The first six months with Alina felt like a never-ending stream of doctor appointments. They had been told in Eastern Europe that she had a ventricular septal defect but discovered it was actually atrial. Additionally, Alina had some quirks like facial differences and crooked pinkies that led to genetic testing. Geneticists told Sara and Ben, an architect, that their daughter had a duplication on her long first chromosome. There were only two other known cases in the world.
Still, Sara says, life has been good. Once malnourished with “a horrible orphanage haircut” and no balance, speech or feeding skills, three-year-old Alina has doubled in weight and can now walk up stairs. She’s attending preschool and speech, occupational and physical therapies.
“We appreciate all the little accomplishment she makes, and she has a really good attitude about things,” says Sara. When they go out in public, 11-year-old Oliver and six-year-old Lincoln make it a point to tell people, “This is my sister. She was adopted from an orphanage.”
It’s not the orphanage featured in The Amazing Race, true. But the Foltzes think their journey around the globe and back earned them something far better than a million dollars: a treasured daughter and sister.