Teresa Bosch wasn’t planning to adopt another child when she first saw the photo of a 2-year-old Chinese girl nicknamed “Mei Mei” circulating on Facebook in early 2012.
The picture showed Mei Mei, who was badly burned as a toddler, using a scooter to move around at the special needs orphanage where she lived. Scar tissue from the injuries had fused the toddler’s legs in a bent position that made it impossible for her to stand or walk. But to Bosch, the photo of Mei Mei didn’t just show a badly injured child with healed burns on 60 percent of her body—it portrayed a clearly determined, spunky toddler on the go.
Bosch, who was on an international work trip at the time, forwarded the story to her husband Michael without explanation. He wrote back immediately: "Are you saying we should donate, or adopt her? Either way, I'm in."
Bosch and her husband returned from China with Mei Mei, who they named Sarah, in Sept. 2012. But before the family, who lives in Washington D.C., even accepted Sarah’s adoption referral, they had the child’s files evaluated by the care team at the University of Minnesota Health Adoption Medicine Clinic at University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.
“The prognosis [given by the Adoption Medicine Clinic] was cautiously optimistic, and very accurate,” Teresa said. A separate review by another surgeon in the D.C. area was less reassuring. The couple chose to go forward with the adoption anyway. They soon learned that Sarah’s burn scars were contracted to a degree that few U.S. doctors had seen, and that she would benefit most from care at a highly specialized pediatric burn hospital. The no-cost care at the Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Boston, Mass., was a perfect fit.
Since adoption, Sarah has undergone multiple surgeries at Shriner’s in Boston, to reduce contractures and scarring from her burns and improve function and mobility in her hands, legs and feet. After each surgery the affected joint is immobilized for a few weeks—healing time that is followed by physical and occupational therapy. She is currently undergoing a procedure with tissue expanders in her scalp to replace much of her lost hair.
Sarah bravely tolerated the bandages, medications, stretches and restricted mobility that followed each procedure. Now, several years after her adoption, medical care and physical/occupational therapy are still a regular part of 5-year-old Sarah’s life. She also loves trying new things, attending school, ballet and gymnastics.
“Sarah is positive and outgoing,” Bosch said. “[She’s] often the ringleader bossing around her friends at school. She enjoys riding her scooter, dressing up with her big sister, and running round with the neighborhood boys. I only hope that one day her first family can see how brightly she shines!”
For families considering adoption of a child with medical needs, Bosch has this advice: