Volunteer Plus Intern
Hattie is from Waunakee, Wisconsin and is currently pursuing a degree in Global Business and a minor in Peace and Justice from St. Norbert College. She stumbled upon Save a Child’s Heart through her friend’s social media post and immediately checked out SACH’s Instagram account and noticed that all of the children featured on the page had the same scares as her siblings. Hattie is the oldest of eight children, four of her youngest siblings were adopted from China and South Korea. Three of Hattie’s youngest siblings are currently living with congenital heart disease. Clara, Lewis, and Evelyn all have single ventricle hearts. Clara and Lewis both have received two open-heart surgeries each. Hattie’s siblings will never be “cured,” but manage to act like the hyper five-year-olds that they are destined to be. Evelyn’s congenital heart disease is a more complicated case than her siblings. Her cardiologist’s team has reached out to a handful of other cardiologists around the United States for support and knowledge and is still drafting potential courses of action for her case. All three siblings are living with a single ventricle heart but are able to thrive because of the surgeries they have had.
Here’s what she has to say about her experience with Save a Child’s Heart thus far:
“Save a Child’s Heart is the epitome of the word “family.” Every single day that I walk through the door, it constantly feels like I’m being greeted by my brothers and sisters. Even the mothers have become family to me. Through my siblings and SACH, I have learned to recognize the importance of not just focusing on illness, but the bigger picture, which is what makes that individual who they are as a person. The overall mission of SACH is to save lives, but within my role (since I’m no doctor) I use hugs, love, and smiles to mend their hearts throughout this traumatic experience. SACH has allowed me to see the world all-around one kitchen table. SACH had also opened my eyes to the fact that my siblings could have been saved by Save a Child’s Heart if they did not come to the United States when they did.”
What have you learned from having adopted siblings, specifically with congenital heart disease?
“As my parents always say, “You gotta roll with the punches.” Whatever life hands our way, we handle it in the best way we can and make sure always to put family first, because at the core, regardless of adoption, that is what we are. Having adopted siblings makes the world feel much smaller than it is. I gained a sense of certainty that you don’t need to be blood-related to call someone’s family. When focusing on the congenital heart disease component of it, I recognize that this is their life, they didn’t choose this route, and if I could take it away from them, I would. Considering I can’t cure them of their disease, I have learned that I am only able to love them for who they are and show them that everyone in their home is perfectly imperfect in their own way. Family is embracing the good, the bad, and the ugly all in one.”
What brought you to SACH?
- She found out about SACH from a close friend and saw a post about heart surgery. She has three siblings with congenital heart disease. I immediately went through SACH Instagram and noticed that all of the children had the same scares as my siblings. I remember thinking that this is the place I need to go to and see what this organization does; this is my siblings and could’ve been them. If it wasn’t for adoption, my siblings could’ve been going through save a child’s heart.
- She waited for six months until the application opened and even had a reminder set on her phone. She consistently waited for an interview and prayed that she would get the internship. She was really looking forward to coming to Israel, a country she has never been to, to make an impact.
She is the oldest of the eight children, and the age range is 2-20. Four youngest siblings are adopted, the oldest adopted is from South Korea, and three youngest are from china. Her parents first wanted to adopt after the Haiti earthquake; however, they were not eligible based on their family size.
Her dad hated that response: “No.” Her father immediately stated: “Our son or daughter is out there; we have the means to support them so we will get there.” South Korea and China were both options; however, after they adopted Norah from South Korea, they crossed a problem with china due to their family size increases.
How has this impacted you today?
Having adopted siblings makes the world feel much smaller than it is. Seeing multiple cultures at my kitchen table makes me understand that I am no different from them than they are from me. I gained a sense of certainty that you don’t need to be blood-related to call someone’s family. Clara (5 years old) Lewis (5 years old) Evelyn (2 years old)
None are biologically related.
All have single ventricle hearts, a form of congenital heart disease, non-curable.
Clara and Lewis have had two open-heart surgeries each, at a point where they are not cured but still manage to run around like typical healthy five years olds.
Doctors state that they don’t need to be seen until they are 20 years, but honestly with heart diseases, you never know.
Evelyn still has a single ventricle heart, and now has rotation, does not have a spleen. Hers is the most complex case.
How do you see past the adoption and illness?
- This is life, they didn’t choose this route, and if I could take it away from them, I would. It’s embracing the good and bad and the ugly all in one. For a whole summer, I was watching all my other siblings, while my other siblings are going through checkups. “Rolling with the punches” whatever life hands our way we are going to do our best to put our family first, and at the core that’s what we are.”
What does SACH mean to you now that you’ve spent so much time in this organization?
- SACH is the epitome of the word family. Every day I walk through that door, I feel like I’m being greeted by my brothers and sisters. The mothers have become my family, as well. Seeing past the illness, showing that this illness shouldn’t define the kids here. The mission of SACH is to save their lives, but within my role (since I’m no doctor) I am emotionally mending their hearts throughout this traumatic experience, that some may have to go through alone. SACH has allowed me to see the world all-around one kitchen table, especially during KULA. It’s beautiful to watch the friendships that these children have built from different countries, that they would’ve never met if they weren’t placed in the SACH house.