Please cancel our November 20 appointment with Dr. Cameron. My son Lawrence Yu Huang unfortunately died of heart failure in Hefei, China on November 1, two days after I adopted him.
On November 2, I awoke at 3:33 a.m. and saw the light on the iPhone on the night table blink for a moment, and though I had no intention of reviewing the emails, I thought it was odd that it had blinked. Then I saw the email above.
I never went back to sleep. I wrote to the Feldmans and expressed my sadness and asked them to write back or call me. I have known this family for years. They have an eight-year old daughter adopted from China and this was their second adoption -- a little boy with congenital heart disease who was scheduled to be evaluated for surgical correction of Tetralogy of Fallot at a New York Pediatric Cardiology center in the next few weeks after he was adopted. I would have met him in my office and evaluated him as he started his new life in New York.
I am currently editing a story for my book, Carried in Our Hearts, to be published on Mother's Day 2013, about the death of a child in China during the adoption process. In fact, I have had many children die during the process of adoption. They either died in country before the parents could meet them, while the parents picked them up in the country, or within a short period of time after their arrival in the U.S. And I have experienced the sickness and near-death of adopted children along the way. Is it different because the child was being adopted? Or is this just the same tragedy for any parent losing a child?
I am guessing it is both.
There is so much effort put into adoption, and the waiting process is so long that sickness or death is dramatic and charged. The hopes are so huge and past losses may be so deep -- even before the adoption -- that the illness and death can be devastating. People adopting are fragile, but they are warriors, indomitable and proud of their ability to withstand torture. After 30 years as a pediatrician, I have seen sickness and death of my patients and I do believe that in the context of adoption, the pain is more complex.
The death of this sweet little fellow, who I have been looking at on paper for months, is particularly hard for me in the wake of Sandy. I guess we will all be talking about the meaning of Sandy for a very long time.
I feel that we have all been assaulted with too much at this point. We are all trying to be grateful and upbeat, but we are all tired and most of us have a little bit of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome by now. Intrepid and hopeful still, but very vulnerable and hard-pressed to be all that energetic, we will all pick it up this week as power has returned and we can go back to our usual routine, whether at home or at work, and that will help us heal.
I will go back to Worldwide Orphans and continue working to improve the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children in their home countries. Wearing my other hat, I will continue to help families adopt children from abroad at my medical practice in New York. I hope that I will have an opportunity to talk with the Feldman family about their loss.
I am forever grateful to be part of the lives of adoptive parents as they celebrate and mourn their children. Those orphans who died did have a moment when they felt the possibility of family and that was for sure a perfect moment.
Updates regarding Lawrence Yu Huang from his mother in New York:
November 4, 2012
For those of you who have not already heard, it is with a heavy heart that I share the sad news of the passing of my son, Lawrence Yu Huang on November 1, 2012. The cause of death was heart failure due to CHD (congenital heart disease). His heart failure may have been triggered by a virus. I planned to take him to New York this month for his second and hopefully final heart operation. He never made it to the U.S., though. He passed away only three days after I met him, and two days after the adoption was finalized. He was just three years and eight months-old.
Eagerly awaiting his arrival into our family, his new sister and I were so happy and relieved to finally meet him on October 29, 15 months to the day from when we first saw a photo of his beautiful face. He was an amazing child -- cute, strong yet gentle, compassionate and kind. He loved pandas. His favorite toy was the panda I had sent to the orphanage for him a few weeks earlier. On the evening of October 30, we were lying on the bed facing one other. He looked into my eyes and said "Mama." My heart melted.
That would turn out to be our last night together.
While I mourn for the memories that we will never share, I take some comfort in knowing that my little boy felt our love during our short time together. I have received a tremendous amount of support and concern from friends, family and colleagues around the world. Your thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated during this painful time.
A woman from my adoption agency, who has 12 special needs children herself, shared this poem:
I was here
I lived, I loved
I was here
I left my mark so everyone could know
I was here
I just want them to know
That I gave all, did my best
Brought someone to happiness
Left this world a little better just because
I was here.
I'm sorry to have to bring you this sad news and hope to be able to speak to you about happier events next time.