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Sunday, June 04, 2017

Adoptions: Bringing Hudson Home

This is a beautiful story of an amazing adoption by the son of my dear friend John Parler of Florida. Adoption has always been a cause near and dear to my heart, but one I could never pursue. To me, adoptive parents of children with hemophilia can be our everyday heroes.

John "Poppy" Parler holding little girl
at orphanage
On Sunday, May 7, after a 24-hour delay and a 14-hour flight from Beijing to Washington, D.C., I stepped off United flight 808 at 7:15 PM with my third son, Dallas, and my 14th grandchild – a six-year-old boy with severe hemophilia A – who his entire life had been known as Chang Wang Le. Knowing we would pass through immigration and, with one more official stamp on his paperwork, his name would legally change to Hudson John Le Parler, we would then experience the long-anticipated meeting with his forever mother, April, and his forever brother and two sisters. While that moment would mark the end of a trip that had begun for me over two weeks earlier, it was the culmination of a journey which had begun, quite unexpectedly, over a year ago.

In April 2016, at the Michigan Hemophilia Foundation’s annual Springfest Family Education Weekend I met Shari Luckey, the Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator for the Michigan chapter, and mother of a boy with hemophilia she adopted from China in 2010.  She shared her story and I asked her about the need, process and challenges of that type of adoption. Her answers were filled with passion for helping children with hemophilia overseas get adopted.

As she shared her passion with me, I kept thinking of my son, Dallas, and his wife, April. Dallas is the third of my five kids; he does not have hemophilia, unlike his two brothers with severe hemophilia A. So he’s no stranger to the challenges of living with hemophilia. Additionally, he and April always had a family plan to have four biological children and then adopt one more child, or possibly two more children. Since they already had three kids at the time, I thought it might be interesting to pass the information Shari was providing along to them in case they might have an interest four or five years down the road.

Upon returning home, I did just that, and promptly forgot all about it. A month later, much to my shock, in a casual conversation, Dallas mentioned to me that they had applied to an adoption agency with the intent of pursuing adopting one of the numerous boys available in China’s orphanage system. And so began their journey to “Bring Hudson Home.”

Initially there were reams of paperwork, financial disclosures, personal interviews, home studies, and fees, followed by more reams of paperwork. It was sluggish and tedious and I kept waiting for the word that they had decided to put the entire process on hold. But that word never came. They persevered and plowed through all of the bureaucratic red tape that inevitably accompanies an international adoption, and – as they did – they began to accumulate a growing following on the Facebook page they had established to document their journey. Those followers came from every conceivable interlocking network of relationships; their family and friends, friends of family, co-workers, their family’s co-workers, other adoptive parents, the hemophilia community – the circle of relationships expanded until nearly 800 people were following along every step of the way!

In September 2016, the kids received some very unexpected news—they were expecting their fourth biological child! I was certain that this would put their journey on hold. I was wrong. By that time, their adoptive son had already been identified, they knew his story, they were aware that, in addition to his hemophilia, he had a congenital heart defect from birth, and any thought of suspending the process would, in their minds, be abandoning this little boy. So they persisted.

Two significant challenges faced Dallas and April. One – which had been there from the start – was the cost of the adoption; approximately $35,000. The other –  April would be due with their next child less than two months before the anticipated travel to China to finalize the process, and unable to make the trip. That’s where I was summoned off the sidelines and thrust into the middle of the process. The kids asked me to accompany Dallas to China to provide logistical travel assistance and to help during the two weeks he would have his newly adopted son with him, traveling domestically, attending hearings and meetings and living in hotel rooms – with a six year old who spoke no English. I could not refuse.

Praying for a good infusion!
As our departure date in mid-April, the financial challenge remained unresolved. While the kids, through their own efforts and the generosity of others, had already spent $25,000 on the process, one significant financial obligation remained: a mandatory $6,000 contribution to the orphanage required by the Chinese government. I posted about the orphanage donation on the Facebook page dedicated to Hudson. Within 5 days, that network of interested people generously, graciously provided every last dime needed to provide that donation!
So on April 21, Dallas and I embarked on our trip to Bring Hudson Home. Words are inadequate to convey all we experienced over the ensuing two weeks, first in Nanjing and then in Guangzhou.

On our second full day in China, we were driven to a building where domestic marriages and international adoptions are officially transacted. For Dallas, it is known by adoptive parents as “Gotcha Day”; the day the parents are given custody of their adoptive child. I had the incredible privilege, not only of meeting my newest grandchild for the first time, but also of watching my own son’s face as he met their son for the first time after such a grueling process! It was an experience filled with absolute, unbridled joy!
Infusion time!
Later that week, we toured the orphanage where Hudson had lived, and where he received his bi-weekly factor infusions. We had been pleasantly surprised to learn just weeks before our departure that he had been  receiving these infusions for the past year.

Dallas Parler and Hudson
But nothing prepared us for what we witnessed that day. Hudson was receiving bi-weekly infusions with a standard factor product, about one half of the manufacturer’s recommended dosing for a boy his size. It was a stark reminder that Hudson – and every other boy with hemophilia in the orphanage system – was woefully under-treated.

In order to understand fully what we witnessed on that tour, it’s important to understand the context in which China’s orphanages now operate. Twenty years ago, this same orphanage would have been filled with healthy little girls, primarily because of the cultural preference for boys to carry on the family name coupled with, at the time, China’s one-child policy. Today, however, thanks to the repeal of that policy combined with a variety of other factors, in the same orphanage (and in orphanages all across China) 98% of all orphans are children suffering from a wide variety of mental or physical disabilities, or very expensive medical conditions for which their birth family has no means of providing.
Proud Poppy! John and newest grandson Hudson
In an attempt to deal with this changing demographic of abandoned children, China has created “baby hatches” – tiny buildings at the entrance of every orphanage where parents can safely abandon children they either do not want, or for whom they simply cannot care. In 2016, one baby hatch in the Shandong province received 106 children in the first eleven days it was open – all with disabilities or medical conditions! Among those being turned over to the orphanages are a growing number of boys who have hemophilia.

As we walked through Hudson’s orphanage, we entered a room with about 50 children under age 2. It was a large room with a soft mat floor, across which were scattered little clusters of nannies surrounded by children. The nannies were doing their best to hold children in turn and provide some semblance of attention and stimulation. In spite of their best efforts, there were little ones left to themselves, some entertaining themselves with well-used toys, others crying inconsolably, and some just lying staring into whatever abyss their little minds had created as a refuge for themselves. It was one little girl in that state who caught my attention, and whom I picked up and held for nearly 20 minutes while she simply stared up into my face. That image – compounded by the nearly 1 million abandoned children that live in China’s orphanage system today – is one that will last a lifetime. While Dallas and I were ecstatic at the thought of his and April’s ability to provide a family, a home, security, love, hope and a future for Hudson, the reality that surrounded us in that moment was crushing. It was a heart-breaking, gut-wrenching experience!

The remainder of our trip was filled with much waiting, vitally important processing of paperwork and great anticipation for heading home. When we finally left Guangzhou for Beijing on our return, we were full of adrenalin and excitement. Then the one flight we were to connect with to return from Beijing to DC was – after 7 hours of waiting at the gate – cancelled. But 24 hours later, we boarded that final, seemingly endless flight and we – finally – Brought Hudson Home!

Parler Family with newest son
The beautiful, exciting sight of Hudson meeting the rest of his Forever Family is one I will never forget. It marked the end of one journey and one trip, but it marked the beginning of a life-long journey for Hudson. I have no idea what that journey will hold for him, but I do know that because of the compassion and sacrifice of my kids and their family, and the generosity of so many strangers who were moved to help, he will be able to face a life where neither his limitations nor opportunities will be defined by being born with severe hemophilia.
Hudson is the 21st little boy from China with hemophilia in the past seven years – that we know of – to be given the opportunity to become part of a family here in America. Here, they will have access to the best treatment for hemophilia in the world. And yet, there are more remaining in China – and other countries around the world – desperately waiting for that same hope to become their reality.

To learn about international adoptions and hemophilia, download our PEN article: Overseas Adoption: A Child with Hemophilia is Waiting”

To get involved in adoptions, or to consider one, connect with the hemophilia adoption community on Facebook here:

Hemophilia Adoptions

Coalition for Hemophilia Adoption and Aid 

Hemophilia Advocacy-Hand in Hand International Adoptions


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