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One day, the Lord showed me how little I really knew what was best for my family and me. In the fall of 2003, a friend in Hong Kong sent me an e-mail. His wife is on the board of an organization that brings Chinese orphans to the United States and lines them up with doctors who perform free surgery.

He wrote that an orphan from China named Fu Yang was coming to Medical City Dallas Hospital, where these doctors work. It's five minutes from my home. My friend asked me to take pictures of Fu for a visual record; Fu has Treacher Collins Syndrome, a rare genetic defect that only 1 in 10,000 infants are born with. Fu's ears never fully formed, and he had a cleft palate. He couldn't hear or talk. Also, people with Treacher Collins have very flat cheekbones. It causes the skin around their eyes to droop down and requires years of surgery to restore typical human features.

For a photojournalist, fall is extremely busy because of football season, so when I got the e-mail, my first reaction was, "I just don't have time to do this." But Dinah, my wife and reliable moral compass, said, "He's an orphan. Take an hour out of your time and go help him."

Reluctantly, I went. I found Fu in pre-op. Since he couldn't hear or talk, I wondered how I was going to communicate with him. Actually, we got along from the moment I met him. I just followed him around and took pictures. He was like a regular kid except that he couldn't talk.

This surgery really was his last chance. China didn't help him much beyond giving him food, water, and shelter. We don't know what year he was born. At the orphanage, when kids get to be 10, 11, 12—like Fu—they don't have much of a shot at adoption. Being flown to Dallas for a major operation at no cost was nothing ...

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February 2008

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