A Seattle mother travelled more than 9,100 kilometers to Shanghai in hope of finding the biological parents of her adopted son before he goes blind.
Molly Sano, who arrived in Shanghai on Monday, decided to make the journey after her 3-year-old son, Bennett, was diagnosed in December with Usher syndrome, a rare but incurable genetic disorder.
Doctors in the United States say the illness will take away Bennett's eyesight by the age of 20.
"We just hope that he can see his biological parents with his own eyes, creating special visual memories of them before he loses his vision," Sano said in a phone interview before her departure from Seattle, Washington.
The 36-year-old has spent the past few weeks contacting authorities and hospitals in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, for leads. From Tuesday to Sunday she will visit Enmei Child Welfare Association, which runs the orphanage that formerly cared for Bennett, as well as surrounding communities.
Ye Minjia, a Ningbo resident in his 30s who used to run an English school, will accompany Sano. They connected after Sano reached out through a mutual friend.
"She knows it's a long shot, but she just wants to get the information out there, find some clues and increase her chances of success," Ye said.
Bennett, whose Chinese name was Long Miao, was abandoned in a Ningbo neighborhood in May 2012. A note left by his side read: "We don't know what else to do. We're too poor to bring him up. We hope someone can help him."
The child was born deaf, according to the note.
He was taken to a home managed by Enmei Child Welfare Association, where he remained until Sano, a sign-language interpreter, and her husband, who is deaf, adopted him in February 2014.
After two years in Seattle, Bennett can now communicate confidently using American sign language.
"We just knew he was the son we'd been waiting for－even without looking at his file. He's the most beautiful boy I've ever seen," said Sano, who also has a daughter one month older than Bennett.
While many parents may choose to wait until an adopted child is old enough to decide whether or not to meet biological parents, Sano said Bennett does not have the luxury of time.
"If we wait for another 10 years, then all of the people who may remember when and where Bennett was found or born will be retired," she said.