Saturday, August 30, 2008

Friday's Adventure

On Friday we bailed ourselves out of the hospital and went into the city. It was absolutely the best day we have had since arriving here in China. First we went to the Polar Ocean World and saw a dolphin show. We got to see a walrus doing sit ups! It was very entertaining and very inexpensive to go see. In fact there is no way you can see a show & polar animals in the US for what we paid here in China. After we went there, we stopped at McDonald's since Brandon was about to starve (At least he thought he was!). We then went to Fusion Bay where we saw the May 4th Monument. There's a story behind the monument which I will explain later this week. We left the May 4th and hit the zoo. Our poor driver, Su Xu Huz, was exhausted by then but not us! Brandon was able to feed the birds at the zoo which he loved! I haven't seen him laugh so hard or enjoy himself as much as he did then. Brandon was able to see the monkeys from about 8 feet away. One thing we never thought we would ever see in a zoo was.....dogs! They had an exhibit with Pomerania's, Chihuahua's, & Cocker Spaniels. We saw chickens, rabbits, hamsters & turkeys. It was kinda funny to see such common animals back home on exhibit here. We did get to see come odd creatures that we had never seen before. John & Courtney were also able to hold a snake. They asked if I wanted to hold it & I said "OH NO!" I was too close just by taking the pictures! We saw the elderly Chinese guy sitting on a stool just staring at what appeared to be a piece of cardboard. I went over to see what he was looking at & saw that he was painting a picture of the entrance into one of the exhibits. Not once did he look up at us but continued to stare at the entrance and every once in awhile he would lift the paint brush onto the canvass for a couple of strokes before he would stop to stare again. He was actually pretty good at it. I quickly took a picture of him before he lost his train of thought. We really didn't see much of the zoo. I think we were pretty wore out by then so we called it good and went back to the van. Our next stop was for dinner. We ate at a place downtown called Lisa's. Absolutely the best food we have had since arriving here! We invited the driver to eat with us since he has always been so kind to us. We ate t-bone steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, penne with chicken breast & spinach sauce. You would never believe what Nick After having pizza shoved down his throat for the past 3 weeks, he chose to have pizza for dinner. So we ordered him a small pizza. Included with the steak was soup & salad. We started off with salad which was okay. Not the best but it was good compared to what we've eaten here. Then they brought out the soup. Once I found out there was beans in it, I gave mine to the driver and chose to eat the penne with chicken (which was amazing). Mom, John & Courtney all said that was the best soup they had ever had. We were getting pretty full by then and for a little while thought that maybe we didn't order the steak. But then they started bringing out these large plates. On each plate was a huge t-bone steak, mashed potatoes sitting on a slice of tomato, broccoli, corn on the cob, fries, & gravy. We left there extremely happy (and a few pounds heavier). Would you believe it was less that $9.00 USD per person?? I told Brandon that next weekend we would go back there just so we could have one more good meal (kinda divide up the time so we'll have something to look forward to this week!) After dinner we headed back to the hospital but we still had one more errand to make. Once we got to the hospital; Jolynn, John & I took Adele (the Chinese girl who is majoring in English at a nearby University) to the RT Mart. First let me explain Adele. She came to Qingdao from her hometown (about an 8 hour train ride from here) to study English. She met Jolynn (a parent of a child being treated here) at the RT Mart. Adele asked Jolynn if she could come here and talk to her & other people so she could learn more English. Th
at was a month ago & she hasn't let us down yet. She comes here & helps us with whatever we need. We take her places so we can have a translator present. She has been wonderful to us. The night before the Watring family headed home, we were all out in the lobby talking about Adele. Someone mentioned that she had a rusty old bike that was held together by shoe strings. The peddles had broken away & all the was left were the pegs. She had once had a basket on it but that too had broken. Anyway someone mentioned that we should all pitch in & buy her a bicycle. Afterall, she has helped us out so much and she does use her bike to come visit us - it was the least we could do. So a few of us pitched in 100 RMB's each (which is $14.00 USD) to go towards a new bike. We were unable to buy the bike before the Watrings left however we decided to do it before Jolynn left. So we take Adele to the RT Mart on the pretense that I wanted to buy a bicycle for my daughter since they are so cheap here. We found the bicycles and we started asking Adele which bike would she pick out. She looked around and asked a few questions about how tall Courtney is and how big is my suitcase. She finally found a bike that she liked. It was actually ugly in my opinion but it's a good, common brand of bike here. It actually folds up for storage. So we purchase the bike & bought a basket & a lock for it. Jolynn & I got out our cameras and asked Adele to model the bike for us. She was hesitant but she did it anyway. We snapped a few pictures before telling her that the bike wasn't for Courtney & that it was for her. She was completely speechless. In her eyes we could tell that she really wanted the bike but like the perfect person she is, she was hesitant to accept it. We told her that we had already bought the bike & we couldn't take it home so she had no choice but to accept the gift. We told her that several families had pitched in to buy the bike for her. It was a gift from us to her for all that she has done to help us. She was ecstatic! I couldn't believe that an inexpensive bike like that would make someone so happy. She said that she has never had a bike so nice before & she felt very lucky. She now has a new prized possession to remember us by after we have all left. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.... Photo's: 1st - Brandon feeding the birds at the zoo. He really had a lot of funny playing with the birds! 2nd - The flags on the left side is where the audience was able to watch the sailing part of the Olympics. To the right of that is a lighthouse. 3rd - Brandon at Fusion Bay 4th - All of us at the May 4th Monument. 5th- Courtney at Fusion Bay 6th - All of us in front of Polar Ocean World. 7th - The dolphin show at Polar Ocean World. It was amazing to see the dolphins jump so high & do the stunts that they are trained to do. John really enjoyed the show. 8th - John holding a snake at the zoo. 9th - Courtney holding a snake at the zoo (Yikes- Count me out!!) 10th - An elderly Chinese guy painting at the zoo while our driver watches him. 11th - Adele & her new bicycle at the RT Mart. She is so proud!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

9:31 pm - 19 days to go!!

Brandon had stem cell treatment #4 today. This one was easy since it was done through an IV. He was allowed to eat & drink up until treatment time. They had to do the IV in his foot which prevented him from walking for awhile. He was suppose to keep the IV until tomorrow but I convinced the Dr that there was no way he could go 24 hours without standing. He was doing really well so we were confident that they wouldn't need it later. After Brandon had the treatment, we were kicked out of our room for an hour while they waxed our floor. They woke us up early this morning to tell us to pick our stuff up off the floor & prepare to move our stuff outside in the hallway. It was a difficult day since several people had treatments today then to come back & find out that they have been evicted for awhile.... Everyone's opinion was that they should've done this on a non treatment day (Monday, Wednesday & Fridays are stem cell days). Last night when I saw the schedule, I noticed a change in his treatment. They had scheduled his treatment via IV instead of spinal. Since spinals are more effective, I was a bit upset. I told Kirshner that since treatment #2 was called off (but counted towards his total number of treatments) I didn't want him to have IV's. She said that it was too late to change this treatment but she would work something out. Then this morning when the Dr's came, they said that the spinal treatments were too risky for Brandon so they would only do IV's. That really left me concerned since they had said that the last spinal went fine & that he would have the rest of the treatments through his spine. After asking them a few questions, I told them that Kirshner had told me differently. They said they would speak to Kirshner & get back with us. This afternoon the Dr came in and said that there was some type of confusion this morning & they redid his schedule. NOW he will have a spinal on Monday the 1st. An IV on Friday, September 5th & a spinal on Wednesday, September 10th. Although he gets another IV, he does get an extra treatment. Well not an extra one but they will redo the one that was cancelled last week. We are extremely happy with the new schedule and we will be home the 15th. So now we're counting down the days - 19 days to go until we come home (and find a new refrigerator - apparently ours has died since we've been here) We got 2 new people in this week. They are adults - no playmates for Brandon but the new people are really nice so that will help make the time go by faster. The family that we really got close to will be leaving in the morning. We are extremely sad to see them go but happy for them. They saw wonderful improvements & we're excited that their child has a new life now with sight. Photo's: 1st - Stem Cells AKA "Yellow Gold" as it's called around here. 2nd - Brandon hanging out in the IV room while he receives the Yellow Gold. 3rd - Everyone's stuff out in the hallway. What a bad day to wax the floors!! 4th - Brandon hanging out in the day room while we wait to take control of our room again. 5th - What a wonderful view of Qingdao from the 8th floor kitchen window! I love to go in there just to look out of the window. A few of those buildings are lit up at night with lights that change colors and run up & down the sides of the buildings. Very pretty!

Monday, August 25, 2008

11:57 pm

Brandon is feeling much better after his treatment. He suffered a headache for 2 days after the treatment but thankfully now that's past. He's staying the night at the hotel with Grandma - he would rather be there than at the hospital. I think (besides being a Grandma's boy) the hospital just reminds him of what's to come so he's more comfortable at the hotel. John, Mom, Courtney & Nick will be heading home on Monday the 1st. Of course we're sad to see everyone go but Brandon & I know that we'll soon be heading that way ourselves. We'll be home in exactly 3 weeks!! Yesterday my mother stayed at the hospital with Brandon while John & I went with Kirshner, another parent, aunt & grandma to Jimo. We were able to look around more without worrying about Nick running off. We then stopped at McDonald's & brought burgers back to the hospital for mom & the kids. It was a refreshing break from the day to day life here at the hospital. Last night we walked with a couple of other families to the park. We were hoping to catch the decorations lit up but we were driven back to the hospital by mosquitoes. About a block from the hospital, I looked back and saw that they had finally turned the lights on :( Maybe in a couple of days we'll try it again. There are vendors set up at the park that sells little toys that light up. It was fun seeing all the little novelty toys. Today we went to a local art shop and met a wonderful Chinese guy who really likes Americans. We bought 2 pictures at a price that was unbelievably cheap. Then as we were about to leave, he pulled out 2 chairs and a fan and asked us to sit down. Since he pulled out a fan, I couldn't resist. He asked us about our kids and America. He told us that in China, people are allowed a max of 2 children which we already knew. When we told him that we had 3 kids, he smiled real big and gave us a thumbs up sign. His English isn't that great but he really tried. After promising him that we would come back, we bowed out as politely as we could. Tonight we took everyone to an international buffet that was recommended by another family here. Our taxi pulled into this huge - fancy hotel that had a limo at the front door. (that's the only limo we have seen since arriving here). As we walk into the hotel, we all feel a bit under dressed - we're all in shorts & Nick looked like a homeless child. The buffet was pretty good. We couldn't force ourselves to eat the mixed meat (there was literally a sign stating "various mixed meat" next to the platter - we think it was octopus amongst other meats that weren't quite so obvious) or the squid but we found something that we think was steak (that's what we kept telling ourselves anyway). They had a great selection of fruit, salad & desert so the kids stuck with that. John & Mom ate lamb which I couldn't do because all I could think of was sheep. That dinner was surprisingly quite a bit cheaper than eating at the Shangra La. Which we were happy about - it was a welcoming relief from pizza & chicken. We have given up on the laundry service here. It is expensive & the clothes still come back dirty (with an added stench). So we started washing our clothes in the shower. We bought some detergent and our neighbor gave us their wash bin since they left today & wouldn't be needing it anymore. Anyway we wash them in the wash bin & hang them on hangers in the shower. We did a "load" tonight & we're hoping with the help of our fan that they will dry in a few days. I can't believe people are still washing their clothes like that - I miss my washer & dryer! Brandon's next treatment is on Wednesday. Apparently last Monday's treatment counted since they injected growth factors. They didn't give him the actual stem cells that day due to his high intracranial pressure. It isn't Beike's fault that Brandon had unknown health issues so we're okay with the fact that Brandon doesn't get another treatment to make up for Monday's failed attempt. They covered the cost of the MRI and we will not be charged for those extra services. So it looks like we'll still get home on the 15th which Brandon & I are happy for. 3 treatments down - 3 to go!! Photo's: 1st - Brandon today at the hotel. 2nd - photo of John taken yesterday as we were heading to the park. 3rd - The hospital lit up at night. 4th - Brandon with another patient who is the same age as him. They are so much like that it amazes her family as well as John & I. Brandon with the group standing in front of an Olympic decoration at the park last night. 5th - Kirshner, RaVana & John at Jimo yesterday. We are falling in love with that place! 6th - "FRUIT BOWL" with fruit & cooked beans.... YUCK! They make everything sound so appealing but then they deliver it to the hospital, it looks like this. I thought I was ordering a bowl of watermelon, pineapple, etc.
NOT beans.