Adopting a Child with Cerebral Palsy: Henry’s Story
March is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, and we think it’s a perfect time to catch up with Patrick, a child with cerebral palsy who was adopted nearly two years ago.
We had already gone down the special needs adoption road, and I had been advocating for Patrick for months. Patrick was a nine-year-old boy with a somewhat obvious special need, and no one was stepping forward for him. For some reason my heart would pound when I looked at him.
However, we had just come home with a little girl with a vision impairment who was so sweet but a heck of a lot of work. I told my husband about Patrick, but we knew logistically we couldn’t go get him. We prayed for him as a family for weeks. No one came forward for him, and our hearts were too invested in him. We called our agency, and moved forward without even worrying much of his special need.
Patrick, whom we named Henry, had a pretty rough Gotcha Day. Luckily, we were prepared for “worst case scenario.” Although he had been a little prepared and was excited to meet us, it was all too much for him. After a rough day, he warmed up to us back at the hotel. The truth is, our son is a GREAT and resilient kid.
On paper, our son Henry has “mild” cerebral palsy affecting one side (hemiplegia). Once we got home, we made an appointment with our pediatrician who ordered many lab tests and referred us to a neurologist, an opthalmologist, and to Shriners. It seemed our summer was full of doctor appointments with our new arrival and five other children.
We soon learned that although therapy can help a child with cerebral palsy, messages that the brain sends to the body still remain. Henry has a hard time grasping anything with his left hand, and we encourage him to use his “helper hand,” but this skill will always be hard for him.
We did find there was a way to help his abnormal gait (the way he walks and runs). Henry would walk on his tiptoes with his left foot, so Shriners suggested a surgery to release or lengthen his Achilles tendon (heel cord). After the surgery, he seemed to have a harder time walking, but after a couple of months, his heel was touching the ground and he was walking straighter and more confidently than he ever had. We are very happy he had this surgery. He now wears an AFO (ankle foot orthotic) on that foot up to his calf, which fits in a normal shoe.
Sometimes Henry struggles with drooling and his speech is hard to understand, but the type of cerebral palsy our son has has been very manageable. Other than appointments and having a hard time understanding him, we don’t think about this physical need much.
Henry notices he is different and wishes his hand could work like other kids, but overall he is a resilient and happy boy. He runs, jumps on the trampoline, goes on hikes with us, and is good at playing frisbee. He is very kind and is always looking for a solution for anyone having a hard time. He is a peacemaker in our home. He has taught us many things and has blessed our lives.
In the end, we feel that his physical need of cerebral palsy is not the biggest challenge we face. In fact, the general adoption-related and tough-start-to-life kind of stuff is a more dominant issue in our parenting of Henry. Our little guy didn’t know where he belonged or to whom he belonged in the beginning, and it has been amazing to watch his transformation.
April 23rd will mark two years with our sweet boy. Making Henry our son was the best advocacy for us all.
~Jessica McComas is a wife, mother of six children, and advocate of orphans.