Infant Loses Legs After Father Attempts to Abandon Her, Finally Adopted by Caring Parents

A little girl’s life in Vietnam was nearly cut short by her father, but fate brought her together with a couple who had longed for another child. The events that transpired in the years that followed left those around her filled with inspiration.

Haven Shepherd was born on March 10, 2003 to a woman whose significant other was allegedly already wed to someone else. It is reported that the mother of the newborn was devastated upon learning this information, and when she expressed her objections, the situation worsened.

When Haven was 14 months old, her father attempted to take her and her mother’s lives. Both her parents passed away in the tragedy, but miraculously, the young girl survived. Since the family lived in a rural area, Haven’s grandmother took her to the nearest hospital several miles away on a motorcycle.

The Injured Baby

With an injured baby in tow, Haven’s grandmother rode a motorcycle on a rough road to the hospital, unsure if the young girl would make it. Upon reaching the hospital, the doctors were left with no choice but to perform amputations on the infant’s legs below her knees.

The young girl spent several weeks in the hospital while the medical staff monitored her and did their best to improve her condition. Haven remembered:

“I was supposed to die that night, and I almost did.”

Financial Problems

As she grew up, Haven had no recollection of the traumatic event that nearly took her life. Her grandparents informed her that her parents had desired to be together, and when they could not, they chose to end their lives.

Due to their poverty, Haven’s grandparents were unable to afford her medical costs. They hoped the doctors would treat Haven using donations, not realizing that the young girl’s life was about to take a positive turn.

Haven’s grandparents sought out assistance from social welfare organizations, and her situation was reported in a local newspaper. Soon, someone came across the story and made the decision to bring Haven to the United States for a brighter future.

A Family of Eight

As Haven received medical care, a couple in Missouri, Shelly and Rob Shepherd, longed to add another child to their family. Despite already having six children, Shelly believed they could still expand their family.

However, Rob was hesitant to bring in another member to their family, as he was still grieving the loss of his brother who passed away in a traumatic car accident. Despite this, Shelly was able to persuade him to consider adoption.

The Shepherds were experienced in opening their home to children in need, having frequently provided foster care. However, they had never before taken on the responsibility of adoption. Nevertheless, Shelly believed that they were now prepared to take that step and embrace the challenge.

An Interesting Opportunity

Soon, the Shepherds were presented with an opportunity to visit Vietnam when one of Shelly’s friends, Pam Copes, went there with her husband, Randy. The couple’s friends ran an orphanage in the country, and Copes’ visit was meant to help them heal from the loss of their teenage son.

When Pam and Randy visited Vietnam, they felt a sense of healing while assisting children. During their trip, they came across a news article about Haven and believed the Shepherds would be willing to offer their support to the young girl.

After hearing about Haven’s story, Copes and Randy believed that a family in the United States would be a better fit for the little girl and discussed the possibility with Haven’s grandmother. They believed that the support and resources available in the US would provide the best chance for Haven to heal and thrive.

Their First Meeting

When the Shepherds heard about Haven, they traveled to Vietnam to assist with the adoption proceedings. Copes had already located a family who was willing to adopt the baby, not realizing that she would end up becoming a member of Shelly’s family.

When Shelly first laid eyes on Haven in Vietnam, she felt a strong bond form. Holding the baby’s tiny hands in her own, she knew at that moment that her life would change forever.

The Shepherds spent quality time with Haven before her journey to the United States. Shelly was overjoyed at the thought of the little girl, who had suffered so much, finally having a loving and caring family to call her own through adoption.

Her Wish Came True

But despite the setback, Shelly was determined to provide a home for Haven. She knew that the little girl had been through enough and deserved a loving family. And so, six days later, when the intended adoptive family backed out, Shelly and Rob stepped in and officially adopted Haven as their own daughter.

On November 19, 2004, Haven became a member of the Shepherd family, marking the start of a new and wonderful period in her life. She would later reflect on how her parents made the journey of over 8,000 miles to bring her to the U.S., despite her father initially being uncertain about adopting her. She says:

“I won him over! I stuck to him like glue.”

Her Interest in Sports

Haven seamlessly became a part of the Shepherd family and fit in as if she was always meant to be there. Her new family was overjoyed to have her and felt as if she completed their puzzle. She was lovingly referred to as “the miracle child” by those around her, and Haven couldn’t have imagined a more perfect adoptive family.

As Haven grew up, she observed her siblings participating in various sports. Their passion for athletics sparked her curiosity and she decided to give several sports a try. Eventually, she discovered swimming and fell in love with the sport, which would become her ticket to success.

Haven first took to the pool when she was ten years old and was immediately hooked. She found a sense of empowerment in swimming, as it was something she could do independently, without relying on anyone else.

Formal Training

Two years after her initial swim, Haven joined a training team and caught the attention of the U.S. Paralympic team. In 2018, she was presented with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to compete in an international competition, which she describes as a surprising turn of events.

“I got to wear the USA across my cap and that was super cool.”

Her trainer recognized her impressive swim times and unwavering determination and stated that Haven had a strong likelihood of representing the U.S. Paralympic Team. For Haven, this would be a dream come true.

A Role Model

In addition to pursuing her love of swimming, Haven dedicates time to spending with other amputees. This brings her joy as she sees herself as a source of hope and inspiration for young people who are in similar situations.

Haven sees life as offering her two choices: to wallow in self-pity or to stand tall and live confidently. Growing up, she had limited exposure to others with disabilities and often experienced people staring at her prosthetic legs. Instead of letting this get her down, she chose to embrace her unique legs and exude confidence.

Reflecting on her life, Haven has no regrets and no feelings of sadness. She views her experiences as having empowered her to become the strongest version of herself. With her optimistic outlook, there’s no doubt that she will continue to accomplish great things.

Haven’s story serves as proof that one should never limit themselves. Despite facing challenges, she refused to let her circumstances dictate her future. Through determination and exploration, she found what suited her best and worked hard to achieve her goals.