I admit it. I am obsessed with finding the children with Spina Bifida homes. Spina Bifida is a birth defect of the spine. Many of the children are born with a “hernia” of spinal matter protruding outside their bodies. In the US these children receive surgery right after birth to correct the defect. Many of the children develop hydrocephalus as a result of the added pressure of spinal fluid on the brain. This is also corrected shortly after birth in the US and as a result there is little impact on the cognitive functioning of these children. While many of these children have some type of paralysis, 70% of children born with spina bifida have normal or above normal intellect. They can grow up to be doctors, lawyers, teachers…really their future potential is unlimited.
My life has forever been personally altered by two children with spina bifida. I have seen their amazing strength and resilience.
My niece and nephew were both born with spina bifida. They were born in Haiti and would not have lived to see their first birthdays if they had not been adopted. At the time they were born in Haiti there was not a single Neurosurgeon practicing in the entire country. They had no option of survival. Thankfully they were able to become part of our family and I can’t imagine my life without them. My niece is a really smart, beautiful and sensitive girl. When she came to the US she was in critical condition. She struggled to survive for over 6 weeks.
My nephew Jude is hilarious. I mean really hilarious. He is also very smart and while he may look like a preschooler, he has the mind of a much older child.
The incredible richness these children have added to my life and knowing they are only alive because they were adopted makes my heart bleed for the children in many countries who wait for families and struggle to survive with spina bifida. Two years ago I sat at this same desk crying for a child I called Baby Beth.
Beth was born in a country where she did not have surgery on her back at birth. As a result the lesion was leaking spinal fluid constantly. The fact that she was still alive and had not contracted a life ending infection was a huge miracle. I could not get past the sadness in Beth’s eyes. I could not stop thinking about her tiny, perfect fingers.
So I cried. And I begged. And I pleaded. And I may have threatened a bit. And I was able (with the help of our in country partners) to get surgery for Beth. And I was able to find Beth a family. What a difference a family makes! Beth is now receiving the medical care and LOVE she needs to thrive.
So now I have information on another little baby girl. This baby girl, Helen, lives in the same country as Baby Beth. In fact, Helen lives in the very same orphanage that Baby Beth lived in until her adoption.
Helen is turning two in February. She speaks her first words and loves any attention she can get. She had surgical correction of her spine and a shunt installed to reduce fluid on her brain.
Recently the shunt that keeps her from having too much fluid on her brain failed and she underwent surgery again. The hospital is a scary place for a baby with a loving family, but for an orphan it can be terrifying. Orphanages do not generally have the ability to have a known caregiver stay with a child once they are checked in to the hospital. The children are alone and hurting. The photos and video of little Helen post surgery are so sad.
The sweet baby who sought contact is now avoiding eye contact. While her physical issues have been met her emotional needs are suffering. I ache to find her a mother to love and hold her. I ache to find her a father to love and protect her. Little Helen has so much potential right now for a bright future. She could be a beautiful and loving daughter, sister and niece. She just desperately needs a family to step up and say they will adopt her. If you are that family please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.