Friday, September 19, 2008
We've been home for 3 1/2 days now and it hardly seems possible. At times it feels like we've just gotten here but then at other times, China seems like a distant memory. I just can't get over how different China is compared to the US. It really does feel like another world when you're over there. Anyway after being plagued with internet problems, I just now got it to work again. I have wonderful updates to report but first....our trip home. Jack took us to the airport and helped get our luggage checked in. Unfortunately 2 suitcases were overweight :( one was 70 lbs & the other was 56 lbs. I ended up having to pay 60 USD for it. After that was taken care of, we went through security and had just settled in the waiting room for our flight when 2 cops with rifles came up to me and said that I needed to come with them. All I could think of was "Oh my God, what's going on? I'm going to jail & I don't even know why! I'm never going home!!" Yeah I know, over dramatic but that would've been just my luck! Anyway Brandon and I were escorted back through security where they had one of my suitcases on the table. They said that they wanted to search it. So I opened it up & they took my DVD's. All they wanted was to look through my DVD collection!! Once they realized that my DVD's didn't contain anything horrible, they allowed me to zip everything back up & I was free to go back through security to the waiting room. Finally after what seemed like a decade, we were able to board. 30 minutes after the plane was suppose to leave, we were still at the terminal. I began to smell smoke which wasn't the most comforting smell when you're about to be 37,000 feet up in the air. I was trying to decide whether to demand an explaination or to jump sail when the plane started to back out to the runway. I seriously doubt if I had ever been more afraid than I was at that moment. But obviously all went well. We landed in Seoul, Korea where we had a short 2 hours to wait for our connecting flight. It was nice to finally board because I knew that the next time our feet hit the ground, it would be in America. The plane we were on was really nice however Brandon & I was next to the window & an Asian guy had the aisle seat. Knowing that we were trapped for 11 1/2 hours made us want to go to the bathroom even more. Each seat had a mini TV so I was able to watch movies while Brandon slept. We had stayed up most of the night Sunday night in hopes that we would be able to sleep on the plane from Seoul, Korea to Los Angeles. Brandon sleep most of the trip but I was only able to sleep for an hour and a half. We crossed the pacific ocean at night so we didn't have much of a view until morning. I opened the shade just as the light was starting to show over the horizon. It was absolutely beautiful! As dawn broke, they brought out breakfast. They asked Brandon & I what we wanted for breakfast - omlette or pumpkin porridge. Brandon had been begging for eggs the whole time we were in China so I said omlette. I cut up Brandon's omlette and gave him the first bite. He started gagging & spit it out saying that it was "so gross". Curiousity got the best of me so I gave it a try. It was fish! A salmon & egg omlette! How could anyone eat something so disgusting?! I mean I like salmon but not chopped up in eggs for breakfast! Poor Brandon was so hungry! We also had fruit & bread so I gave him everything from my plate that he would eat. Luckily we only had a few more hours before we would have American food. After breakfast, Brandon wanted to look outside - something he had never asked to do. So I sat him on my lap and we looked out the window. Suddenly Brandon said "Ohh what's that?" After narrowing down the options, I discovered he was looking at the wing of the plane! I couldn't believe it! I started crying which I'm sure the other passengers thought was odd but I didn't care. That was one thing we were hoping for. For Brandon to see the wing of the plane on the way home. I was so excited! I wanted to start making phone calls to tell everyone but of course we were still up in the air so I had to wait. We finally landed in LA at 3:40 pm (Moutain time). We were greeted by an American who could speak English!! I know that statment sounds odd but trust me. After not being able to communicate very well for 5 weeks, it feel so great to have an English speaking American greet you at the plane exit. She helped us get our luggage through customs to the next drop off and made sure we got to the United terminal. We tried to get on an earily flight but we just didn't made it in time. So we went to Route 66 for lunch. Our first real American food in 38 days. Brandon had chicken tenders & fries and I had a hamburger with fries. Add two cokes and the total came to $38.00 USD. The bill was a bit surprising but it was worth every penny! I didn't think it tasted the best & I started to get concerned. Maybe my taste buds were ruined!! I had heard horror stories of people coming back from China and not liking the foods that they used to eat. But it was refreshing to be eating something that was familiar. After a 5 hour stay in LA, we boarded the last plane. Destination: HOME!! That plane ride was only 2 hours but it seemed a lot longer. When I saw the lights of Colorado Springs, I knew that our journey had finally ended. After flying over 6,000 miles, we had made it.... we were home. John & Nick greeted us at the airport. I swear Nick had grown 6 inches in 2 weeks! I was so happy to see them again! After getting our suitcases into the Tahoe, I insisted on going to Taco Bell. Not because I was hungry but because I had thought of nothing else since arriving in China. I promised Brandon & myself that we would go to Taco Bell as soon as we left the airport. So at midnight we pulled into the Taco Bell drive thru and ordered a burrito for myself & cinnamon twists for Brandon. I took one bite and my original thoughts of having ruined taste buds came back. It didn't taste anything like I remembered. John ordered a burrito as well and thankfully he agreed that it didn't taste too good. By 2 am, I was sound asleep in my own bed. Oh how good it felt to pull the covers up to my chin and go to sleep in my comfy bed. Tuesday morning I woke up at 7 AM :( After 5 hours of sleep, I could sleep no longer. Suffering from extreme jet lag, Tuesday seemed to blur into Wednesday. Brandon saw the neurologist Tuesday morning and he put all of our concerns to rest. He didn't see much of the brain damage that the Dr's had seem in China. He did say that the cranial pressure is somewhat concerning and that we may want to have his tested. We have decided to wait and see how his headaches are. If he continues to suffer from them, we'll have him tested. Anyway as we were talking to the Dr, Brandon got down and started playing with the toys in the toy bin. As much as John & I tried to concentrate on what the Dr was saying, all of our attention was focused on Brandon playing like a normal child. Over the past two days we have noticed subtle changes with Brandon. He spent Tuesday & Wednesday outside playing with Nick. Something he had never done much of. I caught them outside in the driveway loading rocks into their dump trucks. How cool was that?! Brandon had never done that before! On Thursday Brandon started 3rd grade. We talked to the principal who is an amazing guy. Mr Tutt has been behind us from the very beginning so for him to see the changes in Brandon himself was great. Brandon showed off his new tricks - showing Mr. Tutt how good he is at the flash cards. By the time we finished talking to Mr. Tutt, it was time for lunch. So Brandon, Mr. Tutt, John & I walked to the cafateria. Brandon walked ahead of us (without his cane). As we walked past the vehicles in the parking lot, Brandon said "Ohh what's that?" I asked him "You tell me, what is that?" He said "a motorcycle". Of course he was right. Mr. Tutt laughed. As we were about to step down on the curb, I held my breath. I was really hoping he would see the step. He looked down and took the step like he had been doing it all of his life. again Mr. Tutt was impressed. On the way back from lunch, Brandon came up to the step, turned around, and said "Be careful Mom, there's a step coming". How amazing is that?! We see the eye Dr. Monday morning. I'm excited to see what he has to say. I'll keep everyone posted! I just want to say Thank You to all who has stood by us during this journey. It has been amazing! Photo's: 1st - The Qingdao, China Airport. 2nd - Our last view of the Qingdao Aiport. Adios China!! 3rd - Seoul, Korea has several little islands around the shoreline. How beautiful is that! I actually thought we were going to land on water because we barely cleared the beach before we touched down. 4th - Incheon Internation Airport in Seoul, Korea 5th - Brandon hanging out in the airport in Seoul before we boarded the plane to America. 6th - Dawn breaks over the Pacific Ocean. What an amazing sight!! 7th - Breakfast! Our salmon & egg omlette 8th - Brandon smiling after seeing the wing of the airplane FOR THE FIRST TIME!! 9th - Flying over Los Angeles, California prior to landing at LAX. What a view!! 10th - The LA Roadhouse Route 66. Our first American meal in 38 days!!
Posted by Katrina Stewart at 10:25 AM
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Hi everyone, sorry it took me so long to update. When I got home, I went to hook up my laptop to the internet and found that my old settings didn't work. Since I was / am experiencing severe jet lag, I just left it alone until now. Anyway we landed in Colorado Springs at 10:58 pm Monday night (12:58 Tuesday afternoon China's time). We had a very long & uneventful flight home. Well not quite uneventful. As we were about to hit the California coast, Brandon looked out of the window & saw the airplane wing....for the first time. He said "ohh what's that?" After narrowing it down, I realized he was looking at the wing. I was so excited!! I will post pictures of our return trip and go into details tonight. I just wanted to let everyone know that we're home safe & sound - and very glad to be here!!
Posted by Katrina Stewart at 5:54 PM
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Well the time has come to say goodbye. I never thought this day would come but finally our time here is over. We are so excited to be heading home!! We leave the hospital in less than an hour so I wanted to update the blog before I packed my computer away. We cannot wait to see everyone when we get home!! Brandon is unpatiently waiting - he's worse than I am!! So goodbye for now - I'll update the blog as soon as I get home to let everyone know we arrived safely. Talk to you soon......from home!!
Posted by Katrina Stewart at 9:56 PM
Our last full day here has come to an end. All day today I felt a little off. I was sad in a way to leave all these wonderful people (Adele, patients & some staff) but I know that I should've been happy. It was just a weird feeling. Our life for the last 37 days has been full of adventure, boredom, happiness, tears, laughter, disgust, frustration.....but we have never regretted coming here. People ask "Are you glad you came?" Absolutely! We came here and did what we set out to do.... Improve Brandon's sight. We are also leaving here with newly formed friendships from all over the world which is an added bonus. All the patients & families here have one thing in common - stem cell therapy. It's that common bond that has made us almost like family here. It doesn't matter where you're from or what your social background is, we all came here with hope for a brighter future. We leave tomorrow with not only that but ever lasting bonds with others here with the same dream. It's hard to say goodbye to some of them because in reality, we may never see each other again. I think that's why it's so bitter sweet for us. Brandon asked if we could take Adele home with us. I certainly wish we could. She's an amazing girl with a bright future. I just hope her future doesn't include staying here. We are hoping to return next year for another round of treatments & hopefully we'll see her again. Today Adele went with us to the RT Mart for the final time. I had to stock up on some candy that I've become hopelessly addicted to. We also stopped at Brandon's favorite place....KFC. It was nice to get out after being coped up in the hospital for the last few days. I regret not going to some places that I had planned on going but that's ok. We saw more than I expected and we did have quite an adventure. Photo's: 1st - Brandon & Adele outside of KFC & the RT Mart. 2nd - Brandon's home away from home - KFC. 3rd - We went to this market today about 30 minute drive from the hospital. On the surface all looked nice however they have these narrow alley ways that are littered with trash & packed full of people. They were cooking in the alley so this horrible stench from the street vendors was hard to ignore. One vendor was selling meat on a stick that looked similar to a hot dog but I guarantee it wasn't a hot dog! Brandon said "ohh what's that?" Through clenched teeth (because of the smell) all I could say is "Keep moving!!" Like the meat didn't smell like any meat I have ever had or seen. I wish I had taken a picture of it but all I could think of was to get out of the area as quickly as possible. 4th - Another view of the market. Pictures 3 & 4 were taken in the neat area of the market.
Posted by Katrina Stewart at 6:34 AM