added Teresa to our family through adoption. We have been blessed with 9 wonderful children. Gods grace has woven us together as a family. Upon bringing Teresa home from China we unfortunately learned she not only needed a heart transplant but also a lung transplant. Her doctors feel she would not survive this operation. Please help us to pray for a miracle for Teresa's heart and lungs to be healed. She is a very special little soul who has touched so many lives around the world ... I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES!
was emailed to me this morning by a friend we met in China. I asked
him if I could share it with the world and he said yes. It is a
beautiful remembrance of Teresa's life. Thank you Brian!
still remember a hot, muggy July day in Guangzhou back in 2010; the
Pipsqueak was still just a tiny little thing, trying to adjust to the
whirlwind of changes that had flipped her world upside down and inside
out. Our group was heading out the back
entrance of the White
Swan and stepped aside just before reaching the doors to allow a family
to come in. I immediately noticed the father's Baltimore Ravens shirt --
landesman! -- and the families struck up a conversation.
During the usual exchange of "so cutes," the family's newest member
caught my eye. She was a quiet little girl (a toddler, really), sitting
in her stroller while giving an ice cream cone a serious working-over. I
kinda-sorta caught a bit of AJ's conversation with her mother, words
like "surgery" and "serious" and phrases like "as long as we can"
floating through my happily oblivious talk about football and such. I
don't know why, but I found myself just watching the little girl for a
few moments; it was only as everybody started moving again that I
realized that one of her arms was shorter than the other, the hand much
smaller than the other. (I almost typed, "than it should have been" but
in her case that's not the right phrase.) Somewhere in the back of my
mind, that normally-silly inner voice told me I should remember her.
Later that evening, as we spoke about the "local" family we'd met, AJ
mentioned that they had made special arrangements because the little
girl had a heart problem so serious they weren't sure she would survive
the flight back to the States. I don't know how I missed that earlier in
the day, but it was a bombshell that stopped me in my tracks. There we
were, finally getting to bring Miri home, already crazy-mad about her...
I couldn't begin to dream what it would feel like to lose her just by
boarding the flight home. AJ added that part of what I'd overheard was
the statement that they wanted the little girl to know what it was like
to be part of a family, to be loved and cared for, for as long as
possible... and that if she made it Stateside she still might only live
for a few months. I decided at that moment that the family was
absolutely crazy, but in the absolutely best possible way; I didn't
(don't) have the wherewithall to deal with the emotional surety of
losing a child and couldn't imagine where they found the strength but
thought theirs was one of the noblest sentiments I'd heard in a long,
For the next few weeks, the little girl with the ice
cream cone and her family only floated through my memory a few times,
usually just as part of general reminiscing about the trip. Eventually,
though, the memory began popping up more frequently, and I couldn't
help but wonder if she'd made it to her new home and had a chance to
experience being part of a loving family. I finally posted a question
about her in the Rumor Queen's adoption forums, and soon received an
answer of, "Do you mean this family?" with a link to the Bartlinski
family blog -- and it was indeed them. I was happy to read that the
little girl had made it home alright but that her folks had discovered
she needed both a new heart and new lungs, but each was too fragile to
allow a transplant of the other. Despite that, Teresa was diving into
her new life with a gusto that could shame people many times her age.
Over the next couple of years, I -- like a constantly-growing number of
people around the world -- followed Teresa and her sisters through the
family blog. They were experiencing trials and tribulations and medical
procedures galore, but their strong faith and even stronger love for
each other helped them climb each mountain one at a time. Against all
odds, often improving and then worsening agin, Teresa's condition
improved in tiny increments to the point where her doctors said that
maybe, just maybe, it might be possible for her to survive a heart
transplant, if a ridiculously long list of "ifs" could be checked off.
Teresa, in the meantime, was living. I don't mean to say that she
survived, or was just staying alive; she was living the way most of us
wish we could. Did she need to be hooked up to an oxygen bottle? Sure,
but so what? Did she run out of energy quickly with little exertion?
Yes, but who cares? Did she have one arm not quite "right" to other
people? Yeah, but no big deal! This was a little girl on a mission: she
was going to live her life to the fullest, having as much fun as she
could, experiencing as many activities and places and things as she
possibly could. She was (to quote her mom) the boss, and she took charge
of her own life and happily squeezed every minute out of every day and
drank deeply of it all.
I remember watching Teresa at the FCC's
Chinese New Year celebration back in 2012. She was hooked up to an
oxygen bottle almost as big as she was and yet seemed to be everywhere
at once -- checking out the silent auction, sitting with her family to
eat, moving around with other kids, just having a good time and totally
ignoring (but not being ignorant of) her own physical limitations. [At
one point, when she reached the end of her long oxygen line, one of her
sisters walked over and, without being asked or told or apparently even
having a second thought, picked up the just-smaller-than-her oxygen
bottle and began lugging it around behind Teresa so she wouldn't be held
back. That should tell you a little about what kind of family the
Bartlinskis are.] Later that day I found myself in a competitive game
with Teresa, rolling a ball back & forth, with her laughing "I beat
you!" any time I missed catching one of her surprisingly fast rolls.
This wasn't a girl with a medical condition or a disability; this was a
girl who was in the game to play and win, and who was having a blast no
I kept following the developments in the lives of
Teresa and her sisters on the family blog; surgery, helper dogs,
adjustment, surgery, more adjustments, medical appointments here, there
and everywhere... Teresa knew she was "different" from other kids but
absolutely refused to let that get in her way; she insisted on Living
instead of just living, never ignorant of her physical limitations but
always pushing herself to do as much as she could for as long as
possible. I think the high point was when she performed in a dance
recital without (at her insistence) being hooked up to an oxygen bottle.
All through this time, the family waited for a new heart to become
available, a heart they knew could save Teresa's life while
simultaneously signaling the end of another young life. A few months ago
came the posting everyone had been waiting for: "They're on their way
to the hospital!" Unfortunately, the heart turned out to be a bad match
and surgery was put off. Then again. And then again. Through it all, the
family's faith remained strong, and Teresa continued to be The Boss and
barely seemed to blink at all the things that everyone else considered
"going wrong." Of course she was disappointed by the false alarms, but
she remained absolutely dedicated to living life as fully and completely
as anyone possibly could.
And then, finally, a heart was
available, and it was a good match. Teresa's condition wasn't as good as
it had been, and things were less sure than they had been, but she and
her family and her medical team grabbed the golden ring and two weeks
ago the vibrant, happy little girl finally underwent heart transplant
surgery. True to form, Teresa was wheeled into the OR wearing a princess
gown and tiara, carrying an extra tiara for the surgeon to wear.
I (and many other people around the world) hoped for a happy ending,
unlikely as we knew it was... but first one ventricle had trouble, then
the other didn't work right... a broken cannula almost caused Teresa to
bleed out... her systems were so damaged she couldn't come off life
support... and Teresa continued to beat the odds. Her will to live was
so strong that she kept overcoming medical complications (and outright
disasters) one after the other, repeatedly waking up despite massive
doses of sedatives to communicate as best she could with her family and
the increasingly amazed medical team. But then there were more
complications... more surgery (again wheeled into the OR with her
princess gown and tiara!)... more heart problems... and finally her body
rejected the donor heart. Still, she kept waking up, communicating with
people around her, even trying to sing a favorite song along with a
nurse; anything to keep living, constantly showing everyone who knew her
or knew about her the value of every precious minute.
was still a chance for things to work out the way so many people were
literally praying for, a risky surgery that would replace the rejected
heart with an artificial unit that could keep Teresa's increasingly
frail body going for at least a few months, hopefully buying time for
another natural heart to become available... but her systems were so
damaged that work had to first be done to try to get them ready for the
artificial heart. By this point she had been bleeding so much, and her
lungs were so weak, and her respiratory system was so weak and her
circulatory system was so stressed and... and...
the surgeon was absolutely, positively, completely sure she had done
everything she possibly could do but had run out of options, she
prepared Teresa as best she could and wheeled her back into the recovery
room for a few last, precious minutes in the arms of her loving family
until even that amazing will to live of hers could no longer keep her
damaged body functioning.
The bright, shining light that Teresa
"Fang Fang" Bartlinski brought into the world (and that dimmed and
flickered only a little bit at the very end) finally went out at 3:23pm
Eastern Time, July 1, 2013. She was just 6-1/2 years old.
and Ed and their other kids had wanted to give the ailing little Liu
Fang the chance to experience being part of a loving family, and they
can be proud of how well they succeeded; theirs is an example that
should make everyone sit up and pay attention. But even more
importantly, there is the example set by Teresa herself.
is a little girl who beat the odds as a newborn, then as a baby, then as
a small toddler very much alone in a Chinese orphanage. She beat the
odds again when she made it safely to the United States, and kept
beating the odds every day she stayed alive.
Teresa didn't just
survive. She didn't just stay alive. She Lived, with a capital L. She
knew she had physical limitations but she kept beating the odds because
she chose to do all that she could instead of allow her physical
limitations to define who she was. She could have easily been a
two-legged pity party, retracting into her own tightly-wound ball of
unhappy dependence; instead (with the loving help of her family) she
took charge of her own life, making herself "the boss" whenever,
whereever, however she could. Teresa took the biggest bites of life that
she could, always refusing to be limited or defined by her physical
limitations (some of which other people would erroneously refer to as
"handicaps" -- usually only until they got to know the little lady in
I think the reason I remembered Teresa so clearly
was because of that amazing spirit of hers. I didn't notice it because
I'm psychically sensitive; I (and many others) noticed it because her
will to live life to its fullest, free of self-pity, literally shone
from her little body like the light from a carbon arc. That first time I
saw her back in Guangzhou, I remember thinking she wasn't just enjoying
that ice cream cone but was experiencing it on multiple levels -- and
since then I saw repeated examples of how completely she experienced
life and everything it had to offer.
The physical manifestation
of the little girl that was Teresa Bartlinski is gone, and that is a
loss many of us will be mourning. But left behind (as small a
consolation as it might be) is the lesson she so effortlessly,
constantly, lovingly taught everyone lucky enough to know her: love is
to be shared and life is to be lived, to be experienced, to be enjoyed.
It is something to wrap oneself around and hold onto as tightly as
possible with every fiber of one's being while simultaneously being
completely and totally wrapped up inside it. Teresa's body presented a
set of limits that she acknowledged but that she never allowed to
control or define who she was; we should all remember that the next time
we feel too tired and achy to bother getting up of the couch to enjoy a
beautiful day (or even a walk in the rain).
When I watch the
Pipsqueak at play, I see the same joie de vivre, the same
un-self-conscious grabbing onto whatever life is offering in that
moment, squeezing out every bit of what it has to offer, and drinking it
to the last drop. I can't help but think that the lesson taught by
Teresa will help me help Miri shepherd her own love of living through
the troughs and valleys and unkindnesses and limitations of everyday
life... and (I hope) help me keep everything in the proper perspective
for myself as well.
I will always remember Teresa and the lessons she taught.
Believe in Miracles 501(c)(3) is a non-profit organization collecting donations for The "Love You More" Heart Home in China. All donations are tax deductible. Contributions can be made payable and mailed to Believe in Miracles, P.O. Box 21199 Catonsville Maryland 21228. We are eternally GRATEFUL !