Friday, May 12, 2017

My Birth Story

Six years ago on mother's day, I birthed my precious baby girl. That was the best Mother's Day gift every. To commemorate that day and to give thanks to all the women that labored for their little ones, I am sharing my Labor Story for the first time. 

We would like to formally announce the birth of our healthy baby girl: 
Emmanuelle Kieu-Trang Turner Valverde

What follows is our birth story. At the 38 weeks mark, Hsiu-Li, our midwife checked me and reported that I most likely would go to post-term. I was already having a lot of anxiety about when I’d deliver since my midwife, though legendary, has basically a 9-5pm working schedule uncharacteristic of most midwives. Plus she would be out of town during my anticipated due date. So, saying I’d have to wait longer was a downer

Surprisingly, the same night after our check-up, I began to have strange new pains, beyond my Braxton Hicks cramps (some call practice “contractions” you get during pregnancy). By the following night I was clearly beginning my labor. Per our midwife's advice, we went to Alta Bates, our chosen hospital, for a general evaluation. We learned Emmi was doing great and I had officially started laboring, 1 centimeter dilated and 90% effacement (mumbo jumbo for, my body was getting me prepared for the impending delivery). After two days of contractions, 1 centimeter out of 10 was hardly the result I anticipated; but, at least the triage nurse said I’d probably have a baby within 24 hours.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Modern Family

France is abuzz with what makes an acceptable family unit because one of the forerunners for the country's presidency, Emmanuel Macron, has an unconventional family structure. I appreciate his understanding of his family make-up. Attacked by his opponent's father, Le Pen, for not having biological children and therefore could not care for the future, Macron has responded with, "I have children and grandchildren of the heart. It’s a family that you have to build, it’s a family you have to conquer, a family that doesn’t owe you anything, and that you will never have!”

I myself have what some have come to tease as an "instant ramen" family – mainly because it took place in seemingly a short amount of time, but also because of its unconventional nature.  I met the perfect man for me and adopted our first child in the same year, both not from the same ethnic or racial background as myself (that I know of). We then had a daughter together two years after that, and two years after that decided to get married at the San Francisco City Hall. Though extremely chic and modern to us, some friends were appalled that a Vietnamese American would marry in such manner, so they decided to throw us a "lavish" wedding. Because we insisted on only inviting people we know and love, it turned out to be an only 40 friends and family affair (200+ in a banquet would be more the norm) at a hidden rose garden nearby with reception in our own Tenants in Common backyard. We still live in our tiny TIC by a beautiful lake in the center of our city (not a large home in the suburbs). All this is to say, we are pretty unconventional by the standards of our extended families and cultures. But, it is our family and how we chose to be. I too would defend what we have with earnest conviction.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Remembering Don Nakanishi

Don Nakanishi deeply influenced my work. For instance, his earliest research cleverly brought together political science with Ethnic Studies and the local with the global, to give us precursors to transnationalism. However, I would not know Don personally until I was going through a very public and grueling tenure battle. Introduced through one of his many mentees that teach at universities now, Don helped me immediately. He generously shared all he knew about the continued struggles of Asian Americans in higher education. I ultimately won tenure through appeal, a rare occurrence. I attribute that miracle to Don’s assistance. 

After tenure was won, I wanted to offer a token of my gratitude. I had no idea what to give "The Don" – taking into account his possible interests without offending. I overthought. In the end I opted for a maneki-neko charm that had the Japanese script, "Happiness, come over here!," Open fate (in a good way), Invite fortune (and/or happiness)." When he received it he asked how I knew. Turned out Don had a maneki-neko collection, procured during his many trips around the world, that rivals any museum’s. He even mentioned that he had his son video the room there he kept this collection. Indeed, I found that video on the web later. This showed me another dimension of Don that brings a smile to my face every time I recall it. 

I will remember Don in different ways, but it is his fierce determination and sense of right from wrong that I still admire most. His chronicling of his own legendary fight for tenure anthologized in Amerasia Journal published in 1990 was the blueprint for my tenure fight. It also inspired my current completed anthology manuscript, Fight the Tower, about how the attacks against Asian American women in higher education signals serious troubles in universities as a whole. Don was to have written the Prologue for this anthology, which represented his deep involvement for justice up to his last days. I cannot thank Don enough for all he has done for me and the hundreds he has helped in similar fashion. I know he fights on for great causes where he is now and guides us in spirit in this world.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The First and Only Slave Museum in the US

On Whitney Plantation, in the town of Wallace, 35 miles west of New Orleans, there houses the first and only Slave Museum in the US. Understanding the roots and legacies of slavery may help Amerika to understand the on-going race issue and the rampant ignorance around it. John J. Cummings, founder of the Slave Museum, remarks on his journey to learning about the history of slavery, “I had no idea they [slaves] were a commodity and how they were treated like a commodity. I had no idea of how how [sic] deprived they were – not by force of circumstance, but by deliberate planning.“ Ibrahima Seck, the museum’s Director of Research, expands on the learning of slavery, “You don’t just teach slavery. These people have backgrounds. They came from Africa. But, also you have to know, these people came naked or half naked, but, they did not need a suitcase to put their culture inside…”. I will definitely make a trip south for this. It is also just outside of New Orleans!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Asian Ingenuity Story of the Day

I went to purchase an action figure online for my Emmi and Tous. I searched the web for a coupon. Found one for 10% off (Asian score #1). Used it but may have forgotten to press "apply." Anyway, emailed the company's customer service and asked them to apply the 10% discount anyway. They complied (Asian score #2). Then went on the site to check on my purchase and noticed the action figure had just gone on sale. So, emailed customer service again and asked them to give me the new sale price. They agreed to it (Asian score #3)! Bragged to hubby and he shook his head in disbelief. Proud of his Asian wife (Asian score #4). Helps that GoldieBlox also has excellent customer service. Moral of the Asian story? Never hurts to ask – again and again. Oh, did I mention for all my efforts I saved $5.92, a fortune I say. :D

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Another John Snow Theory

I miss blogging about my latest obsessions. Maybe I have neglected to post since my thoughts grow increasingly radical, leading me to wonder if my old audience would appreciate or even care the leaps I make. When my interests are not of the edgy nature, I consider that it may be too basic and inconsequential compared to the madness I experienced during my death. My death remains the marker for all things.

True or not, these internal dialogues take away from what I love about blogging, the art of writing. I must thank Monkey Lounge for allowing me the venue all these years to express myself through words. I never really fancied myself a good writer but blogging gave me the necessary confidence and expressive outlet. So, to honor the craft of blogging and by extension, writing, I would like to discuss the much debated issue of the death and possible resurrection of John Snow. This should be fun since life after death is an experience I am quite intimate with.

Let us begin. I agree with most in the blogosphere that Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen are John Snow's true parents. He is the Song of Ice and Fire, the Ajorah Ahai, and rightful King to the Iron Throne. Therefore, though stabbed to death by the Night's Watchmen at the end of Season 5, John will rise again in Season 6. 

The true identity of John Snow will first be revealed during the funeral burning of his body. Like with Daenerys, John's body will be unscathed by fire, showing to all present that he possesses Targaryen dragon blood. John would have already warged into his direwolf, Ghost, at this point, also reaffirming his Stark lineage. Seeing this, Melisandre uses her red magic to resurrect John. 

This will solidify for all John's true identity and fate. People will flock to follow John. Especially since his resurrection signals a new and more powerful coming of Ajorah Ahai.

*Special thanks to the students from my Asian Diaspora Class for reminding me how much I actually like writing, no matter how challenging.

Friday, March 27, 2015

In Support of Amniotic Fluid Embolism (AFE) Awareness Day OR My Death Story Revisited

Sobering picture of me taken 
by my sister when I was in a coma. 
It took my family months before 
they felt I could handle seeing the image. 
I still am shocked to think this was actually me.
In support of Amniotic Fluid Embolism (AFE) awareness day, this is my AFE story...

I was going through the most stressful time of my life when I had my AFE experience. Entrenched in a very public battle for tenure at my university, I did not even know I was pregnant until I was four months along. I ultimately won my tenure, but I found that the cost was too high because I lost two lives in the process, my own and that of my unborn child. Under the stresses of a two-year tenure battle, days after turning in my successful tenure appeal, my body crashed and I miscarried. I had been nearly six months pregnant when I lost my child at home. I was rushed to the hospital where I hemorrhaged nearly all my blood supply, requiring 14 units of transfusion and went into cardiac arrest. The team of doctors and nurses worked tirelessly to resuscitate me. Although protocol only called for 30 minutes of resuscitation, the lead doctor, an innovative, passionate, and brilliant South Asian woman, announced she would break protocol by continuing to perform CPR and asked who would join her. The whole team yelled in unison, “Yes.” 

They aggressively tried to revive me, telling each other that I was a mother of very young children, then one and three. The team worked on resuscitating me for 30 minutes, then another hour before finally finding a faint pulse. I was clinically dead for a total of 90 minutes before that point – I had nearly no oxygen to my brain during that period. Still, I was not out of the woods. With most of my organs not working, I fell into a coma. I was kept alive only by machines. My prognosis was grim, with a chance of survival marginal at best. Family and friends traveled from everywhere to be by what they thought was my deathbed. Doctors predicted that even if I did survive, I would not be whole, and it would take at least a year of inpatient care for me to learn to partially talk and walk again. Despite the dire predictions, my husband Brian, who never left my side, remained vigilant and hopeful that I would recover.

In the days following my near death, I would come close to dying again and again. On day one my kidneys failed and I was put on dialysis. The doctor predicted I would be on dialysis for the rest of my life, but in the second miracle of my recovery, I regained the use of my kidneys on day two. I was still in grave condition however, as the embolism that had almost killed me also threatened my body with numerous blood clots. The doctors had little hope for my survival and recovery. They repeatedly made dire predictions and tried to prepare my partner for the possibility of me living the remainder of my life in a convalescent home. On day three, I underwent emergency surgery to decrease the likelihood of dying from blood clots. On day four, I remained unresponsive, but my chances of survival improved greatly, with doctors predicting I would return to 60 percent capacity at best.

Miraculously I survived. On day five, I woke up from the coma and my true road to recovery began. Although rehabilitation should have taken months or years, I was able to talk and walk after one week. Hospital physicians and staff dubbed me the “hospital miracle,” a “modern medical wonder.” They regularly visited me with teary eyes while I was in recovery. They said they had never seen a case like mine and that I was “one in a million.” They confessed they and their families prayed for me. My own family and friends also looked at me like I was a ghost. Having seen me completely unconscious with tubes everywhere, they could not stop crying and hugging me, shocked that I was even remotely responsive. All this attention was overwhelming because I was not aware of their experiences in the “living world” as I was busy dying.

In fact, when I was in a coma, I knew I was dead. I knew every day that if I did not return to the living soon, it would be more difficult to even try. Although I knew I was already in the other world, I willed myself to keep fighting. My thoughts had nothing to do with tenure or anything related to work. My only thought was for my children. I imagined them as adults sitting together, viewing old photo images of themselves as toddlers beside their adoring mother. I could not allow myself to die and leave my children without a mother to protect and guide them through their lives. I had one wish and that was to hold my children again, to simply enjoy being in their presence. So, I fought against all odds to be back with the living, to be with them. Now, every moment I spend with my children is like a dream come true.

I have posted an earlier version of my story on Monkey Lounge. Needless to say, AFE was a defining moment in my life. Since then I have started a movement to help other women of color academics who have to endure stresses that can lead to all sorts of ailments and even death. You can find out more about the movement here at Fight the Tower. I have also written in great detail about it in The Journal for Social Justice. Moreover, I continue research in the area of women of color and academia with focus on Asian American women and am currently working on an anthology on the same topic.

Work, albeit tremendously reduced, has helped me to cope. But, I have yet to fully understand what happened to me. Mostly, I have not properly grieved for my son. Others who have gone through similar lost say it is a lifetime of letting go and never letting go. I view it as a continued journey. I am fortunate for my family, friends, and colleagues that have reached out and sustained their support through it all.

Dr. Death

For more information about Amniotic Fluid Embolism (AFE), go here.