Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Adoption Update

Samuel had his full-out medical about a week and a half ago, with complete blood work. Last Monday we received an email that his bloodwork showed up positive for sickle cell anemia (another genetic disorder). This was pretty shocking, but I am at the point now where nothing surprises me (really) in Ghana adoption. Jake and I had not considered accepting a child with special needs up to that point (and having sickle cell would put him into that category). Right after I got the email I started looking up sickle cell anemia and quickly found that it is a life threatening disease, with many complications, especially when untreated. I started reading through all the ailments and things that sickle cell patients go through, and my knees went weak and I just couldn’t look at it all anymore. So, I just began to pray…God, would you still have us adopt him? How will we do this? Is Samuel still the one, or is this our cue that he is not the one for our family? I think I literally prayed about every 5 minutes that day because it was about every 5 minutes that I started feeling overwhelmed and just wanted to cry.

As I was at home, Jake was at the office also looking up sickle cell anemia. He called me mid-afternoon with an interesting thing that he found. He said that with severely malnourished children, a test for sickle cell can actually be a false positive. Because of the trauma malnourished children already have on their red blood cells, they can look similar when tested to sickle cell. But with a nutritional & proper diet the anemia could be corrected if it was not sickle cell to begin with. You following me so far? I started thinking about this, but then came to the conclusion that we are not doctors, and that Google is probably not the most professionally sound resource for medical advice. :) But, nonetheless, Jake continued to think positively about this piece of information that he found. I went to bed with a lot on my mind.

The next morning I got up and checked my email after awhile. And, I saw an update from Kofi (our representative in Ghana for the adoption) regarding Samuel. To be to the point, Kofi said that he was absolutely shocked that Samuel’s bloodwork showed positive for sickle cell because he said he has shown no signs or symptoms of the disease. This was very key to hear, because there are a lot of bad side effects of sickle cell. Among many other things, one of the main side effects is that afflicted persons would have what they call random ‘painful crises’ in which all of a sudden the body is in severe pain, and the afflicted person must be hospitalized for pain management. Samuel has never had anything like this (per Kofi), and has not shown any of the other signs/symptoms (and there are a lot!). Jake had even found on one report that a child untreated for sickle cell would normally not make it past the age of 5. Sickle cell disease is a genetic disorder that is present from birth, and it is unfathomable to me that if Samuel has it that it hasn’t shown up in the form of symptoms at all. In fact, Kofi went on to say that Samuel has always been ‘fit’, plays with the other children, etc. and hasn’t had any health issues. Kofi did mention, however, that Samuel is very malnourished. He said that Samuel’s mother is very poor and can only get them about 1 meal a day (and I am sure a meal size there is not what we think of here). Kofi ended by saying that he believes the positive test was caused by malnutrition alone, and that with proper diet, it can be corrected and is not sickle cell. This lined up with what Jake had found out about the false positive test. Kofi then said he would talk with the physician who did the medical to discuss it further.

So, we sat on all that for about a week, and then on Monday we heard from Kofi again. He said that the recommendation is for Samuel to eat more fruits and some local blood tonic and that the positive test was nutritional related. It still didn’t seem clear to me why they would diagnose him with a death sentence of sickle cell, if it was actually only anemia from malnutrition. But, we also know that the medical expertise in Ghana is not exactly as advanced as it is here in the U.S. I am just wondering if they are quick to diagnose this sort of thing as sickle cell since it is a common disease in Africa (it affects 1/3 of Africans). Or maybe they really can't tell the difference between cells with sickle cell, and those with anemia alone? Who knows? In the end, Jake and I ended up coming to the conclusion that all of these things mentioned above are pointing to it being a false positive test. Of course we can’t be completely sure, but we are at peace with the decision to continue to pursue the adoption of Samuel. And, if he does end up having the disease, and God continues to lead us to adopt him, then so be it.

One thing that I can tell you is that I have a great peace about all of this. Because I am not trusting in the opinion of the Ghana doctors, I am not trusting in Kofi’s comments, and I am not trusting in the decision making of Jake and myself. I am trusting 100% in God. If Samuel is the one that He has picked out for us to adopt, then it will be. And, if Samuel is not the one, then I know God will lead us out of Samuel’s direction. That’s all I know.

Proverbs 3:5-7
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

1 comment:

publius said...

My wife and I just adopted from Ghana this past spring. A 9 month (he's now 18 months) old boy who was severely malnourished. On our first doctors visit we were told that the boy had cerebral palsy but "not to worry, he'll grow out of it." I'm no doctor, but I know you just don't "grow out" of something like that. Needless to say, I didn't trust a lot of Ghanaian doctors after that. Since he's been home with us, our little guy has had numerous bouts of various illnesses, including two stays in the hospital due to pneumonia. Malnutrition causes all sorts of problems. However, he is doing much better. I'm sure that Samuel will be just fine once you get him on a steady, good diet. Best of luck to you both!