Kristi Smith was born with a rare brain disorder called Phenylketonuria (PKU), and she understands what it's like to live with the condition. That's why it was so important for her and her husband, Matt, to adopt four children who also have PKU.
When it's not treated, PKU can lead to seizures and intellectual disabilities. Smith told Today she's been on a strict, low-protein diet her entire life, and that has helped her thrive. The Tucson resident and her husband knew they wanted to have kids, but when they discovered the complications that can arise when a woman with PKU gets pregnant, they chose to look into adoption. "I didn't want to potentially go through all that headache and heartache and stress when there are kids who need a family out there," Smith said.
Through an adoption agency, in 2015 the Smiths adopted two boys with PKU who lived in the same Chinese orphanage. Andrew and Luke, both 2 at the time, were treated for PKU, but other kids with the condition aren't as fortunate, and last month, the Smiths adopted one of those children, 14-year-old Ben, as well as 9-year-old Caleb. Ben has some developmental delays, Smith said, but all of her kids are now receiving the treatments they need to excel. "They came to us not knowing how to go up stairs or how to run and jump — they were overwhelmed, but now they are just flourishing," Smith said. "They're becoming kind and courteous, and it's just like a light bulb went on for everything."