Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Illinois Adoptee Receiving Hearing Help

Read the incredible story of Jia Billadeau:

Children need time to adapt after receiving hearing help

I was especially taken with this part:

The girl is a natural smiler, the kind of kid who holds the hands of people she's just met and hurls her whole body joyfully into her mom and dad after missing them for a few minutes. But until recently, Jia's life has been an "Oliver Twist" story (minus the pickpocketing chorus).

An orphan in China's one-child-per-family culture, the little girl was all set to get a family in May 2004, when Jim and Carol Billadeau of Bourbonnais were given her picture and told she would be theirs.

Chinese officials matched Jia to the Billadeaus and e-mailed them her picture.

"You just hit that enter button, and your child kind of materializes," Jim remembered, comparing the experience to "giving birth. It was neat. It was really cool."

Less than two weeks before the Billadeaus were to leave for China to pick her up, they got a call. Jia had hydrocephalus, fluid built up in cavities inside her brain, according to the Hydrocephalus Association."

They were asking us very sternly not to take her," Jim said. They told the couple "You could just be bringing her home to watch her die."

Would they take another child instead?

They said they would, not wanting to endanger Jia or adopt a child who might immediately die.

Instead, Lucy, now almost 3, came home with them. The bright, highly verbal girl is a little shyer than Jia with strangers but eager to answer her teachers' questions as she accompanies her sister to preschool at St. Joseph.

Still, in the months after adopting Lucy, the Billadeaus couldn't stop thinking about Jia as well. Was she better? Was she with another family? Was she alive?

"I began to inquire and, all of a sudden, 'bam, bam, bam!' Doors were shutting," Carol said. "I really thought she died and they didn't want us to know."

"The director of the orphanage told us maybe we should just let it go," Jim said.

At the same time, Carol connected with a woman in an adoption chat room who had adopted a child from the same orphanage that Jia resided in. Carol sent the woman Jia's picture, hoping it would spark recognition.

Soon after, that woman was sent another picture of the girl from a person in Oregon looking to adopt Jia through another agency. When the Billadeaus found out, they contacted the Oregon agency and, eventually, were given permission to go get Jia.

"It was probably another eight months of waiting," Jim said. "This time we knew what we were waiting for."

Not quite. In November 2005, 10 days before they were to pick up Jia, they found out she was deaf. Did they want to back out?

"We said, 'This time, full speed ahead. We're going to get her,' " Jim said. They picked her up in December.

"They brought her in and, I'm telling you, it was a shock," Carol said. "We were not prepared for deafness. It's a huge thing."

When Jia arrived at her new home, she was missing one cochlea, a part of her inner ear that helps transmit sound, and her other was deformed, Jim said. The family learned some sign language but wanted to get Jia a cochlear implant as a backup so that she could hear at least a little.

The implant attached to her deformed cochlea has performed beyond expectations, Jim said. So has Jia.


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