January 28, 2010

Lead. It's Not What's For Breakfast.

I try to stay on top of things, which for the most part means I sort of know what's kind of going on most of the time, with the remaining minutes just bringing out your standard "deer in headlights" look. If there was any way to bring a deer into my home, have it somehow answer the phone and have a conversation with the person on the other end, all while staring at bright beaming headlights shining in through the window then that would have been exactly what you would have seen from a birds eye view of our living room recently. Despite all of my best efforts to follow a program and maintain compliance with our state and county health department requirements, I somehow found myself yet again on the line being given "the talking to" for having somehow missed an appointment I was never made aware of in the first place. Let me explain...

Approximately 1 year 7.5 months ago when we arrived home with Ash we had several health concerns that we wanted addressed immediately. So, prior to even boarding the plane in Addis Ababa we had contacted Dr. Jane Aronson to schedule an appointment for within the week when we would arrive back in NY. Blood was drawn, x-rays snapped, test upon test upon test completed and as the results came in we were thoroughly guided through options and treatment plans all while enjoying true love, attention, and incredible expertise from arguably the world's best pediatrician.

Now, because these tests were all done less than a week after arriving in NY anything and everything showed up on the results, including high levels of lead. I'm just going to put it out there that when his lead level was again checked two weeks later it came in below the number used to flag any sort of concern, however since the first test came in above we were still added to the health department's files as an official case. And I'll also put it out there that the first test is still the only one that has ever come back with a lead level rating above the concern line, every single test since then has come in within the "safe zone", dropping lower and lower and lower and lower with each test. You get the idea. Of course there's absolutely zero regretting on our end for having brought him in so early for the first visit as there were other potentially serious issues to deal with, but there is that ounce of "ugh had they just waited two weeks to do the lead test NONE of this would have been an issue..." that rolls through my mind every now and then along with a slight scowl I try to keep mostly to myself.


It's not the follow up that we had to do (occasional lead tests of the kind where the doc sticks a needle into Ash's arm for about a minute and draws A LOT of blood), or the work on the house we were required to do which included replacing all 26 windows (regardless of the fact that the order and results of the tests clearly point to his environment in Ethiopia having caused the lead levels in the first place, not our home), it's the other parts that have bothered me through this nearly 2 year process. The part where the health department speaks to us as though we're intentionally harming our child and must be feeding him lead for breakfast bothers me. The part where they (seriously) recommended in home parenting counselors to educate us on the dangers of lead bothered me (and FYI, the only reason we weren't required to participate in the in-home parenting education was because Dr. Aronson came to our rescue and called the health department directly to clarify the insanity. I mean honestly, would they like the 200+ page dossier we compiled that was notarized and certified by multiple levels of government resulting in approval by USCIS for us to be parents?). The part where we were never given any direct warning or follow up to when we needed to take him to his next test (even though we requested this repeatedly), and then were scolded over the phone for not having "just known" we needed to bring him in. That bothered me. And then the part where last year we were told that Ash had tested within the safe zone sufficient times to be removed from their "watch list" only to be called A YEAR LATER and instructed to bring him in yet another time, again with the tone of a scolding Catholic piano teacher, that too really bothered me.

But what bothered me possibly the most was this portion of our most recent conversation:
Health Department: Yes, I know the current regulations state that your son has tested within the "safe zone" sufficient amount of times, but when your son first entered the system 2 years ago we required an additional "safe" result so he needs another test by next week.
Me: OK, I'll take care of it. Is there ANYTHING else I need to be mindful of in order to ensure that this is the final step that needs to be taken to close our family file with the health department?
Health Department: No. That is it.
Me: OK, I'll bring Ashton in next week.
Health Department: No, you need to bring Wondemu in next week.
Me: Um, we finalized the adoption a year ago and his legal name is now Ashton.
Health Department: Well, the test prescription and results need to be under the name Wondemu or an entirely NEW file will be created and you'll need to start from scratch.
Me: Hmm. I have a feeling that our doctor and local lab techs are going to have a problem writing a script and test results for a name they know is not legally correct. Can I fax you his readoption paperwork, Ethiopian & US Passports, or any other documentation to have your file corrected?
Health Department: No. Just have your doctor write "AKA: Wondemu" on the script. Hopefully our guys upstairs will catch it when it comes in.
Me: For the love of all things holy you have GOT to be kidding me...

OK, so maybe I didn't say that last part but you get what I mean. The following week I took Ash in to have the big scary needle poked into his arm and draw what felt like hours worth of blood. And you know what? He smiled through the whole thing. We chatted about how he was going to share all of the stickers the doc was going to give him with his friends at school, and how he was being a brave big boy for being such a trooper and how INSANELY PROUD we (me and the doc) were of him. Needless to say the doc gave him nearly an entire roll of stickers and Ash high-fived everyone in the waiting room on our way out, skipping merrily and humming to the tune of Lellow Subarine.

And that, folks, is hopefully where the lead saga ends. My doctor nearly dropped to the floor when I told him of their "AKA: Wondemu" instructions, and the lab tech just rolled her eyes when writing up the lab sheet as if to say, "may the force be with you". And all said and "done" (dear master of the universe, please let this be done), I should clarify that I have nothing against lead testing or the health department insisting on proper follow up and care plans - absolutely not the case. I respect their responsibility to follow procedure and keep the best interest of the child in mind and I'm appreciative of their dedication to ensuring that unsafe situations are made safe as quickly as humanly possible. I'm just also a big fan of educating yourself before making presumptions, not blanketing an entire population with the same level of disrespectful tone simply because of the one situation that may have warranted it (and even then, does anyone ever deserve to be spoken to disrespectfully?). I support doing your research, being knowledgeable and respectful of varying scenarios, and finally, and call me crazy for this one, but I think that a world with fewer people with large unfortunate sticks up their arses would be a better world. Just my two cents.

And with that, I leave you these. Precious images of the rock star trooper himself, mister "have I finally tested in the "safe" zone enough times for them to stop bludgeoning me with that damn needle already?" And to that I reply with utmost certainty, "Honey, I think so."


Cloverland Farm said...

good lord. hoping it's OVER.

Amanda said...

I wish I could say something supportive but not full of expletives and I'm having a hard time. So, I will say that I hope this blood test is the last and that the file's closed. I remember when this was first an issue and I thought it was ridiculous back then. BIG TIME.

P.S. Our son's IEP had "Fuad" written all over it even though he's been readopted. When we brought it to their attention, they changed it on the file but still verbally call him Fuad. He doesn't even know what they're talking about. It's nuts.

rebekah said...

All I can say is wow.

I have just flashed back to our conversation with that same most amazing doctor in the world in her little examining room about a lead test for Matthew. I did scoff at it, looking back I have no idea why I scoffed, as if I thought there could not possibly be lead in Ethiopia. She and my dear-know-it-all husband set me straight:) I must have been jetlagged still.

Julie said...

Good grief. Hope that is over with.

Angela said...

I really hope this is the last of it for you guys... It's insane that someone can't look at his paperwork with a logical eye and be done with it...

BTW, Ashton keeps getting cuter... having been able to play and snuggle him nearly two years ago, I would have never thought he could've gotten cuter from that point, but he has... and seems to keep doing so progressively...

Kelly said...

Oh. My. Goodness. What a crazy tale. I completely agree that these are things to be investigated and followed-up and so on, but gosh, at so many points in this it could have been resolved. And to not accept the legal name change? Wow. I sincerely hope this is it on this issue!

stephanie said...

Gah! What a nightmare. So sorry the three of you have had to deal with this.

Jill said...

For crying out loud!! When Mari had giardia (6 months after being home - go figure), it took the health department over 4 weeks to followup with it. She was completely symptom-free within 2 days of treatment and never even missed school because we happened to land on a weekend with the diagnosis. When the nurse from the health department called me, first she wanted to know everything Mari had eaten with the last week....I said "don't you meant the week before she had the symptoms?" She said "Yeah, I guess so." I told her "I can't remember what we had for dinner last night and you want to know everything she had 6 weeks ago?"

Anyway, they then asked the name of her daycare and said they had to call them and report it but they wouldn't use names. Well, the daycare knew who it was because I told them about it when it first showed up. I got an urgent call from daycare and arrived to find they had isolated my child and were scrubbing the entire room with bleach, per the health department's instructions. As if that will do any good 4 weeks later (and just to note, NO other kids got sick). Plus they made me keep Mari out of school until I could get a note from her pediatrician stating she could come back...of course, this was after doctor's hours. So I had to keep Mari at home the next day while trying to convince the on-call doc to write her a note to go back to school for somthing that had cleared up a month earlier.

Argh. And people don't think healthcare is broken.

Hope that is the last of it for Wondemu!!

East Village Kitchen said...

Ugh, State bureaucracy at its worst. Hate to hear that you're still involved in all that - poor you, POOR Ash. Our tax dollars at work: rather than fixing the public school system.

Realizing how old I sounded just then.