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Shelby family ignores flu concerns, heads to China for new daughter

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By Josh Moore

A family from Shelbyville isn't letting the swine flu scare, or an ocean, keep them from their new daughter.

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Mike and Cynthia Pettit of Sherrie Drive, along with their 5-year-old daughter, Marlee, are on their way to China today, where they'll be meeting 18-month-old Maggie.

And though this is their second trip to China — they found Marlee through an adoption agency when she was 10 months old — this time around brings a new set of concerns.

The precautions that Chinese officials are taking to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus, more commonly known as the swine flu, could add an unexpected stop to their trip.

Chinese officials place any arriving passengers with flu-like symptoms into quarantine for seven days, according to a travel alert from the U.S. Department of State.

The alert warns that, though the number of Americans quarantined is low, the process is “random” and that they’ve had reports of people being placed in quarantine “simply because they registered slightly elevated temperatures.”

Some adoptive families have had their planes delayed on arrival, and some have had family members separated after arriving in China.

Cynthia Pettit said she has heard that anyone sitting within three rows of someone thought to have swine flu on the airplane also would be quarantined.

But the Pettits aren’t letting that worry them too much.

“It’s nothing we can control,” she said.

So instead the family is trying to be prepared for whatever happens.

They’re taking medicine with them in case they get sick and books to keep them occupied if they’re quarantined, she said.

Mike Pettit said the worst-case scenario would be if they were split up, but they hadn’t heard of that happening to anyone and didn’t expect it to happen to them.

“If we’re all quarantined together, we’ll just deal with it and go on,” he said.

The Pettits will meet Maggie on Monday. Then they’ll have the rest of the 14-day trip to spend with her before bringing her back to America.

They said it would be a great time to bond as a family.

“That’s the reason we wanted to take Marlee, too,” Cynthia Pettit said.

She said she was worried about taking Marlee at first because of the swine flu news, but they decided it was the best option.

Marlee hasn’t been away from her parents since she met them, and they didn’t want to separate the family for two weeks, Mike Pettit said.

But for now the Pettits are just focusing on getting their new daughter home.

The Pettits were told Maggie is a special-needs child because she has a hole in one of her heart valves, which might require surgery.

They aren’t letting that discourage them either.

“If she needs that done, we’ll just get it fixed,” Mike Pettit said.

The process to adopt a healthy baby from China has grown significantly in length, from about one year with Marlee to three years now, Cynthia Pettit said.

“We just really couldn’t wait that long,” she said.

Cynthia said it took a year or two for the couple, who can’t have children of their own, to decide to adopt the first time.

“It is pretty expensive,” she said. “I think that’s what holds a lot of people back.”

There are a lot of options for families considering adoption, such as grants and a tax credit, to help with the money, she said. And adoption agencies help out with all of the paperwork that has to be done.

She said the experience is worth it, and her husband agreed.

“People spend twenty thousand dollars for a car, so what’s twenty thousand dollars for a beautiful child?” he said.

Many times people say a child is lucky to be brought here from China, but the Pettits don’t think about that.

“We’re the ones that are lucky,” he said. “We’re just wanting a family.”