Monday, May 30, 2016

Poop Stories - Volume Umpteen

Over the span of 11 years, I have written things here. Depending on the season, the posts have been published at varying intervals...Both frequently and infrequently, topics serious and mundane. 

At times I have been a 'mommy-blogger'. I have been a 'missionary/expatriate-blogger'; I have been an 'adoption-blogger' too.

Recently though?

This is the place where poop stories come to be told. I only talk about bowel problems. I am now just a poop blogger. 

The foremost poop blogging expert.

In defense of myself, lest you find this all too disgusting, I deal in bodily fluids - I have an expertise and vast knowledge of poop after 26 years of raising seven kids and 5+ years in the field of midwifery.  

You talk about your work, right?  
I suppose this is me, talking about mine.

It is not your detail to keep track of, but there has been an illness in our family since mid-April.  I've written about it already. We thought we had it beat, then we didn't think we did, then we did, and then we were unsure of everything.

Recently I had to go to Dallas for 3 days to be with someone I love that was hurting.  The point of the 60 hour trip was not at all about me, or about all the unsolved Livesay Family poop problems.

Somehow, on the first day in Dallas, due to things I still cannot totally make sense of, I found myself on the phone calling laboratories and asking "Do you need a Doctor's order to do stool testing? Or can I just order tests pou kont mwen?"  (by myself) 

Apparently that is a whack thing to ask. It turns out that, YES, you do need a doctor's order.  A regular American citizen does not have the right to test their own poop just for fun, sans permission. 

I want you to know, if I were in the lab business, I'd never turn away anyone that wanted to pay me to test things for them.  But I digress.

I found my friend, Dr. Chris, in Tennessee because he is an adult Doc and he also happens to be infinitely patient and my other doc friend specializes in kid care and was very busy that day.  Dr.Chris said he would talk to his pal, a GI Doc, and get a bunch of stuff ordered. He said he would put together the order, fax it, make a call or two and be sure the lab was all in on the plan. He told me to go into the lab and get the collection tubes, supplies, etc. etc.

When I arrived to pick up the supplies a man with amazing eyes and unusual good looks got to hear about my peculiar  situation with a Doctor in TN ordering lab tests in Dallas, TX for a person that lives in neither of those two places.  

I have never wanted away from an attractive man so badly.  If you must discuss poop and potential parasites, it is generally more enjoyable to discuss it with someone that is mildly to massively unattractive.

As I left the office, amazing-eyes-guy told me to take the copy of the faxed lab order along with me, that way I could drop my "samples" to any location and did not need to return to his location.  I never ever wanted to see this man again in my life, so I rather liked his suggestion.

The next morning I worked on 'creating a sample'. It wasn't difficult in that my stomach (and those in my family can attest to this and could have produced with excellence too) had pretty much been hurting for 6 weeks and producing a sample is something we can do by accident at this point.

Amazing-eyes-guy had given me four containers to collect my samples. One was to be frozen, not important to the story, but weird, right? Hang tight loved ones, I need to freeze some fecal-matter in your freezer. I'll set it here, next to the ice cubes.

Meticulously, I followed the directions and mixed the goods into the vials like a brilliant scientist or maybe just like Beaker from the Muppets.  

If you've ever done this "collection of samples" for yourself or a child you are responsible for, you know.  Boy, do you know. This is a shitty job. Pretty much all of us can agree we never imagined a day where we would need to spoon our own feces into plastic containers to then drive across town and hand it off to someone with eyes and ears and the ability to look at us in such a stupid predicament.

I was on a very tight schedule. I needed to be somewhere really important (like the whole reason I was even in Dallas) by 11am.  I left the house with the sample(s) at 9am, anticipating a 20 minute drive, a quick drop off, and an easy return long before it was even 10am.  

Once to the lab, of course I found a room the size of a walk-in closet filled with people.  What fun! Discussing dung samples in front of 13 strangers.

Things started out rocky.  The lady at the lab desk said that she needed more than what the fax-order said. She wanted account numbers and phone numbers that matched with account numbers and all sorts of official things far beyond my brilliant plan to hand her poop and a credit card and the fax Chris sent.

She wouldn't budge and told me to go get that information. I had a seat to try to find my friend and ask him what his account number was for the lab.  I texted him, called him, voxed him, and I sat watching the minutes tick buy, my poop and my dignity sitting in a brown paper bag at my feet.

At one point, my son-in-law called me.  I was so frazzled by the time I was losing and the full room of people and my inability to find Dr. Chris and his dumb account number that when my phone rang this is what was said:

"Hello?" - Me

"Hi, I am checking on you. You okay?" - Son in Law

"Who is this?" - Me

"Uh. It is Chris." -Son in Law who also bears the name Chris

"No. This is NOT Chris!" -Me, thinking only of Dr. Chris and not son-in-law Chris

"Yes, yes, this IS Chris." -Son in Law, Chris

long confused pause 

"OOOOhhhh.  THAT Chris.  Oh. Yeah. Yep, you are him. I am trying to get out of here. Sorry, I was thinking about Dr. Chris because I have been trying to find him.  I hope to see you soon. Sorry that was really weird to say you are not you." -Me

(My son-in-law actually did not even really seem to think that my behavior was odd.  Maybe people accuse him of not being him all the time or something?)

At that point. I wanted to give up, leave the lab, and call it a good effort. I wanted to practice extravagant grace with myself.  Troy told me in a text message that I had "TO SEE  IT THROUGH" for the sake of "the entire family".  He said, "Please, just get it done."  I loathed him for that text message. 

Finally I decided to make some stuff up because I could not get a response from TN and if he was not available or if he was in surgery or something I knew I might never get his answer.  I googled the practice I knew he used to own and got their phone number and claimed that was the phone number that would coincide with his lab account number.  The lady went for it.  We were back on our way to finishing the transaction.  

She was confused by the whole dumb story but I begged her to stick with me.  She put in a Minnesota mailing address that we use, my daughter's cell phone number, my Doctor-friend in TN information, and just kept rolling with every unusual answer I gave her.  Just as she was about to finish everything she needed to enter into her computer - another lab tech came walking up. He was in a mood.  A foul foul mood.

He said, "What is that order!?"

She said, "Her Doctor is in TN and he faxed this and spoke to another office about it yesterday."

He said, "That doesn't even look like a real order.  Look at it.  That was faxed from a UPS store."

I tried with all my might to kill him with my eyes.

He said, "I don't think you should take that."

I said, "Oh,  can you honestly conceive of a scenario wherein I would arrive here with stool samples and sinister motives and want to pay you an exorbitant amount of money to test it and I would go to so much trouble that I would ask a fake Doctor to send a fake order?  Do Doctors never get a day off and perhaps need to send a fax from an alternate location?"  

Leave your little tiny box, come with me into a big world of CRAZY possibilities!  

(I did not say the last tiny box part.  I only thought that part.)

He said again, in a flat and unimpressed tone,  "It is sent from a UPS store."  

He looked at his co-worker and said, "I would check with Al."  

She cancelled out the entire order to free up the computer to go see if Al thought I was doing something illegal, evil, or dangerous with my poop.

It turns out Al is the guy with the winning personality that runs that particular lab office. It is a good thing they keep him behind the scenes.  Trust me.

After meeting together, calling their attorneys and doing some risk assessment, Al and the lady determined it was really unusual, but he said she could put the order in, just throw all caution to the wind, go for it and take this woman's poop - YOLO and stuff.

We started over with the computer order. For the third time I repeated all the information, MN address, TN doctor info, daughter's cell-phone, and handed over my credit card.

She placed $424 on the card and FINALLY asked me to hand over my samples.

It was like mile 25.5 of the marathon, I could see the dang finish line just down the hill and I was about to leave that horrible little lab without my poop and never look back.  My heart began to soar on wings of eagles.

"Oh. Oh dear." she said.


"You need six containers, you only brought four."

"The guy with the eyes at the other lab only gave me four. Can you just make four work? I am supposed to be somewhere and I am late."

"No, no, I am afraid I have to cancel the whole order if I cannot send six tubes out."

Troy's text playing in my mind, "I !can! do this."  I said, only to me.

"Okay, let me use your bathroom please."

"Oh, Ma'am, I cannot let you use ours. That is against our policy."

I took a deep cleansing breath in and held it long enough to control my white-hot-rage.

"Oooookkkaaaay. Where is there a restroom nearby?"

"You can go over to the hospital across the way, I suppose."

Carrying my samples, the new empty containers and needed supplies, along with my broken and crushed spirit, I sprinted like Jackie Joyner Kersee across the parking lots and into the ER entrance of the hospital.

On a Tuesday in May, I lost the last shred of my dignity in the Irving Baylor Hospital first floor lobby public bathroom.

Once situated I waited for all the other feet in the other stalls to hurry up and leave.  I valiantly tried to produce more product for the two extra containers.  

Nothing. Nothing, nothing.

Great! Now what?

This was a critical moment of decision.

A few new people came in and used stalls next to me.  I waited.  They flushed, left, went on with their normal happy poop-collection-free day.  

Once I was alone again I opened up the four samples and began the work of redistributing them into the other two new containers.  Clearly, I was going to be short on quantity but I figured handing over six containers was the only way out of my hell.

I returned to the lab, handed over the bag,  patted the lady's hand to thank her for being my only advocate, and then I made a run for the door.  (In hindsight, touching her was probably not what she wanted. I only say this because of the way she recoiled at my touch.) 

As can almost be expected and predicted, all the samples came back negative - or normal. I bought a lot of stress, trauma, and embarrassment for the low low price of $424.  

In the words of Thomas Edison, 

"I have not failed, I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Wonderful Outcome for Wilande

10 days ago several of you prayed for Wilande as she fought Pre-Eclampsia - her baby arrived Monday night - she went home Thursday afternoon with a healthy baby boy. 🙌🏾

Thank you for your prayers and financial gifts that help reduce maternal mortality in Haiti. 

** We have a operating expense shortfall and need help. We ask you to consider $25 per month recurring donation - our website has a "join the family" tab - please click it to help us with this.

#orphanprevention #strengtheningfamilies

Right now (since March) Pregnant women are finding the government maternity hospital closed - that leaves women with emergencies and normal deliveries that they must handle on their own. We pray justice and care and life for these moms and babes. We pray resolution to the hospital strike. amen.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Orphanage Tourism

Children as products: the reality of orphanage voluntourism - By Lamorna Byford
Every marketer knows that competitions and prizes are a great way to pull in potential new customers. Playing on our desires for better clothing, better houses or better bodies, plus our love of getting something for nothing, is a clever way to promote products. Selling new and different experiences is even more profitable. Jumping out of a plane or off a bridge appeals to those with an adventurous side, while volunteering in exotic places attracts people who want to do something good while experiencing something novel. Using volunteer placements as competition prizes would arguably be a great way to draw in these potential customers.
There are several voluntourism companies who are doing just that, by running competitions in which the prizes on offer are placements in orphanages in Africa, South America and Eastern Europe. As a research fellow for the Better Volunteering, Better Care initiative, I am certainly not against volunteering. I am, however, very familiar with the arguments against volunteer tourism in orphanages and my reaction to learning about these competitions was one of dismay. When I researched the competitions further and found that most didn’t require volunteers to have any previous experience with children, or even any background checks, dismay turned to concern.
However, my discomfort didn’t seem to be shared. A quick canvas amongst my friends elicited quite a different response – “well someone needs to look after those poor kids”. After several attempts to argue that voluntourism isn’t the best way to support these children and their communities, I gave up. I won’t rehash the arguments for or against voluntourism here. What I want to explore instead, is why my intelligent, culturally aware friends are so willing to accept that allowing un-vetted individuals into institutions with vulnerable children is a good idea.
Read the rest of the article HERE 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Poop Stories

Whistle Belly Thumps

One after the other after the other – after.the.other … The people, both large and small, that reside in my home, clenched their buttocks with superhuman strength and ran in desperation for the latrine.
What began as one person with some loose stool for a single unremarkable day, somehow turned into a three-week multi-generational back-door trots EVENT.
It all began with my husband.
Isn’t it just like any respectable, god-fearing man to attempt to lead in every area of life, including and not limited to leading his family into several weeks of the green apple nasties.
Thanks, honey. I see you.
Because we are unnaturally and preposterously proud of being tough and “gutting it out”, we sought no help for our malaise.  I was the second to fall prey to the whistle belly thumps.  Several days after I joined my husband in extraordinary-toilet-time, our children began to fall, one by one.
Two weeks passed, toilet paper consumption increased, as grocery consumption decreased in direct correlation. Troy dropped ten pounds.
We focused on the positive. Perhaps I will write the donors and let them know we have cut our food bill in half, they will be thrilled with our frugality, I thought. (joke!)


As the days ticked by I heard from the kids that underwear had been thrown away a time or two. I heard from my husband that he hadn’t made it to the toilet on one particularly difficult day. Well  – that will off-set the grocery savings, you guys!
One morning more than two weeks into the event, I received a voice message from the co-chief in charge as I drove the winding roads of rural Haiti. He said, “You know what? I’m still really sick. I tried some Cipro and it did not work and I’m kind of afraid now. Why do we still have this terrible diarrhea?”
I listened as I drove and I thought, “Oh, so we are not gonna tough it out, huh? Dude is afraid. Alright then, Momma is going gang-busters. Time to act.”
I called immediately on my favorite physician in the great North. While her specialty is pediatric emergency, she has more than dabbled in tropical health and disease. Her instructions were clear. Do not mess around. Treat for Giardia, Typhoid, and a few other sporidium just for kicks. Nail it from every angle.
Because we are nothing if not capricious, earlier this week we deployed every single weapon known to mankind, the opposite of “tough it out.”
Ten years of sketchy hygiene practices finally caught up with us.
Don’t get me wrong, we wash our hands and try to tell our kids to do the same before eating and after touching a goat or a donkey or the local currency.  You know how it is though, kids will be kids and I guarantee you the youngest one carries a chicken around by its keister and then eats a peanut butter sandwich on the regular.
That said, most of us probably wash our hands nearly as much as the next guy, but maybe not our lettuce, our tomatoes, or our cucumbers. I have never fully bought into careful disinfection of vegetables. And now, I must repent.
Because we had never paid the price for ignoring the bleach and vinegar when it came time to wash locally grown veggies, time was simply no longer on our side. A decade of unwashed veggies finally resulted in the gargantuan Giardia outbreak of our time.
By this point, you are probably thinking, well this is TMI. Why the oversharing?
I will tell you why.
This is an essay where I need to reject my spurious nature. I NEED to confess as I tie my refusal to be proactive in my vegetable washing, to my refusal to seek medical help in a timely manner, to my frequent refusal to seek God until I am quite literally more than desperate for His help.
There is a pattern here. A pattern that needs confession and change. Read this as my public repentance of the aforementioned everything.
As I type the final sentences of this entry, everyone in my household is taking chalky, terrible tasting medicine three times a day. Everyone ate dinner last night, a welcome change from the previous nights. We believe that big change and parasite-free days are on the horizon!
Like many of us that live far away from our mothers, I did not tell my mother how sick everyone was until we had a pretty trustworthy solution in place. There is just no point in stressing out your Mom.  Am I right?Her response was predictable. “Move to Texas, please,” she texted.
Oh, Mom.  Please wash your vegetables! We had all the fun destroying her erroneous belief that Texas is a parasite-free Republic. Moms.  You probably know one. They just want their babies safe (or just not filled with parasites) and nearby. I cannot even blame her. (Although, I can -and just did- tease her.)
Perhaps, like me, your years of service abroad have led you to places of pride and ignorance.  If so, feel free to share your favorite story of bodily fluid loss along with your favorite method of getting your veggies clean.