Saturday, August 12, 2006

Half birthday...

Yesterday, the boys reached a significant milestone. Luc is now two and a half and Nicolas is nine months old. Here is a little update of what the boys have been up to. 

The two boys are growing and interacting more and more. Now that our furniture has (finally) arrived and we have a cot (crib) for Nic, the boys are sharing a room. Of course, this can have its drawbacks. Just ask me after I have found every toy, a weeks worth of nappies of all sizes and a full tub of loose nappy wipes accompanying Nic. Of course, Nic does not complain, he sees it all as an adventure (what a great attitude). I wish I shared his enthusiasm while I am changing wet bedding and drying his mattress with a hair dryer because Luc thought he needed a drink from a squirt sports bottle. 

The boys really light up when they see each other. Nic giggles at Luc. When Luc looks at him, Nic burst into gales of laughter. This sets Luc off, making Nic laugh all the more. Much to my annoyance, this generally happens during the middle of a feed (I am still breastfeeding Nic), but who can get angry -  after all, there is no better sound than that of children laughing.

Nic is getting around very quickly – crawling or reverting to a combat crawl when speed is really important. When Luc hears Nic he yells “Nic’s coming! Nic’s coming” and tries to hide from him (with much revealing commotion of course). Luc yells these warnings with the same urgency as one might yell “A tsunami is coming!” 

Luc found that he could hide in a cupboard the other day and was having fun hiding and ‘unhiding’. Nic wanted in on the action and ended up climbing in the cupboard with him. Being in a confined, dark cupboard with a flailing brother did not seem to distress either boy. 

Nic is doing his best impression of Foo or Kilroy – we often see the top of his head and two hands peering over the top of his cot (crib), the couch or any furniture item he can pull himself up against (which is just about EVERYTHING). He has a real determination and is starting to show definite signs of frustration when he can’t climb up. Two days ago we had to rescue Nicolas from the bottom rung of a stool – he had managed to climb onto it and we stopped him before he could pull himself any higher (we were scared). We are dreading the concept of having a ‘climber’ in the family. 

With our stuff arriving, there is a constant case of discovery and rediscovery. Luc found a new item and asked “What’s this Mummy?” I turned to see what he had found and said “That’s daddy’s squash racquet”. “Oh” said Luc, placing it on the floor and pushing the strings into the carpet “Squash, squash, squash”. I explained that squash was a game that Daddy used to play. Luc then picked up the racquet, and like countless children before, started ‘playing’ it like a guitar, singing his version of a song (a lot of garble peppered with words, such as Buzz, Nic, Luc, Bus, Plane… whatever happened to be the focus of attention at the moment).

Luc had a full on tantrum one day when we returned home, despite saying he wanted to go home ALL morning. I said “We are home”. Luc said “I don’t want to go home” “Where DO you want to go then?” through tears of rage “I want to fly to Pittsburgh!”

Photo is our reflection in Cloud Gate in Millennium Park taken when we visited on Wednesday

Monday, August 7, 2006

Urgent Care

It was early April and Luc had a cough that was lingering. He had had a bad case of croup. We had an appointment with a paediatrician, and were not too worried, but wanted him checked out a little sooner as his cough appeared to be getting worse. A visit to see a GP was what I had in mind. I rang the paediatrician's office to find out if we could get an appointment any sooner. They nonchalantly told me to “just go to the emergency department” of the Children’s Memorial Hospital. Our health insurance had just commenced, the hospital is a couple of blocks from where we live, so we made the trek to the emergency department. 

When in Brisbane, we had taken Luc to the emergency department of the Wesley Hospital (a private hospital) on a Sunday afternoon with a suspected case of conjunctivitis. They were very careful to let us know how much it would cost to see a doctor - $130, upon which we could seek a refund from our insurer. This seemed expensive at the time, but were prepared to spend the money (particularly as it was approaching dinner-time and we couldn’t bear the thought of trying to find a medical clinic and wait around with a tired boy). 

After a wait of about 45 minutes or so in the Emergency department of the Children’s Memorial, the triage nurse looked at Luc. She took his oxygen levels and other vital measurements. She then sent us along to ‘Urgent Care’. This was when I really started to worry. I thought perhaps that we had been a little too blasé about Luc’s condition. Urgent Care! Was he to be admitted? Did he have pneumonia? It wasn’t until we arrived in Urgent Care, that I realised that this was actually a ‘step down’ from Emergency, rather than a case being considered even more urgent than an emergency! Urgent Care is for cases requiring minimal intervention. 

While we were waiting to see an attending doctor in Urgent Care, I gave our insurance details and signed some paperwork. No mention of a fee was for service was made. Luc was checked out by both a nurse and then a doctor. The staff were really lovely and thorough… Luc was given a clean bill of health and we were on our way.    

Several weeks later we received a bill for service. A cool $328, of which $146.17 was covered by medical insurance, leaving us to pay the remaining $181.83. I couldn’t believe it. Then a week later, we received a bill for $85.45 being for the doctor’s time. I was really annoyed as there was no mention at all of any gap payments to be made. 

I was really homesick for our lovely Dr Tim (Davidson) at Red Hill Medical Centre, whom we would have been able to see with perhaps a day’s notice (or another doctor probably that day), and it would have cost us $45 at the most (the majority of which would have been refunded by Medicare).

Recently, Paul went to see a doctor about a stomach complaint. It took him some time to find a doctor (as the doctor has to be recognised by the health insurance provider). He rang several practices before he was able to get an appointment. The appointment itself was affordable (a $20 gap payment). But then he was out-of-pocket $110 for prescribed medication (insurance covered the remaining $93.78). We have started to realise what a significant financial investment it is to stay healthy in this country!

Did I mention that our contribution to private health care is some $300 per month (while Paul’s employer pays 80% of the cost of cover). It would appear that quality health care is totally out of reach for those on a modest income without employer support. 

Gabrielle, an Australian friend, told me it cost them $15,000 a piece to have each of their children here! Of this, up to 80% may be reimbursed, but one needs the money to pay up front. 

Paul had another horror story to tell me. A colleague of his took his child to a emergency department of a hospital. The hospital and doctor were both recognised by the health care provider. Tests were done and samples sent to a pathologist for testing. The pathologist was not covered. Paul’s colleague was faced with a $1500 bill for testing a simple virus (one would think it had been Ebola at that price!) 

I cannot comprehend why the Australian government seems hell-bent on emulating the health system here.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

How did I become a mum?

How did I end up becoming a mother? It was a question that I pondered until my reverie was broken whilst having a little quiet time, competing for the toilet paper with an eight month old and trying my best to avoid repeated requests to provide voices for each member of a family of four play dough balls. 

This introspection was brought about by some extremely upsetting news delivered to us on Sunday evening. My sister-in-law Lari and her husband Allan were due to welcome their first child into the world next week. A freak of nature (that only ever happens to other families) occurred, namely the rupturing of the placenta. Baby Payton died and Lari became very sick. Lari is in hospital now, several blood transfusions and operations later. The whole family is in shock and disbelief. Everyone has asked “Why?” Surely this sort of thing just doesn’t happen anymore in a modern world of medicine and health care. Apparently stillbirths now occur in about one in 200 of all pregnancies – this rate has declined by 50% in the last 20 years. In Australia, the rate of stillborn babies is approximately 1750 per year - or in one in one hundred babies. These rates are far higher than I ever thought they would be – but help put a bit of perspective on the situation… if not answering ‘why this baby?’ 

When I think of all friends and family members that have spent months and even years trying to fall pregnant, those that have had one or multiple miscarriages, a couple of people who have lost one or more very young babies and even a friend with a three-year-old currently going through chemotherapy for leukaemia… it makes life appear all the more tenuous and fragile. I have been giving the boys extra hugs the last few days. 

Poor Lari and Allan had to deal with all the initial shock and trauma themselves as they live in Japan, away from family. Paul’s mother Naureen arrived to help on Tuesday and she will be followed by Allan’s mother. The news made us seem all that more isolated ourselves. 

Lari and Allan are in an extremely strong position as they are a very devoted and strong couple with a synergy of thought and expectation. I am positive that they are in the best position to overcome this appalling time in their lives and be able to live beyond, yet hold a special place for their darling little boy. 

Motherhood on a different note… On Saturday, we made a visit to Millennium Park to play in the Crown Fountain for a while. Luc and I returned from playing to find that Nic had his own harem of four young girls cuddling him and playing games with him. He looked very happy. Luc wanted to play as well, so the little girls played ring-a-ring-a-rosy with him. 

I wondered if the girls were related. I asked the lady looking after them. She said, Yes, they were all sisters and were all her children. I asked her how many children she had. She said “Ten. Five boys and five girls” I looked at her in disbelief and exclaimed “How old are you?!” “Thirty-four” “My God! When did you start? When you were twelve?!” “Yes, as a matter of fact, I was twelve”. This mum was the coolest person, very calm and phlegmatic. She had five of her children with her, all their snacks, drinks, selection of toys, arm chairs, towels, etc. etc. and was even able to include and entertain our children. Her children were polite, well-behaved and very good natured. She rocked! I asked her how on earth she managed as I tended to find it hard to keep just two children in check. She said that it could be really hard, but she seemed to have such a great attitude that it looked as if it came easy to her. Given her early start into motherhood, we could only imagine the hardships she had faced and the total lack of education and opportunities she had dealt with.