Sunday, December 10, 2006

Not All Baby Boys Look Good in Blue

December 8th was a Peruvian, actually Catholic, holiday - The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception -- established in 1476 and consecrated in 1942 as a Roman Catholic dogma which asserts that Mary was preserved by God from the stain of original sin at the time of her own conception (thank you wikipedia). Being in the foreign service means we get to celebrate all American and all local holidays, so Kenny had the day off and we decided to venture into the Central Highlands of Peru.

Upon a recommendation from friends we made reservations at a working farm in a place called Tarma, about 4 to 5 hours by car from Lima. To get to Tarma we would be driving up, high, really high, into the mountains and then down the other side. Tarma sits at about 10,000 feet (Lima is at sea level) and the summit we would reach on our trip was nearly 14,500 feet (passing through the town of Cerro de Pasco (14,212 feet) a town of about 30,000 and the world's highest town of its size). Needless to say, we were going to be VERY high.

Earlier this year Kenny took a trip to Quito, Ecuador, (altitude 9,252 feet) and had to take medication to counteract the effects of the altitude. At one point during his trip, he decided to take a "walk" up a glacier and at nearly 13,000 feet ran out of energy and oxygen and had to turn back. As for me, in high school I took a planetary science course through the University of Hawaii which included a trip to the telescopes on the top of Mauna Kea (13,796 feet above sea level -- just for interest's sake, some argue that Mauna Kea is in fact the world's tallest mountain because it rises 33,000 feet from the ocean floor and Everest's height is 29,000 feet) and I can recall feeling light-headed and having trouble breathing. With these experiences in mind and knowing that we would be bringing Caleb on this trek we started doing some research on babies and high altitude. Frankly, there is not much available. We discovered that up to 12,000 feet most "experts" agree that babies should be just fine. And above that, we wondered? Well, the general consensus is that is depends on the baby. Everything we read said to watch the baby closely, look for signs of lethargy, discomfort and trauma and should they appear act swiftly and get your baby to the nearest emergency room if improvement is not immediate. Armed with this information and with our friend Kristy along for the adventure, we began our trip -- we never reached Tarma. Somewhere around 13,500 feet Caleb started to cry. He was pulling at his ears (I'm sure they were/or weren't popping) and waving his hands about and demonstrating obvious signs of pain. Shortly thereafter he stopped crying, his eyes lost focus and his skin took on a decidedly blue cast. We immediately pulled over turned around and raced down the mountain as quickly as possible. The road to Tarma is a two lane almost highway that climbs quickly and steeply up the Andes mountains. It is one of only a handful of roads carved into these spectacular and enormous mountains and is heavily used by large semi trucks and tour buses. Our progress up the mountain had been slow and plodding and our progress down was impeded as well. We spent several very quiet, very nervous moments in the car after we turned around watching Caleb closely. Thankfully, Caleb's recovery was immediate and total. The pictures below were taken after we returned to Lima at a delightful Pizza place very near our house -- it was the longest and scariest trip we've ever made for pizza.

Caleb and Kenny with our friend Kristy

The brick ovens, the pizza was delicious

Safe and sound!


Ruby Wishes said...

Seriously!! This post scares the living HELL out of me! So glad all is well (as proven by the endoscopy!) And to tell you the truth I am glad I missed it the first time around.


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