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The Trip of a Lifetime: SARS Slowed Adoption

Aired June 17, 2003 - 19:50   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A California family is now bigger by one. Tonight their welcoming little Abby Cramer in the world was anything but simple. Her new mom and dad had to contend with international red tape, traveling thousands of miles to meet the new addition and, if that weren't enough, they also to cope with the SARS crisis going on in China. Their story is remarkable.
Thelma Gutierrez tells the story now of the Cramers meeting Cramer.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Cramers are taking a trip. The trip of a lifetime.

DENISE CRAMER, ADOPTIVE PARENT: I have passports and everything ready to pack.

GUTIERREZ: Mark and Denise are going to china to pick up a baby girl. Her name is Quin-Quin (ph). Her new parents will call her Abby.

D. CRAMER: To me, looks like my child, is my child. So I can't wait to have her.

GUTIERREZ (on camera): After waiting nearly a year, things get a little complicated for the Cramers. SARS wreaks havoc in China and foreign adoptions are put on hold.

(voice-over): The Cramers are among the lucky ones. Their visas are approved.


D. CRAMER: Yes. Actually, we did bring some masks.

GUTIERREZ: Still, they have concerns. They're heading to Guang- Xo (ph).

D. CRAMER: We understand that that's really where the SARS epidemic started from and that's we're going -- right into the heart.

GUTIERREZ: Nothing will stop them.

(on camera): What would you tell her about somehow she came to you and why she was given up? M. CRAMER: The people that gave birth to you are not necessarily your mom and dad. They're the ones -- the ones that love you and care for you. We are.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Finally, it's time to go. With the 16- hour flight to look forward to...

M. CRAMER: It's been a total rollercoaster.

GUTIERREZ: ...the Cramers are finally on their way. With our video camera, they record their journey.

M. CRAMER: We just boarded the plane. A lot of the flight attendants are all wearing masks.

GUTIERREZ: The Cramers decide not to. Neither do the other 23 adoptive families on the long overseas trip.

D. CRAMER: Well, we just got off. So our 16-hour flight is over.

GUTIERREZ: The families begin with a tour of Guang-Xo.

M. CRAMER: There's an alligator. My goodness.

GUTIERREZ: The Cramers must wait and travel to Nanchang (ph) for Abby. On the next flight, passengers wear masks and their temperatures are taken for signs of SARS.

M. CRAMER: Today is the big day. We're an hour and a half away from getting our Abigail.

GUTIERREZ: Finally, the Cramers meet Abby.

M. CRAMER: I kind of leaned over and gave her a kiss on the forehead and she looked up and she -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

GUTIERREZ: They know little about their little girl. She was found by the side of a road days after she was born. She spent most of her life in an orphannage.

Now Abby has a new life in California with the Cramers and their two kids.

M. CRAMER: I think I love her more every day, every time I look at her.

GUTIERREZ: Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Los Angeles.


COOPER: Well, it is our turn to meet the Cramers, back in the U.S. after their journey to china to bring home the newest and cutest perhaps, member of their family. In Los Angeles, the proud parents of 11-month Jenay Abigail Cramer (ph).

Thank you all for being with us. D. CRAMER: Thank you.

M. CRAMER: Thank you for having us.

COOPER: And she is just unbelievably adorable.

D. CRAMER: Thanks.

COOPER: Tell us a little about this journey. I mean, that moment when you first saw her. You traveled. You know, this had been going on for, like, two years. You're battling bureaucracy. You traveled thousands of miles, facing a disease. What was that moment like?

D. CRAMER: Incredible. You know, just to hold her in our arms, have her with us. I mean, you count the moments. And it was just anticipation all the way there. So it was relief. It was, you know, a dream come true. She was -- she's really a delight. I mean, though it was a little pandemonius (ph) at the moment, she's wonderful. We love her.

COOPER: And, Mark, it was -- the first time you were holding her, it looked like she was crying a lot. She seemed startled to see someone that looked so different.

M. CRAMER: Yes, in Nanchang this was probably her first experience ever seeing a fair-skinned, bearded goatee, monster-looking guy and she just freaked out the first time she saw me. and it took about a day and a half for her to warm up. I had to hide in the motel room. She would find me in the room and start crying every time she saw me.

COOPER: You had to hide in the hotel room?

M. CRAMER: Yes, she'd find me across the room and break into tears. Just -- I mean -- and it was kind of that way with anyone that was blond, or that was fair-skinned and...

COOPER: Yes. When you first heard about SARS, I mean, did you suddenly think, this may not happen? This could stop the whole thing

D. CRAMER: Sure. We got calls that morning saying "Did you hear that, you know, they're halting all travel?" And we put in a call to the agency. We were going. And we put a lot of trust in our agency. And they were great. And -- you know, unless we were absolutely stopped, we were heading. We were going.

M. CRAMER: Right. After two years of working towards it, we were almost more afraid not to go than to go at the very end.

COOPER: You know, Mark, I hope this isn't too personal a question. If it is, just simply tell me to shut up. But when -- you know, in the story I saw Abby was abandoned on the side of the road, which is just -- it's unthinkable. You can't even imagine a parent doing that. What do you think you're going to tell her when she grows up about how she came to live with you? M. CRAMER: Well, I get emotional every time I -- someone asks that. But we're going to give her the best love and affection we can and give her a strong self esteem and we're going to teach her that adoption means -- is a great thing with good connotations and that if she wants to know about what happened, we'll say that she was a gift from God and...

D. CRAMER: Gift to us.


COOPER: Well, she certainly is that. And I know you have two other children, Jordan (ph) and Jacob (ph), and I know they've welcomed Abby into their home. And I'm glad you have a new addition to your family. Thank you so much for being with us.

D. CRAMER: Thank you for having us.

COOPER: All right. Good night.


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