Love beyond the disfigured face
Tuesday November 1, 2016


The email read “hardest to place children.” That’s when Michele Haan first laid eyes on a photo of one year old Micah. Micah was abandoned at birth due to his deformed face, altered by a medical condition known as rare facial clefting. This affected his mouth, left eye, nose, and upper lip and caused him to be classified as an orphan who would struggle to find a loving family.

micah-haan-11 micah-haan-12At that point, Michele knew she needed to do everything possible to find a family for Micah. Michele and her husband Blake already had six adopted children. They were also over the age limit for adopting from Micah’s birth country, but that didn’t stop her.

“I called the agency to get information about Micah and was told they would make an exception for us because of our experience and access to services Micah would need,” shared Michele.

The Haan family soon found out that Micah was the orphanage favorite. He loved to sing and always had a huge smile on his face. It didn’t take long for them to see past the disfigured part of his face to discover a boy full of personality and love for life.

After two long years of paperwork and meeting regulations, Michele made the trip to Micah’s birth country to bring him home. The adjustment to life as a Haan was tough for Micah. In addition to grieving the loss of his orphanage caregivers and the world he’d come to know, Micah needed almost immediate surgery after he came home. He had a lot of infection, so the Haans didn’t have much choice but to have Micah undergo four major to moderate surgeries within a fourteen month period that started ten months after he came home.

“Every surgery brought pain and resurfaced memories of his early abandonment and hospitalization,” commented Michele. “With each surgery, Micah’s trauma became more and more apparent. He became an angry, fearful little boy. We had parented other children that came to us from trauma, but we were completely unprepared for the depth of fear this child was living in. It was absolutely heartbreaking.”

During this time, the Haans attended a simulcast where they learned about Sensory Processing Disorders. Through the event, they became connected with Marlene Hibma, Clinical Director and Adoption Consultant with Bethany Christian Services, who recommended the Haans see Kinetic Edge’s Occupational Therapist Elise Spronk.

“One of the things we look at with kids who’ve had trauma before their adoption is that they might have sensory integration issues,” shared Hibma. “An occupational therapist like Elise would do an evaluation to determine if there are sensory integration issues. Occupational therapists are in the best position to make intervention for these kids and to help them feel more comfortable in their environment and in their skin which promotes healing from the original trauma prior to their adoption.”

The Haans didn’t know what to expect from occupational therapy and were a bit skeptical about what it could do. Nevertheless, Michele loaded Micah into their car and made the hour long drive from their home near Maxwell, Iowa to Kinetic Edge in Pella to find out.

“Micah has always loved to sing; we say that Micah lives life starring in his own musical,” said Michele. “At the orphanage he sang, when he first came home he sang, but when he was going through that really hard time following his surgeries, I realized it had been months since we’d heard him sing.”

Micah with Occupational Therapist Elise Spronk and Occupational Therapy Assistant Travis Ethan

After the first appointment at Kinetic Edge, Micah sang the entire hour and fifteen minutes home. At that point, Michele didn’t know what Spronk had done or about brain development or sensory integration. All she knew was that Micah was singing for the first time in six months.

“Through a sensory profile during Micah’s initial evaluation, we determined that Micah was both a sensory seeker and had sensory sensitivity, both of which results in hyperactive, fidgety behavior,” shared Spronk. “This was helpful information to provide his parents useful suggestions to improve his ability to self-regulate, or keep calm, to participate in activities.”

As Michele learned how to meet Micah’s sensory needs, his trust in their relationship grew. Now, the two have a normal parent-child bond. Building a family through adoption isn’t easy, but as Michele has experienced, it is a wonderful way to have a family.

Micah with his mom, Michele

“Adoption isn’t for everyone,” says Michelle. “But even if you aren’t called to adoption, there are so many ways to help orphans through things like sponsoring a child, helping fund a family’s adoption, or supporting agencies like Bethany Christian Services.”

November is National Adoption Month, and Kinetic Edge Physical Therapy is proud to raise awareness and funds for adoption. As part of our Join the Movement program, we will donate $10 to Bethany Christian Services every time a former client refers a friend or family member our way, as well as any time a new client mentions they heard about them through Bethany Christian Services through the end of 2016.