In 2011, Valerie held a 4-month-old baby covered in tubes and wires in the cardiac intensive care unit (ICU), hoping she could be the mom to the little boy who desperately needed a caregiver.
“It was love at first sight,” Valerie says. “I thought my heart was going to burst with this overwhelming love. Here was a baby who didn’t have anyone, and I had the love to give him.”
Beginning the journey to adoption
Valerie and Scott’s journey to adoption began long before the day they held the baby in the hospital. Both of Valerie’s brothers were born with muscular dystrophy and Valerie is a carrier of the disease, which means she could pass it on to her baby. After she married Scott, they decided they wanted to adopt, but not right away. The couple moved from Plano to Miami in 2006, and two years later they started the search for an adoption agency.
“We looked at both domestic and international agencies to give us all the options,” Valerie says.
A couple of years later, their son was born in Haiti, a place close to their hearts because Scott had traveled there on mission trips. One of Valerie’s friends knew a neurosurgeon who had orchestrated one of the emergency field tent hospitals in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. A year later, they established a more permanent location located on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince that became the refuge that saved their baby’s life.
Fighting to survive
Someone dropped off the 4-month-old baby at the tent, hoping he would have a chance to live. However, the diagnosis was bleak. The baby was failure to thrive, weighed only 7 pounds, had a hole in his heart and a cleft lip. They did not believe he would survive the night.
The next morning, the baby miraculously survived the night against all odds. The hospital in Haiti was not equipped to perform the necessary surgery. After some time working out the details, a doctor signed as his guardian to fly him to Miami for treatment. They had attempted to fly 6 other babies out of Haiti for similar treatments, but all had passed away in transit. This baby crashed twice on the way, but he made it there and underwent heart surgery. As he recovered in the hospital, a doctor who knew about Valerie and Scott’s desire to adopt contacted Valerie’s friend and asked if they could be the guardians for this baby during his recovery.
An instant bond
On the way to the cardiac ICU, Valerie remembers thinking that she wanted to go all in and love on this baby, but she felt the need to guard her heart because several opportunities for adoption had previously fallen through. After hearing the little baby’s story and knowing he would need love more than anything to overcome his challenges, the couple knew what needed to happen.
“Scott said I needed to go ahead and treat him like he was ours, he needed our love,” Valerie says.
Valerie used to work as a radiological tech in a hospital, so she says all the tubes and wires didn’t bother her at all. In fact, all she could focus on was the intense love she felt in the moment. They knew right away they wanted him to be theirs forever.
He was very sick after surgery and needed time to heal before the cleft lip repair, so they waited one week before he went back to the operating room. Valerie says she stayed at the hospital “like any mom would do for her son.”
During the hospital stay, Scott noticed that baby Luc, as they named him, followed Valerie around the room with his eyes.
“We bonded right away,” Valerie says.
After searching for his birth parents, Valerie and Scott realized this baby would be their son.
“We don’t know who dropped him off in the tent that day, or any of his medical history,” Valerie says. “With the conditions in Haiti, he was probably born in a tent, and it’s a miracle someone loved him enough to find medical care.”
A couple of days after the lip repair, Valerie and Scott took Luc home and moved forward with the adoption.
Life-changing care at Children’s Health
Two years later, the couple moved back to Plano. Luc’s lip repair did not heal correctly, and he had skin left on his upper lip covering his front teeth. Since Valerie’s brothers had been treated at Children’s Health℠, she says she knew it was a great place to turn and made an appointment at the Fogelson Plastic Surgery and Craniofacial Center at Children’s Health.
“As soon as we met Dr. Smartt, we knew we were at the right place for Luc,” Valerie says.
“Luc had developed an intense scar under his nose where the dimple is on the upper lip,” says James Smartt, M.D., a pediatric plastic surgeon at Children’s Health and assistant professor of plastic surgery at UT Southwesternassistant professor of plastic surgery at UT Southwestern assistant professor of plastic surgery at UT Southwestern assistant professor of plastic surgery at UT Southwestern. “I revised the lip, and now he is able to function well.”
After a three-hour surgery with Dr. Smartt, Luc went from a restricted diet of soft foods and liquids to eating anything.
“The outcome after surgery with Dr. Smartt was amazing,” Valerie says. “We were blown away. We had asked God from the beginning to send us skilled surgeons to assist with Luc’s care and recovery. There is no doubt God answered those prayers in Dr. Smartt and his team!”
“He is the sweetest boy”
Valerie says Luc’s health has been like a puzzle as they uncover other conditions, including weakness on the left side of his body, significant hearing loss and speech delays. But through it all, Luc has been happy and resilient. He loves school and is thriving in first grade.
“Luc has come through so much,” Valerie says. “He has never met a stranger and makes friends wherever he goes. He is the sweetest boy.”
The Fogelson Plastic Surgery and Craniofacial Center at Children’s Health provides diagnosis and treatment for children of any age with any reconstructive need. Learn more about our programs and services.
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