Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kamila's Story

As I have learned over the last 3 years, adoption touches us all in a different way.  For some it brings out compassion beyond belief, like the family you are going to read about and for some disbelief and skepticism, like the Kyrgyz government.  The spectrum of feelings is broad which is where the conflict comes from.  No child is without value and no child should live their life without a family to cherish them, yet there are 148 million orphans in the world! No to mention the countless children in our US foster system.  If that is not a crisis, then I don't know what is. 

I hope you are moved by the Fenske's story as I have been. To say, I am in awe of Shannon and her husband, Kevin would be an understatement.  They have hearts of gold.  Now I would like to introduce Kamila.....

Kamila's 3rd Birthday!  The precious dress is from Shannon and Kevin.
Our adoption journey began in 2006, following two years of unsuccessful infertility treatments. We had reached the realization that what we truly wanted was to have a family and that perhaps the path God had intended us to take was a different one than the one we were on. We decided to pursue an international adoption from a new program in Kyrgyzstan. We applied to our agency in November 6, 2006 and received the referral of our son, Esen, on January 27, 2007. We met him April 24, 2007, and arrived home a family of three May 4, 2007. We completed our first adoption in less than six months’ time!!

While we were traveling in Kyrgyzstan and spending time at our son’s orphanage, our hearts were opened to the idea of adopting children with special needs. As it turns out, our son (who was initially referred to us as a healthy 4 month old) was indeed a one year old former preemie with significant neurologic damage, developmental delay and failure to thrive. We spent time with many of the medically fragile children at the orphanage and vowed to return as soon as we could to adopt again. Esen has thrived in our family over the last four years and has overcome many obstacles. He struggles with Sensory Processing Disorder and ADHD, but is physically healthy and very well-adjusted. He is highly intelligent and excels at school. He is a very happy, healthy, normal little boy who puts a smile on the face of everyone who meets him.

In January of 2008, we began the process to once again adopt from Kyrgyzstan, this time requesting the referral of a child with special needs. On July 11, 2008, we received the referral of Kamila, a beautiful baby girl with severe bilateral complete cleft lip and palate who was found abandoned in the city of Bishkek. We accepted her referral and worked feverishly to expedite the process to bring her home. Sadly, the Kyrgyz Government placed a moratorium on International Adoption in February 2009 and we have been fighting ever since to get Kamila home. We have continued to extend support where possible and have been able to help arrange for a German craniofacial team to complete two of her corrective surgeries. We have struggled with Kamila’s adoption process over the past three years, but remain committed to her and will continue to wait until the day the Kyrgyz Government releases her to us. Until that time, we will do what we can to support her from afar.

A surprise blessing came to us in October of 2009. Shannon received a random email from a domestic facilitator regarding a baby girl that they were trying to place. We were not involved with a domestic adoption so she disregarded the email. Weighing on her heart, Shannon went back to it a few days later and read it closely. We researched the facilitator and were unimpressed with what we discovered. We still cannot explain what drove Shannon to do it, but she contacted the five child placing agencies in the state where the child was born and within a few minutes, Marissa’s social worker emailed her back. The proverbial ball was rolling. Marissa was born at 25 weeks gestation, was resuscitated and placed on a ventilator. She suffered two severe brain hemorrhages and developed subsequent hydrocephalus. Her long-term prognosis was unknown. The agency had not had a single family interested in adopting Marissa. We poured over her medical information, talked to doctors and prayed hard about her. We updated our paperwork and on October 31, 2009, flew to New Orleans, walked into the NICU of the Children’s Hospital and held our baby girl for the first time. Marissa has been an absolute inspiration and blessing to our family. We cannot imagine our lives without her. She has had a difficult road with over 25 shunt-related surgeries, 5 throat surgeries, multiple anesthetic procedures for line placements and other tests as well over the past two years; a third brain hemorrhage in February 2010, cortical blindness, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, countless hospitalizations, and partial paralysis of her left side. Despite her challenges, Marissa is a happy, beautiful, strong, little girl and an incredible gift to our family!

We have always wanted a large family. We never really had a set number of children in mind, but figured we’d have maybe four or five. When we learned of the two waiting children in Ethiopia who fit perfectly into the age range we were hoping to adopt and had special needs that we felt were manageable for us, God told us this was the right time. We know the adoption process is never easy and the financial part is always the hardest. It seems there’s never enough money and there’s never enough time to raise the funds, but somehow when you need it to be there, it is. If it’s truly meant to be and we firmly believe these children are meant to be ours, then we will be blessed.

We long for the day that all of our children will be home and our family complete.

Kevin and Shannon Fenske

To follow along on Shannon's blog you can read more at

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