Chelsea Zeleny-Floro and her husband of The Woodlands, Texas, already had a daughter and a son with autism when they adopted a baby girl in 2016. They had their hands full with three kids, and certainly never expected to take in one more baby, that is, until they saw a desperate plea on Facebook.
“Child waiting in hospital for 2 1/2 months, can’t find placement, has no femur bones and is considered medically fragile,” the post read, as Zeleny-Floro recalled. “The hospital says he has just a few more days until they HAVE to discharge him due to space.”
It was a plea that she could not ignore, even after deciding against it with her husband at first. She thought it over and then decided to make the phone call. A nurse, who had adopted three special-needs kids herself, answered and spoke with her for what seemed like hours. And at the end of their conversation, Zeleny-Floro took the child in.
“I think it’s impossible to know what you’re getting yourself into when you become a foster parent,” she told Love What Matters.
Zeleny-Floro was terrified when they first brought him in. On top of not having femur bones, the baby had no hips, had double amniotic bands around both feet, and his skull was misshapen from lying in a hospital bed for two and a half months.
“Could I really do this?” she wondered.
In the months that followed, Zeleny-Floro realized that raising this baby would not be easy to say the least.
“He cried, a lot,” the mother recalled. “He was sick all the time, never slept, had constant appointments and limited recourses.”
Doctors offered a full gamut of prognoses, from being wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life to needing prosthesis, to potentially playing high school football.
“As confusing as it all was, none of that mattered,” she wrote. What mattered was that they began opening their hearts and were falling in love with him.
One day, their caseworker told them that the fostering placement, which they were doing currently, wasn’t going to work out and asked if they were willing to adopt him. By then, though, they already knew the answer was “yes.”
Nor had they anticipated seeing him reach so many unexpected milestones that he wasn’t supposed to.
They named the baby Charles, after her husband’s late granddad, and he was officially adopted on Nov. 15, 2017. “He was no longer a case in the system, a medical condition or a prognosis, he was finally just Charlie.”
This cookie faced kid stood for at least 5 mins straight today at a birthday party, this is HUGE! It’s the longest he has ever stood, all for cookies and bubbles. #SirCharles #NoFemursNoProblem
After the adoption, Charlie started to crawl differently—up on his feet, using his hands to balance himself. He seemed determined to do what the other kids could do. And on his second birthday, Charlie stood up and took six steps without using his walker—something that was never supposed to happen.
The family was shocked, and it opened their eyes to their expectations that they held toward others.
“We have also learned never to define someone by a disability or put them in a box of what they ‘shouldn’t’ be able to do,” Zeleny-Floro said.
Having Charlie has changed their definition of “disabled,” and she hopes other parents will talk to their kids and let them know about that. “Talk about how we are all made special,” she told Love What Matters, “and that just because somebody doesn’t look or act like you, doesn’t mean they should be treated any differently.”
Wait until the end