We have lived in Italy for over a year and overall it's been a fantastic year. We have gotten to do so many things that I never imagined ever being able to do/see. Spring break in Tuscany? Check. Spending the day after Christmas is Venice? Done. Visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa...twice? That happened. Visiting the highest point in Germany which means being in the Alps? Did that too. Spending an afternoon in Austria? Yep! I've drank amazing wine, ate fantastic food, met wonderful people.
But Italy has been very hard on us medically. One of the things that we were not warned about before coming here was that asthma sufferers usually have it worse here. Which when 2 out of 4 kids have asthma, would have been nice to know. Sissy has even been prescribed at inhaler since being here, though she doesn't carry the diagnosis yet. Mold is also a HUGE problem here in Northern Italy and Bubba's number one allergy is mold. Needless to say we are constantly dealing with albuterol & Flo-vent inhalers and oral prednisone. While all of these medicines make the kids better, I worry about the long term effects of being on them so often. These are steroids and these are small kids. (Bubba is almost 7 and weighs 42lbs) Bubba rarely needed his inhaler in Texas...maybe twice a month after playing outside or walking home from school. Now he takes them daily. Often I wake up in the middle of the night to his wheezing cough. It's really hard.
This is the first week of the new year and Peanut got hit hard with it. He had a light cough on Sunday and by Monday morning he is wheezing and I can see his chest doing that slight cave when he breathes. So we are back to breathing treatments (which for some reason are more effective than the inhaler with chamber for him).
So what started as a cold has now lead to prednisone twice a day, pulmicort via nebulizer twice a day and albuterol every 3 hours via nebulizer. He also has a slight fever and is complaining of his ears. So Motrin/Tylenol as needed too.
Now I know kids get sick, but as they get older they should start to outgrow this, so to speak. And Bubba was...but Italy makes it so hard.
Another part of the problem is hard water. Kids who have asthma, often have eczema...which is true for us. Both Bubba and Sissy will get to the point where they scratch so much in their sleep that they bleed. Despite limiting their time in the tub, using Cetaphil for their bath soap...its just so dry. So in addition to the asthma meds, both use a hydro cortisone cream on their skin and take Zyrtec daily. That is a lot of medicine for kids. Daily. Everyday, not just when having an asthma flare up.
Adding to all this is the amount of times that I've had a sinus infection since being here. I am also on Zyrtec daily, as well as Flo-nase. I use nasal rinses daily and still average one sinus infection every 6 weeks or so. So much so that I have to go for a follow up this month and if my sinuses are still swollen, I'm being referred to an ENT for sinus surgery. Since being here I've also had a few other issues resulting in neurologist consults, MRIs and seeing doctors on the economy. Nothing due to Italy but I'm not getting treatment like I should, being here. And paying €400 for an MRI isn't easy when you're a family of six and stateside insurance would cover 100%.
So as awesome as Italy is, and as much as we haven't gotten to do/see since being here...we're starting to think about life after Italy. Being here as civilians, we are here for 3 years. However, after one year if you get a job back in the states that will cover a PCS move you are able to leave. Due to the medical issues we're having here and the fact that at the end of 3 years we have return rights to San Antonio (none of us wants to move back to SA, even the kids) B has begun looking and at some jobs stateside now.
It's bittersweet. Of course in this economy it may end up that we will be here for a full three years and we realize that. We made it through a year of this, we could do two more. Just if we get the chance to return home, we are at the point where we will take it. It's leave earlier for a place and job that we would love to have and finally be able to settle down, or stay for 2 years and return to SA where we do not want to settle and end up moving yet again.
All of that being said, we're still planning on making the most of it while we are here! We are planning out our Spring Break trip now....Paris! We want to take the kids to Disneyland Paris as well as see the sights. I want to spend a 4 day weekend in Spain and I would love to visit Belgium. We're well within driving distance to Slovenia, Austria, and Croatia. As well as the French Riviera. We have big plans while we're here (and now that Sissy is potty trained everything is that much easier!) but we are okay if they don't happen either. I see it as yes, there is certainly a lot that I haven't done but I am so, so grateful for what I *have* done and I will not leave with regrets. I've already experienced so much more that I ever thought possible.