Joy. Dreams. Hope for the future. Excitement. Nervousness. Fear. These emotions—and more—flood the minds of all first-time expectant parents. But what happens when those dreams of a beautiful, healthy baby are shattered?

Devastating news

At their regularly scheduled, twenty-week ultrasound visit, Dan and Kari Chin excitedly anticipated their first glimpse of their first baby—maybe they would even find out the answer to their nagging question: “Is it a boy or a girl?”

Shortly after the technician began the ultrasound, her face darkened and she became quiet. “You need to see your doctor,” she informed the young couple.

Within minutes Dan and Kari found themselves in their doctor’s office, where they heard devastating news: something was wrong with their unborn baby.

After further tests, Dan and Kari heard the first of many medical terms that described their baby’s numerous problems. The doctors believed that their unborn baby had trisomy 13, a rare disorder in which an individual has an extra thirteenth chromosome.

Dan and Kari were unprepared for this devastating news. Most children with this chromosome disorder don’t survive. Shortly after the initial diagnosis, the Chins began to assimilate the news of their unborn baby. “We wanted to know everything,” Dan reminisced. “The most important thing that I wanted to know was whether [the baby] was a boy or girl. I wanted to know everything I could about my child.”

We had to rely on God

Before Dan and Kari publicly shared their news, they talked and prayed together. “We decided there was nothing we could humanly do,” they related. “We had to rely on God. Job 1:21 was an encouragement to us. After Job lost everything, he still praised God. It is our responsibility to praise Him. We are supposed to worship God because He is worthy. When you are praising God, it is hard to be discouraged. Praise and discouragement are not compatible.”

As they shared the information with family and friends, they received much prayer and support, especially from their home church, Fox Valley Baptist Church in East Dundee, Illinois. Dan and Kari’s former Sunday School teacher recalled that when he first spoke with Dan and Kari concerning their situation, Dan’s comment was, “My God is a big God.”

Dan and Kari’s trust and worship in the Almighty was evident as the pregnancy continued. Further tests revealed that their baby had been misdiagnosed. Along with disfigurement, the baby also had holoprosencephaly, a brain malformation that leads to severe facial defects. The Chins received little hope for their baby’s survival.

Over the next weeks, Dan and Kari studied the newest medical terms and continued to trust God. “We really didn’t know what to expect. [Doctors] told us to essentially plan for a funeral.” At Kari’s thirty-one-week doctor visit, their doctor offered little hope and recommended an abortion. “That’s when we knew that we had to get a different doctor.”

Welcome, Cora Leigh

Kari’s new obstetrician had a much different approach. “[The baby] will have problems,” he told the Chins, “but we need to get the baby out.”

On June 3, 2004, Cora Leigh Chin was delivered by cesarean section. While most births are surrounded by joyous celebration, the joy of Cora’s birth was mingled with many emotions. “The hospital usually played a lullaby at the birth of each baby. They didn’t play a lullaby for Cora,” Kari noted.

Cora’s disfigurement included a severe cleft lip and palate, a missing right eye, and abnormalities with her hands and legs. “We were told to expect a few days to a year and a half—most likely, three months,” Dan related. “They planned to send us home and make us comfortable.” Thankfully, God had other plans.

After reviewing the results of Cora’s original medical tests, the doctors decided to take baby Cora to a children’s hospital for further testing.

“That was hard for me,” Kari said. “I was still recovering from surgery, and I had not gotten to see Cora for very long. And now she was going to be taken away from me.”

The surgeries begin

Medical personnel were somewhat perplexed by Cora’s conditions. “One doctor actually admitted that he didn’t know what she had,” Dan added. “I really respected him.”

The one thing the doctors agreed on, however, was that Cora’s most life-threatening problem was the excessive amount of liquid on her brain. If Cora was to have any hope for survival, the doctors needed to perform surgery as soon as possible.

On June 9, 2004, six-day-old Cora was wheeled into her first surgery, which would relieve the pressure from her brain.

Before the surgery, doctors warned Dan and Kari that they were not sure what Cora’s condition would be. Cora had only 10 percent of the brain mass of a normal infant. “That news was traumatizing,” Kari related. Dan added, “I really struggled. I told God that I could live with a lot of stuff, but not retardation. It took me a few days to come to the conclusion that God does not wish harm on us and He doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle without Him.” Dan and Kari quietly trusted in the fact that God is good and that He was taking care of their little girl.

Prepared for the worst, Dan and Kari watched and waited as Cora entered surgery to insert a ventriculoperitoneal shunt to divert the cerebrospinal fluid from the ventricles in Cora’s brain to her abdomen, where the fluid would be reabsorbed into her bloodstream.

To God’s glory, the two-hour surgery was successful. The next day Dan and Kari met with doctors, who informed them that all of Cora’s abnormalities in her face and appendages were the result of amniotic banding, not holoprosencephaly.

Several days after Cora’s surgery, Dan and Kari posted the following message on Cora’s website:

“Many people have sent notes or posted a message for us saying that God will use this, but we want to say right now that He already is. . . . He has brought us closer together in our marriage and brought the focus of our marriage more onto Him; He has been teaching us patience. . . . He has rallied His people around us to pray and to watch the miracles He does.”

Cora’s remarkable progress

Yes, God certainly was at work. Over the next few days, Cora surprised her caregivers by taking liquid from a bottle with a special nipple. Her early progress was encouraging to everyone, and on June 25 Cora was able to go home from the hospital. Her first few days at home were an adjustment. “She screamed and cried all the time,” Kari conveyed. Then she pulled out her feeding tube. “After that, she began taking all her liquid from a bottle. We didn’t even need to use the feeding tube at all,” Dan added.

As Cora developed, her doctors were pleased with her progress and reported that her brain was beginning to “bounce back” after being compressed by the spinal fluid. Cora amazed many by her ability to express her needs with signs. Dan and Kari were astounded at the many signs she knew and learned on her own, just by watching an infant sign language DVD.

On June 3, 2005, Cora celebrated her first birthday. What a joyous time of praise as friends and family gave glory to God for Cora’s remarkable progress! She enjoyed the attention as she crawled around and “visited” with her many guests, and her chocolate cake was a big hit!

One month after her birthday, Cora was admitted to Children’s Memorial Hospital for her first facial reconstruction surgery. After seven and a half hours of waiting, Dan and Kari received wonderful news: doctors were able to reconstruct her nose, repair the soft and hard palate in her mouth, close her right eyelid, and repair the cleft on her lip. This month, they hope to fix the tear duct in her left eye.

In the months that followed, Cora’s “vocabulary” began to explode; she began to use many different signs in order to tell everyone what she wanted. Though she was not yet walking, she had taken a few steps on her own. On January 6, 2006, Cora’s doctors repaired the band that constricted the growth of her leg. Soon after recovery, nineteen-month-old Cora was off and running!

Cora continued to bloom, just like any normal toddler. Then, several days before Christmas of 2006, she received her painted eye, a scleral shell prosthesis.

Not an easy road

While Dan and Kari were thrilled with her progress, they did experience challenges as well. Because Cora was born with only one eye and many disfigurements, she has received some odd responses from curious outsiders. Dan and Kari do an outstanding job at taking these things in stride, but it’s not always easy. “While [Cora and I] were waiting for an appointment,” Kari related, “Cora wanted to go over to play with several children. One child saw Cora and screamed. Then all the others screamed and ran away. Cora looked at me as if to say, ‘What did I do?’ ”

Many people have been amazed at Dan and Kari’s strength and hope. A web post from June 14, 2004, gives an insight on this young couple’s strength:

“We cannot do anything but thank our Lord for our little Cora. . . . Before she was born, doctors spoke of us only having days at the longest. . . . So, we put everything in God’s hands, not understanding why things were happening this way, but trusting Him to be good because He is good and He is love (1 John 4:8). We decided that if Job could praise God after he lost everything, . . . then we certainly could in our much smaller trial. . . . [After Cora was born] we were overjoyed that we could hold her and see her beautiful face and hear her make random sounds and smell her hair and thanked Him and praised Him even more. . . .

“If you’re reading this and you don’t know God, we are not saying that this is an easy road for us so far, or a fun one. We’re not even saying that if you get to know God, you’ll get a free ride in life and won’t have to work anymore. We are saying that we have joy and peace in our life that comes only from God and we want you to have it too.”

Dan and Kari’s encouraging testimony continues to touch hearts and lives.

As for little Cora, she continues her remarkable progress. Her spunk, outgoing personality, and infectious smile cause all who are privileged to meet her to instantly fall in love with her.

Dan and Kari posted on their website a poem that aptly describes this precious little girl.

A Work in Progress

by Erin Kealen

Hidden in the depths

Of the Master’s heart

An image of a child takes place,

His precious work of art.

And as He plans this life,

He works deliberately

To make this child

His perfect masterpiece.

You are a work in progress,

A precious tapestry,

Where God is painting out His will

In perfect harmony.

You are a work in progress,

Created to be

A picture of His priceless love

For all the world to see.

As the Artist scans His canvas,

The finish comes to mind.

The completed work of His desire

With pleasure He designs.

He chooses colors: lighter, darker,

And with each stroke applied,

Your life is painted out with love

For His glory divine.

You are a work in progress,

A precious tapestry,

Where God is painting out His will

In perfect harmony.

You are a work in progress,

Created to be

A picture of His priceless love

For all the world to see.

As Cora continues to grow and develop, those who love her continue to thank our Heavenly Father for His precious work in her life.

Visit www.corachin.com to learn more about Cora and to view updates.

Erin Kealen is on the editorial team at Regular Baptist Press.