By Anita Doberman: CNJ Columnist
Our son Matteo, whom we adopted from Ethiopia about a year and a half ago, has had numerous health problems since arriving in the United States.
Matteo had been abandoned by the side of a road, so the orphanage he came from didn’t have any background information, which can be common with international adoptions, and some of the blood tests he underwent while in Ethiopia turned out to be either false, inaccurate or simply from another child.
The lack of information combined with incorrect assumptions about these tests has added to our frustration in trying to figure out Matteo’s health problems.
Our little fellow has lots of digestive problems and seems to fall ill every other week. I don’t mean colds or even the flu, but his digestive system isn’t working. He has lost weight and has seen more doctors and specialists than all of his siblings combined (a lot considering he has four sisters). It has been a bit discouraging to be unable to find out what is wrong with him, even though the pediatrician and the specialists we have seen have tried to do their best with the information available.
We were able to find out that Matteo has many food allergies, but the little guy has also had parasites, salmonella more than once, unexplained vomiting and loose stool on a regular basis, and there are times when he cannot keep anything down.
At first, I kept a fairly positive attitude and thought that this happens to every child in different ways — we are all susceptible to certain ailments. Some are more prone to dealing with skin issues, others with respiratory problems and Matteo with his digestive system.
But unfortunately, in the last few months he seems to be getting sicker, and his health has worsened rather than improved. I have found myself increasingly impatient and frustrated by the lack of answers.
Little things seemed unbearable. Navigating through the military health insurance, Tricare, when Matteo didn’t show up as a dependent and we were presented with a bill for several thousand dollars was infuriating. I know it’s no one’s fault, perhaps a system glitch or misspelling of his name, but I have been short-tempered and annoyed that I have no control.
In fact, just a few days ago, after one of Matteo’s particularly bad episodes, I found that I was angry and frustrated not because of the Tricare system or the specialists that we have seen, but because I have no control over any of this, and there is nothing that I can do to fix the situation.
Not that I felt happy about what was happening, but at least I came to terms with the fact that I just have to learn to deal with uncertainty and frustration. And even though Matteo’s health problems are difficult to solve or even diagnose, he is getting the best care he could get here in the United States.
Even though the ride may be bumpy and there is no clear roadmap, I am trying to enjoy the ride with all its twists and turns because I love the passengers so much.
Anita Doberman is a freelance writer, mother of five and wife of an Air Force pilot stationed at Hurlburt AFB in Florida. Contact her at: