Couple Adopt Abused Twins to Raise as Their Own, Refuse to Give Up When One Develops Brain Tumor
A North Carolina couple, both previously divorced, first met each other at church, but had no intention of having more kids of their own. Middle school teacher Laura Hottel and her now-husband Jay have children from prior marriages. They already “went through that stage of our life,” she said.
But one day, their tune changed; for over the course of volunteering at a church youth group, they got to know twin boys Martin and Victor.
The couple from Fayetteville were asked to collect Martin, then 15, and take him to church one Sunday. The twins lived literally on the way for the couple.
“So we did,” Laura, now 47, told The Epoch Times. “Martin walked out and he had this amazing smile, I’ll never forget that.”
He began chatting away very excitedly, and being a teacher for so long, Laura could tell he was seeking a little more stimulation.
The couple quickly forged a friendship with the bright teen. Weeks later, they met Martin’s identical twin, Victor, who was clearly quieter than his brother.
The subject of pets came up, and Laura uncovered something concerning. Victor said his mother had “taken his dog.” The couple gleaned the teens were pretty much living alone. Their mother had left home months earlier, and their father worked two jobs, visiting his wife at night.
One ride to church turned into many, and Laura and Jay learned more.
The twins were basically caring for of themselves: getting up, getting on the bus to school, and then back again—no supervision at all. “From what I gathered, sometimes the meals they would have at school would be their meal for the day,” said Laura. As they were almost 16 and almost raising themselves, this was not considered abuse or neglect according to state law. She would sometimes pick them up from school and treat them to a meal.
Both academically-gifted, yet lacking resources, they would sometimes ask to use her computer or printer for assignments.
Months after meeting, Martin and Victor invited the couple to a service at their church, where they met the twins’ father for the first time. He exchanged numbers with Jay, who explained that he and Laura could be called upon any time.
The couple learned the teens were adopted. According to Martin, they had been hospitalized at age 2 for physical abuse from their birth parents, which led to the adoption. Sadly, mistreatment resurfaced in their new home.
On Thanksgiving 2012, while visiting family in Virginia, Laura and Jay learned in a phone call that the twins had basically been abandoned. They were without food or anyone to look after them.
The breaking point came days later when their mother returned home. They were met with “a screaming session … a lot of demands, a lot of cussing, a lot of degrading, a lot of threats,” Laura recalled.
Victor was so upset that he stormed out in the rain, appearing at Laura and Jay’s house soaking wet, feeling suicidal. Upon reluctantly returning home that night, the twins had their house keys seized and were kicked out by their father.
On their behalf, Laura and Jay’s pastor reached out to the teens’ high school social worker. Laura recalled a pivotal moment in the social worker’s office where Martin pointed to her from across the room and said, “I want her to be my mother.”
She was moved to tears.
Shortly after, the twins’ father asked for a private word with Jay, admitted he did not want the boys, and asked if he wanted them. Laura recalled, “The father had declined care for the boys, the mother and the father did not want them.”
Laura and Jay didn’t have to think twice.
They said yes.
“They had been going through years of neglect and abuse,” Laura explained. “They would have bleach put in their faces for punishment. They were stepped on. [Yet] despite everything that they were going through, they were seeking the right things, they were seeking a community that was loving, they wanted to go to church, they loved God.”
Ecstatic, the teens gathered their belongings and moved into Laura and Jay’s spare bedroom just weeks before Christmas 2012. Laura says it’s kind of what they consider their “adoption day.”
The couple furnished the twins with all that they needed: new clothes, toiletries, and ample school supplies. They received donations from their church and work.
The couple got custody over the teens on their 16th birthday, thanks to an agreement between the parents and the Hottels, courtesy of the attorney they hired. “It felt like a birthday gift for all of us,” said Laura.
The couple took Martin and Victor fishing, camping, to the movies, to the beach, and hiking in the mountains. They took family photos along the way. Gradually, “Miss Laura” and “Mr. Jay” became “Mom and Dad.” Adds Laura, “Martin and Victor were really good with Andrew. They were so excited to be big brothers and Andrew had not really been a little brother.”
Counseling helped the twins work through their past trauma. Despite ongoing battles with depression, Victor became a star wrestler in his junior year.
But tragedy soon struck.
In December 2013, after winning a wrestling match, Victor came home complaining of a pain in his neck, Laura recalled. After a week, Victor had an MRI and was diagnosed with having a 3-centimeter brain tumor attached to his brain stem.
“He was literally dying, and it was very fast,” said Laura. He had a brain tumor resection two weeks after the symptoms appeared and had to spend a total of 16 months in the hospital, but a full recovery was an impossibility.
Eventually, Jay lost his job due to the lengthy hospitalizations, and Laura had to work three to four jobs at a time to keep their family afloat.
Victor lost his sight, movement, speech, and ability to swallow and breathe fully on his own. “The hospital wanted to send him to a long term, acute care facility,” Laura recalled. “We refused that, because we had told him that we would never leave him, we would never abandon him.”
After 40 procedures, Victor still requires 24-hour care, but the family unit is closer than ever.
Using his left hand to spell out words, Victor managed to complete his senior year from bed, graduating with a 4.5 GPA. He graduated from high school with Martin by his side in 2015.
In August 2020, he also attended Martin’s wedding as his best man, and even took a few steps down the wedding aisle with the help of Jay and two friends.
“I don’t know why some things happen the way they do,” Laura reflected. “People will ask me, ‘Well, if you know God moved things for you to adopt Martin and Victor, then why is Victor so sick?’ And I can’t answer those questions.”
Laura adds, “But you focus on the positivity and you focus on what you do have, and what we do have is we have love, and we have grace, and we have forgiveness.”