"We are going to focus on LIFE for Katya. I believe, one day, she will amaze the world."

Dr. Ben Carson on Katya Dueck

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Two Years Ago Today . . . .

 . . we had a very, very, very long day.

It started only a few scant hours after I had collapsed into bed, as we had to get up in the wee early hours of the morning to make the drive to the airport in Kiev to catch our flight home. (Edited to add that our flight left Kiev airport at 6:45 AM, and arrived at our home airport around 8:00 PM. And we went through a 7 hour time difference . . .)

Due to "issues" in country, our exit was done carefully, and our drop-off at the airport was conducted being mindful of certain things. Unfortunately, our driver dropped us off at entirely the wrong terminal. And only after we had drug our tired selves, and a sleepy, screaming Katya into the terminal did I realize that we had a long, long, long walk ahead of us, trying to drag our suitcases up and over curbs. Grimly, we set out, walking. Did I mention that due to starvation, Katya was so easily exhausted that I had to carry her much of the long walk, plus try to drag a suitcase yet too?! It was, to say the least, extremely interesting.

I am ever so glad that I had Charity by my side! Even though she was a slight 15 year old at the time, she pulled and carried all she could, and kept her chin up. Once we arrived at the correct terminal, we got into the very, very, very long line for check-in. We stood and stood and stood. Katya was so restless and of course didn't understand what was going on, and was completely and utterly overwhelmed by all the crowds, strange noises, strange sights and many other new sensations! Charity finally figured out a trick that worked to help soothe Katya--holding her up into the air as high as she could reach, so that the breeze from the vents blew on her face and hair . . . by doing that again and again and again, we some how got through.

Getting through security was interesting the whole entire way home. No matter what country, Katya's ear piercing, heart-stopping screams would clear the way for us to get through security at top speed.

Too bad it couldn't have sped things up for us on the plane!

I only regret that I did not bring industrial strength ear plugs for all of us, plus many, many more to hand out to all our neighbors!

Charity would look at poor Katya, screaming at the top of her lungs, and yell, "Mom! She's going to die before we get home!" And I would yell back, as I too viewed the blood veins bulging  out of Katya's forehead, "She might, Dear! But at least she will have died loved!"

And while you may say, "How terrible!" you weren't there to have seen the way her blood veins bulged. We didn't know if Katya had some type of abnormal blood vein formation internally as well that could perhaps have an aneurysm just waiting to rupture under the combined stress of the change in altitude,  plus Katya's case of panic and anger which was clearly stressing her body to dangerous levels. When you are many, many hours from land, and dealing with a tremendously traumatized child who can not speak, and limited medical information on said child, remember, you have to adopt a set of thought processes that will get you through.

And for me, that is what it was. I knew I couldn't stop her dying on the plane, so I could only reassure myself that if she did die, she would have died loved. (Incidentally, that belief was also helpful for me when she was away from me for over 12 hours having her cranial vault expansion and reconstruction at Johns Hopkins mere months later . . . )

As we continued to change planes, Katya became less agitated on each flight. I think partially she was too worn out to continue screaming non-stop (as she did from Kiev to Munich, Germany), plus she was seeing that nothing bad happened to her. In fact, there were interesting stim-toys in her little back back, food, drinks and trips to the bathroom.

So her screaming became an off and on thing. When it happened, it was still heart-stopping, and the faces of all nearby passengers would become more and more stressed and grim looking. I'm sure many of them wondered what on earth was wrong with our daughter!  (Yes, adopting should teach us about learning not to be ugly and judgmental about other people's children!)

Remember that due to all the time changes, our June 30, 2011 drug on and on. By the time we arrived at Washington DC, and got through Passport Control, and then security, we had been standing in line trying to keep Katya happy for a good few hours. Charity and I were absolutely exhausted, and were taking turns having crying jags. We were hot, sweaty, and in dire need of food and drinks.

When we finally, finally found our gate, Katya set up a huge wailing as she realized that we were NOT at the end of the impossibly long day. There were no seats for us, but I collapsed on the floor.

"Charity, I'm so sorry, but you MUST take this money and go get food for us!" I told her. "If we can all eat and drink, we will feel better! Just grab the closet place and get something!"

"I can't do that!" poor Charity protested.

 "You either have to go or stay here with Katya while I go! Which do you want to do?!" Charity grabbed the $20 and fled to the nearest food place, while  I found an outlet, plugged my dead cell phone in, and dialed Paul. When he answered, I nearly wept with relief. "We're here, back in America. Katya is screaming and crying again. I'm so tired! I think she thinks we are never going to stop flying!"

"Let me talk to her!" Paul said, and I pressed the phone to Katya's ear. Weeping and howling stopped as she heard the voice of her Papa. She soon pushed the phone away, laid down flat on the floor, and when I looked at the poor dear, here is what I saw!

Until we know otherwise, we are theorizing that Katya had begun to believe she was never, ever going to get to America to Papa . . . but hearing his voice, gave her enough peace of mind that she was able to stop crying, relax, and fall asleep. When Charity arrived with the hastily purchased fries and burgers, we barely had time to snatch a few bites before they began boarding the plane for Ohio!

Charity managed all the luggage she could, while I scooped the still sleeping Katya in my arms and had to carry her all the way down a long hall, and then a very steep flight of stairs, and then try to walk across the tarmac, and then climb the narrow, step stairs to the small commuter plane that took us to our home-town airport. I buckled her into her seat and Katya only stirred minimally. She slept most of the way to the airport, and then still groggy, I carried her down the stairs and through the airport.

I was so tired my entire body quivered with fatigue--and nerves. I had done it. I had brought my two daughters safely back to America, and in seconds I would be able to hand them over into my husband's strong arms, and let him take over while I collapsed for some much needed rest.

And then, I saw them--happy faces standing at the end of the hall, beaming! There they were! MY FAMILY! And oh! There were friends!! I handed Katya into Paul's arms, he grabbed her slight little body and then grabbed me for a long, long hug!! "We're here!!" I tearfully told him. "We're safe!"

And then, together, we turned to face our friends, their smiling faces welcoming us, as we began life together as a family of seven.

Photo: Home!

(Todd missing in the photo . . . )

Having stirred when she was handed off to her Daddy, Katya soon fell back asleep, and Paul carried her, still sleeping, out to the car.

Katya arrived home, we took her and showed her the downstairs, took her up to the girls' bedroom. She clearly recognized her bed from the photo album we had taken for her, and climbed right into the bed and lay down! We got her out of her shoes and clothes into her nightie, and kissed her good-night, patted her a bit, and she was OUT.

The long, long, long day that went on well over 24 hours had finally come to an end for her. And for us.

By the mercy and grace of God, we were safely back at home in our own beds. And thus ended our day, two years ago.

Tonight, as I sit typing this, Katya is mere feet away from me, enjoying her nightly soak in the tub. She has cycled through the sounds she can make, and the word (!!!) she can say, having said, "Daddy!" Daddy!"  She has had a good day overall, with only a little screaming and crying a few times, and with lots of smiles and giggles. She went to church, and got to enjoy running around afterwards playing with the other kids. Then she had a picnic lunch. Katya watched "Signing Time" in the car AND at home, she played outside, and played with toys. Such a very, very different day for all of us than two years ago!

Thank you to the many, many people who have blessed our journey to Katya, and who continue to pray for us and support as in our journey since she is home. We are so very grateful that Katya blesses our lives with her presence. We are glad she is safe, loved, and well-cared for. What a difference two years makes!

We look forward to seeing what the third year of life with Katya is like! ;-)


Leah S. said...

If only, during those early days when the transition is so incredibly stressful...if only we could see ahead two years down the road to know how different things could possibly be! So glad God saw fit to bring Katya to your family, to a mother who has great insight and isn't afraid to look outside the box for things that will work for her!

hoonew said...

Your photo-essay is profound, and the pictures really tell the story well. Thank you for the trip down memory lane.