By Tamara, mother to ShuQin from China with HepB+
I have three children. My son is a teenager, biological and a great kid who adores his sisters and is their hero. My two girls are adopted from China. They are 8 months apart in age (virtual twins) – the tiny twosome are the same height, almost the same weight and a bundle of energy. They have brought us more joy than I have words to express. My husband and I wanted more children and chose adoption over pregnancy. We did not particularly want an infant and were foster to adopt parents in our state for several years hoping to adopt a little girl that needed parents. That program did not work out for us for many reasons and as those doors closed the doors to international adoption opened at every turn and it became obvious this was our road to travel and that road lead directly to China. Our first daughter came home at 10 months of age as a NSN child. This adoption was such a perfect experience and Ming so special we knew we wanted to adopt a second daughter from China, an older child…a SN child …..in a few years….after we saved some money…and Ming was older, no more diapers, our son started college…we had more time – yada, yada, yada…but you know what they say about the “best layed plans”.
I am a nurse and worked for several years for the Aids/HIV Foundation. Many of my clients were co-infected with HBV and I had great exposure to people living life with these viruses and good up to date medical information. I knew that HBV was very manageable, did not require extensive doctors visits, surgeries, hospitalizations and only very minor, if any, adjustments to daily living. My son learned early not to touch anybody else’s blood, the dangers of uprotected sex and not to share a toothbrush, razor or get a tattoo….but he is vaccinated and protected against HBV, we all are…. That information is to protect him from infectious diseases that do not have a vaccine and the nurse coming out in me. They are more common than most people realize or want to realize. Most people come in contact daily with people who carry infectious diseases – they just don’t know it. Disclosure is a personal decision and not legally required.
HBV cannot be transmitted except by direct blood to blood transfer…not by casual touch, hugging, kissing, salvia, body waste nor by sharing food or beverages with an infected person or bathing, swimming or playing with an infected person…. or by sex IF you are vaccinated. We knew that a small percentage of children can have complications and require treatment, the majority do not and live very normal lives with only routine bloodwork and monitoring of the liver. No child comes with a warranty, even driving to the 7-11 has risk. So, all our homework done, we decided when the time came an older child with HBV would be the SN we were most comfortable with and our first choice.
My mom and I not only share this relationship we are also friends. She traveled to China with us for our first daughter and shared the entire adoption journey. Mom belongs to a few China adoption related Yahoo groups. We had been home a little over a year with Ming when mom was online and a gal she “knew:” posted information on children for whom she was advocating. She passed the post by and then “feeling the need” went back and told this gal if she ever had knowledge of girls with HBV to let her know. A few minutes later she received an email with ShuQin’s picture and medical information (things were different in 2008). Her medical information from China stated that she had tested positive for HBV 3 times, she had no other special needs. My mom recognized her newest grandaughter immediately and called me at work to say she was sending me a picture and some information. I called my husband (he swears I called the agency first and him later) then the agency. We called our pediatrician and emailed the Chinese medicals but we did not see any need to pursue additional doctors opinions. He called back quickly, she had HBV, there were no additional red flags. She was ours by the next morning, the agency fee and letter of intent were in the mail. The paperchase was on – again!!!
We picked up ShuQin January 14th of 2008 in the middle of the worst snow storm China has had in over 50 years. Quite a change for this Florida living native!! ShuQin was 21 months old, Ming was now 29 months old (home with grandma and gege). ShuQin cried for two solid days while we were mainly held captive in our hotel room. She grieved long, hard and loud!! She tolerated daddy while mama was less than chopped liver and was good for nothing but handing out M&Ms. A bath was out of the question! Emotional and physical exhaustion put her to sleep. I knew I had lost my mind! When we arrived home (my sanity intact) we took her to the pediatrician to check her overall health and to have the HBV blood tests done. We wanted the results before we saw the gastroentorologist so we knew where we stood. She tested negative. He wanted her tested again in 6 months. She tested negative once again. Her tests showed that she had been exposed to the virus but at some point between the Chinese tests and the test here in the US she serocoverted on her own without medical intervention. Her body fought the virus and won!! I understand this happens to less than 5% (I have read less than 2%) of infants and young children – but it does happen. We will have her tested in one year to check her antibodies. She is our miracle, and truly a gift above all we asked.
Today, one year later we are blessed far beyond our expectations. ShuQin is child full of joy, laughter and love and we seldom see her “spicy girl” persona. She has bonded and attached without any problems. She and Ming are truly sisters in every way and keep their devoted brother on his toes – along with the cat who has picked up considerable speed this last year….she is also a “mommy’s girl” and a Mickey Mouse devotee. So, is our family complete? I keep thinking of that older, SN, HBV child….in a few years…after we save some money..when the girls are older and we have more time, our son starts college…yada, yada, yada…but you know what they say about the “best layed plans”.