Monday, December 18, 2006

Germany Trip Was Fantastic!

I don't know where to begin really. I could talk about the trip for hours! But I'll give it a shot . . .

Bailey was terrified of flying. We flew to Newark in an Express Jet. The pilot slowed the plane very quickly and Bailey grabbed my hand and squealed, "Why am I sliding forwARD REALLY FAST?!!!!" We laughed so hard. But she did much better in the bigger plane to Berlin. Plus, it was such a long flight, I think she just forgot about being scared. Tried to sleep on the plane, but that didn't work too well considering our excitement level. The sun started coming up at what seemed like 1:30 in the morning, but really 7:30 Berlin time. That seemed kind of weird. Klaus Wurtenberger picked us up at the airport and took us on a quick tour of Berlin before dropping us off at the Hilton Hotel. We saw the brick line in the middle of the street where the Wall used to be, and white crosses hanging on a fence in remembrance of those who lost their lives trying to cross it. It really hit me while we were over there that WWII really wasn't that long ago. One of our other "tour guides" from Berlin Heart, Cajetan, told us how his father experienced the "raisin bombers" dropping food and supplies overhead. It's the first time he tasted chocolate. We really did learn a lot about the war. I remember, of course, studying the war in school, but it really didn't hold my interest. But visiting Berlin really opened my eyes to their history. In fact, we went to our local library upon our return and I checked out a 600-page book on WWII.

So, after Klaus dropped us off at our hotel, we took a 2 hour nap. Woke up around noon and were starved. We walked around a couple-block radius in search of food. We thought we saw a deli - ran up to it and saw perfect, beautiful deli rolls with something that looked like raw fish between the layers. Hm. We returned to the Hilton and found a club sandwich and a ham and cheese panini. I know. We're pathetic. But Cajetan von Konig came that afternoon and showed us around the city some more and took us to one of the Christmas Markets that was a lot like our county fairs over here - rides, games, knick-knacks, lots of food. I discovered Gluwein. Mmmmmmm. Now, that was delicious! Gluwein is a hot burgundy wine with holiday spices and a shot of rum. Mmmmmmmm. I can still taste it. Ha! Bailey said her hot chocolate was the best she's ever had. We also tried roasted chestnuts, which neither of us have had before. They were very good too! Gives a whole new meaning to the "Christmas Song" . . . "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . . ". Cajetan took us to dinner at an Italian restaurant. I know what you're thinking . . . we're pathetic. (But we did try Weinerschnitzel [not sure of the spelling!] the next night.) Bailey had what she said was the best Calzone she's ever had and my pizza was very good. Had "rocket" for the first time, which is some kind of fresh green that they spread on top. Very good. Cajetan took very good care of us. We got back to the hotel about 10:00 and crawled into bed so excited to go to sleep . . . and we laid there with our eyes wide open until somewhere around 2:00 or 3:00. Our mistake was that we allowed ourselves to sleep until 11:00 the next morning. We were planning on walking around the city to see a few sites that morning, but didn't get that done. We took a taxi ride to Berlin Heart that afternoon. We gave Klaus the quilt and he loved it. He really seemed very excited to get it, and appreciate the work that Bailey put into it. He was very impressed. We then did Bailey's interview with the newspaper. The article came out the next day and we brought a copy back with us. Can't read it, but I was able to recognize "Smoke on the Water", "Riley Hospital", "Dr. Turrentine", etc. Then Klaus took us on a tour of Berlin Heart. Wow! Impressive! We saw the "clean room" where they produce the sterile equipment; we saw a Berlin Heart packed in a crate ready for shipping to Canada - that was quite moving, knowing there's some child out there waiting on it - it brought back lots of memories; we saw the production teams building all the parts inside, the computers - saw the inside of one - wow!; saw the completely implantable ones that adults can get; and we walked in to a conference room where the founder of Berlin Heart, Johannes Mueller, was on a video conference with Holger Buchholz, the heart surgeon who came to Riley to help Dr. T with Bailey's. That was very exciting!! We got to talk to him. He asked Bailey how she was doing. He said, "You don't remember me, but I remember you." He was very nice. He's in Canada now. That was quite a treat!

While touring Berlin Heart, I really felt like we were visiting Bailey's birthplace. In a way, it is her second birthplace. There was a strong possibility that Bailey would not have survived without the use of the Berlin Heart. I'm still overwhelmed with gratitude to this very day, and will continue to be for many, many years to come. I still look at her and my soul just dances. The tour was incredibly impressive. These people work long and hard to get these pumps out there to kids all around the world. They are doing great things over there.

Went back to the hotel for a quick nap, and Klaus and his wife, Susie, the American representative of Berlin Heart, Bob, and Julia, who planned the Dresden trip and helped us out quite a bit with taxis, etc., took us to dinner that night. That's when we tried the weinerschnitzel. It's a deep-fried veal. Very good. They drink lots of sparkling water. They do have Coke, but not a lot of ice. They have hot tea, but not iced tea. Had wonderful visit at dinner that night. Bob said he stepped outside for something when we were at Berlin Heart today, and there were employees standing outside saying, "She's here! Did you see her? She's here." It was so sweet that they were so excited to see Bailey. Some who barely spoke English came up and said "Thank you for coming" and "It means so much to see what our work does." They were the sweetest people I've ever met. They all have the sweetest smiles. I will never forget them.

Got in bed about 10:00 and, again, laid there until about 2:00. Got up early to go to Christmas Market in Dresden. What a beautiful city. They completely re-built all the beautiful buildings after WWII and, in fact, are still in the process. Had Saxonian Kettle Goulash for lunch - that was very good. It was similar to our beef stew. Found some more gluwein. Yum! Bailey had some more hot chocolate. Did LOTS of Christmas shopping - picked up some nutcrackers, some pyramids, some ornaments, etc. Lots of fun, but had to stop! Was beginning to worry that we wouldn't get it all in our luggage for the return trip. (We did get it all packed - had to leave our toiletries in the hotel room, though. Couldn't squeeze them in anywhere! Ha!) After our day in Dresden, we all (approx. 150 of us) went to dinner to celebrate their 10th anniversary. Johannes gave a talk mostly in German. He announced that Bailey brought some "Bailey's Team" pins for everyone. They all seemed very grateful for the pins. They put them on right away, and would come up to us to say "thank you". We had some fun at dinner. At our table were 3 Americans, 1 French man (Mark Anthony), and 4 Germans. We were tasting all the different foods (well, not the raw fish) and asking what they all were and comparing them to our own foods. It got pretty humorous at times. We learned a lot and laughed a lot! Then we were given a fabulous fireworks show in celebration of their 10th. It really was beautiful - lasted 15 minutes or so and had lively classical music in the background. Was very nice. Then 2-hour bus ride back to Berlin. A long day, but incredible.

Everyone we met was so excited to see Bailey and so happy we came. They kept telling us "thank you" and we kept telling them "thank you". Klaus finally explained that it takes the right doctor, the right hospital, and the right patient working as a team with Berlin Heart to make a successful case. I would say we had all the perfect parts for Bailey's case.

We never really got on their sleeping schedule, so, fortunately, on our return home we fell right back into our sleep schedule. The whole trip was amazing! One that we will never forget and won't stop talking about any time soon. We were welcomed with open arms, and very well taken care of. Thank you again, Klaus, for inviting us, and thank you to everyone at Berlin Heart for such an incredible visit. Berlin Heart would not be what it is today without each and every one of you, and our family would not be what it is today without Berlin Heart. Thank you all!!



Blogger Scott Andrews said...

Angie and Bailey: It sounds like you guys had an amazing trip. I am so glad for you to be able to see that and to have such a great experience. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!!


3:57 PM  

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