It was a cool late December morning...there was the post Christmas hustle and bustle surrounding an open air market...connected to a large strip mall. Shopkeepers setting up their wares, and sweeping in front of their stores, with the large straw brooms typical of China.
In the distance, a soft cry can be heard. At first..it sounded more like a cat, so it was ignored by many. Then, it became more persistent...and as a woman looked closer..she saw it was coming from a bundle on the stairs leading to a large store. The woman picked up the bundle, and saw a baby was inside. A very sick looking baby. A boy...with a birth note..and a copy of a medical report.
She wasn't all that surprised, unfortunately. If a baby is sick...they most likely are left. Most Chinese living in this area do not have the funds to pay a hospital to care for a baby like this.
She did what she knew to do. Called the police...and this sweet, sickly, baby boy...feverish, and making a painful, pitiful cry..was brought to the orphanage. They immediately brought him to the hospital...as he looked close to dying. Thankfully, this was one of the more well-funded orphanages, that could arrange for him to have medical care.
Dr.'s looked at his medical report that came with him...saying he had a cyst on his brain...but they noticed he was also in extreme distress and pain. His almond eyes shut, wincing, his sweet face in a painful grimace. They then discovered he had a stomach issue...his bowl had begun to collapse into itself. He needed surgery immediately...or he would die.
Surgery was performed..sloppily..but it was life saving. And he was sent to the orphanage.
The nannies there thought he was brain damaged..so there was no rush to file paperwork for him to be adopted. It was predicted that he would live his days out there...and then be transferred to an institution later in life.
But this baby had different plans.
He not only defied any expectations...he exceeded them! He grew chubby and darling. His smile made his eyes disappear..and lit up any room he was in. He met every milestone...and then some!
He quickly became a favorite of the head nanny.
She loved him so..and brought him home with her some of the evenings...and made sure that he had that extra hug and kiss during the day. She cheered his first steps....and watched as he played...knowing that someone could love him as their own.
She made certain that adoption paperwork was filed for him. And then a camp came to the orphanage from the United States. Originally...this sweet boy was not on the list of kids that the Americans were coming to meet and get information on so they could be adopted. Most of the kids were older than him...he was just 3 years at this point.
But some last minute begging...had him added on...and boy did he charm the pants off of the American staff! He danced, he sang..he threw balls, and bounced a basketball like no ones business.
Yet...all of these descriptions of a seemingly healthy child...seemed to mean little to perspective parents...as his file listed him as having a "brain abnormality". Most of the children that were met on that trip..found a family through the agency that visited. But this darling chubby faced, adorable boy still waited. Not one family would take a chance with a "brain damaged" child.
He spent his days with many "brothers and sisters". Some of them had something different about them...some of them spent time on a room just with other kids that couldn't do much. None of them had a mom and dad. Sometimes his days were fine...and it wasn't so bad. Yet, sometimes he got hit...for no reason at all.
So he went out of his way to be extra good so that didn't happen. He became a leader in his class...and made sure all the kids were good so they didn't get in big trouble. All the kids loved him. But..because he was allowed to go home with the one nanny...he saw what a family was like. He knew that this wasn't a real family...although it was the only one he knew.
He knew love there. But he also knew inequality...as he saw many of his friends treated far worse than he. Food withheld...being ignored. It made him so sad.
One day...when he was close to 5 years old, he learned that he had a Mama and Baba! A family chose him! He was so excited.....and showed the album of his family to all of his friends..he couldn't sleep at night he was so excited to meet them! He even got a birthday cake sent to him..with a card that played music for his 5th birthday! He smiled so wide for his pictures with his cake because he knew his very own parents would look at them.
The day finally arrived..they were here!!! He rode in the van to meet them..clutching his card...not knowing if he would ever see anything familiar to him again. He was a little nervous but mostly excited. The nannies told him that there was a very special family for him...that would love him so much...so that sounded great to him.
He first saw his Mama--she was crying, but smiling...and grabbed him in a huge hug and smothered him with kisses...and he tried to show her his card...and say thank you. Then..he saw his Baba--oh had he waited for the day to have his very own father!! He ran right into his arms...and didn't want to let go of his strong and safe embrace! He also met his brother and sister...and they wanted to play with him right away...and gave him all sorts of balls, and toys to
He wanted them to like him, so he grabbed the bag of goodies his nannies packed for him, and handed all of them out to his family. He was so proud he had something to give.
Fast forward....10 weeks. He is home. He is cherished. He is amazingly smart. He is athletic. He is kind. He is giving, and loving like no one can believe.
He is a son.
He is a brother.
He is a nephew, a grandchild, a God-child, a friend, a student, a basketball player.
He is NOT an orphan.
And we got the news a few days ago that he should not be here. No...he should absolutely not be alive....or at very least not functioning as he is.
That "cyst" on his brain was actually a pre-natal stroke. Yes..that's right...he had a stroke in utero...and by most accounts should not have survived it...or thrived after it. He also had his stomach issue...which can be fatal even when treated immediately. It wasn't. He was abandoned at one month...not treated for it for almost 2 months.
He shouldn't have survived.
He...to quote a neurologist at Johns Hopkins...is a "walking miracle". "A child with the stroke that happened to that part of his brain should have extreme weakness in his left side, and difficulty walking. He should have motor problems, and vision issues..even vision loss in the left eye. He should not be a basketball playing, soccer ball kicking child that is picking up English faster than any 5 year old I have ever seen".
He is a miracle.
He is OUR son.
And my God...what if we had fallen victim to the worry and stress that he "may" have all these issues instead of trusting that he was ours. And mind you...he would be loved NO less if he did have more needs than we had known. But we could have been so scared of the "what ifs" that we missed him.
Him. Our son...our PERFECT Shawn ShaHe. Who may need an eye surgery for a slight wandering of his left eye---the only need that can be attributed to his stroke. The ONLY need. He compensated for what part of his brain is affected. He will have no further issues...other than what we have seen...what's done is done. And God has granted this beautiful boy LIFE. A life that is already marked by by greatness...no matter what he does or becomes.
Although at the breakfast table this morning he declared..."I gonna be a Doctor!"
And that he can be...if he wishes.
How many kids are still waiting....like him?
Too many that on "paper" seem unmanageable, needs far to great to handle.
TRUST me....a child is SO much more than what is written in a report.
They are beautiful little beings with needs FAR greater than what it states medically.
They NEED love.
They NEED to be cherished.
They NEED to feel worthy and important.
They NEED to believe that they are worth taking a chance on.
I was never going to share Shawn's diagnosis...I thought that it was his story to tell.
Yet---after I saw all the miracles that surrounded him....I realized that he could inspire SO many.
He can inspire people to take chances. To live POSITIVELY. To LOVE with every ounce of your being. To have FAITH.
He is my inspiration for so many reasons, and I believe that we are being graced by his gift of self to us. And we are so, humbly grateful.
And we cannot wait to see what God has in store for our miracle son.
***Beginning part of the story was embellished with one of the many scenarios that I dream happened with Shawn in his first years...mixed with facts that I have learned.