Saturday, June 29, 2013
Arianna Rising, Armenian Adoption Adventure
By Kristin Agostoni Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
@kagostoni on Twitter Posted: 06/14/2013 06:36:47 PM PDT
Updated: 06/14/2013 08:23:15 PM PDT
Preschooler Arianna Spiglanin was adopted from an Armenian orphanage by Lauren and Tom Spiglanin of Rancho Palos Verdes. The couple later learned she has cerebral palsy and is committed to a combination of therapies to help with her development. The Daily Breeze profiled Arianna and her mother, Lauren, a year ago. She has since made improvements with her mobility. (Steve McCrank / Staff Photographer) Related: Arianna’s journey: Rancho Palos Verdes couple faces adopted child’s tragedy with courage The last time Lauren Mahakian Spiglanin visited Yerevan, Armenia, she and her husband, Tom, had just become parents of a nearly 9-month-old baby girl they had adopted from the state-run Nork orphanage. During visits, they’d take their baby, Arianna Rose, outside to a weed-filled yard with construction debris lying around – the only outdoor spot for prospective parents to interact with children at the center. Today, that same space has been transformed because the couple raised their own funds to build a new playground. After they brought Arianna home to Rancho Palos Verdes, the Spiglanins drummed up more than $10,000 in contributions – just about $2,700 short of their goal – that have bought the orphanage benches, flowers and a wading pool and water play area to help the children weather the country’s hot summers. And since adopting Arianna in August 2009, their lives have been transformed as well. They’re now the parents of a 4 1/2-year-old preschooler who loves Dora the Explorer, visits to the Long Beach aquarium and dinners out at The Red Onion. But it hasn’t been an easy journey for the family, which was profiled last March in a front-page Daily Breeze story.
After Advertisement the adoption was complete but before they left the country, the Spiglanins learned their baby girl’s complicated medical history had apparently been concealed by the facilitator who assisted them. Lauren Spiglanin said they initially were told that Arianna was born a month premature and that her birth mother had died of a brain aneurysm. But there was more to the story. She said the facilitator waited until their last night to leave an envelope at the hotel. Inside were medical records indicating the birth mother’s placenta had become detached, affecting Arianna’s supply of oxygen. The papers said the baby – the couple later learned she was born more than two months’ premature – had heavy asphyxia and acute breath insufficiency. “Basically,” her mother explained, “they’re saying that it’s cerebral palsy.” A pediatrician they visited after bringing Arianna home told them her condition was caused by a midbrain injury – one requiring countless doctors’ visits and therapy sessions to help their little girl learn sit up on her own, strengthen her abdominal and neck muscles and, they hope, eventually talk more clearly and walk. They’re now working to achieve the latter goal – getting Arianna How to help Anyone wanting to contribute toward the Nork orphanage playground project can do so through the Paros Foundation. The website is http://bit.ly/10j8PrS/. out of her purple walker – by the end of the year, Spiglanin said. “Hopefully, by November we can burn the thing,” she joked. “The main thing is just strengthening her spine and her neck.” In a little over a year, Arianna has made strides in her physical development, her mother said.
In March 2012, she was proud her little girl could briefly sit unassisted. Now, Spiglanin challenges her to do that – she can go for as long as six to seven minutes, she said – and also lift her head up on her own. “She can maneuver herself off of a chair,” she said. “She’s fallen off her bed. It’s like she thinks she can get up and walk on her own.” And Arianna doesn’t like being stuck in the stroller, which is an Work continues on the new playground being built at the Armenian orphanage from which the Spiglanins adopted Arianna. (Submitted photo) indication that she wants to do more for herself. Frustration can come in the form of temper tantrums. And although Arianna says just a few words clearly, she talks and babbles often. Thanks to Dora the Explorer and her travel adventures, the couple recently “did the happy dance” when Arianna added the word backpack to her vocabulary, her mother said.
At Valmonte Early Learning Academy in Palos Verdes Estates, the preschool Arianna attends from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, she receives physical, occupational and speech therapy. “They have my blessing,” Spiglanin said. “Work her hard.” And school has also helped Arianna make friends, said Coryanne Sennett, who works as a substitute class Preschooler Arianna Spiglanin with her mother Lauren Spiglanin. Lauren and her husband Tom adopted Arianna from an Armenian orphanage. (Steve McCrank / Staff Photographer) aide at the preschool and also serves as the girl’s caretaker, bringing Arianna home from school when her parents are working. “I just had an almost immediate connection with Ari,” said Sennett, 24. “The other kids love her. She’s a little flirt.” And the help she gets at school comes on top of weekly speech and physical therapy sessions at Torrance Memorial Medical Center and visits to Lotus Wellness Center in Orange. There, Mala Moosad, an acupuncturist and registered nurse who specializes in alternative medicine, said she focuses on stimulating acupuncture points on Arianna’s back – a technique meant to evoke a response from her brain and send signals to the nervous system. “We do something called energy balancing, kind of like reprograming the brain,” said Moosad, a doctor in her native India. “She started improving pretty fast. She’s doing much better … Ari is a sweet girl. I’m hoping that she will walk and talk.” In fact, it was Moosad who told Spiglanin that she believes her little girl will be able to walk by her 5th birthday, which will come on Nov. 28. In the meantime, they’ll continue to see Moosad, whom Arianna apparently enjoys visiting. “When I do the treatment on her back,” Moosad said, “she doesn’t want to get up from the table.” Spiglanin credits the “combinations of therapies” Arianna has been receiving with helping her development. And had it not been for her accepting a full-time job as the store manager of Torrance’s Remedy Pharm – a compounding pharmacy on Hawthorne Boulevard that offers homeopathic and eco-friendly products, nutritional services and more, including intuitive readings – she would have never found the center in Orange, she said. Spiglanin was referred to Moosad by the Remedy Pharm’s owner, Nilesh Bhakta.
They make the drive every Friday, she said, adding one more appointment to Arianna’s already busy schedule. But come October or maybe May 2014, they’re hoping to get a vacation of sorts. Spiglanin, Arianna and Sennett are planning a trip to Armenia to visit the orphanage and see the new playground built with the support of the Paros Foundation. The nonprofit based in Berkeley works to raise awareness about the Armenian culture and partners with groups in the country involved in the arts, children and people with disabilities. The foundation sent volunteers from the United States to the orphanage to help with the project, cutting down on labor costs. It’s now complete, although Spiglanin said she’s hoping for some finishing touches, such as more flowers. Last year, taking Arianna back to Armenia wasn’t even in the plans; among her mother’s worries was how her daughter would get around on cobblestone streets with her walker. But now she’s ready and believes her little girl is, too. Said Spiglanin: “I’m anxious to go and I want to see the progress. I think Ari will be up to it.” http://www.armenianlife.com/2013/06/27/arianna-rising/