We are the Young Family. We live in a small town in North Carolina with our two biological daughters ages 16 and 11, and our adopted son Benjamin who is 4. Our story begins like may others. God’s call to expand our family through adoption, a reluctant spouse, no funds, paperwork, and the “What special needs can our family handle physically and financially both in the short term and the long term?”
We chose to more forward in faith and trust that God started this and He will guide and provide until the very end.
We began our China adoption journey in February 2013. Very quickly we were faced with the Special Needs medical checklist. I conquered the Google search of every special need listed and started checking boxes. We glanced over the Cleft Lip and Palate listing and naively thought, “Sure! That one is easy!” We already just knew our son would have some form of a limb difference. I quickly searched for those boxes and checked yes.
On December 30, 2013, my phone rang. As soon as I read the caller ID I knew this was “the call”. I immediately knew in my soul that no matter what my agency said this was our son. I hear over the line, “I was able to match you with a beautiful 6 month old baby boy! He is currently in an orphanage and he has bilateral cleft lip and palate. I am sending over his file and pictures for you to view.”
I knew already our answer was Yes. But bilateral cleft? Wow. That was unexpected.
We rushed home, submitted our LOI and started the research process. We were starting to question how in the world we could do this – years of therapies, surgeries, and even the gut wrenching “What ifs?”…
What if he is bullied for his scars?
What if he is bullied because of his speech?
Will he be understood by his extended family, friends, teachers?
We immediately contacted our closest cleft hospital and schedule a potential consultation appointment for when we should return home from China. After receiving LOA we soon got an update on Benjamin. He looked like a completely different child! China had repaired his lip. So we knew that may be one less surgery he would need – if the one he’d had was done properly.
Less than three months later we were waiting in a humid Nanjing Civil Affair office being handed the most beautiful Chinese baby. It didn’t take us long to figure out that his palate remained opened and he would need additional surgery soon.
After returning home, a friend and a few great uncles (who were Shriners) asked me to look into calling Shriners to see about Benjamin receiving treatment at one of their hospitals. I’d never heard of Shriners hospitals so I made the call to get information to see how one could become approved, and what it would look like financially for our family. They explained that every child who has cleft is accepted regardless of finances. They accept insurance but after that the hospital covers the costs fully up until Benjamin turns 21.
Before I hung up the phone she had me scheduled for a consultation with a plastic surgeon there. I was directed to my local Shriners temple where I found out they would pay for us to fly or drive to Cincinnati, have a Shriner volunteer to pick us up from the airport and transport us to the Hospital where we could stay in their Family Care Unit, again, for free. I was blown away!
We had our consultation and confidently scheduled a surgery date for palate repair.
The day of the surgery we were taken into a recovery room. Laying on the bed was a lovely age-appropriate toy for Benjamin and a bag filled with fun goodies. It was a great comfort for Benjamin. A nurse came into the room to try to explain to Benjamin everything that would happen and showed him pictures of things he would see. Yes, even at one year old their procedure is to prepare the child for what is to come.
The surgery was successful and we were able to head home a few days after. The care we received there was top notch and we are forever grateful for the blessing Shriner’s Hospital has become to us. God truly worked out the details in every aspect of Benjamin’s care.
We now drive to Cincinnati once a year for a routine checkup and they provide us a hotel room on the way there and home which is so nice – we are even reimbursed for our gas! They also offer a volunteer driver to drive families to Shriners hospitals which is also a great alternative if you aren’t comfortable driving or flying.
I’m so thankful for the opportunity to share about our experience with Cincinnati Shriners Hospital. My hope is that other potential adoptive families can understand that they have a very inexpensive, wonderful alternative for all children that have or need Burn Care, Cleft and Palate, Orthopedics, and Spinal Cord Injury.
They truly go the extra mile for their patients and provide for them any way they can. We know Benjamin will have another major surgery in the next few years. I can’t imagine going anywhere else for his cleft needs.
– guest post by Brittany