Girls’ home trip with one of my older daughters
At the beginning of this week, I travelled with girls from one of the homes on an overnight trip they are running for the girls with cerebral palsy. I got the chance to make sure Miss W got to go by being her carer. She was one of my original children back in the early days of 1Step2Step. This is the trip mentioned in the ‘The bigger picture‘.
At 6am (I was earlier than the monks in my street), I headed to the orphanage, Bann Feung Fah, on a motorbike with two bags (one massive one for her and a smaller for me) and my handbag to pick up the stroller. Then I walked round to the girls’ home with the bags on the stroller. Arriving at the home, I headed to her ward. I’m told that she is ready in a fresh set of clothes, but as always, she has a t-shirt and shorts six times too big. Miss W is sleepy and not that responsive, but does seem to be aware of who it is scooping her up. I was told to wear yellow and everyone else is too, apart from Miss W, so I switch her into the spare yellow one I brought. Her arms were so tight and contorted with little give, but I get her in the clean t-shirt and freshened her up.
We waited for the all the staff and other kids with those from the ward below hers and then headed to the bus.
They had the wheelchair children (eight in total, of whom Miss W was clearly the most disabled) sit downstairs with wheelchairs folded in the passageway. Miss W and I sat on a sofa-type seat with another young lady at the other end.
This meant I could lay her out or sit her up and vary how she was positioned in order to relieve discomfort. For a young person who has two dislocated hips which cause her legs to be trapped in awkward positions and a curved spine, who rarely gets to be upright if ever, she did really well. I was able to give her a cereal mix snack on the journey with the supplies I had intentionally placed in my bag with me. She ate that easily and I was hopeful all the meals would be the same.
While travelling, I tried to work on loosening her arms up with gentle stretching, but it was not easy.
We arrived at the Thai marine corps base where we were staying and helped the children up the steps into where we were sleeping. As we drove in, some of the girls were excited to see so many guys in uniforms. They were really helpful and kind. The two female soldiers loved the little girl who used a wheelchair.
The first thing to do was to have a meal. I fed her a Nutrini milk and cereal mix meal and that went down really well.
Then it was time to get into swimwear and head to the beach. We got everyone without nappies ready to go, but then we had to do a team building game first. Subsequently, one of the girls had an accident, forgetting she didn’t have the usual nappy assistance, so then there was a delay while waiting for her. During this time I was concerned as Miss W sat after a meal with no nappy in her stroller. Thankfully she had no need to relieve herself. Then we got back on the bus to head to the beach and again I worried about the bus seat. Back in her chair for the walk to the sea and out into the water… I was pleased to get there without problems.
I put her in a puddle jumper flotation jacket. It was still really hard to get this bulky foam thing into the tight spaces and deal with her contracted wrists, but we made it. I also put on a neck collar so her head was fully staying up.
It was very shallow, so we sat and she floated with her legs gently moving with the current back and forth. She was not excited, but you could see she was more relaxed. We ended up giving another child the collar and both got to have fun.
The whole group really enjoyed the sand and nearly all went in the sea. Some of the children were bounding around jumping and splashing with their arms. One had an over-sized long shirt, so it made amazing splash paddles. She was in her element and didn’t want to get out at the end. The wheelchair girls all crawled over and sat with Miss W and me in a circle holding each other’s hands. We had forged quite a friendship downstairs on the bus in the morning, working together to reach and manage things with everyone’s different abilities. I was almost as restricted as them in movement at times as I was supporting Miss W’s posture on the bus.
The sea was fun and the showering chaotic. Staff and helper girls at different stages of the process, strip, wash, dry talc, dress and take out. Calls for towels, talc, nappies, t-shirts, bras, shorts and another girl was ready. I dried Miss W as well as I could and dressed her. For myself, I actually used the toilet to just get dry and changed before we went back on the bus and back to the place where we were staying. It was eating time again. Miss W had hers, but didn’t eat so well this mealtime and then I ate after her. While at the evening’s social time, I noted that Miss W’s feet were purple-toned and asked if this was common for her. We massaged her legs and feet but decided the best thing for her would be to rest and have her feet up. She had been sitting and moving her body in a lot in ways that it is just not used to. This gave us both the chance to be excused from the singing and dancing. We got her ready for bed and wiped down and I had a quick shower while someone watched her. I gave her a hand massage and got her all cosy. We all had mats on the floor, a pillow and blanket.
I had brought an inflatable square pillow which I first put under the mat to get her feet up to help her blood flow and feet colour.
Then through the evening and night I switched which of her sides it was under, so she was turned and not getting too much pressure on one side. Miss W was often struggling from pressure sores before. The method seemed to work too for when her chest was stuffy. While she rested, I sorted the stuff for the next day and checked up on emails on my phone and messaged some people. When everyone else had finished partying, they came back.
The room had a row of mats one side, then four on the opposite side in the right-hand corner and two in the left-hand corner. Miss W and I were on the two, carers were on the four and the 14 girls shared the long row. One complained of a mosquito bite, so I put some spray on her to prevent more. Then the whole row wanted it. I helped to get everyone sorted for bed and draped each girl’s blanket over her. They were so sweet.
Some went to sleep straight away, while others had the giggles and fidgets. Miss W kept looking asleep, but opening one eye every so often. In the night some of the staff who had been having some refreshments came back and were really loud, which I think caused Miss W to wake. She moaned and I woke to deal with her filled nappy. This was possible to sort out in the light from outside even though it was midnight. It was hard to sleep after this, but I managed to do so when they went to get freshened up and changed.
The morning was upon us at 4.55 when the full room was filled with light. It took a moment to remember where I was because I was tired. Miss W was content. A shower was the first job at this early time. Getting her sorted and back in the room, then my shower, I struggled to remember things I needed because I was somewhat confused by lack of sleep.
We managed though and she chilled out on my side of the bed and then in her chair as we got ready like everyone else. I packed and sorted the bags for the morning tasks and activities and stuff I would need for the journey. It’s not as simple as just putting it all in bags. You need some in the hand bag which will be with me, some in a bag close to hand like feeding cloths, spoon bowl, extra nappies and then things not needed in the bag must be stowed under the base of the bus. Then you need to know what is to give back and what to keep accessible.
Breakfast she ate so so, but was better with her drink than before. Then the traditional closing ceremony took place with a group photo.
We then got on to the bus to go to see sea turtles at a marine venue. We saw turtles of different ages, then went and saw fish like Nemo and others and then it was time to get on the road.
I was tired, but had worked out about five different positions for Miss W that we rotated between. The system seemed to be: sleep, grump, change position, sleep and repeat. She was definitely content when sleeping. I nodded off on many occasions when she was relaxed and it was nice to be close.
She was enjoying some orange juice, when we stopped and she needed to eat a meal. She was not interested really. So I cleaned her up and gave her a quick nappy change. Then we were home, back at the orphanage when we woke next.
I carried her back to her ward and got her back in ward clothes and she felt the familiarity of the air bed she normally sleeps on and was peaceful. You can take the orphan out of the orphanage, but when you bring her back, she feels at home. Changing her t-shirt and dealing with her arms was super easy. I gave her kisses and said goodbye.
Then I walked the wheelchair back to Bann Feung Fah and rode the motorbike home with the bags.
I am asking you to pray for Miss W and the other girls as they rest up from the travel, for the staff as they get back into normal routine and that all retain joyful memories of this trip.
Thanks to the Thai Oilmen’s fund for providing the means for this event to happen and the three-day trip that happened before this. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read the previous blog on ‘The bigger picture‘. Thanks to the superintendent who values these opportunities for the girls. Pray that there will be consideration given to making the accommodation more accessible.