Thursday, January 3, 2019

In the theater

"But Mommy, an operation is better than dying," my 6 yr old likes to say. We have an open dialogue about death and the afterlife. However, there are a few topics I've avoided so far, such as childhood cancer. :( We've talked about how God knows the number of our days, and David prays for people not to die "before it's time." But I have a feeling that in his mind, the time to "go" is at least after you have grandchildren. And given all his phobias, I've been hesitant to bring up the topic of all the accidents that could happen (except in the case of his baby sister possibly choking).

A few minutes after I signed the consent form, a gurney came squeaking down the hallway and careened its way into our room, forcing the door open. I was told to take everything off and climb on.

While I was getting undressed, the orderly took the blanket from my bed and used it to line the gurney. I had to leave my glasses behind and everything. Maybe it was better to have my senses dulled a little. Besides, wearing contacts while being put under would irritate my eyes.

I got onto the gurney with the blanket folded over me, and they wheeled me out of the room as my roommates called goodbye. The orderlies yelled to each other about where I was going. We bumped down the hallway and around the corner and into an elevator, to go down a few floors to the operating room.

In the operating room, they brought the gurney up next to the operating table and I scooted myself over. They must have covered me with something for the preparation, but I don't remember. A few female medical personnel were asking me some questions. I didn't know if they were trying to determine my mental state or not...I remember something about my kids being bilingual. I had to sign a consent form and I couldn't see anything with my glasses off.

Since I had an IV port in already, that was where they could administer drugs. They did a little anesthesia test and asked if I was getting dizzy. "Not yet...oh yeah, there it goes." Then they put the mask away again. I think I was awake for a few minutes longer, but I don't remember much after that.

Friday, December 21, 2018

To operate or not to operate?

First night in the hospital...

The door to our room burst open around 2:30 a.m., but it wasn't for me. We were getting our fifth roommate. Zina had gone home for the weekend, but her bed was still reserved as she wasn't officially discharged yet. And now a new patient would occupy the remaining bed.

Lights were turned on and the new roommate squealed a little bit as the nurse tried to place an IV. I eventually learned that evening/weekend nurses were not the best at this type of procedure. And began to pray a silent prayer of thanks that I had an IV port in my wrist and didn't need a needle poke each time.


Daily schedule

Around 6 a.m., the nurse came in and beeped our foreheads with the thermometer and left. There were still a few hours until wake-up time and I had snapped a photo of the daily schedule on my phone. If you've read about my experience when David was hospitalized, it was a lot like that. In fact, this hospital ward was quite similar, except with adult patients, of course.

I still wasn't allowed to eat, and was given IV meds in the morning. I was struggling with nausea and a heightened sense of smell, as is often the case with me. I had to hold my breath when using the bathroom and when entering our room. I could never really figure out what smelled in our room, maybe just the scent of unwashed bodies (no shower)/bed linens/old mattresses? But even when Andrei arrived with his fresh toothpaste/soapy smell, it still made me gag.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Where the month went

No posts on my blog for November. But there's a simple explanation for that!

Let's start with a month ago where I'm sitting in the ambulance. After 2 WEEKS of abdominal pain, an ultrasound has finally revealed a ruptured appendix. I wonder at what point it ruptured and whether it could have been detected sooner...such as 5 days earlier when I was at the doctor and they said "it's probably not your appendix, but I'd have to see the lab work..."

Once they saw the appendicitis on the ultrasound, the medics at the private clinic were quick in making a few phone calls and arranging transport to the hospital. At this point I was actually somewhat calm and relieved that the source of pain had finally been identified. I was hoping for an easy-peasy laparoscopic procedure and then I'd be done with my appendix for life! In fact, almost everyone I talked to seemed quite cheerful about it. While waiting for the ambulance, I saw the gynecologist whom I had seen earlier in the week in an attempt to rule out other problems. "I have appendicitis!" I announced, and she smiled and said "See? There you go!"

I had thought I was organized in grabbing my passport on the way to the doctor's office. However, when the paramedic asked to see my papers, I opened up the passport to find David's face smiling up at me. I'd grabbed the kids' passports instead of my own documents! They took me anyway, though.

Sitting in the back of the ambulance was a bit annoying because there were no windows. I could see out the front windows a bit and recognize landmarks at times. The paramedic had mentioned the address of the hospital, and I was pretty sure of the name: "St. Elizabeth's"! When the surgeon at the private clinic was making the phone call, I heard him saying that I was American...BUT that I spoke Russian. I like to think that helped in the long run. I wasn't limited by language and I think they selected a hospital with a good surgical unit-if nothing else, to make up for their failure to diagnose in a timely fashion.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Motels and milestones

I couldn't really blog for a few weeks because I was spending my evenings (which start at 11 pm) looking for lodging for a 25-person family reunion in New England next summer. I like the challenge of a little online research. But it's actually hard looking for accommodations for such a large group. I even polled FB but no one had any specific suggestions. I found lots and lots of nice vacation rentals that seemed to cap out at about 20 people. Many houses had 6-8 bedrooms, but with 7 adult siblings plus parents (and all the men in my family are tall) plus spouses and kids, a queen bedroom for each family unit was not exactly sounding like a situation that would lead to peace and harmony.

Also, it turns out that October is not too early to book summer accommodations. Some places seemed to be still updating their rates, but lots were booked either from earlybirds or returning customers. And since I had to run ideas by everyone else, it wasn't possible to really jump on those properties that seemed to be filling up fast.

We seem to have found a solution, but I wonder what would make it easier for the next time. Do I really think I know what would work for everyone, or am I only thinking about my own preferences? Do we HAVE to be near the beach? The map was dotted with tons of choices "off the beaten path." But what is a summer vacation without the sea? And what would we all do on a country estate for a week? Or in a ski lodge? Everyone says "we just rent a big house and all pick rooms when we get there." Yeah, but HOW? But even if I had the perfect formula, each kid/adult will be a year older the next time and it will all change. Anyway, we're hoping my dad will be well enough to make the drive and join us for the week-long getaway.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A journal entry

This week so far:

-Andrei is working double-time this week in 2 different universities. So we're seeing less of him. On the other hand, we've been having lots of adventures on our own.

-It's been unseasonably warm. So we've been going outside a lot. REALLY hot in our apartment, though. I wrote about the heat coming it's full-blast and up to 60 or 70 outside with the sun BAKING us. The weather is luscious, being baked isn't...but we will probably see colder days very soon! In the meantime, I cover myself in cool cloths to sleep, lol.

-On one of our walks, we first met a grandmother with her 2 yr old granddaughter. The little girl was enthralled by David and we learned that she has a big brother at home. Then we were taking a peek at the ducks and bumped into the one neighbor that we're sort of friends with, also with her granddaughter, whom she had taken out of preschool due to difficulty adjusting. I realized later that I find the grandmothers easier to talk to than other mothers.

-I've been experimenting with aromatherapy. Tried diffusing clove oil without really testing to see if I like it. I thought it would smell Christmasy, NOPE. Smells like toothpaste or cinnamon gum, blech! Maybe blended with something? I even offered it to a friend and she was overwhelmed by the smell also!

-Took David to his speech class this week. 1 hour each way pushing the stroller was a workout! If I had more time I could write a long description of our whole journey there. I was explaining to a local friend lately how mentally exhausting it is finding exact addresses here in St. Petersburg. I find the transportation easy to use, but actually getting inside the building is so complex! Where is the building number? Where is the entrance? Which entrance do I need? Floor, apartment number? Words can't do it justice! Maybe I will do a photo journal the next time this happens.

-I've been behind on housework for WEEKS. I had a friend over today and was going around to each room cringing at the clutter! I was barely dressed when she arrived and still sweeping the crumbs away as she sat down at the table. I have a lot of thoughts brewing about eliminating clutter. So tired of moving everything from room to room! However, I did pull out the vacuum today and get 2 rooms done, feels like a small improvement if short-lived. We also had at least 3 yogurt spills today, I think.

-There was a school (technical college) shooting in the Crimea...actually part of Russia now, but regardless, SAD! :( It will be interesting to see if a gun control dialogue here will proceed any differently from in the U.S.

Friday, October 12, 2018

What's your hygge style?

The seasons are changing and I'm taking whatever measures I can to keep the increasing gloom from infiltrating our household. Aside from spiritual inspiration, there are of course many ways to make an environment feel more cozy.

I think I've been putting "fairy lights" up since I was a teenager!
Good to know they're hygge-worthy. ;) 

I think it's partly nostalgia that triggers all those seasonal associations year after year. The sound of crunching leaves reminds us of a favorite fall recipe, or a Christmas song brings us back to the place we spent Christmas as a child. Along with that, there is more research nowadays to demonstrate that not only traditions, but a certain type of lighting and other details actually alter our brain, and arranging the environment the right way can help battle conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I can't remember when I first heard the actual term "Hygge," but it wasn't yet the hot trend it is at the moment. I think it appeals to a lot of us because it combines our cozy traditions (a favorite type of drink, music, aromatherapy, etc) with those household touches we have on our wishlist but maybe haven't been able incorporate yet: all-white furnishings, hand-made decorative pieces, etc.

I definitely think it's worth it to do all you can to create a comfortable environment, especially if you live somewhere with limited hours of daylight in the winter. But I also notice that Americans (and probably other Westerners too) tend to borrow an idea that's meant to make life SIMPLER (working with what you have), and turn it into a trend that becomes materialistic. For example, in rural Scandinavia it would make sense to use tree branches and other elements of nature in decorating, but are city dwellers meant to spend a great deal of time tracking down these materials? "Simple" woven baskets are presented as humble, but are actually quite costly to purchase. If we don't knit/embroider/ etc, should we covet those pieces, or rather turn to the artistic talent we do possess? In other words, do I want my house to look like a magazine cover/Pinterest article that features a house in another country with a different climate, decorated by inhabitants of another culture? Some days, my answer may be yes! On the other hand, while my IKEA list hangs out waiting for the biannual shopping trip, there are things lying around that I just may be able to use.

That's my introduction to what I thought would actually be a fun exercise. I've been comparing a few of these decorating trends/tendencies. Which one or combination would you pick? I'm undecided, but I'll share my thoughts.