Tegucigalpa, Honduras – Keren is a two and a half year-old who was born with a unilateral cleft lip. Her family had never heard of cleft lips or palates prior to her birth.
Dover, Delaware — Smile Train supporter Kateri Lambrose shares the story of how she adopted her daughter Alayna, a former Smile Train patient.
We are so thankful that Smile Train blessed our daughter with the surgical intervention that she needed to ensure proper nutrition, growth, and development until we could bring her home.
Our family committed to adopt a child from China in March of 2006. In December of 2007, my first view of Fu Chang was a very small picture on our adoption agency’s website, but before I knew it, I was head over heels in love with her.
About mid-December, our agency got a new group of special needs children that were available for adoption. When you adopt from China, you have to state whether you want to adopt a "healthy child" whom they refer to as Non-Special Needs or you can put your name on a list that allows you the opportunity to adopt a child with a special need.
As I scrolled through the pictures of these beautiful children on the adoption agency’s website, looking at faces only — not really focusing on birth dates or needs — I stopped on the face of a little girl in a walker. There was nothing terribly remarkable about her picture but something stopped my heart, stopped my eyes from looking beyond her face. I had this indescribable reaction to her picture. Now, looking back, I strongly believe that God had His hand firmly planted on me and this child because there is no other explanation for what happened next.
Fu Chang was born with a bilateral cleft lip and a cleft palate. On July 4, 2007, doctors from Smile Train repaired the left and more severe side of her cleft lip. Then again in November, Smile Train repaired the right side of her lip.
Without speaking to my husband first, I impulsively emailed our adoption agency. I told the coordinator if by chance Fu Chang didn't find a home with one of the families already signed up, we would be interested in learning more about her. She quickly told me that yes, another family already had her file but that she would send us an application for the special needs program. She encouraged me to get on the list for another child. It came as no surprise. I knew she would find a family quickly. Why not? Her needs were minor in my eyes, she was young, and she was cute. That said, I never even mentioned her to my husband.
The application to join the other 24 families on the special needs list came in the mail on Christmas Eve. I looked at it briefly and then tucked it away in my pile of things to get back to over the Christmas break. That evening, I found my thoughts wandering again to Fu Chang. Christmas Day, I silently prayed for her as I pulled her picture up on the website, as if checking on her...once again wondering which lucky family had decided to adopt her...thinking about how this would be her last Christmas in an orphanage...praying that she wouldn't have to be there much longer. Christmas night, after things had finally settled down, I sat down and filled out the application by myself, still not knowing whether we would ever send it in.
The next morning, December 26th, it was business as usual...cleaning and organizing, when the phone rang. The caller ID said it was from the adoption agency and I immediately started to shake — our agency never calls! It could only be one thing...
It was the special needs program coordinator calling to tell us that Fu Chang's file was going to be Fed-Exed to us immediately, she was ours if we wanted her! Talk about surreal. We thought we had one or two or more years to wait for our girl, now we had two weeks to decide if we wanted to adopt Fu Chang. And all I could think to do was thank God.
Her file arrived the next day. We found that her full name was Ning, Fu Chang and she was living in a subtropical area of China called Nanning City. Her name, which translates to "She grows up to be a beautiful and blessed person who lives a better life," was given to her by the orphanage staff.
We took some time to pray, educate ourselves about cleft lip and palate, and then we took it to a family vote. On January 1, 2008, by a vote of 4 to 0, our family officially decided to adopt Ning, Fu Chang.
We would name our daughter Alayna Fu Chang.
Alayna has had several surgeries since coming home but nothing more has been done to her lip. The scars are faint, her smile is infectious, and her plastic surgeon has commented several times that Smile Train did a great job on her cleft lip!
We will be forever grateful to Smile Train, the unnamed donors, and the countless medical professionals that treated and loved our girl. Had she not had these critical surgeries, her life may have taken a much different turn…her future more uncertain…her joy less contagious. Alayna has touched so many lives with her story but mostly with her heart. People are drawn to her because of her beautiful smile and joyful laugh, but they are forever touched by the love that she gives without boundaries or expectations. Bringing Alayna home has been one of the greatest blessings in our lives, and watching her grow and thrive has been nothing short of miraculous.
We are so thankful that Smile Train blessed our daughter with the surgical intervention that she needed to ensure proper nutrition, growth, and development until we could bring her home. We have been so blessed by Smile Train!
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