Last Monday, we celebrated the Kangaroo's 23rd month birthday by checking him into Children's National Medical Center in D.C. Nothing to worry about. He's fine.
A little bit of background. Christina and Walt began fostering the Kangaroo when he was six weeks old, following a four-week drug detox at Children's National. We have no idea of what happened during his first two weeks of life, except that he was evidently sent home with his mother. The Kangaroo is the third of four children born to the mother from four different fathers, beginning when she was fifteen; the second child was also born drug-addicted. We have no idea who his father was, although at least two men have been DNA-tested and found not to be the father. His mother was living with her mother, her mother's boy friend, her sister, her kids, her sister's kids, and probably a few others. I do not like to disparage anyone, but her entire family seems like a waste of protoplasm. She, her mother, her sister and her mother's boyfriend all appear to be small-time abusers of the system with several drug-related charges files. The Kangaroo's mother has been charged with theft, probation violations, and intent to sell. Social Services has recommended that the mother's rights be terminated and that Christina and Walt be allowed to formally adopt the Kangaroo.
The Kangaroo is an amazing boy, super loving and very smart. He charms everyone he meets. But he does have problems, some of which stem from the drugs his mother put in his system. He is developmentally delayed. He crawled late (before he was able to sit up) and walked late. He is hyperactive and is always on the go; his mind seems unable to process one thing before he is on to the next thing -- something that is common in drug babies. His vocabulary is much less than a normal two-year-old's, although he has many more words than he is able to pronounce. He is small and is at the bottom of the weight chart. He cannot swallow solid food and drinks only Pediasure from a bottle. He likes strong tastes and will hold a spicy Dorito corn chip in his mouth for ten or fifteen minutes without ever swallowing. He does not seem to be able to control his tongue enough to be able to learn to swallow food. He has not been able to gain as much weight as the doctors would like and they were afraid of more developmental problems down the road. So the goal was to give him a feeding tube and thus we went to Children's National.
You have to understand that despite all of the above, the Kangaroo is one healthy kid.
There are two options for feeding tubes: an NG tube that is inserted into the nostril down to the stomach, and a gastric tube that is surgically attached. If the Kangaroo pulls out an NG tube (something that he is apt to do), it can easily be reinserted; if he pulls out a gastric tube (also something that he is apt to do) it means a fast trip to the nearest emergency room (about 20 miles away from Christina's house). We were told that the hospital stay would be two days, three at the most. Christina, Kitty, and I would have to learn how to insert the tube. (Kitty and I because we watch the Kangaroo while Christina's at work or at school.) We were lucky to get out of there after just five days.
The people at Children's National are fabulous, kind, and concerned. And determined. They would not release the Kangaroo until they were sure that the feeding tube would help him gain weight. There was a team of doctors -- I think I counted about thirteen -- and then there were the specialists (speech and feeding specialists and otherwise), the nurses, and the lab people. There were blood tests, x-rays, chromosome tests, and others I have forgotten. There were weight checks, blood pressure checks, temperature checks, and pulse ox tests every four hours. People were in and out of that room as if it were a bus station.
Now the room was cool, much larger than we expected. It had a very uncomfortable sofa and they brought in a very uncomfortable recliner and there was a cafeteria chair. The three of us took turns trying to sleep. On our last night there, the nurses brought in another recliner that had been in a room recently unoccupied. We were on the seventh floor (out of seven -- the penthouse floor, if you will) and out window was just opposite the helicopter landing pad. The Kangaroo liked that. We got to see helicopters arriving and leaving at all hours of the day and night, which was cool except when you began to consider what condition the helicopter's young passengers might be in. Oh, and helicopters just outside your window are noisy.
The Kangaroo was on a 12-hour feeding tube, from 8:00 pm to 8:00 am, in addition to his regular bottles. While being fed through the tube, he was confined to his bed -- a crib-like affair with metal bars and a hard plastic top. Hospitals being hospitals, where anything can happen anywhere, several times he did not begin his tube feed until 10:00 pm -- which meant that a very active boy had to be confined to the bed for several hours when he would normally be running around. And we kept having to move the bed because the nurses would invariably kept it where the Kangaroo could (and would and did) reach out and unplug all sorts of equipment.
The hospital arranged for the medical equipment needed to maintain the tube (including a pump) to be delivered to Christina's house and for a nurse to come by and explain how everything worked. Theoretically the tube can remain inserted for thirty days before needing to be replaced. (In reality, the Kangaroo pulled out three tubes in the first twenty-four hours.) On Friday morning we were told that the Kangaroo was to be discharge early in the afternoon. Hospital being hospitals, and hospital time being hospital time, early afternoon passed into mid-afternoon, when Christina got a telephone call from the medical equipment company saying the nurse would be at her house soon to explain how to work the equipment. Unfortunately, we're still at the hospital and haven't been discharged yet, Christina said. Well. she'll see you as soon as you're discharged, they said. But I live two hours away from the hospital, and that's with no traffic and there will be Friday afternoon weekend rush hour traffic, Christina said. But the nurse only works until five o'clock, they said. And I'm still at the hospital, Christina said. But she only works until five o'clock, they said, as if it were a magic mantra that would allow Christina to bend time and space. And so on and so on. And, by the way, did you know that our equipment is incompatible with the tubing the hospital uses so that when you get home you will have to change the tube with one of ours? (They threw that last little bit of information out there in a rather off-handed manner.)
The Kangaroo does NOT LIKE the tube being inserted and it takes a minimum of three adults to hold him down during the procedure. He's strong and he's active and his favorite word is "nononononono!" It does not hurt having the tube inserted but it is uncomfortable and if you are under two years old (or over two years old, for that matter) you don't want that thing anywhere near your face.
Anyway, we're home now and very much in love with our mattress. Being able to stretch out and lie flat is something one should not take for granted.
Life goes on. Mark and Erin are glad that Mommy and the Kangaroo are back where they belong. The Kangaroo is on the path to gaining weight. He still can't swallow food, but more testing and therapy is scheduled to address that problem. Any other problems, current or potential, will be met and dealt with. The Court system in Maryland moves slowly so we're not sure how long it will be before Christina and Walt can legally adopt the Kangaroo, but he's back where he is loved and cared for.
And all is right in our little world.