Published: Feb. 11, 2011
Updated: Feb. 11, 2011
In China, Zhong Kai Yu had a cleft palate and was living in an orphanage.
In the United States, Jenna KaiYu Sanders is the beloved daughter of Kevin and Gretchen Sanders and a patient with the Duke Cleft and Craniofacial team.
Mind you, Jenna KaiYu has had her happy smile with and without her cleft.
It was one reason the Sanders family knew they wanted to adopt her after seeing her picture just once.
“We could see the determination and spunk in her eyes.” Gretchen Sanders says, “Her eyes are the first things you notice.”
The eyes and smile tell you, whether it’s traveling across the world to join her new family, or facing surgery and therapy, Jenna KaiYu is up for adventure.
Her American adventure includes regular visits with the Duke Cleft and Craniofacial team, which provided support, guidance, and information for the Sanders when they were making their final decision to adopt Jenna KaiYu.
The Sanders family considered adopting several Chinese children with a range of special needs. Even before Jenna KaiYu touched down on U.S. soil to officially become a U.S. citizen in May 2009, the Sanders family knew the Duke team could help.
Gretchen, a Duke University Medical Center nurse, was well-versed on Duke’s capabilities, having worked with postoperative cleft patients and seen plastic surgeons, speech therapists, and feeding specialists in action.
During the tense 48 hours before the Sanders gave the go-ahead to adopt their daughter, Gretchen also roped Duke medical personnel, who were fluent in Chinese, into helping her translate Jenna KaiYu’s medical records.
Also, Ann Mabie, coordinator and go-to person for the Duke Cleft and Craniofacial team, alleviated many of the Sanders’ fears while speaking to them and setting up Jenna’s first appointment for June 2009.
Jeffrey Marcus, MD, operated on Jenna first, in August, lengthening her throat muscles to improve the tone of her speaking voice.
There Jenna made fast friends with Mia Peterson, another Duke cleft team patient who was adopted from China. Surgery to realign Jenna’s lip muscles is tentatively scheduled for next summer.
More than a year ago, in China, Jenna spoke Chinese but was dismissed as “unintelligible” due to her cleft. Now in America, thanks to her parents and Duke,
Jenna is one of the chatty students in her class.
She has improved so much -- yes, in English -- her teacher recently sat her next to a quiet classmate, hoping Jenna could get her to talk.