Dr. Cyril Ramer is the founder of a nonprofit group called Bridges of Understanding and, among other things, helped collect about 8 tons of medical supplies and formula for needy children in Russia. It was on one of her humanitarian missions to a remote village in Sakhalin, an island north of Korea and south of Siberia that she first saw Maksim Maksimovich Maksimov in an orphanage.
"He had the most severe cleft lip and cleft palate I had ever seen," she said of the blond-haired, blue-eyed boy. "It left his face open from his nose to his lower lip. He was fed from a dropper. He had respiratory infections. They had no antibiotics." So she took him home. Back in the States, she convinced colleagues to donate their time in surgery to work on him. She moved him into her home in the San Francisco bay area.
All that was fifteen years ago, when Ramer was 56 years old. Now, Max is a ninth-grader in high school and she is 71. And now, after years of hard work, huge costs, and tons of paperwork, she is about to become, officially, his mother. The adoption paperwork is in his home town, with approval to come any day now. Of course, in the big picture, that doesn't really matter -- she's been his mom all along.