On Being Pregnant in a War Zone Pt 2

Spring 2007 continued

Finally, two days after discovering I was pregnant, I received my ‘Call Forward’ to fly to a US Military Hospital in Kuwait.  By this point, I had made my excuses to colleagues (An Ovarian Cyst that probably needed surgery), eaten just two crackers, hid under my bed from another five rocket attacks, slept a lot, caught up on several episodes of 24 and thoroughly read up on pregnancy and ectopic pregnancies.  I was exhausted and feeling weak.  I could barely pick up my daypack, body armour and rifle; the bag was packed for only 2 nights – that officially made me pathetically weak.

I waited for my ride to Kuwait in the helicopter departures lounge.  I was the only one there waiting.  A crew member called my name and asked me to follow him, he took my bag from me (he probably thought I was actually a real medevac patient).  My pre-deployment training was running through my head.  How to get on and off a helicopter, depending on the type of helicopter, depends on where you can and can’t load/unload.  This helicopter, a lynx, had its engine off anyway, so it didn’t matter.  There was no chance of getting my head chopped off or sucked into the intakes.  The crew member showed me to my seat, he was overly jolly considering it was 0130 AM.    It looked like I was getting the helicopter all to myself.  The crew member turned out to be the door gunner.  The two pilots arrived shortly after and introduced themselves.  They were HILARIOUS, typical Army Air Corps pilots.  I was given a headset so I could listen in to all their intercom chatter.

As the engines started, I began to feel nervous.  Last time I flew into Iraq, we got shot at and rocketed.  A nice welcome from the Insurgents.  But suddenly my nerves were overtaken by pain.  Pain in my shoulder.  I read about this in ectopic pregnancies.  Just as I started to worry and think the worst, the gunner handed me some night vision goggles.  He pointed out the window.  I looked through the goggles and I could see the shimmering lights of Basrah City, and the oil fields.  It was magical.  It was bitter-sweet.

As soon as we crossed the border into Kuwait, the gunner closed the door and removed his body armour, indicating to me I should do the same.  The comedy pilots debated where they should land in the US base.  Is this not something you would know before taking off??!  We flew over at least 25 parked up black hawks.  Do we even have this many helicopters in the British Forces??  After a few laps of the base we found somewhere to land.  No one was there to greet us. Well it was 0230AM, I wasn’t too surprised at this!  Whilst I received a comedy show, one of the pilots managed to call through to the hospital.  We were at the wrong helipad.  No shit Sherlock!  Of course, this base was big enough to have two helipads.  We were told to wait there and a nurse would come pick me up.  I could have been sleepwalking at this point, the next hour was a blur.

Somehow, I woke up lying down on a hospital bed, trying to answer the doctor’s questions.  I was immediately put on an IV drip as I was severely dehydrated.  Wow, I felt almost instantly better, but it was temporary.  Next was the vaginal ultrasound.  The whole reason I was in Kuwait.  I had no clue what to expect, no one really explained what was going to happen and that the nurse would be male.  The nurse told me I was about 6 weeks pregnant, and he printed out a picture of the ‘blob’.  Because that is all it was, I wasn’t really experienced in ultrasound photos at this stage of pregnancy.  He reassured me that everything looked just fine.  No ectopic pregnancy.  Phew!!!  So what now?

Well I had a few more hours with the IV drip, and I was ‘quizzed’ by one of the nurses – what was I going to call my baby?  Had I thought of names?  Would I name the baby after him?  Would I email him to let me know how the baby was? He was genuinely excited for me.  Bless him, because he seemed to be the only one.  I was given a prescription for the nausea (no idea what the drug was called), some folic acid and vitamin D and told I HAD to eat, for the sake of my baby.

I was taken to a temporary bunk where there was one other British female who was recovering from surgery from Appendicitis.  She was an Officer so I kept myself to myself.  The next day, I was driven to the ‘weekend spa resort’.  This is where battle weary soldiers were sent to from Iraq at least once in their 6 month tour to get a break.  It had a makeshift Jacuzzi (more like a paddling pool), sunbed loungers, massages, decent internet, volleyball, and computer games.  Lots of computer games.  Everyone was in civvies (civilian attire), I had not packed any civilian clothes, so I walked around in my pyjama shorts and a T-shirt.  I felt free!  No, body armour, rifle or rocket attacks.  I still felt nauseous so I didn’t even get to enjoy one of the ‘two cans of beer’ we were allowed.  I tried to eat, I really wanted to, so I took one of the tablets I was prescribed.  That seemed to do the job, and I managed to get half a plate of food down me.  The nurse would be proud of me.  Despite the ‘spa’ environment, it was lonely and I tried to get on the earliest flight back to Iraq, I missed my squadron, I missed my friends and I knew I was letting them down right now.  After one more night in Kuwait and I was back in Iraq, feeling a little better, but the pains were still coming.  This sucked.

Back in Basrah, I had an appointment at the medical center to discuss what next.  I had a completely different doctor, so had to start my story from the very beginning.  I think this doctor was the first to show any compassion.  He also told me that I was lucky to get the prescription for the nausea because it was not allowed in the UK, it was up to me if I wanted to keep taking it.  To date I still have no idea what this drug was because I threw it in the bin after the British Doctor told me this.  Of course the next step was to ‘medevac’ me back to the UK because I was not allowed to be in the theatre of operations anymore, it was too dangerous for my unborn baby.

A total of seven days had passed since I discovered I was pregnant.  The only person who knew I was pregnant was my boyfriend (and of course the doctors and nurses I had met).  As I sat in the hospital’s morale, welfare and recreational area waiting for my pre-flight checkup, I read many letters from random people wishing our soldiers well.  It’s amazing so many people care to take time out of their day to write to ‘unknown soldiers’.  Although the letters were clearly not aimed at pregnant female soldiers, their words were comforting.  But this comfort slowly turned back to guilt.  And the biggest guilt was yet to come.  As I boarded the C-17 aircraft to fly home with the other 20 ‘Medevacs’, I sat down amongst people who had broken arms, missing legs, wounds and scars to their face.  Then there were the two bed patients, one of whom was in a controlled coma so that he could fly back and be with his family.  He was probably not going to live for much longer.

I hadn’t told anyone I was flying back to the UK, I couldn’t; I was shamed, confused and exhausted.  I just needed some time on my own to figure out what was going on.  My life was never going to be the same again.

On Being Pregnant in a War Zone Pt 1

Can somebody get me a translator in here please?

We moved to the US from the UK over 2 years ago, and even now I still have awkward moments with Americans where the conversation just stops mid flow as we realise we don’t understand each other.  I’m not saying it is a huge language barrier, like it might be if we had moved to Japan, but we have had to learn a new language.  I think it is easier for us Brits to understand Americans because we watch a lot of American TV shows and films, and Americans have a harder time trying to understand us.

I thought about this issue when I was talking to my nurse about prescriptions – it can be like another language, for example a prescription is known as an Rx.  When I have asked some Americans what Rx stands for, they were unable to answer, so upon googling Rx, it turns out it originates from a Latin word – Recipe, to take.  In Europe doctors use the abbreviation Rp.  (Everyday is a school day!).  I also asked about repeat prescriptions, which is actually called a refill prescription here in the US.  The nurse was very understanding and helpful.  Finally, when I picked up my prescription the pharmacist asked for my Date of Birth, I replied “28th December (insert some ‘I am ancient’ year here)”.  Her brain did not compute this immediately because Americans say the month, day, year.  Not her fault…In the UK we say day, month, year.  Still after two years I have not got this into my head – even today as Chris was writing a check he wrote it the wrong way round!!!

So here are some words which mean very different things in each language, some of them lead to funny misinterpretations:

American = Britishamerica

check = bill

bill = note ($$)

chips = crisps

fries = chips

cookie = biscuit

biscuit = savory scone

underwear = pants

pants = trousers

broil = grill

grill = bbq

eraser = rubber

rubber = condom

faucet = tap

silverware = cutlery

first floor = ground floor

second floor = first floor

gas = petrol

trunk = boot

jelly = jam

jello = jelly

pudding = not pudding!!! Angel delight?

br

A new day, a new cycle and new worries!

Yesterday sucked.  Today sucks still, but not quite as much as yesterday.  Cycle Day (CD) 2 and tomorrow is start of Letrozole!  Wait – tomorrow??!?! Wow, where is the time to breathe?  I don’t even have a prescription yet.  The nurse didn’t mention anything about my medication for a new cycle.  She just told me that if I was pregnant I was to call in and arrange a blood test and keep taking the progesterone, but if I was not pregnant, to stop the progesterone and my period would come (late, not to worry, that’s normal because of the progesterone) and then we would follow my doctor’s plan.  At the time, this all made sense.  But my period came full flow three hours after I took my pregnancy test (seriously, what a waste of a test!!!).  My period wasn’t late, and suddenly I realised I don’t have my prescription ready for CD 3.  In addition I realised that CD11 for my first ultrasound was due the day I was planning on returning from Paris for a work trip. Uhoh.  And if all went to plan as the last round of IUI, we would be doing the IUI either the Saturday that my brother is visiting from the UK (sorry bro, you’ve come all this way and we just got to pop to the doctors for half a day) or potentially the day I will be travelling to DC for work (sorry bro, was supposed to be taking you to DC with me for some site seeing). Aghhhhhhh!  Too much to think about. How much of my best laid plans could I reschedule?

All of this came quickly.  I thought about it yesterday, but was in no state of mind to deal with it.  So I dealt with it all today…I decided to still go to Paris, just come back one day early (fingers crossed my flight isn’t delayed by more than 24hrs), we have a plan for when my brother is visiting, and I can delay my DC work trip (My boss has been helpful in this respect).

Today I called the clinic to schedule my CD11 ultrasound, check about medication, how I go about refills and to check the status of them passing on our medical records to our insurance company.  It turns out some of my prescriptions were on refill, but not the Letrozole (the nurse asked me if I still wanted to carry on with it – I guess so??).  The nurse said she would arrange it immediately.  However, when it came to my medical records, there was no note to say that my medical records had in fact been sent to my insurance company.  However, there was a note to say that they needed to do it… But not to worry, because I can always check again when I come in for my CD11 ultrasound.  Well I do worry because I still do not have approval from my insurance company to have IUI treatment – and there is nothing I can do but let them figure it out together.  We can afford the IUI, we have the savings for it, but we would rather know now than later down the road what we do and don’t have to pay for.

On a more positive note, today is our 3 year wedding Anniversary.  We celebrated this evening and I enjoyed a lovely big glass of Merlot.  Good timing 🙂

Happy Anniversary Mr F!

Happy Anniversary Mr F!