There is an inherent kindness to the world that often breaks through the loudness and violence associated with poverty and scarcity. One couple recently helped strengthen that kindness by offering their help to a small boy on the other side of the planet. In mid-2015, a woman from Tennessee by the name of Priscilla Morse saw a photo on Facebook that shocked her to her very core. The photo in question was taken at an orphanage in Bulgaria, and it showed an orphaned child who was obviously malnourished and starving.
The child was a 7-year-old boy named Ryan, and he had thinning hair and pale, taut skin that covered his visible bones beneath the papery flesh. It was fairly clear the boy would not last long, so Priscilla decided she had to help the child. She spoke to her husband, David, and showed him the photos of the boy on Facebook, and David agreed they needed to do something. The couple had already adopted a daughter with Down syndrome who also happened to have a congenital heart defect, so they knew they could give Ryan a life better than any he would receive in his homeland.
Priscilla felt an instant connection with Ryan when she first saw his photos on the Facebook page for Reece’s Rainbow, a group that uses grants and other funding opportunities to help children with special needs find adoptive homes. Priscilla and David already went through the process of adopting one child from out of the country since their daughter McKenzie came from Russia just a few years prior. They also have two boys by the names of Jack and Dylan.
The couple lives in a rural area of Tennessee, and once they brought Ryan back to his new home, they started the journey of helping him regain his health. Priscilla had to work hard to get a feeding tube approved for the small child since he was so badly malnourished, and his skin was even paler and thinner than it appeared in the photos. His bones were still highly visible beneath his skin, and he was always exceptionally pale despite his eastern-European heritage. He even had excessive body hair, which is a classic sign of lethal malnutrition. The body hair is an effort by the body to maintain warmth since no food is coming into the system.
Part of the reason for Ryan’s mistreatment and neglect were his medical issues. He was diagnosed with microcephaly, cerebral palsy, scoliosis, dwarfism, and clubbed feet. He also had re-feeding syndrome. During his extensive recovery phase, Ryan underwent several corrective surgeries to help with some of these issues, including a spinal surgery that helped straighten his spine. His new adoptive parents were by his side every step of the process, and even though the journey was long, he quickly started to show improvements.
It has now been over a year since the family brought Ryan to join their home. The boy is finally able to move on his own, and his is constantly smiling and laughing. His parents are extremely happy that Ryan is able to live such a happy life after all the horrors he went through to get to that point. He went from dying of starvation and malnutrition to being the centerpiece of a lovely family in less than a year. He has lost all the body hair that helped tether him to life when he couldn’t eat enough, and his hair has regained its thick, black shine. His skin has grown to a beautiful shade of olive that is much more in line with his heritage, and the paleness is a thing of the past.