"TARIKALEM" - A BABY GIRL ANGEL
by Cheryl Carter-Shotts
She was found under a Eucalyptus tree with a note pinned to her clothes. "My name is 'Tarikalem', I was born in the village of Gondar, please someone take care of me." This tiny, very beautiful, baby Angel was abandoned under a tree in the hope that someone would find her.
At 6pm on July 2, 1999 an Ethiopian woman walking to
a medical clinic in Gondar heard Tarikalem's cries.
She took the approximately 8-week-old Ethiopian Angel
to the police who passed her to a temporary foster mother
while Ethiopian adoption officials were notified. A
month later the Ministry of Labour & Social Affairs
placed Tarikalem with Americans For African Adoptions,
Inc. We were to help her recover from malnutrition.
We were to find her a family.
I met this beautiful Angel a few days before Christmas 1999. I was going to
spend Christmas in Ethiopia at the "AFAA House" while
my Ethiopian daughter, Kelem, spent time with her adoptive
father, now my ex-husband. One look and I was in love
- those eyes. Our foster mothers began to call Tarikalem,
"Sherry's baby". I couldn't put her down. I defied anyone
to look into Tarik's eyes and not fall in love.
We found Tarikalem a family, a Texas family, and they wanted a second baby Angel too. "Mekdelawit" and Tarikalem were to become sisters. In June 2000, I returned to Ethiopia with three escorts. Together we were going to bring M & T and six additional Ethiopian Angels to their new families. One of our escorts was a doctor. She checked all our children at the AFAA House, then told me she thought Tarikalem had a heart problem.
"How could it be," I thought, she has been checked weekly by a pediatrician and had completed her U.S. Embassy medical exam, "How could my baby have a heart problem?"
There is a beautiful new hospital in Addis Ababa - not big and showy like some in North America but clean and well run, with lots of up to date medical equipment. It was built by an Ethiopian doctor who returned to his birth country, to help his people. Tarikalem could get an echo-cardiogram there. She did have a hole in her heart. My baby could travel but she needed to be kept upright on the long plane ride. Her new parents needed to know - would they still want her?
Keila, one of our escorts and I raced through the city of Addis Ababa with
a poor taxi driver who had no idea what was going on.
We were trying to find a working telephone to make a
collect call back to America. The AFAA House phone wasn't
working, again. Hotels wouldn't let us use their phones
- we weren't their guests. One of the hotels threatened
to call security if we didn't leave. "Geez, I only want
to call collect, it's an emergency," I pleaded.
"No, you are not a guest here."
I remembered how much visa photo business AFAA gives to "Speedy Photo" (they
do nice portrait work and are very reasonable - I highly
recommend them). The owner was home, the clerk phoned
for permission, he thought he remembered me (huh??).
I could make a collect call for 5 minutes only.
"Geez, do these people understand what a collect call
"Debbie, we have a problem! Tarikalem has a hole in her heart, I will read you the report. I'm sorry to push but you must make a decision NOW. Do you still want Tarikalem?" Without a second hesitation, Debbie said, "You forgot, I'm a critical care nurse, bring my baby home to me!" I was near tears, "YES baby, you are going home!"
We were all crying as I handed Tarikalem and Mekdelawit
to their new mom at Newark airport on June 24, 2000.
I had worried when every time Tarikalem fell asleep
on the plane she slouched in her seat and her forehead
was immediately dripping with sweat. As soon as I sat
her up the sweat was gone. "Take good care of my baby,"
I told her new Mom as they headed off to the next plane,
"fix her heart."
days later Tarikalem was in a Texas hospital, as an
outpatient. The hole in her heart was closed and she
was home sleeping in her bed the same night. Tarikalem
is "Emily" now. She and her sister who is now "Ivey"
charged around the house, chowing
down on their favorite foods of macaroni and cheese
and pudding. Emily and Ivey are very bonded sisters.
Both are beautiful little girls. Tarikalem is a beautiful,
healthy Angel, an Ethiopian Angel with a family and
There are many African Angels like Tarikalem and Mekdelawit - they all need a family.