Sunshine In My Life….

Angelita Daisies

I love Angelita Daisies (Tetraneuris acaulis), and how their bright and sunny faces brighten my day.  But today’s post is not about gardening, but about a little boy who brings sunshine to my life every day.

I would like to share with you a story about this special little boy who has gone through so much adversity in his short life but who has blessed me so much….my son, Kai.

sunshine to my life

This was the first photo that I saw of my son, Kai.  He was abandoned by a river when he was just two weeks old.  He spent much of his early life in a Chinese orphanage and then in foster care.

We had adopted our third daughter, Gracie from China a year and a half earlier and had decided to adopt again.  As soon as I saw this picture, I just fell in love with Kai’s little face.

If you look closely, you may notice his feet turn inwards, a lot.

sunshine to my life

Kai had two club feet and club hands.  We thought that we could handle that, – our daughter Gracie had been born with a club foot and we went through surgery and rehabilitation just fine.  

But the medical paperwork from the orphanage also said that Kai had a dislocated hip…he was born that way.   

The news we heard from the doctor was not good.  The doctor suspected that Kai had a condition known as arthrogryposis, which can be caused when the birth mother’s womb is too small for the developing baby.  Hence, the club feet and hands and dislocated hip.  

The doctor told us that Kai would need multiple surgeries with lengthy hospital stays.  We were torn up by this news.  We were set to receive the papers from the adoption agency the next day to sign to formally agree to adopt him.  After a lot of prayer and talking to our daughters about what Kai would have to go through and what we would all have to do to help him, our entire family decided to go forward.  

While we were waiting to travel to China, we found out that Kai was from an orphanage that I had visited while in China adopting our daughter, Gracie a year and a half earlier.  So, I took out the photos of my orphanage visit and there he was….

Kai is in the back wearing

Kai is in the back wearing the multi-colored jumper.  You can see his club feet.

Our whole family traveled to China in January 2005 to go and get Kai.  We were so excited to meet him.  But, he was not sure about us…we definitely did not look Chinese and he was missing his foster mother.

2 1/2 years old

Kai was  2 1/2 years old.  He is holding the little red train we gave him.  He had a bag of candy given to him by the orphanage director in the other hand.

It only took about one day for Kai to fit into our family and he was absolutely inseparable from his new dad.

sunshine to my life
Guangzhou, China

Pushing two strollers in Guangzhou, China.

Aren’t the flowers beautiful?

First day home after our trip to China

First day home after our trip to China.

Kai fit into our family so well and I quickly learned how different boys were from girls.  Because of Kai’s club feet, he walked on his ankles.  It was amazing how fast he could walk.  He couldn’t wear shoes, only slippers.  

We were referred to a specialist for Kai and decided on the first course of treatment, which would be to work on his club feet.

Recovering from his first surgery

Recovering from his first surgery.

casts off

At the doctor getting ready to get his casts off.

Kai wearing shoes for the first time

Kai wearing shoes for the first time.

casts off

A few months later, recovering from his second major surgery.  His hip was moved to the correct place and pinned.  The lower leg bones were cut so that his feet could be turned outwards.  Kai was in this cast for 6 weeks.  As you can see, he did not let it slow him down.

Back at the doctor

Back at the doctor, ready to have this cast removed.

wrestle with his dad again

Cast off and now wearing a brace.  Now he was able to wrestle with his dad again.

Notice the left leg

Notice the left leg?  One day after getting his brace off, Kai accidentally pulled his sister, Gracie, on him and his leg broke.

sunshine to my life

Cast is off and now to learning how to walk again.  Kai ditched the walker two days later.

For awhile, Kai was able to run, jump and wrestle like most boys his age.  But, a check-up revealed that his hip wasn’t healing as well as expected, so another surgery had to be scheduled 1 1 /2 years later.

sunshine to my life

On the way to the hospital, yet again…May 2008.

sunshine to my life

Summer vacation, stuck in a wheelchair, but Kai made the most of it.  He caught 3 fish in one day.

sunshine to my life

Getting ready to race his cousins.  Kai’s favorite superhero “Super-Duper” made a surprise visit and pushed Kai in his wheelchair.  Kai won.  “Super-Duper’s” secret identity, is Kai’s uncle Brett.

 Kai recovered from that surgery quite well but will have to wear AFO’s (braces on his feet and lower legs), for the rest of his life.  He walks and runs with a limp.  Kai cannot run as fast as his classmates and is beginning to notice that.  He always wears long pants now, because he doesn’t like it when people stare at his braces.

Over Christmas, I was reading a book to him about a little lamb that had a limp, but was very special, just like him.  Kai was surprised that he had a limp….he didn’t know that.  I thought that he did.  But, it didn’t seem to bother him after he found out. 

A couple of months ago, we received the news that Kai needs another hip surgery.  We were dismayed at the news, although we knew that Kai would probably require additional surgeries during his life.  But, he is just such a normal little boy that it is so easy to forget that he even has special needs.

He will be confined to a wheelchair again for 6 – 8 weeks.  Since Kai cannot put any weight on his hip we have to take care of most of his basic needs during that time and do a lot of lifting and carrying.

Today is Kai’s eight birthday, and tomorrow he will be in surgery.  But for today, we celebrate…

I know that Kai will meet this challenge as well and continue to display the resilience that continues to amaze me.  Before we know it, he will be back to wrestling, running, riding his bike and scooter. 

I would appreciate your prayers and thank you for letting me share about my son.  I promise I will soon be back rambling about my desert garden as well as other gardens I encounter 🙂

Our “New” Normal Life….

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
39 replies
  1. Diana
    Diana says:

    what a sweet boy! Thank you for telling us his story, you are in my thoughts and prayers.
    I also wanted to thank you for your helpful information you provide–I've been a follower for a few months now and I've learned A LOT! I "almost" feel like I know what I'm talking about when it comes to plants…(I live here in Gilbert too!)

  2. Patchwork
    Patchwork says:

    What a brave little boy. And, what special people he has for a family.

    You have our thoughts and prayers.

    And, a big Happy Birthday, to Kai.


  3. Darla
    Darla says:

    Your adopted and natural children are so blessed to have such wonderful parents. You and your husband's selfless love is such an inspiration. I do pray your son has a successful surgery and speedy recovery. Happy Birthday big guy!

  4. Ami
    Ami says:

    Noelle: I had tears in my eyes when reading this post! Kai certainly is a fighter!!! Happy birthday to Kai, and best wishes to his surgery and a speedy recovery. Take care!

  5. Rebecca @ In The Garden
    Rebecca @ In The Garden says:

    Noelle, thank you for sharing your story with us. You are wonderful people and have done such amazing things for your son. The picture of him as a baby in the orphanege is so very touching. Happy Birthday Kai!! I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Hugs to all of you. 🙂 Rebecca

  6. Tatyana@MySecretGarden
    Tatyana@MySecretGarden says:

    Dear Noelle, what an incredible family you have! I am so happy for Kai and wish him a happy happy birthday! As a mother of a child with serious health problems, I took every word of your story close to my heart. Hospital stays, recovery times, future surgeries…! I wish we never knew those things, but without them, we'd never knew how strong we can be and what we able to go through and stay happy nevertheless.
    God bless you.

  7. Deborah
    Deborah says:

    Thank you for sharing your story about Kai and his sister. What a brave little guy he is–I can see it in his face. He could surprise everyone one day and not even need his braces. I can't help but think of that scene in Forrest Gump where he starts running and shedding his leg braces.

    Loving, healing thoughts to Kai.

  8. Hocking Hills Gardener
    Hocking Hills Gardener says:

    Thank you for sharing this story Noelle. What a wonderful and resilient little boy. They are both so cute I want to hug them. Prayers will certainly be made from this home for a speedy recovery and surgery.
    They are blessed to have you both as parents and such a wonderful family to grow up with.
    Happy Happy Birthday to the big boy on his day.

  9. Kimberly
    Kimberly says:

    Noelle, what a wonderful story about a sweet little boy and blessed family! You are truly a gift from God, giving a wonderful home and family to so many precious little ones. The jewels that adourn your crown must be spectacular! I'm sincerely moved by your story and life with Kai. My prayers are with you all for a speedy recovery, successful surgery, peace, and joy. Hugs, Noelle, to all of you!

  10. VW
    VW says:

    Did I already tell you that my good friend and neighbor adopted 2 little girls from China? They are almost exactly the same ages as my girls, so they play together. I think it's so wonderful that you and my friend have given these sweet children so many opportunities and a better life. One of my friend's daughters was left by the river as well. Good luck with the surgery. Kai's lucky to have a loving family, though his health challenges are weighty.

  11. Martha Z
    Martha Z says:

    Thank you for sharing Kai's story. I can't imagine what his life would have been like had you not come along. Special children need special people to care for them. I'm glad you found each other.

  12. Lancashire rose
    Lancashire rose says:

    Thank you for sharing your story of Kai. We wish him well with his next surgery. He looks like a happy little boy and will weather what life brings him. So far he has been very lucky to have found a wonderful family.

  13. Liza
    Liza says:

    Oh Noelle, your heart must be the size of five Arizonas. I'm so proud of you, and so impressed by you, and so in awe of your whole family. You take your time with the blog – we'll all still be here whenever you want to share something with us. Family's more important, we'll wait. Personally, it'll give me something to look forward to, so thanks for that, garden friend.

  14. Helen at summerhouse
    Helen at summerhouse says:

    Noelle, What a lucky little boy he is to have found you for parents. And what amazing surgeries too. What a difference from the beginning to now. Hopefully, there won't be many more surgeries. He has such a cute little face and smile. I see a wonderful future for him.

  15. catmint
    catmint says:

    Dear Noelle, I am so moved, I am crying. Thank you for including your extra-botanical relationships in your blog. cheers, catmint

  16. sweet bay
    sweet bay says:

    Kai is lucky that you found him and you are lucky to have found him too. It's wonderful that he has all of this sunshine in spite of the surgeries. He and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  17. Gail
    Gail says:

    You have them Noelle…Good luck with the surgery and recovery time~Thank you for sharing your family's journey with us~gail

  18. Rose
    Rose says:

    What a handsome young man he has become and such a brave boy. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Noelle. Kai is fortunate to have such caring and loving parents, and I know you must feel as blessed to have him. All my best wishes for a successful surgery and a speedy recovery for Kai.

  19. Meredehuit ♥
    Meredehuit ♥ says:

    Noelle, thank you for sharing your tender story. I'm happy to include you and your sweet son in my prayers. I have learned in my life time that Faith and mighty prayer can work miracles. I look forward to hearing how the surgery goes. May you and your family feel the comfort and peace that comes from Heaven above.

  20. gippslandgardener
    gippslandgardener says:

    I just realised that I was holding my breath for most of your post Noelle!

    I hope that Kai has had a very happy Birthday and I wish him Wheelbarrow-loads of good luck for a speedy recovery!

  21. Rosie@leavesnbloom
    Rosie@leavesnbloom says:

    Noelle I hope all went well with the surgery and that Kai is recovering well. I've been thinking alot about Kai over the past few days and praying for him too. It was lovely to see the pictures from the time he was at the orphanage to now – he is so beautiful. He is so blessed to have you and your husband as his mom and dad. (((hugs)))) to Kai from Rosie 🙂

  22. pamsenglishgarden
    pamsenglishgarden says:

    Noelle, I was very moved by your story and shared it with my husband. We are both praying for Kai and for the special family that you are. Thank you for sharing! P. x

  23. Balisha
    Balisha says:

    Hi Noelle,
    What a brave little boy.He's been through so much in his very short lifetime. I pray that his surgery is successful. He has a wonderful Mom, by the way…

  24. Catherine@AGardenerinProgress
    Catherine@AGardenerinProgress says:

    He is is so precious, I can see how you fell in love with him the first time you saw his picture. It's just amazing that you had seen him while you were in China to bring home your other daughter.
    I will definitely keep him in my prayers. I hope he heals quickly and is back to running and playing soon.

  25. Melanie
    Melanie says:

    Wow. It's wonderful that you decided to adopt Kal, despite all his difficulties. You are lucky to have him. HE is a very special child.

  26. ShadowySteeds
    ShadowySteeds says:

    Tears running down my face as rain drops from the sky outside my window. How very special your family is… and what a special little boy to bear all of this (which I am sure is not fun) and still have that beautiful smile on his face.

    God Bless You and Your Family.

  27. camissonia
    camissonia says:

    Noelle, you and your husband are truly amazing for your commitment and love for these beautiful children. God bless, and I hope Kai comes out even better and stronger after his surgery!

  28. Carol
    Carol says:

    I am seeing this so late… a couple of weeks might have gone by now… I am playing catch up and seeing your posts backwards. I have to say Noelle that you are an amazing person and I am so honored to know you this way. I am so moved by your generosity of heart and care for others. You truly are an angel in your children's lives. You are an inspiration to all of us. ;>)

  29. Terra
    Terra says:

    You and your family are so sweet that I am crying. Beauty sometimes brings me tears; this story, Kai and your family pulling together, wow. This is an amazing journey you are on.

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