Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Welcome to Parenthood

After 2 days at the orphanage we asked permission to take custody of the kids. We could tell it was time as we could see it was bothering them each time we left without them. And as we worked to develop a bond with our 4, we could see that other kids were picking up on the fact that they were not getting the same kind of attention. And we felt like we were throwing off the whole routine of the orphanage. It was just time.

The car ride from the orphanage to the hotel was a short one, maybe 10 minutes max. Ryan was so wide eyed. He loves cars and was just looking all around as we drove. As we left I put little headbands on each of the girls (the elastic baby kind). I couldn't help but think that those headbands somehow symbolized the giant life change that was happening for them. As we went, I kept looking back at the 3 of them in the back row. Each time I did I would get big smiles. When we arrived at the hotel, I lifted Ryan out of the car. As I stood there waiting for everyone else to get out of the car, Ryan's head starting darting all around. He was trying to check out every new sound all at once. I slowly turned in a circle in order to let him take it all in.

That morning we had moved from our hotel room to a one bedroom apartment within the same guest house. We got into the apartment and I showed them around. They were most interested by their new underwear. We had to open all 4 packages immediately. Ryan then carried his around for the next 20 minutes or so until something else became more interesting. I wish I could remember what that more interesting thing was.

We got everyone tucked into bed. The one bedroom came furnished with one full size bed for Josh and me with a second one for the kids. All was well. Then about 3 hours later, Josh and I woke up puking our guts out. The bathroom was connected to the bedroom. Due to the extreme humidity in Uganda, there is often a little window above an interior door which is left open (no glass or such at all) in order to promote airflow. This was the case where we were living which meant that Josh could be heard loud and clear. He was so very sick that it sounded like he was yelling as he hurled every ounce he had eaten that past week (sorry honey, but I'm setting the scene here). I wanted to puke but couldn't which was fortunate given that we had only the one bathroom. All I could do was lay in bed praying over and over again, "please don't let the kids wake up please." All I could think was that our kids were going to wake up and think that their new parents were dying. Thankfully they did sleep through all the noise.

Neither of us really slept after all of that. We had just barely started to get past the jet lag prior to this so we were already functioning on a pretty hefty sleep deficit. The next morning we were still feeling miserable. I think it was about 3-5 days before we really ate any significant amounts. That first full day together, we traded off with the kids. One of us would go pass out while the other would prop up on the couch handing out coloring book pages and forcing a smile when being shown someone's work.

During my turn to crash, I had my ear plugs in and eye mask on in hopes of actually getting a little sleep. I had been laying there a little while. I was too miserable to actually sleep but was enjoying not having to keep my eyes open when I heard a sound that I was completely unfamiliar with. It sounded like "mum mum mummy mummy mummy mummy mummy mum mum mum mummy mummy mummy mummy mummy mum mummy mummy mum." I didn't recognize it so I figured it was just one of the many unfamiliar sounds of Africa (like multiple roosters competing to wake us up in the morning or cows mooing from all directions or giant African raindrops) that I was trying to get used to. I assumed it would go away. Nope, the sound continued as if on a loop. Finally I rolled over and removed my eye mask. Sure enough, there was little Sarah not more than 3 feet away from me. She had one of my extra ear plugs in her hand and was motioning to me that she wanted to put it in her own ear. At that moment, I didn't see the humor in this as I just didn't have enough energy to do so but looking back on it now it was pretty funny.

Later that day, I mustered up the energy to give the kids a bath. First I put Ryan and Sarah into the tub. Then Sylvia wanted in. Next JoAnita was asking "may I enter." 4 Little Ugandans splashing in a tub! The shower head was the kind that can be hand held. I showed them how it worked and sprayed each of them a little. They were squealing with glee and shouting ME ME ME, as they asked me to spray them again.

After a little while the girls started telling me that Ryan was crying. He was shivering like crazy. I pulled him out of the tub and dried him off. I dressed him in shorts and a t-shirt. He continued to shiver and soon I had him in pants and a jacket. In between all of this I was finishing the girls' bath and getting them out, dried off, and dressed. I asked Josh to cuddle him up because he just couldn't seem to get warm. In our inexperience, we concluded that I had just left him in the tub too long for being so small. By the time everyone was out of the tub and dressed, I was exhausted. I handed off to Josh and went to lay down (remember that we were still battling whatever it was that had clobbered us the night before). Soon Josh brought Ryan in to lay down with me saying that he seemed to be running warm. I felt him and realized that he had a fever. Now in the States, a parent would normally give a child a Tylenol and see how he/she was in the morning. Thankfully we didn't do that and instead called our contact. She immediately told us that she was sending a driver to take us to "the hospital" (only weeks later would we come to understand the extreme seriousness of malaria and why you don't "just wait and see").

I laid there in bed with Ryan next to me. I was still miserable myself, but was far more focused on concern for Ryan. We packed up my backpack with water, granola bars, and cash given that we had no idea what to expect. There was no question in my mind, I was going to be the one to take Ryan. I was so thankful that our driver appeared at our hotel in just 15 minutes. I didn't know that you could drive anywhere in Uganda in 15 minutes between the incredibly bumpy roads and the traffic. Concern for venturing out alone did flash through my mind but I didn't have time to think about it. The girls were worried as I kissed Josh good-bye and carried Ryan downstairs to the waiting car. 

As the car bumped along the road, my eyes watered with tears. All I could think was "I'm one of them, I am a woman who fears that her child might have malaria." I felt sorry for myself. I felt tragic. I was so thankful that the drive was short but as we pulled up I questioned the word choice of "hospital." Calling it a rustic clinic was more like it. It was the size of a small one story home. But this was no time to be picky. I was just thankful to have someone, anyone, who could help. 

I carried Ryan out of the car and into building. We sat down on a wooden bench in the concrete hallway. Soon we were called in to be seen. In the tiny room with only a desk and a scale, the doctor took Ryan's weight and temperature. It was quite high. Soon she led me across the narrow hallway into another room. I sat down on the bed as she prepared an injection which was necessary to quickly bring down the temperature. I laid Ryan across my lap and pulled down his little pants to expose his butt cheeks. He squirmed a little. Later I would learn how deathly afraid of needles that he is. Had I known that I would have understood how extremely sick he was to only squirm at the sight of a needle. The doctor jabbed the needle deep into his soft little tushy and instantly he wrenched and screamed. He cried and I bawled. Tears poured down my face as I forced myself to hold him down harder in order to allow the doctor to finish giving him the necessary medicine. The doctor looked at me, rolled her eyes, shook her head, and finished giving Ryan the shot. 

Later I realized why I got that look. I was crying because my child was sick. But I had the option to get him medical attention. I could afford to pay a driver to pick us up immediately and whisk us off to a hospital. No attempting to make it there on foot or if lucky traveling perched precariously on the back of a motorcycle. No choosing between food for my other children and medicine for my one. I was a lucky one. 2,000 children die PER DAY of malaria as their mothers watch them quickly slip away... if they are lucky enough to have a mother watch them quicky slip away.

I didn't realize that we still had a blood draw to do in order to test for malaria. My driver came and held Ryan during that part given that I couldn't even talk to him in order to comfort him. 10 minutes later it was confirmed. Soon after medication was recommended, then doled out in little baggies, and the bill written up. All of this happened back in that tiny little room with the desk. The final bill, $6. $6 to save a life. 2,000 children die per day due to a lack of access to this basic medical care.

By the time I got back to the hotel, Josh was wiped out. He went downstairs to order dinner from the restaurant. When I got the call, an hour later, that dinner was ready, Josh was sound asleep and the girls were all nodding off. I asked them to deliver the food and agreed to pay the 67 cents delivery fee. It was money well spent. We ate our dinner and piled into bed. 

Days earlier we had fried our converter and as a result we were unable to charge our computer. Later we would get one but at that time our computer time was an extremely precious commodity. By the time all the kids were in bed, Josh was alseep, and I was feeling exhausted, ill, and desperate. I chose to turn on the computer and log onto Facebook. I typed as quickly as I could. I didn't take time to explain. I just typed out the minimum needed and then immediately shut down the computer. Tears streamed down my face as I sent out my SOS. It read:

Alysa Musgrave Johns
Please pray for our health. We will be okay but it has been a very rough 24 hours. We need your prayers for healing while we sleep.
LikeUnlike · · October 14 at 11:03am
(which was 10pm in Uganda)

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