Sunday, December 30, 2012

What a ride!


What a ride! 

I finally have time to sit down and write this stuff down.

The past week has been all about getting and keeping Ralph and Theo well again. Theo made a quick turnaround and only spent one night in the hospital. Ralph on the other hand...

I had not seen my little rock star work so hard to breathe in ages. He was frightfully ill with an adenovirus on his first Christmas in 2007. The atypical pneumonia he was diagnosed with this time was just as awful. His oxygen saturation would plummet if he knocked his mask off at night. The doctors were attempting to arrange a transfer to the big city children's hospital, but there were no beds available for Ralph!

We were in limbo.

On Friday evening, I requested the respiratory therapists to perform CPT (chest physiotherapy) on Ralph after his treatments. I am convinced that this patting (or pounding, depending on the therapist!) is helpful in breaking up crud in the lungs.

After a horrible night, chocked full of wild and scary desats, Ralph was transferred to PICU on Sunday morning. This was so that he could have cpap or bipap support if he had another scary night. We were still waiting on word from Kansas City about a transfer.

Wouldn't you know it, as soon as the little stinker was transferred to PICU, he started perking up. After a CPT session that afternoon, Ralph coughed real big and his O2 sats jumped up...and stayed up! He had a great night that night. Me? Not so much. The unit was full of screaming, super-sick kiddos seperated by curtains, and I slept in a stupid recliner. 

If you want to call it sleeping, that is. I cracked an eye open and struggled to focus on the sat monitor every so often...or whenever I would hear an alarm...any alarm...which was probably every five minutes. When Ralph was sitting at 95% around 2am I started to get excited. In my mind, I began to rehearse my arguments for taking Ralph home with a sat monitor and supplemental oxygen. (I know I can still change an oxygen tank while half asleep, in the dark!) I got myself so worked up that I ended up running to the restroom every hour after that...3am, 4am, 5am...
Ralph ate two plates of eggs...feeling better for real!!

The morning of Christmas eve, when the day nurse arrived, I told her my plan. Ralph needed to be going home and they needed to get the discharge paperwork going. We had to wait until rounds to speak to the docs. They insisted on an EKG to check for heart damage before they would release Ralph. They were not happy with the chart, but I explained that he had an enlarged right heart as a baby.

With promises to follow up with Ralph's cardiologist, we finally busted him out around lunchtime!! Then we sat in the home oxygen office for an hour, trying to get him set up with new equipment. Blech! Ralph tried to open the fake Christmas presents under the tree there! haha! He wanted to play and run around, but he had been in bed for a week and was really clumsy and uncoordinated. 

By the time we were done there, my favorite pharmacy was closed for Christmas Eve. I checked three more pharmacies before finding an open one. I was so happy to finally get Ralph home. It was the best Christmas present. Ever.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I'm home!

I'm home. Well I was for a few hours anyway. I surprised the kids this morning. It was fun to see their faces!

Actually, right this moment I am on the way to the hospital with Theo. Its going to be an interesting Christmas.

More later...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Oh goodness! My Ralphie is sick!

I learned last night that he had to be taken to the hospital with low oxygen sats. I felt that cold fear grip my heart again, that fear that I thought I conquered years ago. 

I'm too far away to do anything but wait for more information. I have to be patient and trusting. Please pray for my little rock star. He's not doing well tonight. I understand the he might get worse before he gets better. 

There are two other little boys with Down Syndrome that are fighting for their lives tonight. Please remember Ethan and Peter in your prayers as well. I know their families would be grateful. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Week two

Today marks two weeks since I left home. 

Maxim is great! He has learned my version of Pat A Cake and can do it with no prompting. He has a little trouble "rolling it," but we can work on that some more later.

Can I just say that I was very nervous about adopting an older child? I might not have had the courage if not for a certain young missionary girl who has visited him often over the past year or so.  But, these kids are amazing! I have also had a chance to hang out with many older kids and teens here, and they are so emotionally open, full of hope, and life. They ALL say, "please adopt me, too!"

The children I met last night were surprised that I wish to adopt "sick" kids. They wanted to know why? One boy offered to become sick to have a family.

Do you get that?

This handsome, intelligent English speaking boy was willing to have Down Syndrome if it meant that he could have a family. If you are reading this, and your heart is pierced, won't you consider what you might do for one of these little lambs?

And by the way, would you kindly leave a little comment for me? With over 500 hits each day, it's a little discouraging to only get spam comments. Please delurk for me, would you?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday with Maxim

Maxim is always happy while playing with balls. It makes for an easy visit, too. 

Today I allowed him to throw the balls into the ball pit, instead of out! It's too warm in the therapy room for me to be chasing balls all over. 

Ruby sent me some love this afternoon...morning for her.
 I have at least four sick children at home right now. I can't do anything for them and it doesn't feel right. We are all praying BIG prayers...for healing, for signatures, for heart and minds. The most difficult parts of the process are still to come.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Don't even know what day it is...

As you can probably tell, I'm not in the mood to blog. I've got very little emotional energy to spend, and it's all for Maxim right now.

A spelling error was discovered in Maxim's file on the day of my initial appointment in Kyiv. A spelling error from 2004 when Maxim's mother's rights were terminated. Why this wasn't discovered at some point in the past eight years baffles me. The adoption department scrutinizes adoptive parents dossier paperwork with a fine tooth comb...letter by letter. Internal documents regularly get the same treatment. This one slipped through a tight crack.

My facilitator went to work immediately last week to try to get this court decree fixed. By early Wednesday, it was apparent that it would never be completed unless we went personally to the courthouse to speak to the judge. You see, Maxim was born in an entirely different region, one that is not an easy trip from here.

We set out in a sleet storm on Wednesday morning. The roads were terribly icy and in terrible condition. It is no surprise that there is a tire shop on every corner here. Seven hours later we arrived in Max's birth city. We would go to work in the morning.

It's long story, every story is long here, but we did get the document fixed, finally, at 6:30pm, after a whole day of office hopping, driving, waiting, and with the assistance of Ben Franklin. The document is considered official on the 5th day after it is prepared. Then it must be signed by the adoption authorities in the capital city. This normally takes 10 days. Then, and only then, will I be able to go to court to adopt Maxim.
If you can count, you will understand that I have a difficult decision to make. Will I stay here and wait for a court date? If so, I will miss Christmas with my family.

Will I go home for Christmas as originally planned? If so, my second trip here will be a very long one...and I don't even have childcare lined up for that trip yet.

I'll need to make this decision in a few days.

Maxim is doing great, if you don't count his poor bloated belly. And his extreme oral defensiveness. And gosh he is skinny. He seems to like me. He LOVES getting kisses and snuggles. He's a real treasure and I can't wait to get him home.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 4

Today's visit was difficult. Not because Maxim is difficult, or naughty, but probably because he is eight...he is well loved and cared for...he has friends. Now, someone new is messing around with his schedule, and is too stupid to speak his language. 

I found a snowsuit for Max at the market yesterday. It was a good price, but when we got home I noticed it smells like smoke. Yuk.

This building is part of an iron ore mining operation. There are many huge mines like this here and much of the city is covered in red dirt. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Day 3

Max was brought to me in his wheelchair today. Little tiny dude. 

He had a ball in the ball pit. It's really the only thing he wants to do here. I tried to put him on a bouncy ride-on cow toy, but he screeched and freaked.  I've got to find something else to entertain him.

I brought a drink and snack and that was also a bomb. Apparently, I found through a cell phone conversation with my interpreter, he drinks only from a spoon. Yup. 

I did some measuring yesterday. From waist to ankle is 18 inches and his little foot is 5 inches long. I will soon have virtual quints!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

More Max

This may be the theme for the next few weeks...more Max!

We had a very short visit today as we still had paperwork to complete. For some reason, the notaries in this city do not care to do paperwork associated with adoption. Notaries here are much different than in the states. Here, they are actually more like lawyers and are responsible for the content of the documents they prepare.

Max is a ton of fun! He's going to have a blast in our family. 

I saw a mother visiting her teenaged daughter this morning. The mom had brought her some breakfast.  As the girl was eating, between bites, she repeatedly asked her mom, "do you love me?" And my heart broke all over again.

Friday, December 7, 2012


I know what you are here for so I'll just give it to you up front, with no strings attached. I met Maxim this morning and he is perfect...everything I imagined...and wearing the same danged sweater as in all his other photos!

Thursday I slept until after noon, and I'm very glad that I did! Early in the afternoon, my facilitator and I went to buy our train tickets. Thank goodness we were able to find 2nd class tickets as the roads were to slick to consider taking the bus.

With 140 grivna train tickets (so cheap!!) in hand we set out to do some exploring. Snow had given way to light rain and every intersection was deep with soupy slush. I felt so thankful for the waterproof boots that my mother bought for me a few weeks ago. They were not the cute boots that I had in mind, but all that I could find in my home city.

On the way, we visited St. Vladimir's cathedral. Google it if you can, I didn't take any photos of the place, but it is simply magnificent. I was so moved my the dark and mysterious atmosphere that even though I am not a Catholic, I bought and lit candles for two adopted children who recently went to live with Jesus.

We walked in silence for awhile after that. The light started to fade and I knew that it was almost time to pick up my referral. My feet started to complain. We started to get hungry, but realized that there was no time to sit down and eat a meal. After picking up the referral, it was quick but complicated, we took a taxi to pick up our bags and headed for the train station.

Our second class, bottom berth seats were in a old, old train car. Everything was made of wood and metal. The windows were wood. I find that fascinating. Two men slept over us, no big deal, they were quiet and respectful. However, I could absolutely not sleep.

The compartment was SO hot. I could not get comfortable. We slept with the door open. I felt safe because all my valuables were in the underseat storage. If anyone wanted to steal my bag they would have to get through me first! I just laid there with my eyes closed for eight hours.

We pulled into the station about 6am and drove the WORST streets I've ever seen to drop our bags at the apartment. We waited around awhile until it was time to visit the city inspector. Someone in the building was cooking mushroom soup. I could smell it. I saw a middle aged woman wearing white tennis shoes, that cracked me up!

The inspector was so friendly! We took her to the orphanage, quickly met the director and headed to the building where Max lives. The immediately brought him in to see me. He was obviously unsure of what was happening. He would not walk to me. I had to snatch him up to set him on my lap. I was really nervous with all the people watching me.

My facilitator and all the others left us along to try to get some paperwork done and fix some complicated issues. After they left, Maxim started to open up a bit. We played pat-a-cake, itsy bitsy spider, iPad flashcards and "walk to mommy." He really loved being snuggled, so we spent much of the time doing just that. 

When the visit was over, I left Maxim in the "therapy" and we went hunting for a notary. Amazingly there was not a notary in this town willing to do our adoption documents. I was falling asleep in the car, so I got dropped off at the apartment for a nap. My facilitator was able to find a notary and I have an appointment in the morning to finish up paperwork to request a court date. 

Since I have an appointment in the morning, I will not be able to visit the mental aslyum as I had originally planned. I will send the donations with the group that goes tomorrow, but do plan to visit them before I leave. We want to make sure that everyone there has a new pair of socks and underwear for Christmas.

I will visit sweet Max again tomorrow. If you like, please pray for his poor tummy. He has some significant GI issues, though I cannot say for sure exactly what is going on. I also hope to get more of his medical information tomorrow. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I'm here!

I'm finally here! I left the house a little after noon on Monday, flew to Chicago, then to Dusseldorf, then to Kyiv...arriving on Tuesday afternoon about 3pm. That time difference really steals a whole day of one's life.

The flight from Chicago to Germany was oddly empty. I've never seen such an empty flight. People were sprawled across three seats sleeping. I finally got my window seat, so I only had two seats with which to get comfy. I didn't get much sleep. I did better in the gate area in Dusseldorf. There was one seating area without arms at each seat, so I laid down, using my backpack for a pillow and got a solid two hours of shuteye. I didn't care what anyone thought of me. I have an important job to do here and I need to be on top of my game.

I gambled when packing my bags at the last minute and put all my clothing and makeup in my checked bag. If the bags got lost I would be wearing dirty clothes for a few days. I was delighted to actually see my bag being loaded and unloaded from the plane of my final destination.

At the airport, a driver was there with my name on a sign. I was tickled by this, as last time we made an adoption trip, no one was there to meet us at the airport. Very disappointing and, at the time anyway, scary. Andrei had the heart of a racecar driver, but the city traffic frustrated him at every turn. It was still an entertaining drive for me, as he weaved in an out and squeezed between marshrutkas and big trucks. There was a big snow the day before, so the roads were very slick.

My facilitator is a sweet and pretty lady. I'm very pleased so far. She explains everything to me and doesn't mind my endless questions and comments. My appointment this morning with the adoption authorities was long as they were running behind schedule. I had a moment of panic when Maxim's file was apparently missing. Turns out, he was born in a completely different region from where he lives now and they had to look in a different file to find him.

There were several photos in his file, but they only allowed me to exchange a recent photo for one of the old ones. I chose his baby photo: 

Isn't he a little dolly? I'm so sad that I missed out on his baby years.

After the appointment, we walked down the hill to a travel agent in an attempt to find train tickets for tomorrow night. Nothing but 3rd class was available. Masha explained that tickets may be available again anytime today or tomorrow and that we would try again later.

We were famished by this time. A little way further down the hill we stopped into a place called Le Borsht. I had a bowl of Borsht and a dish of viniagrette salad, beets, carrots peas and pickles in vinegar. Tasty! I needed to find a phone so we walked down to Kreschatik Street to find an electronics store. I left my gloves at home, so we went to the undergound mall to find some. I tried on a few hats, too. The sales lady and Masha said I looked very Ukrainian in one of the black knit hats, so of course, I had to buy it!

After this we tried another ticket agency for train tickets, but no luck. If you want to pray for me, please pray that we find 1st or 2nd class train tickets for tomorrow night. I don't want to take the bus in this weather. The streets are very slick.

If all that wasn't enough excitement for one day, I hopped on a city bus (only 1.5 grivna!) to go see a new friend. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with Jill, another adopting mom, and her new son. We had a great time just chatting and playing with the little dude. He reminded me so much of Theo when we first met tiny and undermourished, but full of life and open to accepting affection. Jill made me a grilled cheese for dinner, and before long it was 9pm. She sent me on my way with a whole bag of groceries that she wouldn't be able to use up before flying home in a few days. What a sweet time we had. When I stepped out of the building, onto the street, I found that it was snowing again. The scene was magic, with snow piling up high on each of the branches and little twigs on every tree.

Tomorrow, I plan to do some sightseeing with my facilitator. Late in the afternoon we will pick up Maxim's referral and, God willing, jump on a train to his region. Friday is the big day.