While every parent certainly would prefer for their child to be happy, healthy, and “normal,” most still would accept their kids no matter how they turned out. Unfortunately, for Ukrainian-born Dima Kalekin, that was not the case.

Dima was born with a condition called hydrocephalus, otherwise known as “water on the brain.” This would have been hard enough on the boy, but his parents did something unforgivable.

Ukrainian-born Dima Kalekin’s parents abandoned him in the hospital as soon as he arrived. He was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, commonly known as “water on the brain,” and as a result had an unusual appearance. Dima was sent to an orphanage for disabled children in the Eastern Ukrainian town of Krematorsk.

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By the time Dima turned four, he still couldn’t perform basic tasks such as eating with utensils or even walking. His caregivers believed that he’d never develop normally, though they were impressed that he’d survived for so long and could even say a select few words.

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Things seemed to be looking up for Dima, but fate had other plans.

The war in Eastern Ukraine had begun, and the Krematorsk orphans, including Dima, were caught in the crossfire. Nobody could decide who should be responsible for evacuating the orphanage, since it was within the disputed territory.

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Without basic necessities like medical supplies, food, or even water, the caretakers and orphans fled from place to place, until a sympathetic group of separatists brought the children to Ukrainian officials.

The doctors were nearly moved to tears once the children were taken to a hospital. Dima barely seemed to be living, since the war and his health had taken such a toll on him.

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“Dima and the other children were rescued from the war,” said one of the doctors. “In his condition and with his illness, Dima didn’t stand a chance in our country.” Pushed to the point of desperation, the doctors called in a priest, who prayed for Dima to find a family that would love him.

Perhaps the prayers were heard, because mere weeks after being moved into a new orphanage with the other children, he was visited by a family from Vermont. They were determined to adopt a child from the area, since they knew how terrible the war was. They knew they wanted to adopt Dima from the moment that they first saw him.

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The couple already had seven adopted children, so they were prepared with all the documentation and experience that they needed. They officially adopted the boy in September 2015—just two months after first meeting him—and gave him his new name: Zebediah Chaves.

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Two days after arriving in the United States, Zebediah was able to start using a spoon! Clearly, he was making fantastic progress.

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A year after that, Zebediah was able to speak, and he was even bilingual! He also learned how to walk. Doctors were hopeful that he’ll develop into a normal, healthy child, since he didn’t sustain any significant damage from his condition.

Watch his video below.

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After everything that he’s been through, it’s great that Zebediah was adjusting so well to his new life (and new name)! Hopefully, things will continue to look up for him.

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