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An American Mom Adopts a Special Chinese Son

A Chinese orphan too old to be adopted, an American mom too determined to let go. They finally got together in the U.S. But life takes surprising turns. For producer Roger Hsu, Elaine Lu tells the story of Emmy and Xiaofu.

The story began when Emmy was helping a friend adopt a baby girl from China.

Emmy and Xiaofu met at an orphanage. Abandoned by his parents, Xiaofu grew up in an orphanage in an eastern province of China. A victim of polio, Xiaofu has the use of only one arm and one leg. He worked hard and became a typist at the very orphanage he grew up in.

"Emmy was there at the orphanage I was working at,” he recalls. “There was a big crowd to see the foreigner. I was curious, so I went out to take a look as well."

Emmy continued the story. "I turned around, walked over and went over to Xiaofu, and said: ‘Ni Hao Ma’? (‘How are you?’ in Chinese). [The] only Chinese I know. And Xiaofu, much to my surprise, of course, I did not know his name, looked up at me and said, ‘I am fine, how are you?’ -- in English, perfect English!"

"Emmy walked over, we greeted each other. Then I showed her my painting," he added.

"Absolutely magnificent painting,” said Emmy. “Traditional Chinese brush painting. It's gorgeous: rich colors, birds and rocks… huge, about 5 feet (1 1/2 meters) long, very long. It took my breath away. At that point, my life changed dramatically."

Emmy has been to China five times. Those trips to orphanages left a soft spot in her heart for the children there. "Lots of sadness, and you can't solve all those, but if something crosses your path or you can help somebody and it's right in front of you, always say, ‘Yes,’ respond ‘Yes.’ "

Emmy tried to adopt Xiaofu. At the age of 25, Xiaofu exceeded the age limit for adoption. "We unofficially adopted each other,” she said. “Xiaofu is my son; he's unofficially adopted his mother."

Through the "One Plus One" Program with the Alliance for Children Adoption Agency and Foundation, Emmy finally managed to get the paperwork completed for the special adoption.

"Plans were all made for him to come in September of 2004, and he was to go to Shanghai to get his visa and I sent him e-mails and I did not hear from him for a week, 2 weeks -- very unusual. We talked to the orphanage director. They had started the emergency operation to save his life, and discovered, sadly, he had colon-rectal cancer."

"I am not afraid of death,” said Xiaofu. “When I got the news of cancer, I did not have the slightest fear. Having gone through so much hardship in my life; this does not feel like anything anymore."

Finally, when Xiaofu's condition stabilized after the initial treatment, he obtained a visitor's visa, and set out for the U.S. to join Emmy in October 2005.

Mother and son lived peacefully and happily, with Xiaofu spending most of his time painting, and learning English.

But the blissful life of mother and son did not go on uninterrupted for long.

Emmy relates the next turn of events. "Unfortunately the cancer did come back; the tests were bad. And immediately we got him on cancer treatments. All of the services, radiations, doctor visits -- everything donated for Xiaofu through the people who contribute to Sibley Memorial Hospital's program and the government. "

Caring for someone in a wheelchair did not come naturally to Emmy, but she says she got used to it in no time. Xiaofu, however, never got used to getting so much attention. "I grew up in an orphanage; we are uneasy about people's kindness. You long for kindness, but you are afraid at the same time, because you cannot pay it back. You want to, but do not have the ability. You feel burdened."

As time went on, the uneasiness weighed on him. After a year in the U.S., Xiaofu decided to go back to China.

Before departing, Xiaofu chose to be baptized. "Becoming a Christian is my way of expressing my gratitude to Emmy. I have no other way. Whether there is a God or not no longer matters. It is love that draws me in."

Emmy says being able to give is a blessing in itself. "We love to receive, but we love to give also, and when you let people do things for you, that is the graciousness that people appreciate because we all need to do things for others. So I've said to him that he should not worry about that."

"I am going home to continue working for the disabled, and tell people how the disabled are treated and what the culture is like here."