Monday, January 4, 2016

The thing about Mumbai is you go five yards and all of human existence is revealed. It's an incredible cavalcade of life, and I love that. - Julian Sands

India. I have been here for only three days and already my world perspective is radically changing. And changing for the better. Changing to see the good in all mankind. To seeing the brighter side to even the most challenging or mundane minor inconveniences. And if you know me you know how bent I can get on things that I cannot control. From large scale to the most ridiculous first world problems you could think of.

Mumbai is a special place. We have been taken around by a hired driver named Mr. Patel. Mr. Patel is our body guard, tour guide, takes us to where locals eat their food, "the best mosques and temples in town". He is compassionate in that he does not judge us on our travel faux pas, our swear words, or the way we eat Indian food wrong. Mr Patel is also a devout Muslim.  He has shown us where Hindu temple gates open to the gates of a Muslim mosque which is across the street from a Catholic church. From the kindness and the openness of Mr Patel answering our, often ignorant, questions; my travel companion and I, have both agreed that out views of Muslims has completely changed. In this big city we are looked at with what appears more inquisitive eyes than eyes of distrust or hatred.  What if a group of Indian men came to Anytown, USA speaking and laughing in their native tongue... They would be looked upon more with hostility than curiosity.

This beautiful and humongous city encourages and embraces all cultures. You will see groups of men from all faiths, in traditional attire, drinking tea on the street corner, perhaps trying to solve the world's problems, laughing and carrying on about with no cares in the world. The women all shop together. Some covered head to toe, others in tank tops and skinny jeans. But there is no persecution. There is no judgement.

Friday, May 22, 2015

(part 3 of 4) Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity. - Hippocrates

I landed in Brazil January 3rd and by January 5th I was in an emergency room because I could no longer stand up straight and the handfuls of ibuprofen I was guzzling down were no longer helping.
I was chatting with an ER doc friend of mine from Anchorage on messenger about the symptoms I was having.  Increasing pain in my right lower quadrant in my abdomen and a decrease in appetite.  I was trying to explain them away as lady pain, or just a travelers stomach.  I had just landed from 30 hours of plane travel and 8 hours in a car to Rio. I'm sitting at the Rio airport and starting to question if I can even get on a plane... is it safe? is my bowel going to explode? do i have a small bowel obstruction? I must contact someone that would know! So I fire up my trusty phone and the Internet dings on and i shoot a message off to my friend.  She thought it was probably just lady pain as well, and as long as I could fart I should be okay to get on the plane and fly 2 hours to the north coast of Brazil.  Feeling better about knowing that i could poop and fart and that my bowels wouldn't literally explode inside me; I walk on the plane close my eyes and wake up in Natal.
My tour guide Henrique who is a close family friend of my mom and step dad was showing me around Brazil. We checked into our hotel rooms and took a long nap. I woke up and tried to go to the bathroom. bearing down the pain in my low abdomen is now radiating up towards my stomach. I can't stand up straight. I am in trouble. I need a hospital. I need the place I was escaping. The emergency room.
We went to a private hospital in the center of the city. I was scared about how they would care for me. Thoughts of a pending medivac looming in my mind.  The check in process was pretty much like it is back in Anchorage. Name, insurance, credit card. I sit in the waiting room an they call my name for triage. blood pressure, pulse ox and then the thing that reminded me that I was far from home. the nurse holds out a glass thermometer. I stare at it.... ummm where is that supposed to go? surely not in my mouth.  No no only under the armpit. whew. I sit back down. the pain is only increasing. I know. I know what this is. I'm messaging my doctor friend "can appendicitis be cured with antibiotics? am i going to have to have surgery here?!" my friend was slow to answer... telling me I would have to have the surgery.  I see the ER doc now. I'm taken to a small and private room. we discuss my symptoms through Henrique who is acting as a translator. The doc gets me on the table and presses down. the tears well in my eyes, "please don't let go. please don't let go." the dreaded rebound tenderness test.  As the doc releases his finger from my stomach i roll to the side and cry. I can't even move the pain is so striking.  i compose myself and sit back across from his desk. I look him in the eye and say "you are RUDE" smiling knowing he had to do it. He smiled back and said "I am sorry".  That kind of pain translates across all languages.  Into the ER we go.
An IV is placed, I am given IV tramadol..... funny thing... the hospital I was in has a no narcotics policy. I was super bummed. Across the whole 24 hour stay I was given 1mg of morphine, which I had to beg for. I tried to beg for 2mg. I could only imagine what the people that worked there were saying about me "drug seeking American!".  The IV tramadol did cover the pain well, the nursing staff made sure that I had my pain medication constantly infusing. I was impressed by the care I was getting. Henrique was getting anxious: "we need to call your mother and let her know what is happening" at this point we still had not had a CT scan done or spoken to a surgeon. "No, we will call her when I'm rolling into surgery." I'm such an awesome daughter aren't I?
Time for the CT scan and wouldn't you know the consent form is not in English and the medical terminology isn't something that translate well from Portuguese to English.... Lucky for me I've filled out so many of them in my home country that I could just rattle off the answers to the questions that were arranged in some unknown order on the form in front of me. I sign the consent. I can't understand any of the instructions that they give me. i just hold my breath when I think I'm supposed to. It must have worked. my slowly rupturing appendix is glowing for the surgeon to see.
Surgery it is. The surgeon came to the bed side and asked if I trusted him enough to take my appendix out. I told him "Better Brazil than Mexico. Please leave my kidneys"  He laughed, we shook hands. Now it is time to call mom.
mom: hello?
me: hey mom it's me. don't freak out i'm okay i swear
mom: lies
me: i'm going into surgery. they are taking my appendix. I will call you when I wake up
mom:ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ........... what?
me: it's going to be okay. Henrique is here. it's a private hospital. I'll call you soon! Love you
mom: i love you too
And then I was wheeled away to the pre-op area. the anesthesiologist comes and hold my hand and says hello in crisp english. I cry. someone that speaks english. don't go away! they roll me into the surgery suite. I am still wide awake. I don't like this. not one bit. i am shuffled on to the OR table. they are putting stickers all over my body. I AM STILL AWAKE. I look to the anesthesiologist and ask for what I want. Fentanyl, Propofol, Versed. I don't remember anything else. Thank you.
Three small incisions later and a black appendix that had perforated was removed and "the power washing of my insides" was complete I was in post op. I don't recall calling my mom but I guess that I did. At least she tells me I did.
I spent the night in the hospital getting IV pain meds and antibiotics. I read when I wasn't sleeping. TV wasn't of any interest... no English channels. I remember wanting to walk to the bathroom.... they wouldn't let me. metal bed pans are a torture device.  The next morning I was literally ordered to take a shower, and I could finally use a real bathroom. The surgeon came and chatted. He told me my plans to go to Jericoacoara were going to have to change. I was to stay within an hour or so of the hospital for the next week or so in case of any signs of infection or god forbid sepsis. I agreed. I was liberated from the hospital with restaurant recommendations and a slew of meds to take for the next 7-10 days.
I got to recover on the beautiful beaches of northern Brazil. My plans all changed, but it all ended up alright. I was inconvenienced but still got to see incredible places and experience a full immersion experience. I will never forget this trip. I am so incredibly thankful for having a friend that spoke the language with me. Thank you Henrique. From the absolute bottom of my heart. Thank you.

(part 2 of 4) The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page. – Saint Augustine

Next on my journey in life.... I went to Brazil for 3 weeks! I visited a close family friend who lives there. I had the experience of a lifetime. I even left an organ in the country. Oops.  Made some new friends who don't speak English, but Google translate helps to keep the communication going strong. I'll write more on my emergency appendectomy in a future post.  All I can say.... I'm glad i had travel insurance, and I'm glad I had some idea of what was going to happen.... that being said.... People in the private hospital that I went to in Natal, Brazil did not speak English. The physicians spoke broken English. It was glorious. 

All right on to the pictures!

Champagne and a fold flat seat for the 8.5 hour flight from Miami to
Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Caipirinhas. Delicious sugar cane cocktails! 
Belo Horizonte, Brazil from afar. 

Waiting for my luggage I found a little piece of home! Alaska
I even went on a tour of caverns.
The tour was in Portuguese. I have no
idea what happened here. None. Earth stuff.

On the road from Belo to Varginha.  Stuck in a 3 hour traffic jam. at least the view was lovely

Varginha is pretty much the Roswell of Brazil

Coming over the mountains into Rio. Torrential rain made the crazy Brazilian drivers that much crazier. It was similar to real life Mario Cart on the Rainbow Road course. 

I started my ER experience in this chair.

my scars

My nasty appendix

And I left the hospital for this view to recover. Life was really hard on the beaches of Natal!

I'm ALIVE!!!

Henrique my trustee sidekick through this adventure

The city of Natal 

My first post surgery cocktail. Surgeon approved!

Next stop on my north beach excursions... Pipa! 
My lunch date
My beach date

Watching the fishing boats

Stunner of a sunset

A side trip to a new beach. We came to these bluffs and views. I've never seen anything like it. 

The ceiling at the Natal craft center.

Me and the bridge!

I visited a fortress!
The Natal bridge from the fortress

This Mexican restaurant didn't have Mexican food.The fish soup was still pretty tasty though, and the beer was ICE cold 

Watching the sunset in San Miguel, Brazil

Me and Manu!

A storm rolling in, San Miguel, Brazil

A cool scene. A boy washing his horse in the ocean by San Miguel, Brazil

The start of the longest road in Brazil

New friends! Manu speaks little English, I speak little Portuguese. Google Translate for the win!

Smoky Rio 

The insanely gorgeous sunset

Henrique found Jesus too. I made him. 

The day I found Jesus. He was on top of a hill that is accessible only by a tram. Who would have thought!

Christ The Redeemer

The street performers in Rio are completely legit.

The city of Ouro Preto, Brazil. I spent my last night in Brazil in a charming hotel that was built in the 1600's. 

looking down the alleys and streets

The clock tower in the city square in Ouro Preto

A wonderful last meal and wine in Brazil. What an incredible experience.