(If you have not read the previous post “Is this Reality?” you may wish to start there for the full story. This is a LONG blog post, but PLEASE make it to the end…it means SO much.)
Since the go ahead was given on sharing about Pleven, I have taken WAY TOO long to write about it. I have taken SO much time and now there is MORE to the story. Previously I said that “hope is peeking through the darkness” and now I say the clouds are parting even more. Since I started the early post, weeks ago there are wonderful things to add to this story and a great encouragement to keep giving arises. People give more freely when they can see what their help is doing. And here it is- on the pages of Bulgarian newspapers!
Here is what has happened since I started writing the blog post that was published earlier:
On April 6th, the Minister of Health in Bulgaria made a surprise visit to the Pleven orphanage in response to our attorney’s notification to them of the things that were happening there. Afterwards the MOH appeared on the national news to share her findings and next an article about her visit was published in a large newspaper in Bulgaria.
Our wonderful attorney and friend in Bulgaria, Toni (Antonia Vladimirova) translated the article for our group to read. There are a few mistakes in the article pertaining to Katie’s (Veronica’s) development since coming home.
Image of the "Telegraph" newspaper in Sofia, Bulgaria.
(on the photo at the left bottom – unidentified child from the sixth floor; on the photo at the top right – Veronica now; on the photo at the bottom right – Veronica before)
18 children died for a year and a half
Babies and young children are being left hungry for days, lie in urine without having their diapers changed for 24 hours, due to which most of them are severely ill. Only for a year and a half, 18 children have died, as evidenced by a Report of the CPA. This provoked an inspection by the Minister of Health Dessislava Atanassova. Yesterday she commented that she left there crying. At the moment, 154 children live in the institution. After the inspection, Ms.Atanssova found out that, obviously, the personnel had known for her visit, as the children were all dressed up nicely, the sheets were changed and the toys were new. The stench of urine, however, made a huge impression. “While I walked through the rooms and watched the children, I cried. After that, I got mad and was greatly upset that they were doing wrong things”, the health minister said. She made a hint that probably serious financial misuses had been done in the institution, as any accountability was lacking.
Our reporter – the only one in the institution
Polished corridors, clean sheets and blankets, dressed children with dry diapers; each nurse was feeding one child and was talking to and cuddling with him/her – that’s what a team of “Telegraph” saw after being able to enter in the institution in Pleven . This is happening only a day after the visit of the health minister Dessislava Atanassova. With what they feed them, how they live and how they are treated – read in our tomorrow’s issue.
VERONICA STARTED WALKING AFTER LEAVING THE ORPHANAGE
Before she was adopted, she weighed 4 kilograms, 5 months later she is 12 kilograms.
4 kilograms and 850 grams. That’s how much weighed the 9 year old Veronica on November 14, 2011. That was her last day in “Home Mother and Child” in Pleven which terrified the health minister and CPA. She couldn’t pull up to a sitting or standing position and only was lying down. Today, 5 months later, in the USA , in Pennsylvania , she is already weighing 12 kilograms and has a chance for life.
This can clearly be seen from two photographs. The first was taken in the home for medical and social care last year, and the second is in the home of her new American family.
“I think that the photos speak for themselves enough and the words are not needed. The difference is striking and clearly shows what it means for a child to be raised in an institution”, declared for “Telegraph” Antonia Vladimirova, Director of Dreams Foundation, which facilitates international adoptions. She personally was helping the family Joe and Susanna Musser to adopt the Bulgarian orphan who has Down Syndrome.
The chance for a new life for Veronica came last November. After 4 months of adoption procedure, Susanna arrived in Pleven to pick her up. The American was in a shock by the look of the child in the real life and by the sight of the other children sharing the same ward with her future daughter – on the sixth floor, in the orphanage in Pleven , where the orphans with the severest diseases are placed. Veronica immediately was taken to Tokuda Hospital to be stabilized for 2-3 days. As soon as her condition allowed it, they took off by a plane to the USA . An ambulance picked up the child from the airport and she was placed in Children’s Clinic in Philadelphia .
Thorough tests were done and they established that the child was with severe anemia due to the malnutrition, as well as advanced osteoporosis, and broken bones that had been broken in the past and healed incorrectly, together with complete lack of Vitamin D. All this together with severe mental and physical lagging behind.
“Then she couldn’t even eat. That’s why the first week the American doctors just started feeding her”, tells Antonia Vladimirova who still follows up the development of the child. After the feeding was started, intensive rehabilitation began – physical therapists, speech therapists and other specialists started working with her.
Only after 4 months Veronica is already different.
“So that you can imagine the difference, I will tell you that in Bulgaria she couldn’t sit up. She didn’t talk, only cried or, more correctly, was moaning. Now you can see her at the picture that she sits up. Soon she will be up besides a walker. She is still with a feeding tube but she eats normally general food and very recently she said her first word – “mamma”. All this – only for 4 months”, Vladimirova tells further. Now the child lives in Pennsylvania . Her adoptive parents have 10 more children, last of whom is with Down Syndrome. Exactly she incited them to adopt such a child. The mother is a homemaker and has entirely devoted herself to care for her children.
After the admittance of Veronica in Tokuda, from the hospital they were so shocked that they decided to visit the orphanage in Pleven . The specialists chose another 8 children to be admitted in the hospital.
“We found out that the children need attention and decided that we would go and see them. We coordinated the idea with the CPA and went”, Prof.Marusia Lilova, Chief of the Pediatric Clinic at Tokuda Hospital , said for “Telegraph”. Then several children were taken for treatment to Tokuda. To a question whether it was established that the children were malnourished, Prof.Lilova stated that she didn’t want to comment.
154 children totally are being raised in the orphanage in Pleven . 98 of them are with severe disabilities and most of them don’t move from their cribs. For now, only 6 of the children will have Veronica’s chance. At the moment, adoption procedures for them are pending and by the end of May they will also depart for the USA .
“Only foreigners adopt such children, especially Americans. The Europeans still insist on a healthy child too. On the other side of the Ocean, however, they have amazing resources – the medical treatment is light years ahead and, not because their doctors are better, but because they have the financial abilities. One such child needs a lot of therapy – massages, speech therapist, physical therapist, occupational therapist… They can obtain those therapies there with their health insurance. Indeed, a lot is being paid for health, but it pays for many things”, goes on to say Antonia.”
On Monday April 9th, another article was published in another newspaper “Standard” and it has also been translated bellow by Toni:
Bulgarian newspaper - "Standard"
(at 11 years old Vesselina looks like a 3 month old baby)
(the teenager Plamenka looks like an infant)
(Veronica 6 months ago and now – as Katie Musser)
Holocaust – that is how the chief of Dreams Foundation, Antonia Vladimirova, summarizes the care for the abandoned sick children in Bulgaria. And “ Oswiecim ” is the name she has given to the Home for Medical and Social Care for Children (HMSCC) – Pleven . On Friday, the institution entered the media with a label “Mogilino-2”, after the health minister Dessisslava Atanassova visited it suddenly and 16 year old children weighing 9 kilograms and eating from bottles met her.
Boriss Veltchev starts dealing with the children–skeletons in Pleven
Prosecutors in “Mogilino-2”
Malnutrition, osteoporosis and broken bones shock the Tokuda doctors
Attorney General’s Office starts investigating the irregularities in “Mogilino-2”. The people of Boriss Veltchev have been approached by the State Agency for Child’s Protection (CPA). “At the end of the last year we signaled the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Pleven for what was going on in this orphanage; we sent them photo materials but they replied that there was no enough data for initiating pre-court investigation”, Kalin Kamenov, Director of CPA explained for “Standard”. However, the Regional Prosecutor of Pleven, Ivo Radev, promised that as early as today (Monday), he would check the case as, when the signal was filed, he wasn’t at that position.
For Antonia Vladimirova, the Pleven “ Oswiecim ” turned into cause on August 15, 2011. Then the boss of the foundation went into the orphanage as a lawful representative of the Americans Joseph and Susanna Musser, who wanted to adopt the 9 year old Veronica. The little girl was on the 6th floor, where actually the severest cases are placed. “From the very door, the stench that hit us was unbearable”, Vladimirova recalls.
Stink of faeces, urine, acetone and pus
In the rooms of the children, the windows are not opened – the air-conditioners are working. The little ones are staffed 8 in a box – 4 meters by 3 meters. They are not showered, the diapers are soaked and they lie in their vomit. The children are prisoners in their cribs. “They move only when their diapers are changed – each 24 hours”, Antonia adds. From the orphanage they explained to her that this happens once a day as the diapers are expensive and they can’t afford to change the children more often. “They pick up the child under the armpit, lift him/her in the air, and throw him/her on the board for change of the diapers. Several lightning, rough movements follow, without any cleaning or treatment of the rashes and the wounds from the soaked diapers. The child again is lifted in the same way and thrown in the crib” Antonia continues her terrifying story.
The cribs resemble more a cell
rather than a small bed. There are no sheets, pillow or soft mattress. The children lie on coarse linoleum. From the orphanage they explain the lack of sheets with the fact that the kiddos often get dirty, wet their beds or vomit and there is no one to clean. “There is no single toy in the children’s cribs, nothing colorful to distract them”, Vladimirova is shocked. Later on it appears that there are toys in the orphanage, a whole play room, actually, but little ones are not allowed there. Why? From the orphanage they keep them clean to show them when donors come or to invite adoptive parents there, from the Dreams Foundation they are telling us.
Antonia, however, is shocked with something else – the feeding of the children. The little ones receive
a beer bottle with a nipple on the top,
with an opening of 1 cm. “And as they are in lying position, without being set upright at least a little, they bite the nipple and start chocking and the liquid pours down”, explains Vladimirova. The children who can feed themselves, receive a mess-tin – soup with crumbled bread mixed with a spoon of “musaka” without meat. “The children are fed for about 30 seconds and then everything is taken away”, goes on Antonia.
Thanks to the Musser family, Veronica is saved from “ Oswiecim ”. Today she lives in Pennsylvania and her name is Katerina Hope Musser. After being picked up from the orphanage, the 9 year old miss went straight to the capital hospital “Tokuda” and the doctors there slipped into a shock – the little one weighed 4,850 kg and
had a beginning stage of osteoporosis.
5 months later Veronica, already Katerina Hope, is 12 kg.
From August till now, 18 more children from the ill-famous orphanage in Pleven are at different stages of adoption procedure by families from the USA . Two of them are the 11 year old Vesselina (weight at the moment – 5,650 kg and height – 76 cm), and almost 16 year old Plamenka (weight – 8,600 kg and height – 88 cm) who eats from a bottle. Both of them, as well as other 6 children from the orphanage, were treated in Tokuda. In all eight kiddos, besides malnutrition and osteoporosis, old, already healed broken bones, were established. “Vesselina has even displacements of vertebrae”, recalls Antonia. And continues on to say that only for 10 days in the hospital the little patients gained 2 kilograms each.
The doors are closed for new little ones
174 people take care of 165 kiddos, sanctions are being at hand
The Agency for Social Support stops the placement of children from the whole country in the orphanage in Pleven . Only in extreme cases babies from Pleven and Lovetch will be admitted.
This is the biggest orphanage in Bulgaria and, at the moment, 165 kiddos are placed there. The personnel are 174 people, but only 1/3 of them remain on a shift. All of the children should be at the age no older than 3 years. However, for a long time, no one has taken measures the older children to be moved to other specialized institutions. Among them are children with disabilities who have not been requested for adoption or foster care.
External specialists in nutrition and intensive interaction shall be appointed in the orphanage. For each child a specific plan shall be developed, according to his/her own needs, explained Kalin Kamenov. They will train the personnel how to take care of the children. Experts will work with the children with disabilities in the orphanage, so that they receive individual care and medical help.
For the end of April, a competition for appointment of a new director of the orphanage has been planned. Four months ago, the long years boss Irzhina Kostova was fired after the signal of CPA. By this moment, the orphanage has been with temporarily appointed director. Most probably there will be more disciplinary sanctions, stipulates Kamenov. We hope that the new management shall implement quality reorganization in the operation of the orphanage, he declared.
Yesterday, for “Standard”, the health minister Dessislava Atanassova revealed that, since documents for donations and reports for food products are lacking, the investigators had sealed the storage premises.
You can again visit Shelley’s blog posts for an update on what is being arranged
at Pleven orphanage through a partnership with One Heart Bulgaria and information on more fundraising efforts
– this time to provide nurses for these children as they recover from such neglect. As Americans, it is easy to think that because people are now aware of the problem that they will be fixing it immediately, but the truth of the matter is that, while they may wish to do just that, food, diapers and medical care cost money.
We feel honored and privileged to be able to lend our 50 lbs. of free checked luggage to carry specialized high calorie baby formula when we fly over on April 20th to One Heart Bulgaria who will then deliver it to Pleven . We are being joined on our trip by Dan’s cousin and her room mate (and our friend), wonderful ladies who have also volunteered 50 lbs of luggage space. In total, we will have the honor of delivering 100lbs (minus luggage weight) of food to these children who are in such desperate need. The biggest need they have is for a family…but until then, at least we can give them FOOD and PRAY that things will change quickly for the Pleven orphanage. This special high calorie formula costs close to $200 for a case of 6 14.1 oz. cans and the group is relying heavily on donations to obtain it. Because of that fact, I am not sure that 100 lbs of it will make it into our suitcases before we fly. But we are told that ANY formula we can collect and deliver would be a blessing to these children. If we get more than 100 lbs. of formula to pack, I’ll start unpacking my clothes and filling our other suitcase too!!!
We know it is only a very short time before we leave, so we have to get the ball rolling fast and make it go far! I am setting up a “chip-in” for anyone who would like to donate money to buy formula to be delivered to Pleven orphanage. Any money that is left will be used to buy diapers for Pleven orphanage once we are in Bulgaria. PLEASE consider helping these children – In tears, I have complete faith that each of you would, if faced in person with these circumstances, hunt down a store in a foreign country, buy food even if it emptied your pockets and feed a child who is starving. Will you please give someone else – who has the opportunity and is choosing to walk in and face these terrible conditions – the money to help them do it?
I can’t wait to see the generosity that pours in!
Use this link to get to the ChipIn page where you can donate! And PLEASE remember that we only have a very short time (Less than 1 WEEK!) to raise funds!
If Adeye Salem’s blog
can raise $26,930 in 1 day
to fund the adoption of “Faith,” a 14 year old girl weighing 14 lbs
. from Pleven orphanage, we can certainly raise the money for some formula and diapers, wouldn’t you agree? Will you all please share the information about this fundraiser with me and let’s just see if we can’t get me wearing the same clothes all week in Bulgaria?