4-year-old Carley is Newburgh's good news

April 29, 1992|By New York Times News Service

NEWBURGH, N.Y. -- The rabbi sent roses. The bishop offered a Mass of thanksgiving. And almost everyone who comes to the brown brick house on Grand Street a block from the windswept Hudson River brings a toy.

Finally, a child has come to Theresa and Kenneth Orzechowski. After almost 24 years of trying to have children, five miscarriages, and then arranging to adopt a disabled 4-year-old girl last year, only to be told that they were the wrong religion, the couple have realized their dream.

On April 2, they brought home a different 4-year-old girl, also with

handicaps, writing a happy ending to what has been a wrenching and closely followed story in this battered city of few miracles.

The triumph of their perseverance is named Carley. Her parents, epileptic and mentally retarded, were unable to care for her and surrendered her for adoption when she was 10 days old.

She was then placed in a foster home, which she shared with a half-dozen or more other children, a dozen parrots and four pet monkeys.

Besides epilepsy, for which she must take daily doses of Phenobarbitol to ward off seizures, Carley is developmentally delayed, with the motor and language skills of an infant. She was born with a club foot and a growth disorder that has kept her smaller than normal. But the love she has unleashed is large.

"Motherhood, it's wonderful," said the 43-year-old Mrs. Orzechowski, as Carley shadowed her through the apartment. Both walked with a limp. Mrs. Orzechowski was born with multiple defects, including club feet, dislocated hips and a missing leg socket, disabilities that she overcame and that, she said, prepared her to help a child similarly afflicted.

She said that Carley, under the stimulus of constant attention from her parents, already has shown progress. She takes more steps on her own and, hearing her mother encourage her to get up, now echoes the word "up."

She also speaks the name of the family's terrier, "Hobo," and has learned to chew table food after years surviving largely on milk.

"It makes Terry happy and when Terry's happy I'm happy," said Mr. Orzechowski, a 49-year-old factory worker, who still seemed somewhat dazed by the turn of events. "I'm surprised I'm doing this good," he said, "but I guess I am."

He knew he finally had a child, he said, when he walked around in the dark one night and smashed his toe on one of Carley's toys. Was fatherhood what he expected? "More than what I expected," he said.

The other day, he said, he changed his first diaper -- "and the kid clapped."

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