Helen on a ladder, a bit younger than in this letter.
Dear Marian, Frank, Lisa, Erik and Julianna,
Greetings from the huge city of Sao Paulo (largest in Brazil). Wouldn't ever want to live here- the traffic is terrible and some days there is a lot of smoke due to factories but the medical care is the best in Brazil.
We were here for five days- January 14th through the 18th for X-rays, blood and urine tests. I was with Helen the 2.5 to 3 hours it took to do the x-rays for they let me hold her hand. I was impressed how thorough the 19 x-rays were done on the kidney and bladder. While the dye was in the bladder, the x-rays from the right side and lying flat on the back showed everything normal, but on her left side of the bladder a cyst was found. She had to urinate and several x-rays showing the bladder full and half full and empty showed that the cyst was larger when the bladder was empty and in the cyst a residual of the urine stayed. This apparently was (the wetting) better when she took sulfa or antibiotics but only surgery was the solution. The medical term is diverticulum. I wish I had a Merck Manual to understand it better, although the doctor did a diagram for me. He said that this is from birth, so apparently the x-rays at Fairview Southdale taken 2.5 years ago weren't thorough enough. I'm glad we finally found out what was wrong. the doctor says that there could be a complication from the surgery, in that the urine could try to go up the ureter to the kidney- he called this reflux and said that he tried to prevent this from happening by doing certain things in the operation. This doctor was recommended to me by our dentist in Maringa. He is a urologist for children. Since I came here, I found out that he is consdiered to be one of the best in Brazil and is well known.
After the exams, Helen and I went by night bus to Curitiba where we me Joey, Rachel and Charles and then drove for seven hours to a city where a pastor from our district was to be ordained at his home church. This pastor is our age but did a short course offered due to the shortage of pastors. He had correspondence lessons to do and Joey was his tutor the last year. Before he became a pastor he worked with his family at a tile and brick factory in the country by his father's farm. Here shingles aren't used on roofs, but tiles. It was interesting to see the process of how the tiles were made. We also visited an old folk's home for 75 residents where this pastor that was ordained had worked for four years before going to our own district. The sermon was given in German since most in that area prefer that language- we had a copy of the sermon in Portuguese.
On our way back home we were by the ocean so we spent two days at the home of a Dutch couple who live one block from a nice beach . This couple had lived for 15 years in the U.S., five years in Canada and went back to Brazil to be by their only son who had married a Brazilian when the parents left Holland 25 year ago and stayed here for 5 years. Now they are about 68 years old and haven't tried to learn Portuguese which all their grandchildren can speak. They lived in Maringa for a few months and we helped translate for them but they decided it was too hot there for them. Joey wouldn't go in the water but we had fun jumping in the waves. The sun was very hot one morning. I made Helen and Charles wear shirts but Rachel took hers off and consequently got a burn so her back peeled. We didn't get lotion under Charles nose, thus large water blisters formed which made him look funny. While on the beach we saw a beautiful film made in Austria, "Sissi", spoken in French with Portuguese subtitles- only Helen couldn't read fast enough so I explained as it went along. The movie was about a girl who was chosen to be the queen of Austria- Elizabeth was her real name.
Rachel and Charles had their birthdays while Helen and I were here for exams. Rachel made a cake and invited a few neighbors. Rachel is now my height. According to the Reader's digest, one can double the height for girls at 18 months and add an inch for good nutrition. She and Helen should be 5' 9".
Today is the 8th day in the hospital and Helen will get out. We will spend two days at a pastor's home here before we go back on a 12 hour ride by night bus. She has had a catheter in for seven days. When she got up a plastic bag was taped on to her leg so she could walk around. For two days she has had a lot of gas. They didn't give her an enema before surgery. She didn't have a B.M. for five days and then it was very hard, finally they gave an enema but still she has gas pains quite often. The doctor didn't leave any order for gas so they gave her medicine for pain in order to go to sleep for two nights. Just about everywhere you go, there are couches in each room for a relative to sleep by the patient. Nursing care is better here than in Maringa yet relatives are the ones who feed a patient when he needs help, gets them out of bed, helps them walk. Nurses come in just when it is time to give the bath, take the temperature, or give medicine, unless we call them. There is no T.V. in the hospital unless one has a portable one to bring. We brought a tape recorder, coloring books, dolls, and many books. Most days I read to her and when I read all of the books, I bought comic books. Now that she is better she will play with her dolls, so I can write letters. Helen had 11 stitches from the surgery. American school starts on the 11th, so I will probably carry her up the steps so that she can go. Brazilian school starts on March 1st. That gives her plenty of time to recuperate.
We didn't hear from you , Cynthia, Louie of Stan's for Christmas. Laurie sent Rachel a letter. Just think, Juliana is almost a year old! Will she be walking soon? Wish you could send us a picture of her when she has her first birthday. How about printing us a letter, Lisa, or drawing us a picture? Hugs and kisses to all,
Love, Donna and Joey
Thought Eric would be interested to hear that while we were in the hospital we saw helicopters going on top of a 22 story building about 8 to 10 blocks from here to save people from a fire. It was tragic in that 200 people died. Many jumped and there wasn't any netting so they had an instant death. They had fire equipment such as hoses and extinguishers inside, but the 1000 people that worked there panicked and didn't remember to use them. The whole city stopped working to see this tragedy and many of the duty nurses went back to work and hundreds of people went to give blood that was needed. We heard ambulance sirens all day long. Fire started when an air conditioner exploded due to over heating of the electrical wiring. The fire department complained of what little equipment they had and what few firemen for this size of a city, and said many more could have been saved if building codes had been enforced- such as helicopter landing on top of the building- the only helicopter that could go up there had to land on skis. One man held a wet curtain over his nose and mouth. He waited calmly for three hours to be rescued while others became desperate and jumped. He said he would have waited all day and encouraged others not to jump.
Thurs. am. We got back home. Everyone is fine. Helen has to take antibiotics by mouth for a month and then have a urine exam before the doctor says everything is O.k.
Love, Donna and Joey
Rachel, Charles and Helen