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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

This blog is a record of events in the life of Joseph Taggart and his family since his spinal cord injury while body surfing in Guatemala in January 2006.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Joseph's Update from Qingdao

The following is Joseph's update from Qingdao, China for the week:
Tuesday, June 3
After spending Monday in bed recovering from a stem cell injection, Tuesday was back to work as usual. The physical therapy room has been getting a little bit more crowded than before because some new patients have arrived. There seems to be a lot of Romanian patients here this last week. Sometimes it's hard to keep track, but I think there are about four or five rooms of just Romanians. I was talking to Kirshner about the diversity of the patients to come here. She said that once a year they have what I am calling a "Hungarian Rush". She said one of their hospitals on an island near southern China is filled to the brim with Hungarian patients for about four to six weeks. That way they can consolidate the need for Hungarian to Chinese translators, and the Hungarian patients don't feel quite so isolated. She also mentioned that there is another hospital where they send most of their Indian and Middle Eastern patients. This also simplifies the translation process for the patients.

Despite the lack of a solid ability to communicate between the patients, everyone seems to understand that we are all here for the same reason. I feel like I've grown quite close to one of the Romanian patients who has been here for the last month or so. His name is Laurenzio Mogol (sp?). He is here for a Traumatic Brain Injury he suffered about a year ago. Despite his not being able to speak English, and that he functions on a similar level of a 10 year old because of his brain injury, we have still been able to communicate enough to have a little fun with each other. He calls me fat, I call him old, we both laugh, then we both make fun of the other patients together. I have uploaded a couple videos of he and I interacting onto my face book profile, and that is him on the blog holding the dog's head teasing Amanda.
We had heard that Chinese massage is really good, so a while back when I was stuck in bed Matt had a Chinese massage therapist come by the room to work on his back. If you can imagine the worst nightmare of a massage, this could have been it. The man was strong, relentless and extremely rough. Because I had to stay laid flat in bed, I couldn't quite see exactly what was going on, but there was a lot of whimpering and crying coming from the other side of the room.:) To be fair, Matt did say that it was a good massage. The next day he was a little bit stiff and sore, but he felt quite good.

Wednesday, June 4
Jason and I have been working on me sitting up with my legs out in front of me while keeping my balance. Right now I keep my balance by swinging my arms back and forth whenever I start to tip over. But as I continue to do this exercise I can learn to use any trunk control muscles throughout my abdomen, back and chest that I may have some control over. This is typically how a quadriplegic begins to discover if he has any kind of trunk control or not. While doing this exercise he has me lift my arms up and away from my body, and sometimes heel strap my hands to something like a broomstick and he'll help me raise my arms up above my head. Doing all this while keeping balance is quite a challenge, but I am getting better at it. I like doing these more functional type of exercises because they help me keep my end goals in sight. Exploiting any trunk control that I may have will ultimately help me roll myself over in bed, pull myself up from a laying position, and many more things if other areas of my body begin to develop.

Shopping for Souvenirs
Wednesday afternoon Matt and I went out with Amanda and Brenda to go to the market, and do a little bit of shopping. I started purchasing a few souvenirs, but it's really hard not to just buy everything. Most things are quite inexpensive, and are beautifully hand made. There are lots of little shops nearby that sell things made of jade, as well as beautiful Chinese, lanterns, Buddha figurines, dragons and just about everything in between. Matt and I have been wanting to buy the staff here the hospital a gift to show our appreciation before we go. We found through a friend a neat little wood carving shop where we are having him make up something. We should get it sometime next week, I will post photos of it for everyone to see.

As much as I have tried to avoid it, we gave in and had dinner at Kentucky Fried Chicken Wednesday night. One of the things I first noticed was a picture on the wall of the very first Kentucky Fried Chicken, which for those of you who do not know was in Salt Lake City. It's in what is now South Salt Lake City, right on State Street. KFC is extremely popular here in China, even though much of the surrounding neighborhood is still being built, there are still three KFC's within walking distance. I was surprised to see that they had not only typical chicken sandwiches, but they also had a spicy chicken tortilla wrap (looked and tasted very Mexican). Globalization at its best!

Thursday, June 5
The doctors came into my room this morning and asked if I had seen any improvements yet. I tend to ask me this a few times every week. Even though I know improvements typically are not seen until a little bit later on, a genuinely seem disappointed when I tell them I have not seen any improvements yet. Sometimes they pull out their little poking device and start poking me all over to see if my touch sensation has improved anywhere. He discussed with me a little bit further the possibility of having my final spinal cord injection gone through my neck as opposed to my lower back. Personally I'm quite anxious to try this out, but he has been having a hard time getting the proper equipment to do it safely. From what I can gather it comes down to having a little bit longer of a needle than what is typically used for the situation.

That afternoon dad returned home to Qingdao from his business trip in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Shanghai. It's good to have him back, he'll be posting a few more photos of his time in Taiwan shortly. We have enjoyed hearing his stories.

Peter and Shelley, our friends from the local LDS branch, took us out to a Korean restaurant nearby. It was absolutely wonderful! The restaurant was located inside of one of the beautiful city parks here in Qingdao. The outside walls weren't made entirely of glass, but were filled with 20 foot tall bamboo shoots and leaves. It created a pretty neat atmosphere inside the restaurant, it felt as if we were inside a Korean jungle. As per Korean custom, there were lots of small rooms with dining tables in them that could be rented out to provide more privacy. Each table had a small area designed for grilling, with a small vent that popped up above the grill.

Peter, who is Korean, ordered a beef platter, a Korean pancake, and a noodle soup for everyone. Coming with the beef platter was about 20 smaller dishes of varying spices, vegetables, fish, eel, sauces and herbs to try. The beef was incredible! Shelley helped prepare little lettuce wraps for it, which is how it is traditionally eaten. She would take a piece of lettuce, dip a bite-size piece of beef steak into a sauce, place it on the lettuce, at a little bit of garlic and other spices, then this little red wormlike thing that was some kind of meat, wrap it all up and eat it in one bite. Similar little bite-size wraps were made with the eel, calamari, fish and other dishes. The Korean pancake tasted a lot like a quiche but made with seafood in it. I couldn't quite grasp what the noodles in the soup were made out of, or how they were made. From what I could gather they were made from some kind of flowering plant, so I don't think the noodles were wheat pasta like it would've been back home. Overall the meal was exquisite! Typically I'm not a very big seafood fan, but this really was fantastic.

Friday, June 6
The coming weekend is a Chinese national holiday: The Dragon Boat Festival. Peter says it is a Korean holiday that is been celebrated in China for years, but this year is the very first time that it is recognized by the Chinese government as a bank holiday. It being a bank holiday means that no one is required to go to work on Monday (as opposed to other holidays where everyone still has to work). Qingdao has over 100,000 Koreans living in its greater area, the district (neighborhood) that hospital is in is especially Korean. Consequently the local parks and streets have been decorated especially for the holiday. Qingdao is already massively decorated in preparation for the Olympics (the sailing competitions will be done here). This makes for quite a colorful combination of both Olympic and Korean decorations everywhere. Both the patients iand the staff of the hospital are looking forward to their extra day of rest on Monday.
What's for Supper?
While doing our regular grocery shopping we popped in to a fresh seafood section just to see if there is anything new to take a picture of. Over the past few days there has been a large crocodile on display that customers have been slowly purchasing piece by piece. The time we got there, there was nothing left but the head. You guessed it, Matt and I are now the proud owners of a crocodile head for a mere seven American dollars. He even has some pretty good chunks of meat left on the underside of the neck that we are going to grill up.

Of course we had a little fun with a crocodile head upon returning to the hospital. During physical therapy when everyone is in the gym, Matt went back to our room, fetched at the head, and neatly hid it in our friends room. For those of you have been visiting my Facebook profile, you may already be acquainted with Brenda. Brenda is the one we chased around a little bit with the dog's head in the short videos we posted. She and her daughter Mandy (21 years old) are our good friends, they leave Tuesday morning to return home to Missouri and they will be sadly missed. Long story short, we captured a pretty good short video of her returning to her room to find a crocodile staring back at her. We will be posting it shortly on face book :)

Friday afternoon I had my second stem cell transplant done intravenously. It is my seventh overall transplant. Next Wednesday I will have my final injection that will be done through my lower back. I like the intravenous transplants a lot because it does not require me to stay in bed for six hours afterwards. The whole process is over in about 30 minutes, after which I'm free to leave, eat or do anything I want.

I would like to reiterate to everyone who has been so kind and has helped make this journey possible for me. I have really appreciated everyone's support and encouragement throughout this whole process. It really has been an experience of a lifetime for me! Please keep the e-mails coming, it's fun to hear from everyone, and I always reply as soon as possible.


Anonymous towr said...

I am just curious if there are also Chicken Steak in KFC in China? thanks

- The Walking Tower -

Jun 15, 2008, 7:45:00 PM  

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