Medical Monday – The Sullivan Family

When we decided to adopt and add to our family, we were uncertain as to where to begin.  CCAI was excellent in guiding us through the process.  One of the more daunting tasks of the process was completing the medical checklist and deciding on the conditions that we were willing to adopt.  We decided to trust God and checked most of the boxes.  We have since adopted two children with spina bifida.  One has a malformed right leg with urinary difficulties.  The other has had a tethered cord repaired, walks with an altered gait, and requires braces to walk.

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Personally our decision to adopt Hudson and Anna Rae was made easier by the fact that we already have a niece with spina bifida and has had multiple surgeries, including an amputated leg.  As to our second adoption, we were warned about relapse fever.  When you are in China and see the overwhelming  need you can’t help but go back and adopt again.  The children at the orphanage competing for your  attention caused us to want to pick up all the children and take them with us.  As a result, we went back a year later to adopt Anna Rae.

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The easy part of this is that children are tough and resilient.  Our children do not gripe and complain about their conditions and pains.  They are tough and determined.  The do not let their physical limitations deter them whatsoever.  The hard part was our feeling of inadequacy to take care of them.  Once you jump into taking care of them you realize it isn’t as hard as you thought.  Sure there are frequent detours to the restroom with one, and Deborah has learned to catheterize our daughter three times daily.  Other than some minor inconveniences,  it is really not that difficult.  The good outweighs all of the bad.  It is part of our lives as much as it is theirs.

We also think it is crucial to have good friend and family support.  Hudson has had four surgeries and Anna Rae has had two.  The outside support was helpful during the hospitalization, especially as it concerns our other children getting to and from practices, school and etc.

With much support offered through God, friends, family, and other resources, we have found that there is nothing to be scared of concerning a medical condition.  If our children can live with the condition, then the least we can do is find the best help for them and love them unconditionally.  Ultimately, that is all they really want anyway.

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To address their medical conditions, we contacted our local Children’s Hospital of Birmingham to begin treatment for both.  Our local pediatrician and friend who has also adopted four from China, Dr. Jason Ayres,  guided us to certain doctors and paths to take. The hospital has a spina bifida clinic that allows us to see a neurologist, urologist, orthopedic surgeon, and physical therapist all at the same time.  They each have a team of doctors that see them periodically to assist in their treatment and growth.  Hudson has had two repairs to his spinal cord and two surgeries to address his bilateral club feet.  With Anna Rae, the doctors initially recommended amputation of her malformed leg.  We have since then partnered up with Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics to reconstruct and reposition her foot.  Later we will look at a leg lengthening procedure to balance out the difference.  Again, it has been amazing how little they have griped about the pain and discomfort.

Both children have adjusted quite well.  Of course, it wasn’t overnight.  They are shy when introduced to strangers,  and one of them still likes to be by our side all the time.

I can’t say how thankful we are to have been chosen to be their parents.  Stepping outside our comfort zone and trusting in our faith is how we brought two home in a little over a year.  Were there hardships? Sure.  Plenty of them.  When we look at the big picture though, we see how much they have added to our family, and life without them would not be complete.  Our advice to any family thinking about adopting a child with neurological needs is to not let fear keep you from doing it.  They teach us much more than we can ever teach them. Choose life!

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To learn more about spina bifida, be sure to check out the Spina Bifida Association’s website: http://spinabifidaassociation.org/