Saturday, October 24, 2015

Road Trip!!

Last week Peter and I took our little fam on a whirlwind tour of Sierra Leone to meet and greet our friends and relatives.  Ok…worldwind might be a stretch.  We went to a couple different places.  But it felt like a whirlwind!! J

We started out by going to visit one of Peter’s sisters.  Marie was really shy because she’s forgotten her Krio so she couldn’t communicate.  She was afraid to say anything.  (This was something she’d been nervous about before we even got back to Sierra Leone).  We talked about the fact that it’s hard, but you just have to try.  Peter and I were chatting with his sister and Marie went to play with a bunch of the kids that were around.  I noticed that throughout our travelling, when she couldn’t communicate she would just initiate a game of tag. No words needed. J

Ben meeting some of his cousins
At one point I went to check on her and noticed that some of the bigger boys were pushing her around. She was trying to get away from them but they kept pushing her and she started swinging back at them.  The Mama Bear in me might have come out.  I yelled “Hey!  Stop that!”  They stopped immediately and I went to see what was going on.  When I got there the boys started complaining to me that Marie was “refusing” to speak Krio.  I deduced that they didn’t understand that she had forgotten the Krio.  They thought that she was just refusing to speak it because she’d just come from America and thought she was too good to speak it.  Poor kid!  I explained to them that it wasn’t that she didn’t WANT to speak it, but that she COULDN’T speak it and I needed them to help her learn again!  They seemed satisfied with that and Marie whispered a “thanks Mom” before she skipped off with some of the girls.  As she left I turned to the bigger boys and with a big smile on my face said that if I ever saw them pushing her around like that again I would “beat them a good good one.”  I laughed…..they laughed….but they got the point.  (Of course I wouldn’t really beat them, but that is the only punishment they know here and I wanted them to understand how serious I was).  It might not have been my best moment but….apparently I’m a little protective of this little girl. 

Peter found a guesthouse for us for the night with electricity, WARM showers and AC.  For 20 bucks!!  (We usually try to leave me at home when we’re going to talk price about anything.  Peter gets better deals.  And yes, hotel prices here are negotiable).  After getting to the room, the first thing I noticed was that Marie’s suitcase wasn’t there.  I knew exactly where it was.  Sitting in the doorway of her bedroom.  We were planning on being gone for a week!! Oops!  I washed the clothes she’d worn that day for tomorrow, gave her one of my shirts to sleep in and we adjusted our plans for the next day to include some shopping for “junks” (used clothing) before we headed farther up country.

That night we went to sleep to the sweet hum of the air conditioner.  At about 10pm the electricity turned off and so did our air conditioner.  When the electricity came back on, our air conditioner didn't.  We couldn’t figure out how to turn it back on so Peter went and asked the manager.  They came and turned it back on.  At about 2 am the electricity went off again and by 3 we were awake and sweltering.  The AC never came back on and when Peter went to talk to the manager he came back with the fans we’d brought instead of the manager.  Apparently there was no remote to our AC unit so the last time they’d borrowed our neighbor’s remote. But now  it was 3am and she was sleeping so they didn’t want to wake her up to ask to borrow her remote.  On our way back down we stayed in the same hotel but made sure to ask for a room that had an AC remote.  J

Marie and her new sister
The next day we headed up country to go visit the village that I used to work in.  I was really excited! On our way we stopped by Marie’s old village so she could see her biological family.  Marie’s Mom had a baby a couple months after I did so Marie’s been picking out things to bring for her new little sister. She was really excited to see her! 

Spending time with Marie’s biological family is always bittersweet for me.  It reminds me that while adoption is beautiful, it’s also born out of heartbreak. 
There’s just no way around it.  While I can’t imagine Marie not being a part of my life, I also recognize that ideally, she should still be living with her biological family.  It’s just hard.  This time was particularly hard because Marie couldn’t communicate with them.  They assumed that even if she couldn’t speak Krio she should at least be able to speak Temne (their tribal language) but she couldn’t.  They were frustrated. She was frustrated.  I felt horrible that I wasn’t more diligent about speaking Krio while we were in the States. I'd wanted her to work on her English and I knew she’d pick up the Krio again once we got back here but I didn’t think about the painful interim period.  Making sure she gets time with Sierra Leonean kiddos has become a HUGE priority to me now. Fortunately, Peter and I find it much more natural for the two of us to speak it in the house too.  Praying for quick language acquisition for my little one!

We continued on to our village and were so excited to get to spend time with so many of our friends.  I was really thankful that although Marie still couldn’t communicate well, she picked right up playing with the girls she used to play with in the village.  I’d been nervous about that, so it was a real blessing. 

After some of her friends went to school, Marie dolled herself up......with grapefruit peels
In a culture where giving birth is EXTREMELY important, people were thrilled to see that Peter and I  had procreated.  Our friend that introduced us was particularly excited to see Ben because apparently people had been giving her a hard time about setting us up.  Didn’t she know that there was something wrong with Peter because he was so old and had never had a child??? (I did get a couple anonymous texts about that while we were dating.  Talk about weird.)  And didn’t she know that white women don’t like to give birth!??!?!  We would be a disaster!!!  So…..people were very interested to see this impossible baby! J 

At one point I went to the hospital to see the people who were working.  It was fun to see the familiar faces, but it was also sad.  We are currently on day 25 of our 42 day countdown to being declared “Ebola Free.”  Aside from the markets still being  shut down on Sundays and the signposts everywhere talking about Ebola, life has, for the most part returned to normal here. 
As I walked around the hospital in which I’d spent countless hours and saw the Ebola isolation tent set up and signs all over discussing Ebola, my thoughts went to a movie series that I’ve watched many times called “Band of Brothers.” It’s about the 101st Airborne “Easy Company” in WWII.  There’s a part of the movie called “Bastogne” where the company is entrenched in this tree line waiting to take the next village. It’s freezing cold and they are constantly being bombarded by the enemy.  Men were dying from enemy fire or the various ailments and diseases that come from sleeping outside in freezing weather night after night.  After it was over one of the men in the company discussed the bond that these “brothers” had after going through that horrible experience together.  Men who had been wounded and in the hospital during that operation, or new recruits that came later were outsiders because they had missed that battle. That’s how I felt.  Like I wasn’t there for this important battle.  That the men and women I’d served alongside for years and had come to love had fought this Ebola battle….and I’d stayed away.  It was sobering. And it was sad.   
Ebola Isolation tent (empty now)

We spent a couple nights in the village and then headed to another area to visit some of Peter’s family. We had a good time with them and it was fun to see Marie playing with her cousins.   

Peter ended the trip with a great prize.  He hit a “bush fowl” while he was driving home and as soon as he did yelled, “I’m eating it!!!!”  He was very excited.  I was laughing as my hubby pulled over and scoured the nearby bush for his kill.  He was vicorious!  Never a dull moment on road trips in Salone!
Delicious Roadkill


Friday, October 9, 2015

I Survived!!!

I did it.  I officially survived my first newborn illness in Sierra Leone.  I wasn’t sure I was going to.  Ben is not my first child.  Marie came to live with me when she was four and she was pretty sick with multiple illnesses.  In the time that she’s been my daughter, she’s been sick a couple of times but always bounces back really quickly.  Malaria will knock me off my feet for almost a week but Marie will vomit in the morning, start her treatment, and be ready to play by the afternoon.  I think growing up in the village has just given her a leg up on fighting the illnesses that can put we Americans down for awhile. 

Ben doesn’t have that advantage.  Also.....he’s so little! 

I’m a nurse.  Not only am I a nurse, but I’m a nurse that has worked with little kiddos here in Sierra Leone for several years.  I should have this whole “sick baby” thing down.  And I thought I did.  Until it was my own baby.  Yikes.

We spent last week up country visiting various friends and relatives of Peter.  On our last day travelling back I noticed that Ben had a little fever and some diarrhea.  I wasn’t worried about him being sick, but I was worried about the Ebola checkpoints.  You see, in order to curb the Ebola, Sierra Leone has set up multiple checkpoints across the country where they check everyone’s temperature.  I’m not sure what the protocol is if you have an elevated temp. Would they take my baby to quarantine him??  Seems crazy but……not THAT crazy here.  I was kicking myself that I hadn’t brought my Tylenol because I would have just doped him up to get through the checkpoints.  I held my breath at each checkpoint but nobody said anything and I got to keep my baby. J

The next day Ben’s diarrhea was worse and his temp a bit higher.  He was sneezing and coughing so I got online to do a little pertussis (whooping cough) research because I found out he was exposed before we left.  It didn’t fit his picture.  I checked him for malaria and it was negative.  Most likely diagnosis? A simple viral gastroenteritis.  Just wait it out.  So I started waiting. But while I was waiting, I started thinking.  Oops.

I was a little concerned about him getting dehydrated so I called up one of my doctor friends who was in country and she said I should give him some pedialyte.  He gagged so much that he threw up the half bottle I’d just given him.  That’s when I started getting a little worried.  At one point I watched him poop and it was like pure water coming out.  He was running a pretty constant fever and was eating about half of what he normally ate.  I was worried that if this continued he would get dehydrated. 

Yesterday he was on day three of his diarrhea with no signs of it letting up.  I checked his temp at noon and it was 104.  That’s when my thinking started getting me into trouble.  I knew we weren’t there yet, but because our access to medical care is so poor, I’m always thinking a few steps ahead.  I knew that if he continued this way for a few more days, he would need some IV fluids. 
In America, IV fluids aren’t that big a deal. Kids come into the ER and get them pretty frequently.  Most ER’s that I work in have a policy that any meds given to kids are double checked by a second nurse.  IV fluids on a pump are set so only a small amount will go in before you have to reset it so that you have to re-evaluate the kid to make sure he isn’t getting too much.  Unfortunately here, they don’t have access to all the safeguards and I’ve seen kids get overloaded with fluids.  So that was one of my concerns.  My other concern was Ebola.  The symptoms of Ebola are high fever, vomiting and diarrhea.  There are others, but those are the early symptoms.  My fear was that if I did take him to the hospital for IV fluids he would have to go to the Ebola holding area…..with all the other people that might or might not have Ebola.  So that’s kind of scary.  I started thinking about how I could get my hands on an IV set and cannula so that I could just give him his IV fluids at home.  I was less than confident in my ability to get an IV in my very fat, dehydrated baby while he was screaming and I would no doubt be crying as well.  However I was willing to do just about anything to keep him from having to go to the hospital. 

At about 2 pm yesterday I lost it.  His fever was still so high and the diarrhea was just so much.  I still hadn’t been able to get any pedialyte down him.  My normally happy baby was a fussy wreck….and so was his mom.  I have a vivid memory of standing in my bedroom sobbing and thinking “I can’t remember the last time I felt this vulnerable.” I started thinking about Jesus and the words “My Rock, My Rock, My Rock” played over and over in my mind.  I felt like I was collapsing on top of this big rock in the middle of the crashing waves of my fears.  A big, steady, Rock.  Once again I turned my son over to Jesus, trusting Him for the outcome….whatever that might be. 

I know you moms many times over are rolling your eyes at the drama of this first time (baby) momma.  I get it.  The nurse in me is rolling my eyes at myself too.  Three days of diarrhea? Come on.  Now that Ben is doing better, the mom in me is rolling her eyes at me too.  But in that moment, with the future a little fuzzy, my fear was real. 

But today I have so many reasons to give thanks.  Ben is doing better.  He turned up his nose (and his belly) at my fancy shmancy pedialyte but guzzeled down the nasty tasting Oral Rehydration Salts that you get here for a few pennies.  I was encouraged by so many people who were compelled to pray for my family and by my friends here who helped me off the ledge. J  God has called our family to Sierra Leone.  None of us have been promised tomorrow and I   have no guarantees that my family will leave here alive. But I have been promised that my Rock will be steadfast, so by His grace I’ll continue to cling to Him.
Got some smiles today!! Still battling fevers so he's been rocking the cool washcloths all day.