Friday, May 31, 2019

Amsterdam, The Netherlands - Day Two

Day two in Amsterdam. Today we went to the Van Gogh Museum ( amazing but you cannot take pictures inside).  This is another one of those museums that you need tickets ahead of time.  The tickets sell out quickly and usually you will stand in line for hours to realize you won't be getting tickets for that day anyway.  You are given a time to enter which helps keep the crowds down, but it was still very, very crowded.

The museum was great.  We have always been big fans of Van Gogh's art.  We did see his Sunflowers and many other famous paintings.  Just FYI - Starry Night hangs in the MOMA in New York City.

We had originally thought about going to the Rijkmuseum as well, and I did call to find out if I needed tickets ahead of time (in April) and was told no.  This was not good information.  We wanted to use our IAmsterdam cards to get into the museum, so we decided to chance it.  Which I never do.  And we couldn't get near it.  There was a huge Rembrandt exhibit going on, so tickets had been sold out for weeks.  Of course.

So we went to the Tropen Museum instead.  We had seen it in a magazine whlie at dinner the night before, and our daughter Finley wanted to see the Manga, anime and Kawaii exhibit.  It was a HUGE museum and besides this exhibit, it had a lot of other unique exhibits from around the world.  We enjoyed this stop very much.  We were able to use our IAmsterdam cards to enter, so that was a plus.

Our last stop was the Torture Museum - Arlington's pick.  We were going to take a ride down the canal, but the times available didn't really work for us, and the kids weren't that interested.  We had been walking along the canal quite a bit, and we have taken many a canal boat ride, so we skipped it.  However, after going to the Torture museum (which only took cash, wouldn't take the IAmsterdam cards, and took us about 10 minutes to walk through and was 30Euros), we should have opted for the canal ride.  It was not worth it.

 We spent time walking through a used book street sale, after the museum, and then walked through the booths and booths of tulip vendors.  We did buy some bulbs to plant at our house in Basel, so that was a win.  

This is Rembrandt's statue in town (and a statue version of his painting - The NightsWatch)

 I took a close up picture of the bikes close up.  They are old and rusty and no geared bikes that are just used to get from point A to B.  No fancy bikes here!
 This is from the balcony of our Airbnb - it is 10pm when I took this picture

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The kids and Mat are off for the next few days because of the Ascencion holiday, so we planned a trip to Amsterdam.  We decided to drive because it is only about 7 hours by car and for the 5 of us - this was $800 cheaper than flying (the holiday weekend was making flights very expensive).  We drove through Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and into The Netherlands.  It was a really beautiful drive, and very easy. We arrived last night and settled into our airbnb (which was really beautiful and one of the nicest we ever stayed in).  We are staying in Wassenar, right outside of The Hague.  It was much cheaper to stay outside of Amsterdam as well, and it is a quick drive toward the city, so it was worth the savings.

 This morning we got up and drove into Amsterdam.  I had looked at our options ahead of time of the best way to get into the city.  I looked at the train -which was a good option, but we still would have had to pay to park at the train station, and then pay for the train tickets.  It would have been fine, but wasn't the cheapest option (Which I am always on the search for).  The second option was to look for a parking garage in the city.  Some you can reserve ahead of time, but most you just take a chance.  And it was about 60 Euros a day to park, which is steep.  The Third option was a park N ride right outside the city.  Cheapest option, but seemed a bit complicated and I was worried about timing it right. Fourth was an option called WeParc.  They meet you whever in the city you want to meet them, and then they pick up your car (valet) and take it and park it for you.  Then return it at your desired time in the evening.  It was perfect.  It was 40Euros for the first day and 20Euros for the second, so that was a win.  And since we had tickets for a certain time at a certian place, this ensured that we would make it without problems.

I write all this in case someone reads the blog that is looking at this for their trip to Amsterdam.  Driving in any city can be daunting, but Amsterdam is on a tourist explosion route right now, so the city is jammed with people.  It is good to have a plan if you need to drive into the city for any reason

We had a great day. Started the day at the Anne Frank House (we got to see the diary!). Humbling experience.  Seeing the Anne Frank house requires advanced tickets.  You can get them 2 months ahead of your scheduled date(and time), and it is like buying tickets for a rock concert.  I had to be at the computer when the tickets when on sale because within a few hours, they were all gone.  Amazing.  We were told they see 3000-4000 people a DAY at the Anne Frank house. 

The House was amazing. (you are not allowed to take pictures inside, so just take my word for it) We listened to a talk about the timeline before going in and then walked through the actual place she was hidden.  If you have never read the book, you should.  But the hidding place is not an attic, as a few people have asked me about.  It is 3 floors - there were 8 people hidden there.  The house was located in the back of Otto Frank's (Anne dad) business and so it was perfect.  For awhile.  They hid there for 2 years before they were betrayed.  They never knew who betrayed them (and they still don't).  Otto was the only one who survived the concentration camp.

We did get to see the diary.  That has been on my bucket list for a long time.  I have read the book 4 times - once myself, and then with each of my children.  So it was amazing to see it in person.

Then we went to a library that had very old books.  It was an okay experience.  It is called The Embassy of the Mind, and from the fact that it was on the "things to do" list, I expected more.  It was very small and we were only there for about 15 minutes and we saw the whole thing.  It isn't free, so that was a disappointment.

We did some walking around the city enjoying the sites.  Amsterdam is very very busy.  Before we came here, we had seen an article on how Amsterdam is working on ways to reduce the number of tourist that come to the city.  People are destrying the place with their instragram photos.  And we got to witness first hand the massive amount of people that are in this city.  This was a Thursday in May, and it was wall to wall people.  WE couldn't move freely on the sidewalks because there were so many, and the bikes!!  So.many.bikes.

We went to the cheese museum and tasted a ton of cheeses.  It is just a free little museum below a cheese shop, but we did learn some history about cheese in The Netherlands.  And the cheeses were AMAZING.  We ended up buying a few to bring back home with us.

We had lunch in a 600 year old castle, called de Waag.  It was formally called St. Anthony's gate and was built in 1488.  It was part of the original wall of Amsterdam.  IT is the oldest remaining non religious building in Amsterdam.  It is actually in one of Rembrandt's paintings (The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolas Tulp).  It is now a restaurant.  The food was really good and it was neat to eat in there.  They have candle chandaliers all over the restaurant (with actual candels still) which were cool.

After lunch we toured Rembrandt’s house.  This is where he lived and worked until he stopped being able to pay to live here.  The house was HUGE, and he stopped paying his mortgage, so he had to move out.  He lived poor until the end of his life.  The house is still set up how it was when he lived there, and ran his art studio.

We went into the oldest church in Amsterdam.  It is actually not used as a church any more, but just a place for concerts.  The organ is still being used.  

We rounded the evening off with Amsterdam’s famous Apple pie.  It is delicous.  Rows and rows of apples plus cinnamon sauce in a thin crust.  Delicious.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Arlington's second hospital stay

This past weekend, we had a bit of a scare with Arlington.  Last Saturday, while we were babysitting a dog for a friend, that dog bit her.  It was an accident, but unfortunately it lead to a hospital stay.

Arlington was talking to the dog, leaning in close to his face.  When she went to take him off the couch, he got upset and bit her.  Somehow, he bit her INSIDE her mouth as well as outside - got the corner of her mouth, gums and cheek.  It startled Arlington and she took a big gasp of air and started to cry.  Because I am sure it hurt like nothing else.

We cleaned the cuts on her cheek with soap and water, and then had her do a salt/warm water swish with her mouth once the bleeding stopped.  The cut inside her mouth was bad, but it stopped bleeding in about 10 minutes.  We gave her some ice and decided to wait and see how it went.  It seemed very minor.  I did a little research, thinking the cut in her mouth would probably need stitches because it seemed deep, but that isn't something that is often done.  So we waited.

About one hour passed and Arlington came out of her room to announce that her face felt very swollen.  In that short amount of time, she went from having three small cuts to her cheek being 3 times its normal size.  Not the reaction we were expecting, we decided it was time for a trip to the emergency room at the Children's Hospital

It is now 8pm on Saturday night.  This is not my first (or second) trip to the emergency room here so I felt pretty good about how it was going to go.  The Pediatric ER here in Basel runs like a well oiled machine.  We have never had to wait more than about 15 minutes.  By then her eyes were also swollen, so it was no doubt that we would be seeing a doctor.

The doctors came into the room and they were very curious about why the swelling appeared so fast.  They had some theories, but the timeline didn't fit.  They thought it was some kind of subcutaneous emphysema, but they said it doesn't usually appear that quickly after a bite (or puncture wound).  It usually takes a few days.  Her vitals were good.  The doctors thought they might just monitor her awhile and then possibly do some antibiotics and ice in the ER and see how it went.

This is Arlington sitting in triage one hour after the bite

Another hour passes and her eye swells all the way closed and the skin gets very tight.  The weird part was that it was the eye OPPOSITE where she got the bite.  This got the doctors very concerned.  They drew blood, and started to do a physical manipulation of her skin to check the swelling and found that it was making a crackling sound when they pushed on it.  Her face had filled with air, and that meant she was getting admitted.

We were told that they thought it was a bad bacterial infection mixed with subcutaneous emphysema.  A dangerous air bacteria that was in her face that they needed to get under control.  They started her on two heavy duty IV antibiotics and got her settled into her room at 11pm.  The nurses encouraged me to go home and sleep - she was old enough to stay on her own - and come back in the morning. (this is very Swiss) So I did as they said.

I was back by 7am so I wouldn't miss the doctors.  The swelling did not improve overnight, but it didn't get worse.  She had been getting antibiotics through her IV every few hours overnight plus pain medication.  Her whole face hurt.  In the morning we saw the doctors and the infection disease doctors, and they were just baffled on why it spread so fast.  By now her neck and chest were also hurting and the doctors could feel the air under her skin.

They sent in the surgical team because her eye was so swollen and tight, they were afraid the air and bacteria was getting into her tissues.  The doctors did an MRI to take a look, and we got our first piece of good news.  The air and bacteria were staying in the skin - they hadn't attacked the tissues.  The doctors were on the right track.

Infectious disease came back.  They told us that a dog's mouth has a list of bacteria a mile long and he was sure they would never pinpoint the exact one.  So she was on very potent broad spectrum antibiotcs that he was confident would do the job.  He said at the time, the antibiotics were keeping pace with the infection.  However, his job was to get in front of it.  That is what they were struggling with.  She wasn't getting worse, but she wasn't getting better.  And now it was starting to effect her breathing.

She got moved to the ICU because she just had so much pressure in her neck and chest.  She had x-rays and a CT scan - all still confirming the air was in the skin, but still spreading.  So the doctors hooked her up to monitors, and she had a 1:1 nurse, and they called infectious disease.  Infectious disease added a 3rd antibiotic, and gave her stronger pain medication.

FINALLY - Monday morning, she turned a corner.  By that morning, her eye had slightly opened and her cheek looked a little less swollen.  She felt a little better.  The triple antibiotics were the ticket.  By lunch time Monday, the doctors felt she could come out of the ICU and back to her regular room.  We were told she had a massive air pocket in her cheek.  They were worried it was getting into her sinuses.  They still couldn't explain why the opposite eye was swollen.  She remained a mystery.

We saw infectiou disease again on Monday afternoon.  They felt confident that they were on the right track.  Blood work looked better.  Arlington felt better.  Now it was just a matter of being patient to see if she continued to improve.  Infectious disease thought we were looking at staying until Friday if the pace of recovery didn't pick up.

By Tuesday morning, she was looking even better.  All the doctors agreed it was time to switch her to the three antibiotics orally to see if she could go home and continue to improve.  If she continued to get better being off the IV antibiotics, we could leave on Wednesday.  By Tuesday evening, her eye was half way open, her chest pain had disappeared, and her face swelling had gone down more.

This morning, (Wednesday - day 5) she looked great.  The cheek is almost down to regular size.  She has just a small amount of air in the cheek and neck, and a small amount in the eye.  Pain is much less.  She is only dealing with nausea because that is a side effect of the potent antibiotics.  The doctors felt that she could go home.  She cannot go to school for the rest of the week.  She is on the antibiotics another 7 days.  She sees the pediatrician next Tuesday to see if the air is gone and make sure she doesn't need antibiotics longer than the 7 days.

The last thing will be a check back in with infectious disease in three weeks and another scan to make sure she is in the clear.  Then, and only then, can we put all of this behind us.

The doctor told us this morning that Arlington was very lucky.  He said if we would have waited 24 hours to bring her in, she could have died.  He said often people die from this infection because it is so aggressive and gets out of control quickly.  We made the right decision to not "wait and see".  It saved her life.

Again - this was an accident.  A bunch of things went wrong all at once, and it was just pure bad luck.  We are grateful for the Swiss doctors who tend to see a zebra when other doctors are looking for a horse.  Never in a million years would we have expected a dog bite to do this to a person.

The most important thing is that she is going to be fine.  I would say by the weekend her face will be back to its normal size and she will be feeling almost 100%.  And if she can come off the antibiotics next week as planned, the nausea will go away and this will all be over.

**Update (June 4, 2019) - Arlington finished her course of antibiotics and the pediatrician said she looked good.  Then she developed a fungal infection from being on so many antibiotics, so yesterday we were back at the doctor's office for some more medication.  It is mild, so it should clear up in less than a week

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Cainan's Birthday Trip to Denmark. Day Two: Lego House

Today Mat and Cainan went to Lego House.  They had a scheduled tour (which they both loved) and spent the rest of the day wondering around.  They said this was their favorite of the two places.  Cainan absolutely loved it.

They flew back this evening after a fun weekend away