Jan 31, 2012

Kori's Story

Reposted from Micah Six Eight:

This is Kori's story...

The doors open. We are treated to tea and cookies and treats in the director’s office. Afterwards they walk us to meet the person we had been waiting so long to see. Doors swing open left and right. Joshua, barely able to keep from vomiting. Something about the unusual smells and triggers he is unprepared to face. People of all ages and levels of disability stand. And watch. And one after the other speaks the word: “Amerikanskis”.

The word multiplies and follows us like the roar of a huge wave. No one believes that these Americans have come to their mental institution. Could it be true? Are they coming to adopt a child from HERE??
Plastic slippers. Flickering TV screens. Oriental rugs. Old drafty windows. People with Down Syndrome. Cerebral Palsy. Cleft Palate. Deformities. Mental illness. Hidden from society, where only the perfect are welcome. Discarded. Unwanted. Alone. Day after day here, never leaving this building.
She sits in a ball pit with colorful toys surrounding her. The six month old baby with the sweet little hat that makes her look like a little old lady. Her eyes crossing. Cute. Now where is Masha?
But wait. This is an Eastern European mental institution. They only take ages 4 and up. A second look. There is no freaking way.
There is no way in heaven or hell that this can be…..she is almost eight……
I drop to my knees, grab the tiniest baby hands and stare into the eyes of the eight year old trapped in a body no larger than that of a small six month old infant. What in the name of God….
“Masha. It is Mama. Mama is here”.

I manage to say these words while the room suddenly fills with caregivers. People in white coats. Women weeping. So many crying women. I ask permission to lift her out of the ball pit and she immediately rests her weary head against my shoulder as if to say : "You have finally come. I assume this is what kids like me do with ladies like you.”
I tell her : "Hi beautiful princess” and a caregiver behind me bursts into tears. “Princessa Masha!” she exclaims, now crying so hard that I am worried for her for a moment.

We are asked if we will accept the referral of this child. We accept.

And as we spend a month daily visiting her in the only home that has cared for this beautiful small girl after she aged out of the baby orphanage, we learn about the reality of the imperfect people in this country. Beautiful people. Tucked away as far from society as possible. Out of sight. Out of mind.
We walked among angels. The souls that live out their lives under these conditions have left their indelible mark on mine. Their faces. I see their eyes. I still see their eyes.

I saw the children in their "bedridden" room in their beds alone, begging for some attention and love. The small guy with his hands tied in a cloth. I saw the old building that needs so much work. I saw the older children with CP scooting on all fours down the hall, too old for adoption and no hope of a life outside of that institution.

I sat on those couches with some of the teenage girls who brushed my hair...and held my hands...and got hugs and kisses... I called them Princess V., and Princess I. (and all the other beautiful names of all those sweet kids) I went on this adoption trip with some rings and necklaces, and the girls wore them proudly. They learned some English....but I hope that most of all they learned what love is. My heart broke leaving them.. Every day when I got Kori from her room, I blew kisses at the children there and I said my "pryvet" to each and every one of them there. The smiles were priceless.

When we got to the institution after court, the director's assistant ( who was in court with us to represent the institution) was very happy and told the director that we had passed court.

We went upstairs and they brought Kori to us. While playing, we noticed that a number of children were being walked down the hall in nice outfits. Maybe it was a holiday?

One by one the children were being photographed. We stood, we watched. We were amazed. Kori's adoption had made them realize that people DO want these kids and permission was granted to list them. Every single one that was legally available. They were being photographed for their adoption listing. I wish I could have gotten video of this. The excitement. The joy. It was contagious. As the pictures were being snapped, we stood there and clapped and yelled: "Horosho!" (good) along with the caregivers. Random caregivers stopped by and showed us their little ones and asked us to bring them home too. Doors were being opened and the joy on the faces of the caregivers was wonderful beyond words.

Within 24 hours of Kori leaving the mental institute she had a seizure. It is common for European mental institutes to sedate some of the residents, and although no one could say for sure, it was suspected that Kori's seizure was related to sudden withdrawal of sedative medication. After a day or two without the drugs, while still in country, her tiny nearly eight year old body could not handle the sudden change and she began to seize. An ambulance was called. The EMT's called hospital after hospital, trying to find one that would agree to take Kori and treat her.

They were turned down at four hospitals. She was not wanted. Finally, after negotiations, the last hospital relented and decided to admit Kori.

Sometimes adoption breaks a Mama's heart so badly that the words cannot come for a very long time. Sometimes what is seen and experienced is so gut-wrenching that it takes time and distance to begin to heal the pain. Sometimes.

Time stood still. Seconds seemed like minutes, minutes seemed like hours. We had adopted her and had only had her in our custody for about 24 hours. Her little body shook violently in my arms. She gasped for air over and over. Her eyes rolled back in her head. Our daughter was having a massive seizure. I feared that this was it. That she was going to die before she would ever meet her brothers. She would quite possibly never experience more than just a 12 hour train ride, cradled in the arms of her daddy.

It would be twenty minutes before the ambulance would get there.When the ambulance finally arrived the seizure was over. Kori was lethargic and weak. The EMT ladies placed her on the bed and undressed her. Apparently her temperature was extremely low. They gave her several injections and then the yelling began. One of the women argued loudly with our facilitator. I could tell it was about Kori’s condition. I am sure this was a shock to them.

A seven year old child with Down Syndrome who weighed 16 pounds and looked exactly like a 7 month old infant. Her eyes infected. Her teeth so rotten that the smell was noticeable even from a distance. Her legs limp and stick like.

I experienced first hand the disgusted look the EMS people gave my little girl. The way they left her barely clothed on the bed. The way they spoke the words: "Down Syndrome'', spitting them out with anger and repeating over and over. We were unfit parents and she should have remained in her institution. Five hospitals refused her medical care. My facilitator held her hand out for 200 hrivna bills more times than I can count at the hospital that finally admitted her. That money was paid to the doctor, to the nurses, as "incentive money". One nurse was especially horrible to Kori and caused her pain on purpose. My facilitator met her in the hallway and handed her a 200 hrivna bill in exchange for humane treatment for my daughter.

I used to say I could never go back. After she had a seizure in the city, and we witnessed first hand exactly how poorly people with Down Syndrome are treated, I thought I could never ever set foot in that country again.

On days like today though, all I want is to go back. To sit on that couch in the hallway. I long to hold the children I came to love while I was there. I want to tell them they matter. Oh, how they matter. I want to simply walk the halls and make eye contact with the forgotten. I see you. And you. And you. And you. Who will see? How can I make people SEE?? See these amazing spirits, these survivors, these quietly fading people


Heartbroken. Utterly devastated. Ashamed of my own heritage. To have to bribe a woman to treat a child humanely - how can that be, that people can be so cruel to someone so small, so defenseless.

I don't know how to make them see either. I pray God reveals His plan, what's my part in this? For now I can only weep in desperation with dozens of parents who found their precious children across the sea in ..basically a concentration camp.

I want to get angry, but anger breeds more anger. So instead Ill just weep and pray.

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