displayed first signs of sickness in February. It started with mouth
ulcers, and then came diarrhea. Not just any kind of diarrhea - it was
a diarrhea that never stopped. It would be bad, really really bad, for
a day or two. Then he would have very soft stools for a couple of
days. Then he would get very bad again. Sometimes, there were days
with no stool at all, then there would be 10 exploding diapers the next
day. He never had any diarrhea at night but he would wake up and
immediately have an extremely watery poop. If I wasn't there to catch
him when he woke up, I would find him soiled, wet, and very stinky. He
had lots of undigested food in his stool. He lost weight, then
regained it. On bad days, he would simply sway and fall over, out of a
stand. He was weak, he was grumpy, he changed.
So we went to Nagorno-Karabakh, and then we were back here in Armenia for a week, and then I went to Bucharest, and then I went to Chisinau, Moldova.
And then I got sick. Urpy stomach, achey head. Took half an Ambien to help me sleep. Fell into bed at 9:30. Got up around 2 and staggered downstairs to... do something, I'm not sure what. "Well, as long as I'm downstairs, I should check my e-mail," I thought. Claudia found me an hour or so later passed out in front of the computer. Which is a first.
(Yah, first Carlos, then me. Go figure. But he seems to be worse off, so send some love his way.)
And there's so much to blog about! Nagorno, Moldova, Bucharest. Old Bishop Teoctist finally left us at the age of 91, so Romania has a new Patriarch -- a liberal, but he was probably working for the secret police back when, just like everyone else. Sixteen Polish tourists got trapped by avalanches on the Trans-Fagaras Highway last week; as the Romanian English-language paper put it, "the tourists were very surprised to discover a destination where they could die". Armenia's economy is continuing to defy gravity. Nagorno-Karabakh has a new government. There will be a new Chipmunks movie out this winter!
I'll try, I promise, just as soon as my stomach settles down. Meanwhile: open thread.
You may - or may not - know that our almost-two-year-old has been having medical issues for quite a while. A detailed description will take hours to write down, and will bore everyone but the most dedicated medical student to tears. Suffice it to say that he has chronic diarrhea (since February!), accompanied by a host of other strange symptoms that range from tongue ulcers to gross motor control issues to extreme irritability. Throw in very dry skin and skin eczema, loss of appetite, gradual delay in language development...
We've been testing for celiac disease, amoeba, giardia - the usual suspects. All negative. Since he's adorable and wonderful, it's hard to believe he's sick just by looking at him. Which is ultimately what the doctors did in the German hospital when we were evacuated this summer. All the tests were negative, EEG normal, neurophysical exam normal, stool normal, blood normal.... all but a diagnosis of anemia remained normal. They labeled me hysterical and sent me home.
And things did not get better. Now we are at the point where we are ready to point guns at doctors if they would just keep at it and find a REASON.
Truth be told, in the summer when we were in the German hospital, Jacob did show relatively few symptoms, and he did not exhibit those tongue ulcers that squick me so. But he did yesterday (as he did last week, and the week before, and the week before that...). So genius struck my husband and we took a picture, sent it to our health insurance - and it really is true that a picture says more than a thousand words. We got an answer within the hour, and now we have the task of finding a "competent pediatric gastroenterologist in an academic setting with experience in developing countries".
That's easier said than done. Any ideas?
You may look at the picture of the ulcers under the fold, if you are not squeamish and think you can help us identify the cause of all the misery. Or if you are not squeamish and just curious.
Ruled out are: Celiac disease, giardia, amoebiasis, various food allergies including nuts, soy, wheat, egg, and milk.
UPDATE: We actually solved the puzzle only a few days later in September 2007. On my own blog I have a sidebar with links to valuable articles about Chronic Diarrhea of Childhood (which is what this is called).
Also, the tongue "ulcers" are no ulcers and the syndrome is indeed called "geographic tongue" like so many helpful commenters have suggested. Thank you all for your continuing interest and support.
These days (2010), Jacob is a big hulking kid who has the occasional loose stool but has been toilet trained successfully almost a year ago. He's never had any accidents, no matter how bad the diarrhea was on any given day. He still has the funny tongue and very dry skin, but other than that, all is well. It surely isn't something I would want to revisit and the stress and the fear from those days are still with me. We still read all the comments, so if you have questions, write on. You can also leave a comment over at Expatria at the post entitled "Enigma" which is a re-post of the first link I mentioned. Best wishes to all parents who are going through the same as we did.
Waiting for the fever to break. Almost the definition of "no fun". I think the worst time was in the Philippines, when I was ten or so, one of those fevers of mysterious origin which turns your life into a Philip K. Dick novel. You know, you wake up and you're not really sure whether you're still in a dream: this is not my beautiful house? oh wait a minute, it is. Dammit. Anthony Burgess did a pretty good job with the strange fevered word associations, in his Shakespeare book of all places. His Malayan trilogy is frustrating too.
Since Dave MB and Noel are around, let me throw out this idea that's been rattling around in my head for a while (especially in the last 48): there's a connection between Blanchard's model of the breakdown of a centrally planned economy, Razborov & Rudich's concept of the natural proof, and Goodman's grue paradox. Something to do with complicated Boolean functions which I can't quite put into words yet.
In the middle of the night I thought I remembered a children's book about a beatnik girl, which maybe I saw in a store window once, maybe. The book exists, so I am not crazy (at least in that sense), and it's called Suzuki Beane. Googling around, it looks like some self-promoting jackass now has the copyright, instead of the original author, Sandra Scoppettone, who now writes mysteries which have completely passed me by. Cute pictures by the original illustrator, Louise Fitzhugh, who wrote Harriet the Spy soon after.
I am so tired. Update: Okay, now I know why Jerry Lewis gets so crazy during those 72-hour Labor Day telethons.
The Pure Product of America: Bennies?
Bennies? what is this, 1956? No, mon semblable, mon frère, the only bennies I get are those my employment doesn't provide. More zinc, I think. And, let's see: Summer in the Country, The Dud Avocado, or Digressions on some poems by Frank O'Hara? Since I'm apparently not going to rest sleepfully any time this weekend, and I don't want to be reading the Internet at 3 AM again.
The Pure Product of America: Oh, you'll be here, all right. You'll be here.
My Mom taught it to me. (She also taught me not to swear. 'tschuldigung, Mama.)
One of the current projects is a sweater for Alan - a project that, I have to confess, was interrupted for almost a year because my maid made away with my cable needle. As I never remembered to buy one when I was in a country that actually sells them, the project was stalled.
Then I did remember to buy them needles, brought two over, unpacked them... and somehow, right next to them, the missing one popped back into existence. On the upstairs sofa where I never knit and where I never put anything. I hope it had fun wherever it spent the last year.
Anyhow. Now I'm back on track and just started with the front. Good thing I planned the sweater big!
This is an interesting read re the issue of bombing Iran.
I don't know whether The Canadian is a reliable news source (is it?) but this article nicely brought together all my doubts and fears about the current administration's stance on Iran. It also made me go and refuel my car, and have those go-bags ready. Just in case. Can't hurt.
I know. Long time no see, and then I write such a crappy post. In my defense, I was really upset. Chişinău is on the list of cities we might (or might not) move to in the near future, and Doug sounded so down and upset on the phone, it was like someone hit me. I took an instant dislike to a city I've never been to, and now I never want to, and I'm not claiming that this is rational in any way. I really hate being taken advantage of, or being cheated or betrayed. I respond very poorly to that.
[Brief tangent: When we arrived in Bucharest in May 2003, we fell into the hands of luggage-handler con-artists. I was seven months pregnant at the time and hadn't slept all night on the stupid overnight train from Belgrade. Doug still shivers with delighted horror when he recalls how I sprang into the faces of these guys. I can be very harpy-like.]
In the meantime, Doug is indeed in Chişinău for a conference while I'm here in Yerevan with the boys. It's 7:15 am and I rightfully should end here and wake up Alan who leaves for school at 8, and who is not a morning person at all. He needs his time, and cuddles, and more time to transit from a whiny, limp bag of misery to the cheerful and energetic boy he is for the rest of the day. It's not pretty.
Which brings me to the topic of this post: I'm struggling with a decision I made about him and his ADHD. He is in kindergarten now. He's in school from 8:30 to 3:30, and he has Russian language class three times a week. And homework.
You suck. You use the goodness of my man to steal his iPod after
he's shown HIS KIDS' PIX, for goodness' sake? How vile do you have to
be to do that?
If the gods listen to me, you'll get crotch lice, and painful itchy
rashes, and you will not be able to sleep at night, and you will lose
all tolerance for alcohol.
You fucking idiot. You're probably proud you stole my kids' pictures. Asshole.
To all decent people from Chisinau: If you see a piece of shit using a silver iPod Nano 2 GB, ask him to see the serial number. If the number is 7K725CAAVQ5, kick him in the balls and take it from him. Keep the iPod, but kick him, hard.
Salvaged from the WiP, or why I haven't been posting much...
Okay, here's the set-up. In 1903, the U.S. sponsored the independence of a mercantile breakaway region of Colombia in a strategically very intriguing location. The constitution of this new country permanently linked its new currency, the balboa, one to one with the dollar. In 1914, the Panama Canal was opened. Canal Zone policy did not allow sales to ships on credit. Banks in Panama filled the gap.
Jump-cut bone to space station here. Seventy years after, in a region whose major products were coffee, bananas, and death squads, Panama managed to seize this tiny bit of comparative advantage and leverage it into a national economy centered around financial services. Swiss-style bank accounts, generous corporate tax policies, and a major re-exporting hub, combined with the use of the U.S. dollar and the low inflation caused by the Balassa-Samuelson effect: all these things made Panama an attractive site for many types of business activity.
Small problem: Manuel Noriega. A scary guy, and I'm not talking about the acne. He was the chief of secret police for the charismatic leftist populist Chicago-influenced leader of Panama, General Omar Torrijos, and the guy who (in theory) was going to disable the Panama Canal if the 1977 treaty didn't go through; and after Torrijos's plane mysteriously crashed in 1981, Noriega quickly moved to consolidate power behind the scenes. Money laundering, drug smuggling, dogs and cats living together, mass kleptocracy. One of the cuter scams was that Noriega's associates ran the company responsible for security in the re-export zone. Guess how that worked.
Now, somehow Noriega had got on the bad side of Uncle Sugar. It's rather difficult to pin down the proximate cause, since the fellow had been messing with drugs and money since the 1970s, when he was heavy petting with the CIA, but whatever. Suffice it to say that by the late 1980s, Noriega had turned from "our bastard" to "liability" in the eyes of the Powers That Be. The change might even have been made in good faith.
Manuel Noriega was indicted in a Miami court on February 4, 1988. On March 3, 1988, all the U.S. accounts of the Banco Nacional de Panama were frozen. The Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Elliott Abrams, gloated to the press about this neat idea, quipping like only an apparatchik can: "Noriega is hanging on by his fingertips. He'll be out of power in a week. Now we'll see who stole the strawberries." But it was a neat idea, if not very well thought through.