October 19, 2012

Why We’re Still in the Hospital…

Malnutrition is no joke. It affects every function of your body and serious malnutrition can rock your world when you try to correct it. That’s why we’re still in the hospital.

Abiella came home weighing 15 pounds. She is almost 2 years old. For the majority of her life she ate (best we can guess) a no-calorie, “porridge” type filler, that was probably void of any nutritional value. She probably received 2 or 3 feedings a day with perhaps no liquids (other than what was in her porridge.) Because of this, she is at a high risk for what’s called, “Refeeding Syndrome.”

Refeeding Syndrome is when a body is SO malnourished that consuming nutritional substances can cause a number of serious complications, including cardiac failure. You can read why here. This phenomenon is commonly seen in starving children, those recovering from anorexia, etc.

This means it is not safe for us to begin feeding Abiella a balanced diet until we’ve maintained a successful transition under strict supervision in a hospital. What does this transition look like? Well, it means feeding her nutritional formula through a feeding tube that runs day and night, and letting me feed her two small portions of rice cereal a day by mouth. In the meantime, blood is drawn every 8 hours to look at her electrolytes, potassium, magnesium, etc…. These labs tell us how her body is reacting to the new diet and if the “refeeding syndrome” is showing its head. Depending on each lab result, doctors either increase the amount of food she can receive (via tube) each day and/or supplement her with additional vitamins. They also have her hooked up to a million electrodes to monitor her heart and observe how it is handling the new diet. It’s a lot of mumbo jumbo that I could continue to talk about, but the bottom line is it has been hard.


abi in crib


Abi is a real trooper but MY GOSSSHHHH. Adoption studies show to try not to leave your home for 2 weeks and to not take your new child to places with major stimulus (malls, grocery stores, etc.) for months! Now, 2 days after landing in America, baby girl is getting poked and prodded by a bunch of white people, woken up every 4 hours to have a cold thermometer stuck under her armpit, and gone through a series (as in 9) tests sending her through x-ray machines, radiation, etc., etc. ,etc. Since I walked in this building Monday morning for Abiella’s first doctor’s visit, (Our pediatrician’s office is in the hospital) I have not walked back outside…

To say Abiella's had a few hard days is an understatement. She’s bruised, and sore, and working hard to maintain her spirits. However, despite some major blows, she's still finding some time to be happy...

abi smiling

…which is saying a lot… Over the past few days, she’s blown through 4 IV’s b/c her tiny veins can’t take it and now they’re just pricking her every time they need blood (and sometimes THAT doesn't even draw blood…and they have to do it again) Someone literally mentioned to me today about the idea of putting an IV in her scalp… Um yeah- you’ve got to be kidding me.

BUT Abi’s marching forward. Luckily we have had an incredible team of doctors and nurses and PT and OT come in each day and give her baby massages which she seems to adore… and today, despite the 15 chords attached to her body (feeding tube, IV, and 10 electrodes) we managed to get her in our laps and hold her… all day.

She responded quickly and loved the affection… which is a blessing.

…So if you think about it, pray for our little one. Her first week in America is turning out to be quite a challenge…

sean and abi hosp

However, we remain exceptionally grateful that we're here in America together, getting her the health care she needs.

Let's just hope we can get healthy and back home quickly :) 

Signing off from the children's hospital...
mama mae mae

October 16, 2012

Hello Parenthood…

How am I ever going to blog about the last 96 hours of my life?!? ABI IS HOME!!!!!!!! (Well, in Tennessee that is… I’m typing this from a rocking chair beside her crib in a hospital.) So, for the sake of my tired eyes, and my low laptop battery… I’ll catch you up with a list… Then later I’ll go back and write more about various things that I HAVE to tell you about. But for now, this is all I got…

I’m doing this chronologically… here goes.

1) We got Abi’s visa Thursday afternoon (as I drove back to the hotel I called Sean and we screamed over the phone with pure joy, I then ran back into my hotel, rushed upstairs, grabbed my bags, picked up my baby and my mom and rushed to the airport. We made it there just in time to check in and begin boarding. Phew.

2) We flew from Ghana to NYC. As we took off the ground and headed to the US I couldn’t believe it. (10.5 hr flight.) Abi was a champ and slept most of the way…didn’t make a peep. When we finally landed the passengers cheered and I did all I could to not start bawling… Abi had landed on American soil. She was finally here.

3) At 4:30 am we rushed into the NYC airport , changed a dirty diaper and hopped into the line for immigration. An hour later I was through immigration and rushing to our gate for the next flight. Carrying a baby with luggage on my back through the airports is officially really, really difficult. (Props to all you traveling mamas.) Any suggestions on slings for a child as long as a 2 year old but can't hold there head up yet is appreciated. (Baby biorn doesn’t work for her weak muscles right now.)

4) The next flight, from NYC to Atlanta, went great, except when we landed in Atlanta, Abi started screaming…. She was having major stomach pains (or so it seemed.)

5) We immediately took her to the bathroom where we changed her diaper and began to feed her again. She was inconsolable. So I camped out on the bathroom floor of the Atlanta airport, (getting many, MANY looks) soothing Abiella, getting her medicine, etc. etc annnddd…missing our flight. So, Sean coordinated a rental car with a car seat at the airport.

6) The painful fit lasted so long that the staff asked if they could do anything to help and I said, , “YES. Get me to my rental car kiosk. I’m exhausted and I can’t walk with her and all my luggage that far. “ (Over a mile.)

7) So they graciously got a wheel chair for me and wheeled me with Abi (now asleep on my shoulder) about a mile to the rental car company.

8) We got our car and drove straight to a McDonald’s parking lot where my mom ran in to get food for us and I fed Abi in the back seat. As we hit the highway, we let out a major sigh of relief that we were in a car… on American soil… and began the 2.5 hour drive to my mom’s house.

9) As we drove towards the mountain, so did Sean. We were going to meet halfway at my mom’s house.

10) Abi finally fell asleep and as we pulled up the mile-long driveway I couldn’t believe Sean was going to be at the end of it. We would finally be together as a family!!! I grabbed Abi out of the car seat and as I walked up the steps to the front door, Sean walked out and we just laughed with pure joy. We couldn’t believe it. We hugged and laughed and stared at each other in amazement. WE WERE FINALLY ALL TOGETHER. IN THE STATES. WITH ABIELLA. SAFE. It was too much to believe. I handed Abiella to him and in the middle of her sleep she smiled. She knew.

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11) We sat by the fire and Sean held Abiella for almost an hour, we had a snack, let Abi sleep, and then hit the road for the final 1.5 hour drive to Nashville.

12) We arrived in Nashville by 9pm. As we pulled up I saw that Sean had recently mowed the lawn, added mums on the porches, and washed my car. When we all finally walked in as a family of three, I saw the whole house was decorated!!

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13) We then got a text that our friends (across the street) were wanting to meet Abiella if we were up for it. So we bundled her up and walked across the street. It was so much fun to FINALLY walk across the street with OUR DAUGHTER!!! IN AMERICA!!! IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD!!!

14) The next day my dad came to meet Abiella (so amazing) and I learned that my friends had set up a “food calendar” so that we would have home cooked meals brought to our home at night. Unbelievable!!! This would also be a great way that they could meet Abi one by one and not bombard her with a bunch of loud “obrunis.”

15) The next two days, were perfect, sacred, amazing, wonderful, and exhausting. Abi and I were still jet lagged so our clocks were doing crazy things. (Asleep at 5pm up at 2am kind of crazy.) However, Abi was settling in and LOVING her new world :)

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This is her discovering her new crib for the first time.

16) Throughout this time, Abi had a few “fits” (similar to her stomach pains in Africa.) We were unsure if it was due to diet, (which is super bland right now), or if it was acid reflux, gas, etc. So I was ecstatic when I realized Sean had already made an appointment (when I was in Africa) with our pediatrician at the children’s hospital for Monday morning.

17) So Monday morning, we go in for our first appointment and due to the fact that Abi is 15 pounds and almost 2 years old… (pics are deceiving friends… she’s way too skinny) AND the fact that we were unsure if she was aspirating OR what the stomach pains were from, they decided to go ahead and admit her into the hospital.

18) You would think this would be a huge disappointment but in fact it was a HUGE relief!! We were finally going to get Abi the health care she deserved!!!!!! Our main goal was to get her hydrated and figure out how to feed her SAFELY / find out why she’s having stomach pains… BUT in the meantime (since we’re already here) we’re getting other tests done that we had planned on getting anyways.

19) Yesterday was great. She loved her room and even though she had to be pricked with a needle twice, she was all smiles. Life was good and she knew it. We were in America getting health care!!!

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20) Today, though, has been rough. All night long she had vitals taken (aka- waking up to cold thermometers and strangers’ hands touching her…) and then today she’s had IVs flushed, blood drawn, x-rays, Upper GI testing, a swallow study, physical and occupational therapy AND a feeding tube put in, and she hasn’t gotten food since 7 am this morning and it’s now almost 5:30pm. Progress is being made, but that’s A LOT for a precious baby girl’s 4th full day in America. A whole lot.

21) So… here I am. Sitting on my new “bed”, watching my BEAUTIFUL daughter sleep while precious nutrients (she’s been deprived of her whole life) flow through a feeding tube, through her nose and into her belly. I’m holding onto the silence like gold, knowing that she’s FINALLY sleeping… but I’m also, dreading the clock, knowing that  in 19 minutes a nurse will walk in, put a rubberband around Abi’s little arm, wake her up and take more blood. As great as the nurses are, this girl needs rest… and it’s hard to get it here. And me? Well, I’m trying to keep my eyes open and my spirits high. I am tired, I am sad that Abi’s having such an intrusive and rough introduction to her new life, I am thrilled that she’s getting medical care, I am THANKFUL that I’m in MY city and I can look out my new window and see MY TOWN (and that I’m not walking across a red dirt road to beg help from a pharmacist in Ghana whose never even seen my baby, whose handing me a bottle of medicine I’ve never even heard of before) and I’m moving forward one doctor’s visit at a time, one of Abiella’s laughs at a time, and one of Abiella’s crocodile tears at a time. Praying peace for this miraculous child...