When Priscilla Morse saw photographs of a starving 7-year-old boy with legs the size of her finger, she knew she had to save him.
Morse, 33, remembers thinking later that night, “This kid is gonna die alone in his crib before I can get back here. There is no way he’s gonna live long enough for the adoption papers to be processed.” Ryan suffers from a long list of medical problems, including microcephaly, cerebral palsy, club feet and scoliosis. However, in November 2015 Ryan arrived in Tennessee.
“We literally went straight to the hospital after we landed,” says Morse. “Even the doctors were crying when they saw Ryan. I explained that there were rows and rows of kids just like him. There are mass graves of children who die in orphanages and nobody knows that it’s happening.”
Since becoming a part of the Morse family 13 months ago, Ryan, who is now 8 years old, has gained 15 pounds with the help of a feeding tube. “He’s learned to cry when he’s hurt or upset,” Morse tells Us. “That’s something orphans don’t do because nobody answers to them. But he’s at the point where he has learned, ‘If I am hungry, I can cry and somebody will feed me.’”
Ryan has developed a close bond with the entire family: Dad, David; brothers Dylan, 14, and Jack, 7; and sister McKenzie, 7, who was adopted from Russia in November 2012 and has Down Syndrome. “Ryan loves to go for rides in the car; he’s like, Woah, we’re going somewhere!” marvels Morse. “So I’ll just drive the kids around and we’ll maybe stop and get hot cocoas and look at Christmas lights. He squeals and stares out the window. He thinks it’s the greatest thing ever.”
Ryan, who was born with dwarfism, has many obstacles to overcome and a very long road ahead of him. “It was seven years of total neglect,” Morse notes. “It’s not gonna be undone in two or three years, but we’re committed. Our job is to help him reach his full potential, whatever that may be. If he walks, great. If he talks, great. But if he doesn’t, we will love him just the same.”
By sharing Ryan’s story, Morse hopes this will be an inspiration to others to adopt children with special needs. “Ryan has brought more fulfillment to us than I think we could ever to him,” she tells Us. “He is a joy, a blessing — and not just Ryan. All these kids who are languishing in orphanages, they are so worthy of a family.”
What he looks like now is astonishing.
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