Friday, March 7, 2014

Poop Happens

I've titled many posts about Noah's physical health in a similar theme (His Ears, His Blood, His Hands, etc.). I wasn't really sure what I should title this post...His Poop? Or another less proper word for fecal matter? I mean, Noah's not even a year old, but boy do we have poop stories! This one, tops them all. This is the story of how we set out to get ultra sounds on Noah's heart and kidneys, and instead got covered in poop.

An excerpt of something I wrote the day it happened 3 weeks ago.

Any day that starts of at 6:00 am, is not my cup of tea. Today, I had to rise at 5:30, since that's what time Noah woke up for his 'middle of the night' snack. Yes, 5:30 is the middle of the night for me.There are things that equivocate a 'bad day'. Like, waking up early, walking out to the main road with with a 22 pound baby in the frigid temps of Northern China. It's not a good day when you don't have time to drink coffee beforehand, you get stuck in rush hour traffic, and you can't find the nurse on the side of the road (the nurse wanted me to pick her up on the curb of a busy street--but it's like trying to find a needle in a haystack!), not to mention you and the taxi driver are having a hard time communicating. But really, none of those things bothered me because I'm used to all that stuff. 

Let me tell you the story of my horrible, no good, very bad day. 

The morning was crazy. Things that would normally stress me out were hardly bothering me. I don't know if that's because God was protecting me, or because I knew I couldn't afford to be stressed with little inconveniences. Noah and I were headed for his second trip to the Children's Hospital where his heart and kidneys would be checked. I hopeful and optimistic about the results, but I also wanted to be realistic with potential results.

The hole in his heart might still be there.
His kidneys might have tumors.
The hole in his heart might be healed.
His kidneys might be totally fine.

I kept thinking about these options as objectively as possible. Knowing that God would guide us whatever the results would be was actually the only thing that comforted me. I really was wishing that Adam had taken off of work to come with me. I hate being by myself in situations like this.

So picture this. I'm physically weary, stressed by my environment (but pretending that I'm okay), and emotionally confused. I'm not just saying that God was helping me through this morning; I really would have been a wreck without His constant support.

Like I've mentioned before in hospital posts---the medical system is so different in China.
In America, our primary doctor would schedule an appointment with the appropriate hospital. We'd be ushered into a well-decorated, sterile, efficiently staffed hospital. We would check in, wait a reasonable amount of time before being taken into a private room by a knowledgable nurse. It would be clean. It would be professional. It would be mostly quiet, except for maybe some chattering people or a TV playing Soap Operas in the corner. There would be kid-friendly art work and ferns scattered about. We'd sign some papers, flash our insurance cards. The actual tests would be explained to us, performed without a hitch, and finished with a promise that a doctor would phone us with the results sometime that week.

In China, I need a nurse to accompany me, because my Mandarin is not fluent enough. She will not only translate dialogue for me, but also navigate the system for us. I counted 9 different counters, in many different rooms and halls that she had to check-in at. I'm not sure what was happening at each counter. Sometimes she was registering, sometimes she was signing-in, sometimes she was paying, or getting a little medical spread sheet that would record everything Noah had done to him while at the hospital (like a running receipt, I guess). You have to pay for everything BEFORE the procedure is performed. You stand in lines. You don't make appointments. You can cut in line if you feel your case is more important than those that standing in front of you. You're surrounded by families holding their terminally ill children and babies. You don't understand how the building is designed or where to go, or how to read the signs. Even your helpful nurse, who has great English, stumbles across some translations. At the second counter she went to, she told me that the doctor behind that desk wanted Noah to be 'put to sleep'. The nurse looked just as confused as I did. She said, "He didn't have to do that last time, right?" No. They didn't 'put him to sleep'. I didn't even want to know what that statement meant--but my nurse said that we could try to get Noah's tests without worrying about that. He did get an ultrasound in the past without the hospital putting him to sleep.

Finally got into the color sonogram room (where we had pushed and shoved our way forward to keep our place in line) where privacy is a laughing matter. Anyone can walk into the room at any time. There's no clean tissue paper on the exam table. It's just a wooden cot.

The technician took one look at Noah and demanded that he be he be given an injection so that "he will not move". Maybe this is a normal practice in America  too, but I was feeling a little uncertain at this point. I couldn't call Adam to ask him what he thought.

Okay..."be put to sleep" + "an injection so that he will not move". I was starting to think that the word the nurse was searching for was 'sedative'.

The technician gave an extremely lackluster attempt at viewing Noah's heart and kidneys and then waved her hands saying that it was impossible to see anything--even though he was hardly moving. All I had to go on was when he was there at 3 months, and the guy who looked at Noah's kidneys did so without a sedative.

My main thought was that I wanted Noah's heart and kidneys to be checked; the technician wasn't willing to do it without Noah being sedated; so I should let them sedate Noah. What if something WAS wrong with Noah and I hadn't allowed them to give him a simple sedative for whatever reason? I would feel so guilty.

To get a sedative, we had to go through 5 more counters. At one point, the nurse wanted to take Noah away from me and bring him to another part of the building without me. I was shocked, and absolutely unwilling to let that happen--so I grabbed Noah back and followed her. To a cluttered, dirty, crowded rooom where they 'weighed' Noah. First they weighed me holding him, then I returned to the scale without Noah. So precise, right?

After the weigh in, someone at a desk gave us a slip of paper that announce how much of a sedative Noah needed. We walked to another counter--which was basically in the hallway. It was a very wide hallway, and there were chairs set up like in an airplane terminal. Behind the counter were four nurses, each with a medical cart, and a computer. Above each nurse, a medal rod was hanging from the ceiling, for IV bags. On the wooden counter that they were sitting behind, were small plastic cushions for babies/children to sit on. This is where Noah was to get his sedative. When we saw an opening, we walked up to the counter, where I was told to sign a medical release. I couldn't read the characters. The nurse told me of the side effects that might occur from the sedative. I signed in English.

Side effects included child being unable to breathe well. What does that mean?!!!
I asked how long it would make him sleep--the hospital worker said "Maybe 20 minutes. Maybe several hours. We don't know".

Wow--we're just brimming with reassurances!

The nurse brought out a large syringe with a long plastic tube attached to it. It was filled with a clear liquid. She had me take Noah's diaper off. We're in a hallway, in a relatively cold hospital with people all around. Babies and children are screaming because their sick and in pain. Some are getting blood drawn out of their feet, a meter to my right. Someone else is getting an IV hooked up to her head. Every kid seems to have their mom, their dad, their grandparents, a nurse, a nanny....And there's me, with the international clinic nurse.

So I take Noah's diaper off, and watch as the hospital worker sticks the tube up my son's 'acne' (as the international nurse kept mistakingly calling it). The hospital worker then injects Noah with the sedative, and squeezes his butt cheeks together tightly. She tells me to squeeze his but together as tightly as I can for 20 minutes. Then she tells me to pick him, and sit over there, in the waiting section.

What the heck? How am I supposed to hold a squirming, heavy, unhappy baby--while carrying him naked, while squeezing his butt cheeks with two hands? The international clinic nurse helped me as much as possible, and we shuffled over to the nearest seat--with my diaper bag and her big purse--and Noah's stroller.

This is a bad idea.

I had no idea how they were going to sedate Noah, but I thought it would be more like a tranquilizer dart or something involving a needle. Not a tube up his but. Not a liquid that I had to hold within his colon by squeezing his butt. Not something that had to be held inside of him for twenty minutes before it would start to work.

Do you know Noah? He poops a lot. Every day, several times, huge explosions.

This is a very bad idea.

I was not amused in the slightest. If anything, I had forgotten how to even panic or worry--because I already knew that this story was going to end in a lot of poop.

How badly to I want this ultra sound? I wanted I waited. I sat there for about two minutes, with a very unhappy Noah--who wanted to move, and for us to stop bruising his dimpled butt cheeks.

Then, the front of my shirt was soaking wet with pee, and I felt that my hands were full of something very smooth and warm. I looked at the nurse and said quite calmly, "He's pooping on me, can you grab a diaper?" With an audience of Chinese people looking on, we tried to clean up the mess. It was everywhere on me, on Noah, on the nurse....we used nearly all the wipes.

She had some antibacterial soap, and we tried to clean up as best as possible. But my jeans were now yellow, and my shirt was beyond help.

After we cleaned up, I looked up at the hospital worker, who was sitting behind her stupid wooden counter very dispassionately. "You have to do it again." she said so vindictively, as if it's my fault that injecting a baby through his anus makes them poop.

At Chinese hospitals, they provide nothing as far as tissues, towels, bandaids, etc. As all the kids are screaming and crying around us, and I'm watching kids that have very serious illnesses walking away with multiple IV's that their parents hold on metal rods as they walk away...I was wondering if we should try again. I had one wipe left  and one diaper. No one told me to prepare for this eventuality.

The poor international clinic nurse who had been translating for me, and helping me to navigate the system is a single lady. And she had my son's poop on her. I slipped my poop encrusted wedding rings into my coat pocket.

Okay, let's do it again.

Which meant going to all the counters again. Paying again. Getting weighed again. Getting yet another prescription that was the exact same as before. Going back to the assembly-line-esque-injection counter. Having the same nurse tell me to take Noah's diaper off. Watching Noah's little face contort as she shoved the tube up his butt, for a second time.

Being smart enough to squeeze his butt cheeks with a diaper barrier this time (even though the hospital worker protested and said I shouldn't do that--I am not THAT stupid).

I could see that the line to get an ultrasound was now very long, stretch thing far down the hall. No wonder we had made such an effort to get there first thing in the morning.

This time, Noah made it about 15 minutes. And then he pooped all over me for a second time. I was kind of relieved, actually, because my arms were shaking with the strain of holding him still while squeezing his butt.

But I still wanted to cry. No one likes to be covered in poop, least of all me. I remember thinking with wonder, as I looked up at all the Chinese faces watching me, "it's amazing that I'm not sobbing right now".

At this point, we'd been at the hospital for 4 hours. Standing in multiple lines. Being covered in poop twice. Having the humiliation of watching your son poop on someone who is trying to help you (i.e. the nurse). Paying for tests that you can't receive because of the uncooperative technician, and not being able to call Adam just made it worse. I didn't know how Willow was behaving for her babysitter, and that was another stress on my day. I didn't know how long it would take to get a taxi (it actually did take a long time). Noah hadn't been able to eat all morning. He missed both of his naps. I rescheduled his follow up at the international clinic for another day and decided it was time to quit.

Later, when I finally got home, I put both kids in their beds for naps. I just sat on the couch and didn't move for a few hours. Wow, was I tired! Talk about an exhausting cultural experience, not to mention parenting adventure. Adam said that I shouldn't have even let them try to sedate Noah. Later, Noah's pediatrician said that we could wait until we're back in America next to get his echo-cardiogram.

I had a friend who understands the system a little better explain why the technician wasn't willing to check Noah's heart and kidneys without him being sedated. She probably makes a very small amount of money a month (maybe less than $500 a month) and for her to go through the extra trouble with an un-sedated baby was not worth it to her. If I had handed her 100 kuai under the table, maybe she would have done it, because then it would have been worth it. I'm not sure if Noah will have to go through the same rigors in America or not--but at least I'll understand the system, the language, and the culture.

One thing that shocked me the most while I was at the hospital was how little compassion I saw around me. Whether it was the worker/nurses at the assembly line counter who were so emotionally distant, it was disturbing. They would watch the babies and kids were in legitimate pain or great fear and offer no comfort or reassurance. Or the people shoving you out of place while you're standing in line. Or the uncooperative technicians or arrogant doctors.

Now, I really appreciate having compassionate medical professionals.

This is the best children's hospital in a city of several million people--and I am so thankful I have other options. I'm thankful Noah doesn't have to get his hand surgery there. And I admire all the families that travel from many cities and towns away to get the best care possible at that hospital. Life is different here, where a bribe can get you the test you need, and a shove can cut you to the front of the line.

On a spiritual level, I was reminded that when we knowingly walk into a difficult situation, we should prepare ourselves properly. Though I had forgotten to pack enough antibacterial-related items and diapers, I was still supported by the strength of God to get through those disgusting, humiliating, frustrating, and culturally confusing moments. There were many moments when I knew I couldn't survive that particular situation without Him, and I chose to obey Him with my words and actions. And there were many moments more when I failed to live in a way that would please Him. Fortunately, for reasons I cannot fully understand, His grace is sufficient for all those moments. If I had to choose between remembering to pack enough diapers or remembering to focus on God and His plan, I will strive to chose the Lord.

After all, diapers are made to cover behinds. 
But God covers His children with saving grace.

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