Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dad's surgery went really well. He is still in the hospital but he on the road to recovery. My family and I are just so relieved that he is doing better.

Now that he is out of the woods, I can think about other things, like vacation. Tomorrow, the other volunteers and I are leaving for Nairobi for a retreat. The best part of this weekend is that Amy is coming to Kenya. She is staying until the 17th of September. We will stay in Nairobi for a few days and then head out to Mombasa on the coast. I'm excited about vacation but I am super excited to see Amy.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dad's Surgery

Tomorrow morning, Dad is having open heart surgery. Even as I type that, I have trouble believing it. I have talked to him several times since he was admitted to the hospital and he always sounds healthy and happy. This has been very surreal, like a strange dream. I am just praying that he will be okay and make a swift recovery.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours

This has not been an easy week.

Sunday was my turn to make brunch and I made Uncle Robert's chicken, macaroni and cheese, and apple tart. The meal turned out okay but I didn't get to enjoy it because once again malaria struck. So I pushed the food around my plate and tried to ignore the awful body aches. When you have had malaria five times in less than a year, it is easy to recognize the symptoms.

I was planning on going to the Malava hospital first thing Monday morning but the Sisters decided to take me to Mukumu hospital, which is better. We arrived and were told that I couldn't get a malaria test because there was no electricity but I still saw the doctor. The doctor suggested that I take Quinine since the monthly recurrence of malaria suggested that it was drug resistant. I was less than enthusiastic because Quinine sometimes has some nasty side effects and it requires a hospital stay. However they convinced me to do it and I was admitted. The iv proved irksome. It took took a nurse and two doctors eight needle sticks before they finally succeeded in getting an iv in the inside of my wrist, which is not the most comfortable place. I got a drip for four hours, then four hours off, another four hours hooked up to a bottle, four hours to rest again, and a final iv for four more hours. This went on from Monday afternoon until Tuesday early afternoon. Then they need to observe me for another night to make sure I didn't have any complications.

The hospital did not have running water or electricity during the day time, however it came on around 7pm. The hospital doesn't have iv stands so I could not leave my bed. If I wanted to eat or use the bathroom I had to find a nurse to disconnect me (which is not easy when the call button requires electricity). Still, this was one of the nicer hospitals in the area. Everything was clean and the staff was very kind. Nevertheless, I was very happy to leave.

Two nights in the hospital is enough to sour any week. Unfortunately I had bigger concerns.

Monday morning I got a call from Becky, saying that my dad was in the hospital. To make a long story short, he needs major heart surgery. The doctors need to replace part of his aorta and fix two leaky heart valves. Unfortunately, he also has an infection that will postpone the surgery until next week. He is being closely monitored, in case his aneurysm ruptures. One minute we thought he was going to have emergency surgery, the next minute they are telling us he can wait a few days. It has been very stressful and being half way around the world doesn't help. I worry about Dad but I also worry about how Mom is holding up.

Then on top of that Amy is coming to visit Kenya next week. Not that her visiting is in any way a bad thing, I am so excited about seeing her. But I was debating about coming home and she was contemplating cancelling the trip. Dad, being his usual selfless self, told us to enjoy ourselves on vacation. So we are sticking with the status quo, at least for the time being.

I have to wonder at the timing of it all. Why does everything have to hit at the same time? Right now I am just taking life one moment at a time.

I wanted to add a big thank you to everyone who has helped my family in this difficult time: Uncle Brian, Bev, Carol, Meg, Erin, Keith and Patrica, the priests at St. Mary's, and many others. Please continue to keep our family in your prayers.
Love from Africa,

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Meet the Orphans

We have a full house these days at the orphanage.

The oldest baby wing resident is Cali. He is two years old. The most noticeable thing about Cali is that both of his legs are in casts from his thighs to his toes. Cali was born with deformed legs and he had his third surgery in June. However, this does not slow him down one bit. If someone puts him in his crib, he will perch himself on the headboard or flip himself over into the crib next to his (the first time I saw him do this I was certain he was going to break his arms). Cali is also a chatterbox. I have learned most of my Swahili from him and he will parrot my English phrases.

The next oldest would be Matthew, who is 20 months old. He is a sweetheart and I love Matty. He has the most adorable laugh. Like all of the babies at the orphanage, Matthew wears cloth diapers which causes him to waddle. And instead of sucking his thumb, Matthew likes to suck on his middle and ring finger. When Matty does this I can't decide if he looks like he is making the sign for I love you or if he looks like he belongs at a rock concert.

Then there is Monica, who is about a year old. She is in the process of being adopted and is one of the few older girls left. Girls are usually much easier to get adopted in Kenya, because family land is divided between the sons and girls mean an eventual bride price. Monica is a cutie but don't let her small size fool you, she can hold her own against the boys who are almost twice her size.

Next would be Bonaventure, who we like to call Boni. Boni is probably ten months old. Boni is usually very cheerful. The Mamas will sing and even though he doesn't talk, he will sing "Halleluia, ahhh". Boni loves being carried but he hates being put down. So it is best not to pick him up unless you are in it for the long haul or you don't mind listening to screaming. Unfortunately, Boni is sick and in the hospital. We miss him.

After Boni, comes Andrew who is eight months old. Andrew is not the emotional type. He rarely cries and he rarely smiles. When I first started working at the orphanage, Andrew could not sit on his own and I worried that he might be behind developmentally. The good news is that he is catching up and he can sit up now.

Then there is Walter, who we guess is about 6 or 7 months. He arrived about a month ago and for the first week he screamed nonstop. Luckily for our eardrums, he seems to have adjusted to life at the orphanage. When I saw him smile for the first time I was amazed at the transformation. His entire face lights up and his smile reveals two little front teeth.

That is all of our older babies, the ones that can sit and eat solid foods. We also have little newborns.

Victor is two months old. I don't know if he is colicky but he cries more than all the little ones combined.

Dorothy is almost two months old. For the longest time I thought of her as baby Christopher Lloyd because she had these huge eyes and this crazy hair. Luckily she seems to be growing out of that.

Penha is about a month old and is named after Sr. Penha who runs the orphanage.

Janaina is just over a month old. Her twin brother John passed away. I am happy to see that she seems to be thriving.

Mary and Moses are two weeks old and they arrive Monday. Their mother died during childbirth. They look a like and I can only tell them apart by their hair. Mary's hair is straighter but Moses has a full head of curly hair.

Those are my twelve little babies.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Still More Random Thoughts

I am a Master Diaperer. You thought cloth diapers were a thing of the past but you were wrong my friend. I can now properly diaper any kid at the orphanage, from newborns to two year olds, even Cali who has cast on both legs. Luckily someone else washes the dirty diapers.

I would rather walk through the rain than walk through wet grass.

I have finally found a cat I actually like. The boys have the cutest little kitten. It runs around like Spazzy McGee and Sunday it ate so much that it looked like it had swallowed a tennis ball. The best part about this cat is that I don't seem to be allergic to it. I would think about getting one when I got home, except that (at least according to the internet) it is the world's rarest house cat.

I hate playing minesweeper on my computer but am strangely addicted to it.

I like Wednesdays because I get to sleep in. Most mornings I catch a ride with the Sisters on their way to church but there is Mass at the house on Wednesdays so I have to walk. This means I walk six miles that day, instead of just five but I get to sleep until 7am.

Todays commute home sucked. I got soaked walking to the matatu stand and when I got there I had to take the King Solomon matatu (it has "King Solomon" written on the windshield thus my name for it). The last time I took King Solomon it was weaving dangerously in and out of traffic and six people in a row with three seats. Today it did neither because ten minutes outside of town it gets a flat tire and the jack is broken. Twenty minutes later we got packed into another matatu and there was a ten minute debate about what people should pay. After arriving in Malava I still had a twenty minute walk home in the mud.

The letter m is almost broken on my keyboard. I hit it but it doesn't always work. So I read what I wrote and it says "After arriving in alava I still had a twenty inute walk hoe in the ud." Thank goodness for spell check.

Orange Fanta is now my favorite kind of soda. My entire life coke has been my weakness. Now I strangely find myself drinking orange soda. What is the southern hemisphere doing to me?

Baby John

Someone is always sick at the orphanage. Last week Dorothy came home from the hospital on the day that John and Monica were admitted. They were still gone yesterday and today. I meant to ask how they were doing but I didn't get around to it until this afternoon when I was feeding Janina, John's twin sister. That was when I got the sad news that John died. He was only four weeks old. The twins had been at the orphanage for three weeks, after they were abandoned in the forest. Janina is bigger but John had more hair. I had trouble telling the twins apart unless they were next to each other. It breaks my heart to think that will no longer be a problem.

John's death reminds me of how fragile life is. I live in a place where there are no guarantees that a baby will survive into adulthood. Today I realized just how attached I get to these children and how vulnerable that leaves me. So I sit here crying for John, that poor abandoned baby and I try to take comfort in the fact that he has found the peace that this world could not give him.