Mercy Dad’s Non-Traditional Path to Fatherhood

June 19, 2015

The Tourville family includes Darren, Robin,

Makenna, Madison, Jaxson, Jace and Mollie.

Darren Tourville always wanted to be a dad, but with God’s hand, his path to fatherhood was a much different route than he’d ever imagined. Today, as he celebrates his 14th Father’s Day, Tourville is surrounded by five unique, loving children whom he not only raised, but he saved their lives.

“We really felt called to do this,” Tourville said. Since 2001, the 45-year-old manager of pastoral service at Mercy Hospital Springfield, along his wife Robin, who works in data collection for cardiovascular surgeons at Mercy, have adopted their children from China: Makenna, 14, Madison, 12, Jaxson, 9, Jace, 8, and Mollie, 7.

“Robin and I met at Mercy, and it wasn’t long before we tied the knot,” Tourville recalled. “We soon learned that we couldn’t get pregnant, and instead of agonizing and wondering why, we took that as a sign from God that there were children out there who needed families.”

That led the Tourvilles to adopt Makenna. It was especially rewarding, considering the arduous international adoption process. “It’s a leap of faith,” he said. Makenna was barely one year old when the couple visited her in South China. “We actually celebrated her first birthday overseas. Three years later, we adopted Madison and thought we were done, but in 2009, Robin saw Jaxson on a website, and we fell in love.”

The couple returned to South China for a third time, but it was a much different experience. “Jaxson, who is now 9, had to get a heart valve repaired once he joined our family.” Tourville says Jaxson’s chances of having the operation in China were slim due to the poor conditions in which he grew up. “And because he had the operation so late, he’ll need to get that valve replaced as a teenager. We’re hoping late teens.” Jaxson has since become a poster child for the American Heart Association.

Following Jaxson’s adoption, Tourville says he felt God wanted him to continue his good work, and the couple soon began fundraising and applying for grants to expand the family with two more children, both with special needs.

“Jace lived in three different orphanages by the time we met him,” Tourville said. “We Skyped with him every week for eight months, and learned he has half a functioning heart. In fact, he had a stroke in China just after one of the two open heart surgeries performed there when he was a toddler.” Jace is doing much better, but can’t use his left hand due to his stroke and also wears a brace on his left foot. He also suffers from ADHD and seizures. “Jace had his third open heart surgery right after joining our family and though his life expectancy will be shortened, he enjoys life.”

The family’s newest survivor, Mollie, added a new layer of challenges. Last June, the Tourvilles made their most recent trip to China, meeting their daughter with Down syndrome. Like her brother Jace, she has congenital heart defects, too. “Unfortunately, she’s one of the few who, due to not having the holes in her heart repaired early enough, is unable to have surgery,” Tourville said. “So we are exploring our options for medication and providing her with a nurturing environment as we go. Mollie will most likely need to be on oxygen at some point in her life. These kids are survivors.”

With every step, the Tourville family is reaching milestones and living full lives. “Mollie just finished kindergarten. She and her brother are playing baseball together, and our older girls are getting involved in tennis.” Together, they attend church and even make it to a few Cardinals games each year. “Seeing the kids in better condition and enjoying life, it’s just awesome.”

“They are my life, to be honest,” Tourville said. “And Mercy was a huge help getting us to where we are today because they provide assistance for domestic or international adoption.” If you’re interested in adoption, Tourville said, “we are glad to help anyone with advice.” It’s proof that Tourville’s fatherly reach extends well beyond his close-knit family.

“Oh, I run into people all the time who say they’re too afraid to adopt because you ‘never know what you’re going to get.’ But I tell them, that’s the case with any kids,” Tourville said. “There are no guarantees except for this: I love my children, perhaps even a little more, because of everything we’ve gone through together. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”