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.



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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cotton Balls and Big Words

Let me start this post by saying that I did nothing amazing. I didn't save a life, assist with surgery, or even help in any capacity. I am blessed to be able to travel with a team of amazing individuals who are doing all the work. My purpose for being here has yet to be revealed, as this team is so efficient with what they do that the work I was told to do while I'm here is being done by others. They are good. They are amazing. And there are being wonderful at tolerating me taking up space.

This morning we were on our way to the hospital at 8:00. As our first little patient was being prepped for surgery, we rolled cotton balls. You medical types out there - have you ever had to roll your own cotton balls? We had a big sheet of cotton that we took a piece off of, then pressed it into a closed fist. Pretty darn clever.

Our first surgery was for a little boy named Yeury - a 5 month old with TAPVR. Yah, I'm going to have to Google that one too. From what I understand, it was a pretty complex case.

After I got done rolling cotton balls I watched his surgery. Yes - I watched open-heart surgery. His chest had already been opened by the time I got in the OR. It's amazing to watch a beating heart then watch it stop when the bypass machine is on.
Heart and lung machine for your medical types. I understand it's a tad bigger than what's usually used.

On the left is Dr. Humberto Rodriguez.

At one point I asked one of the nurses what the surgeon was pushing to the side, almost lifting out of his chest. She told me it was his heart. What they needed to work on was on the back side of his heart. Wow.

It was very hard to see his tiny body on the table, but I knew this surgery was saving his life. I was told that with this case he would maybe live to be 3 or 4 and be miserable most of the time.

I stayed in the OR for the remainder of the surgery, including while they closed up his chest.

Here he is after being extubated in the ICU.

The most touching moment happened when his father was finally allowed in the room to check on him. One of the US nurses told him that it was OK to touch him. He was understandably cautious at first, but that changed quickly. Soon he was kissing him and asked if he was going to be alright. It was all of a 30-second interaction, but it was incredibly moving.

I just wanted to pick this little guy up and cuddle him. Maybe tomorrow.

After Yeury was settled in to the ICU, it was time for lunch. It's hard to be vegetarian. But maybe I pulled it off?
Beans and rice and beets.

After lunch I went in to observe the second surgery. I really wanted to watch the sternum being cut. This case was a 14 year old girl with VSD. Pretty simple surgery, from what I was told. Except that it's heart surgery and all.

I walked into the OR as they were starting to open her. When they got the saw out, everyone looked at me. "You going to be OK Karen? This part can be hard to watch." I watched as he cut her, then watched as the saw crapped out. Then I watched as they worked to get another saw. And I wondered why no one was panicking...

They finally got a saw that worked and again I was asked if I was going to be OK. I watched her be opened up and guess what? I was OK. No stars, no queasy feeling, nothing. It was absolutely fascinating. I stayed in for most of her surgery and left before she was being closed up.

I have no idea why, but I'm absolutely exhausted tonight. All I did was roll a few cotton balls and observe surgery. And this is what Karen looks like after:

Tomorrow will be busier as we'll have the two from today moving out of the ICU, then two more kids being operated on - ages 3 and 8.

While I had passion to support International Children's Heart Foundation before coming on this trip, being here has brought it to a new level. I can't do what they do. Heck, I don't understand what they're saying 90% of the time (and it's all in English!) But I can work really hard on making sure they have what they need to keep doing what they're doing. Saving someone else's precious child.

I miss my kids

Last night I had a hard time falling asleep. All I wanted was to be able to hug and kiss my kids.

Sofia - I love you with all my heart. Some day I hope you understand why I do this. (Tell your brother I love him too.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday - not a day of rest

Wow - what a crazy day. The team met in the lobby at 9am and took the bus to the hospital to get set up for tomorrow's surgeries. The anticipation was high. This is the first trip with ICHF for many, and we were anxious to see the hospital.

First things first - everyone who told me to wear a long-sleeve shirt under my scrubs while in the OR - you made me laugh today! I've got a feeling that there won't be a single moment that I'm cold while I'm here. While the OR and ICU do have air conditioning, most of the rest of the building does not.

The joyous moment of the day was meeting the baby from COTP who had spent a few weeks here in the hospital. I went around the corner to the ECHO room and there he was with his mother. I recognized him from pictures, but was shocked at how absolutely tiny he is. As soon as I held him I started to cry. I've read his story on their blog and couldn't believe I was finally meeting him.

Here's a picture from the ECHO room. You can't even imagine how many people were in there.
While I couldn't communicate with his parents, I spoke the language of 'mom' with his mother. She has put total trust in God that His will be done with this little guy. Such hope and faith. Out of respect for his family, I will let COTP share about the results of today's visit.

It was hard to see them go, but I'm thankful to have met them.

Compared to what my time was like last year in Haiti, the start to this feels like a vacation. I'm again back in my air conditioned room with wifi access, sipping a diet Coke which tastes so much better than what we have in the states. (Yah I know - I gave up diet Coke. But I need something to keep me it's delish!)

Tomorrow morning, the first surgery happens. If you're on Facebook 'LIKE' International Children's Heart Foundation. I'll be updating their page in the evening when I'm done with my shift. Please pray for successful surgeries for these beautiful children.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My ICHF Postcard

Greetings from Santiago, My morning started at 2am. Not because of nerves - just because I woke up and figured there was no sense in going back to sleep. Needless to say, I'm really tired right now.

This morning I was greeted with a gift from Sofia. (You'd be seeing a picture of it but I'm finding the one thing I didn't pack is the cable that allows me to transfer pics to my Mac.) She had made another bracelet and left it on my suitcase with a note that read: "Bring this to the kids. Miss U already." Have I told you all how much I love that child?

Today's emotions run from one end of the spectrum to the other. My sister Beck loaded her Shuffle with songs for me - quite a mix, I might add - and I found myself crying to Karen Carpenter at one point.

This trip is different for a thousand reasons. I'm sitting in my hotel room with AC and wifi. There are markets, restaurants, paved roads and more here. If I forgot my toothbrush I can just use the one that's in the basket in my room next to the little bottle of shampoo. Crazy.

Today was a non-work day. I don't know what to do with myself. I expected to be at the hospital unpacking supplies and reviewing charts. Not that I'd understand anything, but just to get an idea of who is being operated on and when. We got to the hotel, settled in, then walked to dinner. We're just now getting back.

Erin, the OR nurse, indicated that I can be in the OR as much or as little as I want. She even said I could scrub in. I'll go in there for sure to experience open-heart surgery but I've already claimed the job of official rocker, hugger and feeder in the ICU. I think that's a good job for me.

My mind and body are tired, but I'm very excited and grateful to be here. I'm going to close my eyes for a bit. The surgeon lands at 8:30 and we're all going to meet - as a team.

Exciting stuff is about to happen, my friends.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The most special gift

Have you ever received a gift that touched your heart so much you wanted to cry with joy? Something so simple, but so thoughtful, it's as though the giver knew what the perfect gift would be?

Last weekend Sofia got in trouble. I can't even remember what it was about, most likely something really silly. She stormed off to her room and closed the door. Not very gently, mind you. Then she got quiet. Really quiet.

I gave her a few minutes, then opened her door to see what she was doing.

This is what I walked into.

A closer look.

She learned how to do this at bible camp this summer. The foot technique makes me smile.

I turned around and closed the door, leaving her to her work.

A few minutes later she walked out, and handed the bracelet to me. She was in there making me a gift. The perfect gift. A gift that made me cry.

Sofia wove 5 colors of string together. Each had its own meaning.
Blue for Henry. He's blue, of course
Pink for herself. Obviously. (I swore I wouldn't color-code my children.)
Orange for her father. Henry says that orange is tiny and her dad is not tiny.
Purple for me. No reason why.
Then there's brown. Brown for her little sister.

Because her little sister is brown.

She helped me tie the bracelet on my wrist. A constant reminder of the true, pure love of a little girl.

The most special gift.