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Friday, December 30, 2011

Nesting

I'm thankful to have 10 full days away from work to recharge my batteries and spend time with my kids.  Right now I'm on Day 7 of sleeping in, being lazy, and not wearing real clothes.  Yesterday Henry said, "Mommy, put on make-up."  That's how wonderful my time off has been.

Yesterday was a crazy busy day at home.  I'm nesting.  I don't understand why, but I have this urgent need to get ready for her.  We have a modest house by US standards.  (A mansion by Haitian standards.)  Only 3 bedrooms.  That means the little girl will be sharing a room with someone.  Since she's currently in a room with all boys, and Henry is closer to her age, it's only logical that she'll share a room with him.

I started cleaning Henry's room yesterday.  Organizing toys, removing the diaper Genie we haven't used in ages, clearing out a corner.  I told Jason I want to buy a toddler bed and get her part of the room set up.

"It's too early.  We don't need a toddler bed yet."

My heart wants a toddler bed set up.  With cozy warm bedding and lots of stuffed animals.  I just want...something.

Along with cleaning yesterday I also finished the second panel of the blanket I'm knitting for her.  Don't be impressed at all.  I'm using a loom so it's total cheater knitting.  But it's something I made with my own hands for her.  I can see her wrapped up in it.  I want to put it on her bed.

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I love connecting with other adopting mothers.  No offense to anyone else out there, but they are the people out there who 'get it'.  They too have waited/are waiting for their child to come home.  They too understand what being paperwork pregnant is like.  They too understand how crazy, emotional, neurotic and confused I am - and they don't judge me for it.

A dear friend Kara shared a blog with me.  As I read it I almost shook my head off my shoulders.  If you want to understand a little more the crazy person that is Karen, please read this:  How to be the Village.  (Full credit given to Jen Hatmaker whose blog I will be stalking daily now.)

I'll post a couple of points just in case you don't click on the link.  But I hope you do.


How can you help? By not saying or doing these things:


1. “God’s timing is perfect!” (Could also insert: “This is all God’s plan!” “God is in charge!”) As exactly true as this may be, when you say it to a waiting parent, we want to scratch your eyebrows off and make you eat them with a spoon. Any trite answer that minimizes the struggle is as welcomed as a sack of dirty diapers. You are voicing something we probably already believe while not acknowledging that we are hurting and that somewhere a child is going to bed without a mother again. Please never say this again. Thank you.


4. We’re happy to field your questions about becoming a transracial family or adopting a child of another race, but please don’t use this moment to trot out your bigotry. (Cluelessness is a different thing, and we try to shrug that off. Like when someone asked about our Ethiopian kids, “Will they be black?” Aw, sweet little dum-dum.)


5.     Saying nothing is the opposite bad. I realize with blogs like this one, you can get skittish on how to talk to a crazed adopting Mama without getting under her paper-thin skin or inadvertently offending her. I get it. (We try hard not to act so hypersensitive. Just imagine that we are paper-pregnant with similar hormones surging through our bodies making us cry at Subaru commercials just like the 7-month preggo sitting next to us. And look at all this weight we’ve gained. See?) But acting like we’re not adopting or struggling or waiting or hoping or grieving is not helpful either. If I was pregnant with a baby in my belly, and no one ever asked how I was feeling or how much longer or is his nursery ready or can we plan a shower, I would have to audition new friend candidates immediately. 

Let me add my own.  I realize that I'm 42 years old and going in the opposite direction of my friends when it comes to kids.  We're about to add a 2 year old to our family.  And if God asks us again, we'll be bringing another little one home.  And maybe they'll have special needs.  I'm not doing this because I'm a good person or a saint or because I never want a social life again.  There's this thing about listening to God's call.  You know what?  I didn't get it either at first. 

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I think it's time to check Craigslist for a toddler bed...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas, sweet girl

Adoption is an interesting journey.  By 'interesting' I mean stressful, exciting, filled with heartache, hopeful, overwhelming, and more.  When people find out we're adopting we hear many interesting things. The one we hear on a regular basis:  "You're such good/amazing/wonderful people for adopting!"

Let me tell you, we're very much human.  Jason and I argue, I get short with the kids, there are evenings I ignore everyone because I'm sooo tired, I sometimes spend money on stuff I REALLY don't need, and the list goes on and on.  There are many days I don't feel amazing or wonderful.

Yes, I'd say we try to do the right thing on a regular basis.  In general I'd consider us good people.  But we aren't saints or anything amazing just because we're adopting.

People adopt for many reasons.  For us it wasn't something we had to do in order to have a family.

* *insert pic of Henry and Sofia here* *

We are adopting because we were called to adopt.  OK - I got the call and Jason realized that the call was a good thing.  There's no such thing as strong-arming someone into an adoption.  If he truly didn't want to adopt the home study would have flushed out his feelings and we would have stopped the process at that point.  You can't fake a home study.

The whole 'calling' thing is a new thing to me.  I was raised Lutheran.  Stand up, sit down, say your prayers (on occasion) and eat your hot dish Lutheran.  The only people who talked about being called were those crazy Christians.  Lutherans are much too reserved to ever be called.

In January of 2010 I started feeling 'called' to Haiti.  It was the first time I really heard God.  It's hard to explain, but when it happens, you know.

Here's the amazing thing.  The time I started to feel called to Haiti was the same time our little girl was born.  God knew at that time what was going to happen.  God knew that she was meant to be with us.  And God took a chance on a nice Lutheran girl, and started to whisper in her ear.

The timing of it all still brings me to tears.  There are many more details to her story that make this so much of a God thing.

Our Plan C is God's Plan A.

Josette was God's way of getting us to consider adoption.

Magdaline was God's way of helping us realize that we need to start working on keeping families together.  (please click --> HERE)

And our sweet little girl.  Our sweet little girl is God's way of telling us that we need to fight for the orphans.  We need to be a voice for all the children in the world who don't have someone to snuggle them when they're sick, to nourish their bellies and their hearts, and to tuck them in at night.

Sweet girl, I love you more than even I can understand.  I am so thankful that God is trusting us with you.  I cannot wait to get you home and kiss your boo-boos, break up fights with your brother and sister, and get the precious gift of being called your Mama.

Merry Christmas, sweet girl.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Christmas Miracle

I really thought we would have had our court date in Port-au-Prince by now.  I planned out our Christmas card.  Jason and I would be holding her - in Haiti.  We'd make an 8x10 print of that picture and have Sofia and Henry hugging the picture.  Doesn't that sound sweet?

We had to do Plan B - an 8x10 of her with all of us holding the picture.
I'm praying for a Christmas miracle.  All I want tomorrow morning in my stocking is a date.


"Dear Jason and Karen, we need your butts in court in Port-au-Prince on January......., 2012."

Our adoption gal isn't working on Christmas morning.

My stocking is going to be empty.

Maybe she'll have a really sweet email for us come Monday morning.

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The icky dreams are continuing.  I started to stress about them until I remembered a dream I had when I was pregnant with Sofia.  In the dream I was going into labor - in the shower.  I remember the labor very clearly.  It wasn't as painful as actual labor, but at the time it was pretty intense.  While I was in the shower, I pushed out a...prickle bush.  Her head was a pink flower and her body was green and prickly.  I remember how confused I was.  How in the world did I get THIS?

Laurie, our super awesome adoption gal at Love Basket, has helped me understand why I'm having dreams about her.  I'm expecting.  While my body knows it's not pregnant, my mind knows our daughter is coming.  And it's messing with me.


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Today we're enjoying something we don't get at Christmas - a day home with just the 4 of us.  We got to sleep in this morning.  The kids got spoiled with 2 gifts each.  And we've been busy crafting, playing and just being lazy together.  I'm looking forward to Christmas Eve services at church tonight.

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I'm not sad or weepy today.  I thought for sure that Christmas would have me in tears - just thinking about her.  I didn't expect to be....happy.

I think about her every day.  I will think about her a lot tomorrow.  If there's any place our daughter has to be in Haiti on Christmas, I'm so thankful it's Children of the Promise.  She will be loved and nurtured and cared for all day.  And every day.

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As you enjoy your holiday season with friends and family, please remember the 147 million orphans who are waiting for a family to love them.  Search your heart and see if there's room for one of them in your home.

Let's bring them all home.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

3.21.12

It's a weepy week.  They happen.  Thankfully not all the time.

I spent a week in Canada for work.  My mind was occupied during most of the trip.  But...I got an email.  It was from the social worker at our home study agency.  She said that if the little girl isn't home by 3.21 we have to update our home study.  Along with that we have to get our security clearance (US), police clearance (local), and medical redone.

It's not that big of a deal really.  But the date hit me.  That means our home study will be a year old.

We started this process last October.  In June we found out who our daughter was.  She's going to miss Christmas this year.  She won't be home for her 2nd birthday.  And most likely, her feet will not be on US soil before 3.21.12.

Her birthday is in January.  This afternoon the kids decorated a box that we'll use to ship presents for her. My sister bought her a super cute little dress.  We'll include 3 cake mixes and fun candles.  I know that Nikki will take a ton of pictures for us.  It will be joyful, and it will be sad.  I want her home.

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I had a gross dream about her last night.  I don't feel like sharing it, but it didn't feel great to wake up after.  My sweet little buddy was stirring, so I decided to get out of bed and hoped a strong cup of coffee would help shake what I just woke up from.  A little cuddle time with Henry while my coffee was brewing did the trick.

When Sofia woke up she told me she had a GREAT dream.  "Mommy, I had a dream that you got a call. You and Daddy traveled to Haiti and she was home for Christmas."

That makes me cry.

As I emotionally prepare for Christmas, her birthday, and 3.21.12, I pray for a Christmas miracle.  All I want for Christmas is an email that says we're out of IBESR and we need to schedule a trip for court.

Please God, help us to make that next step that brings her closer to coming home.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

On a different note...

My sweet baby and eldest child turned 10 and 12:10pm today.  It's hard to believe she hit double-digits.  Sofia is compassionate and kind and just a lovely kid.  As we were getting ready for church this morning I asked her to watch her brother while I took a shower and her dad plowed the driveway.  I came out of the shower to this:

There are no words to describe how much I love these two.

If you've followed this blog for a bit you might remember Sofia's birthday last year.  We let her choose what she wants to do on her special day.  Last year she chose to bring a dear friend to Build-a-Bear at the Mall of America.  And if you remember, I didn't have a really good time granting that wish.  If you think about it, buying two stuffed animals, an outfit and lunch cost us less than having a party with a gajillion screaming girls, gift bags and an over-priced cake from the bakery.

That day was joyous and sad.  Underwear for a stuff animal when there are children in the world who have no clothing?  Ridiculous.

Sofia and her friend had a wonderful time.  I came home wanting to cry.

A few months ago I asked Sofia what she wanted to do for her big double-digit birthday.  Without even thinking she said: Feed My Starving Children.  I've got family members who probably don't believe that I didn't influence this decision in some way.  But I can tell you - she came up with this 100% on her own.

I was so excited that I instantly reserved 20 spaces for the 2:00 session the day before her birthday.  I remember it being early October when I sent out email 'heads-up' notices to everyone, asking them to save the date.

We had a great time yesterday.  We reserved 20 spots and 27 people showed up.  27 people gave two hours of their time to pack meals for children who otherwise might not eat.  27 people donned hairnets and lovingly packaged chicken powder (that has no chicken in it), veggies, soy, and rice.  Scoop, seal, box, pray.

At the end of the shift we were told by the staff that the group (around 90 total) made enough meals to feed 58 children for an entire year.

58 children.

A FULL YEAR of meals.

Can you comprehend that?

When our shift was completed we met in the main room again and the staff worker showed everyone a mud pie.  Have you ever heard of a mud pie before?  It's not coffee ice cream and hot fudge on a delicious Oreo crust.  It's just like the name implies - it's dirt and oil and salt.  Women take this concoction and make 6'' round pie and let them dry in the sun.  In Haiti they cost half a cent each.  Parents buy mud pies to feed their children.  It fills there belly.  There's no nourishment.  All it does is make the child's stomach feel like it's full.

The manna packs that the group packaged yesterday make 6 cups of food each.  Children will be given ONE CUP for their meal.  Their only meal for the day.  And that one cup will fill their bellies and more importantly give them nourishment.

Here's the kicker about the day - it cost us nothing.  We could have spent $200+ at something like Pump It Up and let the kids jump and laugh and wear themselves out.  Sure, they would have had a great time.  

One thing I hear on a regular basis is that just because I've changed, doesn't mean I need to deny my kids of anything.  They need presents and toys and fun stuff.  Sofia needs an American Girl Doll.  She needs a party with a gajillion screaming girls.  She needs...

Does she really?

On the van ride home I asked the 5 girls that were riding with us if they had fun.  Overwhelmingly I heard YES.  Then I asked them what they wanted to do for their next birthday party.  Overwhelmingly I heard Feed My Starving Children.

The kids laughed and worked hard and had a blast.  Every single one of them said they want to go back.  Every single one of them learned that not all kids get to eat.  Every single one of them can describe to you that some kids eat this thing called a mud cake.  A seed was planted in every single one of them.

We're so unbelievably privileged in this country.  We have safe water, an abundance of food, houses, beds, clothing, and obnoxious things like fancy britches for stuffed animals.

Other.

Kids.

Don't.

Have.

That.

Maybe just one of the kids that came will host their next birthday at FMSC.  Maybe one of those kids who laughed and had fun packing meals will become a missionary one day.   

Even if they don't - in two hours they helped feed 58 kids for an entire year.  I'd call that birthday party success.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Today, I read this:  A Vision Test

This resonates with me.  I've heard it.  I think the people who say it are trying to be accepting and positive, without realizing that it's not.

Little girl - I see you.  I accept you.  I love you.  You will grow up knowing about your birth mother and father.  You will grow up knowing your culture.  You will grow up hearing Creole.  One day we'll take you back to Haiti

And you will grow up being loved.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

We get to meet her

First things first, we have no news.  There's nothing scheduled.  We're not going down to Haiti.  But I did learn something new this week - we get to meet her.

At some point when we're out of IBESR we'll need to travel to PAP for court.  From what I understand, by traveling to Haiti for court we shave a few weeks off the adoption process.  Jason said early on that he wanted to be there for the court appointment, so we'll be traveling to Haiti together.  (I'm SO excited that he'll experience Haiti.  How many people do you know that would say that?!)

This past week I found out that we travel to Cap-Haitien first.  For pictures.  With her.  We get to spend the day with her, then fly to PAP early the following morning for court.

Without her.

A gift and torture all wrapped into one.  We get to meet her and love her up.  Then we leave her for at least another 5 months before the adoption is complete.

I need to buy a new digital camera with the biggest memory card in the history of memory cards.  I'm going to take at least a kabillion pictures.  And I'm going to hold her the entire time.  Her feet will never hit the ground.  Maybe I'll let Jason hold her too for a little bit.  :-)  And somehow I need to love up the rest of the kids in that short amount of time, while she's in my arms.

Jason gets to experience Children of the Promise AND our daughter AND PAP all in one short trip.

My friend Windie who is wise and wonderful and 'gets it' was my rock as I was falling apart last week.  As I was losing myself in impatience and fatigue and frustration, she did the one and only thing I need to be doing when this happens.  She prayed.

Here is the prayer she prayed with and for me:

Dear Heavenly Father - You are the author and creator of all life. Nothing can be that you do not allow. Your word states that your children's steps are ordered by you. Lord we come before you together and appeal to you Lord that you would move (baby Haiti's) paperwork through IBESR and that your hand would remove the delays and that this process be completed and be completed soon!!! We pray for hand to be upon (baby Haiti) and her caregivers...that she would be healthy and that she have favor before their eyes that will privilege her to extra hugs and touches of love and even snacks Lord. 

I pray now Father for peace and mercy to be upon Karen and her family and that this time be a time of extra closeness for their family. Your peace to come upon them as a warm blanket in the cold of night!  Please bring comfort in the waiting. 

We praise you for all that you have done, are doing and are about to do!

Amen

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hotels and Pandas and Impatience

There are so many thoughts in my head to share today.  So many little things in life get me thinking.  Dreams make my heart warm and sad at the same time.  And impatience is taking over me.

Last week I had a beautiful dream.  During the entire dream I was holding her.  I was holding her and kissing her, and she was touching my face.  I was saying over and over, "Mwen se manman ou."  I am your Mommy.  Her beautiful brown eyes, just staring into mine.  It felt so wonderful to have her in my arms.  When I woke up there was a peace and joy.  It was followed by sadness and impatience.  I want her home.

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This week I traveled for work.  I woke up Friday morning and didn't want to get out of bed.  Western Michigan was cold and rainy, and I was exhausted for some reason.  When I went in to take my shower, I noticed that the hotel bar soap, shampoo and conditioner I'd used the day before was gone.  The housekeeper had thrown it away and replaced it with new.  

Why do we waste so much in this country, when so many are suffering?

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My flight home was late last evening, and I had some time on my hands before heading to the airport.  I'm not a shopper, and I can't stand malls.  Give me a garage sale or second-hand store any day of the week - or awesome hand-me-downs.  It's rare that I buy something new for the kids.  

Henry needs a winter coat this year.  He hasn't ever had a new one, so I decided to check out Kohl's to see what they had.  Do you realize how expensive kid's coats are?  Thank you to everyone who's handed down coats for the kids!

On my way to the boy's section I passed by the toddler area.  One t-shirt caught my eye.  Pandas have a significant meaning in my life.  There was a shirt I just couldn't pass up, followed by a second one.  (I'm not perfect.  She's moving into a house with a few kitties.)  They were 50% off, so in my mind I could justify spending the money.  

I haven't bought anything for her before. I think know that it's because we've had such a challenging adoption process.  While I try not to, I keep waiting for the call or email that tells me something has changed.  That for whatever reason, we're going to lose her too.  At the same time I'm impatiently waiting for the call or email that tells me we're heading to Port-au-Prince for a court appointment.  It's a really crazy way to live.

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November 6th is Orphan Sunday.  Consider planning something with your church.  Tell your pastor that they don't have to write a sermon.  This website will take care of everything for them.  What pastor doesn't love a Sunday off?

One of the reasons I was called to Haiti was to see the faces of orphans.  Once you see them, you can no longer ignore them.  I'm being called to be a voice for them.  To bring awareness to others of the massive number of children who don't have a parent to hold them.  To put a band-aid on their owie.  To hold them when they are sick.  Nothing will bring me to tears faster than thinking about a single child without parents.  The thought of MILLIONS of children is overwhelming.

Please take a couple of minutes and watch this video.  Orphan Sunday  Share it with the pastor of your church.  Become a community of individuals who are a voice for those who have none.

Help to bring them all home.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Let's do this...

It's time to start Christmas shopping!  While Nikki hasn't given her final approval of the registry, enough of you are asking to start shopping so it's time to post the list.

We're asking that people pick a name and purchase the following:
  • A food item.  The special needs boys eat the pudding and Nutrigrain bars.
  • A basic need item - like Clorox wipes or diapers.
  • One toy or arts and crafts item.
Of course you are welcome to buy much more than this, but we're asking for this as the basics.  And you don't HAVE to pick a name.  You can just purchase random items off the list and send them.

If an item runs out on the list, you can still purchase it.  There's never too much of anything in Haiti.  If all 50 Clorox wipes get purchased, I can guarantee that they will go through those 50 and need more.  Don't let the numbers deter you from buying something.

If you have a different idea on what to get a child, please let me know.  We really looking for sturdy, durable toys for the kids.  Since everything gets shared, the toys need to survive 40 very excited kids playing with them.  Many of the thin plastic items get thrown away after the first use.

Additional guidelines:
  • Please, no battery operated toys.  When the batteries die, so does the toy.  They are simply too expensive to maintain in Haiti.
  • For the girls, you are welcome to get hair-care items for them. Binders, barrettes, pretty bows.
  • You obviously don't have to purchase these items are Target.  The registry is just a guide.
  • You are welcome to send wrapping paper and tape too.  It's all about being able to rip something open, isn't it?  As you can imagine, wrapping paper is almost non-existant in Haiti.
  • On the wrapping note, please DO NOT wrap the presents.  They need to go through customs in Haiti.
  • This year I'm asking everyone to ship their own gifts.  If you are unable to, please let me know.  While we can't pay to ship items this year, I'll find a way to get things down there if needed.  Target does have a deal right now that orders over $50 ship for free.  I'm not sure how long this lasts.
Ship your gifts by mid-November to ensure they make it by Christmas.  Ship everything here:
Bud and Jan Bonnema
Agape Flights  CAP--11952
100 Airport Ave
Venice, FL 34285

The following kids already have sponsors:
  1. Manno
  2. Kenlove
  3. Christela
  4. Rosar
  5. Joshua
  6. Sabine
  7. Theo
  8. Nikensly
  9. Pierre
  10. Anel
  11. Annella
  12. Isaiah
Please make sure to put a note in your box indicating which child the gifts are for.  They did a fantastic job last year making sure everyone got the toys that were intended for them.  And they took a TON of pictures.  You'll be able to see your gifts in the hands of the child(ren) you sponsor.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for sharing the Christmas spirit with these very special children.  If we each do just a little bit, it will add up to a lot.  And the kids will have a very Merry Christmas!

Oh - I guess I should post the registry link, eh?  Please share this with everyone you know!!  Click here  -->  Target Registry

Friday, September 30, 2011

The real meaning of Christmas

Today at lunch I ran over to Target and scanned my little heart out.  It was so much fun to dream about what's going to be sent down to COTP over the next few weeks.  (Remember my evil scheme about overwhelming Nick when he goes to the airport to pick up the mail from Agape?)

As I was scanning, I started to think about the meaning of Christmas.  I asked this last year, and I'll ask again this year:  "What does Christmas mean to you?"

If you asked 100 kids in the US what it means, what do you think their response would be?  Think about the Facebook posts after Christmas.  What pictures are you seeing?  How about when kids go back to school?  What are they talking about with their friends?

How about kids in a third world county?  What do you think their response would be?

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One of the managers in my office left to work for another company.  I don't know why, but it's customary at my job to celebrate when someone leaves.  On their last day they order a cake, reserve a conference room, and let people stop by to give their regards to the person who's leaving.  The guy that left this week - he didn't want a cake.  He just wanted to pack his box, say goodbye to those he's closest to, and quietly leave.

Guess what they did?  They got him a cake anyway.  As he approached the conference room he said, "I told you I didn't want anything."  He was polite and gracious, but you could tell he was irritated.  They didn't listen to what HE wanted.

Sometimes we project what we want on other people.  Obviously the people at work felt it was important to get a cake for this guy, so they did what they wanted.  Not what he wanted.

When it comes to Christmas at COTP, I ask you to think about that.  Maybe you want to send a huge box of dolls and legos and battery-operated toys.  Seeing food and bottles and pack-and-plays is not your idea of Christmas.  Kids are supposed to get toys, right?

You'll be happy to know that there are toys on the registry.  But you're also going to see a lot of the basic needs - like snacks, formula, teething rings, and bottles.  Yah, we want to make sure their Christmas is filled with joy and laughter and toys!  We also want to make sure their bottoms are dry and their bellies are full.

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As soon as Nikki and I get the list finalized, I'll get it posted for you to review and share with every single person you know.

Click.  Ship.  The real meaning of Christmas.


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"I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
~ Matthew 25:40



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Christmas they'll never forget

I have to start this post by saying this - Nikki is a genius.  She came up with the greatest plan for Christmas this year.  I'm so excited!!

As you know, we're working on getting all the kids sponsored again this Christmas. Nikki had the brilliant idea of starting a Target registry.  Isn't that a great idea?  This week I'm going to get it started and sent to Nikki.  After she adds/deletes items and gets it finalized I'll post it here.

For those of you who want to sponsor specific kids, I'll email you their wish-list.  The items will also be listed on the registry.  

The beauty of the registry is that you can forward it to everyone you know and ask them to pick a few items to ship.  My goal is to exceed the items on the list.  Let's overwhelm Nick when he goes to the airport each Thursday to pick up the mail.  I want him to scratch his head and think, "How am I going to get all this back to COTP?"  I love it when my evil schemes are actually for the greater good.  

Click.  Ship.  A Christmas they'll never forget.

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On a different note, I want to get the word out about a special boy who's currently in Port-au-Prince, but will soon be at Children of the Promise.  Please check out this blog:  He sets the orphan free.

Maybe you aren't at a place in your life where you'd consider adoption.  Maybe it's been tugging at your heart and now's the time to explore.  Maybe you know someone who would make the greatest parent to Moses.  Please read this post and forward it to everyone you know.

If you want to adopt but you're scared about the cost, please email me.  We live on a single income and we're paying for our adoption completely.  We aren't taking out loans.  We aren't borrowing money.  And we certainly aren't rich.  There's this amazing thing that happens.  When you accept that tug on your heart, that whisper in your ear, that postcard...God provides.

I didn't give you the gift of life.
But in my heart I know.
The love I feel is deep and real.
As if it had been so.
For us to have each other
is like a dream come true.
No, I didn't give you the gift of life.
Life gave me the gift of you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

There she was...

Every day that passes without hearing about movement on the adoption front is torture. My mind starts to drive me crazy as I wonder about everything. Where are we at. Who has our file. What is she doing. Who is loving her up today. It goes on and on.

Adopting parents are pretty impatient. It can't happen soon enough. There isn't one parent out there who says, "I'm so glad the adoption took 6 months longer than we expected..." or "I'm happy they delayed our meeting by a week. What does that week matter anyway?" No. We're quite the opposite. If I got a call tonight that we were through the process, I'd be on the first plane to Haiti tomorrow. If that wasn't possible I'd start working on beaming technology so I could get down there. I would go in the clothes I'm wearing and spend the entire week in this same outfit if it meant I could bring her home. I'd forgo all luxuries like a toothbrush, clean underwear and my coveted Burt's Bee's lipgloss if I knew I could hold her.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

The other day I added her picture to the wallpaper on my computer at work. When I logged in this morning, there she was. It's the front side of the picture I posted earlier. The most beautiful little girl I have ever seen. She was there smiling at me. It's as though she was saying, "I'm ok Mommy. They are taking great care of me. I'll be here waiting for you!"

I paused, said a prayer, told her I loved her, then started my day. It was a beautiful way to start the day. 

The day was unusually busy, and by the time I went to shut down I had forgotten who was waiting for me. As I closed out my Outlook, there she was again. "I'm glad you had a good day at work Mommy. I was here with you the whole time. God's in charge Mommy. Don't forget that."

I paused, said a prayer, told her I loved her, told her angel mother I'd take great care of her, then grabbed my bag and headed for the parking lot.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Two less orphans

I'm excited to report that two beautiful little girls, currently living in Port-au-Prince, will be going home the end of this month.  It's been such a long, emotionally and physically draining process for my friend.  It's a beautiful feeling each time I hear a child is going home.

At the end of this month there will be two less orphans in the world.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  

Last week was hard for me.  An adopting mom friend of mine told me that the paperwork was by far the hardest part of the process.  Notarizations, translations, certifications, duplications.  She promised that once it was done I'd breathe a sigh of relief.

I did.

It lasted until I got confirmation that the paperwork reached Haiti.  Then a new level of 'hard' began for me.  It's call - waiting.  Waiting without updates.  Waiting without knowing.  Waiting, just trusting that the process is moving.

Those of you who know me know that I'm terrible at delegating.  When I want to get something done, I do it myself.  I'm lazy as the day is long, but when there's work to be done I'm in the trenches working my butt off.

The most frustrating thing for me is that I can't do anything right now.  I can't drive to the courthouse, make calls, or send a massive basket of chocolate to give the workers incentive to keep my file at the top of the pile.  I want to DO.  And I'll admit that, while I am praying A LOT, I just feel like I should be doing more.

I wish I could do more.

I just want her home.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Henry and I are both sick.  Right now we're home together having a much needed lazy Saturday.  I feel like crud, and I know he feels like crud too.

Earlier this morning he sat in my lap and grabbed my arms and wrapped them around him.  You know what happened then.  I though of her.  I thought about what happens when she's sick.  I thought about who she wants to have wrap their arms around her to comfort her.

Then I thought about the day that I get to hold her when she sick.  Hug her when she's sad.  Cuddle her when she feels like crud.

That day will come.  I know it will.  One less orphan.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First days of school

I've been meaning to update this for days. Life has been absolutely crazy since I got back from the DR. Our sweet kitty went through two surgeries and a pretty long recovery. Thankfully he's going to be ok. It's hard to understand the love of an animal until you watch how your children love them. When I brought him in for what I thought was a really bad seizure and stroke, I wasn't prepared for my daughter's emotions and making a tough decision. Weepy blue/green hazel eyes will always win the fight to save a pet. I'm happy to report that Squeaks has made a miraculous recovery. Even the vet team that worked on him thinks so.

Here's a picture of him from last winter.
How could I not fight for a little kitty who cuddles with Sofia's tush?

Last Thursday was the first day of 4th grade for my sweet daughter. She was fortunate enough to get her braces off right before school started. I can't believe this is my daughter.

It was a very big day for this household on Wednesday. Henry started preschool! He's been talking about it for weeks and was very excited to go. Here's my little man walking in on his first day. He's such a big boy.

Just last night I received another wonderful gift. A friend who recently brought her daughter home send me more pictures of our daughter. While we still aren't far enough in the process to be comfortable with revealing who she is, I will share one of the pictures.
Isn't she beautiful? Even the back of her head. I'm not sure what they were doing this day, but all the little girls were dressed up.

Have I said before how much I can't wait to bring her home? We're 3 months and 1 week post referral. We're nearly at the year mark since we started this process. To say that I'm impatient, frustrated, hopeful, detached, and in love would be the mixed bag that's Karen. We did receive a short update on how she's doing. She hangs out with the boys and gets into trouble. It seems she rallies them together and plots how to break out of the baby house. I can only imagine what she'll do with Henry!

One thing about adopting parents is that we're hungry for information. ANY kind of information. We spend hours surfing the Internet, reading blogs, pushing the F9 button just hoping an update email will come in. The Haiti blogs I've been reading indicate that it's taking 7-8 months in the process before the Visa gets issued. If we work a best-case scenario, that means she could be home in February. Mostly likely won't be, but she could be. When adopting parents don't get information, we make up our own. February.

 Will you please pray for that?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Christmas in August!

It's never too early to start thinking about Christmas. Let's start before August ends!

We're going to sponsor all of the kids at Children of the Promise again. It will be a little different from last year. Here are the basics, so you can start planning.
* You still get to choose a child (or more) to send presents too.
* We'll focus on the basics - clothing, food, diapers - plus a toy or two.
* This year I'm going to ask everyone to ship their own boxes. The adoption has us kinda low on funds.
* Boxes still need to be sent in early November.

Start scouring those clearance racks for summer clothes and shoes. Stock up on diapers. And find yourself a big box that you can start filling up. It's never too early to get started. Heck, if you fill the box up now, you can ship it right away and just start over!

Check out the babies here. Nikensly and Theo are already taken. (Thanks Kris!)

Let's fill their depot from the floor to the ceiling and give this kids the best Christmas ever.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

And then...she smiles

It seems like it takes me a day or two back home before I'm able to blog again. Yesterday was unusually busy. Our kitty needed surgery, what I thought was a lost filling ended up being a crown, and my kids wanted and totally deserved extra attention.

I'm relaxing on the couch right now. Henry is munching on popcorn, and our kitty is cuddling up to me, cone of shame and all. As my mouth recovers from some very intense drilling yesterday, I can't help but think that my pain is nothing in comparison to what the kids are dealing with post-op. Chest tubes, central lines, wires, a stitched up chest. Such brave kids.

Facebook is my friend this week. The team is updating their pages, and I'm able to download pictures that bring it all back. I'll warn you now that the first pic has a bit of blood. There's an open chest. A heart that's not beating. Lots of instruments. But in this picture is something amazing. Dr. Rodriguez paints a smile on the patch that's used to close the VSD. This particular patch happens to be the one that's now on Maria's heart. Maybe this ooks you out - but this makes me smile.

While she didn't smile before I left, she's smiling now. Every day she'll just smile more and more. Here she is with her aunt.

Along this journey I met many amazing individuals. One of those individuals was a 2nd year med student named Mary. Initially Mary was shy and quiet. You know what they say about the shy and quiet ones. I'm married to one of them!! Mary is an unbelievable person. She is small but mighty. Shy but confident. Quiet but full of wisdom. Mary was my partner for the week. We watched ECHOs, scrubbed instruments, and just hung out together. Here we are on Saturday, after spending the day on the beach.

Have to add this pic. This is Friday night - the 3 glasses of wine night. In the middle is Lori - respiratory therapist. On the right is Erin - intensivist.

This is the first baby who was operated on. He had a really tough week last week as he aspirated breast milk following surgery, then coded twice. He was extubated on Saturday morning. From what I was told, he'll make a full recovery.

How could I forget this picture. I was told that defects go together. This is his hand.
I think his fingers are pretty cool.

I'm looking forward to seeing more pictures this week, as the team continues their work. Amazing people - giving their time and skills to save lives.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Last week I was on the same island as our daughter. Just 4 hours away from her. I couldn't help but think about her. Every. Single. Day. The past week's posts have focused on my trip with ICHF. My energy was given to those kids. But my mind never stopped thinking about her.

I don't have any updates on our adoption. I actually don't have anything good to write. I'm frustrated. We've had no updates. No pictures. Nothing. There's been no movement. I have to trust that she's healthy. And I have to trust that the process is moving, even when I feel like it's not.

We were given a Picasa link that has a lot of pictures of her. It was so exciting when we first got the link. Now it's just a source of frustration because there aren't any new pictures. I try to avoid the site. Yet I find myself unable to.

Right now I'm in detach mode. She is only a picture on my dresser. She's not a reality to me. This adoption is not a reality. At this point I don't see her coming home. Everyone I've talked to has experienced the same emotions. Why does it have to be this way?

In happier news, Odelande is home with her family. They got home on Saturday. Her mom sent me the greatest picture of her in the arms of her brothers. I can see these two protecting her and taking care of her as she grows up in this new country.

I guess it shows me that kids eventually DO make it out. It should help me believe that one day our daughter will be home, shouldn't it?

For now, I'll focus my energies on writing grants, finishing out my final months at work, and loving up Henry and Sofia as much as I can.

Please be thankful for the healthy children you have in your life. Be thankful for a decent medical system. Be thankful for toilet paper and paper towels and hand sanitizer. Be thankful that there are people in this world who give their time and skills to care for and save others. And be thankful that you have the opportunity to do the same thing.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

30 minutes

In 30 minutes I'll be on the bus to the airport. Today I have a peace and calm about me. Not sure if it's because I'm going home or if it's because I now have a full picture of what this organization does for children who wouldn't otherwise have a chance.

I just emailed my adopting-mom friend Sarah that I could travel to every country and find children and organizations worthy of my time and efforts. While God may decide otherwise, right now it feels like this is where I'm meant to be. COTP and ICHF have my heart, time and commitment.

This morning a few of us went to the hospital. I was thankful to be able to see sweet Maria one more time before leaving. She's not happy - and she did not smile. I wouldn't smile either if my chest had been cracked open. From what I understand, she's going to make a full recovery. The team will see that sweet smile before they leave next week.

Here's a little perspective on Maria's situation. As you could tell from the pictures, she was a very happy little girl. From the outside you'd never know what was going on in her heart. She basically had 4 different things that needed to be repaired. With her condition she'd live until about 20, then her heart would just give out. Right now she's one ticked off little girl, but this surgery has given her time and life and a chance to grow old. I wish I could have told her that.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Humberto - the surgeon on the trip - brought a few of us to a friend of his so we could purchase souvenirs. I'm so thankful to have an 'inside' connection. I was able to spend my very last peso in this man's shop and get a few really fun things. Of course I can't post what they are because Sofia reads this and I truly enjoy the torture of making her wait to see what I've bought for her. I know - mean mom.

Look at what I saw on the way to the market.

I'm thankful for health. I'm thankful for my children. I'm thankful to have had this opportunity.

And I'm thankful to be heading home.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Home again, home again

I can't wait to see my kids. Have I said that yet? Tomorrow will be a long travel day. I won't be home until after midnight, but I'm going to wake them up as soon as I walk in the door. It's been 9 interesting and amazing days, and it's time to get home and kiss my family.

Today we drove through the mountains to the beach. I didn't bring a suit with me, so I sat on the beach in a skirt. It didn't matter - I just wanted to lay down and listen to the waves. The team so deserves this break.

The team received this gift from a local doctor. He paid for day passes for everyone to an all-inclusive resort. They got to eat, drink and relax.

Here's Dr. Humberto Rodriguez taking a nap. I love this man.

Sweet little Maria was extubated late last night. Sorry that I was not able to post that sooner. It was a wonderful message to get before we left for the day.

Tomorrow I'll head to the hospital with 4 of the team members, then I'm off to the airport at 11:30. It's bittersweet. I'm ready to get home to my kids, but I'm not ready to leave this group. I completely love the family we have here. It's amazing how a group of individuals can come together from all over the world, and bond the way we have.

Before heading back to Santiago tonight I had to say goodbye to most everyone. I will miss them. A beautiful group of individuals who gave their time and skills to save children with broken hearts.

I'll post tomorrow afternoon as soon as I get to Miami. Hopefully I'll have pictures of a smiling Maria.




Today, it's the beach

When I first was planning on coming down here, I figured we'd be working today. From all I read, Sunday was the day to play. Saturday was still a work day. Well, that's not the case. The crew has a much deserved break for the entire weekend. When I first heard that, I was ready to change my flight and come home today. I was here to work, and I don't quite grasp the concept of downtime.

I'm glad I didn't change my flight. After all that's happened this week, I need this time to decompress before heading home. It will be nice to lay by a pool, walk in the sand, and do a little shopping for Sofia.

After running out of money early on, I've now got 2,650 pesos to spend today. That's about 70 bucks. In Haiti that's nothing. Just across the island, it will go far.

We're headed to an all inclusive resort at 9:30 this morning. It's about a 90 minute drive there. Since I fly out tomorrow, I'll head back here with two of the doctors around 6:00 tonight. Just enough time to relax, unwind, and clear my mind.

While part of me wishes I was staying here with the team, I can't wait to get home. I can't wait to see my kids.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Life and death and glasses of wine

I'm just getting back from dinner with the team, and I'll tell you right now that I had three glasses of wine. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't drink - for a few reasons.
1 - It's too expensive
2 - I have kids who get up early
3 - I'm a lightweight
4 - I'd rather save my calories

Tonight those top 4 didn't matter. I needed some wine to forget about today. But tonight it's all rushing back, as the wine is wearing off. How do people who work at a children's hospital survive?

I met up with Maria first thing this morning and told her I'd be with her for her entire surgery. She was all smiles, for the most part, and gave me permission to be in her surgery. I walked behind her as she was entering the OR, and watched almost every minute of her surgery.

Here she is being put under.
What I didn't know before today is that the body sometimes fights being put under. She was resisting pretty hard on the table - what I was told was that it was just reflexes. She'd been given the drug to make her forget, and the drug to make her go to sleep.

I stayed. For the entire prep, opening, and the surgery. I watched little Maria's chest being opened, and thought about her mother has her heart was exposed to the world, and I thought of her as her heart was being stopped.

This is for you medical types. Maria had TOF. The doc removed her pericardium and constructed a valve out of it. I watched him make it. I watched him attached it. And I watched as it was full of blood.

Did you ever think I'd be talking like this? I speak heart now. Maybe not completely accurately, but I understand the lingo now.

Maria was in surgery for a very long time. At 2:00 my stomach finally decided for me that I needed to get some lunch. Here it is. No, I did not eat it all. The lunch gals dish up plates for anyone who doesn't make it in by noon.
I have no idea what this was - but I was so hungry that it was delicious.

As they were stitching her up I saw people flying down the hallway, then people flying out of the OR I was in. A child, who has just gotten out of surgery, coded in the room across the hallway from Maria. The stress of Maria's surgery, the stress of seeing a 4 month old's body this morning, the stress of hearing that a child was coding, that stress took me out. I was done. I had all I could take. It was too much.

I'm not medical. I've had no training, no experience, and no exposure at all. And yet I'm thrown into all of this. Life and death and stuff most people never ever see in their lifetime. I don't want to. I want out. I just want to go home and forget this.

I held back the tears. This team of seasoned professionals is not going to see me cry. It's right there. All of the emotion and rage and anger. It's right there, and I'll get it out some day. For now, I need to check on Maria.

When I went back in, her heart was in v-fib. I don't know how to spell that, and I don't know what it means. All I know is that her heart was not starting on its own. The paddles were coming out.

Once.

Twice.

Finally. It's beating.

Did you know that in many countries the family has to provide the blood for surgery? Maria's family had to secure blood before she could ever go under the knife. After the doctor started up her heart, Maria started bleeding. They didn't know where it was coming from. What they did know is that she needed more blood.

Maria and I are blood mates. We're both A-. How does it work that this child needs blood, and I'm a prefect match? There was no question - I would donate for her. While I know that I'm A- I doubted myself and wanted to make absolutely sure I was A- before ever letting my blood enter her system.

As Maria lay bleeding on the table, I went to the lab to donate my blood. First - I was typed to make sure we matched.

There was no question here. Let me give this child my blood.

Terrible news. My iron is too low to donate. What do you mean it's too low? Will something happen to Maria if my iron is low? I don't care what happens to me. I'm not a small person. I can be without this blood. Please take it. Please give it to Maria. Please God, let this child live.

It didn't matter how much I pled my case. They would not take my blood. There was too much concern about ME. 12.3. All I know is that means I can't donate. What does that 0.7 matter?

I made my way back up to the OR. I was absolutely defeated. Until I opened the door. They were closing her up. Surgery was complete. Maria didn't need my blood.

After being stitched up, little Maria was brought into the ICU. I finally got to see this beautiful little girl - with all of her tubes and monitors that don't scare me anymore. She was finally out of surgery after 7 hours.

She didn't stop bleeding. I heard them talking about bringing her back in. A second surgery. Little Maria might be opened up again.

After about 30 minutes it was decided. She was going back in. A second surgery for this little girl with the beautiful smile.

I couldn't think about it. I couldn't go in. I couldn't watch. "Don't get attached." That kept going around and around in my head. Now I understood why. Don't get attached, because not all kids come out of surgery alive.

I did everything I could to distract myself during her second surgery and before I knew it, it was done. Maria was back out. Sweet Maria was back. And she wasn't bleeding as much. Whatever was happening, they got it fixed.

It was time for her mother to finally see her. Nearly 11 hours after watching her baby walk away into surgery, her mother was finally able to see her.

It's beautiful and difficult to watch a mother see her child in the ICU for the first time. Her mother completely broke down. All the tubes. All the blood. It's so hard to see.

After her mother left, I say down beside Maria to just watch her. I just wanted to watch. Her chest going up and down. Her feet which were so pink. Her hands which occasionally started reaching her mouth. I just wanted to watch.

I don't have the happy ending for Maria yet. If she does OK, she may be extubated at some point tonight. I won't know until tomorrow morning.

I won't know until the wine has long worn off.

I just pray that it's nothing but good news tomorrow.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Too tired to post...

But I have to before going to bed. So much happened today. This will be choppy - hopefully you can follow along.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

How to piss off a baby
1 - Take it away from its mother.
2 - Start poking it with needles.

It's kinda like Haiti - I'm getting used to the crying. Doesn't mean I don't want to do something about it, but I know that the end result is going to (hopefully) be a good thing.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I tried really hard to make Leonardo smile this morning. It's gotta stink after open-heart surgery to have people poking around when your body is in so much pain. But that's my goal - I need to see them all smile. I tried games on my phone, funny faces, you name it. No smile.

He looked at me, then projectile vomited bright green.

Maybe that's why he didn't want to smile.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Leonardo was discharged from the ICU after the projectile incident. His mother was so excited. He was not.

As we were walking into the 'step-down' unit where he'll be spending the next few days, I noticed a body wrapped in a sheet. I was told there was a trauma last night. I don't know what that means. All I know is that my joy was replaced with sorrow - and I just wanted to throw up.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I fell in love. Jason is not going to let me travel anymore. Here's a picture of sweet Maria. She's 6 years old and will be having surgery tomorrow. I'm going to scrub in for it and follow her from start to finish.
We completely bonded during her ECHO. I was laying on the bed next to her, taking and showing her pictures. I showed her the picture of Sofia making bracelets - like the one she's wearing.


I'm really hoping that I can be with her in pre-op, scrub in for her surgery, then follow her to the ICU. She likes me right now. After surgery she's going to hate me.

Hopefully I can see her smile before I leave. Thankfully the team will be here next week and they can update me on her progress.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Lunch. I have no idea why I started showing you my lunch but now it's a trend and I have to continue.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

So sorry this is short. My post will be late tomorrow. I'm going to stay for 12-hours to be with Maria.




Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Leonardo - Rosa!

I'm just getting back for the day at 9pm. There were 3 surgeries today, so it was very busy for the team. I have so much to type, so many pictures to share. You'd better grab a cup of coffee and a snack before starting this one.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I'm finding that some things I'm putting out of my mind. We all know I can't handle crying, so you'll understand why I forgot about this for a day.

Yesterday as we were walking in, I saw a man carrying a small body covered with a sheet. All I could see was a curly tuft of black hair sticking out of the top of the sheet. My initial fear was that it was our little 5 month old who had surgery on Monday.

After stepping into the ICU, I was relieved to see that it wasn't him. But my heart broke knowing that it was still someone's child.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Today the ECHO procedures moved into a different room. The pre- and post-op room. (It's the same room) After the 2nd ECHO started, they wheeled a boy who was around 10 years old into the room. He was moaning and did not stop. All I wanted to do was comfort him - but there was nothing I could do. They eventually moved him, but that sound haunted me for the rest of the day.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Emily B - this is for you. I saw the 14 year old smile today - 24 hours post-op. I'm pretty sure she thought I was a nut bar because I started crying. I just couldn't help myself. After seeing the pained look on her face yesterday, it was a beautiful thing to see that wide smile today. This afternoon she told me, through a translator, that while it was still a little hard to breathe, she wasn't in pain. Praise the Lord, right?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I started to compile a list of things you have to get used to when you travel outside the comforts of the US. Here goes.

1 - Don't drink a lot on the weekends. There isn't any toilet paper at the hospital on the weekends.

2 - Speaking of TP, it can't be flushed here. Septic systems can't handle it. (Try breaking the habit of flushing toilet paper...then let your mind wander to what you have to do with it if you can't flush it.)

3 - After the first roll of paper towels runs out, don't expect to see any more.

4 - The door knob on the way out of the bathroom will always be wet. See #3. Don't question what the liquid is.

5 - Lunch will be served in a room the size of a standard bathroom. Everyone will be in the room - surgeons, nurses, cardiologists, perfusionists (yah, I know what that is) and even crazy ladies they let tag along on mission trips.

6 - Be daring - and just try it. You might actually enjoy it.

7 - Expect the air to be on and the windows to be open. The occasional wasp flying into the room next to the ICU doesn't phase anyone.

8 - Hot coffee is poured into tiny plastic cups. When you see people with only 1/2 a cup, there's a reason. I realized that after burning my fingers.
9 - Try the brown colored sugar in your coffee. It's delicious!

10 - Don't be shocked when 24-hours after having open-heart surgery you see a little one eating potato chips. (That's for you medical folks.)

11 - If you can wash dishes, you can wash surgical instruments.

12 - Remember that no matter what language you speak, a lollypop will always make a child smile.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The power went out 4 times today. Random. Just had to tell you that. I guess that's #13 on what to expect. A really awesome ICU nurse named Amanda, who I LOVE, walked out of the ICU wide-eyed and told me how much it sucks when the power goes out. I kinda figured it would suck. :-)

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The absolute highlight of my day came after this little guy's surgery.
His name is Leonardo, and he had Tetrology of Fallot. You can Google it. It's pretty darn complex. This little guy has been blue since he was born. His finger-tips and lips were so blue when I first met him.

The moment happened around 8pm. I was allowed to go get Leonardo's mother so she could see him for the first time post-op. I knew enough Spanish to tell her - no more azul. Leonardo rosa! His lips and fingers are now pink.
She started to cry as I directed her back to the ICU. The look on her face when she saw him will forever be burned into memory. I pulled back his blanket to reveal his now pink fingers.

Leonardo - Rosa!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A day in the life of a cardiologist

First things first, this paragraph is for my sister Kris. Everything worked out. Tonight I went to dinner with the team, paid with my Visa, and they all paid me in pesos. Absolute genius. I'm good to go for the rest of the trip.

For the rest of you, here's the story of my financial woes. On Sunday, parents of a very sick Haitian baby were at the hospital for an ECHO. After it was complete, I spoke to the nurse at COTP and she let me know that they didn't have enough money to get across the border, and asked if I would give them money. It was Sunday. I'd only been here for a day, and I knew if I gave them money that I would not have enough for the rest of the week. Against my better judgement, I did the right thing. I gave them more than enough cash, and my last apple.

There are times in life when we're called to make choices. Some are difficult, some are easy, and some just mean missing a few dinners. I chose the easy path of missing out on dinners in order to help this family get back across the border. But as you can see from above, it has all worked out. Loaves and fishes.

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Today was completely different from yesterday. I spent the day with Dr. DiSessa, a brilliant Cardiologist. This morning he ECHO'd 4 kids - one of whom was operated on this afternoon. He's an amazing teacher. Did you know that learning about the heart is the same as basic plumbing? He had a way of explaining it to the med students in a way that even I understood. Don't ask me to repeat anything, but it started to make sense.

Here's a picture of what was on the shelf in the back of the ECHO room. There's a heart in that pickle jar. If I ever make it back I'm going to clean out Henry's toys and replace what's on the shelf with something maybe a little happier.

Once the ECHOs were complete I asked to interview him about his experience with ICHF. He has an amazing story that I'll eventually write up. But I can tell you that in his time with ICHF he's performed close to 300 procedures. Now that he's retired he will be going on 6-7 trips per year for the next 3 years. It's a good way to end his career, he indicated. Yes indeed Dr. DiSessa, I believe it is.

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Of course you need to see what lunch was like. This was really delicious. Vegetables! I was so excited. What you're not seeing is the 3 trays of meat.

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I stayed out of the OR today, and made minimal visits to the ICU. Our little guy from yesterday had a tough night so I wanted to leave the team to do what they know best. I did get to see the 14 year old and her eyes looked so pained. I pictured the beautiful, excited, smiling girl from yesterday and knew she'd soon be back to that, only much better. This too shall pass, my friend.

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Here's a picture of the Respiratory Therapist and one of the ICU nurses working with a sweet 3 year old who just got out of surgery. As a mom, it is so hard for me to see this. I know this surgery is saving her, but I had the urge to sweep her up and hold her close.

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Before the afternoon concluded I helped clean the instruments for the next day. Again you medical folks - picture this - all the instruments that are used in surgery are scrubbed, by hand, by the OR nurse, then completely dried, wrapped and steamed.

There are three surgeries tomorrow, so I offered to wash all instruments after each of the surgeries. This team is going to be extremely busy tomorrow.

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I have to conclude this post with a picture of my beautiful daughter. God bless technology. On Sunday night my friend sent me a picture of my youngest daughter from COTP, and tonight my beautiful oldest sent me this.
I sent a reply and asked her if she was going to eat him. Her response, "Um no. I don't eat fish. We set him free. We are eating hot dogs, not Fishy! Thats what Henry calls him. Love you so much!!"

I love you so much too Sofia. And I thank God every day for being blessed with healthy children.

Remember that He has called me to help those who are not.