Saturday, April 28, 2012

Hi, friends!  It's been a while.  I'm back in the groove of home but still think about my babies in Romania.  There are so many things that remind me of my time in Romania. 

Recently, Camden was complaining about not getting more dessert pizza while on a special evening meal out to Mazzio's.  When we got into the car, I very directly informed him that the children at the hospital in Romania NEVER get pizza, much less dessert pizza, and that he should be appreciative of what he gets!!  It worked.  He said, "really" and then said,"thank you, mom".  It made me smile.  It's the new perspective on life in general that I've held on tightly to since returning home. 

If you are interested in going on a wonderful volunteer vacation, Global Volunteers is the organization to go with.   Visit their website:  I would HIGHLY recommend the program in Romania. :)  The babies need love!!  If you can't make it to Romania....stay tuned.  It is my plan to develop a program that will donate therapeutic supplies for the children of Romania.  My first goal to raise money to sent over adapted feeding equipment.  I'll leave you with my favorite things about all the children from the Barlad Hospital:

1. Cleo has the softest skin
2. Even though Delia has only one limb, she will do great things
3. Eanuts has the most adorable dimple in his right cheek
4. Little Mouse, Marion, discovered he could suck on his fingers and so they started a bottle with him and took out the NG tube
5. Gabi's ability to explore with her sensory system is amazing
6. Alena dances adorably
7. Ionica loves the new books that read stories in Romanian
8. Maruna loves her hands, and we're not sure if she is admiring her manicure or saying talk to the hand
9. Marius deserves peace, and no pain
10. Andre's sweet smile when he is shown what real love is

Here's a video of Alena dancing.....Wait for the "ta da".

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Visiting castles in Romania

Today, Robin and I set off on are adventure to visit castles and fortress villages of Transylvania. Our trusty driver Durell, picked us up in Bucharest, and we drove North through the Carpathian mountains to Peles Castle. This castle was the home of the first King of Romania, King Carol. It is absolutely the most beautiful thing that I've seen in Romania. We took an English tour through the castle. Our guide was impressed by our mic (little) Romanian. I have pictures of the outside of the castle and Robin, my photographer travel companion, took pictures of the inside. In the 1800's this house had central heat and a central vacuum system. They also had 32 full bathrooms!! As I was walking through the rooms, I had visions of all the historical novels that I've read occurring in this castle. We saw the kings office, the queens office, the waiting area outside the bathroom, the guest wing and their breakfast room and the ladies in waiting area.

After our visit to the Peles, Robin and I both commented that we didn't believe any other castle that we saw could top this one. If can only see one thing in Romania, this castle is it. It was worth the extra few days. Leaving Siniea, we drove on to Bran Castle, AKA Dracula's castle. This castle is much older (1400's) and felt more like a fortress. It sits high above the city and overlooks the village. The tour was unguided and we roamed from room to room. This castle has a cold, basic feel. It was still very intriguing and really looked like a place that a king and queen would retreat to during war. I have more pictures of this castle so I'll post them. We ate the most amazing pastry, that is a specialty of the region. It's called Kurtos Kalacs. It's like a cinnamon roll without the inside. It was delicious, so we had TWO!! We are staying at what appears to be a ski type resort in Bran with a spectacular view of the mountains. on the grounds of the hotel are several bust and statues. Can you guess the guy on the horse?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Last day at the hospital

As the title implies today was our last day at the Barlad Hospital in Romania. I awoke refreshed and rested despite the party that lasted until 4 am and boomed music that shook the room. Yesterday, was National Women's Day. Yep, a holiday that apparently, all European countries celebrate but, get this, has to do with women's right to vote in American. How many American women know of this holiday? We received flowers, champagne, chocolate and kisses. The women go out and celebrate all night.

We were all anxious to get to the hospital in the morning and spend time with the kids. It was funny, when we arrived we arranged a spontaneous photo shoot for the kids, dressing them in clothing that was brought for them and placing them all in one area. This must be what it's like for the Dugger family. Check out the photo I got and this was the best one. I hope my other teammates were able to capture this moment better than I.

As part of the final day I was asked by Dr. Magda to give a presentation to the staff and herself about feeding. It was so much fun. We included the children and used them as examples. They loved it. My teammates were so encouraging and supportive of me. The staff had good questions and after the presentation several of the nurses hung around and asked other feeding questions. I told Dr. Magda that I planned to tell my therapist friends about the hospital and try to get them to come volunteer. They are grateful for any help. I could really tell that they wanted the best for the kids. Supplies are just limited and as Dr. Magda said they do not have anyone to educate them about feeding children with special needs in Romania.

Yesterday, our little friend Andre came back but it was so crazy for the team. I had gone back to the hotel because I wasn't feeling well. They came back and told me that he had returned to the hospital with a fever, very upset and had a big bruise on his head. The crazy part was that apparently he did not go to the placement center last week as we thought, HE WENT HOME. Yes, back to the parents that allegedly keep him in a barn with animals. Amazingly, in just one day, he looks like the kid we transformed the week before. Kristin even had him standing today. Gabi, is finally biting off bites of food. Her favor thing to eat is chocolate, boy does she fit in well with us. Alena, looked adorable in her easter dress and pink peacoat. Little Maruna loves the interaction with the group and enjoyed spending time with the other kids. Today she made her first sounds and laughed out loud when I tickled her tummy. Marion, is eating better despite his complete cleft of the soft and hard palate. I look forward to passing on the advice that I received from Dr. Shaker, from pediatric resource. I discovered our 10 year old with DS is just like the children I work with at home. He enjoyed hugs and doesn't like to be told no. He spend a few minutes in time out for not listening.

It was most difficult to say good bye to Cleo and Delia. They both live at the hospital due to their medical complications while the others rotate in for evaluations. I feel some comfort in knowing that Coca, is there and taking care of them but she is only one person. They depend so heavily on the volunteers. Dr. Magda said she sees such a difference in the children and they loss that when there are no volunteers. Oh, my. It's hard to really grasp that our moment to contribute is over and all I have is 500 pictures and videos to gaze at and remember fondly, our bebes....

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New friends

Yesterday and today we met two new friends in the "fun rooms". Our first friend joined us from the placement center. He came to the hospital for evaluations. Ionica is a 10 year old very sweet and smart young boy with Down Syndrome. He loves to give high fives and color. He demonstrated his animal naming and counting skills to the group. He enjoys hanging out with the other kids in the hospital but will come back to our room to get toys and say, "Hi". He will also give each of us a big hug. It reminds me of some my clients back home.

In baby room news, Little Maruna, who we call "little pig" because she makes snorting sounds, had a visit by her parents yesterday. I was not there but Robin reports that they didn't pick her up or talk to her and left after 15 minutes. Marion, who we call "little mouse" was visited by his parents today. Apparently, they did spend some time talking to him and brought him some diapers (5-6). However, they didn't hold him or touch him. Our understanding is that these families will be taking the babies home when the weather is warmer. It's all very interesting. We did get a nod of approval from the doctor when she came to check on the babies and 2 of 3 of them were being held.

On a positive note, Maruna was moved to the fun room this afternoon. Robin took her around and introduced her to all the kids. Delia, our youngest, was reassured that we'd still "ooh" and "ah" over her.

We've decided that Allena is going to be a hair stylist. She loves to play with everyone's hair, and yesterday she took my head band and loved wearing it around. See the picture below. She also tried GoGo squeeZ applesauce and it looked like she really liked it. However, the first bite she didn't seem to know what to do, and let it all fall out of her mouth . She also did this when Kristin gave her the juice box the other day.

Other fun: we went to a restaurant, which was described as the creepy doll restaurant. Take a look at the picture below; there were dolls everywhere, even around the bar. The dolls were everywhere and there were probably a hundred of them. The food was good. I ate the Vineta (grilled egg plant) and smashed beans (not sure the name). Eanuts was so much better today. We took him out of his crib and held him, rocked him, and played with him. He's like a new boy. After he had a sponge bath, he laid on the floor laughing and smiling. The picture below shows his adorable dimple! It's amazing what a little stimulation will do.

Only a few more days left......

Noapte buna

Monday, March 5, 2012

Not a manic Monday

I woke up today energized and ready to take on the Barlad Hospital. One of our team members, Robin, stayed in due to a cold. I can't imagine staying at this hotel all day. Over the weekend I found some great books that break my rule of electronics but these books read the story to the kids in Romanian, something that I'm not able to do. We have talked often this last week about language development and the importance of speaking to the children in Romanian. Truthfully, it's a challenge. I struggle with the right words but have decided that they need the interaction, first and for foremost. What's funny is that at times, I find myself using sign language. Poor kids, they are not going to know what their primary language should be.

When we arrived at the hospital, it was like the kids trusted us so much that they just expected us to be there, and sure enough we were. This makes me worry about next Monday, when there will not be a team of volunteers. Actually, there is not another team signed up to come until May!! Any takers?

Back to this Monday, each kid amazed us in new ways today. Allena "our actress" is learning to drink from a juice box straw. She currently only drinks from a bottle and just started taking bites of yogurt from a spoon. Remember, she is 4 and only has a diagnosis of FAS and dwarfism. Eanuts joined the fun today after only wanting to be in his crib last week. Our team felt this was a breakthrough for him. He laid on the bed and enjoyed the company of the women and girls. He smiled today, and even sat up to eat his yogurt. Gabi, well that girl seems to be making strides each day. She took bites from a yummy chocolate filled sandwich cake and cookie wafers. Nothing like Americans giving the kids processed foods!! What was important was that she took actual bites. She didn't chew, but took bites with her molars. She also walked up and down the hall like a champ, holding onto someone's finger only. Cleo just enjoys being with the girls and looking fashionable. Kristian brought a deep blue zip up jacket, and she looked stylish in it. Delia was without a fever for the first day. She was touching her leg to her nose and when shown that she could kick over a block she did it repeatedly. I have a million adorable pictures of her. It seems like the nurses are learning from us that she can do things with the limbs she has remaining. They have been keeping her residual arm exposed and helping her use it. It's hard to believe that her parents didn't want her. (Trying not to judge, but damn!)

In the baby room, our 3 little ones enjoyed being held, rocked and unbundled. Maura, the only little princess in the room, seemed to understand the saying "the squeaky wheel gets the grease". Every time I picked up little Marion she cried. It's good to see a child with Down Syndrome be so assertive. Marion has his NG tube (nose feeding tube) out. He looked like a new man. I've not written about the third fellow. He is very sick but seems to be a fighter. I held him today and he seemed to be comforted. I pray for the best for him; he has a long road if he survives. The baby room is lonely. I wish that Maruna and Marion could move to the fun rooms!! Luisa said there are only four more days with the kids. As Allena would say, "wah, wah, wah".

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Weekend excursion

Well, I'm back home, at least my temporary home, Hotel Occidant, in Barlad. We took a whirlwind trip with our trusty driver, Durrell. First, I have to say Durell, reminds me so much of my father. During our trip he was kind, gentle, laid back and caring. He also only speaks a few words of English. We did a lot of hand motions. Luisa does speak Romanian, so she was also helpful. Anyway, when the roads were slick, he drove carefully. He carried our bags and helped us get good prices on our purchases. He was a true gentleman.

Saturday morning we slept late and awoke to a cold, snowy day. Our breakfast at the Passiflora, was fresh cow's milk, a plate of fresh veggies, cheese and tofu, and several delicious dips. I've never eaten raw veggie for breakfast. Kay Toomey says food is food, it doesn't matter the meal. So I enjoyed the veggies with a wonderful veggie pate and a tasty reds sauce with mushrooms. After breakfast we set out for our first stop. It was a small monastery that is called The Monastery of Humor, not because it is funny but because it is named after the Humor river. The painted walls of this monastery were from the 1400s. The outside and inside were completely painted. I was told that the monks painted the walls to tell stories of the bible to the people because they could not read. The stories on the walls were full of beheadings and death. It was intriguing but a little scary. The paintings went all the way to the high ceilings. As we drove to the next monastery we saw little shrines that varied in size and detail. Durell told us that people donate money to have these built all over small towns. Also, every town/village we drove through had at least one church and several of these shrines. At the next monastery, they were ready for us. It was in an area that looked more tourist-y and there were vendors lined up outside the monastery. It was called the monastery of Voronet. It was larger than the first one we saw. What I liked best about it was it had a very old cemetery next to it. We took several pictures of this cemetery. The monastery wall paintings were very detailed and we noticed that some areas were very faded. During this stop the snow began to fall, and while it was beautiful, we could tell the temperature was dropping. As were were leaving the town we saw a horse and buggy so we asked Durrell to pull ahead of him and stop so we could get a picture. The pictures turned out great and the driver of the buggy was glad to pose for us. Durrell said the people in that area are know to be really nice. Our last monastery stop was The Sucevita, I believe it is one of the best monasteries to visit. It was very large and had a giant fortress around it. The stories on the walls of this monastery depicted angel scenes. It was very, very cool and icy so we looked very quickly, I purchased a book that would tell me more about the history and we left. I think by the third monastery we all felt like we'd seen enough of them. There were many more to see but we headed to a local family owned pottery store and purchased black pottery. It is very pretty and they make it onsite. In front of the pottery story the family also had a store with old rustic floors. Inside the grandmother was selling traditional Romanian shirts. She would pull out a shirt and tell us that her grandmother wore this shirt. One shirt she said had been worn by her great grandmother; this woman was probably in her 80's. They were very unique and I'm pretty sure that her grandmother did wear them. After a lunch at a true Romanian country restaurant across the street, get this, called the Luxor, we headed to Isai, were we spent the night. On this excursion we literally drove all over northeastern Romania. Isai, a city very close to Moldova, is the home of the first university in Romania and is the second largest city behind Bucharest. The hotel was the closest to a westernized hotel that I think we'll see on this trip. On Sunday we saw the Palace of Culture and a beautiful cathedral. It seems that there are Palaces of Culture in all the big cities but I'm not sure what is in them. You don't go in, you just take pictures of the outside. At the cathedral, there was a line to get inside. Durrell told us that there is what we'll call the saint lady of wishes. If you want something, this is apparently the saint to so see. I apologize if you are Greek Orthodox and I've offended you. There are a whole lotta churches in Romania and they kiss a lot of pictures of saints.

Our final exciting stop was a second hand store in Isai. It was very busy and had some very cute little purses. The clothing was priced at 6 lei per kilo (about $2 for 2 lbs). Robin purchased a beautiful antique bracelet for 30 lei (10 US dollars). We arrived safely back in Barlad in time for an afternoon walk, nap and dinner with our friends. Tomorrow it's back to the babies. Can't wait!!!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Venturing out...

We have internet, Houston! In this adventure, I sometimes feel like an astronaut going to another world. We are in a town....seriously, I can't remember the name until I see it written. It starts with a "G". It is a few minutes away from the first painted monastery that we will be visiting tomorrow. We have a nice hotel, with a young hostess who speaks some English. They brought the chef in to make our dinner because the owner let him/her off due to the hotel being slow, and they have wifi. That makes us all happy.

Robin, Luisa, Durrell (our driver) and I left Barlad at 2:30. We spent the morning at the hospital with the kids. It was a little shocking because a few minutes after we arrived, there was a person with official papers and she was there to take Christian. After some inquiry, we were told he was going to the placement center. He was whisked away very suddenly, it was difficult for us to watch him leave after seeing him make such good progress in the few days that we had him. This may be what it will feel like when we leave. After that drama was over, we had our duties to help feed the kids and play. Little Miss Allena decided to strip down, so Kristen used that opportunity to change her into a very cute pink dress that she brought (see picture below). Sweet Gabi, was placed in a silky purple dress and didn't miss a beat with eating this morning. Man, that girl likes her food! She eats each meal as if it's the last one she will get. Evan says, that she only recently started eating solids. Gabi is kind of the garbage disposal, finishing everyone's bowl. She also discovered the rocking chair this morning and set about rocking herself in it, and did some very nice imitating of mouth movements and sounds. This is the first that I've seen of that. Delia and I strolled down the hall and into the stairway, and I had a momentary thought of running down the stairs and leaving the country with her! Instead we just looked at the plants in the stairway. She also, enjoyed knocking off a book that I placed on her chest by rolling over. This was a game for a few turns before she became bored. Little Eanots seemed to enjoy some very light head stroking. This was after he has some very active time with a gymnastics therapist (our equivalent of a physical therapy assistant). I really enjoyed visiting with her and discussing the similarities and differences of therapist in America and Romania. It seems they don't know or understand the sensory system, as poor Eanots was completely overstimulated by her sweeping him up and moving his limbs, but that seems to be the Romanian way. Kids have things done to them. It just the way it's done. Conversely, Cleo, enjoyed her massage and fell asleep when it was over.

After we had lunch and packed up, we set out on our drive to the town we are in right now. On the way, we drove past so many interesting sites. We saw many horse and buggies on the road. We drove on a winding road that meandered through a gypsy village, a peasant village, a house made of mud; many, many beautiful churches (they take their religion very seriously here), lovely snow filled fields and frozen rivers. During our drive, Durrell mentioned we were going through the county/providence where Nadia Comaneci was born. He finally understood, where I was from when I told him I lived in the same place as Nadia and her husband. Sometime it's about reference. During our drive we laughed and feared for our lives. Thank goodness we did the former more that the latter. I will say the emotional freedom that the traveling has given us is refreshing. Don't get me wrong, I'm here to spend time at the hospital and I'm thankful that Evan and Kristen, who stayed in Barlad, will be going to see the kids over the weekend. But the heaviness of my heart has lifted somewhat, being away. I hope to enjoy my weekend and be rejuvenated for my second week with the kids. As our new friend and driver says, "no problem".