Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Out Patient Surgery for August

Since you've been following the blog, you know that today was August's surgery. Technically he has a hydrocele hernia.
We were scheduled for surgery at 7:00am and told we needed to be here by 6:40am. The girls don't need to be at school until 8, so we arranged for Jay and Nalisha to watch them. Let me say this, though, we had so many options for help with the girls. I sent out an email to some people asking for help with them today (starting at 6am) and every person I email responded that they would be happy to help-every one. It's a good feeling. Jay and Nalisha were selected because they don't have kids, so as far as I can tell they live a life of leisure.

I was right! We dropped the girls off at their place at 6am and they were up and ready for the day, made pancakes for the girls and had an activity of college-making for them. See, only a life of leisure can lead to that kind of entertainment in the morning.

We drove to the hospital in the dark. It's so dark in the morning here right now, and everything looks different in the dark. We made it, though.
Everything else is pretty routine:

We waited in the waiting room

August put on his "doctor" outfit

We went to the pre-op (and post-op) room
 August got an ID tag

More waiting (August talked me into wearing the hat part of the "doctor" outfit)

The nurse asks about allergies and other routine things

August gets his surgery slippers

Needs some room there before this gets fixed up

This is the intern (on the left) and the nurse

They gave him some medicine to make him sleepy, but took him before he was fully asleep.

The next thing I know, we get a text that says "FARELY, AUGUSTINE's surgery begins now"
Jim and I went and got some breakfast and coffee at the hospital cafe. We had just finished eating when  we got the text that said, "Surgery has finished, Pt. will be transfered to PACU. Wait until further notice."

We headed back and waited to see him. We met with the doctor who explained that the surgery went great and we'll come back for a follow up visit next week. He said again that August should be able to resume normal activities and return to school tomorrow!

Once he woke up, we waited a few mintes, got the IV taken out of his hand and we carried him to the post-op recovery room (aka the pre-op room).

 There is a big tv mounted on the wall with cartoons. We had to stay in the recovery room for an hour, just to make sure things were A-OK.

We stopped by McDonald's for a special treat and headed home.

When we got home, we skyped for a few minutes with Uncle Conor, Aunt Bridget and adorable baby Ben. August was climbing all over the furniture, so now I finally believe that the doctor is correct that he can  return to school tomorrow. After chatting with Conor and Bridget, August and I read a couple books on the floor then all 3 of us fell asleep for 2 hours.

(side note: do you see the blanket in the picture? I made my very first quilt last week!)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Order is restored

In case you were worried, Jim made it home safely. What a relief!

And look what Jim brought back from Singapore for me!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy? Thanksgiving. Well, Thanksgiving anyway

As you probably know, this week is Thanksgiving in the United States. Here we celebrated it with students and staff. On Wednesday, we had our Thanksgiving lunch at the Seoul Campus. It was so great! The food was catered from the US Army base and it was perfect. Each class did a short presentation and it was just a nice, fun time overall.

All the students eating lunch 
Eat until it hurts! It's the American way. 
The principal, Patrick Rich
The PTO moms who put this together had all the ladies wear bonnets.
 That's me with Bonny Wooten

Here's Mr. Joiner serving the kids lunch


My table

These are all the PTO moms who put this together for us
Just as the Pilgrams had 
1st grade singing a song
On Thursday, the school hosted a dinner at the main campus for faculty and their families.
All the elementary kids filled out a feather of what they were grateful for

Here's Ruby's. It says "I am thankful for Mom, Dad, Grace, August, Charlie, Ruby, KB"
(By the way mom, KB stands for the name
 her class-Kindergarten B, it does not stand
for "Kam Breitenbach")
We had music
The director of the school carved the turkey
I got to sit with Evan

August shut down the kid's table. All the other kids were done eating
and off playing. Not August. He takes eating very seriously.

Here are some others who take eating very seriously.

August making friends with Kenny.

Katie and August preparing leftovers for Jim
 The dinner was really nice. I was feeling a little homesick when I got there though. I mean, what a week. Jim's gone, August is sick. I've been driving back and forth to appointments for August. The final straw was when Grace started crying. At first it was about the juice-she wanted more but there was none. Then it was about the pie-she wanted more, but I didn't want to get up. When I finally got her a second piece of pie and she was still crying (I'm so dense) she finally said, "I just want a normal Thanksgiving in Denver with our whole family". I was done at that point-I felt the same way. She really got to me. The dinner was so nice and the food was so good, but it was so different that I almost wish we had just skipped it. All I could see then, was what Grace could see-all the differences. Too many people, too much noise, bright lights. These things are nothing like Grandma's house or our  house where there's more pie than you can eat and all the family you can play with... We left shortly after that.
I've been told that when raising "3rd culture kids" you need to have strong traditions within your family that you can have with you where ever you are. I told Grace that we needed to come up with our own traditions for Thanksgiving for our family and we should think of something really cool. She said, "I think our tradition should be that we fly to Denver every year".

I took August back to Samsung today for his pre-surgery blood work. As I walked with the volunteer to the lab, I told him that today is a holiday in the US and he said, " Friday".  Close enough.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Really? but Jim's out of town.

Let me start by saying, everyone is fine. But we're experiencing the health care system here in Korea. On Sunday, about 15 minutes before Jim left for his trip to Singapore, I had him check out August's *ahem* you know. Well, things weren't looking so good down there (it turns out August has a hernia). I called the director of KIS' wife, who is a nurse. She was very reassuring over the phone, so I allowed Jim to go to Singapore.

My boss recommended I get him checked out at the Baylor Clinic in Jeongja, which is very close to us. We found the building with no problem and made it to the clinic-on the 2nd floor. There are 2 floors to the clinic. Both say "Baylor Clinic" in English, but the rest is in Korean. The 2nd floor clinic had people in the waiting room, but no receptionist. We sat and as I looked around, I saw at least 2 signs that said "Audiology" so we decided to go to the 3rd floor clinic.

When we got there, I called Raina, our bilingual school nurse, and had her talk to the receptionist. It turns out the Baylor Clinic is an ENT. Good for a sore throat but probably not so good below the waist. However, Raina found out that there is a pediatrician on the 6th floor of the same building. Awesome.

As we waited for the elevator in front of a bank, a teller ran out and handed August a handful of candy, so he was in good spirits about the trip. He seriously had like 8 pieces of candy in his hands.

 Ah yes, this is more like it.

We waited for about 2 minutes and were seen by the doctor. In Korea you don't make an appointment, you just show up and it's first come, first serve. We were the only ones there (at 5pm on a Monday). The doctor checked him out and said "It's a hernia. He will need surgery." Good thing I'd looked this up before I arrived or I think that would have felt like a punch in the face. The doctor referred us to Samsung Hospital (the "best in Korea" according to everyone I've talked to), we paid our $20 out of pocket fee and went home.

Raina, the school nurse helped me make the appointment for Samsung the next day. August had his appointment yesterday. They are very foreigner friendly at Samsung. 
 We started at the international clinic office.

They got us checked in and a bilingual nurse? volunteer? teenager? young lady? walked us to Pediatric Surgery for our consultation. I'm glad she did because not only did she have to ask for directions on our way there, but another Korean was asking her where something was. So while all the signs are in English and Korean, it's still a really big place and easy to get lost in.

We waited outside this room and our name on the screen showed that we were next. We went in with the doctor after waiting for about 5 minutes. He was very friendly and spoke English fluently. He said that the procedure is an easy out-patient surgery. It should take less than 30 minutes and the incision is less than 1cm (for those of you who are American that just means "really small") and August should be back in school the next day. They do these surgeries on Wednesdays, so we have it scheduled for next Wednesday. Thank God Jim is coming home soon. 

By the way, the cost of this healthcare, not as cheap as seeing the doctor. I'm glad we have insurance here. Just FYI. 

To get to Samsung, I left my car at my school and August and I took a taxi so we wouldn't get lost. Since they called us a taxi from school, I brought him up to meet some of my students. One student thoughtfully pulled a balloon out of her desk and gave it to him. I'm assuming that when it is inflated it is a heart shape. But I thought that not blown up it was a terrific coincidence considering what the appointment was for. 

Here's a video of August getting his height checked:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I have been sponsoring the Model UN at school this year and this week we are in Singapore for THIMUN, The Hague International Model UN.  I feel a little guilty, Irish is at home with all three kids. Friends have stepped in to help with the logistics of dropping everyone off in the morning, but I owe her.  (and I will owe her again in the spring when the club travels to Beijing for BEIMUN)

So Singapore is a great city.  This is my first time here and I had some vaguely formed impressions, similar to everyone thinking of imminent threat from North Korea when we say we live in Seoul. I remember the American kid getting caned after vandalizing cars.  I had heard about laws related to gum and flushing toilets.  I had heard it is a very clean city, I think I imagined the streets would be getting polished.  It's true that it is illegal to sell gum here, when we got off the plane Sunday night the lady from the tour company told us it is alright to chew gum if we brought it, but dispose of it properly, and we won't be able to buy any while we are here. I didn't check on the toilets, and since I usually flush it hasn't been an issue.  It does appear clean, but no one is polishing the roads.

Singapore- river through the middle, financial district on the left, colonial building turned museum at the center, fancy hotel on the right.

More than anything I have been aware of how international it is.  We are staying in a hotel in Little India.  Arab Street is a short walk from here, we had dinner there on the first night with a mosque at the end of the road, the muezzin was calling people to prayer while we ate. The majority  of the people are Chinese but English is the dominant language- though signs are often in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil.

It is hot, being right near the equator, it's hard to believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  Wearing a suit at the conference I kept looking for air conditioned rooms.  But in the evening it is manageable.  Outside the hotel there is a stand selling fresh fruit- they have Durians there- which are enormous spiky fruit that smell really strong. In Taiwan I remember them making the whole supermarket smell.  But here, that smell, with the warm air stirs pleasant tropical associations.   

On the first day we had some time so we took the students to Universal Studios.  On the way we passed the skyline downtown, and then the port with a staggering number of containers stacked up.  I guess depending on how you measure it Singapore has been the 1st or 2nd busiest port in the world, maybe third now.

This picture doesn't really do it justice, the containers go on and on.
A lot of the kids seemed to want to go to the mall more than the amusement park, but I had a lot of fun at Universal Studios along with the other two teachers who are here. We rode the four biggest roller coasters they have, waiting a little longer so we could get the front seat each time.

A couple of things I like about this sign- the warning for people prone to "giddiness" and the graphic representation of vomit in neat little balls

A fake snowstorm on fake Sesame Street, it was over 90 degrees and Christmas music was playing. 

In the afternoon we did let the kids go to the mall, there are a lot of malls here, and they all appear to be very nice if you are a fan of malls, which I really am not- I forgot to bring any ties with me, I really need them, and I still couldn't force myself to go through the effort of shopping for this thing I needed while I was in an upscale mall that presumably sold ties somewhere.  I eventually borrowed a tie from the other teacher sponsoring the club just so I could avoid shopping.  

The conference has kept us busy.  I can't overstate how impressed I am with our students, they are incredibly mature, hard working, knowledgable.  As sponsors we are primarily facilitating things, making sure everyone is on the bus, getting where they need to be, while the students do their research, meet with other students,  debate and speak.  Tomorrow I will be listening to a lot of them get up and present, it will be a particularly full day. 

I have had some time for a few other things- we had dinner with a former principle at KIS and his family who live here now.  A really nice guy, and there was another couple who had also just moved here from Korea.  It was interesting hearing their perspectives.  Over these past few days I have been so enamored of this city I thought they would just talk about how great it was, but there are things they miss about Korea and that was nice to hear. 

Buddha at the museum

Today I got lunch at the hawkers near the hotel.  They are similar to the night markets I remember in
Taiwan, but appeared more organized. In the picture below you can see a few pork options- I got prawn noodles with pork ribs, but there were two Pig's tail dishes.  Another stand had "pig organ soup" and several were selling trotters (pigs feet)

The same market at night

Juices from fruits I didn't know existed, or from things I didn't know you could juice, like avocado. I had a soursop juice, it was good, not sour, kind of bland, but refreshing.

I think it is unlikely I will find any turkey tomorrow, but I saw lots of duck and chicken, so I will eat some kind of bird while Irish has a big meal with the kids at school.  Just like Halloween they are good about keeping up with all the holidays.  And then we fly back late Friday. Red eye getting in Saturday morning.  It will be nice to get back, I've been joking about nice it is to get a break from August waking me up early in the morning, but I miss them very much. 

And today is my Mom's birthday back in Hummelstown PA.  As soon as I hit save on this I am going to see if I can catch her on Skype, but if not,   Happy Birthday Mom!