Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Medical Reports

I’m no cultural relativist but I also don’t believe that everything back in North America is “better.” I think it’s offensive to maintain such a belief when visiting another country. So I check myself constantly for any prejudice or bias and try to keep an open mind. There is no area where this is harder than with the medical system. Clearly I’m supposed to trust the authoritative person in the white coat who is called a doctor and sternly gives me instructions. And while it takes some effort, I have to admit that Baby’s doctor has done a good job of keeping her relatively healthy so far.

In the first week or two I was here Baby developed a rash on her face. The doctor said “too many sweets.” There was a hint of disapproval (though it might have been my imagination) as if Baby was waiting till no one was looking and then making off with baskets of candy to gorge on. The doctor gave my translator the name of some medicine I was to buy (in Russian of course) and said Baby would be given no more sugar. My translator then wrote down the word for “pharmacy” in both Russian and Kazakh. That afternoon, clutching the two pieces of paper, I made my way up Republic Avenue (which has been torn up since I got here) looking for signs (which have all been removed during the construction) so that I could find a pharmacy. I’ve since been a few more times and am now familiar with the arrangement. A woman in a white lab coat sits behind a glass window at street level. (I point this out only because, as Jerry Seinfeld once noted, pharmacists in North America are always on a platform and why is that anyway?) Presumably Russian-speaking people converse with the woman. What I do is slide over a piece of paper on which are written words I don’t understand. The woman gets up and fetches the medicine and then I pay her and leave. Of course the first time I did this, because it was for Baby and I’d been feeling so doubtful that I could pull it off I left the pharmacy feeling heroic! I had triumphed over adversity to get my baby the critical medicine she needed to cure her rash. Then I looked at the back of the box and found out that I had just bought Claritin. The point of the story, though, is that Baby’s rash cleared up in a few days.

This week my faith in the system has been more seriously tested. In order to apply for Baby to become a permanent resident, Canadian Immigration requires that she be tested for HIV/Aids, Hepatitis, and TB. (If she tests positive for any of these things, she will be denied entry. I was told she was negative when I met her but Canada requires that the tests be redone, perhaps because she was so young when they were done the first time.) When I arrived to visit her on Monday morning at 10:00 I learned that she’d been taken for blood tests at 9:00 and was not yet back. I sat with my translator and waited. After half and hour or so we called my coordinator who had gone with Baby and learned that things were not going well. They brought her back at 11:00. She looked tired and defeated with both her fists bandaged up. She had put up a good fight they told me and in the end they had not obtained the amount of blood they needed. She would have to be taken back the next day. Thankfully, they agreed that I could go with her this time.

On Tuesday the second expedition took place. At 10:00 I left the baby house with Baby, Aliya in her capacity as translator, and a nurse from the baby house as an escort (because we’re not allowed to go anywhere with Baby unaccompanied). We arrived at a building that I assumed was a hospital. It had endlessly long bare hallways with closed doors along both sides. The hallways were filled with people holding babies. My delegation made its way down a hallway on the second floor until we came to the right door and entered a small room. The room contained very little, the barest minimum in furnishings, some large bowls filled with medical supplies (cotton wool, alchohol, needles), and a nurse. During the introductory discussion I understood that Aliya and I would have to leave the room. I pleaded to be allowed to stay and I heard Aliya say “mama” in her explanation to the nurse. This was the first time I’ve been officially identified as Baby’s mother to anyone and it worked! The nurse-escort sat in a chair with Baby pinned down in her lap. The other nurse sat in a chair facing them and stuck a needle in Baby’s hand. She howled. I’d never seen her cry like this before. She was utterly and understandably miserable. I crouched down between the two facing nurses, trying not to be in the way, and amazingly was able to distract Baby enough to stop her crying for at least half the time. We remained in position for what seemed like hours. I have never seen blood drip so slowly. When she felt she had obtained enough, the nurse pulled the needle out of Baby’s hand, taped a piece of paper on the top of the vial and gave it to us.

It turned out we weren’t at a hospital – at least the kind that analyzes blood. So we got back in the car and in what was possibly the strangest part of the strangest experience that I’ve had during my stay here we took off for the hospital: me holding Baby in my lap (no car seats), Aliya swishing the vial of Baby’s blood beside me and examining it curiously, and Doulat driving in his usual fast-bordering-on-reckless way while talking on his mobile phone. As for our nurse-escort, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

I don’t know how to write this without sounding corny but I’m so grateful for the comments on this blog. I think the blog is making this interminable stay bearable and I don' t know what I'd be doing without it. Apart from making me laugh out loud and telling me things I didn't know before, the blog now contains a database of songs and games I can play with Baby. I was wondering how I'd cope when I go from 2 hours a day to 24. This definitely helps! I feel like I’ve been given a virtual shower (is that an e-baby shower? a baby e-shower?) Thanks.


BT said...

Oh my goodness. I just thought I'd check on your blog, and I find this new entry. What a doozie. The medical experience sounds just like several similar experiences we had in Ukraine, including driving the blood around. So strange a situation to find yourself in, and without carseats, to boot. It sounds like you weathered it all beautifully and should be very proud.

Doesn't the needle take forever when it's YOUR child writhing/screaming in pain and distress?

I imagine that as you're finding this comment, as well as those to follow from others on this side of the world, you will be looking at only one more sleep til your court day. Congratulations! You are almost there!!!!!!

Keep on keepin' on. We are all thinking of you tons.

PS: Do the doctors in Kaz wear hats that look like chef hats? In Ukraine, they all wore chef hats, and the more senior the doctor, the taller the chef hat. We have a photo, and it is priceless because it seems so unusual to our eyes.

Anonymous said...

Medical systems are certainly different around the world and despite them all we continue to survive as a species! Despite the trauma of the event, Baby will likely not be affected long term although may develop 'white coat syndrome'!

I wanted to share the songs I also used to sing Leah...I would do three songs at bedtime...a medley of Kumbayah, Michael Row Your Boat Ashore and Edelweiss. I think they all were in the same range and fit the same key signature! One of my most memorable times in the car was driving home from Clear Lake and trying to keep Leah from crying the whole way. I think I sang Old MacDonald had a Farm from Portage La Prairie to Elie, until she finally fell asleep. Now she is great in the car! Margaret

Sky Onosson said...

Ouch! A needle in the hand, that's got to be painful. And I can't believe you transported the blood yourself!

By the way, she might not write anything, but Annika is really enjoying your blog. I think she'll really be able to relate to this post when she reads it - she did undergo an emergency c-section in Korea.

JG said...

BT: no, no chefs hats on the doctors. But what an image! I don't think I'd be able to take them seriously at all. I'm hoping I won't find some sort of wild head gear on the important people in court tomorrow (prosecutor, judge). I don't want to get too distracted. Yes, one more sleep. I'm staying home tonight to "study" - except what I'm cramming are the details of my own life. How weird is that?

Ileana said...

This story reminds me of when Felix had to be x-rayed at the tender age of about 1. He had swallowed a nail (it came out fine). Anyway, he had to be strapped to the table so they could x-ray him without him moving. He cried in a way that I had never heard before and even though I knew rationally that he was ok and that he needed to get this done, every instinct told me to run in and free him. Of course, I didn't, but it was quite the experience.

I like this e-shower. I've never been to an r-shower (real-shower), but this strikes me as much more interesting.

BT said...

Have you been told what sorts of questions to expect from the judge, or even whether you will be asked questions? Our facilitator really prepped us well, right down to letting us know that the court would be primarily interested in hearing from M "as the man." I got asked a few token questions, but M went first at both our kids' hearings and got all the important questions. What we, in hindsight, really wish we'd known at the time was that it was all really just a formality. Our paperwork having been accepted (and containing all the answers to the judge's questions) and us having been invited to Ukraine to adopt and us having fulfilled our obligations to the kids during the wait til court all rendered the court more or less a rubber stamp. We had no idea at the time of that and so were nervous and scared as could be and sooooo relieved when it was over. This is all to say that we now figure you shouldn't spend too much time or stress cramming for your hearing. Easier said than done, I know.

On the subject of possible headgear on court officials, I would not be surprised. The court rooms we were in in Ukraine were very interesting indeed, and very different from each other. One even had a cage for the accused. Fortunately, they didn't use it for anything adoption-related.

Will be thinking of you!!!!!

msr said...

Three proven ways of treating a rash: antihistamines, topical steroidal cremes, and, of course, with humour and understanding. The bumps usually smooth over in time.
Breathe deeply and know that you're well prepared for this next step.

lk said...

Your blog today has flooded me with memories of being in Addis to get S. On one occassion we (Dad) was required to get a sample of S's explosive diarrhea in a film container to a lab some distance away for analysis. Being a runner, and knowing it would be quite acceptable in Ethipia, he got the sample and ran to the address, only to find everyone on break, and the sample useless by the time they returned. No medical preservative in film containers! He had to do the same (poop, scoop, run) the next day to get the sample under the microscope in time to see the parasites causing the problem. Eventually, we had a diagnosis, then dealt with the whole pharmacy fiasco to get drugs. The explosions continued after the long course of drugs. Eventually an angel told us that the medication also caused diarrrhea, by wiping out internal flora, and we had to give her fresh bacterially cultured yogurt to re-establish it. We did this for some time but the explosions actually lasted all 7 weeks (including the plane rides home). Once home I rushed her to the Dr., expecting to have to take in more samples. The explosions stopped the same day as the Dr. Appt, without any additional treatment.

Second memory relates to blood tests or more specifically needles. S needed a sedative so she would lie still for a CT scan to get out of country (LONG STORY). We had fasted her, and showed up to have her poked. What ensued was the worst morning of my, and my parents' life. We upset the entire Surgical system of the hospital, as we required the Head nurse, and 4 Dr.s, as well as Mom and I to hold her down. They couldn't get into a vein and after trying ankles, elbows, wrists and sides of the head (which required head shaving both sides with a razor), they had to go in at the neck. Needless to say, the three Adults took quite a while to recover from this, while s, on the other hand, came out of the sedative (sporting a mohawk haircut) saw all the Dr.s and nurses and said a cheery "HI" to everyone like nothing had happened. Now, when we need a blood test, I ask for the very best person in the lab.

On a happier note, we now have travel dates and leave hopefully on July 24th to get B on the 27th.

See you soon, Keep blogging! LK

LK said...

I am also really enjoying all the animal photos. There is a very nice children's book about a baby hippo on the east coast of Africa, orphaned by the big tsunami, who is rescued from the ocean and taken to a Game Reserve. There it attaches itself to the nearest hippo-like thing which is a loner of a Giant Tortoise. The writing is a little heavy for children, but it is a nice adoption story as both lives are enriched once the Tortoise realizes he has no choice. The photos are excellent. I got my copy through Scholastic Book Services and the hippo's name was Mzee (I think). Why is it that I have seen such good books about adoption (Anne of Green Gables), but rarely a good movie (with the exception of Oliver)?

Anonymous said...

Tomorrow, June 21, your court date, marks the beginning summer and is the longest day of the year. Midsummer's Night Eve, in mythology and pagan circles, is all about the power of love, light and connection. As the planet rolls around the equinox tomorrow, I'll be thinking of you and Baby on this most auspicious day!

Susan P.

Anonymous said...

I will also/am also thinking about you today...still 23rd here in Wpg but the 24th in Kaz. I'm wondering where you are right now...in the midst of a strange court system not understanding what is actually happening. I hope by the end of the day you have a clear understanding of who your family is! Margaret

Ileana said...

1. [e [baby shower]]
2. [[e baby] [shower]]

3. [[baby] [e shower]]

I guess (1) makes the most sense. (2) means that the baby is e, which isn't right. (3) should be ok, but sounds a bit odd, no? Is e inflectional or derivational? or is it an instance of compounding? or clipping?