Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Finally made it to Beijing!

Well, we finally made it to China! Interesting place! Susana, the patient liaison from Beike who met us at the airport, is usually the liaison for Spanish speaking clients. She was having a little trouble with English, so Sean was able to converse with her in Spanish. To land in China and have a conversation in Spanish twenty minutes later was... disorienting (get it? Dis-ORIENTing? Hahaha - oh, I crack myself up). We drove to the hospital where Brian is staying (about a 40 minute ride). Chinese traffic is completely insane. The traffic lines painted on the road are clearly what they do with extra paint, since the lines clearly have no function. You just drive wherever there's an opening. Whoever honks their horn the most wins.

The hospital is very different than what you might expect in a western country. There are about ten buildings in the medical complex; each has a different function. There's no dietary services, so if Brian wants to eat, Shane, Sean & Grainne must get it for him. So our patient liaison, Michelle, took Grainne & Sean to the Chinese version of WalMart, called Lotte Mart. That was an experience! Michelle glanced over at a package of some sort of meat Sean was inspecting and exclaimed with delight "Oooh! Donkey meat!" 
Um... ooookaaayyyy. Another package of food that seemed like it would be okay turned out to be "sour cabbage flavor ramen noodles." So we picked up some cereal, veggies, yogurt, sodas, eggs, bread, tea & beer. We'll all probably be a good bit skinnier when we get home.

In Brian's building, we've met several other families from all over the world who are also seeking stem cell treatment. We've met three families, one from the USA, one  from Colombia and one from Iraq. Everyone is very friendly and supportive of one another. One couple asked us out to a restaurant with them the first day, but we were still a bit discombobulated from our journey, so we just took it easy the first day. Two doctors came to evaluate Brian also, and explained that they would be ordering some routine tests for the next day.

This morning, right on the dot of 8 am, the doctor was back with the entire nursing staff. It was quite impressive. Every nurse that would be on duty was briefed on Brian's condition, symptoms and the plan of treatment. They gave us an opportunity to ask questions also. The doctor seems very positive that stem cells will help Brian's muscle tone and movement on his left side. They also are hopeful that his vision will improve, but they said that visual improvement would likely be slower than his motor and muscle results. Ten minutes later (and when they say "ten minutes" they mean ten minutes!) two nurses and one of the liaisons was back to accompany Brian for his tests. Sean also went with Brian. The tests were in another building, the one that looks like a Western hospital. The walls and floor were literally sparkling. It was huge, and very efficient. First stop was phlebotomy, where they drew some blood for lab tests. Then on to the EKG office for that (sinus bradycardia, if you're interested), then to see an ophthamologist. The ophthamologist was an elderly Chinese woman. Though we couldn't understand her Mandarin, she exuded an impressive pride in her work and instilled confidence. After her exam, we were off to get a chest x-ray. The radiology tech was very particular about positioning Brian properly for the x-ray. 

After the tests were done, Brian & Sean took a stroll around the grounds of the complex. There's a huge man-made river or pond, maybe almost a mile long with fountains and gardened islands. The river is filled with beautiful koi; some appear to be nearly two feet long. There are several decorative pavilions among the gardens lining the river, lovely places to relax and enjoy the sound of the fountains. Cicadas are in season here, much as they are in New Orleans, and the constant drone of their buzzing is a comforting reminder of home. Near Brian's building is what we're calling "Church Alley," a small road with a mosque, a synagogue, a Christian church, an Orthodox church and a Buddhist temple. The temple was open when we passed by, and here are some pictures of it, along with a few pics we've taken so far. The sound of Oriental meditational music and the smell of incense was intoxicating. Definitely something to see again.

So far, so good. No tragedies or problems with travel (by the way, Lufthansa is outstanding in the service they gave to Brian!). China is a fascinating place, and huge! You could literally land a plane in the parking lot. Folks that say everything's bigger in Texas have obviously not been to China. There's over a billion people here but everything is so spread out and big that it seems empty. Except the Chinese WalMart, there were loads of people there.

By the way, another China-sized THANK YOU to Brian's latest donors!

Eve N. (Limerick, Ireland) - $15.00
Anne D. (New Jersey, USA) - $250.00
Laura R. (Louisiana, USA) - $50.00

By the way, Blogger, Facebook & Twitter are prohibited in China. This update is being emailed to the website, so I hope it gets posted. Feel free to contact any of us via email! We'd love to hear about the goings-on back home! Stay tuned for more! Here's some pics!

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