ARLINGTON (CBS) – There is no place like home for an Arlington family stuck in China after a scare at the U.S. Consulate General’s Immigrant Visa Unit in Guangzhou. “We heard that it was one of these white powder scares and then they told us that the Consulate was closed,” Tracy Antonelli said at her home in Arlington.
Antonelli and her husband Patrick Mooty were there adopting their second child, 2 ½ year old Rosalie. “There was chatter among the other families that if it was anthrax we could be here for months,” Patrick said. “Nobody wanted anybody to go into a building that wasn’t safe to go into. We all just kept asking why there wasn’t a backup plan,” Tracy added.
The couple had gone to the Consulate last Monday and was told to come back on Tuesday. Shortly after they left, they found out about a suspicious envelope with a white powder that shut the office down. For the next three days, they waited with no answers. “So, we would get an email that said still closed it is going to open but we don’t know when,” she explained.
Thursday, they got a break. “I happened to be sitting by the computer and an email came and said for people who didn’t have interviews you need to be at the consulate in an hour and so we’d already had ours,” she said. “It was a few hours later that they sent out a final email that said okay all of the people that were interviewed on Monday your visas are going to be ready tomorrow (Friday).”
By then, the couple had been in China two and a half weeks. Their urgency had to do with medical care. “I was with two children who needed to come home and be seen at Children’s Hospital,” Tracy said. “The medical care was the critical issue,” Patrick added.
Emmiline, whom the couple adopted in January of 2012, and Rosalie both have thalassemia, a blood condition that can require transfusions. Rosie had an appointment scheduled at Boston Children’s Hospital last Thursday. Emmy had one this week. But their children weren’t the only ones where time was of the essence. “I actually heard a story of one mother who said that her daughter’s lips were blue from her heart condition and she needed to get her home to the U.S. to be evaluated,” Tracy recalled.
There were also families getting into financial difficultly. “We noticed there were some families who’d also been stranded who posted that they needed help from their churches and their congregations,” Patrick said.
As the investigation continues in China into what caused the Consulate to close, Tracy and Patrick were incredibly grateful to arrive back home in Arlington Saturday night. “I have never been so happy to have piles of laundry and be jetlagged and be sick. I’m still just so happy to be home,” Tracy said.
The couple wanted to parent children with thalassemia all along. Tracy has one form of it. The two girls have another. “I remember seeing a picture of her (Emmy) and under her picture it said thalassemia. I mean she was beautiful and lovely, but really the reason we wanted to adopt her was because she had thalassemia.” A study done in the region where her older daughter was born stresses the importance of these children getting better medical care. “In the study, 80% of the children by the age of five with thalassemia had died and by the age of 12 there were none left,” she said. An unreliable blood supply and other conditions like access to medication, she said, contribute to that.
Now at home in Arlington, she knows her girls will have a much different life. “They can live a normal life span and have a largely typical life,” she said.