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What happens when an orphan dies? Who comforts them in their last minutes? Who holds them when they take their last breath? Who pays respects to them after they are gone? How are you supposed to feel if you had hopes and dreams for that orphan?
We met and fell in love with Addison when she was 3 months old. She was tiny, quiet and absolutely precious. She had dark brown eyes and the sweetest little pink lips. We were awestruck! When we left her at the orphanage at the end of our bonding visit, we were told to expect her home within 2-3 months. Unfortunately, that was the last time that we would be with her. With in a month of leaving her, she had her first significant illness and a month after that they canceled the court date that would have finalized her adoption. Almost two years to the day of that dreadful news, we were notified that she had died and still the Kyrgyz government is not processing adoptions.
At 8 months of age, Addison finally looked like she had recovered from her illness. She was growing, alert, interactive and smiling. Oddly though, her head circumference was increasing rapidly but so was her weight and height so we assumed that her little body was making up for lost time. Unfortunately, months went by without updates and with the next set of measurements, it was obvious that she had hydrocephalus. I panicked because without emergent surgical care, the pressure on her brain would continue to rise and she would develop permanent brain injury and ultimately die. And still the Kyrgyz government was not processing adoptions.
Over the next 2 months and with the help of some amazing missionaries, we were able to get Addison her first surgery to remove the extra fluid from around her brain. She was 13 months old. Again, months went by without updates, only to learn that she had yet, another severe illness. We were told that her vision and hearing had been affected and at 16 months of age, she was now only able to lift her head. Her development had ceased and still the Kyrgyz government was not processing adoptions.
At that time, due to Addison’s worsening severe disabilities and the complex needs of our current family, my husband and I came to the gut wrenching decision that we would not be able to complete her adoption. That was not a decision that was taken lightly; in fact, it was the hardest decision of our marriage and one that still plagues me. I vowed that I would continue to advocate for her and that if her country re-opened adoptions, that I would work tirelessly to try to find an adoptive family that would be able to accommodate her special needs. Yet, months went by and still the Kyrgyz government was not processing adoptions.
When Addison was 22 months old, some prospective parents went on an advocacy trip with Joint Council on behalf of the sixty-five pending adoptions. Addison’s story was told at many governmental meetings. Their delays had cost her dearly. She had lost so much! They were reminded that if her adoption had been completed, as promised, that she would have had the best medical care available. Addison would not be alone; she would have a loving family that would have been forever at her side. She would have been someone’s daughter and we would have done anything for her! And still the Kyrgyz government was not processing adoptions.
Time continued to pass and her initial surgery failed and the pressure, once again, was building on her brain. The missionaries provided another surgery but within a month of returning to her orphanage, she died. August 9, 2010 was the day she breathed her last breath. She was just one day shy of being 29 months old. I have been told that she did not die alone. She was in the arms of her massage mother and has been laid to rest at a cemetery near her orphanage; the only home she ever knew. And still the Kyrgyz government is not processing adoptions.
I know how I feel today. I feel incredibly angry with her government, guilty that I couldn’t have done more for her and sad beyond belief. I know that she is no longer suffering and I find peace knowing that she is in our Lord’s loving arms. Sadly, her tragedy could have been avoided if her adoption had been finalized. Addison will forever have a special place in my heart and I will never be the same having walked this road with her. She suffered the ultimate loss and I pray that her story, and many others like her’s, will motivate governments and individuals to help the orphans of our world.
I love you Addison.
-Suzanne Bilyeu, MD
Be The Answer for Addison by watching the video below, sharing it with five people and asking them to join the campaign by signing up to learn more about our work in Kyrgyzstan by clicking here. Make sure you’ve signed up too!