Gay Bonheur adopted 4-year old Marina from Russia six years ago expecting to encounter a few health issues. But she was surprised when Marina tested positive for hepatitis C, a potentially serious liver condition. "We had never heard of it and our general practitioner didn't know about it either," Gay says. As Marina got older, she also developed various other health problems common to children of her age adopted from Eastern Europe.
"It all was more than I realized I would get. When we first considered her for adoption, I didn't even know enough to question about her medical records," Gay says. "Looking back, I wish I'd been prepared. These days adoptive families are able to consult international adoption specialists prior to adoption. They can help you make an informed decision."
To better educate herself — and the health professionals treating her daughter — Gay spent a lot of time gathering information. "I know more than my doctor. Our pediatrician did his best, but he was asking me questions! You have to be an advocate and learn for yourself."
Gay's research efforts paid off. She found a 48-week treatment program for hepatitis C patients. "Now, a year after treatment began, things are wonderful," Gay reports. Marina's other health issues also are more manageable.
"The major thing that helped me cope with Marina's health problems is that I considered all possible conditions that might surface and had her tested for them. For instance, I didn't automatically assume her eyes or ears were okay. I went ahead and had her checked. By being proactive rather than reactive we were much better able to manage her total health. In fact, Marina has done so well that one doctor who looked at her said, 'This child doesn't match this medical record!'"
In most cases, health problems that occur in adopted children are either minor or manageable. "The vast majority of kids (adopted internationally) do adapt and do well long-term," says Jane Aronson, MD., who specializes in treating internationally adopted children. Even children considered at risk for specific problems have a remarkable capacity to make good recoveries and thrive as they grow up.