‘Abby’s story began by being born in a toilet. David was autistic. Karen was discovered locked in a bedroom. Sabrina functions at 18-24 months. Each one is perfect in their own way.’

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“This is a picture that was taken at our 4th adoption. Unable to have children, my husband and I turned to fostering to adopt.

When I met my husband Chris, I had already had a hysterectomy at a very young age. I’ve known my entire life that I could never carry a child. However, I also knew it didn’t mean I couldn’t be a mom.  I approached my husband about signing up to be a foster family. The idea was to provide kids a home until their biological parents could do what they needed to do to get them back. He was on board 110% with the idea.  After we found an agency to work with, we completed the mounds of paperwork, background checks and trainings to get certified. By this time, Christmas was near.  Chris asked what I wanted that year. I quickly responded, ‘a baby!’ He spent the next few weeks making phone calls trying to find a child that just needed a home to enjoy the holidays. That’s when we were first told about Abby.

Abby’s story began by being born in a toilet. Her biological mom had a drug addiction. (I must add that she beat the addiction and now has 2 beautiful children) Abby was rushed to the hospital and it was later determined she had a genetic kidney issue and would require a transplant. She was placed into a foster home (not ours) and eventually had both of her kidneys removed and began dialysis. She didn’t eat by mouth so she ended up getting a feeding tube. She had many health issues occur, but eventually a stroke is what landed her back in the hospital and the doctors asked that a new foster home be found that could deal with her medical conditions. That’s where we came in. We heard the caseworker describe this list of problems that would intimidate anyone. My husband’s response was that she sounded perfect!

By this time, Abby had just turned 1 year old. I had EMT training and my husband was a paramedic. We interviewed with the doctor and made a good enough impression that we were chosen! Before we could bring her home, we had to take classes to learn how to do peritoneal dialysis at home. This involves hooking your child up to a bag of fluid that is pumped by machine in and out of their body through an implanted catheter in the belly. It has to be a sterile procedure, or you risk infection which could end your ability to do dialysis that way. Every night, we would scrub, put our masks on and go through the process of setting up the machine. She had to be weighed, blood pressure taken, temperature, her feeding bag hooked up for the night, oxygen and pulse ox put on. It was a process. She had so many medical supplies that delivery trucks would come and wheel cases into our living room. Dialysis supplies alone were around 28 cases a month. And the list of appointments was like nothing I had ever seen. She threw up all the time. I can remember changing her sheets at least 4 times a day. But hey, without kidneys, she never peed. So we never had a wet diaper! It wasn’t until after she got her kidney transplant I realized just how precious a wet diaper is. When they wheeled her back from surgery and I saw the catheter bag full of urine, it brought me to tears!

Melissa Yetter

But before that all happened, we had many other scares. At one point during a procedure, she went into cardiac arrest on the table. Another time she was rushed by ambulance because she was filling up with fluid. That experience by far was the scariest one for me. Her pulse ox read 50 and she was turning blue.  Thank God for the PICU team. During all of this time, we were still just foster parents. When the biological parents’ rights were terminated by the judge, we were given the chance to adopt her. On July 28, 2015 it became official. We changed her name to Abigail Noelle.  (Noelle because she was my Christmas gift) The next greatest gift came February 8, 2017 when she received a kidney transplant from a deceased donor. From there we figured it would be smooth sailing.  Then the labs came back. The genetic condition was to have a 0% chance of returning. In true Abby style, she was the exception. We began the battle to save the kidney. Much like dialysis, she was hooked up to plasmapheresis. It cleans her blood and removes the antibodies. But her body couldn’t replace the lost blood and it had to be stopped.By the grace of God, the few treatments she got seemed to have worked.  We continue checking her labs every month and live life to the fullest. We never know when the disease will return, but we have a plan in place for how we will fight it. Until then, Abby is enjoying being a little girl. She starts kindergarten in the fall. Although another family is without their child, I know a part of him has given my child a chance to grow up. I think of that family often. I couldn’t imagine making that decision. It’s a tough thing. Our happiest moment came from their worst nightmare. It definitely made me realize how important organ donation and blood donation is.

Melissa Yetter

When children and youth needs a home for a child, they call you with a brief description and you either say yes or no. David’s story began with a definite no from me. Our caseworker called and said, ‘We have a 5-year-old AUTISTIC, nonverbal, not potty-trained boy for placement today. I immediately said no. Autism was foreign to me and quite frankly, it scared me. We hung up and he proceeded to call my husband at work hoping for a different answer. Chris has a much more open mind. Chris told them that if they didn’t have a home by 5:00 that I would have a bed for him. (Easy to say when you’re working a 24 hour shift and won’t be home) It wasn’t long until there was a knock at the door. This little boy came charging in, slammed himself off the wall and was doing a strange high pitched squeal. He ran to the kitchen, grabbed a handful of cookies and started stuffing his face like he hadn’t seen food in years. I took a deep breath as he began screaming ‘no’ and hitting himself as hard as he could on his thigh, followed by a slap across the face. I was already thinking of what to write in our 30-day notice to have him placed elsewhere. I knew I could never handle his behaviors. Soon I learned his story. He traveled from state to state as his family moved around a lot. His biological mom couldn’t handle his behaviors. He never really had a father in his life. Children and youth took him because they determined he wasn’t being properly cared for. Realizing how hard life was for him, my heart softened. I started reading everything I could about autism. Soon my husband and I realized that moving him elsewhere would just add more trauma to his life. David was so obsessed with certain things, especially string. He would pull our carpet apart until he eventually destroyed it. He spent his nights pulling strings from his mattress until it was destroyed. Next was his bedroom curtains. Lots of strings there. He even discovered that when they patched corners of your drywall, there’s a string material in there. He then would use the strings to tie himself fast to his headboard on the bed. I was terrified he would accidentally strangle himself. I spent many nights checking and rechecking his baby monitor. I swear he never slept. He was constantly moving.

Melissa Yetter

That first year, we saw many doctors and worked hard on finding the correct medicines to be able to help him. The doctors said to remove everything from his room but a mat to sleep on. We tried it and found him sleeping in his closet under cardboard boxes. It was so sad, but he felt safe there and wasn’t destroying things. We worked on teaching him basic skills, learning that food would always be available and also a few signs for things he deals with daily. He has come so far. He is definitely a daddy’s boy and loves going everywhere with Chris. On March 9, 2018, I am proud to say, he became forever ours! We named him David Andrew.

Melissa Yetter

By this time, it was clear, medical kids were our passion. Less than one month after taking David, the phone rang. ‘We have a 7-year-old, nonverbal little girl. She has trouble eating and is underweight. You will have to do visits at the prison with mom.’ Ok…we can do this. She arrives and we get the whole story. Karen was kept in her bedroom, still bottle fed at age 7. She lacked the muscles in her mouth to even be able to chew. She walked on her tippy toes and was very unsteady. She was terrified of the county workers because she lacked human contact. She had never attended school and was only found because an ambulance was called to the house for her grandmother that winter. When crews arrived they found the house below freezing with no working heat source. Karen was discovered locked in a bedroom. The floors were coated in trash and feces. The fridge was filled with moldy food and Karen’s bottles were moldy. Grandma died from hypothermia and biological mom went to jail for involuntary manslaughter. Karen was so easy to fall in love with. We had her evaluated and she tested at an 18-month-old level and was diagnosed with ID and autistic characteristics. Her issues were all due to not having the proper nutrition. We started speech, occupational and physical therapies. She got leg braces to help her walk. She began attending school for the first time in her life. Even though there was the age difference, her and Abby were on the same level with learning. However, Karen quickly advanced and is actually a very smart little girl. Definitely not the IQ of 40 they labeled her with that day.  Her adoption was March 31, 2017, while we were still dealing with Abby in the hospital with her post-transplant issues. It was hectic, but finally gave her the loving family she so desperately needed. We named her Karen Olivia.

Melissa Yetter

Things settle down and life is good. But I still spend my evenings looking at the hundreds of kids that need homes on our state’s adoption site. We still have 2 empty bedrooms and plenty of room in our hearts. I tell Chris, ‘I really think we can help just one more.’ We inquire about many kids but never hear anything back from the workers. I pretty much gave up and decided our family was complete. One night, on an adoption Facebook page, someone asked about if anyone ever successfully got a placement from the site. Out of frustration, I voiced how many medical kids there are that you never get a response from their workers. Some have been on there for years. Immediately, a woman responds asking what type medical child we are interested in helping. Over the next few days, she sent pictures, scheduled visits and got us approved with their county. We packed up the family and made the 4-hour drive to meet this 17-year-old young lady who was destined for placement in a facility. She was aging out of the system and everyone had given up hope that anyone would ever want her. Well, everyone but this caseworker.  She never lost hope.

She knew Sabrina deserved the love of a forever family. Sabrina also has a genetic condition that requires a special diet. She is the tiniest, sweetest girl you will ever meet. She functions at about 18-24 months, is nonverbal, not potty trained, but always has a smile on her face. Six months after moving her in, we again made the 4 hour drive. This time to stand in front of the judge and sign the papers to make her ours. That was on June 19, 2018. Her adoption fulfilled my desire to help a child that nobody else would want. I feel like out of all of our kids, Sabrina is the one that we really have made the biggest impact on her life. She truly was running out of options solely because of her age. Sabrina’s name was changed to Sabrina Sue. It was chosen at our request by the caseworker who never gave up on her.

Melissa Yetter

The point of my story is to hopefully inspire someone to open their heart to a child who needs a home.  There are literally thousands of them in the United States. And also, to bring awareness to the need for organ donation. We have been blessed with such an incredible little family. Each one is perfect in their own way and each has taught me a valuable lesson about life. And in the chaos of it all, my husband has never questioned my desire to be a mom. There is no amount of words to describe how proud we are of our kids and how honored I am to call myself his wife. Being a mom is more than I ever dreamed of. I should also mention that during this timeframe, we have had many foster children in our home that did return to their biological parents. That is always the goal. Our adoptions only occurred because the children were not able to return back home.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Melissa Yetter of Middleburg, Pennsylvania. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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