For the Love of Jamie
Vivian Spiegelman

For the Love of Jamie

Spaghetti-Os slide down Jamie Moore's chin and onto his paper-towel bib as he strains away from mom and spoon to get a better look at the television. Jamie is a discerning -- if constant -- viewer, preferring Barney to the Teletubbies.

Like many parents, Cheryl Moore is sick of Barney, but unlike most kids, Jamie will probably never outgrow the high-pitched purple dinosaur.

At 5, Jamie is unable to talk or walk, can't feed himself and isn't potty-trained. He can't sit up on his own, so his mother props the boy in a miniature Winnie-the-Pooh-upholstered recliner. The recliner is covered with a plaid blanket, the original covering practically disintegrated from so much use. Jamie's as attached to mom as he is to Barney, and when Cheryl leaves the room he lets out a wail that gets increasingly louder until she returns. The doctors say he will never function intellectually much above the average 2-year-old.

Jamie's diagnosis is a severe, rare birth defect called schizencephaly, a condition where the brain does not grow correctly during the first trimester of pregnancy. In Jamie's case, the problem is bilateral, on both sides of the brain, and there is a large area where his brain did not grow at all -- the part of the organ that contributes to motor skills and IQ, among other things.

Worse still, Jamie was also diagnosed with hydrocephalus, or water on the brain, in which the body does not adequately absorb the fluid normally created in the skull. This put pressure on the parts of the brain that he did have, causing further complications.

"Cheryl, he can't make a brain," was how the radiologist explained it, Moore recalls, spooning tomato sauce off Jamie's face on a recent Sunday afternoon, a rare, relaxed day at home for the Moores.

They live in Wittman, a dusty spot on the map 50 miles west of Phoenix on Highway 60 toward Wickenburg, in a house you can't find without following Cheryl's red SUV along unmarked paths. Cheryl and her then-husband Dennis built the place themselves many years back, decorated the wood-paneled walls with John Wayne art and powered the place with solar.

That was long before Jamie was born, before they had a child who required frequent trips to the emergency room and daily treks to physical therapy, back when all they had were three healthy kids -- before Cheryl had to quit her job to take care of Jamie, before Dennis couldn't take the pressure of a sick child and left, before their son Jacob dropped out of high school and got into crystal meth and pot and booze and his sister Colleen looked like she wasn't far behind.

That was back when things were going so well for Cheryl and Dennis Moore that they decided to take the money she'd gotten in a car accident settlement and invest it in a child -- a foreign adoption.

James Patrick Moore's original name was Han Jin Ho. He was born in Korea in April 1996 and turned over to Eastern Child Welfare Services (now Eastern Social Welfare Services), a Korean adoption agency that finds babies for Dillon Southwest, an agency here in Arizona, which gave him to the Moores.

The Moores had requested a healthy child.

This is a cautionary tale for anyone considering adoption, particularly foreign adoption. Cheryl Moore is no neophyte. At the time she started adoption proceedings, she had two decades of experience in the medical field; she ran an accounting department at Phoenix Memorial Hospital. She made it clear that she was not looking to care for a special-needs child. She requested medical records.

But even this savvy woman did not realize that potentially crucial medical information about the child she would ultimately adopt could so easily be withheld.

Plenty of biological mothers are surprised -- either during prenatal testing or after birth -- to find that their children have severe disabilities. And there are people out there who knowingly adopt or offer foster care to profoundly disabled children.

But few find themselves in the situation Cheryl and Dennis Moore did in January 1997, when the baby they'd called their own for four months was diagnosed a permanent 2-year-old.

The adoption wasn't final. The Moores simply could have dropped Jamie at Dillon Southwest's doorstep.

But they didn't. Almost six years later, Jamie is a cheerful kid who loves his Woody doll from Toy Story and has to be propped up to watch TV.

Cheryl and Dennis are divorced. Dennis almost never sees the kids. Jacob's just back from rehab. Cheryl, who gave up the dream job she worked 20 years to get, found a more accommodating -- if less ambitious -- position and devotes herself to chauffeuring and caring for Jamie and fighting to get him the most advanced therapies and state-of-the-art equipment.

And in her spare free moments, Cheryl Moore continues to wonder just how much the Koreans -- and maybe even the Americans -- knew about Jamie's condition before she was shown his snapshot and agreed to take the seemingly healthy little boy home.

More than 100,000 children are adopted each year in the United States. An increasing number -- more than 16,000 in fiscal year 1999, the most recent government figure available -- come from foreign countries.

As the number of overseas adoptions increases, so does the demand for specialized health care. A cottage industry of pediatric specialists -- one New York pediatrician, Jane Aronson, even calls herself the Orphan Doctor -- has popped up, offering to treat parasites and other unusual medical conditions not commonly found in American babies, as well as behavior disorders.

In recent years, Chinese baby girls and orphans from the former Soviet Union have become popular choices. But long before those children were in vogue, Americans were adopting babies from South Korea. That continues; South Korea ranked third behind China and the former USSR in foreign adoptions in 1999.

Historically, a Korean baby has been a good choice, particularly if he or she comes from Eastern Social Welfare Services, a well-established, nonprofit Christian orphanage in Seoul, a city with sophisticated medical facilities. Eastern prides itself on the fact that it houses infants who are to be adopted with a foster family until the babies can be sent to their new families in the United States.

And Korean babies have been known to have fewer medical problems than, say, the Eastern European kids who are known for developmental delays from isolation in orphanages, or infants from less-developed countries where illness is common.

That assumes, of course, that the adoption agency shares all pertinent medical information -- a long-standing concern in the adoption community. The U.S. State Department's international adoption regulations are now being reviewed, and one sticking point is what sort of requirements the agencies will have to meet to provide complete medical records on children proposed for adoption.

Here in Arizona, Department of Economic Security guidelines make it clear that adoption agencies are required to provide medical histories of the children.

Concern over a prospective adoptee's health is so great that many people request a videotape of the child, and send that along with medical records provided by the agency to pediatricians trained to make preliminary diagnoses regarding the child's health. Cheryl and Dennis Moore did not do that, but in Jamie's case, it wouldn't have mattered. All the Moores initially received, via Dillon Southwest, was a snapshot of an apparently healthy baby and a birth report showing him to be in excellent health. They were told that the baby had a little diarrhea, but that is so common it was brushed off as insignificant.

The Moores were not told that Jamie's diarrhea was so severe he had been hospitalized at Eastern's clinic for almost two weeks, or that while his height was increasing, he was not gaining weight. No one mentioned that Jamie's head was also growing far more rapidly than the rest of him -- a warning sign of hydrocephalus or another serious malady.

Eastern knew all of this, all along. It did not pass the information on to Dillon Southwest, so the Moores were not told. What is unclear is whether Eastern and Dillon were aware of arguably the most vital piece of information: an ultrasound performed during the mother's final days of pregnancy that showed the possibility of hydrocephalus -- Jamie's ultimate diagnosis.

But what is known -- and it's at the heart of a lawsuit the Moores eventually filed against the adoption agencies -- is that Dillon Southwest did not insist that Eastern release all available medical records. Dillon's employees have repeatedly stated that they trusted Eastern to turn over whatever records were deemed pertinent. Earlier this year, a judge ruled that as the intermediary between Eastern and the Moores, Dillon is responsible for Eastern's actions -- in this case, the failure to produce medical records.

But Dillon's employees have said they've continued to rely on Eastern to decide which records need to be turned over in other adoption cases.

The Joint Council on International Children's Services, an affiliation of international adoption agencies, requires members to: "Seek to provide as complete, accurate and objective information as possible about children who need adoption so that families can make informed decisions about the appropriateness of a particular placement. Divulge all information which is obtained to prospective parents. Provide written information which will include, whenever possible, medical, social, psychological, developmental and legal information."

Dillon Southwest is a member.

Dillon and its employees have declined to comment, through their attorney, Charles Hover, who explained that his clients couldn't talk because of pending litigation. Eastern's attorney, Don Peters, did speak on a limited basis. Hundreds of pages of legal filings, medical records, depositions and paperwork created during Jamie Moore's adoption were reviewed in preparing this story.

If a judge or jury finds that Eastern was negligent in providing medical records, Dillon Southwest could lose its license and Jamie's family could get some much-needed cash to put toward his lifelong care.

But the Moores won't ever get their old life back.

"I pretty much lost my entire life," Cheryl admits. "Honestly, if I'd known what would happen, I would not have taken James. I would not have taken James if I had known half of what was in his medical records before he got here. I wouldn't have. I'm not stupid. I would have taken them to a pediatrician and he would have said no!"

Cheryl Ann Smith and Dennis Moore met in a Phoenix nightclub in 1980, and were married in Las Vegas three months later. Almost immediately, Dennis' 8-year-old son, Jeffrey, came to live with them. Jeffrey did drugs, was a habitual runaway, and was eventually diagnosed a sociopath; the Moores committed him to psychiatric hospitals on several occasions during the time he lived with them.

So life together was challenging from the start for the Moores, who are both from working-class families.

Dennis held a series of jobs over the years, usually as a truck driver, as Cheryl was moving through the ranks at Phoenix Memorial Hospital. They had two children of their own, Jacob and Colleen, and raised them in the house they built from the ground up in Wittman -- one of the few places they could afford to buy land.

The Moores worked hard, and by the time Colleen was 10, Cheryl was ready for another child. Jacob was 14, and Jeffrey, 23, was finally out of the house. Cheryl thought a baby girl would round out the family nicely. She was making a good salary, supervising the patient accounting department at Phoenix Memorial. She had sick time, vacation time, good benefits, on-site day care at work.

Then Cheryl got $15,000 in a car accident settlement in which she sustained minor back injuries. "We were just real comfortable," she recalls. Jacob had some learning problems, but otherwise the family was happy and healthy. Colleen, a slender girl with brown eyes who belonged to the Brownies and liked baton twirling, was excited about having a baby sister. Jacob thought it was cool.

It took Cheryl a while to convince Dennis to adopt.

"At first, I wasn't too crazy about adopting a child, period, at that time in our life, but she talked me into it," Dennis recalls. Cheryl was 39 at the time and had had her tubes tied after Colleen was born. And while she could have had the procedure reversed, she knew it could be tough to get pregnant, so adoption seemed like an easier, safer option. Cheryl quickly dismissed the idea of adopting a U.S.-born child. She'd seen too many of those TV newsmagazine shows where a birth mother swoops in at the last moment and wants to keep the baby.

She called several agencies that handled foreign adoptions, and chose Dillon Southwest because "they were basically the quickest you could get a child."

Based in Scottsdale, Dillon Southwest handles only Korean adoptions, partnering with Eastern in Korea. Cheryl was impressed with her initial meetings with the agency representatives, in September 1995. The adoption would cost less than $10,000, and Dillon told her she could have a seven- or eight-month-old baby in as few as six months, once she was approved to adopt.

So Cheryl and Dennis were fingerprinted, interviewed, investigated and physically examined, and Dennis had to promise to start working toward his GED, since adoptive parents were required to have at least a high school degree. On July 8, the Moores were certified to adopt a child.

Two days later, the agency called to say there was a match. The Moores took off work to meet with Marsha Usdane, one of Dillon's directors.

Cheryl was surprised to hear that the baby was a boy. She'd checked "either" on the application, but thought she'd made her preference clear. Usdane told them it would be another three to nine months before a girl became available, so after thinking it over for a day, the Moores signed the papers for a two-month-old boy.

He looked beautiful in the snapshot Usdane showed them. Aside from a little diarrhea -- common for Korean babies who are often lactose-intolerant and don't do well on formula, away from mothers who can breast-feed -- he was healthy, the Moores were told.

And that was important. Not just to Cheryl and Dennis, who had requested a healthy baby on their application, but also to Dillon Southwest. Dillon social worker Kerri Burton, who interviewed the Moores at their home before recommending certification, wrote, "We selected the Moores for this baby because since they were an older couple with older children and had difficulty with oldest son and seemed at risk for difficulty with Jacob as he entered teens, this baby had no risk factors health wise based on info in his paperwork."

The folks at Dillon went out of their way, Cheryl recalls, to assure her that her baby wouldn't be sick. No baby with a fever or even a sniffle would be sent over from Korea, she says she was told. "That made me feel really good and really secure about what was going on."

Cheryl and Colleen began decorating a nursery.

The Moore family's life story is pretty straightforward. Not so with the baby they would adopt.

A seven-and-a-half-pound baby boy was born April 30, 1996, at the Kim Chul Ho Obstetrical Clinic in Inchon, Kyunggi-do.

A social history taken by Eastern Child Welfare Services lists the mother, Han Hee Kyung, as 23 and single. She's identified as a round-faced, dark-skinned factory worker with a cheerful, open-minded disposition who likes to read, although she was a high school dropout.

The baby is listed as the healthy product of a spontaneous vaginal delivery after a full-term pregnancy.

But the paperwork Cheryl Moore's attorney, Richard Plattner, got when he hired an investigator to go to Han Hee Kyung's doctor's office tells a different story.

The birth mother told Dr. Kim Chul Ho that she dropped out of the fifth grade, not high school. Much more significant are the results of an ultrasound the doctor performed six days before the birth. In part, the diagnosis reads, "pregnancy, near term with hydrocephalus."

Eastern's attorney, Don Peters, says his client hadn't seen the ultrasound report until Plattner showed it to them.

"They don't routinely get medical records on birth parents," Peters says of his client. And he points out that days later, the same doctor certified the baby as healthy on his birth certificate -- a document Eastern received and eventually shared with Dillon.

But what Eastern did know -- it happened while the baby was in its care, and is documented in its own records -- is that the boy did not gain any weight during his first two months, although his head did grow considerably. Eastern took custody of the child when he was just one day old. A social worker named him Han Jin Ho -- Han for his mother, and Jin Ho, which means "bright jewel."

Han Jin Ho lived with a foster family but at one point was hospitalized for almost two weeks with a fever and diarrhea.

Peters acknowledges that those records weren't sent to Dillon.

"The evidence will indicate that Dillon did not get all of the medical records from Eastern," he says, simply because Dillon didn't ask for them. "They kind of left it up to Eastern to decide what to send."

Eastern's social history of the child, dated May 31, 1996, lists Han Jin Ho's growth as "slow," even though he had not gained any weight. And under a section about any history of illness, it says "none" -- even though the baby had been treated two days earlier for a high fever. That's the record Dillon Southwest shared with the Moores, even though Han Jin Ho would continue to be ill and grow slowly -- except for his head -- in the three months that would pass before he was put on a plane for Los Angeles.

The Moores could not afford to fly to Korea to pick up their baby -- few people choose that option -- so Cheryl and Colleen flew to Los Angeles to meet the plane from Seoul.

Cheryl recalls waiting at LAX that morning in September 1996 and learning that one of the babies had stayed behind with a fever. She was relieved to hear it wasn't her baby, who soon came off the plane in the arms of a Korean serviceman trained to transport children. Jamie, as the family called the boy they'd eventually name James Patrick Moore, was lethargic and warm. Cheryl figured it was the long plane ride.

She changed him into American clothes and "the most expensive diapers in the entire world," she says. There'd been a huge shower at work. "Everything you could possibly want for a baby, I had it."

And now her friends at Phoenix Memorial were waiting to meet little Jamie, so Cheryl and Colleen rushed to feed and diaper him and catch the plane to Phoenix, where a party was planned in her office. Dennis was waiting there, too.

Jamie was still warm, and threw up on the plane. They got him to Phoenix Memorial, but instead of going to a party, they went to the emergency room where the baby was diagnosed as dehydrated, with pneumonia and a temperature of 103. Jamie wasn't even on the Moores' insurance plan yet, so her friends got him signed up as Cheryl rushed the baby across town to Phoenix Children's Hospital. Jamie's condition was too severe for a normal hospital that did not specialize in treating children.

By now it was 2 a.m. the next day, and Cheryl was hysterical. Her other kids had never had any health problems, and here, suddenly, was this tiny baby she'd never seen -- and he needed a spinal tap. And she couldn't get in touch with anyone from Dillon Southwest.

"I'm just totally losing it, I'm just crying and crying and crying and just holding him," she recalls.

Jamie was in the hospital for four days. He had a strange bacteria and wouldn't eat. The longest he slept at a time was an hour and a half. He had arrived with an odd, shaved spot on his head that Cheryl was later told was a place where a boil had been removed.

The months that followed held little sleep for the Moore family and a lot of diagnoses for Jamie.

Sitting in her living room five years later, Cheryl points to a spot on the carpet where the infant once slept for three and a half hours -- a milestone. The doctors told her to feed him formula that cost $38 a can (more than three times the price of the normal stuff). She barely made it to work, and when she did, she was always in the day-care center, looking after Jamie. The other kids noticed how much of Cheryl's time the baby consumed. Jacob started getting into trouble. Dennis was frustrated. This wasn't what any of them had bargained for.

"It pretty much started to separate the family, because Jamie needed so much attention that we couldn't give that much attention to our children," Dennis recalls. He was feeling neglected by Cheryl, too.

And still, no one could figure out what was wrong with Jamie. In a home visit shortly after the adoption, Dillon's social worker mentioned that the baby was a "light sleeper." Jamie was rolling over and smiling -- hitting some developmental marks, albeit late -- but couldn't do other things at all, like hold up his head. Cheryl suspected something was really wrong, but no one could tell her what it was. She says she continued to ask Dillon to get every possible medical record Eastern had for Jamie.

Meanwhile, Jamie's head continued to grow more quickly than the rest of him. Someone told Cheryl that Asians have large heads (not true) and finally, in January -- four months after Jamie had come to live with the Moores -- a doctor friend at work looked at the baby and immediately suggested Cheryl get him a CT scan.

That's the good-and-bad thing about working at a hospital, Cheryl muses. She got to sit in on all of Jamie's tests. During the CT scan, she recalls, "All of the sudden, the tech started to freak, [yelling] 'Get her out of here!'"

Eventually, she did look. Jamie's brain was squished to the size of a walnut, and there were gaps in what was there. Cheryl had heard of hydrocephalus, but not schizencephaly, a condition so rare the radiologist had never seen it.

Jamie was admitted to Phoenix Children's Hospital again, and a shunt was put into his head to drain the excess fluid smashing his brain.

By the time the CT scan was performed, Jamie's condition had progressed to the point where he had almost no mobility on his left side. Cheryl wonders how much more of Jamie's brain could have been saved if the diagnosis had been made earlier. The doctors tell her they'll never know.

And there's no telling if that diagnosis would have been made, even if the American doctors had had the benefit of knowing about Jamie's poor weight gain, fevers and hospitalization early on.

But one thing is certain: The Moores would not have adopted Jamie, they say, if they had had that information prior to his arrival in the U.S.

A month after Jamie's diagnosis -- in February 1997, six months after Jamie had come to America -- Dillon officials met with the Moores and handed them the boy's medical records, minus the ultrasound, from Eastern. There was talk about what would happen to Jamie. The Moores could still opt out of the adoption, in which case Jamie would become Dillon's responsibility.

There were tears shed on both sides at that meeting, and the Moores say they were told how lucky Jamie was to have made it to the States, that in Korea babies with his diagnosis didn't fare nearly as well.

Dennis remembers being told that in Korea, Jamie would have been put on a shelf, that no one would have loved him or held him. "They just leave them there and they die."

Cheryl wonders if she got Jamie so quickly -- and at just four months old -- because the Koreans were eager to get rid of him before anyone realized what was wrong. There is no medical proof, but she believes that the shaved spot on his head was not from the removal of a boil, but perhaps from a shunt used to remove fluid from his brain, since the hydrocephalus had been picked up at the time of the ultrasound, before Jamie's birth.

In any case, the Moores made a decision many wouldn't. They chose to keep Jamie.

Cheryl had bonded with the baby, after their constant time together. She didn't want to imagine his fate -- most likely foster care -- without her.

"I mean, can you look at this little boy's face and hold him and look at him and go through everything we've already gone through and then say, 'Here, somebody else.' How would I live with myself? How could I go through the rest of my life without wondering, what if something were to happen to him?"

Dennis agreed. You don't just give a child back, he says. "I told them, it's not like a used car."

The adoption was finalized in June 1997.

Jamie Moore has one of those crazy slow baby smiles that starts at the corners of his lips and spreads all over his face until everyone in the room is smiling, too. He sits in a high chair on a recent school day afternoon, as Karen Beason, his caregiver, aims applesauce toward his mouth.

In between spoonfuls, Courtney, another 5-year-old, scoots close to read Jamie a Barney book. "The kids at this age, they don't see any difference," says Beason, who takes care of several children with varying degrees of problems -- from Courtney, who has none, to Jamie, to kids with "tubes coming in and out of them."

Beason and her husband, Steve, love all the kids equally. They have a granddaughter with Down syndrome, and two years ago Karen quit her job as a preschool teacher to do this work out of her home; she's certified by the state. Jamie was her first client.

When they met, Jamie was at day care at Phoenix Memorial, and at 3 he was still in the infant/toddler room. Kids were crawling all over him, leaning on him to learn how to walk, Karen says. She was horrified. Now Jamie is in kindergarten in public school with a full-time aide paid for by the state. He comes to the Beasons' house several mornings and afternoons a week.

"He loves to watch me cook. He loves scrambled eggs and hamburgers and spaghetti," Karen says. And he loves his mom, she adds -- screams and cries when she leaves, although he's okay a little while later.

"Sometimes all it takes is turning on the TV, but I don't tell her that," Karen says, laughing.

Karen's never met Dennis Moore, which bothers her. She knows the situation with Jamie has been hard on the kids. "They blame everything on him," she says. "Or maybe they blame Cheryl, that's the way to put it."

The kids know better than to say so. "Before? Anybody who was handicapped or anything, I was making fun of them. Then I learned that you can't, that you can't just do that," Jacob says.

Colleen, 15, and Jacob, 19, are best friends. They had always hung out, but after Jamie, they got even closer. Without being asked, Colleen brings her mother a box of Kleenex when Cheryl cries, telling Jamie's story, and the kids sit quietly on the other side of the living room, listening.

Before Jamie, Cheryl was all over their lives. They went to water parks and spent weekends in Laughlin and Disneyland. Colleen remembers a family trip to Hawaii.

Then Jamie arrived. "She was spending more time with James than she was with me and Colleen," Jacob says. "I was taking advantage. No one was paying attention."

He started getting drunk, doing crystal meth, going to parties. The kids went to school in Phoenix and stayed at their grandmother's house. Jacob fought a lot with his father. They don't speak -- even now that Jacob's out of rehab, back in high school and hoping to be a police officer someday.

"I talk to him sometimes," Colleen says. Very rarely, Cheryl adds.

"I don't see her very often, not as much as I'd like to. . . . She swears at me on the phone and tells me I'm not her father," Dennis says. He thinks it will take years to mend the relationship. And he almost never sees Jamie. That's because Dennis -- who works security at Maricopa County Medical Center -- gets Tuesdays and Wednesdays off, and Jamie's in school and therapy, he says.

"I don't want to interfere with his treatments. And it's really hard for me to see him, because I miss him so much still, and it's just hard to be away from him and it's hard when I do see him, it's just really hard on me. And I know it's really hard on him, too. It's just unbearable."

His relationship with Cheryl is certainly done for good. Having Jamie put a lot of pressure on them, he says. They started arguing all the time. And Cheryl didn't have any time for him, either.

"We just kind of drifted apart . . . and I got to where I was doing my own thing because she'd get home real late at night or she'd sleep at her mother's so she could take Jamie to therapy, so I'd find things to occupy myself."

Dennis says he got into acting. "This is what I did to occupy my time. Of course, Cheryl, she thought I was running around on her. It was hard on her, too. It's been really hard on her. I have to give her a lot of credit. Even though we don't see eye to eye and we can't really stand each other anymore, I give her a heck of a lot of credit. Jamie is just what she needs, because she won't give up. There's just a special bonding there between James and Cheryl, and it's really great. Unfortunately, it's something she has to deal with for the rest of her life."

The divorce was recently finalized. Dennis is now in a new relationship. And Cheryl sits on the living room floor and weeps.

"It's really hard for me," she says, "because I feel like I might have made some really bad choices in my life."

Cheryl Moore rises long before dawn each weekday morning, making it out of the house by 5:30. She drops Colleen at a friend's house so she can finish dressing and catch a ride to Wickenburg High School. Then Cheryl drives the 50 miles to Phoenix and leaves Jamie at her mom's or Karen Beason's, where he eats breakfast and boards the bus for public school.

Then she heads to work -- she manages a medical practice for a sole practitioner, an easier, if less rewarding, job than overseeing a staff of 45, like she did at Phoenix Memorial. She doesn't take a lunch break, and leaves work at 5:30 to fetch Jamie, then Colleen. They're home by 7:30.

"It's usually 9 or 9:30 before I sit down," Cheryl says. "People go, 'How do you do it?' Well, you just do it because you don't have any choice."

Weekdays are tough on Jamie, who has hours of therapy on top of school, so Cheryl lets him goof around on the weekends, watching his favorite movie, Toy Story, over and over.

As it does so often, talk turns to Jamie's taste in television. Along with Barney, he only likes certain Disney movies and the Discovery Channel, Cheryl says.

"And Unsolved Mysteries," Jacob chimes in. "This kid will watch Unsolved Mysteries. And any kind of sci-fi. You know, this kid, if he watches Scream? Nothing to it. Laughs at it. He knows that everything is fake."

Cheryl's face goes pale. "I don't let him watch that. When did he watch that, Jacob? That's probably the night he stayed up all night screaming," she says.

"No, no, it was during the day," Jacob says. And wait -- it wasn't Scream. "It was Scary Movie. More funny than scary."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," mom says, picking up the banter.

Jacob: "It's a comedy."

Cheryl: "Try to cover it now . . ."

It's a rare moment of normalcy, family members giggling and teasing. Just recently, Cheryl's been trying to get her life back to normal. She went on a date -- just one, she doesn't want to rush anything. Jacob and Colleen do watch Jamie occasionally, Cheryl says, but she knows it's hard work, so she doesn't ask them to do it too often. He requires constant attention and most likely always will.

Jamie's therapy has paid off, she insists; perhaps the biggest difference has come from the dozens of botox injections Jamie gets every several months. Just as the botulism smoothes wrinkles in the foreheads of crinkly socialites, it relaxes Jamie's clenched fists and allows him better mobility. He started horse therapy recently, as well.

But even with the expensive equipment Cheryl finally got the government to pay for, Jamie isn't close to walking. He doesn't crawl.

Cheryl insists he's far more intelligent than his 2-year-old diagnosis.

"We can tell him when we're driving home that we're going to go to McDonald's, and if I pass McDonald's, he throws a fit. Does that tell you anything?"

Only that Jamie acts like a typical 2-year-old. And that Cheryl Moore is in for a lifetime of Barney.


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