Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tips for Hospital Patients

I did learn a few things in October while spending 2 weeks in the hospital – 1 week in ICU and 1 week on a regular floor. Here are a few observations and tips for surviving the hospital environment:

1. As lousy as hospital stays are, the more humor you are able to retain, the better. Laughing will not only help you heal, it will endear you to hospital staff and they will see you as a person, not just a patient.

2. NG tubes go down much easier when you are dehydrated. Gulping the liquid they give you is so comforting that you don’t notice the tube going through your nose, throat, and into your stomach.

3. It’s kinda amusing to measure the amount of goop that comes out of your stomach through the tube in your nose. When you comment on the color of it to the nurses, they look at you funny. Example: “You know, that greenish-black color would look great on the walls in my study.”

4. The “PIC line” they put in the right arm and strings to your heart really doesn’t hurt. Mine was purple. I saw it when they removed it the day I was discharged.

5. The catheter is actually a very nice feature. I didn’t realize what a pain it was to keep track of having to pee until they took it out! Once out of ICU, you don’t move as fast as you used to. Potty trips require a couple of minutes of advance planning.

6. The TPN (liquid food) bag was my nutrition for 10 days. I referred to it as my “cheeseburger and Amstel Light.” When it got low, I told the nurse that I wanted another cheeseburger. Got a few laughs. Surprisingly, I never craved food.

7. The showers are the size of a phone booth (remember those?) and the water pressure and temperature control is not guaranteed. Sponge baths aren’t so bad.

8. If you are moved to a floor with bariatric patients going through the lap band procedure, you will see several wheelchairs that are supersized. Don’t make any smartass comments about them because more than likely an humungous patient will be right behind you. (Awkward moment!).

9. When people call the phone in your hospital room, if you answer “Domino’s Pizza, would you like the 5 for 1 special today?” the caller will pause, maybe hang up or yell at you. It is usually a florist calling to see if you are still alive before they deliver flowers.

10. They don’t like you to use your Blackberry in ICU, but I did not find that it interfered with the machines like they said it would.

11. If you want to do something you aren’t supposed to, tell whomever is sitting with you in the room that you are tired and your back to him/her. Then, you can sneak your phone/blackberry/notebook from under your pillow and communicate with the outside world. I got busted with this technique, however. My heart rate would elevate and my mother would catch that on the monitor and then yank it from my hands.

12. Keep a Journal book or spiral notebook in your room with a page for each date you are in the hospital. Keep brief notes from doctor comments/explanations, visitors, anything profound you say while “under the influence.” Also, it is a good place to write down questions that come time mind between doctor visits.

13. Things to pack in your hospital bag:
a. Saran wrap – to wrap up the IV line hookups in your arms so you can take a very awkward shower while attached to various life-saving devices. You will need some help, so don’t be embarrassed.
b. Rain slicker – for your shower assistant. If s/he helps you get situated in the shower, s/he will most likely get soaked even when standing on the other side of the curtain. My mom got soaked the first time without a clean shirt to change into.
c. iPod or CD player & CDs – One can only watch the maternity channel so many times without wanting to hurl. Also, sometimes I was too tired to read or watch TV, yet wanted some friendly sound to drown out the beeps.
d. Treats for the nurses and medical staff. Keep some candies handy on the bed tray. They love junk food and seem to respond quickly when you beep for them.
e. Pleasant smelling room freshener to eliminate that “hospital smell.”
f. Your favorite pillow(s) and several fresh pillow cases (preferably not white). While the tread count is obviously different, the cleaning folks who change the sheets won’t pay attention.
g. Comforter/blanket and pillow for your loved one who camps with you. The furniture for the loved one who stays are often horribly uncomfortable, so s/he may need to do some yoga to get situated in the chairs to sleep.
h. Chewing gum – sometimes it feels good to chew on something even though you can’t eat.
i. Baby powder and your favorite lotions. Your backside WILL get sore and the skin on your back and lower back will get a bit funky. The baby powder helps bring some relief.
j. Bathrobe – when you are able to get up and walk, you will want to cover your backside as you walk down the halls (those lovely hospital wraps don’t quite do it).

Sunday, November 25, 2007

An Open Letter of Gratitude

Now that I am home recuperating and my brain is clear of the anesthesia and other life-saving medications, I need to share my sincere and humble gratitude with all who played a role in saving my life beginning on October 14, 2007. This is no small matter to me and my family. My 13 year old daughter Katrina and 11 year old son Alexander are so happy to have their mom back at home! Robert and I never expected to have this kind of challenge in our lives at such an early age. We are so truly blessed.

To the women and men who chose careers in medicine – “thank you” is not enough. All that schooling and residencies, all that tuition, today’s health care environment – and still you get up every day to share your best selves and help others.

Special thanks to the amazing Kaiser Permanente doctors and Northside Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia!

I am thankful for the NG tube that pumped out 2.5 liters from my stomach and gave me some relief when I arrived at Northside. I was so dehydrated when I arrived that the promise to swallow liquid and the tube seemed like nothing.

Dr. Darryl Tookes and his team saved my life with the emergency surgery that was done just in time. I was in the most excruciating pain I’ve ever encountered (yes, worse than pitocin-induced labor!) when we met. Your calm presence put me at ease.

Dr. David Brodeur took great interest in my circumstances to search for answers. What we learn will not only help me, but may be of great value to my children and siblings.

Dr. Mooney removed the NG tube like it was nothing and provided great follow-ups my last week in the hospital.

Dr. Kristyn Greifer regarded me as a whole woman and ordered tests that provided important information that will help guide future gynecological decisions. The time and patience she shared with me and my family are priceless!

Dr. Vickie Wilson orchestrated my follow up care. I am following her kind but stern warning to slow down and let my body heal. It is not easy, as you know, but I don’t want to see her in the hospital again.

And my gratitude goes to the lab and radiology techs who gathered the information to help the doctors make informed decisions.

The nurses and patient technicians are wonderful and appreciated, too! I don’t remember everyone’s names, but please know that you do truly make an impact on your patients with your smiles, positive attitudes and kind words.

To my mom and dad -- you dropped everything to be with me and my family for two long weeks! Your presence and love helped me more than you will ever know.

So many kind people pitched in and helped my family with the most delicious meals, running the kids around, driving me places before I got my wheels back... we are so grateful for the village that surrounded us with unconditional love and support!

I am thankful for your thoughtfulness, prayers, and warm wishes. My life is a testament to the power of positive energy, be it called prayer, thought, words, or Reiki. I promise you that I felt the love from so many when I was in the hospital. My mother believes that is why I am here today to write about it.

With humble and sincere gratitude,


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Spring Break Is Not for Wimps!

We just returned from our family field trip to Washington, DC with our two tween-age kids.
With our adoption petition in China at this time, we hope that sometime in 2008 we will be adding a couple of toddler munchkins to our happy family. Traveling with strollers and sippy cups will be a dramatically different family vacation...

This Spring Break had all the makings for a great adventure:
* 650 miles each way in the car, with no kids in diapers
* Hotel stays which cashed in the points hubby earns from all his business travel
* Monuments, memorials, and museums as far as the feet can carry
* Thousands of families with the same brilliant idea

In an effort to avoid arguments and endless queries like "what's next?" we prepared a calendar of events for each day (by hour) for the week. Yes, some might think that a bit overboard, but it was a helpful tool. While we didn't stick to the schedule, each evening we used this as a departure point to compare what we did see and recalibrate the following days.

Through our Congressman's office, we got tours through the Capitol, the White House, and the Supreme Court. Yep, they did require our social security numbers for the White House visit -- I guess we passed!

Souvenier tip:
The kids decided early in the trip to collect cloissonne pins from each place we visited. The gift shops were only too happy to oblige. Still, from $2 - 6 each, it was a better value than a t-shirt from each place. Each kid got a Washington, DC baseball cap and added the pins as they got them throughout the week.

The kids were great travelers. I only needed to shout out my famous, "Don't make me stop this car!" once. We played the license plate game there and back. We kept a running list of all the states' license plates we saw during the trip. I think we saw plates from 35 states and 4 Canadian provinces. Every sighting had to be verified by another passenger -- no making it up!

Robert was on a mission to see everything -- it was like speed-dating for historical buffs!
My toes got blistered despite my unattractive, orthopedic-looking, supposed to be comfortable shoes I brought with me. By Tuesday, I was hobbling around our nation's capital like the old arthritic woman I may one day become!

Now, I'm off to recapture the magic of spring break as I plow through the mountain of laundry we brought home (mom's souvenir!).



Monday, February 12, 2007

February is a Time to Celebrate!

What a year the past two weeks have been! Several major accomplishments in such a short time:
2/1/07: China LID
2/7/07: Robert turned 46
2/9/07: Alexander turned 11 (OMG!!! My BABY is now 11 years old!)
2/9/07: Cousin Eleni came into the world weighing over 10 lbs. Congrats to my sister Chrisa and her hubby Jaime! They live in Madrid and we have to share in the joy across the ocean.

Celebrating the 11th anniversary of the birth of my son and the fresh birth of my niece, I couldn't help but be wistful about our child or twins in China. Are they already in this world? How old are they today? Who is caring for them? If they are not yet born, how is their mother feeling during the pregnancy? When will she deliver? Where will she deliver? Who will be there to help? I pray for quick, safe, and healthy deliveries.

I'm appreciating a whole new sense of awe and mystery in this adoption journey that is similar, yet very different, from the pregnancy and childbirth journey.

For me, the best part of pregnancy was conception. Then it was 38 weeks of odd things happening to and in my body. The nausea, dizziness, polyhydramneous (yes, I puffed up like a blowfish), and fainting episodes were all quite lovely. A veritable picture of the glowing madonna!

Katrina bruised my ribs from kicking on the inside (foreshadowing, no doubt!). I thought for sure she was a boy and told people, "if this one is a girl, she is going to be a handful."
When she was 6 months old and sitting up unassisted, she seemed to lose some of her "babyness" and we decided that we should take our chances and try for another one. Little did I know that not much practice would be needed.

Her little brother was born when Katrina was 15 months old (what were we thinking?!?). That pregnancy was a blur because I was trying to keep up with our girl. I do remember feeling huge AND thinking that this fella was playing soccer and running bases around my uterus at all hours of the night.

Note to unmarrieds everywhere: I've had unprotected sex TWICE in my life ... and their names are Katrina and Alexander! It CAN happen to you!

This "adoption pregnancy" is quite different. For starters, we needed to get permission to be parents from lots of people and government agencies -- a process far more cumbersome, time consuming, frustrating, and expensive than an evening with a romantic dinner, candles, and R&B music.

The plus side is that life continues on as normal and my body is not inhibited by the biological changes. I can enjoy a glass of wine now and then. There is ample time to prepare (yes, I say that now, with 18 months to go). My "to do" list would be fodder for another day...

The challenge is the sense of a lack of control -- over the timing, the age of the child we'll be matched with, not knowing if she is raised in a wonderful foster family or an orphanage, does she feel love already? I talked to both my kids when I was pregnant and shared my dreams and plans for us as a family. They already knew my voice, my scent, my love. What will our newest additions think of me, their dad, and their instant siblings?

And the stress may show when the belly doesn't. I'm convinced there is an emotional response to preparing to parent via adoption that rivals traditional pregnancy. The social challenge is that it is misunderstood by the rest of the world. Some people think you just fill out some papers, write a few checks, and then you mail order a child.

And of course, there are the questions: When are you going to get your baby? "I don't know for sure but we're looking at an 18 month wait" is hard for people to comprehend. The next time you see them, they ask the same question.

We requested twins or a child under 24 months old, so it is quite conceivable that our little ones are already alive in China. I find comfort knowing we live beneath the same bright stars (hey, is that a song?).

with peace and love,


Monday, February 05, 2007

Woo Hoo -- We're LID!!!

Have we flipped our LID? Yes, we have! LID, in China adoption speak translates to "Log In Date" that is the date that the CCAA logs in our dossier. This is not the same as when they RECEIVE the dossier (that happened on January 2nd, 2007).

We rung in the New Year knowing that we were DTC on 12/28/2006.
What is DTC? That is when our Dossier was sent To China by our adoption agency.

Confusing? Try living through this amazing gestation process! We're already 11 months into it -- we began the paperchase in March, 2006. But none of the time (and emotional energy) expended counts on the "official" clock.

Can I consider this Robert's birthday present? His birthday is Wednesday...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change

This is my focus for the month: achieving change through a change in perspective.

My life is very fulfilling -- I'm a full-time nonprofit exec, a full-time mom (what mom isn't!?) and community volunteer and activist. My time is filled with everything... except proper self-care. So this year, as we wait for our referral for our children from China, I'm going to focus on re-framing my time and how I use it.

I remember my Latin teacher saying, "Mens sana in corpore sano"
2 points if you know what that means!
Okay, "A sound mind in a sound body."

I'm committed to getting into shape (and the "round is a shape" quip gets old fast).
The commitment to fitness conjures up the favorite "E" word: exercise.

Exercise in patience...

Exercise in futility...

I'm one of those people who runs around cleaning up the house before the cleaning lady arrives!

So it stands to reason that I tell myself that I must lose 10 pounds BEFORE I go to the gym and work out with a personal trainer.

I tried watching those exercise DVDs at home so I don't have to embarrass myself in public. I can work up my bloodpressure heckling these ultra-fit, serenely happy aerobic/weights/yoga gurus who talk and smile without panting while gracefully gliding across the screen.

They glisten, I sweat. They smile and talk, I grimace and pant. If the guy is too cut and hunky, I just admire his physique and am perfectly content to let him do the work. Where are they when I need help to hold the green bouncy ball and keep it from squirting out from under me, causing me to land on flat on the floor?

Then I go to a local workout area to work on what they call an Elliptical machine -- boy that can help you feel muscles you didn't know you had between your fannie and your knees! Of course the kids keep calling my cell phone wondering where their favorite socks are, if they can play at so-and-so's, etc. The fact that there is another parent at the house is immaterial. They want MOM!

I tell my kids that I went back to work so I could go potty by myself! I'm only half joking! The one time the receptionist came looking for me in the bathroom to announce a caller, I had to swallow a very visceral response. I asked her instead if anyone died, if there was a fire or other dramatic emergency. She seemed startled by my question and said meekly, "no"

I told her that I don't like to talk when I'm on the toilet (okay, when talking with sisters, it's okay -- but you must flush and run out of the room quickly) and please take a message.

Oh, oh... it's 10 p.m. and the kids are not asleep yet -- gotta run!



Tuesday, January 02, 2007

We're Making Progress in the Adoption Journey

We are absolutely THRILLED to report that our dossier was delivered to the China Center of Adoption Affairs yesterday (January 2, 2007)!

This adoption from China feels like a never-ending gestation. In March, 2006 we filled our our first application documents to build our family through adoption from China. This was followed by several months of paperchasing -- collecting and completing lots of documents to have them notarized, get the notarizations certified by the County, and the County certified by the State, then off to the Chinese Consulate for final authentication. With the homestudy complete, the second part of our request to the USCIS (formerly known as the INS) sat on someone's desk for an agonizing 4 months. We finally got our form from the federal government and our wonderful adoption agency, CCAI, completed their critical review and translated our dossier and delivered it to China in record time.

What's next? We hope to learn that the dossier is officially "logged in" later this month, which is when their countdown begins. The rumors are flying about the length of time for matches. China has far more dossiers of waiting families than they have dossiers of orphans for adoption.

We don't know for certain, but we are anticipating a match in 18 months or so (leading us to being united with our child in July or August, 2008).

Here's the crazy part -- we've petitioned for twins up to two years of age. While that is extremely unlikely, given that we already have children, you don't get if you don't ask. We also haven't specified our child/ren's gender, so there is a chance we will be matched with a son.

Katrina and Alexander are 15 months apart in age and they are such good friends; we want the same special bond for the next two siblings in our family.

China recently announced some major changes in the eligibility requirements for people seeking to adopt, effective May 1, 2007. Among the changes, only married couples can adopt (presently 8% of adoptive parents are single) and neither partner can be 50 years of age or older. That will pretty much rule us out for a second child from China if this process takes as long as expected.

The ups and downs of the "paper pregnancy" as the adoption process is often called has been more intense than I anticipated. More on that later.

Right now, we're going to celebrate the small victories!