It was the beginning of Dr. Christine Finck's career when she first met little Isabelle. The newborn girl arrived premature and late at night.
Finck, now surgeon-in-chief at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, had just begun working in Philadelphia as an attending physician when the call came in, reported Fox 61.
"I wiped the sleep from my eyes and listened to the neonatal intensivist tell me about a premature baby being born at another hospital with gastroschisis — this is a condition where all the intestines are outside the body," Finck wrote in a blog post.
Gastroschisis is a rare condition — fewer than 2,000 babies are born with the defect each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — but it's a serious one. Finck called the baby's mom and told her the infant would need a lot of hospital care, and the mom told her the girl's name was Isabelle.
"The first year of Isabelle’s life was extremely tough. She required many operations to help fix her intestines. She was on intravenous nutrition and fought many infections," Finck wrote in a blog post. "I was her primary surgeon and I would take care of her every day. I would always end my visit by holding her tiny hand."
For months, Isabelle remained in the hospital and Finck remained by her side.
“Luckily, she turned the corner around September/October, and then, by December, she was ready to go home, and that was the time when her mother said she couldn’t take care of her," Finck told Fox 61.
So Finck made a snap decision.
"It just came out of my mouth: 'I'll take her,' " Finck told the little girl's teenage mom, according to Hartford Business. "I remember she turned all red and said, 'That would be wonderful because you know her best.' "
She called her husband, and he agreed that they should adopt.
“I had grown very close to her. I was at her bedside a lot, and I think watching her frail but tough spirit made me just feel a special connection with her. The irony is the NICU nurses always said I was taking her home, that was the funny part,” Finck told Fox 61.
It wasn't the easiest transition. Isabelle still had IV and feeding tubes, and wasn't eating any solid food. But Finck made sure everyone knew how to care for her.
"Needless to say, I taught my non-medical family how to care for central lines and feeding tubes. We worked with speech therapists and slowly introduced food to her," she wrote on her blog. Isabelle's first bite of solid food was a chocolate chip cookie, she told the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Foundation.
Now a seventh-grader, "Izzy" enjoys listening to music, swimming, and helping out her two younger siblings, according to the foundation.
"“She’s kind and sweet, she helps me with my homework and always looks forward to playing with me,” Isabelle's 9-year-old sister, Madeline, told the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Foundation.
Izzy is glad her mom was there for her, too.
“My mom is cool because she always finds time for me,” Isabelle told the foundation. “I love going shopping with her and getting my nails done.”
Thirteen years after that fateful decision, Finck told Fox 61 she wants her story to inspire others to consider adoption too. Her story is also being promoted by Hallmark to raise money for the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Foundation.
“I hope it raises awareness of adoption and how positive that can be, not only for a family, but for kids," said Finck. "It has been a wonderful experience for me."