WACONIA, Minn - With one glance of an online photo from a Haitian orphanage, Brian and Lori Stangret knew they'd become parents once again, much later than they'd planned.
"For a 50-year-old in retirement, it's a different life," said Lori Stangret. "But, you wouldn't believe this kid. He is the highlight of our town."
It became clear adopting 2-year-old Ami would be his best chance at life. It took their family two years and countless trips to his orphanage to finally bring him home. The Strangret's daughter Ayla, 25, moved to the orphanage for nine months to volunteer and help care for Ami while the adoption was underway.
"Before we got there, they said nobody ever took care of him. He just sat all day in dirty diapers, because of the way he looked," the couple said.
Ami has a rare genetic disorder known as Crouzon Syndrome, in which skull bones fuse in the womb, changing the shape of the face. The condition has caused Ami's eyes to protrude and also brings troubles with breathing and speech. It affects around one in 25,000 children.
"It's a complex medical, dental, speech condition that affects many systems. It's rare but something we specialize in," said Anna Thurmes, a coordinator with the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry craniofacial program, who says a team of doctors will coordinate Ami's care throughout his childhood.
He recently had a surgery at Amplatz Children's Hospital to reduce pressure on his brain, and he'll undergo many more surgeries to help with his facial structure and airways.
The advanced medical approach is a blessing for the Stangrets' when they consider not long ago Ami's childhood wasn't guaranteed.
"I don't know how it was meant to be but it sure was, he is the love of our life, and I don't know if he wasn't here my heart just aches what would have happened to him," said Lori Stangret.
The Stanger's' are also new grandparents - their 28-year-old son had a child two months ago - but they also believe they were long meant to take the title of Ami's mom and dad.
"He really tires me out but it's so worth it, he looks at you and smiles and calls you mama," said Lori Stangret.
Ami has more good news ahead in his new life in Minnesota. Two of his biological brothers will soon be adopted by a Minnetonka family.
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)