Saturday, September 24, 2011

Journal by: Cora Thompson


The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Over the weekend I rested my sore, swollen knee and thought long and hard about why I'd agreed to extending my time here to three weeks. Sharon and I shared a walk Saturday, much slower than I'm sure she's used to doing, to take photos of the beautiful flowers, watch people, buy some supplies for our suite at the pediatric hospital and Romanian-made chocolates for gifts at home. Sunday I spent reading one of the novels I'd brought on the trip, finishing Genesis 1 for the class that will start without me 9/15, talking to my husband by cell phone, and resting the knee and the back. I shared meals with Sharon and heard about her long walks around Barlad. The debris from Saturday evening's long wedding reception into almost breakfast time Sunday was cleared so we could enjoy our meals. What fun to watch our favorites, Catalin and Elena and others set up for the reception and then bustle around reorganizing the dining area. Perhaps, I thought, the companionship of two Midwestern, retired nurse practitioners sharing all these traditions was the reason I'd felt the need to stay three weeks.

Monday I received an even better answer! We arrived fresh and found that Irene, a hospital aide, had the children in clean clothes, fed, in chairs or bouncy rocker. Ionutz was especially cute in his pristine sleeper and ready to be held. He would leave to return to the placement center at our lunch time. Then the nurse brought Carmen into the room in her stroller and told us Carmen needed watching because she'd just had a grand mal seizure. Neither Sharon nor I have the physical strength to get this 9 year old out of the belt and tie that holds her in her stroller. The nurse was summoned. After much verbal exchange neither of us understood completely, the nurse showing me what to do if Carmen had a seizure and my explaining I know what to do for any child seizuring but how do I get her out of the stroller if she does, we understood each other....Call HELP or NURSE and we'll come. I can do that!!!

Carmen walks, walks fairly well, just a little unsteady on her feet so my new assignment was to hover to prevent her from falling if imbalanced. I can do that too. But what Carmen wanted was to be held, cuddled, rocked. She slept in my arms while I sang children's songs, church songs, and a singsong "Te iubesc, Carmen. Ne te teme" over and over. For the first time I truly felt fulfilled and knew I'd been given not only the reason for the extended stay but also a purpose. What a blessing!

Marion then took over the high-backed rubbery chair to help strengthen his head lag. He looked like an astronaut belted in for flight. He continues to be a lovable, happy child. Marty isn't happy but Sharon spent lots of time with him. We even had him on the floor mat to stretch and do physical therapy. Samy spent a lot of time in the playpen in time-out for trying to decaptitate his roomies with a nude Barbie doll. Gabi spent time meandering from one activity to another. She showed some jealousy today when Sharon was working with Marty. Maria Cleopatra won't let me feed her. She's definitely Coca's baby girl.

I returned Carmen to the nurses' station as we prepared to leave for lunch. Just before we departed, I went into the bedroom to get a wet wipe for her face and came back to her nosebleed. Hey, I know how to deal with that, too! She'd scratched her inner right nostril so bleeding was easy to control.

A glorious day.

Tuesday Coca was back from a few days' off and we were so happy to see her. Although we pretty much repeated yesterday's stretching on the floor mat for Marion and Marty, Sharon walking the halls with either Samy or Gabi, we watched Marion on his belly raise up on his elbows and when Coca put his knees down on the mat, he almost crawled. A second blessing this week. With a little time and encouragement, Marion will regain lots of neck muscle control and might even crawl and turn over again. Samy climbed upon the bed in the bedroom and retrieved the pufeteles, corn puff sticks that dissolve in one's mouth.

I again brushed Carmen's hair then held, rocked, sang while she napped in my lap, clutching my scrub top. Dr Cozma, a really neat lady, examined throats and listened to chests on all but Carmen. Dr C said, "We'll let her sleep" according to the nurse with her.

I missed the short afternoon since our weather has turned unhealthily hot, 36 degrees Celsius, and I hadn't consumed enough water so back to the room a.c. and bottled water for me. Our dinner out was at Alona which offers a Bulgarian salad that's scrumptious. The Romanian donuts were delicious, too.

Wednesday has been pretty much the same including the high heat and no air movement on this third floor. Sharon walking Gabi then Samy in the halls. She took Samy into the playroom where there were older kids and different toys but he was removed for throwing things. His IV Heplock's out of his foot so he walks comfortably. But he's spending a lot of time in time-outs and also now has his crib turned around so the solid wood back is facing the room since he climbed out of the crib. But Samy's expressions are so cute!!! Marion sat in his astronaut chair and spent some time on the floormat moving around. He didn't sleep last night so an aide got him up when we came this morning, and we kept him busy all morning. Sharon entertained Marty by rocking his bouncy chair with one foot while she played with Gabi. Coca sat in a chair with Maria C in the playroom with us this morning. And Carmen, after walking and my hovering, actually reached her arms up to me to be picked up. We rocked, I sang, she slept. Ah, life is good.

Thursday: Dan fixed the fan!! Hallelujah!! Then, after we returned from lunch, we got in trouble with an aide who indicated the blowing fan would give the kids earaches. What apparently had happened was Samy had turned the fan downward while we were gone and when we returned, the aides soon entered with food so we weren't even aware of the fan blowing down. We readjusted the fan to blow over OUR heads right before the nurse appeared.

Carmen enjoyed the morning walks in the hall then a nap in my arms at her insistence by reaching up and pulling on my scrub top. She patted my face and mouth. She would stop racing down the hall long enough to look at and feel the Disney tiles along the way. Marion did his rolling on the floor and almost, again, turned himself over. Marty stretched his arms high overhead and now his legs are stretching outward more. Samy walked the halls this morning with Dan which seemed to help reduce his energy level. Maria C is still Coca's baby. Gabi had time in the halls walking in shoes with Sharon.

Supper at Garamondo's with Dan was delicious....a tomato/cucumber/feta cheese salad, grilled chicken legs minus the bones with sauteed mushrooms, and REAL LIPTON GOLD tea. The waiter dumped my teabag so I had to produce my own for a second cup. Sleep came easily. Sprinkling outside.

Friday: The day started off beautifully, cool, sunny so I people-watched from the hotel front steps until Dan arrived. We saw a gypsy lady in a dress with so many gold pieces that she sparkled all the way up then down the street.

The children were a little whiny and wanted lots of individiual attention, especially Marty who likes being held, rocked in his bouncy chair. I told Sharon she'd created a monster. Marion turned over AGAIN while on the floor mat. Samy and Gabi had walks in the hall then kept us busy finding things for them to do in the room. Sharon spent much of the morning with Gabi. After getting Marion to exercise and rocking Marty with my foot on his chair, I finally had time for Carmen who wanted nothing more than to be held while she slept.

We then moved Carmen to the twin bed in the bedroom area where she slept the rest of the time I was there while I sat in a small chair beside her. She was still asleep when I left at 1 p.m.

We three ate lunch together rather late, said good-bye to Catalin (aka Adrian) who was leaving his work in the dining room to take tests. He wants to teach sports. We wish his Godspeed. We sat and listened to Dan talk about recent Romanian history.

Tonight we dine with Mihaela and say good-bye to Elena, our waitress whom we've also enjoyed. Then I'll pack. Tomorrow around 8:30 a.m. Dan and Dorel will come to transport us to Rin Airport Motel in Otopeni-Bucharest where we'll spend the night and leave by shuttle at 4 a.m. for flights to the United States. Dan and Dorel will pick up the next team, 9 of them, after dropping us off. My flights will be long, 24 hours of jets and airports.

I feel sad about leaving but am also very happy to go home. I've enjoyed the Romanian people I've met and I've watched, the two cats out in the nearby yard I've fed, even some TV programs I've watched since we don't watch TV at home. Most of all, I'm taking a piece of each child home in my heart, and I thank God for this opportunity to return to and to serve in Romania.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Journal by: Sharon Conard


The purpose of human life is to serve and show compassion and the will to help others. ~Albert Schweitzer

Monday, 9/12: Started the week on a very good note. Walked into the playroom and every child was up in a chair of some type. They now seem to know our voices as they smile and laugh when we walk in and say "Good Morning." All the children ate a good lunch. Ionutz left for the placement center after he finished eating. Carmen had a seizure (grand mal) before she came into the playroom. The nurse had her up and walking two times today. She really does very well. Samy got another "time out" for his agressive behavior. After a while he did settle down. Gabi is walking like a pro but still wants to hold onto one finger. Marty was up all day except during naptime. I can't now get him to hold onto a block which helps loosen his hand and wrist muscles/tendons. He has a really cute laugh when you tickle him.

Tuesday, 9/13: All is well today. Everyone is in a good mood except for Samy. He is definitely the "wild child" today. His biggest thing is throwing objects of all types and received several time outs for his actions. Gabi walked several times in the hall today by only holding onto my one finger. I don 't think I can get her to walk by herself before I leave but I'm still trying. Marion slept a good portion of the day, still working on his turning completely over. Marty seems to be increasing his upper body and neck strength. Unable to wrok his legs due to severe contractures, was very "ticklish" today with a beautiful laugh. Carmen is walking by herself with close supervision. She seems to be getting more sure of herself, loves to cuddle with Cora.

Wednesday, 9/14: No real changes today. Everyone spent the day in their chairs except for naptime. Carmen, Samy, and Gabi all walked. Everyone received some type of physical therapy. Appetites were good, and, speaking of appetities, Samy was in rare form at supper. Supper was macaroni and cheese. Since Samy has a tendency to snort mucous out of his nose at any given time, he proceeded to snort macaroni from both his nostrils. There was macaroni hanging out of his nose and mucous all over the front of the aide's uniform. For a few seconds, none of us knew quite how to react. We all wanted to laugh (but we knew we shouldn't). Needless to say, he was politely scolded. Kept Marion up most of the day as he didn't sleep last nkight due to his long nap yesterday afternoon.

Thursday, 9/15: Good day today. All the children seem to be in a good mood today. Even Samy was at his best although he did have a sneeze episode whereby he sneezed his lunch out of his nose. Carmen walked down the hall with Cora. She seems to get more coordinated each day. Marty has been stretching his arms and legs with and without command. Then he gets all excited when you praise him. The pediatric neurologist was in the morning and said he would be needing surgery to correct his pectus excavatum. Gabi is doing well with her walking but still not by herself. Marion is still working on turning over. Difficult to get him to sit upright as he stiffens like a board as soon as he's picked up.

Friday, 9/16: Very quiet today, almost as if the children sense that we are leaving and this is our last day. Samy was in good spirits and behaved very well. Marion turned over by himself two times. Gabi walked down the hall with one hand holding onto my scrub pants. There is a toy in the room which plays the ABCs.and has a cuckoo bird which talks. Since she doesn't see well, she gets down on all fours and presses her nose onto the "on" button to make it work. I believe I may have spoiled Marty a little bit as he gets fussy and cries when he hears my voice. Everything is fine once I pick him up and talk to him. But "spoiling" these children is part of what this trip is all about. Cora spent the day with Carmen. She wanted to just cuddle and sleep with Cora holding her.

Well, I guess this is it!! My day is done, and my journey to Romania is finished. It has been a wonderful, rewarding experience, an experience that I will never forget. I would like to thank the Romanian people for sharing their lives, culture, and "home away from home" with me.

Until we meet again, la revedere.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Romania Week One August 27-September 3, 2011

Journal by: Sharon Conard


Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:24 (NIV)

Saturday, 8/27: Arrived in Bucharest, Romania after a very long plane ride! Met Dan Cirjontu and Cora Thompson at the airport and proceeded to Barlad. Stopped for supper at McDonald's, Bacau. Arrived in Barlad around 7:30 p.m. where we proceeded to check into our hotel. A wedding reception was in progress.

Sunday, 8/28: Today we met with Mihaela. She explained the program and took us to the Children's Hospital to orient us to our surroundings. Basically hung out the rest of the day to deal with our jet lag.

Monday, 8/29: This is our first day in the hospital. I felt like a fish out of water as I wasn't sure what I could do nor had I ever dealt with neurologically impaired children. For whatever reason, I connected with a six-year-old female, Denisa, who looked to be two years and weighed approximately 20-25#. Denisa was a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome child and could not function mentally or physically. She needed to be fed although once in a while she would try to put a spoon to her mouth. She also needed to be taught to ambulate. Compared to the other children in the room, she was one of the most active. A Cerebral Palsy child (Vasile), one with hydrocephalus (Maria Cleopatra), and Vali, a child age 14 months was there for recovery after a repair of his face post-trauma.

Tuesday, 8/30: I still don't know what I'm doing but I love it here. You can't help but fall in love with these children and hope that they can feel this love in your touch and hugs. I am working with Denisa to help her to learn to walk. She gets frustrated easily. One has to back off and come back a few minutes later. She occasionally will try to pick up food and place it in her mouth. She pinches!

Wednesday, 8/31: Oh my gosh!! What a day! Some children left and new children arrived. Vali left today to have further repair of his face. "Little John" or Lonutz, age 9, returned to the placement center. Vasile also left. We received Lonutz, a Cerebral Palsy Spastic child, Marion, Ion, and Sebastian, a school-aged autistic. We kept Maria Cleopatra, Gabriella, and Denisa. Much chaos as the children "come and go." Doctors and nurses come and go, too, and Ion is running around like a crazy. All this activity, confusion and the jet lag finally catching upto me, made for a very fatiguing day.

Thursday, 9/1: Good day! Finally slept. Things have settled in the hospital, making for a comfortable environment to work. Denisa walked down the hallway two times while holding onto my hands. She would occasionally stop and look into a room with her head positioned to the side. Many times I look at her and wonder what is going on inside that beautiful head. Today I also started to work with Gabriella. She is on IV antibiotics for pharyngitis. She is unable to walk and I fear that she cannot see more than four inches away. All the children seem to have nystagmus. She seems to be very introverted and doesn't want to be bothered. She pulls away from touch and cries easily.

Friday, 9/2: Things have settled into a routine today. Denisa seems to know me as she will reach out when she hears my voice. Today she patted my back while I patted hers. She touched my cheeks and gave me a kiss on the cheek. The whole time she was smiling and laughing out-loud. She again walked the length of the hall, smilling and with much curiosity of the things she saw and heard. She looked so beautiful in her onesee and little pink skirt with high-topped shoes. I feel like I am making progress but alas, she left before noon to return to the placement center. I felt very sad and could feel tears in my eyes. I just had to get up and walk around. I could not watch her leave. After her departure, I devoted my time and energy into working with Gabriella. She must be feeling better as she is more responsive to stimuli. She laughs easily, her appetite seems to be improving, and she has taken a few steps with assistance. This afternoon we cuddled and rocked in the rocking chair as I sang to her and played "patty cake". By the end of the day I could say "patty cake" and she would clap her hands and smile. Less tears today! Hopefully I will make a small difference in her life as well as Denisa's if she should return.