A little Bulgarian boy’s stunning transformation following his adoption is tugging at heartstrings around the world.
Morse, who already had two biological sons and one adopted daughter with her husband, David, told Today that when she came across a photo of the starving boy, which was shared on Facebook by an adoption organization, she immediately knew he was her son.
“I don’t know how to describe it, but you look at them and you just know,” she told the outlet.
The mother of three began the adoption process in September 2014 and was able to travel to Bulgaria to pick up Ryan about a year later in November 2015.
“He was bones and skin, he literally looked like a skeleton,” Morse told Inside Edition of their first meeting. “The first thing that went through my head was, ‘He’s going to die.'”
Once she brought Ryan home to Tennessee, Morse said the full extent of her new son’s health issues came to light.
Doctors who evaluated the child, who weighed just 8 pounds at the age of 7, informed her he was suffering from a litany of medical conditions, including cerebral palsy, club feet, scoliosis and microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby’s head is much smaller than normal.
“I had never in my life seen doctors look at a child and burst into tears,” Morse told Inside Edition. “They did call social services. They said, ‘I’m sorry, he’s probably going to die.'”
However, little Ryan proved to be a fighter. The child, who is now 11, began gaining weight with the help of a feeding tube inserted by his medical team.
His condition continued improving every day and, in the years since his adoption, Ryan has made even more strides, working with doctors to correct his club feet and with teachers to improve his communication skills, according to Today.
Although Ryan still has an uphill battle ahead of him, his mother says he’s proven to be a “happy little boy” through all the hardships he’s endured.
“He looks like he has hope now,” she said. “People write off special needs kids because it looks scary, but these kids are worth it. They truly deserve to be loved like any other kid.”