Saturday, January 28, 2012

Xavier is Getting Better

Sorry to be so long with updates.  We are not hearing much, but the news is good.  The antibiotics are working.  Xavier is getting better.  We are still much involved in the morass of paperwork necessary to adopt from Haiti.  By saying we, I mean Annalisa is plowing through all the paperwork and I am making the occasional phone call or signing one of the many papers.

I will post more news when I get it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

No News from Haiti

I am out of town today.  I called to see if I could get an update on Xavier's condition.  I am hoping to hear later today.  I will post any news I get.  It seems like antibiotics should take care of it.  Then we will have to decide what to do next.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Prayer and Illness and Overseas Adoption

The CEO of both Japan Air Lines and Kyocera Corporation, Kazuo Inamori, is a Bhuddist monk.  This very talented guy also is the founder of the Kyoto Prize in science and literature.  Although he is the head of two very technology dependent companies, he knows technology has a price.  He said that western technology corrodes spirituality everywhere it goes.  He is right.  Especially here in the west.

Many of us who are are believers worry that different parts of "secular" culture are corrupting our society.  Yet we barely pass a moment disconnected from computers and advanced communications.  Xavier's illness reminds me that technology really separates us from our spiritual lives is in medicine.

Let me cite a movie to make my point.  The most famous line from the 1993 thriller "Malice" is from Alec Baldwin who plays surgeon Jed Hill.  In the movie Hill says "I AM God" walking past the hospital chapel where families of patients are praying.  Hill says they are praying to him.  Hill is playing an arrogant SOB, but he's not wrong.  Those desperate people want results.  We may admit God's will is the greatest good, but when a son, wife or mom is at the point of death, we want results.  And the results of medicine are more reliable than prayer.

People tepidly pray to "guide the hand of the surgeon" but given the choice between prayer and a surgeon, we go to the doctor.

Before modern medicine, everyone knew life was short and apt to end in agony at any moment.  Before antibiotics (1930s) ANY infection could be lethal.  Before anesthesia (1845) any surgery could be worse than the disease it hoped to cure.

I am writing this as a believer and a HUGE fan of modern medicine.  I keep a spreadsheet listing 30 broken bones, 17 surgeries, and my many hospital stays, ambulance rides, concussions, and a MEDEVAC ride.  I will pray for my injured friends, but if they have an injury that can be treated with surgery, I almost always say get the surgery.

One of the many messy corners of my spiritual life is medicine.  I can barely pray for a sick neighbor.  I can pray for their family and friends, but I am not seeking healing from God.  Medicine works too well and I don't want to pray insincerely.

With Xavier in Haiti I can pray for his recovery, but I admit the first thing I wanted to know:  "Is he getting antibiotics?"  He is.  With that question answered, I started scheming about whether he could recover in America, when I could visit, and what I could do.

Prayers followed plans.  I say all this as a believer.  I pray daily.  But I pray for things out of my control.  I came to faith recovering from being blinded by shrapnel--physical helplessness made me aware I was spiritually helpless.  If I lived in a world without modern medicine, I would mostly likely be dead, but if I were alive, I would pray more fervently for the sick.

Adoption, especially overseas adoption, reminds me how little control I really have.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Xavier has Typhoid Fever

Yesterday we found out Xavier has typhoid fever.  Typhoid is a bacterial infection so with the right antibiotic it can be cured.  We found out this morning that Xavier is in a hospital in Haiti and getting the antibiotic.  He should be better soon and completely cured in two weeks.  

That's the good news.  The bad news:  our son has a deadly disease in a very poor country.  My first thought on hearing the news was 'I wonder if he can get treated or recover in America.'  The short answer  is neither.  Xavier cannot travel while he is contagious--that makes perfect sense.  He also cannot travel overseas while the adoption is in process.

So we wait.  

When we first thought about adopting Xavier I thought about 'This seems OK unless he gets some nasty tropical disease.'  When we visited Haiti this thought became vivid.  

Ten years ago I had a job that took me overseas every month.  One of my colleagues was a very funny woman named Karen who traveled a lot also.  But she had a clear line she would not cross on where she would and would not go:  Before she booked a ticket she made sure the place she was going had water treatment plants designed and built by American, German or British companies.  Clean water, she knew, equals a healthy trip.

When Xavier gets out of the hospital he will go back to his orphanage and live in a country where Karen would not go.  

So we wait.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Guest Post on Overseas Adoption Paperwork

The following is from my paper-pushing wife about just one difficulty in adopting from Haiti:

Lots of things are easy after you know how to do it, but nearly impossible before you know how to do it.  Getting an apostille is one of those things.  I've spent several months wondering, "What the heck is that, and how do we get it?"  Heck, my spell-check program doesn't even recognize the word, so how official can that be?

We're adopting from Haiti, which is not a signatory on the Haag Conventions.  Ordinary notarized documents aren't enough, we have to get things "super notarized" -- that's what an apostille is, a super-notarization (if that's a word).  Here is a specific example of how this worked in our case.

We need to have two official copies of our birth certificates.  You can get those from a commercial document service, but I went the cheaper route.  To get Neil's birth certificates, I  googled "birth certificate Massachusetts" and looked for a URL that includes a ".gov" address.  From there, I followed the directions on the web site, mailing in a check and a self-addressed envelope.

The birth certificates arrived in about two weeks.  THEN I needed to send them back to Massachusetts.  (Every document has to be apostilled in the same state where it was made official, so we can't apostille this in our home state, Pennsylvania).  Again, I went to Google, typing in "Apostille Massachusetts".  Again I skipped over the commercial sites and went for the ".gov" site.   I cut and paste the information there to come up with this letter:

January 12, 2012

Secretary of the Commonwealth
Commissions Section, Room 1719
One Ashburton Place
Boston, Massachusetts 02108

Dear Commissions Section:

I have enclosed two copies of my birth certificate, for which I would like an apostille.  We are hoping to adopt a child from Haiti.

I have enclosed a check for $12, made payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and I have enclosed a self-addressed envelope for return.

Thank you very much, 

Neil Gussman
[return address]

Different states charge different amounts.  In Massachusetts, where my husband was born, it's $6/document.  In California, my birthplace, it's a whopping $20/document.  In Pennsylvania, where the bulk of our documents will need to go for apostille, it'll be $15/document.  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Parent Outside the Home--Update from Friday

Yesterday I wrote about how every one of my kids has a parent (or more) outside the home.  Today that fact was clear in the New York Times.  My youngest daughter Lisa and her Mom published a letter together in the NY Times commenting on and article about toys.  You can read it here.

In the evening my oldest daughter Lauren and I went to Starbucks in Lancaster.  The barrista Jamie knows my family (Except my wife who does not go to Starbucks) and Starbucks sells the Times, so we told Jamie about the letter.  Then we had one of those awkward parent-outside-the-home moments when we explained who was who.

Explaining who is related to whom and how is a regular part of life in our family.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Everyone Has a Parent Outside Our Home

In our family everyone has a parent outside the home.  Before we adopted, I would not have considered this a great advantage.  But in a yours, mine and ours household having a parent outside the home makes adopted kids just like biological kids.  I would not have known this was an advantage till several years ago when another Dad told me he was having problems with his adopted son feeling different.

The couple had four kids of their own then adopted another.  We had three before our first adoption.  But since our three had one parent elsewhere they could identify with a boy who was no longer with his biological parents.

Because of this experience, when we adopted again, we told our son everybody has parents outside the home, just like him.  In fact he has a Foster Mom he still sees one weekend a month which is fine with us.  When Xavier joins our family from Haiti, he will leave behind a country for his new family.  That will be another level of challenge for us.  I have lived outside the country serving with the Army, but I had no plans for permanent relocation.  Xavier will definitely get homesick.