August 11, 2011: Computer Time
Tison is sitting in the computer room with his class. When he was here in the U.S. he enjoyed using the computer. Like most children his age–he is not afraid of the computer. Step one is to get past the fear of the operations of the computer. The technical understanding he will learn. He will see the computer as a learning tool.
He will be given every opportunity to have a first rate education. The classes are taught in English with Western standard curriculum. We want Tison to reach the highest potential academically. He is a special kid and is worth the investment.
August 3, 2011: School Time
Tison spent time with his family at his home village in remote Indonesia. He picked-up his native language and still has retained his English. He is an amazing kid. During his time at his home—his grandmother died. It was important to have him home during that time. He got to be with his family during the time of grieving and he got to see his newborn twin brothers.
His family wanted him in school. He is coming to the new school at our base. He is excited about being there and I know he will do well. Tison is a smart kid and will do well in school. He has had an advantage of being here in the U.S. He has a bright future and has found a special place in our hearts.
June 20, 2011: Reunion
Tison and I had finally made the final leg of his trip home. He was great on every leg of our long trip and we were finally over the large Island of Halmahera. It is a beautiful sight—we were minutes from landing and he was almost home. He turned to me and said, “I am scared”. He was talking about the time he had been away from his family—he was talking about the language he had little confidence—he was talking about seeing his family again—all those thoughts were in this simple three word line.
The Dash 8’s tires screeched down on the old WWII Japanese airstrip. We stepped off the plane and in a few steps Tison saw his father waiting for him. He walked up to his father and fell into his embrace. Tison had tears running down his face as they held onto each other. Then they just walked off together. They were making up for the time apart. It reminded me that the bond was always there. He belonged to his family—he was Indonesian. Whatever was offered to him in America was very special. He was an amazing boy but he was from a remote island and now he was home.
The next two days he spent at the Hohidiai base with his father. Tison was working on his language and it was coming fast. He seemed happy until his father said—we are going home. His Dad grabbed his bags and began to walk down the road. Tison got his backpack on and he started to walk away. I called out to him—Good bye. He turned and gave me a wave. He was now going home and was in the care of his father. He will be one month in his village and then he will be back to the base to begin school.
He found out that he has twin brothers—born while he was in America. His first tests will be culture and language. It was easier watching him leave after seeing how much his father loves him and how he responded to his father.
May 26, 2011: Going Home
Tison has been here in the U.S. for nearly 18 months and will be traveling back home. He is excited but worried about going home. He has had eight surgeries and nine procedures for a total of 17 times he has been sedated and spent time in recovery to repair his burn injuries. He has the routine down well. Tison speaks English very well and has settled into his life in the U.S. Please pray for him as he goes back to his village and family. There are a lot of bad memories of his burn injury and major lifestyle adjustments. His family is poor and work hard for their livelihood–they struggle to have enough. Tison will have a number of cultural challenges of his own—he likes chicken nuggets and fries. He will not have a fast food place within 300 miles by boat. It is going to be a while for him to reacquaint himself with his culture. We will be having a party for him this Sunday. He will be going home but he has many friends and people who have invested in helping him. There will be friends, doctors, nurses, teachers who will celebrate the huge improvement and prospects for his future. We will shed a few tears together but he is done with this chapter in his life.
April 13, 2011: New Ear
Stitches were removed last week and Tison’s new ear has been revealed. I think it really looks great. He was actually more concerned about the hair that was shaved off than he was in the swollen ear following surgery. This change was important to him because it is related to his appearance. We are most interested in function than appearance.
Tison is a happy kid. He likes to play legos—he can do it by the hour. He is pretty good at drawing. The sketch book he has is full of his masterpieces. The choices he will have to make in the near future is regarding what he will take home. He will be going back to his home in June. He has learned a lot and can now speak English very well. It will be a big adjustment for him when he arrives in Indonesia. We are speaking Indonesian to him as much as we can—he has forgotten a lot. He is smart and will have no problem picking his native tongue.
Tison was so badly burned he was what his doctor call—a life project. He has put on some weight, learned a language, made lots of friends and has a much better functioning body.
March 30, 2011: Seeing the Finish Line
Tison had another surgery yesterday. I believe he has had a total of seven surgeries and six procedures. He has been here for 15 months and in that time he has been under sedation for 13 times. Tison is getting used to going in for surgery and the recovery. He is strong and understands why he is here. The first surgeries were focused on his functional needs–his right hand, both legs and both feet. He was only going to be crippled or worse if he did not get this help. He had a high prospect to get an infection and face amputations or death.
His appearance was important to him. He is 11 years old and wants to be accepted and not be different. The surgery yesterday will help him improve his looks. His right ear was closed as if you folded the outer ear forward. You could not see inside the ear and it was unknown if the inner ear was injured. This surgery had an excellent result—you can see inside the ear canal and is everything looks normal inside the ear. It still has a ways to go—the ear is only at a first step. He has to heal and resist infection.
It is the final sprint to the finish. Tison will likely have one more surgery before he leaves for home in June. He has been a wonderful kid and now speaks English pretty well. He loves chicken nuggets and moose burgers. He enjoys movies, drawing and playing with his friends. He was given a one-in-a-million opportunity. He will require more surgeries but he needs to go home and reunite with his family. When he grows in stature, more surgeries can be arranged. This has been a good season for him. We are all proud of him and see a positive future for him.
January 26, 2011: Beginning the New Year
Tison is making good progress and finished the year strong. This surgery was what is called a z-plasty. It was performed on the upper right leg. It will relieve the tightness of the burn contractures and help him walk and run with more flexibility. This is surgery number six but if you include the removal of stitches he has been in surgery eleven times.
He has done very well and just comes into surgery with a smile. He knows the routine like the back of his hand. Tison has gained plenty of weight since arriving here over a year ago. He has not missed to many meals—chicken nuggets are his favorite.
We have some big decisions to make about his future. Tison has done so well and now we have to decide just what to do while he is here. His surgeon has been careful and has focused on the functional improvements. He has opened the right ear that was completely closed and has made the lip look so much better.
He will be recovering from the last surgery for about a week. Then we will see him able to walk better as his upper leg is more flexible. This has been a good beginning to a new year
September, 2010: Fifth Surgery Success
This was an important surgery. The success of this, his fifth, surgery could ultimately mean saving Tison’s leg or even his life. Dr. W. explained that he was surprised he had not lost his leg due to infection. He explained there was no skin—only a thin layer of scar tissue over the shin bone on his right leg. Infection could get in the bone and require the leg to be amputated. The worst result could be cancer. Those are frightening consequences. We all got the message—this was an important surgery.
This would be a miracle for the grafted skin to take to the graft area on his shin. Dr. W. did all he could but explained it this way—it is like putting a graft on (and he pointed) to that door. It will be a miracle if it takes. There are so many things that could go wrong.
He came home and was watched like a hawk. He spent a night in the hospital and then a week in bed at home. He had meds to help with the pain and discomfort for the first three days. Tison was a really good kid and accepted the limits he was given. He did watch a lot of videos and thankfully Andrew brought the Wii. He was not bored.
Today—his doctor looked at the graft. He was so happy to see it was taking and gave us a good but cautious report. Tison has to be very careful over the next couple weeks and will need to limit his active life. This will be tough for him but he has been very good so far.
This is step five in a series of several surgeries. Tison is getting better and better. We keep our eyes on the goal.
August, 2010: Fishing Champion
His father is a fisherman back in Indonesia. Tison loves to tell stories about his father catching big fish. Now he has his own story. He was so excited (as you can tell by his smile) about going fishing in Valdez. He went with his host family to catch the famous Silver (Coho) Salmon. He even kissed his fish after catching it. Valdez is know for the Silver Salmon runs in August. Tison told us he caught the biggest and the most fish (six). He is a true fisherman–he is good at fishing and telling stories. I wonder how he will tell his family about his time in Alaska.
June, 2010: Bear Keeper
It was a beautiful evening and feeding time for Samson and Delilah, two mature black bears. They are owned by Ron and Sharon Richards. These bears were given to the Richards when they were very young. Ron and Sharon nurtured them and watched as they grow and they kept growing. Samson is getting old and has way outlived his life span if he were in the wild. They live in a five acre forested enclosure. The high wire mesh fence is a reminder that they are wild animals.
Sharon invited Tison to come out to see the bears eat their evening meal. He did not know what to expect but was so amazed at the bears when he saw them. He helped Ron prepare the food—each bears gets a carefully prepared diet. They need lots of calories so they can pack on the weight before they hibernate for the winter. Tison was taken back by their size and watched intently as Ron fed then grapes–grapes are a rare treat for them. Tison has had a lot of firsts since he came to Alaska. This one will be a memories he can tell his friends and family back in Indonesia–the day he saw the bears.
May, 2010, Hawaii Fun
I think Tison was made for the water. He went with the Johnson’s (his host family) on a vacation to Hawaii. This was a wonderful time for him—it was like his home. He is from an island and his father is a fisherman. The ocean is a big part of his life. He tells stories of his time with his father going fishing. His face brightens and he talks about the big fish his father has caught.He is a natural in the water. I love the photo that shows he is so happy. The beaches, palm trees and gentle wind must have felt so good to him. If you think about everything he has endured. He is a miracle that he even survived the fire and the two years without treatment. The Johnson’s are just amazing people. They have opened their arms to him–he is a part of their family.
April 27, 2010: Bicycle Season
This surgery is a step in making him fell better about himself. It remains a step-by-step process. Thanks to the team of amazing people who are giving and giving to his future.
The sun is higher in the sky and the days are getting longer. It is just beautiful outside–the long awaited “break-up” has come. Break-up is the time of the year when all the snow and ice melt here in the arctic. The rivers “break-up” and become free flowing. It is a dynamic season–it speaks of change.
Change is the reason Tison has come here. The hope is a change for the rest of his life. He just completed his third surgery, he had the gauze removed
yesterday. He is great spirits and can see the improvements to his function and appearance. Tison is very coordinated and loves outside activities. The
Johnson’s took him out to ride a bike. He is just having a great time. He has a big smile and lots of exercise.
He is speaking almost all English now. There is improvement almost everyday. We are having to speak some Indonesian just so he can remember. We are
working on his visa extension and should know in a month what we can do to get him the approval.
He just needs to enjoy his time here and find the strength to go one day at a time on his medical care.
April 22, 2010: Three Done!!!
Tison is looking better today. He had his third surgery. After two related to function this surgery was to the scars on his face. His surgeon repaired his lip and chin.
He takes everything in stride. He is now riding a bike and just enjoying his life—very little holds him back. He is now speaking English full time. We have to speak to him in Indonesian just to keep him familiar with his first language.
March 14, 2010: Improvements
We took the cotton wraps off Tison’s left foot. The graft on the left foot is looking better as it heals. Tison is applying ointment to the new graft in the photo. He knows exactly how to put the treatment on and how to replace the wrapping. Maybe he will work at the hospital in Kusuri.
I also have included a photo of the right hand. Tison’s first surgery repaired the thumb on his right hand and the wrist. Tison was excited when the swelling went down on the thumb and found he could move it. It is now in the nature position. In his mind, he is closer to becoming that great soccer player he has been dreaming he will become.
March 4, 2010: A Great Day
It was a beautiful early morning. The snow was on the ground but it was mild as we arrived at the surgery center at 6:30 a.m. Tison barged in the door and was remarkably aware of where he was and what was about to happen. He came in the pre-op room and dozed off but cooperated with the nurse and anesthesiologist. It seemed like he knew every step. The fact that he has already had one surgery and that was a good experience. It was good because of the pain management and the compassion shown to him by the staff at the hospital.
Today was a good day because he will have more function to his legs. The pin that was inserted in the thumb on his right hand was removed. The pin was used to stabilize the realignment of the thumb. Today’s surgery cleaned up the scars that were restricting his range of motion in his legs. The surgeon also realigned the big toe on his left foot. The toe was almost at a right angle to his foot. It is now in the normal position. It is being held by a stabilizing pin. There was a skin graft taken from his upper leg and placed on his big toe. This will improve his running and walking.
Tison has come to really enjoy snowboarding. This surgery could improve his lifestyle by leaps and bounds. I am sure he will notice the big changes—maybe it will be while he is going down hill on a board.
February 4, 2010: Surgery Cancelled
Tison was hardly awake when he walked out of the minus 22 degree weather to the lobby of the surgery center at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital this morning (February 4) at 6:30 a.m. His host mom, Sue, mentioned he had a runny nose and slight fever. Tison seemed to be taking everything in stride and had become familiar with the process in his first surgery. We went back to the pre-op room and Patricia the nurse walked in with her big smile and started to take all his vital signs. She had some concern about his congestion and elevated temperature. She told us the cold would not necessarily stop the surgery but it was up to the decision of the Anesthesiologist. Tison continued to play his hand held game and we waited.
The Anesthesiologist came into the room and explained that he was going to cancel the surgery due to the congestion. This was elective and not life threatening surgery so he felt it was best to reschedule when Tison was in better health. Tison understood everything and knew he was going to go home. He would not be going to school. Remember those days when we were in grade school, a day off school was like a bonus. He is doing well in school and has several friends he has made. He will go back to school on Monday.
The surgeon came by later and told us he thought the next surgery will be in about three weeks. This is a part of the process and we will take it in stride. You cannot predict when a child will get sick or have an injury. We cannot look in the rear view mirror and asking the “if” or “we should have” questions. We just face each day and each situation with hope and prayer.
Hendra, the interpreter, will leave next week for Indonesia. He has been awesome and has already stayed much longer than we first thought. He has made it much easier for everyone. We will miss him, but it is time for all of us to go to the next level.
January 19, 2010: Translator Staying another Month
Hendra. Tison’s translator, was denied his visa application to go to a wedding in Australia. He was disappointed but agreed to spend another month to help with Tison’s second surgery and his adjustment to school. Hendra has been a huge help to Tison and the rest of us. He has been at the doctor’s appointments, all of his school and is teaching him some more English. Tison seems to be picking up a lot of English from his new friends and host family. He is learning the alphabet and is in the middle of the alphabet—somewhere around the letter “L”.
Hendra has been a major blessing. He will be leaving Alaska on February 13, He will be missed, but it is time for Tison to continue his time here without him. It will be a challenging time for Tison but it will be very important for him to begin to stand on his own. Hendra will be here about a week after the second surgery. Hendra has been so amazing and has done everything without a word of complaint.
January 15, 2010: Recovering well
Tison is recovering well from his first surgery. He has a pin in the end of his right thumb. The surgeon has re aligned the thumb and pinned it. It looks so much better even with it wrapped.
Thumbs up is the best way to describe Tison’s first surgery. Literally, Tison’s injured thumb is now up. It was bent backwards in a very awkward and useless angle. The thumb on his right hand was pointing backwards. It was painful just to look at it. It was completely non-functioning. The first surgery turned the thumb into its normal position. The surgeon placed a pin in the end of the thumb to hold it in the correct angle until it heals. Tison is actually starting to move it–he likes to show the progress it is making.
The next surgery will be decided very soon. I am thankful the pain management went well and Tison is seeing the progress in the function of his hand. He knows the pain of an untreated burn. He also can see that great care is being taken to keep that pain at a minimum. The skin graft around his wrist is also looking good. I would say it is a real thumbs up in all aspects.
January 11, 2010: Surgery
It has been just over a month since Tison arrived in Alaska. He has been examined, seen Santa and now he has had his first surgery. He came out of the two hour surgery, completing a major hurdle in the year of care in the U.S. The hospital staff did a wonderful job of preparing him and making him comfortable with the unknown ahead of him. He has never had surgery before. He was aware of why he was here and the day of his reconstruction had finally come.
Liz Wood, the nurse who has a major role in his care, wrote her evaluation of the surgery, “Some work on his thumb and skin grafting to his right wrist to release that tight band was done. He (the surgeon) had to take skin from his thigh to release the band. The tip of his thumb is still bent but the joint closest to his hand is now back in place. It is held in place with a pin. We will have to see if it will hold. For the toe, he just injected the
scar to see if he can soften it up before actual surgery on it. All, in all, a good first step. Still a long way to go.”
Tison his receiving great care and lots of support by the Johnson’s, his American family. Hendra, his translator, was at his side all day but will leave on Sunday. He has been a valuable help and has made the adjustment for Tison much easier. Tison is strong and is now one step closer to the goal.
December 23, 2009
We are only 20 miles from the (city of) North Pole and it is almost Christmas. We told Tison about Santa’s House and we made plans to go see him at his house. I told him to be prepared to answer a question–Santa often asks children questions. He said, “What kind of questions”. I told him,”Sometimes he asks, if you have been naughty or nice”. He knows both of those words in English. He thought for a while and then looked directly at me and questioned, “What if you have not been naughty or nice, just in the middle”? I could tell he was thinking hard and trying to be honest.
When we arrived at Santa’s House we had to take a number and wait in line for our time to meet Santa. The Saturday before Christmas was very busy, so we had a long wait. There was a lot to see and plenty of people to watch. Tison was overwhelmed and just sat most of the time as we waited for our number to be called. Finally, the moment came and he met Santa and gave him a big hug and then sat on his lap. Santa was very gentle and kind to Tison. We got some photos and Tison never had to answer the question he had struggled with earlier.
We left and went to the local Wendy’s for lunch. Tison discovered French fries–he has chicken nuggets and three sides of fries. Not a bad way to celebrate your first visit to the North Pole.
We are still waiting for the time for his first surgery.
Update December 14, 2009
Tison and Hendra experience the arctic version of soccer–soccer on ice. They went to the University of Alaska (UAF) Hockey game and met the UAF Nanook. They are standing on the ice rink.
Andrew Johnson, his big brother, takes Tison on his first snow machine ride .Tison really wanted to experience riding on a snow machine. He is finding it can be cold and snowcovered in the arctic but we find ways to have fun. He
is really bonding with Andrew.
Update December 11, 2009
We hardly notice the cold outside. We Alaskans have grown used to living in the darkness and chill. It is all a new experience for Tison. The first day in Alaska, he wanted to find out what it felt like to be cold. He went out in the minus temperatures and took his coat and hat off. This is all new and exciting. I think he is enjoying his first couple days here.
He is in a wonderful host home, Dr. Greg and Susan Johnson will give him all the love and support he needs during his time in Fairbanks. Andrew, their son, is his big brother—literally. Andrew is “songat tinggi” (very tall) at six foot four. Tison and Andrew met in Indonesia, in March of 2009, where a real bonding took place. Andrew became a voice for him coming to Alaska. They are now Wii buddies and brothers. Tison has been to one of Andrew’s ice hockey practices. It was not hard for Tison to understand “soccer on ice”. He loves playing soccer at home—only he plays bare footed and not ice skates. He is here for medical reasons, but he will gain a wonderful relationship with his new family. He does not have a last name—maybe we will call him Tison Johnson.
He had a very good visit with his primary physician. I was amazed at how he and his doctor seemed to have immediate rapport with each other. There was laughing and smiles as he was examined. He has major injuries but the prospects are very hopeful. The needs are great and the surgeries will have to be planned according to priority. He put on his coat, hat, a smile and went on to his next event.
Today, he got to see his family physician. He did great and was given thumbs up in his general health. In order to go to school he has to have his immunizations. It was his first ever immunizations and he got six shots in the upper leg. There were tears when the syringes appeared in the room. The nurse did a wonderful job and gave him six shots very quickly. He wiped the tears from his face, put on his coat, pulled his hat over his ears and was on to the next event.
The last two days of adjustment have been filled with appointments, shots ( a few tears), playing the Wii with Andrew, taking pictures from Liz’s I-Phone, eating American food, staying warm, imagining what school will be like. These first days have been filled with more than exams and appointments; they have been filled with hope.
Dermot Cole who writes for the Fairbanks Daily News Miner has written a nice article in today’s (12/11) paper. Go to www.newsminer.com and read the article.
Update December 9, 2009
Tison and Hendra his escort arrived in Fairbanks, Alaska at near midnight on Wednesday December 9.
There was a group of around 25 people there to welcome him to his new home. He was in good spirits and wide-eyed as he came into the arrival area of the airport. He had been traveling over 30 hours and he was finally at this place he had only imagined. He thought he might turn into a chunk of ice as soon as he got off the plane. He was relieved to see none of us were “ice people”. He is getting on warm clothes and even posed for a photo with Hendra before braving the arctic night.
A lot of work and planning went into just getting him here. This is a sigh of relief for so many who have donated and put in the effort to open doors for him. He will be at his first doctors appointment today at 2:30. We will have a road map of the objectives of his care and possibly a tentative time line.
Thanks to all of you who will have been a part of his miracle.
Update December 5, 2009
Tison had his going away party at the base in Halmahera. He is so excited about coming to Alaska. He will fly with his escort to Jakarta on December 7th and then on the 9th they board a flight early in the morning to wing their ay to the U.S. It will be in night of the 9th he will arrive in Fairbanks. The next day, he has an appointment with Dr. Wennen. He will map out his medical plan.
Update: November 24, 2009
We received great news today—Tison has been awarded a visa to come to the U.S. He will be arriving in Fairbanks, Alaska on December 9th at 11:42 p.m. He will be welcomes by a group of supporters. He will need a warm welcome as he will arrive close to the darkest day of the year up here. He will feel the cold for the first time and see real snow. He will find this a very strange place from his home on the remote islands of Indonesia. This is an effort by many good people who are simply trying to give him a new life without the crippling injuries.
Update: November 22, 2009
Tison has an appointment at the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday November 24. He originally was given an appointment for December 22, but with the help of Senator Lisa Murkowski the date was moved forward. This works very well for all of us in Alaska. It also limits the burden to his family in Indonesia. The next step is to get the airline tickets arranged. It is the holiday season and we have to find seats for them. Tison will be escorted by Hendra, an Indonesian staff member, who will help him get to Alaska. We will have word by Wednesday if Tison and Hendra are awarded the visa to come to the U.S.
Update: November 4, 2009
Tison has been awarded his passport and all the letters of support are in the hands of the staff in Indonesia. The next step is to go to the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. Tison’s father will travel with Hendra, an IFC staff member, to the Embassy as soon as an appointment is set at the Embassy. We have done everything we can on this end and now we wait. We are hopeful about him being awarded the visa he needs to come to Fairbanks to get the help being offered to him.
Tison (pronounced Tee-Sun) is a nine year old Indonesian child who was burned in a tragic kerosene fuel spill. He is burned on his face, neck, upper torso, both feet, both legs; his right hand and right foot are severely injured. Tison went one year without medical help because of the remote location of his village. He has been living on our medical base for nearly one year where he receives daily treatment for his open wounds. Due to the contractures on his legs he has a peculiar swagger when he runs—he was called “monkey boy” by the children in his village because of the way he runs. Tison is a very kind little boy. He is well liked and tries to live as normal as possible. I wish you could see him playing soccer. He recently prayed, “Lord, I want to be just like the other children, but if that is not Your will, I can accept that.” We want to bring him to Fairbanks, Alaska and see if we can be a part of the answer to his prayer. Keep praying that this door will open. His passport and visa are in process.