Friday, 31 October 2014

A normal day... at last!

Today was a great day!  Nothing spectacular happened, which is what made it great!  No visits to a clinic, no major issues, just ordinary everyday life - as ordinary as can be with a family of 5 kids (that sounds large!), whose youngest has a major heart issue that is uncorrected, often labours to breathe, and occasionally gets blue lips.  I guess this is our new normal!

We woke up later than we have yet - I believe everyone was still sleeping at 7.  We got up and had a pancake breakfast.  We tidied up a bit and then I took all 5 kids (that sounds like a lot!) down to the pool area.  The oldest four hopped in for a swim as Jadon and I sat in the lounge chairs.  He was in a great mood and throwing balls at the kids and giggling out loud when he saw them splashing in the water.  I eventually gave him his bottle and he settled right down.  Sara came down after doing some tidying in our apartment, then brought him up to nap.  The rest of us stayed down for another couple of hours.
Jadon is starting to feel more comforatble and okay in and around home
We then headed upstairs to play around a bit, then walked out of the resort and down the street about 30 seconds to a legitimate Vietnamese local restaurant.
The lampshades were traditional Vietnamese hats
It was the first time as a family of 7(that sounds large!) that we have sat down for a meal together, and it was really nice.
Sara and the two littlest

The three oldest waiting for food.

Here's to more 'normal' days ahead!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Officially ours! Giving and Receiving Ceremony

Lost in all the shuffle with the medical issues is the fact that Jadon, ne Gia Bao, is now officially adopted by us and is part of his forever family!  We received Jadon from the orphanage on Tuesday evening our time.  On Wednesday morning, Sara and I and Jadon and the two girls boarded a taxi to head to the Department of Justice building.  Logan was still not feeling well enough to be out and about and Hudson hung around to keep him company.

We got to the building on time and were soon joined by Loan and the Director of the Orphanage.  We were ushered into an office where we sat on formal chairs, signed several copies of several pieces of paper and were officially declared the parents of little Jadon.
Mom and Dad with the two 'littles'
Most of the new family :-), along with the Official from the Deparment of Justice and the Orphanage Director
Afterwards Li Lin and I headed home to be with the boys while Sara and Rykauna and Jadon ran around with Loan to finish off some paperwork for Jadon's Vietnamese Passport.  Unfortunately, after waiting around a couple of hours, they found out that one form was not signed at the orphanage and so they could not proceed!  Yet another unfortunate surprise!  Rykauna has been an amazing help this trip, stepping up and assisting us as needed (not to mention shooting a pile of pictures!)  Rykauna on this day was excited to be able to eat some authentic Vietnamese food today.  But no durian!

They all returned exhausted from the running around.  Then... pandemonium broke loose! (Gordon Korman reference from our youth)

Speaking of unknowns!

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.  We do appreciate them, felt supported by them, and continue to recognize our need for them.

The last 36 hours have been a complete blur.  After yesterday's Giving and Receiving Ceremony (I will write a short separate blog for that), Li Lin and I headed home to be back with the boys while Sara, Rykauna and Jadon went around with Loan (our helper from our adoption agency) to get some paperwork done.  As soon as they got home in the afternoon, I left with Logan to go back to the clinic for a MD requested follow up visit as he still had his fever and bad cough.  We debated bringing Jadon in as well since his breathing was laboured and he seemed quite lethargic.  His behaviour was one of a cardiac child, but we had been assured his heart surgery had been complete and successful.  We also asked at the orphanage a couple of times if he was on any medications and they said no.  Anyways, we decided that Jadon and the other kids would stay with Sara.
The Clinic at which we have spent many hours!  They are wonderful, but hopefully we don't see them again!
 Shortly after I left with Logan, Jadon threw-up the bottle he had been drinking.  He was breathing very rapidly,  had a significant rattle in his chest, and was labouring to breath.  Sara noted typical signs of respiratory distress:  dark lips, nostrils flaring, and trachea was tugging with each breath.   Sara and the 4 kids hopped in a cab and came to join me at the clinic.  By this time, Logan and I were waiting for the results of his bloodwork.  Jadon was brought in, given a nebulizing treatment to loosen his congestion, had some bloodwork done and got an x-ray.  The doctors and nurses at the clinic were wonderful and went above and beyond.  They had very little history on Jadon and so wanted his medical files sent over from the orphanage - by now it was too late to get it for the day.  With Jadon's laboured breathing, they decided to keep him in overnight for observation.  So once that was decided, I cabbed home with the other 4 kids, fed them and tucked them into bed, then cabbed back to the clinic to bring food and formula for Jadon.  I returned in time to help Sara and Jadon move into their room and settle down.  Once they were tucked in I headed back home for a sleep.
Jadon getting a nebulizer treatment (saline to loosen secretions)
Mommy and Jadon getting ready to be tucked into bed.  The IV was in case of an emergency.  It was not used.
Morning brought many surprises.  Sara had been in contact with Loan, and the orphanage sent the medical file over first thing in the morning.  They also sent the nanny that was his regular caregiver to come to the clinic and help out and answer questions.
Jadon's main nanny came to help.  He is well loved by the nannies.  Two others came by to check on him.
Li Lin and Rykauna came with me to pick up Sara and Jadon.  Here we are at a restaurant across the street.  Pho, mmmm.
Here is a card Li Lin made for her brother (with help from her dad)
His sats were still around 80% - which is normal for a child with significant cardiac issues but since Jadon's had been fixed, he should have sats over 95%.  We were informed by his nanny that he used to sit around 60% before his surgery, and that now he sits around 80%.  At this point the cardiologist in the clinic told us that as he was reading the file, it seems Jadon's heart has not been fully repaired.  He had a palliative fix with a stent put in (sort of a band-aid to help him immediately) and allow more blood to get to the lungs.  So, the laboured breathing, slight blue lips and some lethargy that we had seen is likely Jadon's current baseline.  He has moments when he gets excited and we can see the mischievous grin and the energy but these times are short lived as he is soon once again working on his breathing.  He will at some point, upon our return to Toronto, need a full repair done at Sick Kids.  We can roll with this new normal, but it does add a level of stress and will change our plans to travel a little around Vietnam.  Jadon is not really healthy enough and we will need to stick close by just in case.  Actually on Monday, we will be having a follow-up visit with the cardiologist/surgeon who performed the surgery to get the details and any pertinent information.  The doctors at the clinic said we need to get a "fit to fly" clearance letter.  It is possible we may need to arrange for supplemental oxygen for the flight if he feels Jadon needs it.

Once this was known, and Jadon showed no signs of infection, we were discharged from the clinic.  As we scanned through his previous medical files from the surgery hospital, we noticed that he was at a follow-up visit early October and that his current prescription was noted to be a daily aspirin to keep the blood thin and prevent clotting in the stent.  We were concerned because we had been told by the orphanage that he was not on medication.  Loan contacted them again and another nanny showed up bringing a bag full of medication and Jadon's daily medication intake.  Surprise number 2!  Despite the frustration of having to go in to the clinic for what turns out to be Jadon's weakened baseline health as opposed to anything acute, we are thankful to God that we did bring him in.  If we did not get Jadon some aspirin for the remaining 2 weeks we are here, he would have died from a  blood clot well before we flew home!  They also told us he has bronchitis right now and needs antibiotics and ventolin nebulizations.  We have no access to finding a ventolin compressor so are making do at the moment with puffers and steamy bathroom visits to loosen his lungs when needed.  It seems to be working fine.

We came back home early afternoon.  Jadon fell asleep on me on the way home.  Sara was exhausted and went for a nap as soon as we got home.  Jadon continued sleeping on me and did so for about 3 hours.  My back and neck were stiff and numb but it was worth it as Jadon got a good, much needed sleep.  Jadon actually moved around a fair amount and played well with the other kids for a while around supper.  He is now in bed sleeping soundly.

So, the long and short of it is, we have a son who is significantly more ill than we expected given the information.  Loan from our agency is also shocked and surprised at this news.  As I mentioned in the blog before we got Jadon, the addition of every child to a family brings along a lot of unknowns.  This is one for us.  Please continue to pray that Jadon remains relatively healthy for the rest of our time here and that we can get him home and to Sick Kids to get follow up.  We also will have more work cut out for us once we return as Jadon will have to undergo another open heart surgery.  One day at a time!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Please Pray.

This will be a short blog.  I know many of you are eagerly awaiting pictures of Jadon.  I will attach a couple and then I'm going to run.  Today was chaotic and continues to be.  Details to follow.  For now, the long and short of it, Jadon has shown signs of distress while breathing.  We brought him tonight to the clinic Sara wrote of earlier.  His sats were around 80% (which is low, we should all be 95%+).  He's had a chest x-ray, nebulizer (to try and clear his nose and loosen any secretions) and a few other things.  They are keeping him in overnight for observation and so that he is near medical help if needed.  He is lower in energy than we anticipated, and this difficulty breathing thing is likely the culprit!  We definitely covet your prayers now.  Pray especially for Sara who is bearing the brunt of the responsibilities with Jadon and the stress associated with that.  I just brought the other kids home, gave them some food and tucked them into bed.  I am leaving now to bring food and formula to Jadon and Sara.

And so you know who you are praying for.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Gotcha Day!

If you read this blog from home after your day's work is done... you will want to read the previous blog to explain how it is we got here!  Trust me, we aren't quite sure ourselves but it was very quick and wonderfully amazing and as I type this, we have a beautiful little Jadon fast asleep on our bed!

Disclaimer.  We are not allowed to post pics of him until he is officially ours.  That happens tomorrow at the official Giving and Receiving Ceremony.  So check back tomorrow morning for pictures!

We took a cab over to the orphanage just at the beginning of rush hour.  The orphanage is in another district and there is much more poverty and a higher density of living in that area.  When we got to the orphanage, we were greeted by Loan, the worker for our Canadian agency.  She is a lovely woman and very warm and helpful.  We were then brought into the Director's office where the Director of the orphanage greeted us and hosted us with a yummy snack of tangerines, homemade rice cakes, yucca and chocopies.  We chatted as we waited for our little Jadon to be brought down.
The orphanage has a climbing structure and slide inside
Lots of kid friendly decorations
A row of riding toys.  We have a video of Jadon putting on a show with one of these
Finally the door opened and in came a nanny carrying the most adorable little boy decked out in the cutest outfit, matching shoes and hat, with wide eyes full of questions.  He was given to Sara and he started to cry.  We were assured that this was common for the child to cry because of the unknown, but that eventually he would warm up to us and his real personality would come out.  Having gone through hours of crying and significant grieving with Li Lin at this point of the journey, we were prepared!  Jadon however seems relatively laid back.  He whimpered for a few minutes then resigned himself to being carried by his new mama.

 We were then brought upstairs where we were shown the room that Jadon lived in for most of his life.  We saw his own crib, as well as the many nannies that cared for him.  There were many other little ones in the room. 
The room where Jadon lived and some of the nannies who cared for him
This was Jadon's crib and his near neighbours
Though Jadon was older than most, he stayed in this room with the younger ones to receive more hands on care because he was frequently ill with his pneumonias and following up his heart surgery.  As we saw these dedicated nannies holding and caring for so many little ones, our hearts were full of thanksgiving for the care they had given Jadon.  Without them, he would not have survived this long!  We truly feel that he was well loved and cared for.  Some of the nannies themselves had been orphans who were cared for here at Go Vap, and now work full time caring for others!
Some of the dedicated nannies that cared for Jadon, and some of Jadon's room mates
Sara with the head nanny of Jadon's room
The kids had a blast interacting with the little children.  They were all so sweet and wonderful!  Logan stayed out of the room to make sure he would not pass on his bug to these susceptible children.  It was very difficult for him as he has a very tender heart and would have loved to interact with these little ones.
Hudson getting a smile from yet another little orphan.  He just went from crib to crib getting them all smiling!
Rykauna thought this little guy was a blast and cuddled with him as she walked around
This little girl crawled around and followed Li Lin wherever she went

Some of the older orphans came to say hello as we were leaving
Eventually it was time to go.  The location of the orphanage is very busy and we had to wait nearly 10 minutes until we could flag a cab.  Jadon sat in Sara's arms with eyes wide open taking everything in.  He had not been out of the orphanage much at all.  He was great all the way home and suffered in silence as we gave him a scabies treatment - rubbed him down with some Nix and bundled him up in a one piece pj.  So that he does not suck his fingers, we put socks on his hands.  He looked up quizzically but without complaint.  He then was a allowed to roam around on the floor and interact with the kids.  We quickly saw his smile light up his face as he and Li Lin and Rykauna banged around and made some noise with empty water bottles and Pringle cans!

We gave him a bottle at bed time and Sara lay with him.  He was moving around a bit so she laid him on her chest and he cuddled right up and fell asleep almost immediately.  As Sara was tucking in Li Lin a little while later, Li Lin looked up at Sara and said "Mommy, thank-you for adopting me a little brother!"  Love truly does multiply here!

Into the unknowns we move. This is the day!

Well, today has once again gone as unplanned.  We woke up quite early (again... it's amazing what all you can get done by 9:45 when the whole family is awake around 5:30!)  Once we were all up and enjoyed a pancake breakfast, we rested a bit and headed outside for time around the pool.  Logan was feeling much better and he was able to join us.  The fresh air did him some good.  Seeing him swim around and splash around with the other kids, we figured he's well enough that we should contact our agency rep here in Ho Chi Minh City to let her know that it would be great to set up our meeting with Jadon tomorrow and then we could have the ceremony either tomorrow as well, or on Thursday.  She said she'd call the orphanage director and get right back to us.  The orphanage director has a job to do and can only accommodate us date changing Canadians so much!  The message we got back was to come by this afternoon to meet and pick up Jadon so he can spend the evening and night with us and then meet back tomorrow morning for the adoption ceremony (where there will be another family adopting as well).  Soooo, we madly scrambled to eat lunch, run off and buy a few last minute items and get ready to meet our new son.  This has been one wild trip so far!

I have been thinking over the last few days about the unknown.  Whenever a child is added to a family, there are many unknowns.  When we had our biological children, we wondered if they would be a boy or a girl.  We wondered if they would be healthy.  We wondered if they would get the majority of their genetic material from mother or father.  As our children are born, and they grow, and develop, a lot of those questions are answered, and many more arise.

When a child is added through adoption, there are different questions.  We know that we are getting a little 2 year old boy.  We know that he has some significant health issues that have to some degree been dealt with.  There may be more we are unaware of.  We know what he looks like, we have seen pictures and watched videos.  But there are other things that are unknown.  We know very little about his past.  How will he react to us.  How will he bond.  How will the process of attachment go?

Having been through the process of adopting internationally already once with Li Lin, we are in some ways prepared.  We were aware of the mountains of paperwork (nearly done now!).  We were cognizant of the long drawn out wait with very little news.  We were anticipating the wonderful news that things were now ready and we should now book our tickets.  We were knowledgeable of the time change, jet lag, different cultures with sights and sounds.  However, each trip is different.  The process in China was more standard.  Everything set up, a group of families all traveling together.  Here in Vietnam, things are more fluid (thankfully as the orphanage director accommodated our request(s) for change).

We have also been through the meeting, grieving, bonding and attachment process with Li Lin.  We saw a little girl whose world was torn apart.  Who lost all that she had ever known.  Who was thrust into this weird looking and smelling family that sounded strange and spoke barely discernible Mandarin.  Who grieved tremendously for a long time for her foster family.  This little one has grown so much.  She has developed into the energetic, lovely, adorable, spunky kid sister.  She has been through so much.

Now, we go on to meet another one.  Another child who will be leaving all behind.  What little it is.  All his comfortable smells, sights, sounds.  All he has ever known.  We approach our trip to the orphanage with trepidation.  By the time most of you read this, we will be back here with little Jadon.  We are aware that there are many unknowns.  Yet we are honoured for the privilege to parent another little child.  To have the opportunity to hold him when he is tired, to comfort when he is crying, to kiss when he is hurt, to teach as he is learning.  We pray that we will be parents to him that help him feel loved and secured as part of our forever family.

Monday, 27 October 2014

More changes in our plans

This morning Logan's cough took a turn for the worse.  He could not stop coughing despite our best efforts to treat him here at the apartment.  He had this dry hack that sounded very similar to an  asthmatic like cough.    He was finding he had to sit up instead of lying down.   Since the air quality is very poor here, we assumed he was reacting to the air here.  It turns out he has a respiratory virus that he picked up before leaving home or contracted on the plane.  There were a few passengers with bad hacking coughs sitting nearby on the long 15hr flight to Taiwan.
According to the doctor at the western-style medical clinic we visited, he is not only fevered and weak but contagious... and we were scheduled to pick up little Jadon tomorrow. The doctor checked him for influenza and RSV, both of which were lab tested to be negative.  I was amazed at this clinic.  It seems to run like a cross between a family practice and an ER.  He was "triaged" similarly to how someone would be triaged at an emergency department.  He sat down on a chair while an RN asked questions, typed info into a computer and put him on a monitor to check heart rate, oxygen saturation, and blood pressure.  I noticed to my right a room labelled the "trauma room".  It looked like a typical ER room used for acutely ill patients.  I was impressed!  The consult rooms were super cute with an examination bed shaped and designed to be a cartoonized hippo.  This clinic is open 24/7 and has an ambulance parked outside to be used for transport to hospital if needed.  We did not wait long for treatment, had a swab done, and got our meds all in the same place.  They also have radiology services available onsite.  Talk about efficient service.  (I am sharing this information as a FYI for other parents adopting in Vietnam that the Diamond Plaza Family Medical Practice seems to be a good option if you have to use the medical system here)  There is also a branch in Hanoi and Danang. 
Upon arrival back to the suite, Steph contacted our adoption agency rep here and explained the situation.  We came to the decision together to postpone our picking up of Jadon for a few days until Logan is no longer feverish and contagious.  This virus, whatever it is, would NOT be good for Jadon.  It may make him really, really ill.  Seeing what it has done to Logan, makes us fearful to expose Jadon to this.  Jadon has already spent his fair share of time in hospital for pneumonias and respiratory illness.  We are just praying Logan gets over this quickly and that none of the others get sick.  Li Lin has a touch of a cough that started today but she does not seem sick at all...hopefully she stays well.

We are doing all we can to try to stimulate everyone's immune systems: plenty of fresh garlic, big doses of vitamin C and extra strength oil of oregano drops. 

Logan slept for the better part of the afternoon and is responding well to the symptom control meds.  Although still very weak and lethargic, he is at least not coughing continuously.  I stayed in with him this afternoon (and napped) while Steph and the other three children went swimming at the resort style pool.  Since we are significantly hampered in what we can do right now, we are very thankful that the gated compound here is so amazing!  It is beautiful, very clean, and safe.  We often see kids riding around on their bikes carefree.  There is a restaurant, coffee shop, small convenience mart, spa, and a free laundromat on the compound.  This resort style community caters to foreigners.  We have seen two other adoptive families here.  One family, from France, had a newly adopted little girl.  Steph got to brush up on his French while chatting with this family.

After the swim, Steph and the two youngest napped, while Rykauna and I hit the coffee shop and started the laundry.  We had a lovely walk around the grounds of complex before the thunder and lightning curtailed our wanderings.   Thanks to a fully functioning kitchen, we were able to once again eat-in.  Logan is not up to leaving the couch, so we are feeling blessed that our suite is so commodious!

What can I say...tomorrow is a new day. 


Sunday, 26 October 2014

Good Morning Vietnam!

We woke up this morning to another beautiful day.  Here is the view just off our balcony.

Due to the time change and jet lag, wake-up time ranged from 3:30 am to 7:30 am.  Overnight Logan developed a pretty nasty cough.  Due to this we changed plans and stayed close to home-base for the day.  We have been treating Logan's cough with Oil of Oregano, a big dose of effervescent Vitamin C, and lots of garlic for supper.  He might not smell so good, but his cough has improved tremendously!

The two girls seemed to be most energetic and so they and Dad headed out to get a few groceries at a local supermarket. We found most of what we wanted and the two girls got into a little bit of a photoshoot mode.  It works great as on LOVEs to take pictures, and the other one frequently loves to pose.

Names on Coke... same as at home, but the names are different.
Once we got home we whipped up lunch.  After that, Sara took Rykauna, Hudson and Li Lin swimming at the pool.  Li Lin was so excited as she had been asking to use the pool since we got here.  I stayed in the apartment and read a novel (yeah for down time!) to keep an eye on Logan.  The grounds are beautiful.  Here are a couple of pictures: day shots and night shots.

The pool, hot tub and poolside/riverside restaurant
The office and reception area
Coffee shop, outdoor tables, small convenience store
After the swim the kids were getting tired but it was only 3 and we did not want either sleepless kids during the night, or kids getting up at 3 again so... how do you keep kids awake?  You take them shopping!  We took a cab almost just across the highway to a Metro - Vietnam's answer to CostCo!  We needed to pick up a second stroller to use when Jadon joins our family, and also a few gifts for the orphanage.  The kids stayed awake but poor Li Lin and Hudson really struggled.  Li Lin perked up with an ice cream cone... 3000 Vietnamese Dong, which works out to about $0.15.  This is probably going to be a common treat while we are here!  Here is the parking lot of the Metro - gives a perspective to the scooter/motorbike stories of our arrival!
On our way in, Sara was stopped and pulled aside.  The rest of us walked through and we were wondering what the problem was.  Sara was sort of frisked and steered into a side area.  Eventually an English speaking local explained that she could not walk in with her purse.  But Sara had her purse and nowhere to leave it.  Here is the compromise!
This was wrapped and stapled shut by a store employee
Like all good large membership stores, Metro had plenty of samples so the kids had a little snack while roaming around.  Once we got back home, Sara and I rushed to whip up a simple pasta supper before our children succumbed to the strong pull of sleep.  We just managed to get the little ones fed.  Li Lin was literally chewing with her eyes closed, giggling and asking if she could go to bed.  As Sara was finally tucking her in, Li Lin said "Thank-you mommy for taking me swimming.  I had such a great time!"  She is really a sweet little girl.  We were both struck by the thought that just 2 1/2 years ago, we were in China, just days away from adopting her into our family.  Now, we can not even imagine our family without her!

As the little ones were going to bed, Rykauna stepped onto he balcony for some evening shots.  It gets dark early here - by 7 the sun is set.  Here are a couple of the setting sun.