Fate of adopted Ethiopian boy lies in a FedEx box on its way from a remote African village
STRATHAM - Behaylu Barry's fate lies in a FedEx box on its way from a remote African village to the Massachusetts Red Cross.
A native Ethiopian, 12-year-old Behaylu and his adoptive family in Stratham are hoping for a miracle after he was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia three weeks ago.
Behaylu needs a life-saving bone marrow transplant, and he's counting on one of his five siblings back in Ethiopia to be a match. "That would be cool," Behaylu said of the possibility of finding a donor within his birth family and seeing one of the siblings he left behind when he was adopted by Aidan and Midori Barry in 2007 at age 6.
Behaylu's three Ethiopian brothers and two sisters provided saliva samples last Friday. The DNA from the samples will be analyzed and hopefully result in a match for Behaylu, a rising star on the soccer field who's been sidelined by a disease in which the bone marrow fails to produce enough blood cells.
The disease is rare, affecting an estimated 600 to 900 people in the United States each year, according to the Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation.
The diagnosis came just after Behaylu, an avid soccer player, who turns 13 on March 28, was selected for an elite team at Seacoast United Soccer Club in Hampton. Symptoms began last month with nose bleeds, chest pain and difficulty breathing. Hospitalized at Boston Children's Hospital after his diagnosis, Behaylu is now back home and is receiving weekly blood transfusions.
"Hopefully, we'll know in a couple of weeks if we have a match," Aidan said.While the recovery from a bone marrow transplant could take six months to a year, it's the only hope for a cure, he said. Doctors have told the Barrys that there's a 25 percent chance that a sibling will be a match.
Behaylu has returned to classes at Cooperative Middle School in Stratham, but he's had to limit his activity.
"Gym class is kind of hard," he said.
The Barrys have already contacted a doctor in Ethiopia who has agreed to help with passports, exit visas and other steps that may need to be taken to bring a sibling to the United States.
"I'm just really appreciative of what everybody is doing," said Midori, his adoptive mother.
The Barrys have provided a loving home for the young boy, the middle child in an African family that relinquished him because of brutal poverty and hunger.Four years ago, after Behaylu expressed concern about their well-being, the Barrys set out on a mission to find his birth family. It took about two years. In 2012, the Barrys traveled to Ethiopia. Behaylu was greeted with a hero's welcome when he arrived in the village and met up with his family.
"It really comforted a lot of his lonely feelings," Aidan said.
The Barrys now help Behaylu's siblings by providing the resources they need to attend private school and have proper clothing and health care.
Meanwhile, the Stratham-based Annie's Angels Memorial Fund has stepped forward to help. Bill Dagiau, founder and president, said the organization is planning events that include a school dance, birthday party and comedy night. They're also planning a fundraiser at Seacoast United Soccer Club and a blood drive and bone marrow donor registration.
For more information, visitwww.anniesangels.net or the organization's Facebook page, Annie's Angels Memorial Fund. Donations to the "Spirit of Behaylu" can also be made on the website.