by Samantha White
Bonnie Angleton holds her newly adopted granddaughter, Lybbi, who was born in Xiamen, China. (Submitted photo)
Bill and Bonnie Angleton are hosting a “Sip & See” Friday, Jan. 2, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Ribbons & Roses (located at 441 N. Broadway in Burns). The event will grant community members an opportunity to meet Lybbi (ShuFang) Cotter, the Angletons’ newly-adopted granddaughter, while sipping some hot cider and enjoying a couple of cookies.
Bonnie’s daughter, Molly (Hatcher) Cotter, and her husband, Mark, adopted Lybbi from Xiamen, China on June 20. She joined siblings Luke, 14, Logan, 13, and Leah, 10, at their home in Salem on July 2.
Luke and Logan are the Cotters’ biological children, and the couple adopted Leah from Louyang, China when she was 4.
According to their blog, the Cotters began considering adoption in 2007, after running into an old friend who had recently adopted a child from China. The couple started checking into the adoption process and selected an agency, All God’s Children International, which connected them with information about children who were in need of families. They discovered Leah, and the rest was history.
The Cotters remained on several adoption email lists, but didn’t actively pursue adopting another child until 2014. According to the blog, the Cotter children frequently encouraged their parents to adopt again, even offering to exchange birthday and Christmas celebrations for the opportunity to have another sibling.
In a video titled Lybbi’s Story, Mark explained that Lybbi’s photo “jumped out” at him in an email. And when he showed the photo to the Cotter children, they were really excited.
“They were all in before we were,” Mark said.
However, Mark and Molly were concerned about the adoption because Lybbi has a severe congenital heart defect.
“She’s what they call single ventricle where the right side of her heart didn’t develop, so she’s functioning with just the left side,” Mark explained in the video.
According to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s website, “Children with a single ventricle defect are born with a heart that has only one ventricle large enough or strong enough to pump effectively. In most cases, children with single ventricle heart defects require intense medical intervention soon after birth.”
The Cotters’ blog states that Lybbi was found abandoned near the Xiamen Zhongshang Hospital in October 2012 when she was 2 months old. She was taken to the Xiamen Children’s Welfare Institute and placed in the special care room. She underwent heart surgery in January 2013, but the surgery was reportedly “touch and go.” Lybbi survived and was taken back to the special care room, only to be hospitalized again with pneumonia.
In order to fully determine her condition, Lybbi needed a heart catheter. However, considering the difficulty that she encountered during her previous surgery, doctors in China were reluctant to perform any additional surgeries on Lybbi.
The blog states that, “If she stayed in China it was pretty certain that she wouldn’t survive long.”
In the video, Molly said she and Mark doubted whether they could handle the adoption financially, emotionally and physically.
“But God has a sense of humor,” she said with a laugh.
The couple decided to consult with a doctor in Atlanta, Ga. to determine how they could transport Lybbi — who required a feeding pump, oxygen and medications — home from China.
They also discussed how their family could be affected if Lybbi were to pass away after they adopted her.
However, Mark said, “It just kind of stuck with me that, if that did happen, that God would help us through it.”
Deciding to move forward with the adoption, the Cotters were faced with the challenging task of getting Lybbi home.
A cardiologist had to clear Lybbi for air travel, as there were concerns regarding how the altitude could affect her condition.
The Cotters were also required to provide medical equipment for Lybbi, which entailed carrying 14 large batteries all over China in backpacks. (Bonnie explained that, after adopting a Chinese child, parents must travel to various locations throughout the country in order to complete all of the necessary paperwork.)
The Cotter children assisted with the effort by helping their parents carry the batteries. Luke and Logan even trained for the trip by packing rocks, books and other heavy items on their backs so they could get used to the weight.
“This is a family affair,” Bonnie said regarding adoption. “The entire family went to get both kids.”
When the Cotters received Lybbi, the 2-year-old weighed 13 pounds and was unable to sit up on her own.
Now age 2-and-a-half, Lybbi weighs more than 20 pounds and is able to sit up and roll over. She is working toward standing and goes to physical therapy twice a week to improve her motor skills. Lybbi is also learning English, and her favorite word is currently “da-da.”
However, she still requires oxygen and medication and continues to struggle with eating. In fact, the Cotters have to chart her daily intake of calories to ensure that she’s keeping enough food down.
After arriving in the United States, Lybbi underwent an additional surgery at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.
In the video, Mark explained, “They still don’t really know what her prognosis is. It’s one step at a time. They’ll do one procedure and wait to see if that works, and then if it does, they’ll go on to the next step.”
Bonnie said Lybbi has quite a few more medical procedures in her future, including a major open heart surgery.
But, despite her medical challenges, Bonnie said Lybbi is “very good natured” and “a really funny little girl.”
She said Lybbi’s older brothers taught her how to “fist bump,” and now she goes around fist bumping everyone in the room.
“Her siblings absolutely adore her,” Bonnie said. “They are so good with her.”
She added, “It’s pretty amazing how these little kids flourish, just mainly from having a family. Adoption in any form for anyone is so dear to my heart because of my religious beliefs and the fact that every child needs a family.”
Bonnie acknowledged that the cost of adoption can be astronomical, but said prospective parents may be able to find funding assistance.
People in various phases of the adoption process can also access emotional support.
In the video, Mark said he and Molly sent out an email requesting that people pray for Lybbi to have a safe trip home. The couple was later informed by their social worker that about 20,000 people honored that request.
“It was just an amazing, amazing experience to have people that we didn’t know, that didn’t know us, that didn’t know Lybbi that were just praying for her,” Mark said.
The Cotters continue to receive support from other Salem-area families who have gone through the adoption process, as well as a coordinated team of medical professionals at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, Oregon Health & Science University and Shriners Hospital for Children.
They’ve also received support from the Harney County community and hope to show their appreciation during the Sip & See on Jan. 2.
Lybbi’s Story can be viewed online by visiting: http://vimeo.com/115183255. You can also read more about Lybbi on the Cotters’ blog at http://lybbishufang.wordpress.com.