IOWA CITY, Iowa — When Chad and Heidi Spore were in Uganda adopting two of their children in 2011, they met another special young man who was destined to be part of their family: Sam.
Chad and Sam met while working on crafts together near the orphanage in Sam’s village. At the time, Sam’s wheelchair was broken, so he was pushed in a wheelbarrow. After the activity, the wheelbarrow was nowhere to be found, so Chad carried him the quarter-mile to his home.
That day created a bond and left a lasting impression on Chad.
“He didn’t get a chance to go around and really play with the other kids. He was really limited in what he could do because of the terrain and the lack of resources,” he says.
Back in the United States, Heidi and Chad advocated for Sam’s adoption with other families. Since he had several medical challenges, they knew it would take the right family to be a perfect fit.
Sam was born with hydrocephalus — fluid on the brain — and had a shunt placed while in Uganda. He was also born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which bones don’t properly form around the spinal cord. As a result, he has no feeling below his belly button. Additionally, Sam’s bowel and bladder were not formed correctly, leading to his inability to control either.
It soon became clear to the Spore family — then a family of nine — that it wasn’t complete without Sam, and they unanimously decided to adopt him.
Throughout the two-year adoption process, Heidi and Chad met with specialists at the Center for Disabilities and Development at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital to learn what types of physical, educational, and emotional challenges Sam would face.
Sam arrived in Iowa in February 2015, when he was 12 years old. Ten days later, he was taken to a local hospital with a deep blood clot in his right leg. Local doctors were not accustomed to dealing with this type of blood clot in children, so he was airlifted to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital for treatment.
Sam’s bowel and bladder issues were the next priority, so his pediatric urology and surgery teams decided on a procedure to address his bowel incontinence. Then, in November 2016, Sam underwent bladder surgery, where doctors both enlarged his bladder and made it possible for him to rely on a catheter through his belly button.
Sam’s care has made a difference in his life and allows him to be more independent. His parents couldn’t be more grateful.
“The teams have been so special to us,” says Heidi. “I tell other people that UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital is a place where they’ll find somebody to champion their cause.”
Today, Sam undergoes regular physical and occupational therapy, has neurosurgery and urology check-ups, and sees pediatric hematology specialists to address a blood disorder. Through it all, he maintains his smile and sense of humor.
“Sam has taught me our circumstances don’t have to be limitations — they can be challenges to overcome,” says Chad.
“He is an incredible source of joy in our family,” adds Heidi. “He has taught us there’s always a reason to laugh.”