Sunday, June 19, 2016

"My Name Is Nina"

Nina, now 49, with her adopted mother
It was November of 1968.

The note left with the premature infant abandoned at the entrance of an Asuncion hospital simply read, "Mi nombre es Nina", and identified the baby's mother as Mara Dielmans.

That's all. No one knew where the baby came from and apparently no attempt was made to make connections with any family she may have had.

My older sister Fannie Mae Yoder, who ran a maternity clinic in Paraguay, was first introduced to Nina, then 6, at the Government Children's Home in Asuncion that cared for abandoned children up to 8 years of age. Some of the staff there asked my sister, an RN and a certified midwife, if she knew of any place in the US where she could be cared for, knowing that otherwise she would likely spend her entire life in an Asuncion mental hospital.

Nina, diagnosed as severely autistic, was unable to talk, was still being bottle fed and had the appearance of a three-year-old. Fannie Mae, ever the compassionate nurse, was due to return to the states in just a few months, and agreed to check with folks she knew at the church-run Faith Mission Home in Greene County, Virginia, to find out if they might be able to provide for her.

After some correspondence, Faith Mission Home agreed to accept her into their program, but said they had a waiting list and that she would need to have some other place to live for up to a year. Meanwhile, Paraguayan officials worked with my sister to arrange for Nina's emigration.

My dad was a very supportive father figure for Nina 
After considerable correspondence and many conversations with family and church members, Fannie Mae agreed to have Nina live with her at Stuarts Draft until there was an opening at the Home. Not everyone was in favor of her taking on this responsibility, but my father, remarried after my mother's passing in 1971, was among those who supported her choice.

During the eight months Nina lived with my sister she made remarkable progress, was taught to feed herself, eat solid food, and be toilet trained, all of which helped her in her transition to Mission Home.

There Fannie Mae visited Nina regularly and brought her home some weekends and holidays. Unable to express herself in words, Nina would typically clap her hands in delight on the way to my sister's, whereas she began to cry whenever they drove back onto the Mission Home campus, even though it is one of the finest facilities I know of for developmentally challenged children and young adults.

Fannie Mae said she will never forget the time when, at her church, autistic Nina, for the first time, looked into her adoptive mom's face and gave her a warm smile. There was a special though unspoken bond between them.

When Nina was 11, steps were taken to gain permanent immigration status for her rather than their having to apply for annual renewals of her visa. In order to gain this status it was recommended that Fannie Mae formally adopt her, after which Nina's sponsorship at Mission Home ended.

So as my sister retired from nursing, Nina moved back to live with her now adoptive mother on a permanent basis. She was enrolled in a special education class and learned more life skills and became able to communicate more of her needs non-verbally.

Nina remained at what she considered her real home until it became necessary for my sister to apply for adult foster care for her a decade ago. She is currently being cared for by a wonderful set of loving parents.

I am proud of my sister for investing so much of herself in making a difference in one very special person's life, my adopted niece Nina Ruth. And on this Father's day, I commend my late father for supporting her in doing so.

Note: The photo above is of us running into Nina recently when I took Fannie Mae for a medical appointment at Stuarts Draft. Nina, not having seen her mother since her recent hospitalization for a heart condition, at first seemed shocked to see her in a wheel chair, then quickly walked over and placed her hand on the person to whom she owed her life. A touching moment.

Here's a link to another post on my sister's story
Post a Comment