Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Traveling HOME…from Kiev to Austin!

I’m going to enter a few blog posts soon to try to catch up on recent events that I didn’t have a chance to update in “real time”.  Let me start with our trip home, from Kiev to Austin.


We were picked up at Tara’s apartment in Kiev at 4:45AM Saturday, March 3, and headed to the Kiev airport for our 7:20AM departure to begin our journey home.

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Our facilitator found a driver with a van that had space for the boys to stay sitting in their double stroller, which worked perfectly.  (They don’t have car seat regulations in Ukraine.)  We arrived to the Kiev airport and didn’t have any problems getting checked in.  We requested wheelchair assistance for the boys so that we wouldn’t be required to take them out of the double stroller.  I HIGHLY recommend all traveling families with special needs kiddos (or even babies) request this service.  You don’t have to use the wheelchair (you can use your stroller), but you’ll be assigned an associate who will escort you through special lines, avoiding stairs (following the wheelchair paths), which is such a blessing.


The boys were quiet and cooperative for our first flight, which made things so much easier on everyone.  I had given both boys some Benadryl to help ease their transition anxiety, but it had NO effect on the boys.  They’re used to heavy narcotics at the orphanage for 6 years, so the Benadryl literally had zero effect, but the boys did well regardless. 

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Bye-bye Ukraine!


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Conner didn’t sleep a wink on the first flight, and Cooper slept for about 10-15 minutes. Smile


We routed through Vienna, Austria, this time.  We got into the airport via the awesome wheelchair assistance program, feeling very grateful for this service.  A special handicap access van picked us up on the ground (everyone else loaded onto a bus for transport into the airport), and drove us directly to our exact gate location. 


We stopped at the first coffee shop for a cinnamon roll, and while standing in line, I heard someone say, “LORRAINE PATTERSON!!!!”  I looked around and saw 2 women waving, who I didn’t recognize.  I asked who they were and the first mom said, “Shelly Burman”, and then I totally knew who that was!  It was Carrington’s mom, who was also adopted from Ukraine March 2011, and spent 5 weeks in a Texas hospital upon her arrival home.  (Carrington (with Down syndrome) was 3 at the time of adoption and weighed 11 pounds.)  Shelly was traveling with another Reece’s Rainbow mom, Jenny Sousa Brown, who is momma to 17 kiddos (at home).  Both moms are adopting multiple special needs children from that horrid orphanage in Bulgaria who I urged you all to donate toward medical care for the children there.  What a crazy God arrangement to have these precious women just happen to be walking by the same café in Vienna, Austria, at the exact time that we were standing there!!!  These women (and Shelly’s daughter) were on their way to Bulgaria to meet their newest children for the very first time!

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The next flight was from Vienna to Washington DC, a 10 hour flight.  Neither boy slept on this long flight, even with the arsenal of meds the doctors in Kiev recommended.  It’s really  hard to compete with narcotics, so nothing that I had in my possession even touched the kids.  At.All.  Conner was quiet and content (extremely lethargic), and Cooper did well, for the most part, although he was much more restless and vocal.  Neither boy wanted to eat or drink anything, so that was stressful for all of us because we knew they were dehydrated.

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About halfway through the flight, Cooper began holding his head and fussing.  We figured he had a headache from dehydration.  I felt his heart and he had a CRAZY fast heartbeat (tachycardia).  It continued to race wildly, so I started blowing in his face to try to break the pattern, hoping he’d gasp for air.  This is what caused my mom to die unexpectedly Dec. 23, 2011.  Tachycardia can also be a sign of refeeding syndrome. 


Cooper started sweating profusely, so I took off his blanket sleeper.   He was moaning and crying and fussing, very loudly.  He refused the pureed baby foods I brought with me, refused water, and was inconsolable.  We asked the flight attendant to bring us a real glass filled with milk because that’s what the boys were accustomed to drinking from (real glasses) at the orphanage.  It took a while for the flight attendant to bring it, so that was a super stressful time, but once we got the glass of milk, Cooper CHUGGED it more quickly than I’ve ever seen him drink.  Shortly after that, his heart rate began to slow down, and he stopped sweating profusely.  Within 30 minutes, he was back to normal.  (In hindsight, now that we’re at the hospital in Austin and have discovered Cooper’s issues with hypoglycemia (glucose levels of 30 when normal is 100-120), that Cooper probably had glucose levels in the teens during this scary episode on the plane.)  Praise God for keeping Cooper alive!!!

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You can see the sweat on Cooper’s head in the photo above.  I took that picture after we’d gotten everything under control.  We left his blanket sleeper off for the rest of the plane ride.  Cooper sat in his seat, surrounded by pillows, watching the iPad like a king. Smile

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Cooper and Conner travel HOME Kiev to Austin 1697

Cooper and Conner travel HOME Kiev to Austin 1684

Cooper fell asleep for a few minutes while sitting up, resting his chin on the pull out table/tray.  We couldn’t believe that neither boy slept on this 10 hour flight!!!  We pushed fluids (using the real glass with milk) to keep the boys hydrated, but we could see that both boys were totally dehydrated, despite our best efforts.


We oh-so-gratefully arrived in Washington DC, and had to resist the urge to literally kiss the ground, thanking God for setting us on American soil!!!  We were greeted by a very kind wheelchair assistant, who told us that if one of us would sit in his wheelchair, while the other pushed the stroller, he could get us through customs with no wait!  Matt hopped in the wheelchair and strolled to a special customs agent (the one normally reserved for airline crew) with no wait.  It took all of 5 minutes to get through customs!  The officer took Conner’s and Cooper’s sealed Embassy paperwork, opened it, stamped things, kept the paperwork, welcomed the boys to America, and sent us on our way.  Beautiful welcome to America!!!  Land of the free!  God bless America, oh how grateful we are for thee!!!

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We bought the boys some Washington DC shirts, changed them into cotton PJ’s (still hoping these boys were going to sleep the rest of the flight/travel and hop into bed once we got home).  We found a family restroom to change the boys, and I just want to cry every single time I see precious Conner without clothes to camouflage his skin and bones.


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Once on American soil, our boys were doted with attention, smiles, greetings, and love, so much so that it became amusing to us.  We couldn’t walk 2 feet with the boys without someone making a comment about how precious the boys were.  Total strangers were coming up to us to ask if our boys were twins, telling us how precious they were, asking for their story, and on and one.   What a stark contrast to what we experienced in Ukraine once we had the boys in our custody.  We didn’t really recognize the difference in treatment from strangers until we hit American soil.  Night and day.  Our hearts were beaming with sunshine to experience such love and acceptance in America, yet grieved by the rejection and horrible stares we received repeatedly while in Ukraine.  Lord, please open the eyes and hearts and minds of all the countries and people who do not know, understand, or believe that ALL children are a blessing of the Lord, a reward from Him.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full.  ALL are precious in His sight.


Since the boys hadn’t slept in about 20 hours, they finally sacked out in the double stroller, just before we boarded our last flight.

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Matt sat down in his plane seat, holding Cooper, who stayed asleep, and within minutes, Matt exclaimed, “HE’S PEEING ON ME!!!”

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Cooper had held his urine for so long (this is a pattern now) that when he finally fell into deep sleep, he let his urine out and SOAKED completely through his diaper and ALL OVER Matt, to the point that urine was dripping off Cooper as Matt held him out, away from Matt’s body.  Fortunately, we had a change of clothes for Cooper; unfortunately, we didn’t have a change of clothes for Matt.


Fortunately, both boys slept the entire plane ride from DC to Austin (4 hours)…and…fortunately, Matt and I did, too!!!


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Look how teeny tiny Conner is.  Here he is curled up in the airplane seat.  A 6 (almost 7) year old should not be able to fit this comfortably, with room to spare, curled up in a small airplane seat. Sad smile


Upon our arrival at the Austin airport, we were surprised by a greeting from our sweet adoptive friends, Mark and Whitney Allen, along with a photographer with the San Antonio Express News, Lisa.  Lisa has documented all of the Haitian adoptions from the orphanage where our Naomi came from.  We’ve always requested low-key airport welcome home’s, respectfully asking friends and family to wait and greet our kiddos once they’re settled in and bonded with our family, but it was a sweet surprise to see Mark and Whitney waiting for us with huge smiles, while Lisa (the photographer) documented the first Welcome Home for the boys.

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Cooper and Conner travel HOME Kiev to Austin 1716


My sister and her family greeted us as well (and they delivered our vehicle to us so we could drive home).  Lisa (the photographer) asked if she could come to our house to document the boys’ firsts there as well.  We agreed, and I can’t wait to see her photos.  She emailed me just a few of them, but her photography is so candid, I’m grateful to have these moments documented by such a talented photographer.

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Lisa stayed until 2AMish, photographing all of the children meeting their siblings, first feedings at home, brushing teeth, and bedtime.  Our kids were delighted to love on their new brothers, even though it was so very late when we got home.  Kiefer (our 3-year-old) stayed up until 2AM as well; he just couldn’t stand to go to sleep before the boys.  He was such a big helper, entertaining his new brothers, helping feed them, carrying them around like he’d gotten a new puppy.  The depth of joy and love that God gives our children for their siblings touches my heart so deeply that words cannot begin to describe how I feel to witness such genuine love, a love that comes fully from Him, unlike any love we can produce ourselves. 


We love because He first loved us.  Praising Him for loving us, choosing us, adopting us.  Grateful for the opportunities He’s given us to extend a similar love and adoption to those kiddos He’s chosen for us.  Praising Him for all things.


…more to come soon (hopefully)…first day home…hospital update…stay tuned

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