Thursday, March 16, 2017

When Breath Becomes Air

Gift card in hand, Paul and I made a trip to the local Barnes and Noble bookstore.  It had been a long time since we had purchased books for pleasure reading; life had just gotten the best of us (perhaps having three kids back to back every two years might have something to do with it).  But this gift card was a great excuse to jumpstart our commitment to reading books again.  One of the books that we had been itching to read was one written by the late Paul Kalanithi, a victim of Stage IV lung cancer who was diagnosed with this terminal illness during his last year of neurosurgery residency.  It was eerie to read about his long journey of delayed gratification, only to find out as he was finally nearing the end of it that he faced a terrible disease.  He eventually passed away in March 2015, leaving behind his physician wife and 8 month old baby.  Although When Breath Becomes Air never made it to completion by the original author, his wife took it upon herself to write the epilogue and ensure that the work was published.  This book made me ponder life and its importance, death and its inevitability, health and its fleeting nature. 

You may notice that this last period of about 5 months has produced no blog entries.  The silence was a result of not only the busyness of caring for a newborn baby, but also due to health issues on many fronts.  The kids and I kept getting hit with rounds of viral illnesses at least 6 times in the span of 5 months, which continued to recycle itself over and over again.  I also had 3 bouts of tonsillitis-turned-peritonsillar-cellultitis-versus-abscess in the month of February (not fun).  Baby Essie also was sick 3 times in her 3 short months of life (perhaps this is inevitable when snotty toddlers caress a cute baby’s chubby cheeks).  And just to top it all off, Paul managed to get a spontaneous retinal detachment (mac-on) requiring a major vitreoretinal surgery in December.  That was frightening.  It is no exaggeration when I say that our combined household had more than three dozen doctor’s visits over the course of 4 months.  A few lessons were undoubtedly learned – don’t take health for granted, eat healthily, take care your body, and handle life with prayer.

On to some updates.  Since the last blog entry left off in September (when we were still in Zambia), we had a few visitors that came through to observe and help at Lusaka Eye Hospital. 

1.  Anna Ford.  First was Anna, who is a student missionary at Riverside Farms, who came through from 22 Sept – 6 Oct 2016 to learn more about eyes.  She’s a nurse and wanted to learn about cataracts and indications for referral, as well as basic ophthalmic skills, diagnoses, and treatments that she could offer for her patients that sought out services at the Riverside Farms health clinic. 

JoyJoy, Pamela, Jaycee, Janie, Sophia, Zachariah, Anna, Paul, Gary, Ana

2.  Sophia Fang.  I’ve actually adopted Sophia as my little sister.  From 25 Sept – 7 Oct 2016, Sophia was a ray of sunshine in our home during her rotation.  A second year UC Davis ophthalmology resident and an individual with a passion for international work, Sophia observed, helped, and immersed herself at Lusaka Eye Hospital for a period of 2 weeks.  When not at work, she was busy playing with Jaycee and Zach or in our kitchen, cooking up a storm, making gourmet meals and even homemade ice cream for our family.  What a delight it was to have her rotate with us.  We miss you, Sophia!

Hanging out at Lilayi Lodge
Girl shot
Family shot
Celebrating JoyJoy's birthday
Playing in our pool

3.  Gary Yip.  It seems that when volunteers come, they come in groups.  Gary’s senior LLU international ophthalmology elective overlapped with that of Sophia’s for a few days, as he rotated with us from 3 – 20 Oct 2016. 

With Gary in the OT.  pc: Michelle Chiu
He was great to have around, and we saw some interesting cases.  One such case was that of a 40-year-old female who had undergone pterygium excision at another facility.  One of our surgeons excised the recurrent pterygium, but then encountered problems with corneoscleral thinning/dellen formation at the excision site.  That area eventually perforated (with iris prolapse) a few days before we were able to perform this patch graft with glycerol-preserved corneal tissue.  One of our volunteers commented that this looked like a “double eye,” but at least this sealed the hole!

Perforated corneo-scleral thinning s/p recurrent pterygium excision
POD #0: 6 mm patch graft with glycerol-preserved tissue
POD #9 s/p glycerol patch graft
It was an added bonus that Gary's wife, Michelle Chiu, also made the time to come to Zambia.  She is a professional photographer and volunteered her time and services to taking a photo shoot of our family (I guess it’s technically a maternity photo session).  Thank you for your amazing photos!  And for the cute video you made as your videography debut!

My first and only maternity photo shoot, thanks to Michelle Chiu
Best friends
Transforming our Eye Hospital grounds into a scenic backdrop
Our little monkeys
The family
Hanging out with Gary & Michelle -- mmm, ice cream!
Getting ready to say farewell to Gary & Michelle
4.  Kasanka.  The last trip that we took before heading back to the U.S. was one to Kasanka National Park, located north of Lusaka in the Serenje district of Central Province.  The Busl family, Knowles family, Pamela, Ana Aguilera, Anna Ford, Nicole, and JoyJoy joined our family for this trip, from 21 – 24 Oct 2016, as we caravanned together on the long 8+ hour journey to our camp site. 

Typical roadside scenery - the market stands lining the main highway
This is how to take a road trip
Finally here!  Oh wait...we still have another 12 kilometres on bumpy dirt roads!
An early morning boat ride with uncles Alan and Jabel
Yoo & Busl kids

Two peas in a pod

Group Shot
Here we were able to witness a tremendous bat migration – known as the largest mammal migration in the world.  Every year, between October and December, millions and millions of fruit bats migrate to the Bat Forest within Kasanka National Park to feed on ripening fruits. 

Hauling the kids up 50 feet high in a chitenge - do NOT try this at home!

It was eerily silent, the calm before the storm, as we waited in a 50 foot high treetop hide, waiting for any signs of movement below.  Then, as the clock struck 6:05, as if the bats had an internal alarm clock within, the swarms and swirls of bats began to billow out of the bat forest, flying out to find their meal amongst the sweet fruit trees. 

From another viewing area down below in the Bat Forest

Zach, trying to take a better look
More bats
Even more bats!
What an amazing experience!  And good company!  We even made it all the way north to a town called Samfya, then on to a white sand beach at Lake Bangweulu for an afternoon of swimming. 

Alan & Michelle on the lookout for crocs
Jaycee & Makenna, friends for life
It was truly an awesome trip – happy birthday to me. =)

5.  Annual Leave.  On 29 Oct 2016, our whole family took the long flight back to the U.S. in preparation for the birth of our new baby. 

Very long flight back - trying to sleep on the plane

During that time, we purchased a minivan, enjoyed time with family, and met up with friends.  Playdates with other children were the most fun activity. 

Excited to see cousin Oliver again
At Grandma's choir concert
Haven't seen Gloria in ages!
Second generation friendships blossoming
It's always good to see some of our favorite people - the Lee family

Thanks, Aunty Eunice, for the awesome gifts!
Post-New Year's dinner with the Im family
The Playground Gang sans newborns
Special people (doctors) from CA doing a special work in Zambia - Bud, Yenjean & Ivan
Patrick, slipping out of his LLU Board meeting to meet Essie
Eden, Brinja, & Tealyn, thanks for stopping by!
Tealyn & Essie - born 10 days apart

My sailor/captain extraordinaire friend from childhood - Heather

Hanging out with Kim, Robin, Blake & Perry
Going to church with Grandma
Photo op with Pastor Jenny
Meeting Uncle Peter

Meeting the Daluyens at church!
Aunty Helen!
Reunion with Nicole & Emil - we finally made it happen!
Great seeing ya, Nicole!
Wonderful rendezvous with the Minors, who were visiting Loma Linda

We explored local attractions like High Five Indoor Playground, Jump ‘n Jammin, local playgrounds, libraries, bookstores, the San Bernardino County Museum, Oak Glen, and even the tidepools at Crystal Cove State Park.  

High Five Indoor Playground
Swimming in a pool of balls - every child's dream
Playing doctor
Jump 'N Jammin
Loma Linda Public Library
Barnes and Noble
San Bernardino County Museum
A skink!
Oak Glen's famous apple pie and vanilla ice cream!
Sometimes we like to hang out in a box
Or in a bathtub
Mommy, am I doing this right?
Tidepooling at Crystal Cove
We had lots of doctor's appointments to go to, and presentations to be given. 
Jaycee, being a good girl at her dental cleaning
Peanut allergy testing - negative!
18 Nov 2016 - posing with students after our DMA/MIG vespers presentation
Dr. & Mrs. Hadley - great to see you at the DMA/MIG vespers
Speaking for the Medical Auxiliary Board meeting and receiving a gift for Baby Essie

6.  Essie.  Born on 22 November 2016, Essie Binnah Yoo, whose name means “shining star,” was delivered by our true and faithful Ob/Gyn, Dr. Kevin Balli. 

Third time's a charm - one push!

Cute footprints

Happy she's out!
Papa holding Essie for the first time
The burrito wrap
This godly physician exemplifies excellence and a true caring spirit; he also managed to deliver all three of our kids. 

With their delivery doctor - Dr. Balli!
A+ Ob/gyn!
Essie was 6 lbs 10 oz and 19.75 inches at birth, and, most importantly, she is healthy and sweet. 

Essie's eye exam
Enjoying the day-old baby
Happy grandparents

Big sister, so in love with the baby
So cute
Aunty Helen!
Thanks for bringing Thanksgiving to us, Helen, Tae, & Taylin!
Our homecoming from the hospital was on Thanksgiving Day, and we realized there was so much to be thankful for. 

Getting ready to leave the hospital
Jaycee at home, eager to hold Essie again
Excited to have a new sister!
In just 3 short months, you have grown so much, Essie!  You'll soon be walking and talking in the blink of an eye!

Week 1

Week 1

Week 2
1 month
2 months
3 months
3 months
Essie 3 months; Zachariah 2 years; Jaycee 4 years (pc: Michelle Chiu)

7.  Mom & Hubby birthdays.  Every year on 27 November, my mom and husband share a special day together – their birthday.  Although we were just getting over the crazyness of having a newborn baby join our lives, we had a small celebration to commemorate the birth of these two special individuals.  Love you both!

Kids love candles
Mom & Hubby cutting the cake
8.  Hawaii and the Medical Emergency.  About 10 days after Essie was born, Paul took a trip to Hawaii with Jaycee and Zachariah so that I could have some dedicated time recovering with the newborn baby.  They were able to reunite with Paul’s mom and aunt in Honolulu, spend time at the beach, meet up with friends, and relax in the Hawaiian sunshine. 

With Chloe & Christian
With Tayven & Veronica
Looking forward to many frequent beach days
Always a smile for shaved ice!
Enjoying home cooked meals - Zach
Hanging out with Papa
They especially loved feeding the birds and seeing the fish at Sea Life Park. 

They all flew out to the Big Island to visit Paul’s brother, Jin, when the medical emergency happened.  A superonasal shadow in the right eye.  It seemed so benign at first, just a little nuisance.  Maybe a few floaters, but no flashing lights.  But then the next day the shadow grew darker and more noticeable.  My heart sank, as I knew from the description of symptoms that a retinal detachment was high on the differential.  A few phone calls later, I was able to schedule Paul to see a medical retina specialist who flies to the Big Island each Thursday from Honolulu; fortunately it was a Thursday morning.  After confirmation that a retinal detachment was indeed the diagnosis, Paul immediately got a red-eye flight back to California that night, and he was operated on the following day. 

Preop: in good spirits

Rough postop recovery (s/p SB/PPV/EL/SF6 OD, prophylactic laser OS)

We are so thankful for Dr. Joseph Fan who performed Paul’s surgery.  And we praise God that Paul’s sight has been saved. 

9.  Christmas.  This was the first real American Christmas our kids have ever experienced, since this is the first time they have ever been in the U.S. during the winter holiday season.
Making gingerbread cookies

We traditionally would come back to the U.S. yearly for the summer or fall season.  But since Essie was born later in the year, our visit finally coincided with a Christmas. 

Zachariah's first visit to the Mission Inn

Magical Cinderella Carriage ride
Our two horses
Mini Donuts
Festival of Lights - Mission Inn
Christmas Day...presents galore, Jaycee and Zachariah were probably overwhelmed by the number of gifts they received.  Most of the pleasure was derived from tearing open the wrapping paper on all the presents. 

Unwrapping frenzy
Family shot
Zachariah, looking dapper at church
10.  Mountain High.   Over the New Year weekend, we ventured up to a local ski resort with my brother’s family to enroll Jaycee and her cousin, Oliver, in a ski lesson.  Oliver, being one year older and having a more competent instructor, seemed to enjoy his lesson more than Jaycee.  Apparently, learning “pizza,” having little control on the slippery snow, and falling down without being able to get up exhausted this little princess, who, when asked if she wanted to go skiing again, tersely replied, “Maybe when I’m six.”

Zach, watching from the sidelines
Jaycee's first ski lesson
Oliver & Jaycee, waiting for the teacher
Excited to learn
Even Essie got a day in the snow
11.  School.  The next day was Jaycee’s and Zachariah’s first day of school at the Azure Hills Children’s Center, who had agreed to take in our two kids for the short two-month period while we were still in town. 

3 Jan 2017: First day of school
Hanging out with Cousin Lyla during recess
This experience was a positive one for both little ones, as they enjoyed the teachers, the schedule, and the new friends.  They even got to participate in the school picture day, where we were suckered into buying their cute, Old Hollywood themed portraits. 

We brought in cupcakes on their last day of school to celebrate their departure, and a good time was had by all.

Zachariah's "Ladybugs" Class (for 2-year-olds)
Ricky, did you enjoy your cupcake? =)
Jaycee's "Dragonflies" Class (for 4-year-olds)
12.  Hawaiian Eye Meeting (14 – 21 Jan 2017).  In January, I experienced my first flight alone with an infant as I headed to Kauai for the Hawaiian Eye Meeting.  “Oh, are you alone?” the security officer or flight attendant would ask me, looking surprised.  “No, I’m with her,” I would state as I pointed to my newborn. 

Thankful for that empty seat on the plane

Baggage claim

Fortunately, my mother-in-law and aunt flew in from Honolulu to babysit, so they were able to assist with the rest of my trip.  I had a little time to do some scouting for housing and schools for our future move to Kauai.

Taking a stroll on the grounds of the Kiahuna Plantation
Church at Lawai Valley with Pastor Douglas Na'a
Being my first time at the Hawaiian Eye Meeting, I was so impressed by the quality lectures with reputable ophthalmologists, the small meeting feel, and the great weather.  It was also great to catch up with ophthalmology colleagues and friends, many of whom I had not seen in years (Drs. Narvaez, Pereira, Tamesis, Teasley, Bowes, Rauser; Amy & David Kim, Loren & Karen Seery, Pete Lombard, Priscilla Luke, Matt Brucks; Dr. Crane; Drs. Corboy & Rutgard).  I felt giddily starstruck when I had the honor of meeting Dr. George Bartley, now CEO of the American Board of Ophthalmology (and former Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Ophthalmology).

A row of cornea specialists - Dr. Narvaez, Seery, Pereira, Yoo
Dinner with the Amy & David Kim & family!

Lunch at the Club, at Kukui'ula
With Dr. Tim Crane and Dr. George Bartley
Enjoyed a delicious lunch with wonderful company!
Lunch with the Rutgards, Dr. Corboy, and Darrah
Having Amy & David's family over at our place this time
Loren & Karen, so great to see your family!
13.  Hair.  Every two years or so, I lop off my hair.  In the past, the hair had gone religiously to Locks of Love.  However, this year, I felt compelled to donate to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program, and I have high hopes that this donation will actually make it into the wig of a cancer patient.  
Chopping it off for a good cause

14.  ACTivate.  From 1 – 3 Feb 2017, Paul took a trip to Kansas City for a dental seminar.  I was impressed when he reported, “Of all the dental continuing education courses I’ve been to, this is the best one I’ve ever attended.”  ACTivate is a “two-day dental seminar built to inspire teams and build key leadership skills needed to run a thriving dental practice.”  Business tips, training in leadership/team-building, and simple life lessons were imparted.  Paul has promised to take me next time he attends another one of these seminars!

15. Birthdays.  In preparation for upcoming birthdays, we had a small celebration for my brother and sister-in-law.  Happy birthday, Linda & James!

Linda & James, Happy Birthday!
Lookin' good for almost 40!  =)
Oliver & Jaycee love playing with Uncle James!
16.  Oral boards.  On 19 Feb 2017, I had the privilege in participating as one of the examiners for the mock oral boards at Loma Linda University Eye Institute.  It was interesting to see this exam from the examiner’s perspective, much different from what I had experienced during my frightening real Oral Boards exam in San Francisco back in 2012.  I was happy to see many community ophthalmologists who came out to assist as examiners for this exam, some of whom attended residency with me.

17.  TruTV.  I’m not exactly sure how, but the video I posted in the last blog about the elephants chasing us somehow got the attention of a company called Jukin Media, a TV production company and viral video marketing company.  They reached out to me asking if I would want to sign an agreement with them to license my video to various TV shows, sharing in the revenue.  I said, “Why not?”  It’s interesting to think that viral videos are often made viral by a marketing company who promotes them.  My video (click here for video) is not yet viral (only about 320 views as of today), but it did air on TruTV last month (24 Feb 2017)!  Of course, I do not have cable TV, so I was unable to see the show.  If anyone manages to find the episode that features my video, let me know!  

18.  95 days.  As you may know, Korean tradition has it that the first 100 days of life should be commemorated by a Baek-il, or 100 day celebration.  The fact that a newborn baby survived its first treacherous 100 days of life without facing death was a huge deal back in the days of poverty-stricken third-world Korea.  As we were due to be en route back to Zambia on Essie’s 100th day of life, we held a modified 95 Days party.  Thanks to my mom who coordinated the entire effort, as I was down and out with my tonsillitis. 

Almost too beautiful to eat!

19.  Zambia.  On 1 March 2017, we made the long trek back to Zambia, this time with my mother-in-law. 

Essie did not like sleeping in her bassinet
These kids always konk out on flights
When I stepped onto Zambian soil and breathed in the fresh air, I thought, “It’s good to be home.”  Unfortunately, our time at “home” is quickly coming to a close, as we’ve decided that we will be moving back to a new home in the U.S. on 30 May 2017.  These last few months will be a time during which we can relish the community that we have grown to love and enjoy, pack up our belongings, and say our final good-byes. 

Kids will miss things like "riding the 'glory train'" at Central Church

Essie gets to experience a few months in Zambia
Essie, getting to know Aunty Annie & Satipha
Baking banana bread and strawberry muffins - yum!

As our time in Zambia comes to a close, we will also be closing the chapter on this particular blog, Yoos and Eyes in Zambia.  This will probably be our penultimate entry.  But if time permits, we just might start another blog when we get to Kauai.  So stay tuned.