POLAND, Ohio (WKBN) – An adopted son living in Poland who has cancer, and is in need of a blood sibling for a medical procedure, ultimately leads to the discovery of his birth mother living a few miles away. Tonight, two families united by one birth and the effort to keep the bond between them alive.
The story of how these families united was told Thursday afternoon around a table in Poland. Todd Cerimeli — the ports of a cancer patient hanging from an arm — listened as his birth mother Barb Drabiski and adoptive mother Brenda Popa explained how it began.
“I had Todd when I was 15 years old,” Drabiski said.
“My first husband and I adopted Todd when he was 2 weeks old,” Brenda said.
From early on, Cerimeli was told that he was adopted.
“I didn’t think about it seriously enough back then, I really didn’t,” he said.
Cerimeli grew up with Brenda by his side and when she remarried, it was Cerimeli who walked her down the aisle.
Then, six years ago, Cerimeli was diagnosed with cancer, which returned six months ago. This time, he needed a blood sibling for a possible bone marrow transplant. So in September, Brenda went searching for Cerimeli’s birth mother at the Bureau of Vital Statistics.
“Within two weeks, I got a letter back from them — her name, address and phone number on it,” Brenda said.
It was Cerimeli who made the first call.
“‘Is this Barbara Clipse?’ And I’m like, nobody’s called me by my maiden name for years and I’m like, oh boy. Then he said, ‘This is your son, Todd.’ And I’m like, ‘My son, Todd?’ So it took me a while to get it together and as he kept talking I got it,” Drabiski said.
“So now that I made that jump to call and contacted her, that made me feel good and saying OK, this is where I need to be,” Cerimeli said.
As it turned out, Drabiski lived in Struthers, just 4.5 miles from his house in Poland.
“It was absolutely a God thing, absolutely. We have no doubts about that,” Brenda said.
Drabiski and Cerimeli met for the first time in December and have met a few times since.
The only tears Thursday afternoon came when Drabiski explained her concern over Brenda’s feelings.
“Because I didn’t want her to feel bad in finding me. But she has been very awesome, she’s been amazing,” Drabiski said.
“The more people that can love on your child, the better,” Brenda said.
“It’s like we’ve known her forever. It’s just like, wow. It was just so wonderful. She’s family now,” said Bob Popa, Cerimeli’s stepfather.
“It’s like, miracle gone wild,” Cerimeli said.
Cerimeli, as it turned out, does have siblings, two with his birth mother and two with his birth father.
He saw a doctor on Thursday and he’s getting better. The need for a bone marrow transplant has been put on hold for now.