Wisdom Wednesday: Adopting a Child with Hemophilia
My name is Jasmin Davidson, and I have adopted a seven-year-old boy whom I named Adi (“jewel” in Hebrew) from China. Adi has severe hemophilia. He joined my two domestically adopted children, ages four and eight.
When I embarked on my third adoption journey, I set out to provide a home to a special needs child. I chose China’s Special Focus program due to its stability and good reputation. While I was open to a variety of characteristics and special needs, my heart went out to older boys who seemed to have trouble finding families.
I reviewed the files of many children but was drawn to a seven-year-old boy who was abandoned at the age of 16 months due to his hemophilia status. His birth note was a heartbreaking plea from his parents, saying, “We are from the village area and are very poor, hope the kindhearted person save him”. I kept reading these words over and over. I thought to myself, It takes only one committed person who will answer this plea and will go the extra mile for this boy. That person could be me.
Hemophilia was not on the list of special needs to which I was initially open. The information I read about it sounded scary: uncontrollable bleeds, arthritis leading to disability, possible vision loss, intracranial bleeds, HIV and hepatitis from blood transfusions, and a shortened life span. However, the impression I had from Adi’s medical file was that this boy’s hemophilia was rather mild and that he needed a blood transfusion only once a year. I found this reassuring and decided to go forward with his adoption.
On “Gotcha Day” I noticed that Adi was very bruised and pale. I started to suspect that his hemophilia was more severe than stated and insisted on obtaining his entire medical record. The records showed that he had been hospitalized once every two months. The ensuing email exchange with international adoption doctor Dr. Jenista and my local Hemophilia Treatment Center solidified the suspicion that my son could have severe hemophilia A.
Initially I was in a state of “shell shock”, but then I quickly learned that in America, treatments were available that would allow my son to lead an essentially normal life and have a normal life span. I further learned that hemophilia can be managed by parents in a home-care setting and that visits to a hospital were infrequent. Today’s clotting factor products are not human blood-based anymore but are instead manufactured in a lab, via genetic engineering. As such, there is no longer a risk of communicable diseases, HIV, or hepatitis B or C.
After Adi’s adoption, I decided to advocate for children with hemophilia, to help spread out the word that hemophilia is a manageable condition and how important it is that these children get adopted!
Other than me administering clotting factor to my son intravenously once a week (which takes five minutes!), we lead a normal life. Adi is soaking up every bit of his new life and wants nothing more than to just be a typical American kid. There is not a day that goes by without him telling me, “I love you” and “You are a good momma.” He is tremendously proud to go to “American school” – and to do homework!
All in all, I find hemophilia to be a very manageable condition, in some ways similar to diabetes. I regret now that I was not initially open to it. I find it very rewarding and would definitely do it again. Adoptive parents who are looking to make a life-saving difference to a child should definitely consider this special need! In 80% of the world (including China), hemophilia is not well treated and can lead to joint destruction, muscle atrophy, limb amputation, and brain bleeds.
Unfortunately, it seems that many adoptive parents are “scared off” by this special need, just as I previously was. I am filled with hope that in future more parents will open their hearts and homes to a child with hemophilia and go the extra mile it takes to make a life-saving difference.