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Update on Kidney Transplant – Great News!

I’m happy to report that my friend’s two-year-old daughter, whose kidney transplant from her father went horribly wrong when the kidney was damaged during surgery, received a healthy kidney from a deceased donor last week.  The toddler is doing great; her medical team says they’ve never seen a deceased donor kidney do so well.

The sad part of this story is that the kidney is from a nine-year-old child who obviously lost her life.  This child and his or her family have given an amazing gift by donating these organs.

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Kidney Transplant Gone Wrong

My friend’s two-year-old daughter was scheduled for a kidney transplant last week.  She is a miracle baby who barely survived birth following a placental abruption.  She’s now a sunny toddler with a smile from ear to ear.   

The girl’s last major physical challenge is her kidneys, which only operate at about 25%.  This makes eating and growing difficult.  She has been on dialysis for the last year until she was big enough to receive an adult kidney.  Her father was a good match, and they scheduled the transplant for May.  A large hospital in Philadelphia, two hours from home, was the nearest choice where the surgeons were excellent and the family’s insurance was accepted. 

The transplant was going to be rough.  There were dozens of tests and multiple trips to Philly leading up to the surgery.  The dad’s incision would go from his belly button to the small of his back to harvest the kidney.  He would be unable to work or leave the house for six weeks post-surgery.  Under no circumstances could the girl get sick, so the family kept out of public places prior to the surgery and expected to be completely quarantined for six weeks after the transplant.  After the surgery the girl would need to make the four-hour round trip to Philly twice a week for six weeks, then weekly for six weeks more.  For the rest of her lift she would need to travel there monthly. 

Of course there were risks involved in the surgery.  The girl could reject the kidney.  The girl or father could have a reaction to the anesthesia.  With immunosuppressants pummeling her immune system, any kind of infection could be devastating for the girl.   

Each element of her treatment had potential danger. Nine percent of the participants in the pilot study for the girl’s drugs developed cancer, although the doctors assured her parents that this type of cancer was “very treatable.” 

Despite a thorough understanding of the associated risks, no one expected what actually happened:  the father’s kidney was damaged during removal.  A week later, the doctors are saying that this appears to have been due to human error on the part of the transplant team.   

The first kidney transplant was performed over fifty years ago, in 1954.  16,905 kidney transplants were performed in the US in 2004.  That’s forty-six a day.  There has been plenty of time and opportunity to work out the kinks.  And after all the tests, meetings, preparation, quarantines, and prayers, this specialized transplant team damaged that beautiful, healthy, perfectly-matched kidney.  Unbelievable. 

In part, this is so hard since it was unexpected.  The family was prepared for the worst, but not for this kind of mistake.  And what about the sheer waste of this effort and sacrifice?  The dad has lost his kidney – involving six weeks of recovery where he can’t drive in a car or pick up either of his daughters (they also have a one-year-old)  – for nothing.  Considerably less than nothing, really. 

The family is in a tailspin trying to figure out what to do next.  Can they trust their transplant team?  If not, what are their options, since the next nearest choice would be farther than driving distance.  Should they consider non-related living donors?  Should they go for grandma’s scarred kidney, which was the only other related match? 

The family is absolutely amazing.  The day after the surgery they were already looking forward and trying to come to terms with what they saw as God’s will.  They aren’t focusing on anger, but rather on solutions.  I thank God that they have this faith; I’m not sure how they would cope without it.  To be honest, I can’t believe how well they are coping with it.   

A mutual friend remarked that we only live truly in the moment at two times in our lives:  when we are newly, head over heels in love, and when we are grieving.  We, the family and friends of this precious little girl, experienced that last week.  I could practically hear that community’s gasp when we read the family’s blog the night of the surgery.  It literally took my breath away, and then brought me to tears.   I couldn’t think about anything else for quite a while; I was “in the moment” in the worst way.

We are strangers, many of us, but we are united in support for this family and love for this little girl.  The safety net that we have woven together is incredibly strong and inspiring for all of us.  We grieved together for the bad news of this setback, but now we look forward hopefully to the next step towards recovery.  I hope to have better news very soon. 

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Would You Please Turn Off Your Damn Car?

Every day I see unattended parked cars with their motors running in the daycare parking lot, and it’s bugging the crap out of me.  Are our children (and ourselves!) really so frail that they can’t stand three more minutes of cold in the winter or heat in the summer?  And do my kids need to get run over to keep your kids comfortable? 

Granted, the daycare parking lot is inside a guarded gate, so theft isn’t a big concern, but what about safety?  I assume that some of the cars, at least, are unlocked since most people don’t carry a second set of keys.  It’s conceivable that a curious child could go exploring into an open, running car.  A car could also pop into gear.  A preschooler might reach for the gearshift while mom or dad is putting a sibling in a car seat.  It’s unlikely that any of these situations will happen, but in an environment crawling with kids even one mistake could be tragic.*  Call me hysterical, but I am pissed that other parents are putting my kids at risk in this way.   

What makes me equally irritated is that parents are doing this because they are trying to prevent their child from being inconvenienced or uncomfortable for even a short amount of time.  God forbid that a child be chilly for a minute under their coat, hat, and mittens or perspire while briefly exposed to non-conditioned air.  Where is this coddling going to take us?  If we aren’t careful, our well-meaning gestures like these will create spoiled, entitled children.  The last thing that we parents want to do is to raise adults not prepared for the realities of life.  Life is not fair.  You won’t always be the center of the universe.  The temperature is not always seventy-six degrees. 

Anyway, my kids will be sweating and freezing accordingly in our turned-off minivan.  I’ll chalk it up as a character building experience.  I would greatly appreciate if you would do the same. 

*By the way, if an accident or theft does happen in an unattended running car, most insurance policies will not cover liability, theft, or damage to the vehicle. 

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My Thong Song, Err…Post

The founder of Spanx (footless and/or legless pantyhose) stockings said on TV last week that she wants to make the world a better place one butt at a time.  In that spirit, here’s what I’ve been telling my girlfriends for years:  I am pro-thong.  Here’s why: 

  • Men like thongs.  It doesn’t matter what size or shape of bottom the thong is riding, this is an empirical fact.  I don’t know why; maybe it’s because thongs flatter all figures (yes, really), or maybe it’s the inherent naughtiness – clearly his mother didn’t wear one.  For whatever reason, your man will be pleased if you make the switch. 

  • Thongs prevent the dreaded visible panty line (VPL), which are practically unavoidable with traditional underwear.  Even panties that claim to prevent VPL’s are, in my experience, ineffective.  Unless you’re going the more drastic Spanx or pantyhose route, you’ll need to wear a thong to prevent a VPL.  (Note: if you think that your VPL doesn’t look bad or isn’t that obvious YOU ARE WRONG.)  Plus, if you follow my golden rule of thongs (below) you’ll also get another benefit – you’ll avoid wedgies. 

  • Now that you know my pro-thong arguments, here is the all-important key to wearing a thong:  BUY YOUR THONG AT LEAST ONE SIZE BIGGER THAN YOUR NORMAL UNDERWEAR.  Following this advice will help you to avoid the uncomfortable constricted feeling that you are wearing anal floss.  This will also prevent the incredibly unattractive fat displacement that too-tight underwear can cause at the waistband.  There is no downside to buying larger thongs, since you don’t have to worry about sagging cheek fabric.   

You’ll also want to make sure that the front crotch area is big enough to cover everything and that you find an appropriate, lightly stretchy fabric, but these are secondary requirements.  Buying a size larger is non-negotiable.  If you follow this rule you’ll find thong wearing to be comfortable and you may even stop buying regular panties for weekends and jean wearing. 

Good luck ladies. You and your husbands can thank me later.  (Apologies to my own husband, you reads this blog and has just gotten way too much information!)  

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Why No Bottle Deposit Laws?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said today that global warming is “unequivocal” and very likely “man-made.”  Panel members said that the situation is “a threat was not simply to the environment, but to international peace, prosperity and development.”  And the United States is the biggest emitter. With this issue on my mind, I’m wondering about something related and close to home:  why don’t all states have “Bottle Bills” that require a deposit for beverage containers like soda cans?    

A quick Google search shows that there is a heated debate about this issue.  The American Beverage Association will tell you that deposit laws have a big downside, particularly that they are expensive and ineffective.  Equally biased on the other side, the Container Recycling Institute will tell you that such criticisms are myths, and that deposit laws are extremely effective, especially when used in conjunction with other recycling programs, like curbside collections. 

I want to learn more about this topic, but it seems to me that the major downside for Bottle Bills is that they are a pain in butt and are more expensive to non-recyclers.  If you’re going to toss your cans in the trash, you’re not going to get your ten cents back. This personal investment leads to the biggest benefit of Bottle Bills:  they create a culture where people don’t throw bottles in the trash.  By requiring a deposit on each can, they ensure that everyone has some skin in the recycling game. 

I grew up in Michigan, where there is a ten-cent deposit on each aluminum can and plastic bottle sold.  No one ever throws cans and bottles in the trash in Michigan, because that is literally throwing money away. In Virginia, however, people rarely think twice about tossing soda cans.  More recycling bins have appeared over the years in offices and public places, but these are still the exception rather than the rule. 

Aluminum is one of the most cost-effective materials to recycle.  With reports like the International Panel on Climate Change telling us that conservation is becoming critically important, it’s time to take more drastic steps to promote recycling and environmentalism in general.  

Related links:http://www.ameribev.org/industry-issues/environment/deposits–taxes/index.aspxhttp://www.bottlebill.org/http://news.aol.com/world/story/_a/climate-report-spurs-call-for-change-now/n20070202150409990004http://www.harmony1.com/recycling/nonferrous.cfm 

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Breastfeeding Tips and Tricks

With three kids under four years old, I am now well into my third (non-consecutive) year of breastfeeding.  I don’t profess to be an expert, but there are a few things that I’ve learned. 

  • Here’s something I mention so you’ll know what to expect, and that it will pass:  Breastfeeding feels fine for the first day or so, and then it hurts like hell during latch-on for two or three weeks.  It’s not just a “little pinch” or “uncomfortable” type of pain.  This is fifteen seconds of “getting your hand slammed in a door” kind of pain.  Except that it’s your breast.  And it hurts worse.  After fifteen seconds or so, though, it feels ok, and after two weeks your skin toughens and the whole process is pain free.  You should then be able to enjoy the bonding time with your baby instead of cursing his name for causing your nipples to feel like they are on fire.  

  • After trying out every brand out there, I can safely say that Medela disposable breast pads (http://www.medela.com/NewFiles/breastcare.html#lacepads) are far and away the best.  When milk gets on them they form a gel-like substance within the pad rather than just getting wet.  This way they are more comfortable and the milk doesn’t soak through or run off and leak.  Also, they are thin and flexible to start out with, so they are not obvious under thin clothes.  They cost more, but they are absolutely worth it. 

  • Get a comfortable cotton sleeping bra, like the Arabella Sleep Bra at www.amazon.com.  Sleeping in a regular nursing bra is uncomfortable after a night or two.  Make sure it’s cotton – I tried a microfiber one and found that it gets so stiff when milk gets on it and dries that it can stand up by itself. 

  • Get a good nursing pillow and use it, at least at the beginning.  I learned my lesson with my third baby.  I was just using pillows and not sitting up straight, and after a few weeks I developed excruciating headaches.  My doctor informed me that I had a muscle tension headache (not the brain tumor I convinced myself I had) that was caused by hunching over. 

 I have a “My Brest Friend” (http://www.mybrestfriend.com/) pillow, which is great.  It has a washable cover and has held up great after three kids.  It’s flat on top so the baby doesn’t roll into you too much and it has a strap so you can walk around with it to grab a pacifier, change a diaper, etc.  The Velcro strap is loud enough to wake your baby when you pull it off, though, so I just make sure not to tie it too tight and just shimmy out of it when I’m done. 

  • The Medela Micro-Steam sterilizer bags (http://www.medela.com/NewFiles/cleaningproducts.html) are a Godsend.  You rinse your bottles, pacifiers, or pumping equipment and put it in the microwave for a minute and a half (three minutes with an older microwave, depending on wattage.)  Once they’re microwaved, they are sterilized.  I really liked this for my pumping equipment.  I brought these to work and would use them right after pumping.  That way I could use the same pumping equipment later in the day without making a big scene at the sink.

  • Get a washable hands-free Nursing Cover, like you’ll find at www.polkadotwhale.com.  This is very handy when nursing in public.  No matter how well you schedule your outings or visitors, your baby will let you know at some point that it’s time to eat NOW, in public.  A hands-free cover is a lot more convenient than a blanket.

  • If you’re planning to nurse at night you’ll want to have a nursing nightgown or wear a top and bottom pajama combo, rather than a nightgown.  This will be obvious the first time you try to hoist up a long nightgown while your baby is wailing, but I’m mentioning it so you can get one before you go to the hospital.  Also, don’t bother bringing pajamas to the hospital.  You won’t want that mess and nastiness on your clothes – stick to the ugly hospital gowns!

 Giving some of these things as shower or hospital gifts for a mom intending to breastfeed is a great idea.  Most new moms don’t know that they’ll need some of these things.  I didn’t realize I’d need a sleeping bra, for example, and was really happy to get one as a gift in the hospital. Anyway, hope this is helpful advice from the trenches! Good luck!   

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Watching Them Come and Go In DC

     Three of the four houses across the street from ours are for sale.  We live in a development that was built in 2004, so in less than three years these families have decided to move on to greener pastures. 

     When I moved to the DC area twelve years ago it seemed that most of the people I met were like me – transplants from somewhere else.  We were all lured here by what Washington has a lot to offer:  government jobs, excellent universities, high-tech industry, a good climate and beautiful sights to see. But while I came here to stay, it’s become clear over time that many people think of DC as a stepping stone to somewhere else, rather than a final destination.   

     I grew up in a town of 40,000 with one major employer.  That’s too big a town to have everyone know your name, but if you didn’t know someone yourself, you could count on some secondary connection; her dad coached your brother in little league or his wife cuts your hair.   That closeness and familiarity is nice, but over time you can form community wherever you are, even in a big place like DC.  What you can’t control and what I am starting to sorely miss is the stability that my hometown provided.   

     In part, this instability is created by the times that we live in.  People don’t work at the same company for forty years nowadays.  There are very few pensions and gold watches handed out anymore.  Instead, we are encouraged to keep our networks strong and our resumes updated so that we can jump ship as soon as a better opportunity arises.   

     Still, DC seems particularly transient.  Political elections cause major job turnovers.  High tech companies have regular layoffs and start-ups are notoriously unstable.  No one over the age of thirty can afford to work on an NGO salary.  People get tired of the sprawl and traffic and sweaty tourist-laden metro cars, especially if you have a child or two in tow.   

     This coming and going breeds a new expectation about friendship.  When I was in first grade I could be pretty sure that most of my classmates would be at my high school graduation.  I’ve known my best friend since I was a preschooler.  It makes me sad that my kids probably won’t enjoy that same stability.   

     On the bright side, we do benefit from knowing so many more people as they come in and out of our lives.  Different kinds of people with greatly varied life experiences that enriches our own.  Shades of the old quality versus quality tradeoff, I suppose.  And email, cell phones, VOIP, and blogs mean that you don’t need to live down the street nowadays to keep in touch.  It might mean more work to maintain friendships, but those are important muscles to keep in shape, and it’s worth the effort. 

     We love living here, and we still think of DC as our destination, not a layover.  Still, I miss our friends that were just passing through.

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