Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hospitals in Uganda

Round 1: On the first full day of custody, Ryan came down with malaria. I already told you about that little welcome to parenthood.

Round 2: Soon after court, Sarah got really sick. She was running a fever and, given the constant fear of malaria, we went to a nearby hospital. Our agency arranged for a driver to pick me up. This driver and I were talking about how in America, parents would just give a child Tylenol. He then shared with me that he lost his own daughter to malaria. He helped me carry Sarah as I registered at the desk, went down a ways to the cashier's office to pay, came back to registration, and then to the waiting room. The hospital, IHK, was a private hospital that was very different from our first round. They determined it was a bacterial infection (no idea what kind). I went to the pharmacy on site, then to the cashier, then back to the pharmacy. 

That night I posted this on facebook: I have 1 sick kid sleeping in my bed, Josh has been kicked out and will be sleeping in the other bed in the same room, and 3 jealous kids sleeping in the other room. This can't possibly be a good thing... I think I just failed a parenting pop quiz. :( October 29, 2011 at 11:27am 

From the other side of the world, 11 time zones away, my friends encouraged me. They told me I was doing the right thing and not to second guess myself. As a brand new, rookie, green as can be parent, this really did help. My connection can't keep up with me trying to "like" all of your comments. Thank you for the encouragement. October 30, 2011 at 1:30am

Round 3: A day or two after round 2, Sarah was still sleeping in my bed where I could keep an eye on her. I had given her antibiotics and Tylenol to control the fever and put her in bed that night with faith that the medication would do the trick. When I came to bed at about 10pm, Sarah was burning up. Her fever was no longer under control. I called our contact, but he lives in Jinja, which is easily a 2 hour drive away from Kampala where we were. He called me back and told me that he was unable to arrange a driver for us. He suggested that we go down the street to the Italian Market and hire a driver as they tend to gather in the parking lot there. This was a good 1/2 mile walk, in the dark, carrying a sick child. Now this is the kind of situation that Ugandan's face. Walking much longer distances trying to get help for their ill, potentially dying of malaria, children. This prospect was overwhelming to me and felt impossible. 

We were staying at a guest house that had multiple houses and cottages within the compound. I went down the hill looking for a woman I had briefly met for only a moment. There was no answer at her door. So I went back up the hill and spotted a light in the small cottage. I knocked on the door not knowing who was staying there. An American woman answered the door and I explained that I needed to get to the hospital with Sarah. She and her husband pulled out their phones and started calling multiple people. On the third try, they were able to arrange a driver. I was confused by how they had so many contacts but didn't think too much of it. And then the woman offered to go with us to the hospital. I stammered. At first I was about to decline the offer given that I had just met her and it was 10pm and it just seemed like to much to ask. Thankfully I agreed. She came with us and sat through the full 2 hour process. 

Sarah did not take well to the hospital. She screamed bloody murder when they pricked her finger for a few drops of blood. She fought against me. I had to use all my strength to hold her down. She went into a rage. This wasn't the first time and it wasn't the last. From a comical perspective, I did meet my first Ugandan rat while waiting for the blood draw. We were sitting in a chair and I was watching a rat outside running up and down a railing. Then it disappeared. A minute later that same rat came around the corner and into the door of where I was sitting. I jumped and it started and ran away. I was so thankful it didn't want to hang out! 

We returned to the compound at midnight. This woman who so kindly accompanied us was and is, our Auntie Sara. She gave Sarah a little plastic turtle from her purse and a piece of gum. While waiting she shared a bit of her story with me. She had been in Uganda for 8 months at that time. They had been denied guardianship of their daughter. So they stayed. At that time I felt like I was drowning, all day, every day. It was taking all of our strength to stay afloat. We felt like we were hanging on by a thread. We had been in Uganda for just over 2 weeks. It took my breath away. I couldn't even fathom how they could survive this. In the end, they came home with all of their kids. But not before spending a full year in Uganda. We prayed every night for Auntie Sara. Sometimes my Sarah still prays "Auntie Sara babies go to America soon" and I remind her that Auntie Sara is already in America with all of her babies.

Round 4: Then I began to feel ill. I posted on facebook: Want a laugh? I was trying to explain to JoAni that I was really too sick (this was a few days ago, now I am really sick) so I told her that I had boogers and pointed to my nose. I said that "I just feel boogery." Not long later, she scolded Sarah by saying "SARAH you put the boogery on Mommy!" I couldn't stop laughing. She was so confused by why I found that so funny. November 2, 2011 at 12:59pm

During the time that Sarah was so very sick and was sleeping in my bed. She would cuddle up to me and grab my face and put us nose to nose. There we would sleep (sort of, she is a pretty wild sleeper). Soon I became very ill. It got to the point that I was of no help at all to Josh. I just slept all day. Finally I went to the hospital where I was also diagnosed with a bacterial infection. 

It was approaching Thanksgiving and I wrote on facebook: TODAY I AM THANKFUL for access to medical care. Today was my 4th visit to a hospital in Uganda, although it was the first time that a trip was for me and not one of the kids. I am thankful to have the option, to be able to afford it, to not have to choose between medicine and food (not that I have an appetite right now). We tend to take these things for granted but they are not accessible to everyone in this world. Everyone gets sick but not everyone can afford a doctor. November 4, 2011 at 5:00am

Round 5: Then Ryan got sick. The germs were all being shared between Sarah, Ryan, and myself. I was still very sick and carrying Ryan around was so, so difficult. But it had to be done. TODAY I AM THANKFUL for a little bit of cake. Actually it was more like a small muffin. Purchased from the hospital cafe, it was just the right thing to bring a twinkle back into Ryan's eye. The crumbs covered his face (which was still tear stained from having his finger poked for a little blood testing), his shirt, his shorts, my shirt, and my lap. I think he lost 1/3 of it to crumbs but he enjoyed it SO much. It was the most fun to watch and I am thankful for that. November 5, 2011 at 10:34am

Round 6: Ok, I don't mean to be all negative, but I am still pretty sick. I'm not sure if I am getting better or worse. Based on some googling that I did last night, I think I had (hopefully had and not have) bacterial pneumonia or acute bronchitis. At this point Josh is saying that he wants to ship me home if this doesn't get better soon. It feels like a no win situation. Please pray that I get better and soon. It really is the only good scenario. November 6, 2011 at 12:41am

I went back in to the hospital to make sure that it wasn't getting worse. I was still so very tired. I couldn't allow myself to get any worse given that we had 4 kids to take care of and more severe symptoms could become life threatening due to the status of available healthcare.

I am feeling much better today. I am still tired easily but am able to help out with kids and life. :) Thank you for all your prayers. But still no passports. We are starting to feel very anxious and are struggling to be patient knowing that if we do not get them by noon tomorrow, I will likely have to fly home to the States alone on 11/19 in order to get back to work and earn money to cover the cost of a longer stay. But that would leave Josh alone with 4 kids in Uganda. Not ideal to say the least. November 8, 2011 at 2:15am

The whole process was very overwhelming. Adopting 4 kids all at once, having an "instant family", going 0 to 4, would have been overwhelming enough. The medical stuff piled on top stretched us to our very limit. We were giving every ounce of ourselves. We were beaten down and all out of steam. I am so very thankful that the in country process didn't take more than 6 weeks as I just don't know that we could have handled it. Which brings me back to thinking about Auntie Sara. 1 year! 1 year! While I barely knew her, my heart was tied to hers.

Monday, April 16, 2012


On Easter we did church and family. We saved the candy and gifts for this past weekend, explaining that while the eggs and candy and gifts are fun we don't want to forget that Easter is about so much more. The kids were okay with this as long as they got their share of candy in the end too. We did do a small bit of candy. And then we explained that this is not normal but because this was their first Easter, we had a special gift for them... 

Bicycles! They have been hoping and wishing and praying for bicycles! They dreamed about them. They longed for them. Oh to have a bicycle!

Now at an average of at least $80 plus another $20 for a helmet, we were looking at $400 at least. While we do have that much in our savings account, we would actually like to retire someday and there is an endless amount of kiddie gear that could stand between us and that goal. So as a compromise, I did some checking around on Craigslist. There I found a guy a half hour away that buys old bikes and gets them back in full working order to then sell them again. Upon arrival at this guys' house, JoAni asked why we were buying used bikes (she had been drooling over the ones at WalMart). I explained that we could buy them used now or wait another year or so and buy them new then. She quickly agreed that this was a good thing and even gave the other kids the same speech when the conversation came up again later. This guy probably had 60-80 bicycles in his yard, most of which were children's sizes. Before we arrived, I told the kids that they would have to be patient as we tried to find the right size for each of them. But the allure was just too much. They were overwhelmed with excitement. Sarah kept telling the guy "I'm Sarah! I'm 6 1/2 years old!" For $140 we purchased 4 very usable, good quality, just what we needed bikes.

Then we needed helmets. For that we did go to Walmart. We let them pick out whatever they wanted (almost). They were so excited that they put the helmets on and wore them up to the counter.

Yes, that is the cardboard still attached to the helmets. They wore them that way all the way through WalMart, the 20 minute ride home, and around the driveway until we could cut them loose.

Isn't my daughter beautiful with that big smile? She is 100% happy to the core in this picture! 

For well over an hour, I ran back and forth and up and down the driveway propping up a kid and trying to explain the basics of bike riding. JoAni and Sylvia are learning quickly. And Sarah and Ryan are determined to figure this out too. And when all else fails, they just walk their bikes around the driveway. Sylvia even talked Ryan into helping prop her up when I got too tired. But she returned the favor, running along side him and holding onto his bike while he tried to figure out how to turn those pedals.

Today on the other hand is a different story. The kids, Ryan especially, were very disappointed that their bike time got rained out. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

New Things

I do have a heavy heart about the significant amount of things my kids face and have faced that children just shouldn't have to deal with. But I was a little surprised by the comments I got regarding what I posted yesterday as it didn't really stand out to me as unusually heavy. That's just our life these days. So today I thought it would be good to reflect on something a little less serious.

Now days it is less so, but in the beginning it seemed like we and the kids were encountering new things every day. Here is just a very small sampling:

Lights - Ryan was fascinated with light switches at first. We would be sitting in our guest house and we would see a light going on off, on off, on off. Usually this would be coming from a different room and we would just be able to see the glow going on and off. Without even looking we would yell out "Ryan stop playing with the lights!" I'm not sure why we didn't just let him have his fun. They had experience with electricity. But this was the first time that they had direct access to something like this.

Baths - They had always bathed in a basin. This means a little plastic tub of cold water which you would squat in and splash water on yourself. Bathing time in Uganda took a full hour for me. They had so much fun! It was a few months before they learned how to change the temperature by themselves. I can't tell you how many times I told the kids to get in the bath only to turn my back or go into the next room for a moment as they got undressed and into the tub only to come in to see them standing at the far end of the tub saying "guy-O-chye!!," meaning hot, at which point I would start commanding "get out! get out!." Given that hot water was a new thing for them, their idea of a warm bath was a little different than mine.

Enclosed Shoes - As soon as we got home to the cold of Spokane, we had to teach our kids how to shove their feet into tennis shoes. 

Tying Shoes - Every parent goes through teaching their kids how to tie their shoes. But not every parent does this within 1 week of their child ever seeing shoes that lace.

Zipping up a Coat - This was pretty tricky. Coats are especially difficult because you have to line up the start just right. Do you know how much time it takes to help 4 kids all put on enclosed shoes, tie shoes, and coats.

Booster Seats - We had been awake for 48 hours. We were in the parking lot at the airport. I was crawling into the 3rd row, trying to get Sarah and Sylvia situated so we could finally go home! Sylvia kept moving her booster seat out of the way. I kept putting it back trying to get her to sit on it. Her English still wasn't so good and instructions about sitting on a booster seat are full of prepositions. We went round and round and round. She couldn't figure out why on earth I wanted her to sit on this weird thing.

Seat Belts - They had never used seat belts before. They had only ridden in cars a handful of times ever. It took a good month or more to get all the girls to be able to buckle themselves. Prior to that I had to crawl in the back and buckle each kid. Then we got to a point that Sylvia and JoAni could do it and Sylvia would then help Sarah. About a month ago, Ryan learned how to buckle his own 5 point harness. I can't tell you how good it felt when just the girls learned how. Recently Ryan learned how to buckle and unbuckle his 5 point harness. It took so much time and effort to buckle 4 kids every time we wanted to go any where.

Forks - The first time they had ever used spoons before was when they came to the orphanage. The first time they ever used forks was with us. We still use spoons a lot.

Biting into Food - The kids were used to food like rice and beans. They were used to biting into food like bananas. But when it came to sandwiches or pizza, they did not like it at all. One time we made sandwiches that we knew the kids liked but Ryan refused to eat his. He was willing to go hungry. I went and got a knife and cut it up into little bite sized pieces and he quickly ate the whole thing. Same thing went for pizza. The first time we had it, it was in slices and they hated it. The second time, Josh and I were desperate. We were exhausted and pizza was the only food we could have delivered. So we made the call. The motorbike arrived with the pizza bungee corded to the back. I distracted the kids while Josh snuck it into the kitchen where he chopped up and entire pizza into little bits. And they liked it! Towards the end of the meal they realized that it was the same food they had before but they were okay with it.

Turning on different faucets, flushing different toilets, what different kinds of soap look like, opening a zip lock bag, using the ice/water dispenser in the fridge door, putting dishes in the dishwasher, what IS a dishwasher, how much soap to use, how much toothpaste to use, how much toilet paper to use, when to flush (yes, at night too), and where clothes go (we had underwear in the closet and shirts under the bed and a backpack in the dresser).

Again, this is just a small sampling of the full list! Lest you think that all of this is normal with any parenting which is true, keep in mind that this all took place over just a few months and times 4 kidse. :) It's been intense. Often funny. Often not. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Things We Didn't Know

There were 10,000 things that we didn't know when when we started all of this. But more specifically, I am thinking about the things that were going on in our kid's heads.

I shared before that we didn't know that all the prior parents had taken the kids on the first day. The kids had to have been so confused when we left without them that first day. 

A week or so into things in Uganda, Josh told me that he heard JoAni telling the other kids that they better be good or we would send them back to the orphanage. I was so angry with her. I assumed that she was manipulating the other kids. Thankfully there was some reason that I didn't have a chance to talk with them about this for a little while. So when I finally had time, I sat them all down. At this point their English was still very limited and I had to keep it super basic if I wanted Sylvia to understand me so that she could translate for Sarah and Ryan given that at that moment I was not trusting JoAni to translate properly. I told them "if you have good manners, I love you, and if you have bad manners, I love you, no orphanage, no more." Much later, I learned that a pair of siblings had been picked up from the orphanage by a muzungu (white) mommy and daddy. Later those kids were returned to the orphanage without an explanation. Our kids had reason to be afraid of this happening to them. They had seen it happen. JoAni was trying to protect her siblings and herself when she told them that "bad manners" would get them sent back to the orphanage. 

Just recently Sylvia told me that those parents packed up in the night and left without saying goodbye. I have no idea what their reason was. Maybe there was a good reason. The information I have is all through the eyes of children. When Sylvia gave me this extra detail I suddenly realized, we had moved hotels multiple times while with the kids while in Uganda. I asked her what she thought the first time we packed up all of our stuff to change hotels. I asked if she thought they were going back, she said a rather firm "yes." Remember when I told you about Sarah going into meltdown after the first time that we packed up and changed hotels? She cried herself to sleep. I thought she was just stressed out. I had no idea that she was completely utterly and totally terrified. 

I often wonder what I will learn months from now about what we are dealing with today.