Sunday, Mar. 5, 2006

Abandoned boy finds new home

This couple has been compared to Elizabeth and Zecariah, who had their son — later to become John the Baptist — at a very late age.

But Benjamin Mata, retired commodore, and Librada, a dentist, now both 75, are not Biblical figures. They are just an ordinary couple who fell in love with a two-month-old boy and took him in as their own son almost nine years ago.

“We were content with what we had, with all our six children giving us 10 grandchildren,” Librada said. “We had the usual family life — having problems sometimes with how the family business goes up and down, family relations. It was a normal life for us.”

But Benjamin admitted that after all of their children were married and had left the nest, their house became “so quiet.”

“We were left behind here, the two of us. It became lonely because this house used to have six children running around. The children would visit us once in a while but we still longed for their company,” he said.

Peter, now nine, knows the story very well. He joined his parents during this interview and they talked about the past like they were recalling a favorite movie.

It was in September 1997 that one of their daughters brought them a nameless baby boy who was abandoned by his mother in a hospital. They named him Peter Emmanuel.

“When I saw the boy, he was already so handsome. There was a full crop of hair on his head but there were so many lice. His bottom was raw because he was not properly cleaned,” Librada recalled.

“That was me,” Peter joined in.

Peter was the product of an illicit affair between the husband of a friend of the Matas’ daughter and his paramour. When the boy was in the hospital, his father was in the United States, visiting his legal wife.

Apparently frustrated with the situation, Peter’s mother left him in the hospital but not before letting the family know about the affair.

“The first wife called my daughter and asked her to check if it was true. So my daughter went to the hospital and found Peter there. She took pity on him so she brought him to me,” Librada said.

When Benjamin learned that Peter was coming home to them, he immediately rushed to a mall to buy diapers, infant formula, feeding bottles and nipples — practically everything a baby could need because they no longer had any “baby stuff” at their home.

“At that time both of us were already 67. While I was in the baby department buying in a rush, the sales girls there were all surprised that this old man was buying all these things. (I presumed they were thinking) ‘Is that another man, making his last hurrah?’ I could see the faces of the salesgirls. They were not smiling but smirking. That started our life with Peter,” he recalled with a hearty laugh.

With Peter, Benjamin experienced being a father for the first time. Before, his job had kept him away from home for long stretches.

“I was a ship captain when my wife started having children and I did not experience seeing my children born, sit up, make the first step, speak their first words. I hardly (saw) them grow up,” he said.

Peter’s coming into their life became “a chance for me to experience what I missed — caring for my own biological children — because of my occupation.”

“It’s a very nice experience because I started to learn how to carry a baby. From that time on, it was like recapturing all over again the lost time, the lost experience of rearing my own children. That is how my wife and I started to get so attached to him,” Benjamin said.

The couple decided to give their name to Peter through legal adoption. But when they told their children about their desire to legally adopt Peter, almost all of them refused to give their consent, as required by the court. They were worried that due to their advanced age, their parents would not be able to raise another child.

“I was hurt because I thought my children wanted to make me happy and this boy was the source of my happiness,” Benjamin said.

Librada said their children opposed the idea “because they thought we were already too old to be worrying if Peter gets sick,” and about other problems associated with parenting.

“They wanted us to just enjoy each other… There was even a time they gave us a European tour for more than a month. They did not want us to worry about anything anymore,” she said.

The couple resorted to filing a simulated birth certificate in their desperation to “show the world” that Peter was their son. But in 2003, they again sought approval from their children, who readily agreed this time.

“That was a gift from God. I really prayed hard for it. I think they realized that’s the reason why mom and dad are living longer, happy and very proud. Each time it’s grading period in school, we always go up the stage to receive Peter’s awards,” Librada said.

She said that Peter, now in the second grade, always tops his class in mathematics, reading and English and is even a “high blue belter” in taekwondo.

“He is now at the top 10 of his class. He talks like an adult. This boy is very intelligent but sometimes so makulit (naughty). But we see to it that he will not be spoiled. We want him to be a God-fearing and a law-abiding citizen,” Librada said.

According to Benjamin, they told Peter about his status as an adopted child on Valentine’s Day last year, upon the prodding of their children.

“We were lying in bed when we told him the truth. He was listening intensely. After that, we asked him how he felt. He said he was okay,” Benjamin said.

Peter quipped: “I already knew. The maids told me but I did not believe… I am still happy. They take good care of me and I have a fun time living here.”

But the boy, Benjamin said, fell silent during their talk and suddenly asked them: “What if they (the Matas’ biological children) abandon me?”

The couple did not have an easy answer so they immediately called a “family counsel meeting.”

“During the meeting, our biological children professed their love for Peter and they promised to take care of him when we are gone. We all cried. That was one of the happiest moments in our life,” Benjamin said.

Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2006

Wandering 5yo reunited with mother

A five-year-old girl found wandering the streets of Toronto’s east end was rescued by a quick-thinking parking enforcement officer early Monday morning and returned to her mother in the afternoon.

Lidia Lungu went to bed in the same room Sunday night as her mother and sister. But she was gone when her mother woke up.

“I woke up and I saw that my daughter was not beside me anymore,” Claudia Lungu told CTV Toronto’s Desmond Brown. “Of course I was shocked.”

Lidia was spotted walking in the frigid weather along Cosburn Avenue near Donlands Avenue by Officer Muhammed Khwaja around 3:45 a.m. Monday morning.

“I observed a little girl walking on a sidewalk alone without her parents,” Khwaja told reporters on Monday. “I asked her where her parents were. She had no idea.”

Lidia, who lives on the sixth floor of an apartment building, told Khwaja she ran out of her building after having a nightmare.

“She told me she lives in a land far, far away,” Kwaja said.

Khwaja said she was wearing white shirt, and a pink dress and boots when he found her. He said she didn’t seem cold or distressed despite the fact the wind chill at the time made the temperature feel like -17 C.

“She talked to me about how she likes candy and she just likes walking. She said she wasn’t cold and doesn’t get cold,” 26-year-old Khwaja said. “She was really chatty.”

Khwaja, who didn’t know how long she’d been outside, put Lidia in his car and turned on the heat. He then called police after she couldn’t tell him where she lived.

Lidia’s mother called Khwaja her daughter’s guardian angel.

“I feel really good that I tried to save her life, and anyone would have done the same thing,” Khwaja said. “I feel lucky for her.”

Her mother believes she may have been looking for her father who went to work in Costa Rica a month ago.

“Her father had to leave Canada and she misses him,” Lungu said. “(For) a month, she’s (been) difficult.”

Lungu called the police after a neighbour told her about media reports of a wandering child.

“Her mom was very, very upset and frightened that her daughter was missing and she didn’t know it at the time,” Toronto Police Staff Sgt. Stan Ellis said.

The girl also ran away from her kindergarten class last Friday, her mother said.

Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2006

Mother And Daugther To Be Reunited After 22-Years

A mother in South Philadelphia is about to be reunited with her daughter, who she has not seen for 22-years.

Olga Vega plans to leave for Donna, Texas, sometime Tuesday, to see her 23-year-old daughter who she thought she would never see again.

“Oh my God, I’m so happy, I’m overjoyed,” said Vega.

Vega’s daughter was 18-months-old when she last saw her in 1982. Two Philadelphia Police officers came to her South Philadelphia home on Saturday and told her that her daughter, now 23, was living in Texas and wanted to come home.

Vanessa was taken to Mexico as a young child by a young couple after an alleged adoption dispute, officials said.

Last week, the couple notified Vanessa that they were not her birth parents. Police said she took a bus to Texas and contacted local authorities.

With the help of Philadelphia Police, Vanessa’s mother and sister were located and contacted.

“Every birthday, that was it, I want my family together and now it’s going to happen” said Vanessa’s sister Daisy Vega.

Leaders of the Latino Community in Philadelphia from Progresso, have provided plane tickets for Olga Vega so she can travel to Texas and return with her daughter.

Investigators are unclear if criminal charges will be filed.

Saturday, Feb. 11, 2006

During pregnancy, some women gain 37 pounds. Not Eloysa Vasquez.

That’s how much she weighed before she became pregnant.

In what doctors say is an incredibly rare event, the tiny Tulare woman overcame the odds and gave birth to a healthy baby boy Jan. 24 at Stanford’s LucilePackard Children’s Hospital.

Timothy Abraham Vasquez — 3 pounds, 11 ounces and 16 inches long — arrived eight weeks early but otherwise healthy and strong. He did not inherit the weak-bone disorder that stunted his mother’s growth to 3 feet and has required her to use a motorized wheelchair since childhood.

Eloysa Vasquez, 38, credits her Pentacostal faith and the support of the hospital doctors and staff for her miracle.

“I always dreamed of having a child,” she said. “I wanted to know what it felt like to have him growing inside of me, just like any other woman.”

She and her husband, 5-foot-8-inch construction worker Roy Vasquez, were beaming Thursday when they showed off their son to the news media in the hospital’s neonatal intensive-care ward.

After previously having two miscarriages and listening to doctors warn against pursing such a risky pregnancy, the couple nearly gave up on their dream of becoming parents.

But then Timothy was conceived, and they were referred to Packard, where they saw Dr. James Smith, who specializes in difficult pregnancies.

Because of Vasquez’s small size, the growing fetus put pressure on her fragile bones and crowded her organs, he said.

Doctors carefully monitored what went into her child-sized stomach to make sure she and the baby received the nutrition they needed. She gained 20 pounds.

“I was a little afraid,” she said. “I just took one day at a time.”

Out of 4 million births a year in the United States, only a handful are believed to be born to women with Vasquez’s condition, which is called osteogenesis imperfecta type III.

In his 15 years of handling high-risk pregnancies, Smith said he has only had one other case. That, too, had a good outcome.

As the pregnancy progressed, the couple moved into a temporary apartment near the hospital in case Eloysa went into labor. She didn’t need drugs and was hospitalized only for the final few days before the birth by caesarean section.

By Thursday, Timothy was doing well enough to be moved to a less-intensive care unit at the hospital.

But it will be several more weeks before the couple can take him home to Tulare.

“Hey, big guy. Want to come out for a little bit?” Roy Vasquez says, gently lifting Timothy out of his incubator and putting him in his mother’s arms for a photo opportunity.

“He’s got his mother’s cheeks,” he said.

The couple is already talking about sending him to college.

Roy and Eloysa Vasquez come from large families. They grew up in the same neighborhood and were married at her mother’s house 2 1/2 years ago.

For Eloysa, it was incredible to finally get to hold her son for the first time.

“It’s a blessing to have a child,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. I just felt like I was in a dream.”

Friday, Feb. 10, 2006

Mother fights off polar bear to save children

A woman in a northern Quebec community was shaken and scared, but otherwise safe, after facing down a polar bear to save her children.

Lydia Angiyou, 41, was attacked by the bear on Wednesday night in Ivujivik, a community of 280 people on the northern coast of the Quebec mainland.

Angiyou was with her seven-year-old son and two other young boys when they came across the bear. She says all she could think of was stopping the animal.

“‘My boy, my boy, my boy is going to be killed, nothing I can do,'” she recalls thinking at the time. “But I started yelling and after that I felt better when he was far, the boy was far.”

The bear clawed at Angiyou and climbed on top of her, but retreated after gun shots were fired. The bear was eventually tracked down and killed.

The children were unharmed.

Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006

8 yo angel finds faith amid struggles

The day after Christmas.

Hitting the outlets, picking over cold turkey, grumbling about gifts.

But not for the Green-Edmundson family and their 8-year-old daughter, Brooklyn. Monday was a flight to Baltimore to meet with a specialist Tuesday to decide when exactly she is to have her legs dislocated and a partial hip replacement.

For many, going through what Brooklyn has had to endure so far in her short life — chronic rheumatoid arthritis, 13 operations before she was 5, including three on her mouth for a cleft palate and eight on her severely clubbed feet — might lead them to curse the heavens. [Conquering Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Latest Breakthroughs and Treatments]

Yet Brooklyn yearns for the divine. “Do you know guys,” she tells her bemused friends, “there’s this really cool place that’s free where you can go and learn about God?”

But in November, when one of her team of surgeons at the Shriners Hospital for Children said she’d have to have the tops of her femurs cut off and her legs rotated or she could face paralysis, Brooklyn asked her mother, “Why doesn’t God love me?”

Her parents, Malinda and Harold, are devoted to Brooklyn’s medical team at Shriners. “They truly want to help children,” Malinda said. “It’s been wonderful to have them in our lives.” But the enormity of the operation they are recommending left them no choice. They decided to seek a second opinion.

“I want to make sure this absolutely has to be done now,” Malinda said. Three percent of children with diastrophic dysphasia, a form of dwarfism, have to have hip-replacement surgery. “But it’s not even on the charts for a child Brooklyn’s age,” she said.

Malinda wrote a seven-page, tear-stained letter to Dr. Michael Ain, pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Johns Hopkins Children Center in Baltimore. She told him how Brooklyn was born without the roof of her mouth — if she opened her mouth, you could see into her nasal cavity — a recessed chin, an ulna deviation that meant her hands were constantly raised upwards and club feet. Nine months after birth, she then developed a 47-degree curvature of the spine that required her to wear a thoracic brace for three years. The chin, arms and spine were resolved non-surgically; her feet, however, show the scars of the surgeon’s knife. She refuses to wear skirts because she thinks her legs are “gross.”

The appointment with Ain brought both good and bad news.

“He said he wouldn’t recommend the operation on her hips,” Malinda said, opting instead for a drug injection and neuromuscular therapy that doctors believe will reduce pain and loosen the tight grip of the muscles around her hips.

But while the family appreciated the delay of the hip surgery, Ain also discovered that Brooklyn has scoliosis in her right shoulder blade and neck. [Growing Up with Scoliosis (A Young Girl’s Story)]

“We had no idea,” Malinda said. “Do I feel better or worse now? I don’t know.”

That Brooklyn is a fighter is undeniable. She has defeated every medical prediction: that she’d never reach 4 feet (she’s already 3 feet, 8 inches), that she wouldn’t walk until second grade (she started walking when she was 3), and that she’d have great difficulty talking (she’s a giggly chatterbox with a deeply soulful stare).

If Brooklyn’s conversation is largely “adult,” her other concerns are very much age-appropriate.

“She’s at that age,” says her mother, “where what other kids think about her is all that matters.”

Like many other little girls, Brooklyn walks around school during recess with a friend, Rija, and giggles about a boy they both like. Under her jumper she shows off a pink T-shirt that says “Blame my sister.”

Struggle as she might to fit in, there are aspects of her life that mark her apart. When she stands up, she has to sway constantly side to side not to lose her balance. Each morning when she wakes up, she has to have her legs massaged because if she puts her feet down straight away, she falls over.

Afraid of surgery, she has a very high tolerance for pain. The only thing she said about a raging six-month-long gum infection after a dentist discovered it was that it had itched. Her constant pain, though, has also given her an empathy for others’ suffering.

“We were standing in a queue in a supermarket,” Malinda said, “and she went up to an old man in front of us, took his hand and rubbed it, telling him he’d be all right. I told him I was sorry for her annoying him. He turned ’round, tears in his eyes, and said it was fine. He’d been diagnosed with cancer that week.”

Her mother is convinced her daughter is here for a higher purpose. This girl, who is nicknamed “the angel” by her family, “has changed all of our lives.”

There is one area her parents have resisted. Her parents both say that negative experiences with their respective religions (Malinda, LDS; Harold, Catholic) turned them away from their churches. But with this new crisis, Brooklyn’s religious needs mean they have to confront their own attitudes toward God.

“It’s crystal clear this year we have to renew our faith in some way,” Malinda said. “She has so many questions, so deep, we don’t know how to answer.” [When God Doesn’t Make Sense | Where Is God When It Hurts?]

For Brooklyn, questions of faith have an extraordinary importance. “She said to Harold,” her mother said, ” ‘Look me in the eye, tell me the truth, does Santa Claus exist?’ ”

Malinda begged her husband to give Brooklyn one more Christmas. “It was wonderful the look on her face when she heard the Christmas stories.”

But behind her questions lies a struggle that only someone who has spent her life in hospitals, with doctors and nurses, can understand. In the world of adults that she has grown up in, she is, her mother says, “fighting every day to remain a child.”

Sunday, Dec. 18, 2005

Mothers and sons reunited as website finds lost families

The agony of almost two million parents and children, legally “lost” to each other and kept apart by bureaucracy, is about to end. Britain’s first “adoption reunion” website – aimed at helping to reunite adopted children with their birth parents, and vice versa – will be launched next week.

The searchable online service is expected to generate a huge response, with thousands of people set to log on for information on how to find family members they have never known or have missed for most their lives.

On average, some 5,000 children are adopted in England and Wales every year, with the total number of adopted people believed to be between 500,000 and one million. In the 1950s and 1960s alone, an estimated one-fifth of all children born illegitimate were adopted, mostly as babies.

The new website – launched by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) – will allow users to set out to seek “lost” relatives through its own comprehensive database of specialist sources of information in England and Wales.

Designed as a “first port of call” for those who wish to trace relatives, the website, which launches on 23 December, will highlight national and local records-holding institutions, legal guidelines and agencies. This will dramatically streamline the search for birth family, a laborious, fraught and costly process.

The Adoption and Children Act 2002, which comes into force on 30 December, gives birth relatives a legal right – for the first time – to ask for an intermediary body to make contact with an adopted adult. Adopted adults may also ask an intermediary body to help them to trace birth relatives.

Mark, 43, was adopted when a few months old. He found his birth mother, Maureen, nine years ago.

“When I was in my 30s, I asked my adoptive parents if they minded if I started looking, and my mum brought out a box of papers that we went through. She was fine with it, as was dad.

“Once I made the call to the charity Norcap, I discovered my mum had registered with them five years before. After going through intermediaries, we met a few weeks later. Her first words were: ‘You look just like your dad.’ Within a month of meeting my birth mum, my adoptive mum met her. They are good friends to this day.”

It is estimated that more than 400,000 people in the UK have not been reunited with their birth parents, with about two-thirds of them yet to try. It was only in 1975 that adopted people were granted the right of access to birth records. The Government recently estimated that some two million people might have an interest in tracing relatives.

“About 50 per cent of people that have been adopted in this country are likely to have tried to search for their birth relatives at some point in their lives,” says Ms Feast.

Making contact can be an emotional but positive experience. One BAAF study found that nine out of 10 birth mothers were pleased that their son or daughter had made contact with them.

Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2005

Teenager reunited with lost brother

A teenager who has been desperately trying to contact the half brother she has never met has got an early Christmas present, thanks to the Evening News.

Khemi Trick, 13, is delighted to now be in contact with Max, 18, by text message and the pair are hoping to meet up for the first time in the next few weeks.

The teenager made a heartfelt appeal through the Evening News urging her half brother to get in touch and he had responded within days of our report.

Miss Trick was born in Norwich in 1992, but left for Bristol with her mum Clair when she was just two years old.

When she moved she never got the chance to meet her father’s son Max.

Now 11 years later they are in contact and both looking forward to meeting each other in the flesh.

Khemi’s mum Clair said: “Khemi has had Max’s number for just one day but they have already exchanged text messages.

“She is very happy to be in contact but also very nervous. They are both quite shy so I think they are taking it slowly and just starting off with text messages.

“She has wanted to meet him for so long and hopefully they will get together before Christmas.”

Clair Trick moved to Norwich in 1983 when she was eight, when she was 16 years-old, and living in Unthank Road, she gave birth to Khemi. The father was 21-year-old Andrew Jason Joseph.

Mr Joseph already had a son called Max, who was four years old at the time.

Max was living with his mother Karen, meaning there was never a direct link between the two families.

Miss Trick, 31,now works as a pub manager in Bristol while Max lives with his mother Karen in Rockland St Mary.

He said: “I was really pleased to hear from Khemi and I am looking forward to meeting her, hopefully before Christmas.

Mum Karen said: “Max is pleased that they are finally in touch.

“Clair said she would be happy to come up from Bristol with Khemi and we are hoping they can do this in the next few weeks.

“Max is really looking forward to finally meeting Khemi. He has three little brothers so it will be a change for him to be around a sister.”

Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2005

DNA test brings joy to mother

A one month-old baby, found abandoned at the Government Maternity Hospital, Nayapul, was reunited with her mother on Tuesday after a DNA test confirmed the relationship. [Trace Your Roots with DNA : Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree]

K Glory gave birth to twins—a boy and girl—on Oct. 19, and lost the baby girl when she went to the Government Maternity Hospital at Sultanbazar, on Nov. 2 for treatment.

Glory handed over the baby girl to two women she met in the bus on the way to the hospital and went inside the doctor’s room.

After coming out of the room, she found the two women missing from the hospital premises along with her baby. She immediately lodged a complaint with the police. [Missing Children]

However, photograph of an abandoned girl at Nayapul hospital was published in a section of the media on Nov. 9, and as she looked similar to her daughter, Glory along with her mother Sujata went to the hospital and identified the baby as her daughter from a tattoo mark on her right leg.

Police, however, sent Glory and her daughter for a DNA test to confirm the relationship on Nov. 16. Forensic experts on Monday submitted a report confirming Glory’s claims.

DCP (east) K V Rajendranath Reddy, in whose presence the baby was handed over to her mother, said they were yet to trace the two women who abandoned the baby at Nayapul hospital.

A visibly happy Glory said, “Thank God. I am very happy that I got my child back. My daughter is lucky to have the tattoo with which I could identify her,” she said.

Monday, Nov. 21, 2005

A miracle named Jack

This is the time of year usually set aside for giving thanks, and Scott and Kathy Wetton of Lake Linden are doing just that.

In September, the Wettons opened their hearts and their home to 8-pound, 1-ounce Jack Robert Wetton, who became their son through adoption. [Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew]

Three years ago, the Wettons, unable to conceive a child of their own, contacted Lutheran Social Services of Marquette, an adoption resource center. Their hope was to one day become parents..

In August, when they were informed they had been selected as adoptive parents, their dream was beginning to become a reality.

“We are so thankful that there was some way that we could be parents and be a family,” Kathy explained. “We are so blessed that his family chose life and chose us. We are just so happy.”

The Wettons are one of thousands of adoptive parents across the country being recognized during November, National Adoption Month.

Micki Silva, co-president of the local Adoption Resources group, said the designation is “designed to recognize the hundreds of thousands of adoptive families in the country as well as designed to look at all of the positives (adoption) brings to the children, adoptive parents and birth parents.”

“It is also designed to make people aware of the many children still awaiting permanent family homes,” she said, noting there has been a variety of awareness promotions across the Upper Peninsula.

Recalling a time when it had almost seemed impossible they would ever have a child they could call their own, Scott said it was one of the most devastating moments they had ever experienced.

“We had got to the point where we said ‘we know this was a time that we have got to move on.’ It was the hardest thing we ever went through,” he explained. “But now we can say that dreams do come true.”

At 11:07 a.m. on Sept. 4, one month after they met their son’s birth parents in Escanaba, the Wetton’s dream came true.

Born Jack Robert Wetton, he was named after each of their fathers. Jack is now 11 weeks old, and continues to bring love and joy into their lives.

“We’re enjoying all of his firsts,” Kathy said. “The smiles, coos, squeals and talks and even the dirty diapers and waking up at 3 a.m. He’s brought so much into our lives and into our family’s and friend’s as well.”

Infants tend to grow faster than their parents would like, but Scott has been enjoying the changes he sees in Jack.

“Everyday it’s something different. When he smiles, I forget everything that was bothering me. Words can’t even describe it,” he said.

“I’m enjoying everything that’s changing about him, I never thought I would ever be so excited about all of those changes.” [What the Heck Were You Expecting? : A Complete Guide for the Perplexed Father]

Adoption Resources has been around since 1986 with a current membership of 60 adoptive families.

While there are a variety of adoptions that can occur, whether it’s domestic, single parent, and grand parent, Sliva said adoption provides an answer for birth mothers who may not be ready to parent.

“Many couples aren’t able to have children and want to add to their family even though they can’t,” she explained. “Adoption is a positive answer to all who are involved.”

Little Jack still seems like a dream to the Wettons, who have been married for 14 years. Kathy, a fourth-grade teacher at C-L-K Elementary, said she still finds herself waking in the night to find her child in the bassinet next to her.

“At night time I will wake up and think that I am dreaming, and then I reach over and touch him and know that he’s right there next to me,” she said.

Monday, Nov. 14, 2005

Biblical name is favourite for Abigail’s miracle son

STAB victim Abigail Witchalls and her husband Benoit are planning to call their newborn son Joshua – which means salvation.

Joshua is top of the Catholic couple’s list of favourite names for the 5lb 6oz baby born last Friday.

It is a Hebrew name, meaning “the Lord is salvation”, and Joshua was a Book of the Old Testament.

The Witchalls, who have a two-year-old son Joseph, will confirm their choice in the next few days.

A source said: “The whisper is that Joshua is to be the name. It’s a great name, especially with its religious connotations. And it fits very nicely alongside Joseph.”

Abigail, 26, was paralysed from the waist down after a knife attack seven months ago. She has slowly regained some movement and spoke of her joy after giving birth at St George’s Hospital, South London, where she was first treated after the attack.

With husband Benoit, 27, and Joseph by her side, she said: “I’ve found great strength and comfort carrying this child over the past few months and it is such a blessing and a joy to finally see him face to face.”

Excited Joseph shouted, “Baby come out!” when he saw his new brother. Emotional Benoit was full of praise for hospital staff. He said: “Once again the health care professionals here at St George’s have been so attentive and generous to us.”

He added: “We are really looking forward to an exciting homecoming once more, except now with another beautiful son and brother for Joseph.”

Abigail and Benoit’s family are “almost lost for words” to describe the joy over the baby who born early at 35 weeks. [Preventing premature birth]

The source added: “At last there is something wonderful to celebrate. The baby is beautiful. The family is almost lost for words.

“Benoit’s sister, a nun in a convent in France, is visiting the family to help look after Joseph. So there’s lots of family about at the moment.”

Abigail is likely to be discharged and return home to Little Bookham, Surrey, “in the next few days”. She did not require a caesarean section and has successfully begun breastfeeding.

After the attack, doctors feared that Abigail would not live. She had the last rites read to her by a priest. Even after her recovery, medics did not believe the baby would survive.

Prime suspect for the attack is Richard Cazaly, 23, who later killed himself with a drugs overdose.

A spokeswoman for the family said it had taken them three weeks to decide on Joseph’s name, adding: “The baby has not been named yet.”

Thursday, Nov. 10, 2005

Ambulance crew witness a miracle

Surprise – it’s a girl! Such was the case for Saugus firefighters and EMTs when a Wakefield woman gave birth in Ambulance 1 outside Sears Automotive on Route 1 on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Fire Chief James Blanchard said the Wakefield couple was driving south on Route 1 when the pregnant woman’s water broke. They pulled over to Sears Automotive and called 911. Engine 1 arrived on scene as well as a state police officer.

“The crew on Engine 1 took out their obstetrics kit and checked for crowning, which there wasn’t any,” Blanchard said. “That indicated that the baby wasn’t coming right away.”

But soon after the woman was placed into the ambulance, paramedics came out to report the woman was having the baby.

“It turned out that this woman has spontaneous births, meaning she has babies more quickly than your average woman,” Blanchard said.

The condition is rare, Blanchard said, but it happens. This was the woman’s third baby.

But what Blanchard jokes he was most concerned with was whether not the baby was a girl or a boy.

“It was a beautiful little girl and mother and daughter are doing great,” Blanchard said. “But I was hoping for a little boy because then I could have tried to convince them to name the baby after me because today is my birthday.”

When something like this happens, Blanchard said it’s a special thing and makes everyone feel good when it all goes alright.

“It’s a miracle,” Blanchard said.

Monday, Nov. 7, 2005

The baby that saved my life

CANCER sufferer Hayley Newbery gazes tenderly at the miracle baby daughter she owes her life to – after finally being allowed to take her home.

Hayley’s disease was spotted only because she fell ill while pregnant.

Daughter Lucy was delivered early at 29 weeks so her mum, 25, could start treatment.

And after the six-week infant was discharged from hospital last week, Hayley beamed: “She’s so special – she really is my miracle baby.

“She saved my life. Without her I would still not have known I have cancer.”

Hayley begins a three-month course of wonder drug Avastin tomorrow after the Daily Mirror last month exclusively revealed her battle to become the first NHS patient to receive it.

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The mum-of-three was diagnosed with bowel cancer when 17 weeks pregnant, which later spread to her liver. But she rejected the chance of an abortion that would have let her start treatment right away. Hayley, of Melbourn, Herts, said: “There was never any question of that in my mind. By simply being there Lucy gave me a chance to live, so I had to give her the same chance.”

Doctors at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge decided a caesarean at 30 weeks would be best for mum and baby. It was brought forward by a week after Hayley’s mum Vicky died and she felt she could not handle the wait.

Hayley added: “I had waited for nearly 12 weeks and if Lucy had passed away I couldn’t have lived with the guilt. I sobbed from the moment I was on the operating table until I heard her cry. Then I knew she’d be all right.” But doctors found Hayley’s cancer could not be operated on and warned she would die within two years without Avastin, which shrinks tumours.

It had not yet been passed for NHS use and private treatment would have cost £48,000. But just over two weeks ago NHS chiefs relented.

Hayley has already been fitted with a wig because the drug will make her hair fall out. She said: “I don’t want people to be able to tell – I don’t want them to look at me with pity. I thought about wearing a scarf but I looked awful.”

Lucy, just 3lbs at birth but now a healthier 5lbs, was allowed home on Thursday to join her father Christian, sister Megan, four, and 22-month-old brother James.

Hayley added: “I’m so happy now we’re all together.

“I feel like all my Christmases have come at once.”

Friday, Nov. 4, 2005

Unborn Baby survived mum’s cancer operation

A WOMAN underwent a cancer operation while pregnant, knowing it might kill her unborn baby.

Claire Higgins was four-and-a- half months pregnant when she realised she had cancer.

The 24-year-old, who was a petite size eight, had expected to gain weight, but in just 18 weeks she put on six stone and went up in shoe size from a size four to a nine.

Worried about her ballooning size, and on the recommendation of a midwife, the first-time mother went to hospital where, after numerous tests and scans, doctors located a tumour on her kidney.

The tumour had reached the size of a golf ball and was growing faster than normal because of the pregnancy hormones Claire was releasing.

Doctors told her she needed an emergency operation to remove it. But they warned such an operation could cause her to go into premature labour and lose the baby.

Miss Higgins, from Cardiff, said, “I knew I had no choice – I had to have the tumour removed, but I was terrified for my baby. It didn’t seem possible that he could survive.

“The doctors said to me, ‘We can’t think of the baby, we have to do the best we can to save you. You are our first priority’. But I so desperately wanted to become a mother.”

Miss Higgins became pregnant last Christmas and quickly began putting on weight.

She said, “My body and legs swelled up so much that I looked as if I was much more pregnant than I actually was.

“It was my first pregnancy, but I knew something wasn’t right. At my 12-weeks scan, my bump looked more as though I was five months pregnant.”

A visit to Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport resulted in a prognosis of gestational diabetes and instructions to change her diet, but six weeks later she was still gaining weight.

She said, “I was wearing size 22 trousers and even they were feeling tight.

“I knew something was wrong. I’d already asked the midwife at the scan if I was carrying twins as I was so huge, but she had assured me I was only carrying one baby.”

It was only after a visit from a midwife who told Miss Higgins she’d “never seen anything like it in her 30 years of midwifery” that she had an MRI scan at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, which revealed the tumour.

In a four-hour operation last May, doctors used key-hole surgery into her abdomen, and around the womb to reach the kidney and successfully remove the tumour.

Miss Higgins said, “The first thing I did when I came round from the operation was ask to hear my baby’s heartbeat. I was just so relieved when I heard it going strong – at least he was still alive.”

Five weeks after the operation, her son, Jack, was born by Caesarian, weighing 6lbs-5oz.

Miss Higgins, who fractured her pelvis through having to carry so much extra weight, said, “It was so amazing to see him and cuddle him for the first time after the operation.

“It seemed such a miracle he had survived me being operated on. He was a real little fighter and hung on, and I’m so proud of him.”

She added, “He’s 16 months old now and he’s always smiling. But every time I look at him I know how lucky I’ve been. To survive a major operation like this while he was still in my womb is just remarkable.

“When he’s older I’ll tell him what a miracle he really is.”

Sunday, Oct. 30, 2005

Father, daughter bond after being reunited

A year ago Joe Culpepper boarded a plane in Colorado with his 5-year-old daughter, Meagan, and flew home to Galveston County.

At the time, Meagan had not seen her home state in almost four years.

Colorado social services took custody of the girl when she was 20 months old after a trip to visit her biological mother, Mystina Turner, ended with both parents behind bars — Culpepper for yelling in the hallways of the nursing home where Turner worked and Turner for slashing Culpepper’s tires and falsely accusing him of stealing $600 from her.

“The reason I took Meagan to Colorado was because I wanted her to know who her real mom was,” said Culpepper. “I felt bad and I wanted her mom to be a mom, but I have learned that if someone doesn’t want to be a parent you can’t make them. You can’t change other people.”

As Culpepper’s case went through the court system, he was allowed limited time with his daughter.

In 2001, Meagan was placed with foster parents, and Culpepper was not allowed to see her for almost two and a half years.

“At one point I was living in my truck in Colorado,” he said. “It was really hard, but all I was concentrating on was getting my daughter back. I didn’t care about anything else.”

Last year the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled the social services agency had erred in taking custody of Meagan. On Oct. 30, 2004 — one year ago today — Culpepper was finally allowed to bring his daughter home.

By then, Meagan had lived with her foster parents for about three years and referred to them as “mommy and daddy.”

“The first couple of weeks were pretty rough because it was different for both of us,” said Culpepper. “It was a major change. I left home with a (toddler) and came back with a 5-year-old. She didn’t understand why she had to go from one place to another. We sat her down and explained it to her, and about two weeks later it was like it never happened.”

Today, Culpepper is raising Meagan with his girlfriend of five years, Rachel Vaughn. Meagan calls Vaughn “mommy” and has had no contact with Turner.

Culpepper describes his daughter as a happy, active, normal 6-year-old. She is a star player on her softball team, the Little Texans, a straight-A, first-grade student and if given a choice she would eat pizza for dinner every night, said Culpepper.

“Meagan is a very outgoing, talkative kid,” he said. “She is definitely a daddy’s girl. She looks like me, talks like me and acts like me. She always has to be doing something until the minute she goes to sleep and when she wants something, she wants it and that’s it.”

When asked what she enjoys doing, Meagan candidly recites a list of activities, including fishing with her dad, swimming and recess at school.

Her favorite color is pink. Her favorite subject at school is math, and “Casper” is her favorite movie, she said.

For Halloween, Meagan said she is going to dress up as a fairy-mermaid and go trick-or-treating.

She has had very little contact with her former foster parents.

“When we first got back we were taking her every week to a psychiatrist, and they said it would be better if she didn’t talk to them and we just let it go away,” said Culpepper. “We sent a couple of letters, and they still send her stuff. At first we wouldn’t let her actually read the letters they sent. I would just read them to her, because at the bottom of them it would say “love mommy and daddy,” and that’s not her mommy and daddy. Now, I guess they have accepted it because they sign (their names), and we let her see those.”

Culpepper said he plans to sue the state of Colorado.

“They need to pay for the mistakes they made,” he said. “I also want people to know what happened because it was not right. What was done was clearly not harmless. I missed some of the best years of Meagan’s life, and those are years I can never get back.”

Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2005

Family Reunited in Tucson after Hurricane Katrina

Picola Brown hugged her daughter Desera Lewis, and almost six weeks of emotion was released through her arms. Holding each other tightly, both laughed and sighed and said they missed one another.

Flash back to the onset of Hurricane Katrina.

Because of a foot injury, Picola, the mother, had to allow her 16-year-old daughter Desera to flee with her older sister.

Desera ended up in Baton Rouge with family. Picola, rather than walk through disgusting waters and risk infection, waited to ride with military troops out of New Orleans.

Picola arrived in Tucson in early September. She was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center where her foot was allowed to heal.

Not long after she was out of the hospital, volunteers in Tucson and a Methodist church in Louisiana coordinated their efforts and got Deserea on a flight to the Old Pueblo.

“Now I can relax. I can rest knowing she’s safe, and I thank Tucson for all they did for me,” said Picola Brown.

Both plan to look for work in Tucson, and Desera will go back to school as well. They don’t plan to ever return to New Orleans.

Monday, Oct. 10, 2005

After nearly 40 years, woman reunited with daughter

A friendly chat with a stranger at a bingo game turned into a life-changing event for Rena Moten.

That conversation in January with Mary Kernan led to Moten, of the eastern Missouri town Farmington, reuniting with the daughter she gave up nearly 40 years ago.

Each woman had played bingo many times before at the American Legion hall in Farmington.

“I had seen her before at the games and she looked like a nice lady and I guess I needed someone to talk to,” said Moten. “It was just after the holidays and I always get depressed around holidays.”

Moten’s story began in 1966 in St. Louis. She was 16, unmarried, and discovered she was pregnant. As one of 14 children, Moten knew her family couldn’t help care for the baby, so she moved to Ashland, Ky., and got a job.

Moten’s daughter was born Aug. 9, 1966. She named her Michelle Rena.

Moten tried for three months to care for the child, then made a difficult choice.

“I decided to give her up for adoption,” Moten said. “All I wanted was for her to have a good life and I couldn’t do it.

“When they took her from me, I cried and cried. I left Kentucky, then. I never saw her or heard about her. I never had another child – I never wanted to. But I have always wondered about her.”

As Kernan listened to the story, she realized she might be able to help. Kernan has dabbled in genealogy and had learned to trace family history on the Internet. She placed a query on the Kentucky Adoption Reunion Registry.

It wasn’t long before she had a response. Two babies born in the hospital that day were given up for adoption. Within days, Moten found out her daughter had been adopted at eight months of age and given the name Melissa Yvette Evans.

Kernan found a marriage license for Melissa Yvette Evans from 1988. Her search switched to the husband’s name, James Hogsten. She called several men by that name in Kentucky, but none was the right one. She posted queries on genealogy web sites.

In June, Kernan received an e-mail from Rob Cook who read the query. He was also searching for James Hogsten, a friend he said was a preacher who moved often.

On Aug. 15, James Doug Hogsten Jr. of Winthrop, Ga., contacted Kernan by e-mail to say his wife might be the woman she was looking for. They talked by phone and he confirmed his wife had been adopted.

“I asked him if she had a birth mark on her upper right leg and he said she did and that convinced us all we had the right person,” said Kernan.

Kernan couldn’t tell Moten because Moten was out of town. When she returned home two days later, she saw Kernan had called 25 times.

“I told her I had found her daughter!” said Kernan.

On Aug. 19, the phone rang and Moten answered to hear the voice of the daughter she gave up almost 40 years ago.

“I saw the number on the caller ID and picked up the phone and just cried and cried,” Moten said. “There was crying on the other end, too. When I could talk, I explained it all to her. She said she wasn’t mad. I told her, I gave her away because I loved her. I never forgot her. She said she understood.”

On Sept. 6, using a ticket given by a friend, Rena Moten stepped off an airplane in Atlanta and into the arms of her daughter. For the next two weeks, they caught up on a lifetime of memories.

Mother and daughter put together a photo album during their visit. It shows off five grandchildren, the youngest of whom call Moten “Nanny.” During the visit, Doug Hogsten baptized his newfound mother-in-law.

“My heart’s been mended,” said Moten. “I didn’t think I would ever find her and if I hadn’t told Mary my story, I never would have.”

Missy Hogsten said, “I have wonderful parents and now another wonderful mother.”

Sunday, Oct. 9, 2005

Family reunited after 25 years apart

A father and daughter have been reunited after 25 years apart – thanks to the Evening News.

Earlier this week we reported that Ashleigh Johns had not seen her dad Allan Christopher Johns since her parents’ acrimonious divorce when she was just two years old.

Now 25 years later the single mum said she was yearning to catch up with her dad to introduce him to his grandsons Matthew, seven, and Logan, four.

That could now happen sooner rather than later after the Evening News tracked Mr Johns down to a mobile home park in Stratton Strawless, about five miles north of Norwich.

We passed on his daughter’s phone number to him, and the two then spoke together for the first time in 25 years on Thursday night.

Mr Johns, a landscape gardener, said: “It was a bit emotional speaking to my daughter. It just came out of the blue.

“I have known about her all the time but I would really like to keep it as private as possible at the moment. It’s all new to me and I’ve got to get used to the idea.”

The pair are bound to have a lot of catching up to do. Until now Miss Johns had known next to nothing of her father except his name and what he looked like from a tiny wedding photo.

The mother-of-two contacted The Evening News because she believed her estranged father lived in the Norwich area.

Since her plea several people contacted us with news about Mr Johns, who is believed to have family in Norwich and once to have been a postman.

Miss Johns, who lives in Caerphilly in Wales, had been trying to track him down but she had only ever reached dead ends.

When her maternal grandmother mentioned last year that Mr Johns’ mother lived to Weobley in Herefordshire it became the start of her search.

Finally Miss Johns, who has no memory of her father, had a breakthrough when a computer search linked him to Norwich.

Friday, Oct. 7, 2005

Baby girl is born on rescue boat

A BABY girl was born on a lifeboat halfway between Mull and Oban yesterday during an emergency dash to hospital.

The Oban lifeboat crew was called out to rush expectant mother Rachel Holliday from the Isle of Mull to hospital on the mainland following a request from a local doctor.

The Mora Edith MacDonald left Craignure, on Mull, at 1:30am but while it was still well short of Oban there was a shout from below for Captain Ronnie MacKillop to slow down.

The six crewmen were forced to give a midwife and paramedic who had accompanied them some help when it was realised Ms Holliday would not make it to port in time.

Moments later, there was another call to speed up again, then another to slow down and eventually a request to stop.

This was followed by a call that the boat now had an extra “crew member”.

Ms Holliday, who was accompanied by her partner Glenn Cato and young daughter on the lifeboat, gave birth at around 1:50am.

The boat then picked up speed and headed for Oban, arriving about 15 minutes later.

She was resting yesterday in Oban hospital, with both mother and child understood to be in good health.

Mr MacKillop said that his crew remained calm despite the urgency of the situation.

He said: “We knew there was a possibility that she could give birth but to be honest we weren’t really expecting it. The crew certainly helped. Whatever they were asked to do, they did it.”

The 31-year-old, who was up on top of the lifeboat, went on: “First I got a call from below to say slow down, then one to stop. Soon I was told to speed up and then I was told we had a new crew member on board.”

He added: “Things were pretty emotional on the lifeboat with fully grown lifeboatmen close to tears. It’s a lesson in how to turn tough lifeboatmen soft.

“We’re absolutely delighted. Two weeks ago we were pulling people out of the water and it was a real life-or-death situation. Now it’s lovely to be doing this.”

Mr Cato said that neither he or his partner had been concerned about giving birth on board the boat: “The midwife and the lifeboat crew were great. They all seemed to know exactly what to do and when, and completely put our minds at ease, which meant we were able to enjoy the birth of our baby instead of worrying about the fact that she was being born on a lifeboat.

“Rachel and myself could not be happier with the birth of our baby girl. We have not decided on a name yet. All that matters at the moment is that our beautiful baby and Rachel are doing well.

“I would like to thank all of the people involved last night, in particular the midwives and the lifeboat crew. The staff at the Lorn and Islands Hospital have also provided brilliant care for Rachel and our baby.”

The family, originally from north-east England, have lived on Mull for five years.

The birth was the third on the boat in eight years and made it a hat-trick for lifeboat mechanic Jim Watson, who was involved in all three deliveries.

Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2005

Anti-hijack squad kicks in: Toddler returned after ride with car thieves

A mother’s worst nightmare unfolded in front of her eyes yesterday as she watched thieves drive off with her 20-month-old son, strapped into the family car.

However, her agony was short-lived as little Henry le Roux was found toddling in the traffic and rescued.

An hour earlier the child had been kidnapped by two men who raced off in the car she had left idling in the driveway.

“It was just a minute – that’s all it took,” said Carla le Roux.

The mother was on her way to work when she realised she had forgotten Henry’s food. Stopping in the driveway, she ran inside to fetch her son’s bottle. On her return, she saw the thieves jump into her Hyundai and drive off. She and her husband Wayne gave chase in his bakkie, but lost the thieves when they skipped a robot.

Oblivious to the danger or his abductors’ intentions, Henry was abandoned at a busy intersection.

His life was saved by a group of women who spotted him toddling in front of speeding cars.

The women ran to the nearby police station, whose members, along with every other police station in Tshwane, had been put on alert about the missing child.

Members of the anti-hijacking task team arrested the thieves with the help of a helicopter, which had traced the vehicle through its tracking device.

The suspects were caught in a shack in Tembisa. A second car stolen in Pretoria last month was parked behind the shack.

Le Roux said she had never been so happy. “It is a miracle, a sheer miracle that I can hug my baby today,” she said.

His emotional father, who wept when his son was handed back to him, was too overwhelmed to talk to the media.

“The women who found our son are angels … we will never be able to say thank you enough,” Le Roux said.

Family friend Louise van Aswagen said she could not believe how hard the authorities had worked.

“It was as though the entire police service and Metro Police force dropped everything … to search for Henry. They worked flat out as if it were their own child,” she said.

Proud Pretoria area commissioner Amon Mashigo said of his staff: “They are true heroes and this will go a long way to restoring confidence in the police service.”

Reunited… after a family row kept us apart for 50 years

A BROTHER and sister have had a joyful reunion after being kept apart for more than 50 years by a family row.

Elsie Bailey, aged 82, had not seen Bill Smith, 79, since their mother’s funeral in 1953.

But this week there were tears and hugs when Bill turned up on the doorstep of her home in Longford Road, Kingstanding.

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He tracked her down using the Government’s Traceline service.

The family went their separate ways in the 1950s because Bill and their two other brothers disapproved of Elsie’s choice of husband.

Despite their opposition Elsie went on to marry Joseph and have eight children,14 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

Meanwhile Bill moved to Northern Ireland and married Mary and had four children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Bill, who has his own business repairing trailers in County Antrim, said: “I always wondered where our brothers and sisters were, but as the years went by they moved around and we lost contact.

“But it played on my mind and I kept saying to my daughter Elainer ‘I really should try and find Elsie’.

“She got so sick of me going on about it that a couple of weeks ago she said ‘Oh Dad, just do it’.

“I contacted Traceline and told them her name, date of birth and that I thought she lived in Kingstanding.

“They told me to write a letter to Elsie and they would pass it onto her.”

Elsie, who worked as a cleaner up until she was 72, said: “I got the letter and rang him immediately I was so thrilled to hear from him.

“As soon as I heard his voice I burst into tears and then Bill did and we cried down the phone.”

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Bill immediately booked a flight and came over.

“I gave her such a big hug I nearly squashed her and we haven’t stopped talking since,” he said.

“I’ve never stopped regretting losing touch with Elsie.”

Elsie’s children are: Pat Spooner, 59, who now lives in Cheshire; Josephine Bridgwater, 56, in Lincoln and Malcolm, 52, in Kent.

Still living in Birmingham are John, 55, in Erdington, and Michael, 48, Andrew, 60, and twins Maxine Bailey and Mark, both 41, all living in Great Barr.

Now Elsie and Bill are trying to trace the two other brothers they have lost touch with who are believed to be in Redditch or Droitwich.

Harry would be around 74 and Horace would be 87. He had two children Susan, who married a teacher, and Vernon Smith.

Their other brother Alf died aged 27 in World War Two.

Monday, Oct. 3, 2005

Evacuees, pets: Reunited and it feels so good

Carol Smith ended up in Houston; Buddy and Crybaby in Gainesville.

But the woman and her two cats have found each other and will soon be reunited.

The cats were in a batch of animals rescued in New Orleans and hauled from a shelter there to the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.

“We are just thrilled to pieces to be getting them back. That has been the hardest part of it for us – losing our pets,” Smith said.

Reuniting displaced pets and their owners is a primary goal of the rescue effort, said representatives from the college and from the Katrina Animal Rescue Effort – or KARE, a group of local residents that is treating and finding foster homes for animals orphaned by Katrina.

A national database has been formed listing the animals that have been reported lost and those that have been found.

The database can be accessed at petfinder.com.

Some of the animals come with clues such as the address where the animal was found. In some cases the owners had contacted officials alerting them to animals they left behind.

Rescue groups are being asked to hold off on adoptions until Oct. 15 and that any adoptions after that be provisional until the end of the year to give owners time to track down their pets.

“Everybody is real enthusiastic about keeping the reunifications happening,” said veterinary professor Julie Levy.

KARE co-founder Joy Drawdy said reunification is a key focus of the group’s work.

“We want to make sure that all of these dogs don’t have families missing them,” Drawdy said. “These poor people have been through so much as it is and lost everything. Sometimes the only thing they might have left is their pet.”

Smith, 63, is a legal secretary for the New Orleans law firm of Lugenbuhl Wheaton Peck Rankin & Hubbard, which has relocated to Houston and Baton Rouge.

Smith does not have a car and had to leave her five cats when she and her disabled son fled their house in the Uptown area. Only two were found by rescuers.

“We left on very short notice. We got a ride out of town at the last minute,” she said. “I put out food and water and told them I would see them in a week. We realized later we weren’t going to be back in a week. That’s when she started e-mailing and telling people about our pets. To my amazement, we got an e-mail about our cats.”

Also matched was Nuclear, a cat brought to UF, and owner Candace Manders Stinnett, whose family had to flee their second-story home in New Orleans’ Midcity neighborhood when the levees broke. Her family could take only their two dogs. Three cats were left behind.

“They found Nuclear because he is the friendliest. The others know where to hide,” she said. “We left lots of food and water and litter. I think the other two are still there. People have seen them in the windows.”

Family is reunited with adopted son

He runs around screaming giddily, a big smile on his face and a cowboy hat on his head.

He loves to play with cars and likes eating bagels.

He’s also quick to say, “No,” just like many other 4-year-olds.

It’s hard to imagine that only weeks ago, Thomas Sony McElroy was sleeping on the floor of a Cambodian orphanage that offered no clean running water and little access to proper medical care. He was seemingly stranded, while a Wappingers Falls family waited anxiously to finalize their adoption of him, a process that began more than two years earlier.

With American families barred from adopting children from Cambodia since December 2001 — when the U.S. government, in effect, put a moratorium on adoptions from the country — their wait seemed to be in vain. The suspension was put in place amid fears Cambodian children were being illegally bought and sold, or kidnapped from their birth families.

Brian and Kathy McElroy had already adopted 5-year-old Anna Theary, whom they brought home from Cambodia in March 2001. They also have two older daughters, Kelly, 23, and Kristen, 18.

When they filed the paperwork needed to adopt Anna, they also were approved to adopt a second child, but when the moratorium was put in place, everything was put on hold.

Things began to change quickly after the couple visited Cambodia in April. During the trip, they met with officials at the U.S. embassy to plead their case, and for the first time, got to see the boy they only knew through photographs.

The next move was a painful one. They had to return to the U.S. and leave young Tommy, as they call him, at the orphanage.

Then in late April, they got word from Washington they would be allowed to finalize their adoption and bring him home.

“We were close to devastated thinking it would never happen,” Brian McElroy said of the couple’s feeling after their trip. “I’m pretty convinced if we didn’t take the trip, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Brian McElroy traveled to Cambodia in late August to finalize things. Tommy joined the family in their Wappingers Falls home Sept. 9.

Battling cancer as a family

Diane Miller is from a large Italian family that seems blessed with longevity. They’ve always boasted that they don’t die of sickness; they die of old age.

That sense of assurance was shattered about seven years ago when Miller and two of her four sisters were all diagnosed with breast cancer within a three-year period.

“It was really devastating to our family,” she said. “And we have four daughters between us, so we had to worry about the next generation.”

Their family members usually live healthily into old age and have no history of breast cancer, so the three diagnoses came as a shock, said Miller: Her father lived to 89, and her mother is still living medication-free at age 90.

Their journey began when Miller received a call from her older sister. Her sister told her to sit down for the news. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer and eventually underwent a mastectomy to remove the cancer.

Miller’s breast cancer was detected a year later at age 42 and was followed shortly by her twin sister’s diagnosis. Miller and her twin were able to undergo breast conservation therapy. Both underwent lumpectomies — removal of the cancerous lump and some surrounding tissue — and radiation, and her sister also had a round of chemotherapy to eradicate her cancer.

Going through the experience together made them better able to support one another not only as sisters but also as fellow cancer patients.

“The support system kicks in,” she said. “You know how to support someone a little better when they’re going through it.”

The three sisters are cancer-free now, although the higher risk of breast cancer that their daughters face is an issue they now must consider. Having a mother with breast cancer about doubles a woman’s risk of having it, according to the American Cancer Society.

However, the experience battling breast cancer has taught her family a lesson about their own mortality, Miller said.

“We thought we were invincible,” she said. “We’ve become more aware. We’ve always loved to live and now we know what that means.”

Another positive aspect that Miller had drawn from her battle with breast cancer is the empowerment it has given her to help others. She said she feels blessed from the experience that has “given her a purpose in life.”

Thursday, Sep. 15, 2005

Mum is hailed hero by daughter, receives award

A single mother who nursed her toddler through lifethreatening meningitis was honoured yesterday for her outstanding parenting skills.

Georgette Mullen was just two years-old when she lost her right hand and toes, suffered damaged fingers and was left with a bone-wasting disease.

Her mother Vickie, of Redditch, nursed her daughter through those traumas and again last year when Georgette, now 13, had 32 pins put in her legs to straighten her bones.

Her 45 year-old mother had to turn the pins as her daughter screamed out in pain. “I’d cry in the loo, then go back and force a smile,” said Vickie.

Georgette, who now plays football and basketball at county level, nominated her mother for the That’s Life magazine Single Mum/Dad of the Year Awards.

“Mum’s my hero,” she said, as Vickie won the Midlands category of the awards and a £300 prize.

Magazine editor Jo Checkley said: “It must have been so hard to stay strong seeing her little girl in so much pain. Vickie’s now called a hero by her daughter – a title she certainly deserves.”

The winners were honoured yesterday in a ceremony at the Savoy Hotel in London.

Shaun Lee, from London, who was left to bring up three young boys on his own after his wife died just two days after giving birth, was named dad of the year.

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And Nina Wallace, who overcame a difficult childhood to raise her daughter, go to college and become deputy head teacher of a London school, was named single mum of the year.

Both winners picked up £3,000 in the awards designed to celebrate the crucial role single parents have to carry out.

Ms Checkley said: “Single parents are all too often criticised for draining our welfare system and somehow weakening the value of family.

“But most don’t set out to be a single mum or dad. It’s the role life thrusts upon them.

“Our winners reveal stories of amazing courage, determination and love that will leave even the hard-hearted humbled. We salute them all.”

Tuesday, Sep. 6, 2005

Come home, my hero – mum

AUSTRALIAN hurricane hero Bud Hopes has been given an order by his mother – come home.

It was personally delivered by his big brother Gary who flew into Dallas yesterday to take Bud home.

“I have got a message from mum: come home,” Gary Hopes said yesterday. “Bud better listen to mum because ultimately she’s the boss.”

Bud, 32, of Brisbane, became a hero after uniting eight young Australians in New Orleans, keeping them together inside the dangerous Superdome, then leading them to safety in Dallas.

Yesterday Gary Hopes 40, said after giving Bud a hug from his mother he got him to a phone to make his Father’s Day phone call.

“I could hear his voice crackle as he cried on the phone,” Gary said.

The brothers run an acting agency.

Gary said Bud was the youngest of six children and the family wanted “the baby home”.

A tired, shattered Bud yesterday said he often thought of his family in the dark of the Superdome amid shootings, stabbings and suicides.

He said he knew he “was safe” when he saw Gary in Dallas’s Hurricane Grill.

Bud was worried about the youngsters he helped rescue. “I think the kids need a psychologist; someone to talk to. No one has broken down yet. They still have their fists clenched and they are still in battle mode, which is scary,” he said.

As to his mother’s order, Bud wasn’t sure what he would do next.

Sunday, Aug. 14, 2005

Woman reunited with her birth mother

Susan Kelley, with the help of family members, tried to find her birth mother in 1998. The search eventually ended in failure.

Little did she know that fate was on her side.

Seven years later, Kelley has been reunited with her birth mother thanks to a conversation with a co-worker.

A co-worker that ended up being a first cousin.

On Wednesday, Mary (Rangel Sharion) Stephan met her daughter for the first time at a family barbecue in Wood River. Stephan, of East Alton, had no idea her long-lost daughter would be attending.

“It was the surprise of my life,” Stephan said. “We just started crying and hugging. I just told her I was sorry (I had to give her up). I was forced to. I didn’t want to do it.”

“I was shocked and amazed we lived so close,” said Kelley, who resides in Granite City with her adopted mother.

Kelley said she and Stephan talked for hours about her health and her adopted family in the company of tearful family members.

“I told her I was well taken care of, that my adopted parents love me,” Kelley said.

Kelley and Stephan gathered Sunday in Wood River for another family outing. On Monday they spent time at an area motel with loved ones to talk and look over pictures. The get-together included Russ Hawks, Kelley’s fiance; Cindy Lowe, Kelley’s new-found aunt; new-found stepsister Chrissy Warix; and Anna Newell, Kelley’s first cousin.

Newell was the family member Kelley talked to at work. The discussion centered on family names.

Newell learned through the conversation that Rangel was a family name and Kelley was adopted. Newell told Lowe, her mother, about the name. It didn’t take Lowe long to realize that Stephan was most likely Kelley’s mother. Lowe then talked with her sister and later contacted Kelley.

“I’m thrilled to death my sister finally found her daughter. She’s so much like her that its like watching my sister grow up all over again,” Lowe said.

Wanda and the late John Kelley of Granite City adopted Susan at birth. She is a lifelong Granite City resident and a Granite City High School graduate. Kelley said her adopted parents never tried to hide the fact that she was adopted.

“They told me I was adopted and they didn’t want to lose me,” said Kelley, the mother of three.

Kelley said she first thought about finding her birth mother when was about 12 years old.

“It’s a dream come true. I can’t believe it happened after all these years. I was so young when I wanted to know,” Kelley said. “I plan to stay in contact with my mother. This means more seats at Christmas, Thanksgiving and other holidays.”

“Now I have a big sister I can blame stuff on,” Warix joked.

Hawks called the mother-daughter reunion a miracle and said it wouldn’t have happened without Newell.

“If she doesn’t do another good thing in her life, she’s guaranteed to go to heaven because of this,” he said.

Stephan said the whole experience was wonderful and heart warning and she was thrilled to learn she was a grandmother again.

“I can’t explain how happy I am now,” she said.

Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2005

Girl, 4, reunited with mom; father lured back to U.S.

A 4-year-old girl illegally taken to Egypt during a custody dispute is back with her Jersey City mother after investigators lured the toddler’s father back to the United States, officials say.

Handi El-Saib, 64, formerly of Elizabeth, was caught Thursday by Port Authority police at Kennedy International Airport, more than two years after he abducted his daughter and fled to Egypt, according to authorities.

On July 26, 2003, El-Saib picked up his daughter from her mother’s Jersey City home during a custodial visit, authorities said. But when they hadn’t returned three days later, investigators issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of making terroristic threats, witness tampering and endangering the welfare of a child; a charge of interfering with custody was added last year.

Egypt doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the United States, so El-Saib couldn’t be forced to return to this country. But he came back willingly after authorities told him he was eligible to receive a green card.

Instead, El-Saib walked into a trap set by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The heart-felt reunion proved confusing for the girl, who for the past two years lived in Egypt with her father and his girlfriend, said a Hudson County sheriff’s officer who was at the reunion.

“The little girl only knew the girlfriend as the mother, and she was screaming for her mother and father,” said the officer, who declined to be identified by name. “She was 2 when she was taken and now she is 4, so a lot has changed.”

The investigation team was comprised of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.

Saturday, Jul. 30, 2005

Babycam TV helps bed-bound mums – and premature babies

A hospital camera network which lets bed-bound mothers see live pictures of their premature babies is helping save lives, according to medical staff.

Glasgow’s Princess Royal Maternity is the first Scottish hospital to use a “babycam” to re-unite mums and babies.

During trials, women said being able to see their babies helped them express milk – a lifeline to vulnerable babies.

Consultant Dr Lilley said the babycam was a “great discovery” for mothers and babies who had to be separated.

The Princes Royal has officially unveiled the babycam following a two-month pilot.

Rachel Tainsh was one of the women who benefited from the two-way camera.

Her son Jake was born 29 weeks into her pregnancy and was immediately moved to the Princess Royal’s Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit.

Lifeline

Mrs Tainsh was confined to bed two floors below Jake and said the babycam was a lifeline during their separation.

“Babycam helped me to maintain a connection with Jake,” she said.

“Even though I couldn’t hold or touch him, I could see what was happening to him, which helped to relieve the distress of being apart, especially in the first few days.

“Being able to see Jake helped me to express breast milk as well, which is one of the most important things mums can do.”

Consultant paediatrician Dr Chris Lilley said: “We all know nowadays how important breastfeeding is, but with premature babies it really can make all the difference.

“The emotional reassurance babycam gives mums is vital and can really help their recovery.

“But the great discovery we’ve made is that it can also be a huge medical help to vulnerable babies.”

The technology was recently made available to the Princess Royal and its main use was to transmit ultrasound images to specialist cardiologist colleagues at Yorkhill.

However, staff found they could use the hardware to transmit images of their baby to the mother’s bedside via the hospital’s intranet system, using ports situated at both beds.

Nearly all maternity units have a telemedicine system, worth around £25,000.

Saturday, Jul. 9, 2005

Baby girl ‘is a miracle’

A WOMAN who helps couples have children has had her own miracle baby — after becoming “allergic” to her husband.

Embryologist Kathryn Berrisford suffered four miscarriages before her boss at a fertility clinic at Nottingham recommended immune therapy.

Now Kathryn, 33, from Whatstandwell, Derbys, has had a daughter Mae with husband Joss, an electrical engineer.

She said: “It’s like a miracle.”

Dr George Ndukwe of the CARE clinic, said: “She was immunised with her husband’s white blood cells, making her allergic to her husband.”

Inside Good News Blog