Beach day for the older boys
Mr C and Mr B are both reaching the age when they are old enough to leave Bann Feung Fah. They will move to the older boys’ home in September. So when I was asked which child I wanted to take on the orphanage’s big beach trip for the day to Cha-Am, I was torn between the two of them.
Both absolutely loved the beach, sand and sea on the Huahin holiday we had back in August, so as this was likely to be their last chance to visit the sea, it was hard to decide. The head physio asked me whether I could manage both boys and I knew I could not do that on my own. With help, I could totally see it being possible. They are so different in character, needs and challenges. Mr C is a content and calm young man, whereas Mr B is rather more impulsive and intense to manage, with urges to do what he should not do. Mr B can walk though and sit unaided, while Mr C cannot and needs physical assistance. Both boys drink milk, but for Mr C you just hook up his NG feeding tube and send the milk down it into his stomach, then add water to flush it through and he is good to go in 15 minutes maximum, whereas Mr B is self-sufficient and drinks his milk from a bottle, but is messy and slow, and may take up to an hour or more when distracted. Mr B is ‘what you see is what you get’ in the way of illness, while Mr C has breathing and posture challenges that you have to watch out for, as well as seizures that can be rough and difficult.
All in all, I knew I could accommodate all these different issues, but not by myself alone. I was able to get a portable suction machine to take in case it was needed, the milk powder, whisk, feed line stuff and equipment to make the trip possible, risk reduced and fun too.
Once all that had been prepared, that’s when I knew I needed to call on a sweet friend named Heather. Mr B really loves her and behaves for her. She has been to many, many of the trips with us from Safari World to Imaginaria, and countless shows of Disney on Ice and the TV show High 5 on tour. Heather has been that calming influence for me on many days out where stress can get to an all-time high. She even was willing to face her fear of birds for us on a previous trip.
The early start came with its challenges for Heather when she found a taxi was going to be really hard to find. I got the boys ready and we took our stuff to the bus while continuously getting updates from Heather. We ended up getting on the bus at the same time. Heather took Mr B as they have a close friendship from previous trips and he was not supposed to be the harder to hold. I had Mr C. We were on the seats on the ground floor of the bus, which had a sofa and table set-up. There was Heather, then Mr B and me, and then Mr C. Mr C was good once held in a good position and at times Mr B was sat well, but then he would have a squirmy moment before becoming calm again.
Managing him got easier as the journey went on and the only challenging parts were the stops for toilet breaks and food.
We had hoped that Mr C’s Dad might be able to meet us at the beach, as he lives an hour away from there instead of the five hours he is away from visiting him at Bann Feung Fah, but alas this didn’t work out. We did call Dad though while on the bus and Mr C giggled and was so vocal with him.
At one point, Mr C was so comfortable that he fell asleep with the most content expression. Strangely after about ten minutes of sweet sleep, he started into a mild seizure which only lasted about 20 seconds and then he woke up and came round in the most happy, content way, all vocal and giggly. This was bizarre, as he had never had a seizure from such a calm state or come round from one to have so much energy. After this, I was a little more aware to see if more would follow.
We arrived at the beach, got the boys off and put Mr C straight into his stroller to be in a photo. I left Heather’s bag and mine on the bus to get as soon as the photo was over only to see them driven away. We were able to get them brought back, so while waiting we got the boys dressed for the sea and applied the sun cream. We changed in the bathrooms across the road where we would shower later. Some other staff said they were happy to take Mr B to the sea while we got ready, so Mr C came with us in his chair while we dressed. Heading back we found Mr B in a photo shoot with other children from Bann Feung Fah. He was coping but not that relaxed.
We planned to take Mr C in his chair right out to the sea, but that was impossible in the very soft sand. That meant carrying him was the only option. The sea was far out and the sand was at different heights and levels of firmness. We had to get down a little soft sand slope and over a watery bit. Once at the water, I was so glad to sit down with him.
Mr C loved all of it and sat in my lap. We got Mr B sat with us though he was a little apprehensive and struggled with the salt in his eyes from his sweat. Mr C loved the movement it caused as waves rolled up to us. The water became a bit deeper and then more shallow. Mr B was the first to be finished after about 20 minutes. We headed to the umbrella area, got our stuff and sorted the boys’ milk. Getting Mr C in his chair was a relief, because although playing in the sea and sand was fun, the carrying was hard.
I headed to the ‘7-eleven’ and got hot water to make up the boys’ milk. Mr B had his bottle (after giving me a thank you hand gesture as he does at home) and after an attempt to drink it in the deck chair, we moved him to the floor on a plastic mat. He started drinking while I got Mr C’s milk sorted and connected. We strung his feeding bag up to the strap on the big umbrella, which was a great help to save my arms. We put his water flush through afterwards and he was good. I looked over and Mr B had not drunk much. Shortly after he threw the bottle, not wanting more. We cleaned up his mess and face and we saw Mr C was fast asleep and snoring contently. This gave us a short amount of time to eat food ourselves.
Then we headed back into the sea again with the hope that we would get to go on the ‘banana boat’ sofa ride, which is pulled behind the jet ski. Alas, when we got there, the driver had disappeared. Mr B and Heather sat together and Mr C and me for a while.
It was fun and this time Mr B was really directing Heather and loved having his back to the waves and giggling. Mr C and I went out a little deeper and borrowed one of the other staff member’s rubber ring. I supported him; his weight was off me so that was good, but it was harder to control him. I was running out of energy and Mr B was telling Heather by his movements that he was finished. Back to the chairs we went. This time it really made the muscles in my arms burn and so resting for a little while was needed. Mr C relaxed and smiled and Heather played in the sand with Mr B. I had brought sand toys and the interaction was really cute between them.
Next it was time to get the boys and us showered. I washed Mr B down, put his nappy on and passed him out to Heather, who got him dressed while I showered Mr C. Not being able to put him down was hard, but we managed. With a team effort, we got Mr C in a nappy. Heather watched both boys while I had the fastest shower and got dressed, and then she had hers while I watched the boys and got Mr C fully dressed.
It was time to head home, so once we were all dressed we headed back and packed everything up. On the bus journey home we had two nappy changes. When we stopped, I got some hot water and we made up and gave both boys some more milk. It was challenging in the low-ceilinged space to get the feed bag line high enough, but we managed. Mr B completely drank his bottle which was good. Mr C fell asleep again for about ten minutes and was woken again by a very short very light seizure. Again after the seizure, he was good and well and smiley. Heather and I swopped boys for a while, when we had about an hour or two left. We sat Mr B on the sofa and as Mr C was interacting loads, Mr B chilled out and was restful. He seemed tired, but was fighting to stay awake. At least you could see he was relaxed, even if not sleeping.
On both journeys there had been times when there was music, Karaoke and even a showing of ‘Frozen’. The boys were calmest when listening to ‘Frozen’ and most active with the drum beat filled music. One of the children from another ward (for children with more mild cerebral palsy) was dancing to the music in between the chairs. His little hips swayed from side to side. Others sang with the microphone. The whole day was very child friendly. We used two big tour buses and at least one Minibus.
There were 100-plus of us and the children were from all the wards. The staff were a mix of everything from care-givers to office or kitchen workers, to teachers and physios to maintenance and a photographer.
We got back to Bann Feung Fah around 7pm. I took Mr B back first. He was given a milk and then went to bed where I’m told he slept soundly. Then I took Mr C back to the sick ward where he has been staying. We had not needed the suction machine to aid his breathing. I passed on the details to the nurse of the seizures and changed him into ward clothes and headed back with the stroller.
Heather, being the sweetheart she is, asked her husband to wait for me and they gave me a lift home. This was really kind as I had the bags to manage.
I got home, ordered pizza, took a shower while I waited for its arrival, ate the pizza while trying to reply to emails, but kept falling asleep while typing. I got a little more awake and wrapped up for the night at 11pm, which is early for me.
For those of you who think I don’t look after myself, this next extra info is for you. The next morning I woke and permitted myself a lie-in and headed to visit my older boy, Mr S, at the boys’ home sick ward and then went to work about 9.20am.
You may be wondering how the other four kids managed without connection while I was away for the day with Mr C and Mr B at the beach. I was blessed that the two new volunteer ladies from Nichada, the expat community, were willing to come in without me and see the other four: Miss N, Miss A, Miss K and Mr G. One of the ladies is a nurse and the other a physio. They did stretching and gave them love. It was a great day out for the boys and, knowing the others were ok, gave me great peace of mind.
I’m thankful to the company that funded the trip, for the head physio for inviting us and accommodating me by allowing me to bring both boys and a volunteer. I’m grateful to God for helping it to be possible for Mr C to take part, even though he has been ill, and for his staying well while out.
It was a lovely time for all.
Here’s a quote from Zuzzi and Katja, the volunteers who worked with the other four children while we were out:
“It was the same as normal…wash face, change nappies, t-shirts, hair. First we took Miss A and Mr G with Katja stretching and me on the peanut ball. Then we took the two other girls doing the same things. We tried Miss A in the blue car seat, which was ok, but she didn’t like the table. Mr G was in very good condition, but Miss K did not have her hip brace on, so we put it on. She was as normal little crying Kitty. Miss N had high spasticity, but we did ok.”