Thursday, March 24, 2011

We have been thinking hard about a name for the baby. I have always felt that picking a girl's name is so much easier that a boy's.

We want a name that's primarily Scandinavian but will also work in America. A name that makes people go, "yeah, that's right, he was born in Denmark", but not one that he will spend a lifetime spelling and explaining.

For the readers who know my name, it's very unusual for America, but the corresponding last night is pretty common. So it's not completely unfamiliar to most Americans, but probably a little bit on the weird side, if I'm to be completely honest. So that's a consideration.

Here's a top 10 (and this will be fun to read in ten years):

1. Mattias

2. Tobias

3. Carl-Mattis

4. Anakin (yes, like Skywalker)

5. Mats (like Wilander, the tennis star)

6. Samson

7. Isak (probably a little higher than 7th)

8. Lukas

9. Eric

10. Emil

I was discussing my unusual family structure with my department's professor. We were talking careers, and I mentioned that going back to Wisconsin/Minnesota isn't so much a work thing as it is a kid thing. The professor understood and confessed that he too had step-kids and kids with step-parents. I told him how Andreas had looked at me and called me Jeff (my ex's new husband) and I swear the professor got a little bit of a tear in his eye.

Another attending is on his third marriage and has a complicated structure of kids and step-kids, so he is another person who can relate.

The truth is that Andreas is doing better than ever. He has always been an introverted, shy kid. He has always been well-liked, though, and he is a handsome, tall boy. His favorite things to do is play video games and draw robots. He doesn't like Skyping, so I don't get to talk to him very much, but the other day he read to me from a book about Christopher Columbus. I didn't even know he could read more than a few words, and now it turns out he reads like a 4th grader (he is 7). Jeebus. He was in summer school last summer, because his reading was subpar. So he is doing well, no thanks to me.

I don't miss him the way I missed him and Natali when we first moved here. when Natali came to live here, I was ecstatic that I had at least one of them, so the desperate feeling disappeared. But I think about him every day, and there is a constant sense in my mind that things didn't turn out like they were supposed to.

So there's another sappy post in a long line of sappy posts.

But I do like the name Andreas. I felt it was a little too Germanic, when my ex insisted on it, but I like it more and more. When Andreas watches the Tour de France with me, he is fascinated that there are other Andreases out there (like Kloeden from Radioshack). In a tiny, but palpable, way it connects him to the Old Country.

Monday, March 14, 2011

It's a bois!

The Girl carries a sonographically normal little Lorax!

She's a little more than halfway through her pregnancy, juggling her monster PhD, her multiple other projects, two kids, me, running, swimming, biking, bills, her Green Card (it's approved for another two years), our taxes (Danish and American), dishes, painful breasts, minimalist hipsterism and smoky gourds forgotten in the oven.

It's not easy to be the Girl right now and I should work harder to keep her happy. The Girl, if you read this, this quest for your happiness will start after my guys' soccer night on Wednesday!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Two patients with leukemia

These two patients are examples of why hematology is such a crazy, unique specialty.

Patient one has an incredible story. As a teenager, he developed leukemia while living in tribal Pakistan. His family must have been wealthy, because he had access to several expensive medications that kept the disease at bay for a year or so. Then, his family's business was extorted by the Taliban and/or the local warlord but refused to pay. His parents were killed and he fled through Asia to Europe.

When he got to Denmark, he may have had to lie about his age. He had no papers and it's slightly less impossible to gain political asylum if you are a minor. So we're not sure exactly how old he is.

He has no family and no friends in Denmark. He lives in a refugee center, while his case is being processed, but spends most of his time in the hospital. The leukemia is mutating, so over the last 9 months, it has progressed despite all the possible and impossible combinations of medicines we have tried on him. He now has what amounts to a second or third body's metabolism from the leukemia cells. He sweats and hurts and his spleen weighs 15 pounds.

He is dying, but has one shot left. There is a clinical trial in Sweden testing out a new drug that happens to target his main mutation. So he rides an ambulance to Lund, Sweden, across the bridge, once a week, with his refugee passport that took a million phone calls to push through.

He has such an incredible story that touches everyone in our department. He speaks halting English and, by now, understandable Danish. He has a naive optimism that the Danish teenagers with leukemia don't seem to share. When they sit with earphones on, typing on their laptops, he talks to the other patients. Everyone, doctors, nurses, janitors, patients all know who he is, because he is always there. He is the only patient I have ever seen being allowed into the nurses' station to eat ice cream. The other day, he looked one of my colleagues in the eye and said "I am so scared that I'm not going to live long enough to have a family" and 6 of us were in tears during noon conference.

He should have been dead 5 times over already. Killed by the Taliban and four more times by leukemia. Hundreds of thousands of people die from poverty and cruelty and misery every year all over the world. This guy has beaten the odds in such a way that he might even pull through.

Patient number two is an 87-year old woman who, by all accounts, lived a good life. Two sons, an unknown number of grandkids, and 10 great-grandkids. She has had enough and is in the hospital to die. Her hemoglobin is dropping but she has chosen that she doesn't want any more transfusions. In the next few days, she will lose consciousness and die, while being kept comfortable by morphine and tranquilizers.

I thought her plan was reasonable, when she told me how she wanted to die. Patients are rarely as straight-forward about death as she was; she was very clear about not wanting transfusions. I called her sons and they were equally reasonable.

If this were Chicago Hope or ER, some emotional tune would play as the camera scans the hospital floor. Our old lady would pass away quietly, while at the same time, the new study drug would start working on our teenager.

We'll see.