When I met Sofi in that orphanage, and heard a small part of her story, I realized that this little girl was being saved for a reason. Her story is just beginning, and yet, her story started at birth.
Sofi was born to a young girl, 14 years of age. She was born prematurely, and didn't breathe well right away. She started having seizures that lasted for five days. Finally, the doctors did surgery, and put a shunt in to relieve her hydrocephalus. Sofi was five days old, and she had already fought hard to live. And sadly, she went through all of that alone. In a crib in the hospital, scared, barely alive, and alone. There was no one there to make sure she was being cared for, no one to hold her little hand, no one to advocate for her, no one to hear her cries. When she was finally stable, two weeks later, she was sent to a large orphanage. It was there that she was left in a crib. For two years. She was only fed through a bottle. Her body started to become stiff and rigid from not being taken out of the crib. Not surprisingly, she never spoke, she never smiled, she barely existed. That was her life for two years. In December 2011, she was moved to the home she is at now. There are only 7 children there, and they worked hard to change things for her. Under their care, after many months, she started to make a few sounds, and they taught her to eat mashed up food with a spoon. She started to smile.
Early in 2012, Nina, our caseworker with Children's House International, first saw Sofi's file. Below is her part in Sofi's story.
"Before Sofi Rose became Sofi she was my Liliana. Liliana was one of a group of children whose information I received in 2012 after I had visited Bulgaria. Her foundation had heard my story of my love for my niece and nephew who were also born with neural tube defects. They knew my eyes were open to the possibilities and potential these children had if they were loved and educated. So, her foundation began requesting the profiles of children like Sofi that they knew I would fight to find families for. Sofi's information was one page of medical information and a single photo. Her orphanage was far from the capital and her information was grim. She was a tiny girl who had not yet met any milestones. Nobody visited her. Nobody bothered to go see this small girl. So with my one photo and my one page of information I decided this tiny girl deserved a fierce name. In some cultures the weakest babies are given the names of saints as protection. I decided to call Sofi Liliana as an alias. Liliana Panitza was a heroine of great strength in Sofi's home country. Liliana Panitza was instrumental on defying Hitler during WWII to save the lives of 50,000 Jews. She was not in a position of great power. She was just a girl inner strength an conviction. What better name for Sofi, who had nothing, than to call her by the name of a woman who saved so many. For over a year nobody inquired about Sofi. I would speak to families about her and invariably the families would decline interest. Until the day Tracy called. I believe I sent her information on several girls. Sofi's information was in the group. "
We received files of a few girls. We scrolled through the files, looking for the pictures. Suddenly, we stopped, entranced by this adorable baby, dressed in blue. Her eyes were large, and so wonderfully brown. Her eyes captured us, and there was no turning back.
We started on this journey of adoption, having only read that one page of medical history, and seen one baby picture.
We prayed daily, praying for her health, for her to feel our love through the miles. I would like to think that somehow, those prayers were answered. When I traveled the many hours to meet Sofi, she was much different than I expected. She was able to respond a little, she smiled a lot, and she had a few sounds. The home she lives in is clean, bright, and decorated colorfully.
It was while I was visiting her that I learned about Sofi's earlier years. And I wept for her. For the two year old that fought valiantly to live despite all of the odds stacked against her. When I learned that she should have had medicals done yearly, but it appeared that those were never done, I realized that the other orphanage expected her to die.
Almost like a physical blow, I felt so strongly that Sofi's story is huge. That this amazing little girl has a huge story...and it's just starting. That she survived the odds stacked against her because God held her in His hands, protected her, and then placed her in this home until we came along. There is no other explanation.
Sofi may never tell her story. But we will. We are so blessed to be able to do so. And all because of you.
We are so very close.
She's almost home. Her story is changing once again, but for the better. She won't have to fight alone anymore. She won't have to shed silent tears. She will reach out and I will hold her hand.
She will laugh and we will laugh with her. Her joy will be our joy. Her joy will be your joy too.
If you have wondered why we fight so hard to bring her here, why we continue to come up with all these crazy fundraisers, now you know. She fought harder than we ever will, and she fought alone. We are not alone, we have an army. An army of wonderful, loving people. An army to bring home a girl.
You are in our army.