The Standard August 12, 2021
A Toyota commercial which aired during the 2021 Superbowl has resurfaced a lot during NBC’s coverage of the Tokyo Olympics. In it, a young woman in cap and goggles swims laps as we hear a phone conversation between two ladies. The lady we see on the phone learns that there is a baby girl in a Siberian orphanage, ready to be adopted. The baby has a rare condition which means her legs will need to be amputated.
This is a true account of a girl named Tatiana born in 1992 in Russia to teenage parents. Her birth mother, Natalia, did not want to leave their firstborn at the hospital. Natalia did not have family in the area and was not yet married to Tatiana’s birth father. The medical staff convinced the young couple that they would not be able to care for their daughter, given her condition. Tatiana suffered from fibular hemimelia, which meant she was born without fibulas, ankles, heels and most bones in her feet. Natalia planned to go back to get her daughter in a few years, thinking she would not get adopted, but at 13 months Tatiana became part of a family in the United States.
At age 18 months, Jessica Tatiana Long had to have both legs amputated below the knees. She grew up in Baltimore, Maryland as one of six children, homeschooled by Christian parents and encouraged to try various sports. At a young age she began swimming at her grandparents’ pool after church on Sundays, pretending to be a mermaid. Swimming became her passion and she trained relentlessly. In 2004, Long became the youngest member of the U.S. Paralympic team in Athens, winning three gold medals.
Needless to say, Long’s life has been full of challenges. She has undergone 25 surgeries. When tempted to give up, Long relies on her faith and her family. “It gives me all of my strength. I truly believe that it [her adoption] was part of God’s plan. And I’m not ashamed to say it, but I definitely believe that faith has really helped me get this far and remain sane with everything.”
In Athens, Beijing, London and Rio Long garnered a total of 23 Paralympic medals, 13 of them gold. She is on the U.S. team which begins competition later this month in Tokyo. With the attention surrounding Jessica at the London Paralympics, reporters from Russia tracked down her biological parents, who had married shortly after Jessica was born and eventually had three more children. In 2013 Jessica Tatiana Long went to Russia to meet her birth family. In a short documentary called “Long Way Home” she expressed her love and admiration, especially for her birth mother. Recently married, Long is a motivational speaker who believes in the ability of each of us to make a positive difference. She is a vocal advocate for adoption.
“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13-16)
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)