Now the surgeon-in-chief at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Dr. Christine Finck has performed countless operations. But it was one procedure she performed nearly 13 years ago that changed her life forever.
In 2006, Finck, an attending physician at a children’s hospital in Philadelphia at the time, received a call late one snowy, February night.
“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,” she recalled in a blog post.
Gastroschisis is a rare condition where a baby is born with its intestines outside of its body. Just over 1,800 cases occur each year in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I was struck by the small peanut that greeted me,” she wrote, adding that she learned the baby’s name was Isabelle.
From there, Isabelle remained in Finck’s care as the young girl underwent many surgeries. Finck described the first year of Isabelle’s life as “extremely rough.”
“She was on intravenous nutrition and fought many infections. 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,” she recalled.
Finally, a few months later, Isabelle was ready to be discharged from the hospital, though she still had a feeding tube in her stomach and a “big IV line under her collar bone."
It was around that same time Isabelle’s biological mom informed Finck she would not be able to adequately care for her.
“She shyly stated that she just could not keep her. There was no family that could help,” Finck continued, describing the night the baby’s mother approached her.
“I can take her,” Finck recalled blurting out in response.
Surprising herself by her quick reaction, she immediately called her husband, John. He didn’t hesitate to “yes" either, she recalled.
“I think watching her frail but tough spirit made me just feel a special connection with her,” Finck told Fox 61, describing her decision to take Isabelle home.
All these years later, Isabelle, now in seventh grade, told the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Foundation she is “glad [her] mom was [her] surgeon because she could take the best care of me.”
"She’s kind and sweet, she helps me with my homework and always looks forward to playing with me,” Madeline, Isabelle’s 9-year-old sister, told the foundation.
Hallmark chose to feature Finck’s story in its campaign this month. Finck, who also has a son named John Michael, told the news station she hopes the campaign “raises awareness of adoption and how positive that can be, not only for a family, but for kids."
“It’s not uncommon that on a daily basis that I see children that my heart goes out to," she added. "I wish I could help everybody."