Friday, July 10, 2009

Embassy Day, and the trip takes a turn for the worse

It wasn't supposed to happen. I had used so many things, including a Dr,'s okay, stories of others, mental reasoning, and even faith to assure myself that it would be okay. Yet, it was still my greatest fear: that I would bring a healthy infant into a third-world country and something would go wrong.

It was going to be a very long day.

Oliver had been a little fussy since we arrived, but what baby wouldn't be? His schedule was all messed up, he was being held most of the time,

bundled against his will, and not in his surroundings. But this night he was exceptionally ill at ease. Awake through the night, many messy diapers, squirmy, and then it happened: After removing another dirty diaper, I looked and saw blood. Not much, but blood in his diaper. My heart sank, then raced, and I did all I could not to cry but all the anxiety over this issue came out in a great rush of “what have we done!” Josh was calm...I was not. Over the next hour, a fever developed and he began to act sick.

There was no google to consult, only the medical book I had brought (yes, I brought a medical

book). Could be an infection...a stomach virus...all listed the same treatment advice: see Dr. immediately. America, where Drs can be seen immediately. “What are we going to do??” I sat in the small room feeling about as low as I could get. Josh remained calm...I did not. I began talking about going home and leaving Josh to

stay...or we could get Noah's visa and return right away...or, or, or...”Josh, I have to do something!” The tension in the room was getting a little thick so Josh asked if I wanted a coffee. I said I would take it in the room and stay with Oliver. We decided to go to the clinic that had been recommended to us before we left the states. We would skip the morning visit with Noah and pick him up in time for the Embassy appointment.

Sasalwi came and soon after we were in the car. He knew just where to go and said “It is a good place.” As we drove, Ollie seemed okay. He slept and was calm, but he was still warm and the

question of what could possibly be going on in his tiny weak body was eating me up. Josh remained calm and, although I may have acted annoyed, his calmness is contagious.

I couldn't tell you how far it was to the clinic. I looked through the windows differently as I

thought of Ollie sick in this city. I looked at it with a tinge of fear. It was raining and seemed all the more dreary. I was a mom who was experiencing the sickness of her child in a third world country for the first time and I could not stop the matter how invalid they were.

We pulled down a paved side road and up to a security gate. The guard glanced quickly at us and then waved us through. “You are foreigner: ferenge...they don't' need to check you” S. said.

He parked the car and waited in his normal fashion as we stepped out...not knowing where to go.

The room we entered was white. Sterile. Quiet. There were several hospital staff and someone quickly approached us. We explained why we were here and, after a nod, were shown through a door on the side of the room. The change of rooms was a shock to my eyes. Immediately we found ourselves following the Dr. into a very large waiting area with a row of glassed off

reception cubicles lining one wall. Everyone stared of course as the Dr. walked us to a window and explained our situation. I couldn't help but meet the eyes or some in the waiting room. It

appeared as if they had been waiting a very long time. Josh and the Dr. talked and we learned he

was given the answer of “you will maybe be seen this afternoon.” The Embassy appointment was at 3:00. Should we just come back? As we stood with the the middle of a sea of watching eyes, I was glade to behold S. coming through the doors. Immediately he took up the job of our advocate. I was beginning to feel very uncomfortable.

S and the Dr. continued to talk to the receptionist...pointing to us and to Oliver. She gave us a card, we paid 4.00 (undoubtedly a great sacrifice for many who sat in the chairs behind us) and

were ushered down a hallway: leaving the room full of people...just like that. We were white, and

we were rich, and I felt a little sick. Ollie was calm and I faced the fact that I had little courage in the face of childhood illness. "I know, I know, it is normal, you may say. I was right to take him in." And yet it felt a little wrong. But S. gladly and boldly did his best to help us and for that we were so grateful.

"I began to feel guilty. Compared to the others, I am sure Ollie's condition was laughable. We were again wisked to the front of the line and, against the wishes of the young Pediatrician, we entered his office and were given a quick interview. "What are his symptoms? How long had they been present?" I was embarrassed to say it had only been since the morning. I wanted to leave. I asked if we could only know what to watch for. "That would be a waste of time." We were shown out and told we would be seen soon. We took our seats and waited. We urged S. not to push as he paced up and down, looking for someone to ask to speed up the process. I felt badly asking him this when it showed that he was only trying to help, but also felt badly to be pushed ahead simply because of who we were." -journal entry

And so we took our seats and waited. A father walked his little girl up and down the halls. A Muslim mother held her malnurished son close. He kept slipping off her lap and she would pull him up again. Others waited too...all looking at us either blatantly or out of the corner of their

eyes. Two hours passed and we kept our eyes on the time. Embassy at 3:00. Ollie slept. A man who had been there when we arrived got out of his seat and came over to us. "Sit closer. You should not wait this long! Please...sit closer." As we assured him that we would wait our turn, he returned with a nod and an indifferent smile, and I just didn't understand. Why weren't they mad...irritated? We had already been pushed ahead of so may people, now they were trying to put us in front of themselves...their children. Is this "just the way it is?" If so...does that make it right? We sat and continued to wait. It was a very hard place to be.

Our turn came. The young dr. was less hurried this time. He took down his symptoms, checked him over and sat down with us. After he had talked about Ollie, he looked up and asked "Can I ask...are you Christians?"

"Yes, we are."

"I could tell."

How in the world he could tell was beyond me. But we talked for a little while and thanked him for the time he spent with us. He sent us out with blood work and even more questions than we came with.

The blood work, I must admit, was a bit troublesome in thought. Yet it all seemed sterile and I could see the needle being taken from a sealed package. It was over quickly and after an unsuccessful try for a stool sample, we left the hospital with not many answers to our questions. We were told to return to the hospital for the results.

As we drove away from the clinic and towards Toukoul, I tried with all my might to get my mind off of the "what ifs." Ollie slept soundly and this indeed was a happy day: Embassy day...the day

we had come for...our only standing appointment.

We arrive through the blue gate a little early. It is not the normal visiting hours, so the babies aren't quite ready. There is a group of children playing with a tall young man in dreds. He is there helping for awhile. He was once an orphan living there himself.

Geda comes finally as we wait outside. It is cold so we are surprised to see him in only a short sleve outfit. Very surprised as we are taking him into the city. He also comes with a very warm bottle. As we were to learn, once Noah sees a does't matter if it "isn't time yet..." It is time for him. He gets very mad when the milk comes out too hot and even madder when we refuse to give it to him. Our first little fight with him. More families roll in and once their children come, we are ready to go. There are now no empty laps. No "baby turns" on this trip!" It feels a little strange to be taking him. I just hope we do everything right.

Quickly after we leave Toukoul it begins to rain. Then it rains harder...then it "snows" (hails) and the ground leading up the steep hill to the American Embassy turns white. We go up: past Haile Selesse's Palace where guards still stand at the walls armed with large guns. (no photography allowed) Past the courts when Noah became our son (no photography allowed), Past the university. S. points out a large building as the Embassy and continues to drive past. We have heard intimidating things of the US Embassy here and now feel the presence of the rumors. No slowing or stopping in front of the Embassy. No parking to let someone off. No pausing as you walk to the building. Keep moving, don't look suspicious. Wow! I'm scared myself and I am a citizen!

The rain continues to fall in sheets as we step out. A young boy (maybe 8 or 10) quickly comes to

the door holding an unbrella and saying "Mam? Mam?" "yes, thank you very much!" and we try to stay under teh covering while he walks with a quick pace. The mountain we have just ascended creates a river of muddy water. He stops to make sure I can get across. As we walk they way to the Embassy I contemplate the fact that these boys are making their livihood off of the security of the Embassy and off the Americans who come and go. Why not! He walks us as far as the sidewalk on the Embassy side and then stops. He says he will be there when we come out and we can pay him them. We enter what he probably never will: The American Embassy in Ethiopia.

Through security, up stairs, through a courtyard, more stairs: I am glad that Sintayew our laywer was behind us as we arrived. I may have gotten lost. We take our seats in a room surrounded by glass plate windows and hte attendants who are standing behind them. The W. family also arrives. Our name is called quickly and we nervously approach the counter. You just can't help be nervous in a place like this. The attendant was taken aback by the second wrapped bundle in our arms and was very relieved to know she was not missing a file of paperwork for a second baby. In only a couple of minuts, we have been asked our questions and are handed our paperwork. We leave as we came.

Outside, the boy had not let down his promise to wait, then another boy came to help as well. We handed the first boy his payment for the way in. Soon another umbrella comes, this time it is a young man who bullies the young boy out of the way. I urge him to follow us anyways. That's just not fair! It is all so quick...the man accepts payment and assures us that the boy will get paid as well. One can only hopeGreed exists in the rich and the poor.

Back down the hill, back to Toukoul. Exhaustion sets in. The nanny comes for Geda and we leave for home. After a quick hamburger from the Cozy's restaraunt, (or rather from the house cook), we retire to teh bedroom for a nap. When we awake, it is dark and I wish we could just keep sleeping. The room is rather dreary today with the rain and the courtyard is too wet to enjoy. Oliver, who has been sleeping a good part of the day, soon drifts off again. Still sick, but calm. We follow in his slumber and sleep into the night.

To be continued...


Sheri said...

glad to know now that everything turns out fine with Ollie but I understand the fear at the time. We are so blessed here, aren't we? such an eye opener to see that we are truly spoiled when it comes to medical care and "rights" here in the US.

The Hotrum Family said...

It's killing me every time you break in the story! I can't wait to read more! Thank you for sharing this!