“It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us as the confident knowledge that they will help us.”

Epicurus, 3rd century BC 

I sat opposite our GP, David Rapley. 

“Morning, David.”

“Hi, Tony – to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“I’m going to adopt a Romanian orphan.”

He sat up. “Really?”

Thank goodness he didn’t start on the ‘is that a good idea?’ mantra.

“Well, two if I can. Once the home study is completed – and you’ll probably find that a social worker will be asking questions about our health for a medical report  – I’ll not be delaying any further and I’ll be getting on a flight.”

“So, how can I help?”

“I need some advice – what do I look for? What should I avoid? Are there particular signs which will alert me to things which would signal disabilities or …” I tailed off. I knew so little and hadn’t really got a clue what questions I should ask, but visiting the surgery had seemed a reasonable idea at the time.

“Hmm,” said David. “I know as much and as little as you do about the conditions over there. Medical care seems pretty sparse and there can be any number of problems facing the children. I suppose that they face malnutrition, developmental delay, and even Aids. The best I can do, given that you will probably be unable to have any clinician on hand to give you the all-clear, is suggest that you aim for a child who is about 12–18 months old. 

“By that age you will be able to detect whether the child has started to pick up any sort of speech – but the child’s ability to test and use language won’t have been so concentrated to prevent him or her quickly understanding English.

“The child should by then be able to walk without help, and you’ll be able to identify his gross motor skills without any great difficulty.

“Aids tests are notoriously unreliable with children of that sort of age, but if you have any doubts at all you should try and get to a hospital for a check. Apart from that, you’re on your own. 

“Just make sure that as soon as you get back to the UK, you arrange to bring the child – or children – here for an immediate check-up.”

And that was it. He wished me good luck, we shook hands, and I left the surgery. His advice seemed sensible enough. 

Looking back, it showed just how little either of us knew what was ahead.


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