Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Comeback Post

We were on a "blog break". Apparently, posting was something too difficult to keep up with as we poised ourselves to make it through the days. However, now that Thanksgiving is upon us how could I not take a moment and share my thanks for everything that has happened in our lives since last Thanksgiving.

Almost one year ago we received the referral our little man, Sintayehu. He was appx 8 weeks at the time and we spent days staring at his pictures willing him home. We are so thankful for the hands that brought him to the orphanage, the caretakers who did their best with what they had to care for him and Alemu who worked on our behalf to connect our family.

Fast forward a few months to the day we discovered that Sintayehu was not getting formula. We are so thankful at the response we and others received to help kids who live over 7000 miles away get the nourishment they desperately need. Since that day, over 500 lbs of formula have been sent over with various travelers from people who answered our call for help.

When it was finally time to travel and bring him home, we couldn't be more thankful to our parents who made the long journey with us to help care for Mikias and see their grandson's birth country....a gift like no other.

When we were in country...we had the best day of our lives thus far! On the same day, we had the opportunity to reconnect with Mikias' African Mommy in the morning and meet Sintayehu for the first time in the afternoon. We are so thankful she was willing to meet with us, play with him and join me in holding our son. And....our new baby. There is nothing more authentic than picking up your child for the first time and having his head nestle in to your neck. I am thankful every day that he is our son.

And of course just 14 days after the best day of our lives, came the worst. We can't even begin to express our gratitude for the depth of support that surrounded us. We are so thankful for the quick medical responses of the ER team, the skillful hands of a surgeon and the hours of round the clock care in ICU. Not to mention, the levels of people who lifted Taye and our family and held us so close for many days. We could not have survived something like that alone. We are so thankful for the strength given by our family and friends.

It is difficult to find words to show graciousness for the last 8 months of recovery for Taye. His medical team, rehabilitation specialist, therapists, school therapists and advocates have played such an integral role in his journey. We are so thankful for the careful attention given to one little boy. To aid in this, we have had numerous people support us in being able to attend to his needs and his aggressive schedule. We are so grateful to our family and friends for the countless hours they helped in watching Mikias, making meals and overall attentiveness to Taye. Being able to celebrate with others as he overcame each obstacle was wonderful. Thank you.

We are so thankful for health. We watched Taye grow from his starting point of not being able to bear weight on his legs at 6.5 months old to walking across our room babbling after a serious accident. We are eternally grateful for his spirit and resiliency. This little fighter has taught me more than I thought I would ever know.

On a personal note, I can't help but be very thankful for Benjamin. My husband is a man with an unwavering commitment to us. He easily supported my new position which created more responsibility for him. He eagerly took a paternity leave, as we decided, when Taye came home. (Despite the fact he encountered bit of discrimination from a few people who have things to learn yet) Most importantly, he became Taye's #1 advocate and medical coordinator. His stamina through all these months (with nothing more than a grimace when he was laid off) reminds me daily of someone else I have to be thankful for.

As this year is almost all said and done, I realize I am most thankful for the clarity I have in life.

Three of the four people in our house are napping right now, laundry is not done, we still have a suitcase packed under our bed from Africa (no joke), piles of paper are stacked strategically around the house---but hey, the basement is almost finished.

I have never been happier.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A picnic & Taye's new trick

We had an awesome time this past Saturday at a picnic at Kensington for adoptive Ethiopian families. Although we knew most of the people there, we were able to meet a few new people as well. We were undecided about going, but once we saw how well Taye was recovering we knew it wouldn't be a problem. It was a perfect afternoon and it was fun to see all the kids playing together. We're so fortunate to be connected to all these people.

Taye and his new friend Daniel

Mikias with Samson and Zachary

Mikias getting some help from Sofanit in the sack race

I also need to mention how impressive Taye is doing. Within the past couple days he's even got a few new tricks...most significantly sitting himself up. Now his method isn't the same one he's been working on at physical therapy, but it gets the job done. He's also just started clapping his hands together. We're so happy that's he's making these improvements considering where he was a couple months ago. Judging from this video Mikias is also very, very excited.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Home Again

After being transferred to the pediatric floor this morning, we spent most of the day waiting for the neurosurgeon to come and give us the OK to go home. Everyone that came in a saw him said Taye looked great, but we needed the neurosurgeon to officially discharge us. Finally, around 5pm today Taye was discharged and we are now home!! It's hard to believe that just yesterday morning we ate breakfast here...a busy couple of days to be sure.

The rest of the week for us will be good. Joanna has time off work and the best part is no more doctors appointments or therapy appointments to go to for the rest of the week What a treat! Hopefully, this will give us some time to get back on track.

Taye sleeping post-op yesterday...with his big hat

Taye tonight at home showing off his interesting haircut

Moving along nicely

As I'm writing this both Joanna and Taye are taking a morning nap. Last night was a bit restless, probably because Taye slept so much yesterday during the day. He didn't really sleep for a long time in a row last night...just 1 - 1.5 hours at a time. But that's OK because he seems to be doing really well. Yesterday afternoon he started back on his normal eating schedule and has been eating like normal ever since. He also doesn't seem to be in too much pain and has only been on Tylenol recently. I think most of his fussiness so far is just related to all the wires he has to contend with when he wants to move around.

So, it sounds like we'll definitely be leaving the ICU today to either go home or to the regular pediatric floor. We'll have a better idea once the doctor makes rounds today. I'm hoping for home myself just as long as they think his pain is under control and there are no signs of infection.

It's amazing to me that this has seemed so easy for us. Of course compared to April's stay this is much less urgent and, unfortunately, we have a comfort level with it now.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A familiar place

Taye is now in ICU in the exact same room we were in back in April. It's kind of strange being here again, but there's also some comfort in knowing the people here and how everything works.

Taye was pretty fussy when Joanna and I first saw him in recovery. He was extremely hungry and sucked down a lot of water and a little formula. It seems he has some pain, but now he's drugged up so he's sleeping comfortably. We'll definitely have our hands full when he completely wakes up though. When he was awake earlier he was twisting himself in the IV and monitor cables and rolling over all over the place. Not sure what we'll do to contain him, but we'll figure something out.

One of the things the neurosurgeon was talking about earlier was how the skull piece that was reinserted was actually dead bone. Once the skull fuses itself back together after a few months that piece should come back to life...amazing! There's already been talk of us going home tomorrow depending on how well Taye is doing and how well all the systems are working. We'll see.

Surgery complete

The neurosurgeon just came out to let us know that the surgery is done and everything went well. We haven't seen Taye sounds like he'll been in recovery for a little bit and then we'll head up to ICU. But, everything was successful and the bone was put in place. We're anxious to see him and are so happy that everything has gone smoothly so far.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Let's try this again

After spending a fun weekend in Chicago for Irene's wedding (fun...except for several meltdowns by Mikias), we're now geared up for Taye's 2nd surgery tomorrow morning. I think we're all very anxious to get this over with. It seems like this had been lingering out there forever, so it will be good to get it behind us and to continue to move through the healing process.

It should all happen at 8am tomorrow morning and we're hoping that this time there won't be any delays. I feel so bad that Taye is sleeping so peacefully right completely oblivious to what awaits him in the morning. Please send your prayers his way.

We'll update when we can tomorrow.

Mikias jumping in Chicago

Taye's last mohawk pic before we "evened out" his hair tonight

Taye's new cut...too bad it will only last one day

By the way Taye's teeth hurt...but he has 1 now!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Meds and the Lake

Last week, we ended up taking Taye back to the pediatrician because it seemed like he was working on an eye infection and we wanted to make sure we would have time to clear it up before surgery. The doctor wasn't sure if it was an infection or not...but we ended up with eye drops anyway just to be safe. Also, a slew of other things were found that wouldn't normally be a big deal...but they are since we're trying to avoid missing surgery again. So, as a result we're now giving Taye five different medications. This isn't ideal to us at all, but we're just trying to get that surgery to happen in a week and don't want to give them any reason to cancel it. And, of course, the eye thing hasn't cleared up so now we're off to an ophthalmologist tomorrow. My life is now completely consumed by all this nonsense.

This weekend, we spent four days up north with all of my family. My Grandpa's memorial service was on Friday and it was excellent. The rest of the time we spent up on Heart Lake. We stayed in the house next door (actually 12 of us did) and everyone else was in my grandparents house. It was a blast. The weather was perfect and we spent a lot of time down at the lake swimming...and working a bit too. At night we just hung out with everyone and talked. I can't think of something my Grandpa would have wanted more than to have the entire family up at the lake enjoying themselves.

My cousin Jessica getting ready for a boat ride w/ the kids

Taye's first swim in Heart Lake!

Mom & Aunt Jan w/ Taye

Enjoying coney dogs (one of Grandpa's favorites!)

Benjamin, Isaac, Dad, & Uncle Bob working on the beach

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

...and then a hot air balloon landed on our house

This picture has not been altered in any way.

Well, maybe it didn't land on our house, but it certainly caused a lot of excitement in the neighborhood last night.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Back on

We have a new date for Taye's surgery...July 6th. It kind of stinks that it is so far away again, but it does allow us to participate in other events (my grandpa's memorial service & a wedding in Chicago) over the next few weekends. It also helps that I don't have a date to return to work now, so we won't have to worry about that. We were already having discussions about what to do come August anyway.

Other than that, I'm now adjusting to having two kids with me all the time. We had still been sending Mikias to daycare a couple times a week, but that is now done for the summer. It would help if it stopped raining constantly. Mikias really, really needs to go outside and I'm running out of non-TV indoor entertainment options.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Things that make you go hmm....

Well today is a new day!

Benjamin took Taye to the pediatrician. She said he is not congested. He is just Taye. So, we are now back to trying to schedule surgery. No details yet. Hmm....

Benjamin was also able to do what he needed to do to sign up for unemployment. So, he is now being paid to stay home. Not a bad gig! Hmmm....

I went back to work today as my teacher pals were off. As you can tell, this is a first for me. Hmm...

I don't feel like I am stressed, but the dentist told me last week I am grinding my teeth and I have a twitch in my eye that won't go away. Hmmm...

Thanks for all the phone calls and posts...we really are doing fine.....just find ourselves pondering often about recent events. Hmmm...

Monday, June 15, 2009

False start

To say that today has not gone as planned is an understatement.

Joanna and I made sure Taye was fasting, we packed up for a hospital stay, we made it to the hospital on time and into the pre-op area....then things stalled. The anesthesiologist heard Taye's congestion (which he's had since we met him in April) and thought that he was coming down with a cold. We explained that he's had this checked out and everything has been OK. But, the doctor said he was being conservative and cancelled the surgery. He was concerned about him having an infection that would cause issues post-op. This is a little frustrating since I think that this is nothing...but we understand if it is a problem. Needless to say we now don't know when surgery is. We have to do some follow up w/ our pediatrician to resolve this and hopefully reschedule soon.

The most frustrating part is that my grandpa's memorial service was scheduled around this surgery so that we'd have time before we had to travel up north.

And, on my way home I got a call from my work and I am now laid off.

What a weird day...what a weird couple days.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Today and Tomorrow

These past few days have been full of emotion. My grandpa, who has had Alzheimer's disease for many years now, has been dying for several days. He passed away this morning. Fortunately, we were able to spend some time with him during these days. In fact, yesterday we took the boys to see grandpa for one last time. Although all he was doing was sleeping, Mikias talked to him and held his hand. And then when we left my mom helped Mikias put the sign of the cross on grandpa's forehead.

I'll definitely miss my grandpa. Although the disease had already taken so much from him over the years, he remained as charming and personable as ever. So many of my fondest memories of my childhood involve the things grandpa, Peter, and I did. Luckily, I'll always have those memories and they will always be a part of me.

Grandma & Grandpa singing and dancing - Christmas 2006

Grandpa meets Mikias - June 2007

Of course, amidst all this, Taye is still scheduled for surgery at 8am tomorrow morning. Even though there shouldn't be any issues at all, it does still make us a bit anxious. The surgery will last around 2 hours and he'll likely be in ICU at least for tomorrow night. From the neurosurgeon's estimation he'll probably remain in the hospital for a few days. We pray that everything is routine and that this is the last time we'll stay in the hospital for a LONG time.

Hopefully, we'll post updates on here after surgery so everyone is in the loop.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Catching up

I'm attempting to "catch up" here on several weeks of news and activities. Definitely the reason we haven't been on here much lately is that our schedule has been pretty packed with doctor appointments and the general craziness that revolves around managing two kids.

First of all, Taye continues to do exceptionally well. He had a follow-up CT scan a couple weeks ago to see how things looked and to determine if he's ready for the second surgery. The CT showed that he still had some accumulated fluid, but nothing to be concerned about. The brain swelling has definitely subsided and, as gross as it sounds, we can actually feel the edge of the hole in his skull when we feel that soft spot. Also, the brain mid-line continues to improve and get closer to center. As a result, the surgery is a "go" and is scheduled for Monday morning. This surgery will just replace the section of skull that was originally removed and possibly drain some of that excess fluid. The neurosurgeon indicated that we'll probably be in the hospital 2 - 3 days. The one thing that will be watched closely is whether an infection develops from reinserting the bone...even this is not likely though.

We've had a couple good doctor visits to some specialists. First we saw a physical medicine doctor who directs the physical / occupational therapy for Taye. She was extremely encouraged by what she saw. It seems that most of the gross motor skill issues we're dealing with in therapy are a result of Taye's stay in an orphanage and not necessarily from the injury. Of course there are some other things that are injury related too. Overall, she indicated that Taye would be in some sort of physical therapy until he's 2. But, again, she thinks that he's doing great and will not have long-term physical issues.

To supplement the PT/OT that we're currently doing through Beaumont, we also got hooked up with the Oxford schools and some of the services they offer. After thoroughly evaluating Taye and creating a big report on him, they determined that he is eligible to receive PT & OT through the schools here. The only thing is that they stop services for the summer, but in the fall he'll probably go to PT/OT here once a week. So we'll probably just use this to supplement what we're doing through Beaumont starting in September.

This week we saw the neurologist. This was another very encouraging visit. Since there haven't been any issues with seizures and since he's on such a low dose of the medication, Taye will likely be weened off those meds soon. The neurologist wanted to wait until after surgery to stop the medication, but she thinks that he'll do just fine.

In terms of Taye's new "tricks"...he has several. He's started babbling a lot....dadada, bababa, stuff like that. This is good news because a lot of times developmental delays show up in speech. Most importantly, Taye has started to drag himself across the floor...I'd like to say "crawl" or "skooch" but it's definitely a "drag". His right arm does all the work right now and he's very successful at getting where he wants to go. The physical therapist wants us to encourage him to use his left arm too, obviously, and he loudly protests when we intervene. We'll get there eventually, but this is a good start.

Probably Taye's most significant trick is weight gain. He's now up to 22 lbs....just 4 lbs lighter than Mikias. He gained 5 lbs. in 6 weeks after leaving the hospital. Looking back at some of the pictures from early April, we think he was definitely a bit malnourished when we got him and he's catching up now. He may be the "younger" brother, but I don't think he'll be the "little" brother for long.

Whew...I think that's all the Taye news.

As for Mikias...he's loving the warmer weather. He loves being outside and throws a fit when it's time to come in. I took him to the zoo a few weeks ago with a bunch of people from his daycare and we had an awesome time. Of course Mikias had so much fun and used up so much energy that he eventually fell asleep in the stroller.

It seems like recently Mikias has begun to talk constantly and I've noticed he has a very, very good memory. He puts pretty good sentences together too. And he talks a lot about Taye and to Taye. He seems very proud to be a big brother. Of course inevitably Mikias seems to bring up the hospital, but I think it's because he had such a fun time playing in the play area on the children's' floor.

Last weekend we went up north to the cottage. It was really, really nice to get away for a few days and very fun to be up on the lake. We didn't do much other than just sitting around and playing at the park...but it was just what we needed.

Joanna & Taye hiking at Bald Mountain park (Taye's 1st hike)

Benjamin & Mikias hiking too

Mikias' mad bike riding skills (note the helmet protecting for head injury!)

Benjamin & Mikias mowing the lawn (for 45 min...seriously!!)

Mikias & Taye chilling up north

Joanna & Mikias on Heart Lake

Taye & Papa up north

Mikias' gotcha day gift...Benjamin played with it more

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mikias' Gotcha Day!

I know that we've got a million things to update on here with all the new developments, various doctors' appointments, and preparing for surgery.  Needless to say, we've been extremely busy trying to balance our new normal.

But, we'll put all that aside for now, because today is a very, very important day for our family.  It's Mikias' Gotcha Day!  Two years ago today we met Mikias in Addis Ababa and he joined our family.  We can't even imagine life without this awesome little guy.  He has enriched our lives so much.

Happy Gotcha Day little man.

Benjamin, Joanna, & Mikias - June 8, 2007

Mikias - June 8, 2009

In his own words...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Our new normal...for the time being

The past couple of weeks we have been settling in to our new way of doing things. I believe they call it...survival...yikes! All in all, things have been going well, but I won't lie and say that it hasn't been hard. We certainly did not anticipate how difficult it would be to juggle the number of doctors appointments and/or consultations we continue to have with Taye. Not too mention, the transition from one child to two.

I can sum that last sentence up in a phone call I received from Benjamin as I was driving home from work one day last week. I believe our conversation was "hey, you gotta hear this". When he held the phone up, to what I imagined to be an interesting scene, all I heard was one child screaming until he took a breath so the other would "outshine". Oh my! When I pulled in the driveway, I remember getting out of the car, taking a deep breath and diving into the role that meets me as soon as I walk in. (what happened to that transition time after work....or a nap?)

Benjamin has been playing the "stay at home dad" role as determined prior to completing the adoption. When we made this decision prior to the adoption, I know he was excited as I was fortunate in being able to take the first leave with Mikias. With my new job of working until 4:30, he certainly got more than originally bargained for. Although I know it must be difficult, Benjamin is doing amazing.

His "new normal"...Monday-home both boys. Tuesday- home with both boys & then PT/OT afternoon Wednesday- Mikias at daycare with the tumblesbus while every other week an ultrasound or CT Scan for Taye... leading up to surgery. Thursday- Mikias at daycare while Benjamin takes Taye to PT/OT followed by the ever relaxing Friday of being home with both boys. Last week was my first full week back at work and by Friday night we both were exhausted. But, hey....we are not complaining. We have a good thing going on over here with nightly walks (sometimes to the park) in which I can't think of any other place to be in the world.

Taye continues to keep us smiling. I have to admit that when people ask me how he is doing, I would love to say very confidently "good". I find myself so guarded and protective of him as I still feel like we walk on uncharted territory. His PT sessions go well. He is definitely gaining strength in his mid-section as we only need to allow him a "lean" for sitting. This is an improvement. He more comfortably rolls over on both sides (including the "skull-less" side). OT has been more difficult as he falls asleep often and struggles a bit with attending to things. We are in process of identifying if he may have a "sensory processing disorder".

His daily routine is improving as we are actually able to get him down for a nap and his night sleep has longer intervals. He certainly continues to eat like a champ. His latest endeavor was sweet potatoes! We take all of this as a sign that he is attaching to us and starting to feel more comfortable.

Last week his ultrasound indicated that the fluid found on his brain noted in the last CT scan is still there, but not growing. It looks like we are still on track to have his surgery June 15th. I would say my favorite growth seen thus far, is that he appears to recognize his name "Taye". It kind of feels like he is healing and growing into this new name. Certainly, Sintayehu (his middle name) will always hold a place for us, but Taye certainly has a nice ring to it...especially when he looks over and smiles.

Lately, we have been setting up follow-up appointments with various entities. We have a follow up appt later in the summer for his eyes, a neurology appt early June to determine a plan for the current seizure medication he is on, and this Wednesday is the evaluation for "early on" services offered through the school district. For the latter, he will have a whole team of early-on educators to determine what, if any, services to provide to ensure the earliest intervention possible in preparation for school. Honestly, the idea of an IEP for my 8 month old scares me, but the fact that this is even possible is extraordinary. At very least, we will have very complete record of his progression. Honestly, I think he deserves all this attention. He is making up for his first 6 months. Besides the fact, he is super cute and you just want to love on him all the time.

We also have a date set for our "welcome home" visit from the adoption agency. I almost forgot we had something to do to officially complete our adoption. I am pretty sure this was already to have taken place, but our agency has been great with giving us space. The US Gov't...well, not so great as his green card arrived with his name spelled SintayeMu.

Overall, Taye, aka... Sintayehu , SintayeMu or our little miracle still reminds us daily how much we have to be thankful for. That feeling is still so fresh...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

When life gives you an uneven haircut...

...make a mohawk!!

Actually, the saying has something to do with lemons & lemonade...but it's the same idea. We've been thinking about doing this since Taye's surgery and we finally did it. There was no way we were going to completely lose the long curls since they were one of our favorite features. Since he'll get shaved on the one side again for his surgery in June, we thought Taye should try a mohawk for a while.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day Joanna! I couldn't ask for a better mommy to our two little boys. I know this has been a trying month, but you continue to do a fantastic job raising our sons.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Thank you

There are a zillion of people we want to thank for helping us through the last few weeks. All the people that have made their way into our lives have helped tremendously.

So, thank you to:
  • Our parents who have been by our side every step of the way...they were with us every frightening moment in the hospital and have helped every single day since. They spent nights in the hospital with us, allowed us to take breaks, and have been unbelievably supportive at every turn.

  • Our siblings and their families. Especially Caroline (for helping w/ Mikias and opening her house to everyone), Peter (for driving from Grand Rapids and spending a night in the hospital), Stephen (for driving in from NC, his copious note-taking, overnight hospital stays and fantastic babysitting skills) and Alison (for flying in from TX to spend time with us in the hospital)

  • The amazing staff at Troy Beaumont emergency room. Once the problem was identified, the entire ER seemed to spring into action to help with Taye. The coordination it took to start working on Taye, set up the helicopter transport, and coordinate w/ the surgeons was amazing.

  • Dr. Zakalik, the neurosurgeon at Royal Oak Beaumont. His expertise and experience was much needed and led to an extremely successful surgery. All of his comments and reassurances since have also eased our minds.

  • Every single doctor and nurse in the pediatric ICU. In previous experience w/ hospitals, I've never come across a group so dedicated, skilled, and compassionate as these people are. Everyone could be relied on at any time and they always made us feel informed and comfortable in the week we spent there.

  • The boys' pediatrician, Dr. Sampath. She came to the hospital immediately following the surgery and called us every single day we were in the hospital. She was in constant contact with the doctors at Beaumont and was able to re-explain some things to us.

  • All the specialists that have played a role in Taye's treatment and recovery so far - ophthalmologists, neurologists, physical & occupational therapists. We are impressed with everyone we encounter and their ability to evaluate and apply treatment to an infant.

  • Every visitor we had in the hospital...from long-time friends to people we've never met. Any distraction we could get from constantly staring at ventilators and monitors was very helpful.

  • Those that brought us food. Several people brought us food in the hospital (I mean you can only survive on the cafeteria for so long). Since we've been home, several neighbors have also brought meals to us.

  • Robin (Mikias' daycare) for helping to keep Mikias' schedule as normal as possible through all of this. It helped Joanna and I to know that Mikias was in a familiar environment playing with his friends as usual.

  • Everyone else that helped watch Mikias, pick up Mikias, feed Mikias, bring Mikias to the hospital, and stay the night at our house with Mikias. Again, knowing he was in good hands took a load off our minds.

  • People that sent us cards, emails, voicemails, text messages, and posted messages on this blog. Just knowing the number of people that supported us and were thinking of us helped a ton. We actually kept our computer on in the hospital room and would constantly read all the new messages.

  • All that prayed for us and added Taye's name to prayer lists. I get the impression that Taye was prayed for in various places all over the country...that's powerful stuff.

  • Everyone that hasn't met Taye (yet) but have still included him and our family in their thoughts. It's amazing to us how automatically this little boy from across the world was welcomed to our family.

There's probably some person or group I'm accidentally forgetting, but please know that our family so deeply appreciates all that everyone has done for us.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A week at a time

We have decided that if we take each week at a time, it is easier to digest than looking much further than that. A "week" is certainly a graduation from the original "minute by minute", "hour by hour" and "day by day" basis from the accident. Additionally, much of our conversations still surround the "wait and see" approach, which certainly can't happen on an hour by hour basis.

Anyhow, this past week was full of specialist type appointments and arrangements. We have started to call this phase two of the recovery and healing process. We learned a lot this week and have been in the process of continuing to set up supplementary services and appointments.

Tuesday we met with a pediatric opthamologist who was fantastic. Although difficult to dialate eyes as dark as Taye's, the doctors were able to see enough to make some conclusions. First, both his eyes are working and seeing. The retinal hemorrhages we were concerned about before appear to be outside the center field of vision, which is a good thing. The only noticeable issue is the fact that Taye has lost a field of vision as he looks to the right. Essentially he doesn't have peripheral vision on his right side. The doctor did say we have to "wait and see" if this returns and then went on to tell us how the body tries to compensate for this. Very interesting.

Wednesday morning, Taye had a CT Scan and MRI. He had to be sedated for both of these, so we were back to not eating, trying to soothe without food and waiting room time. However, we did have an appointment with the Neurosurgeon later that afternoon and were able to see the results. The CT Scan of his brain shows the swelling has started to subside as noted by the clearer or more defined portion of the brain which has the damage. The neurosurgeon went over the picture with us and showed us which portion of the brain relates to the functioning within Taye's body. Again, very interesting. He did note that there was some fluid (not blood) on the brain, but indicated he wasn't concerned.

The MRI was ordered as a result of the skeletal survey within the hospital. Taye seems to have a missing or very small disk between his L4 and L5 vertebrae. We are looking into if this is congenital or if, by chance, he had spinal tuberculous or ----itis (can't remember the name).

Anyhow, the conversation with the neurosurgeon was very good. He did indicate to us that in his 20 some years of practice, he hasn't often seen a bleed as large as Taye's was with the result that we have. He said, "he's a lucky guy". I think we are more than lucky. As we were leaving, the office staff told us about the day of the accident through their eyes. Essentially, rather abruptly, both receptionists were on 2 phones, while our surgeon was also fielding calls and pages to coordinate the emergency surgery. At one point, they heard the helicopter over head to which our surgeon said "there's my baby". I am glad that Taye is his baby too!

Thursday we had both his initial and evaluative physical and occupational therapy appointments. We were very impressed with the pediatric facility and professionalism shown by the staff. We start PT and OT twice a week from here on out. I think Taye will benefit greatly from this! It is weird because there is starting to become a blend of where his "delayed skills" are coming from. Certainly, the effects of the accident are there, but we've also had many conversations about his environmental upbringing in the orphanage. Either way, we are in the right place for this.

Friday we spent the day setting up follow up appointments with Taye's neurologist, rehabilitation specialist and began the first steps to applying for the early on program for more PT/OT at the home. The biggest date nailed down is June 15th, which is the scheduled surgery date to replace the skeletal bone flap missing. It feels good to have a target date.

Overall, we have started to settle in to our "new normal". We had some big things happen around here this week as Mikias held Taye for the first time. He also was very helpful in giving Taye his pacifier and even assisted me in feeding him one day. I think he is catching on this big brother idea. Best of all, we have been able to go on walks outside and have recently not had anyone sleeping in Taye's room with him. We are all taking baby steps....just one week at a time.

Monday, April 27, 2009

8 x 2

One month ago today we departed on an 8-day journey to Ethiopia to pick up our son. Four days ago we arrived home after another 8-day "journey" with our new son through the most difficult days of our lives. Of course, neither of these journeys will ever be over for us and they will definitely be something that define our family forever. I wouldn't expect to ever experience a month for the rest of my life that would have such dramatic highs and lows. We feel so fortunate to be looking back over the past couple weeks knowing that Taye continues to make amazing strides. Coming back to our house on Thursday kind of felt like a "do-over" of our arrival with him on April 4th. I almost forgot that we had him in our house with us for 11 days before heading to the hospital.

Now that we've begun to digest the situation a bit more, we've been able to reflect a bit on the last couple weeks. Of course, most of our reflection seems to lead us back to April 15th. We've discussed how the timing of everything seemed to lead us to the best possible outcome imaginable on that day. From our decision of when to go to the pediatrician and when to go to ER, to the amazing coordination it took to get Taye the hospital he needed to be immediately. Any one of these things could have gone differently and very bad for us...and it's hard not to dwell on that...but we are grateful beyond words with how everything was handled.

As for Taye right now, he continues to do well. We're obviously a bit paranoid about the large soft spot that now exists on the side of his head, but it doesn't seem to phase him too much. He's been on the ground rolling over and only a few times has it been painful for him. We're getting more comfortable with handling him, but we're very aware when Mikias gets near him because there's that fear that he will fall on him or play too rough. So far so good! There was some concern that he would have anxiety about being upright and would feel off balance because of the brain shift, but he hasn't been bothered at all. What a trooper this kid is! Joanna commented that he is the strongest person she knows...and he's only 7-months old.

It seems now that we're starting to deal with some of the things we were working on a few weeks ago again...getting on a good eating/sleeping schedule, finding ways to comfort and soothe him, etc. There are so many considerations with attachment and bonding that were (obviously) thrown out the window while we were in the hospital, so we've been making an effort in that area too.

This week is extremely busy. We had an appointment with the pediatrician on Saturday. Tomorrow we see the ophthalmologist to re-check areas of concern in his eyes. On Wednesday Taye gets a follow-up CT scan and an MRI (with anesthesia) and then sees the neurosurgeon in the afternoon. I think his stitches will be removed this day too. Then on Thursday begins regular PT and OT appointments...these will start as twice per week and may be increased. Needless to say, Joanna is off from work all this week. Hopefully, we can gauge from all these appointments what our schedule will be and work from there.

I'll work on getting some more pictures of the boys up here so everyone can see how good Taye is doing. We continue to need your prayers as we travel through the recovery process and come to terms with the trauma we experienced. I know that coming so close to losing our little boy has been a drain on us mentally, physically, and emotionally, but every day has been better than the one before. And it's hard not to feel hope and happiness for the future when Taye flashes us one of his big smiles!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Moving forward...and moving rooms

As of this morning, Taye is officially out of ICU and in the regular pediatric area here at Beaumont! Last night, Taye slept great (lucky Joanna). This morning, the resident doctor came in and said that Taye would be moving and the move was already done by the time I arrived at the hospital around 10:30. So, all of the things we've accumulated during the past week in his room had to be moved just a short distance down the hall. Needless to say, we're thrilled.

Also this morning the neurosurgeon (who had done Taye's surgery) did an evaluation and thought he was doing great. In fact, it sounds like we may actually be heading home within the next couple of days should things continue to positively progress. Taye will have to come back in a month or so (depending on his progress) to have the portion of skull reinserted. That will mean more surgery, but we're very pleased to have this surgeon on Taye's case...he is excellent. And he's been genuinely interested in our story, even to the point of having public relations at Beaumont talk to us about our experiences. In fact, they're coming in the morning to interview us.

Taye continued to do great today. He had a couple of "appointments" today with the physical therapist and occupational therapist. We were able to discuss with them what to do when we go home and what to concentrate on to help Taye regain strength and control. They were incredibly helpful. They had him sitting up in a chair (something we'll continue to work on with him) and he actually seemed to enjoy it. Because of his injury and the subsequent brain shift, being upright can be scary for him because he constantly feels off balance. It's relieving to see him continue to do little things that he did before the accident...his nonstop motorboat sounds, shaking his head, etc. I really missed those little things in him during the past week. And, of course, he continues to smile at us and we love that!

This afternoon, on the recommendation of the neurosurgeon, we took Taye for a wagon ride around the halls and out to the children's play area here. He seemed so stimulated looking at all the new "scenery". His eye movement is getting really good and that was very obvious during the ride.

This evening in our daily talk with our pediatrician, we discussed a few things that needed to be done / looked at before heading home. Joanna and I still need to achieve a better comfort level with a few things, but overall we're ready to head home and begin the next stage of Taye's recovery. Tonight my dad and I are at the hospital. Hopefully, things go as smoothly as they did last night. But, even if I'm awake all night there's consolation in the fact we may not have too many more nights in the hospital.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


When we first started this blog, never did I think we would use it for support surrounding a long hospital stay with one of our children. It certainly has become an instrument for recording the daily happenings, a therapeutic release and an online support network.

Benjamin and I have worked out a routine where one of us stays with another family member through the night here at the hospital with Taye, and the other with Mikias somewhere. So far, this routine appears to be working and reminds me daily that our family is our rock. Last night I slept in my own bed for the first time since the accident, and it kind of felt like a sign that we are moving past "something" to return to "something" more like what we had imagined when landing in Detroit just 17 days ago. I have to admit that I can't wait for the first time all four of us are able to sleep in our home again.

In any event, today was quieter than yesterday's entourage of doctor "appointments". Taye had a difficult night of sleep. Perhaps, I should say Benjamin had a difficult night of sleep as Taye just wanted to play for a few hours in the middle of the night. Fortunately, one of his grandma's was here to help with that. Anyhow, the morning was a bit difficult as Taye had to stop eating by 4am to be ready for sedation so some "eye doctors" could take some pictures of his eyes. Somehow during all of this, Taye's IV leaked and had to be changed which was an unexpected hiccup to the morning.

The eye pictures revealed that he has some retina hemorrhaging in both eyes. We are still getting answers to what this means, but this revelation did prompt a full body x-ray to determine if there were other such bleeds or breaks in the rest of his body. Unfortunately, this also prompted the child advocacy representative to come to us for conversation. Certainly, she was following protocol, but let's just say this was not our favorite part of the day. At some other point, this will be a great topic to post about. Now, is not that time. (Okay, maybe just one thing...if there was only a child advocate for 4.8 million Ethiopian orphans...)

Interestingly enough through the aforementioned full body x-ray, along with blood and urine tests, we may actually start to piece together a medical history for Taye. Doctors are certainly trying to understand why such a small incident caused such a large problem. We are trying to eliminate the idea of any predispositions or simply recognize something that would be helpful as Taye continues to grow and develop. Honestly, at very least, it would be nice to speculate some answers. As an added bonus, we might be able to get a closer indication of his actual age as we currently are working on an estimate. Lousy way to find out, but information nonetheless.

Anyhow, the rest of the day was lower key. PT (physical therapy) did come in and continue their evaluation of Taye. He is doing so well. He is starting to feel more comfortable in the upright position, which is an improvement. It did appear that he attempted to roll his body and his head didn't appear as "heavy on his shoulders".

Our goals for the day were for him to 1) keep his formula down despite a small sedation - which he did, and 2) have a "Happy Time" awake, which he did on more than one much so that goal #3 of sleeping for 2.5 hours straight is just only now in process. It's 10:22 and if we make it to 10:50 we are "3 for 3!" Overall, it has been a good day!

Things around here are starting to lighten up. We smile (especially when Taye does-and yes we do say smile now!). We joke about stupid hospital things and we certainly hug Taye and Mikias a little tighter. Even though it would be better to not be in this position, small steps each day make us thankful for all that we have been given.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Today has been an extremely busy day after a night with a bit of an interuption due to difficulty sleeping. At the moment, Taye is sound asleep after a full day of doctors.

The Schedule as it played out:

8 AM - PT evaluation
9:15 AM - CT Scan
9:40 Doctor's Rounds on PICU floor
10:20 Neurology Rounds
10:45 EEG Begins
12:00 EEG Ended
1:00 - OT evaluation
1:30 - First Opthamalogist Evaluation
3:15 Neorosurgeon Evaluation
4:30 Second Opthamologist Evaluation

Overall, Taye has done amazing. He made it through the CT scan this morning without anethesia, which was huge. The results indicated larger swelling than the last which has been explained to us as "to be expected". It did indicate more clearly that he did suffer a stroke (which has been the lack of bloodflow we have been talking about) and we have been exploring the effects throughout the rest of his "appointments" today.

We still feel encouraged by what all of the doctors have been saying. Even as new therapists and doctors enter the picture, the tone set still remains as rehabilitative. Our best conversations come from the neurosurgeon who is optimistic in his progression. He is the doctor who removed the hematoma so we feel he has had the birds eye view. It does appear that whenever we are finished with this hospital stint, we will go home before having the second surgery to replace the portion of his skull temporarily removed.

We still have a "road" ahead of us mostly being created by the numerous hands laid upon Taye today....but we are happy to be on that road.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Shh...Babies Healing

The title of this post is perhaps my favorite sign that I pass regularly as I walk around the intensive care unit. The word healing brings so much hope and we have been told repeatedly that when Taye is sleeping, he is healing. In fact, his heart rate has recently dropped into the 120's when he sleeps (which is a good thing as he is relaxed). When he was first admitted, we had moments where 208 would flash on the screen and of course bells would go off. In any event, when Taye sleeps, he is healing and I think we are too.

Honestly, Wednesday is a day I would like to forget. I do feel after we get to a place where we are comfortable with our seemingly new normal for the moment, we will have to heal with the difficutly of Wednesday. But, for now, we focus on our "day to day" and the strides that appear to be made on a small scale each day.

Last night Benjamin (and my brother) stayed the night with Taye. He awoke for feedings and then went back to sleep with relative ease. When I arrived this morning, Benjamin was rocking Taye and they both looked quite content. My first feeding with Taye resulted with interaction that included Taye grabbing for my hair and even a small smirk. Others may call it a smile, but for protective reasons, I think Benjamin and I prefer to call it a smirk until we are assured that both corners of his lips do in fact reach upward. In any event, the interaction which clearly included eye movement and some small reaction to us stimulating him, resulted in all of us tearing up. This was indeed our small baby step for today.

We have had numerous family and friends bounce in and out of our room during the past few days. Those who have come by for a second time, comment on his progress, which is very encouraging. His eye movement was noticably different today. Additionally, towards the later part of his afternoon, Taye clearly lifted his right leg. His right big toe now holds the coveted "glowing red-oxygen marker", so we speculated the light was attracting to him, therefore encouraging movement. It certainly is attractive to Mikias as he reaches into Taye's bed to touch his toe. Today, Mikias held Taye's hand. So sweet.

Mikias has been doing really well. He has been staying with my sister for most of the days. He loves it as he is able to play with his cousins. Today he had a visit to the fire station with his Uncle Rick, so his day was great. Just recently understanding the transition from one child to two, Benjamin and I have been pretty sensitive to Mikias during this time. Fortunately for us, we have a huge support of people who have been able to ensure that Mikias spends time with each of us each day both in and out of the hospital. I do have to put a plug in here for the hosptial children's garden/play area. This massive room has allowed us to spend some valuable time with Mikias while feeling only a moment away from Taye.

Overall, today was a good day. We decided to write the goals on the board today after he did them. As Jill pointed out, it gives us that good feeling when you write something on a list and are able to check it off. So today, he moved his eyes more, had a small smirk, reached for things often and lifted his right leg more than once. CHECK!

Tomorrow morning Taye has a CT scan with a long EEG later in the day. We anticipate tomorrow to be a bit busier than the weekend in terms of tests and follow up, but also hope for additional small moments of baby steps towards healing for all of us...but especially our little Taye Sintayehu McKinney.

Let is be known, how much we appreciate the many thoughts, prayers and support that we feel as we move through our days.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday's steps forward

Today we made a little more progress. Taye slept great through the night, partly because of the new seizure meds he's on. At around 5:30 he woke up and seemed hungry so I gave him 2oz of formula and then another 2oz an hour later. Since he was able to hold that down with no problem, we were able to feed him fairly regularly throughout the day. Also, today was his noisiest day by far. He has found his voice again and by the time Joanna arrived this morning he was voicing his displeasure for everything happening to him. It was actually good to hear him wail a little bit. The entire day basically consisted of him eating, fussing, and sleeping. He's been a little hard to get to sleep now but it seems like he prefers to be rocked in the rocking that's what we've been doing.

Taye had visits from a couple doctors today and some brief evaluations. Things were a lot quieter since it is the weekend. The doctors continue to be encouraged by his progress. We're still looking at some issues with motor skills in his right leg. But, we accomplished the two goals we had for the day: 1. Keep food down and 2. Move more. Hopefully tomorrow will bring some more tiny steps forward.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ups and Downs

I definitely feel that today required a lot of stamina as it was full of ups and downs. While the morning and portions of the day provided good signs, with a good removal of Taye's breathing tube, the afternoon and evening provided some challenges.

For most of the day, Taye's breathing remained steady and calm. Every so often he would begin to become agitated and would move around a bit. Even though it is difficult to see his grimacing face, it was selfishly helpful to see his body move. It was noticeable today that his left side of his body is the stronger side, however his right arm was pretty active today as well.

We both were able to hold him today, which was awesome! We had the opportunity to try and feed him as well. It was a little strange because he had difficulty taking the bottle. He wasn't able to suck with ease, but somehow he ended up taking 4.5 ounces. However, a few hours later he woke up abruptly and threw the majority of it up. A small setback. We were reassured that this happens and we (mostly me) needs to keep remembering he is recovering from a trauma and a surgery.

In any event, the high point of the day is that, at one point, Taye had his eyes open and appeared to be seeing and hearing our voices. He struggles to look to the right side, but he certainly had some movement that was reassuring. He even moved his right leg up at one point, which was the first time it had moved in awhile.

The hardest point of the day was around 9pm, when Taye experienced a seizure that dropped his oxygen level. It is alarming to have everything seem status quo and in an instant, need to be attending to something.

The day has been long. I have needed many reassuring conversations with nurses, practitioners, residents and doctors. The staff has been amazing and have been very helpful in answering many of our questions and addressing concerns. The tone set by all has been hopeful with a recognition that time is needed to determine more things and set a course of action.

Thank you again to all the thoughts and prayers that have been sent in our direction. We greatly appreciate all the visitors and support from family and friends.

A good morning

This morning Taye was taken off the ventilator and he seems to be doing well. They stepped him down gradually and then completely removed his tube and he's been breathing on his own ever since. Since that major tube is now not in the way, Joanna was able to hold him. This made us feel so much better and he looks so much better without that ugly tube in his mouth.

Also, we had a brief visit from the neurologist this morning. He was encouraged by Taye's progress. His right arm has been moving a lot so that's a good sign. In a little while we'll try to feed him with a bottle. The medical staff here doesn't think the feeding tube will be necessary and that he can take the bottle right away.

More news to come as we work through all this. Thanks for all of your messages and comments. They help more than you could ever imagine.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Please pray for our little boy

I'm not sure how many people the news about Taye has reached so far. We've done our best to call as many people as we can but this blog is the best way to reach everyone.

Yesterday morning, while I was watching Taye at home he accidentally rolled off our bed and hit his head on the carpeted floor. After some drowsiness and throwing up I took him to our pediatrician. He checked out normal and was very alert and happy while we were at the doctor. After returning home, things seemed to take a turn for the worse. He continuously fell asleep and woke only to throw up. We then took him to the emergency room at Troy Beaumont Hospital thinking that we were dealing with a concussion. After some initial tests checked out normal, they recommended a CT scan...immediately after the test everything changed. The doctors came urgently into our room and told us there was a huge emergency. The CT scan showed a large hematoma (blood leak) in Taye's brain. They gave us a very, very grim outlook for him. They immediately went to intubate him and indicated that he needed brain surgery as soon as possible. Unfortunately, there was no neurosurgeon at that hospital. They ordered a medevac helicopter to transport him to Royal Oak Beaumont. This was the worst feeling Joanna and I have had in our entire lives. As we waited for the helicopter and prayed over Taye, my dad baptized him in the ER. Then he was whisked away in the helicopter, while we followed in a vehicle.

By the time we arrived here, he was already in surgery. After about an hour, they came and said that they successfully drained the blood and found the source of the bleed. He's been on a ventilator and sedation meds ever since. It was a long night for Joanna and I to say the least. This morning, another CT scan showed that the brain (which had been very compressed by the blood) was back to a more normal size. Also, it showed some areas of the brain which may have been damaged. There are some good signs though...he's moving his arms and legs (the left side more than the right), he does have a cough and gag reflex and his kidneys seem to be working properly.

The hematoma was large enough to significantly push the left side of his brain and shift everything. We just found out tonight that there was some damage to the left side of his brain as a result of this pressure and shift. It's just way too early to tell exactly what this means. The initial indication is that there will be some lagging motor skills on his right side.

Tomorrow is a big day as they will be removing the breathing tube from Taye to see if he can breathe on his own. We're optimistic that this will go well. Through this entire ordeal he has shown a lot of fight and spunk. Tomorrow will probably be a rough day since Taye will be more awake and aware of what is going on and will be pretty agitated. But, it will be good if we can get another tube removed from his body (today he had two removed - a drain tube from his skull and a urine catheter).

As for the cause of this, it's been called by most doctors a "fluke". There is no way that a small fall like that on to a padded surface should have done this. It appears that the fall caused a small fracture in Taye's skull exactly at the point an artery was inside. The artery was nicked and caused the bleeding.

If you're hearing about this for the first time here, this story may seem unbelievable and surreal...Joanna and I felt exactly the same way as we were in the middle of the chaos yesterday. Right now we'll continue to need all the prayers we can get. Prayer has got us a long way in the past couple days and we feel blessed that we've made it this far. The road ahead will likely be long but we continue to hope for positive results.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Family of Four

Since arriving home, we have slowly been unpacking and enjoying our newest family member immensely. Much of our family has been over to spend some time getting to know Taye. This has been so much fun. Taye is doing remarkably well in his first weeks with us and since arriving to Michigan. I can only imagine what must have been going through his little mind, as we take him on this long airplane trip to come home to this house where this little kid who looks like him only bigger and faster is running a terror. Yes, Mikias acknowledges that he has a little brother and can be very sweet with him. However, at points, it appears to be in the form of running a matchbox car across his body.

While Mikias views Taye as a mountainous terrain for his trucks, we are viewing Taye as already climbing mountains. When we first met him, we noticed right away that his development appeared to be a little "behind". Clearly, he had little strength in his lower body and his head often would flip backward to investigate the ceiling. He did have the ability to roll over right away and would pop his head right up. In a very short time, he is already holding his head a bit firmer and seems to understand how to place a little support on his legs. We have created a plan for his eating as well. After talking with our pediatrician, we feel confident that Taye will continue to grow and develop into his own version of that toddler running around our living room.
At some point, we would live to revisit a few photos and stories from our trip abroad, but in the meantime are settling into being a family of four.

Here are few pictures from Taye's time with us so far...

What is snow?

Silly faces with cousins...

While Mom and Dad took my new brother to the doctor, Uncle Steve let me eat snow!

I love my cereal!

More cousins...

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


A few months ago, when it came time for Joanna and I to choose a date in September to be Sintayehu's birthday, we chose the 17th. The number 17 was significant to us because Joanna's grandma died on this past July 17th (it was also her birthday).

Before leaving for Ethiopia a couple weeks ago, Joanna's grandpa became increasingly ill. As we arrived at the airport in Detroit this past Saturday, we learned from our family that grandpa had passed away just moments before. Maybe he was waiting for us to be safely home before passing.

We hope that Taye will have a special connection to these fantastic great-grandparents that he never met. And we know that grandma and grandpa love our new little boy and our entire family very much. We'll miss you grandpa.

Grandpa and Mikias - July 2008

Sunday, April 5, 2009

We're home

We arrived home safely yesterday afternoon. What a whirlwind of activity starting with our Friday in Ethiopia...

Friday morning we all (with the exception of the boys and Mom Karwan) went to the Merkato to do some shopping, but mostly just to experience the atmosphere of the largest market in Africa. Joanna and I had spent quite a long time here with Alemu in '07, and we were anxious to show our parents what it was all about. This time we had two guards escort us through the market because of safety concerns...makes you wonder how unsafe we were in '07...oh well. Overall it was a good trip. We only stopped at one vendor to purchase baskets, but we took advantage of it.

Following lunch we had to concentrate on packing our things. We had stuff strewn all over our room and needed to get it all under control. In the afternoon, we had a traditional coffee ceremony at the lodge that Alemu had arranged. Luckily, he brought along Gizesh who we had met in '07. She was able to see Mikias and we were able to visit a little bit despite the language barrier. We also were able to see Getachew, the man who does much of the court and embassy work on behalf of AAI in Ethiopia. We got to know him quite well in '07 and we were glad that we had a few minutes to catch up. Again, it was great that we were able to make these connections with people we had met before. It makes us feel more connected with Ethiopia that we have people there that remember us and whom we consider friends.

After dinner, the entire group loaded up and made our way to the airport. I'm sure we were quite a sight with all of our luggage and kids navigating our way through the ticket counters and baggage screenings. Our flight was delayed leaving Addis, so we had a little more time than we would have liked sitting in the airport. We finally took off around 11:30pm to begin the long, long trip home. The plane ride was brutal and seemed to take much longer than our trip there. There wasn't a great opportunity to get any significant amount of sleep since we were now dealing with both Mikias and Taye. Taye started eating much more than we planned for and we got worried that we'd run out of formula before we got home. It turned out all right. He was also agitated and had some trouble sleeping. There was a certain spot on the airplane by the doors where he would fall asleep. So, Joanna and I spent a long time standing up there with him trying to get him to sleep. After 17 hours in the air we finally arrived in DC completely exhausted. But the fun had just begun.

Since we were late arriving, we had even less time to go through customs, collect our baggage, go through immigration, re-check our bags, get our boarding passes, go through security, and get to our gate. The baggage took forever. I think they must have had one guy unloading the whole plane because it was so slow. By the time we hit immigration, we were getting a little worried that we wouldn't make it. We tried to send Mikias with our parents ahead to get through the gates but that didn't work since he wasn't on their itinerary. So that left Joanna and I with the two boys and a ton of luggage. By the time we hit security we were literally running through the airport. But, we made it!!

We arrived in Detroit on time and were greeted by many family and friends. How good it felt to be home after that travel experience. There were several families at the airport that we've gotten to know through the Ethiopian adoption process. It was great to see all the Ethiopian kids there to greet their newest friend.

Check out this video of our arrival at the airport. At the beginning, you'll see some of the other families that we traveled with arriving too. Thanks so much to the Kubiks for putting this together so quickly!

Last night, Joanna's sister, Caroline, helped us out a ton. She stayed with us and helped with the boys through the night and did a zillion loads of laundry. It helped tremendously to have her here. Thanks Caroline! Other than that, since we've been home we've just been trying to settle into a routine with sleeping, eating, etc. I'm sure it will take a while to get readjusted.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Embassy Day

Last night, Sintayehu was very, very easy. He slept great. We fed him before we went to bed and then only once in the middle of the night. I woke up at 7:30 and looked over to his crib to find him just lying there contently. I told him that he could make some noise to let us know he's awake. Actually, we were a little concerned that we hadn't heard him cry yet, but he has cried a few times today so we're feeling better. Sintayehu has been a pretty easy baby so far. We're making an effort to get him in a sitting position to build some strength he's lacking, but overall he's good. He's been eating like crazy and has easily finished off 8oz bottles every time we feed him. We've also given him cereal a couple times.
Today was much more laid back than yesterday, but we were still able to fit a good amount of activites in. This morning we gave Sintayehu his first bath in our sink here. He didn't mind it too much, but it wasn't the easiest process even with the additional hands we had to help out. Following the bath, Joanna, Mom Karwan, & Dad McKinney went to do some additional shopping near the same location we shopped a few days ago. Joanna was able to pick up quite a lot of great items that we'll be stuffing in to our suitcases. Meanwhile, Mom McKinney, Dad Karwan, and I spent the morning running a daycare out of our room here at the Sadula Lodge. Actually, two of the three children here were mine, but we also took care of Jim and Dawn's new son as they went out to grab some last minute souvenirs. Actually, everything went really well. Joanna returned just in time to handle an extremely messy diaper…perfect timing!
After all the shoppers returned, we all gathered with our new children to make the trip to the US Embassy here in Addis to submit paperwork for the children's entrance visas. This was a pretty boring, long process. It was kind of like sitting in a Secretary of State's office for two hours…not a lot to do. There were many, many families with adopted children at the embassy and they were all there for the same purpose. Finally, after two hours our name was called and we were able to pass through the interview quickly. This was the last step in getting the adoption finalized so that Sintayehu can enter the US on Saturday when we land in DC. Tomorrrow, Alemu will go and pick up Sintayehu's packet and passport from the embassy and we should be good to go.
This evening, our friend Hiwot stopped by the lodge to pay us a visit. Hiwot was the cook that worked at Alemu's house when we were here in '07. Joanna has stayed in contact with her and she agreed to visit us. So, we had a nice conversation with her and her aunt in the dark (the power was temporarily out). We're hoping to make a few more connections like this tomorrow before we leave. Hopefully, we can swing it.
Tomorrow should be a good last day in Ethiopia. In the morning some of us will head to the Mercato to do some shopping/sightseeing. Also, there is a traditional coffee ceremony planned for us in the afternoon. Other than that, we'll be busy packing and prepping for the long flight home. It's hard to believe that we've been here nearly a week.
One last thing…Joanna and I will be spelling Sintayehu's new first name Taye. The pronunciation will still be "taa-yeh" or "tie-yeh" but the spelling is different than I originally posted. The spelling without the h seems to be the Ethiopian way, so that's how we're doing it. We're a little concerned that in the US it will be pronounced "tay", but we'll deal with it as it comes. Of course we don't have to do any official name change until after we're in the US…so we could change our minds and go with something like George…but he really doesn't look like a George to us.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What a Day

Today has definitely been one of the most full, emotional days we've ever had. What an experience it was. The day began with Alemu picking us up around 8am for our trip to Debre Zeit. An hour later, we arrived at the orphanage for a meeting with Mikias' birthmother. Right when she saw us she showered us with hugs and kisses and was genuinely happy to see all of us…especially Mikias. We spent quite a while at the orphanage talking, playing, and looking at a picture album we gave. We were able to take tons of pictures and video of the meeting that will definitely be valuable in the years to come. Then we learned that all of us were going to get a drink at a local café/juice bar so we all piled in the car together. It was a surreal experience looking in the back seat and seeing Joanna, Mikias, and his birthmother sitting side by side. At the café, there was a small playground that Mikias loved. We all played for a while, had some mango juice, and were able to have a few more small conversations. We dropped Mikias' birthmother off on our way back to Addis and part 1 of our day was complete. We are so thankful to have had this experience and consider ourselves very lucky to be able to share this with Mikias someday. This 1.5 hours this morning made it worth bringing Mikias all the way back to Ethiopia. We're so glad that all the details worked out.
After arriving back in Addis and decompressing a bit from the full morning, our group met at 2pm in front of the hotel to get our rides to the orphanage. It was obvious that everyone was a bit nervous and tense as we loaded into the cars. This was entirely different experience than before since there were seven other families with us and we weren't alone. It was actually very comforting (and exciting) to be able to share this experience with all of these other people. We arrived at Enat Alem orphanage and we were all waiting in the courtyard taking pictures and prepping ourselves. We were then told that we could come in to the room and get our children. So we all headed in scanning all the cribs looking for our children. I was worried we wouldn't be able to spot Sintayehu from the pictures we had seen, but when we found him sound asleep in the third crib we looked in, there was no doubt it was him. We hesitated a moment since he was sleeping, but after waiting about 5 seconds we scooped him up. What a cute little guy! It was so awesome because all around the room you could see other families finding their children and lifting them up. It was suddenly very noisy with all the talking and laughing and crying. Everyone was taking pictures of everyone else and we were all so happy for one another. Sintayehu didn't really fuss at all and we even got him to smile a few times within those first moments.
Afterwards we spent some time talking to the nurse and caretakers about Sintayehu's schedule. We then all gathered in the courtyard for a traditional coffee ceremony. Meanwhile, a lot of the other children in the orphanage came out and a lot of people in our group were playing with them. Sintayehu took this time to spit up on me a few times. It seemed like everytime I held him he spit up but Joanna always came away clean. Oh well, I certainly didn't mind. We also fed him his first bottle as we were waiting for the coffee to finish. The experience at the orphanage was simply amazing.
After a quick trip back to the hotel, we were reunited with Mikias and our parents on the front steps. The entire group waited for us so we could have our reunion with our family before they came in to the hotel. I can imagine that it was quite a sight with all of these families returning with new children at the same time. For the next few hours we all hung out in our room getting to know Sintayehu. Sintayehu kept surprising us. We had him on the floor playing and then he suddenly rolled over and stuck his head up and started grabbing for things. We really didn't know what to expect since we're not exactly sure what he can do yet…I'm sure we'll find out soon enough! Mikias has been pretty good around him so far. He hasn't gotten too close to him, but they've been playing near each other and I think that's a good thing. Joanna got Sintayehu to laugh out load and then stick out his tongue which we all thought was hilarious.
Tonight we had dinner with all of the other families here in the lodge. Sintayehu had a bottle while we were eating dinner and has now been sleeping for 4 hours. That's pretty good. I'm sure he'll wake up starving soon. We finalized the paperwork we need for Sintayehu's embassy appointment tomorrow afternoon. That should go pretty smoothly. Other than that, we're just basking in the excitement of the day. I don't think we'll ever have many days better than this.