Most of Abenezer’s story is his. We’ve decided to tell this part of his story, because honestly it’s a huge part of why he is a part of our family. When we decided to adopt, we opened ourselves up to children of mild special needs. In Ethiopia and most of Africa, this means HIV positive children. We did research and talked to friends and realized that HIV is NOT as big a deal as it once was, due to modern medicine and perception changing. We are still open to adopting children of mild special needs in our future (including HIV) because it just isn’t as scary to us as these kids not having a family. We have friends who have adopted children with mild to very severe special needs. When you are informed and have a supportive community, all the scary medical terms and conditions become much more normalized and less scary. You begin to see past the labels and focus on the child.
During our process, we got a very detailed form just before our referral, to be more specific about which special needs we felt equipped to handle. This is the form:
As you can see, it’s a wide range of special needs. We painstakenly filled it out, knowing every time we checked “no”, we were crossing off a potential son or daughter. It was very hard to do. (Josh’s note: this was the single hardest form I’ve ever filled out) We checked what we thought our family could handle, what we prepaped for, and left others blank. About 3 weeks after we filled this out, we got a phone call from our agency. We knew we were #77 on the referral list and we figured it wasn’t our referral. Except, it was.
The agency said there was a 3 year old boy with Hepatitis C and that we were the only family qualified and willing to take this special needs child on the list. We had a week to decide, and if we said no they would ask another agency to try to find a family for the child. We talked to friends, doctors, and did research on our own. We only knew his age, his gender and his Hepatitis C status; no pictures or a name. We took the full week to decide about the referral. We were totally caught off guard, because we had checked “no” to Hepatitis C. After the week of research, we felt so silly for taking the full week to decide. Man, how information can change your perspective and fears. Why were ‘against’ taking a child with Hep C but preparing for a child with HIV? Ignorance and oversight are my best guess.
In preparation for the adoption, I had met with some Infectious Disease doctors at Duke before we accepted the referral. They’ve had a folder for Abenezer at their clinic since 2015. We were expecting a child with medical needs and felt this was a good step to preparing for it. We were going to get him home, tested for everything and then vaccinated according to what our doctors told us was necessary. Cut to us arriving in Ethiopia, and I asked the nurse at his orphanage if he had any medications I should be taking with me. When the subject of him and any chronic conditions comes up, I tell her about the report of Hepatitis C. She then informs me he has never had any health issues but a common cold.
Um, what? At that point, I was so emotionally and physically overwhelmed, I pushed that information to the back of my brain for later. (Josh’s note: I felt she was mistaken and wasn’t really comfortable pushing the issue. We accepted his Hep C before we left, we’ll get him good medical care back home. Misunderstanding, no big deal). Then his skin reacted to the TB skin test while we are in country, so another thing to double check when we get back to the states. We manage to get through the remainder of his medical checks in Addis and get him home. Once here, we made an appointment with the doctors at the Pediatric Infectious Disease clinic. He got 13 vials of blood drawn to test for EVERYTHING after I told the doctors what the orphanage nurse relayed to us. A month after landing on US soil, we get the test results back and..
Everything. Was. Negative.
Seriously. He’s perfectly healthy. No HIV. No Hepatitis. No TB. Nothing.
We told a handful of family about his diagnosis of Hepatitis C before we brought him home, so this may come as a shock to some of you.
Knowledge is power. As soon as we researched Hepatitis C, the fear melted away. If you are adopting and think you may be prepared or could prepare for children with special needs, DO IT. There is a HUGE need for you. We would choose Abenezer over and over (Josh’s sarcastic note: most of the time anyway). Even if he was HIV positive. Even if he had Hepatitis C. Even if he has some undiagnosed disease or syndrome. We love him unconditionally. We could have missed this if we said no:
When it comes to following God’s commands and giving up your life to His will, be willing put your “yes” on the table.Even if it’s scary. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Even if it’s life changing. Saying yes to Aben was one of the best decisions we could make. We are not doing anything extraordinary. Adoptive parents are not rescuers of children; only God can rescue. We adopted because God adopted us into His family and gave us the ability to do so. God makes everything good. We are so blessed.
Josh’s last note: We try to follow God. God says to care for orphans. Why adopt? that’s the wrong question. Why not adopt?