It is worth the work. It is worth the price.
By Marci Lewellen on December 23rd, 2010

Kori’s Adoption Story…

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, and an Embassy appointment. 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.

It became clear that the ambulance workers blamed us for her condition and were trying to make a case that we were bad parents. These women were looking at what years of living in a mental institution did to a little girl. Kori had spent 3 years in a mental institution. The people there did there very best to care for her, but money was tight and resources few.

The arguing continued. In the meantime, 5 hospitals denied our daughter care because she has Down Syndrome. Finally one public children’s hospital agreed to admit her. More arguing ensued at the hospital. Meredith Cornish, who was also there to begin the adoption of two children managed to come and stayed there with me for several hours, thereby saving what was left of my sanity with that act of kindness.

This was not how we had envisioned the last few days of our adoption trip. We had spent 3 weeks visiting daily at the mental institution. We would arrive by taxi every day, and spend an hour and a half playing with Kori while also loving on several adults and children there who so rarely saw people from the outside world.

The hallways that we walked through would fill with the noise of many voices whispering,  “Amerikanskis…Amerikanskis…

We saw many boys in a stark room with nothing but benches and a potty, rocking back and forth for hours. We saw children who could not walk, dragging themselves across the floors.

Children in bedridden rooms just laying in beds without anything to do all day and all night. But we also saw residents who were older caring for littler ones. We saw caregivers stop and say kind words to a child. We saw beautiful people, shunned by their society. Tucked away out of sight. We saw a director and many caregivers, trying their very best to improve lives with so very little.

One of the most amazing things we saw, however, was Voting Day in October. They brought the polls to the institution. Those residents who were old enough and able, got to vote.  Derek would have loved to see that. I just know it.  On the day we carried our daughter out of that institution for good, I thought of Derek and Renee. How they both would have been so overjoyed to see this child leave and become part of a family forever.

I sat by her bed, watching her while an IV dripped medications into her tiny arm. Here, no one cared about her. She was the least of these. In their eyes, Down Syndrome made her unworthy of respect. They only treated her because my facilitator kept asking me for money to distribute to everyone involved in her care. Incentive money.

One nurse came in and began messing with her IV. She was so rough and abusive that Kori screamed until her little face was purple, and my facilitator hissed under her breath that this nurse was crazy. I wanted to tell the nurse off worse than anything. I wanted to shove her hands off my child and tell her she had no right to treat anyone that way. But instead, I was asked to provide yet more money, and my facilitator met with the nurse in the hallway to negotiate a measure of humane treatment.  For a price. I had been told by my facilitator to keep my emotions well hidden. As I stood there swallowing my anger and grief over the depth of insignificance ascribed to my baby girl due to her disability, Derek’s words came to mind very suddenly and clearly.

“My friends, adoption is redemption. It’s costly, exhausting, expensive, and outrageous. Buying back lives costs so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him.”

Never were those words more alive to me than during those long hours in that hospital in Kiev. I kept repeating them to myself over and over.

Costly, yes.

Exhausting?…I had not slept in days.

Expensive? Our bank account was close to bare and we were in debt up to our eyeballs.

Outrageous? YES! From the moment she had her seizure  this whole experience had quickly reached “outrageous”.  But we were fighting, bargaining, for her life. This child, this beautiful seven year old infant sized girl who had lived her whole life in the shadow of rejection, was now a cherished daughter.

On this first anniversary of Derek’s death, I see Kori Maria. What a legacy this man left. How true were his words. We arrived home with her on November 6th, our 6th wedding anniversary. Redemption. Restoration. Words of hope. Words that mean life.

May Derek’s example inspire many to listen quietly and see if perhaps they, too, are called to adopt. It is worth the work.  It is worth the price. The rewards are amazing. 

Just listen.


Thanks Anna for sharing your story…

The OJC Team


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