Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kori's Story

I'm sharing this from a friend's blog. The question is often asked "Why adopt from overseas when you can adopt a child with special needs here?" Well here is  a reason or two....


Kori's Story

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.

A little over a year ago a Mama and Papa crossed the ocean to get a little Reece's Rainbow angel. They knew she had been transferred. They knew. But knowing and seeing are two very different things. Last year they discovered what transfer meant for their precious treasure. It was unbearably hard. While there their eyes were opened to the plight of special needs children in that place. We followed their journey closely as we had just come home with Aaron and understood on many levels the agony they were experiencing. We prayed for them, encouraged them, did whatever we could from afar to support them. Unlike our experience, they were not in a completely closed facility and were able to walk the halls of the mental institute and touch the other children. They learned their names and fell in love with them bit by bit, day by day. In doing so their hearts were broken over and over and over again.

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.

But when the time is right... then the story needs to be told. And it is time for Kori Maria's story to be told.

I feel privileged indeed that Kori's Mama, Anna, has allowed me to share here on this blog some of the words that took so long to come. I am honored to call her friend. I am grateful for the ties that have knit our hearts together as we grieve for all the hidden children left behind.

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?

The baby "princessa" has been home a year.

Yet, my heart is still somewhere in that mental institution. It wanders the halls, looking for a way to reach, to comfort. And that is fine.

Because I don’t seem to really need a heart here. It seems that money and material goods are considered enough around these parts, here in this country we call home. We stuff ourselves and we indulge, while people right under our very noses are in need of our help. Our love. Hope. I want to walk those halls, one more time. If it only shows one person that they matter, that they have infinite value, then it is worth it.

Kori Maria. You are very much worth it.

So very much worth it.

P.S. Please do not remove any of these pictures from this blogpost. You may link and share but do not remove the pictures. Thank you.


  1. So sad to hear that innocent children with down syndrome is treated so harshly! :( I can understand the mother's love and concern. I wish I can be a part of this love, care and understanding.

  2. Sometimes I feel like seeing Nazi's killing people and I just do nothing. Why am I not shouting to the world what I see, what breaks my heart, what is so unjust?? Thank God he gave me a baby with DS and a brand new world opened in front of me. I couldn't imagine these horrible things in the life of orphans before.

  3. I am so, so thankful for this family for saving this beautiful girl!

  4. Autumn~ This broke my heart.I can only imagine the condition and treatment of these sweet children.So glad one more was saved.Warm Blessings!~Amy

  5. What a beautiful story about a princess and a happy ending! So eloquently written!

  6. God bless you and your entire family! What a beautiful little girl Kori has blossomed into!