San Antonio couple adopts Ukrainian child ahead of Russian invasion

Malnourished special needs boy now in ICU at University Health

SAN ANTONIO – Theron and Kelci Jagge have been at the side of their newly adopted special needs son, four-year-old Ruslan, in the intensive care unit at University Health since they flew back into town last Wednesday.

“We’re really thankful that the progress that he’s made since we’ve been here,” said Ruslan’s adoptive mother. “We’ve started to see some smiles out of him.”

However, if they had not been able to leave Ukraine last week ahead of the Russian invasion, the couple said they don’t know what they would have done.

They said Ruslan was weak, malnourished and very ill when they took him from the orphanage where he’d been since he was eight months old.

His adoptive father said being abandoned at birth is “highly common for special needs kids.”

Given Ruslan’s fragile health, the Jagge family said they were anxious to get him the medical help he needed.

Yet just as they were preparing to catch a flight, they said Ukrainian border guards discovered a problem in their paperwork.

Theron Jagge said they waited hours, making desperate calls in hopes others could convince the guards to change their minds.

“They refused to work with us, refused to listen to reason, so they denied our leave,” Theron Jagge said.

His wife said she pleaded with the guards, “Look at him. He is sick and he is going to die if you make us wait for 30 days.”

“They didn’t care,” she said. “They just kept repeating the same thing over. This is our final decision.”

The Jagge family said the facilitators in the country assisting the U.S. adoption agency they’d used found an attorney who was able to fix the problem. They were able to board a flight to Turkey and eventually, Atlanta and San Antonio.

They said it was one of the many miracles they experienced.

Although they’re relieved to be back in San Antonio, the couple said they worry about everyone who went above and beyond to help them, but who are still in Ukraine as the bombing and shelling continues.

“We’ve already communicated with one of our translators over there who is currently taking shelter in one of their subways,” Theron Jagge said.

Kelci Jagge said she worries about other adoptive parents still in Ukraine waiting to leave with their special needs children.

She said the sad truth is, “A lot of these children are sentenced to die in an institution if they’re not adopted by an American family.”

His wife said they are grateful to agencies like Reese’s Rainbow, a group which advocates for special needs children around the world and Exitus, another group which specializes in fighting human trafficking and helping others safely get out of critical situations.

They said doctors have told them with time, they should be able to see Ruslan make some progress.

“It’s exciting to think that down the road there are some real possibilities of seeing him flourish in a home that has people that care about him, where he’s surrounded by love,” said Theron Jagge. “We just we pray that the Lord would continue to work miracles as He already has.”

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.