I have a now three-year-old daughter who joined our family via adoption from China in 2014. Her adoption happened at breakneck speed, five months start to finish. Our beautiful Cate had an eye tumor that was causing her horrible pain and eating away at the bones of her eye socket. We rushed to get her, brought her home, managed her pain and the infections in her eye, and then, four weeks later, a surgeon removed her left eye.
Writing those words still gives just a little bit of the shakes, and it did for a while following her surgery. Having a daughter with one eye wasn’t easy to deal with, at first. There were prosthesis fittings that tried my patience and toddler moments that made us all slightly panicky, like when she hid her prosthesis in a doll’s shoe, or we thought we lost it in a restaurant parking lot.
Cate is older now though, and quite verbal for her age. She understands that we “put her eye in” at breakfast time, and we leave it in until bedtime. She needs a little help inserting it, but she already removes it all on her own at night. We wash it, she brings it to me, and we store it in a case. This is so easy. And, compared to some of the other things we deal with in our home, it really is a non-issue.
Sometimes, I forget Cate even has monocular vision. She never had sight in her left eye, so she accommodates with the nearly perfect vision in her right eye beautifully. Her Ophthalmologist explained to me that when an eye goes without vision for enough time as a child, the brain accommodates by shutting off messages sent to that eye. Cate runs, jumps, climb stairs, and tells me “I see you!” when I’m all the way in the kitchen sneaking potato chips. Having vision in one eye hasn’t slowed her down one bit.
She is developmentally completely on target. In fact, sometimes she’s just a little too smart for her own good. In our house, we describe Cate as “saucy.” She is the very best kind of three-year-old, the one who is naughty in a way that makes you wonder if her future will involve world domination.
When discussing adoption from China with people, one of the largest pauses comes at the time the conversation turns to that of the special needs of the children. “I don’t know if I could parent a child with a special need.” The next logical question is about the severity of needs “What is the most minor need available?”
This question is hard to answer. What is minor to one person is major to another. Some families are nervous about visible differences, things other people can see as being “wrong” with their child. If Cate has her prosthesis out, you can tell she only has one eye. Her need becomes visible.
In my personal opinion, Cate’s need is about as minor as it gets. Our insurance company considers her eye prosthesis durable medical equipment. We paid a portion of the cost to have it made, they covered the vast majority of the cost. She won’t need a new prosthesis, barring any unfortunate accidents with it, until she’s around 8 years old. After that, it will last her into adulthood. So, aside from her annual physicals and Ophthalmology checks, Cate doesn’t see any medical specialists. Her medical history is quite simple.
Her greatest special need is now quite easy to see. When Cate came to us, what she really needed was a family. She needed a surgery to stop her chronic pain. She needed a loving parent to kiss her forehead and reassure her that it would all be all right. She needed siblings to cheer for her as she recovered. She needed a community to stand by and support her as she learned what all of this means, what it means to be loved.
This was Cate’s greatest need.
There are a couple of other kids waiting with this need, both of whom also happen have one eye. They are older then Cate was at adoption, but this just makes their need for a family greater. They need to know that someone can love them the way they deserve to be loved. They need to know there is someone who can look past this small visible difference and see the beauty in their spirit.
This is Jubilee. She has also had her left eye removed. Shortly after Christmas, Jubilee will age out of China’s adoption system, on her 14th birthday, and she will lose her chance at ever having a family. According to her file, she is the first to learn new things at school. She loves sports and is actively involved in a Half the Sky program for teens. Her greatest need is a family.
This is Lawrence. He will age out this summer, with no chance for a family after that happens. He is with a wonderful foster family, but this is not a forever solution. He seems very attached to them, according to his previous updates. Lawrence is attending a public elementary school near the foster family. His academic level is average for his age. His favorite subjects are “Language” and “Moral and Social.” His handwritings are beautiful and neat.
Are you willing to be a family for a child whose greatest need is, well, YOU?!? If so, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on both Jubilee and Lawrence.
Written by Becky Ketarkus. Becky is wife to Joe and mom to 11 children, all who came to them through adoption. Four of the excellent eleven were born in China. As you can imagine, Becky describes her life as chaotic. She wouldn’t have it any other way.