Dissolved in Ohio:
A Girl’s Referral
At long last, the Ponishes received their referral in June 2002 for a little, two-year-old girl merely listed as Girl 2450.
In the official report later filed with the ODJFS in June 2002, Wendy Stamper told Linda Saridakis BBAS received the Girl 2450’s videotape and medicals from Amrex on June 25, 2001.
Denise told them she had the video in her possession. Excitedly, she told them that she had reviewed both the video and medicals as she often claims to do. In no uncertain terms she told Peter and Margaret the girl appeared on this video appeared “healthy.” Let me repeat: Denise told them she appeared healthy. Just the little healthy girl they longed for.
Girl 2450 was far more disabled than Denise Hubbard knew.
Her name was Natasha and she resided at the Baby Home in Blagoveshchensk in the Amur region. Her birthday was May 11, 1999, precisely the age the Ponishes had requested.
The referral video could not have arrived at a more bittersweet time for them. Margaret had just laid her mother to rest, and the emotional experience had left her drained. The death of one’s mother causes much pain, and what other sign did they need that this girl was being sent to them to alleviate the pain over their loss?
Margaret mourned for the woman who had given her life. What better way to celebrate her memory than by bringing this new child into their family?
Peter was filled with joy to finally have his new daughter’s referral video in his hands. He and Margaret’s excitement and expectation transferred to Tucker. He was going to be a big brother, the goal his parents and he had been working towards for months. He revelled in the love and joy filing his home.
Natasha was a charm on that videotape. Much like in the Towell’s initial video of Elena, she was performing certain tasks being asked of her by a caregiver. And she was most definitely performing — so utterly charming and beautiful. She appeared to be “age-appropriate” in the tasks she was asked to perform.
She had dark blonde-hair, wide blue-eyes — the “perfect” Russian girl — the kind of referral we all hope to receive. It would have been impossible not to take this child as a daughter.
The Ponishes, after much thought, wanted to rename her Alexandra.
The brief, three-page medical report (customary for Amrex’s Blagoveshchensk referrals), listed perinatal encephalopathy, a psych/speech developmental delay, telrapresis and a risk of microcephalia. Nothing was listed on the medical report about maternal drug or alcohol abuse or any risk or any other genetic or institutional diseases.
It concluded that if given a good family to take care of her, Natasha stood to live a happy, healthy and productive life.
Margaret and Peter told Denise they would have the video and medical reviewed by one of the competent physicians BBAS had recommended to them.
Denise cautioned them against University Hospital because they were “too hard on Russian videos.” On an information sheet they received from BBAS, the agency recommended the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Dr. Eric Downing.
BBAS also sent along a curious printout compiled from Dr. Downing’s site, “Why Russian Medical Reports Are the Way They Are,” which the Ponishes later shared with us. It is somewhat informative, but one point sticks out under “Lack of comments regarding maternal use of drugs or alcohol:
The orphanage records seldom contain this information. Prenatal records and hospital records are not transmitted to the orphanage in detail at the time the child is transferred to the orphanage. A similar problem exists when trying to obtain family history. The information is simply not available at the orphanage.”
Not necessarily. Try asking the “caregivers” and the orphanage director about each child. Often, they know far more than they should. Interesting too is how much information is coughed up in court for some children about the biological parents. Is this info available at the orphanage or not? And why is it given at the court date?
Trusting Denise’s “professional judgment” they went ahead and used Dr. Mary Ellen Staat at Cincinnati Children’s.
Dr. Staat watched the video, examined the medical report and didn’t see anything outwardly wrong with Natasha. She was concerned about her head circumference, and requested an updated videotape and measurments. She wanted to make certain the girl’s head was growing appropriately.
The Ponishes, just like the Badys, went back and asked BBAS for this information for Dr. Staat. BBAS gave them the same excuses they gave the Badys about requesting an updated video and measurements (without an additional $1,500 for the orphanage workers) – it would take a few weeks, they couldn’t guarantee an update – but they did request it from Amrex.
Indeed, in August, Amrex sent BBAS an updated video and measurements of Natasha to BBAS. The Ponishes were happy and immediately sent it to Dr. Staat for her medical opinion. Dr. Staat saw some improvement and could still see nothing outwardly wrong with Natasha.
With her medical opinion in hand, they signed the “Referral Acceptance/Denial Statement” and accepted Natasha. With glowing hearts they sent the form into BBAS so BBAS could commit them to their child overseas.
Natasha’s acceptance was official. They awaited their pickup date with happy hearts.