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This little girl had a ‘hole in her heart.’ Her dad combed Kazakhstan to try and fill it.

Courtesy of Sam Blackman
Sam Blackman and his daughter in Kazakhstan in 2007.

This story originally aired on October 26, 2019.

When Sam Blackman first met his adopted baby daughter in 2007, the pediatrician and first-time father says he did the one thing he knew instinctively how to do: examine her from head to toe. 


“I put my ear up to her chest and listened to her heartbeat, listening for murmurs,” he says. “But in the end all I could find was a beautiful healthy child. Our child.”


Sam and his wife had adopted their daughter from Kazakhstan. They brought her back to the U.S. where they adjusted her birth certificate, officially joining her to their family. They were ecstatic. 


“But what I didn’t know at the time is that there was a hole in her heart,” Sam says. “Very small, no symptoms, we had no idea. But as she grew, the hole in her heart grew. And over the years it got bigger, and then one day it started to make her cry.”


Sam’s daughter didn’t know anything about her birth mother, but she knew enough to miss her. The absence of that person — even the image of her — had left a void in her that needed, somehow, to be filled. 


In this story, told live at Sound Effect’s storytelling event at The Collective in Seattle, Sam Blackman recounts the quest set in motion by his daughter’s longing, and how sometimes we must look beyond medicine to find healing. 


Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.

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