Kailee Makena Wells is a spunky, inquisitive, and energetic 5-year-old. She loves practicing ballet, dressing up as a princess, and playing with Ruby, her favorite doll. She can write her name and has started to read. At first glance, she's a typical kid.
In one enormous way, however, Kailee is remarkably different from other children: She has severe aplastic anemia, a rare blood disease that could end her life.
Kailee was a robust and healthy 1-year-old when Linda and Owen Wells traveled to China's Hunan province to bring their daughter home. They had been married for 15 years, and Owen had helped raise Linda's three children from a previous marriage. With those kids grown and out of the house, the couple wanted a family of their own. "We have a friend who'd adopted a baby from China, and we knew that there were millions of little girls in need of homes," Linda says. While on vacation in Hawaii, renewing their wedding vows, the couple decided to adopt. "We looked at each other and said, 'We can do this,' " Linda recalls. "We were staying in a town called Makena, so that's what we picked for Kailee's middle name."
The Wellses welcomed their new daughter to a luxurious mountain-style house just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. Though both parents worked--Linda as a lawyer and Owen as the owner of a graphic design business--they arranged their schedules so that one of them could be with Kailee most of the time.
The little girl thrived, never coming down with anything more serious than the usual childhood sniffles. But last January, one day after her fifth birthday party, Kailee developed what seemed like a mild flu. She was unusually tired and had a fever. The emergency-room physician, who diagnosed a virus, prescribed fruit juice and Tylenol and sent her home.
The following day, Kailee's fever spiked to 105.6°F, and her worried parents took her to the pediatrician. Again, they were told she had a virus. But the next night, Kailee's nose began to bleed heavily. The bleeding continued for five hours. When her parents took her to the hospital, tests revealed that her red-blood-cell count was far below normal. Kailee was transferred to the intensive care unit, where doctors promptly performed a bone-marrow biopsy.
"When the results came in, the nurse escorted us to a room at the end of a hallway," Linda recalls. "As we were walking there, I knew we were about to get news we didn't want to hear."