Monday, August 13, 2012

Day 6: For the love of Tang and toilet paper

Day 6 for me, day 19 for my babies. My fears about weight gain were unfounded because I missed a few pages of the chart somehow last time I looked. My little girl is now 990 grams, which is about 2 lbs and 3 oz. This is 2 oz or so over her birthweight. Vivek is 1060 grams!!! This is around 2 lbs 5ozs, still not quite up to his birthweight of 2 lbs 7 oz but gaining much more than I thought.
I spent an hour and a half doing kangaroo care with Vivek today, but only 30 min with Tara because she had to go back to the isolette due to some desats in the 50’s and she got a little cyanotic. I wasn’t able to tell as well as the nurses but now I know to look for the bottoms of the feet looking ashen instead of pink. The doctor was there and I saw how they stimulated her back up to the 90’s. They then suctioned her and she had a better time after that. They clearly attribute all her desats to her GERD, and they will subside over time. I know from what I’ve read that this is normal, and I could actually expect a lot worse than I’m actually seeing. But knowing that doesn’t make it much easier to experience as a parent. I remind myself that she is on room air and no oxygen support at 29 weeks gestation which is still spectacular. I asked the doctor at what point would they put her on oxygen support, and she assured me they had no plans to. I asked again and they said if she desatted below the 50th percentile like that all the time and did not pull herself out of it with stimulation then they would go to nasal cannula. I felt better seeing both doctors and nurses attending to her and doing the suction, and it assured me she is getting proper attention and care when I’m not there.

I got confirmation on another thing I expected to hear…my son’s testes are undescended. I'm sure he'll thank me later for sharing this on the internet. For other anxious preemie parents out there, this is normal when they are born before this has a chance to happen. They will likely descend on their own with time. However this can be associated with inguinal hernias, and can sometimes require surgery. I’ve actually had that exact kind of hernia and had surgery myself for it, though strangely only 1% of women get that type of hernia. If the months pass and it doesn’t resolve we’ll address it once we are back in the US, but it is not a big deal and was something I’d expected.

I got to watch two new babies, a set of twins, get brought in right after birth. They are giant full termers so their parents will be short timers in the NICU. Me...I”m serving more serious time. There was a lot of fussing getting them all cleaned up and prepped and hooked up to lines and monitors, and they cried an awful lot. I did hear that a baby did die yesterday, and that was probably what was happening in the other room that I wrote about yesterday. This baby was much bigger than ours but had breathing problems from birth and had been struggling. Very sad. I’m told it was a local parent and not one of Dr. Patel’s patients.

So my biggest concerns right now are finding the State Bank ATM that I can’t seem to locate, which is the one machine that may not reject my card. I gave up at the point yesterday where a walk anywhere meant being ankle deep in muddy water contaminated with God knows what else. ATM's give the best exchange rate I’m told.

I also need to resolve my account with Dr. Patel and make payment to the NICU but their never seems to a be a good time. Hopefully tomorrow I can take charge and get both done.

So today I decided to go for a little adventure since my allergies were fully gone for the day and I felt better than I had since I got here. In spite of the rainy season, I decided not to carry my umbrella around and a little rain wouldn’t hurt me. I'm sure you can see where this one is going. I let myself wander lost through the streets with the ultimate goal of eventually catching a Tuk Tuk to D-Mart to score some toilet paper and feed my Tang addiction.

The coolest thing I saw was a place I'd read about where they make statues of Gods and Goddesses for festivals that at the end are burned as effigies. There is hay in the center and mud and clay on the outside. I was taking a picture and the owner with his chest puffed up in pride invited me in for more pictures. I took a few and tried to leave but he kept saying “nightshade.” I recall nightshade as being a plant with some kind of psychotropic properties and became concerned about why he wanted me to go deeper inside, and then he flipped on the lights and I understood he wanted me to get a better picture and I felt like an idiot. I thanked him and all the sculpture artists and took the shots you see below.

I am glad on this trip I didn't wear a saree because in ankle deep water it is going to get wet or you have to hold it up constantly. I find D-Mart and it is the micro mini WalMart of Anand. I was hoping for more in the food section, but I did find what I needed and like it about as much as Big Bazaar. I was hoping to walk back to the Alpha Restaurant about a mile away because my friend had told me it was their favorite place, but I was distracted from my goal by pictures of mouth watering food on a sign closer by. The bag from D-Mart was heavy to carry, but when I saw a picture of a giant juicy hamburger and fries I was done for. I practically ran to the front of the Dawat restaurant, where a doorman opened it for me so gracefully I mistook it for an automatic door. My first disappointment was to realize that I'd come at off hours so there would be 8 waiters either over-helping me or staring at me. Then one look at their rather substantial menu told me that nothing on the JUICY actually served in the restaurant. I should have known better...but the picture of the hamburger sent me into a feeding frenzy. I would have been happy with something that even resembled one. My pulse races when I see bartha, my favorite Indian eggplant dish. I order it with glee, and find out that it is out of season. Now doubly disappointed I order papadi chat as an appetizer and malai kofta with sweet lemon soda. The chat was enough for three people, and the malai kofta was nowhere near as good as my wonderful mother-in-law makes. But I ate it happily and was waited on hand and foot, and even given a dish of warm water to clean off my fingertips with at the end. All for the bargain price of $3.50. Trip Advisor rates it #3 out of 8 restraurants worth eating at in Anand.  I want to try "Decent Restaurant" just cause the name is so funny.

I missed the pouring rain while I was eating, but when I return outside I see that what was partially flooded is now entirely flooded. I see a lone Tuk Tuk driver and ask him for a ride back to my hotel. He seems to know it, but insists on $50 rupees. I am set on 40 and for some reason feel very stubborn about it despite the flood. Don't ask me why half the drivers here don't know Rama Residency or “Station Road by railway train station” when this town is so freaking small.

So in my sturbborness I keep walking, and attract many more stares than usual. I guess it contradicts your assumptions when you live in India on $1 a day and are riding around in a Tuk-Tuk to avoid the water even though you have an umbrella, then see what is supposed to be a rich foreigner walking instead looking like a drowned rat without one. I try another driver and he clearly doesn't know my destination. Then when walking through high water the snaps on my shoes come undone in the fast current, and I slip and fall to my knees. This was very embarassing, and fortunately I wasn't narrowly avoiding traffic at this juncture of the road like I usually was. Death by Tuk-Tuk...I would feel so bad for all my family at the funeral having to explain how I died.
I redo my shoe snaps while random guy tries not to stare or laugh at my misfortune. I finally find a driver who seems about 50% sure of my destination and agrees to my price. I try not to stare at his teeth and fail miserably because they were the worst teeth I'd ever seen. He gets close to my destination but admits he is not sure where to go from there. I try everything I can think of. I say Kaival Hospital. Apara Nursing Home. Mahatma Gandhi statue by rail/train station. But then I say Dr. Nayana Patel, and it is instant recognition. He drives me right to her office.

I walk across the street to my hotel, worse for the wear but somehow feeling like despite my misadventures, today was a lot more fun that yesterday. I think that I should venture into Anand daily even if I have no purpose. Just the exploration lifts my spirits and helps me to accept my surroundings rather than feel like I am avoiding them holed up in a hotel room.

Other random happenings today. A student of social work drops by my hotel room with a poorly written survey for patient's of Dr. Patel, with Dr. Patel's endorsement to do. I fill it out anyway despite horrible questions like “If Dr. Patel recommended an amniocentesis due to possible problems would you abort the baby, yes or no.” I write it depends on the results of the amnio and if an extremely severe defect was discovered. Sigh.

I did finally get my cell phone delivered thanks to my husband's cousin and his connections in Ahmedabad. It is a comfort now that I won't miss all the calls from family and can make any calls I need to .

I’ve learned a few random tips in the past few days from some other patients of Dr. Patel. At the Rama Residency you can get a bigger room where they put a mattress on the floor, which is used for the babies to sleep on. It has a king and a twin bed for the nanny, as well as the floor mattress for babies. Uday could get you a crib, but I guess this is the Rama alternative. I was happy to lend my mosquito net crib contraption to my friend who may be bringing her twins back to Rama from the NICU today depending on how it goes…so exciting! Other random tips:

1. Keep all food stuffs in containers…beware of the sugar ants!!! I have had some before so you have to be careful to avoid an infestation because those suckers move quick!

2. The Chocolate Room close to the Subway is as awesome as it sounds. Chocolate pancakes, chocolate waffles and chocolate/coffee drinks.

3. D-Mart is about as big or bigger than Big Bazaar and has more American foods and slightly better prices. I didn't do much price comparison, but D-Mart has more clothes for sure and Big Bazaar has more home goods and appliances.

4. Big Bazaar has a spa on the 3rd floor which is pretty good and charges comparable US prices of $45 for an hour.

5. Tell the front desk no visitors to your room so that no money seekers will head your way. This is why I didn’t tell our surrogate our room #.

6. Shipping to India is crazy expensive (which I already knew) and your shipment is likely to get picked through in customs and only part of it will arrive. Despicable, but that is why you should bring what you need and pay extra for baggage.

7. Madhuban Resort and Spa review: Tuk-tuk there (maybe 100 rupees at most) and then took the Madhuban-car back to the Rama (it was $7 for the return trip).  Lunch there was pretty cheap.  They had a "Chicken sandwich" which I got.  The picture on the table showed a whole chicken breast but that's not what you get.  You get chicken-flakes and they're pretty spicy.  My husband got a spaghetti-bolognase meat-sauce thing and he didn't like it.  He said it was real spicy.  He got Chicken-Tikka the next time and said it was really good.  They have a big lunch buffet set up daily that most people seemed to be getting, it was all Indian food.  

8. Dr. Hitesh can write you a prescription for antibiotics if you get sick.

That is all I can think of for now. This is a long post because once I again I took a “nap” and missed my second trip to see my babies and woke up at 1:30am with plenty of time to chronicle my misadventures while watching a late night showing of Mars Attacks while eating leftover cold malai kofta that looks like something a cat would throw up. I seriously need to stay awake a full day and get into the rythym of life here, but I think my 3 mile hike wore me out today. Here is little Miss Tara with her eyes open for a grand finale.

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