The vicissitudes of the life of a Vilnius woman – from working with world celebrities, she had to return to trials in Lithuania

The vicissitudes of the life of a Vilnius woman – from working with world celebrities, she had to return to trials in Lithuania
The vicissitudes of the life of a Vilnius woman – from working with world celebrities, she had to return to trials in Lithuania

In her youth, Natalia wanted to have adventures and see the world, so she moved from Lithuania to the United States and got a job in a restaurant on a cruise ship. She sailed all over North America and visited the Caribbean Sea, Bermuda and other islands, the Panama Canal, Mexico. It is true that there was not much time to admire the local beauties – sometimes they had a 4-hour lunch break, but during it they did not always have the strength to leave the ship, because the workload was very high.

“Instead, I have been to the city of my dreams in New York many times, I have walked a lot there (often faster than taking a taxi),” the woman recalled.

Once in San Francisco with a colleague, they couldn’t get a taxi and were almost late for their ship, and things like that were very strict there. After that, he could not set foot ashore for 2 months as a punishment, but it was not the most severe punishment – he could have been fired from his job.

It was necessary to work on the ship for half a year without going out, the working day lasted 16 hours. It is true that there was a break of several hours, but the work ended around midnight, after washing it was still difficult to fall asleep – and early in the morning it was necessary to go to the restaurant again to prepare breakfast.

So, after four years of (intermittent) work, Natalya left him, because the impressions were no longer satisfying.

He returned to Lithuania, rested and went to London. She wanted to live there as a tourist. However, the savings she brought with her quickly melted away in the big city, and she still wanted to stay there, so she decided to look for a job.

He got a job at Soho House, a cozy closed club that also has a cafe, but ordinary passers-by cannot stop by – only club members and their guests are accepted.

Natalija was the administrator, receiving and escorting the guests to the tables, among whom there was no shortage of world-famous stars: singers Kylie Minogue, Natalie Imbruglia, Björk, designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, members of the groups “Savage Garden”, “Right Said Fred”, an actor stopped by Kevin Spacey, Princess Beatrice and entourage and others.

According to Natalia, many of the guests were friendly, pleasant to communicate with, and did not show any whims.

“We, the employees, did not feel like service staff there, but like friends of the visitors. We talked with some of them and more, for example, I had a lot of communication with the famous British architect Zaha Hadid, who came to the club alone, worked there all day and was happy to talk about her work”, Natalija recalled.

The unpleasant incident happened when the writer Salman Rushdie, who is regularly attacked by Muslims, visited the club. At that moment, a man wearing a black mask entered the club and started threatening the writer, although he did not have a weapon.

However, after almost a year of adventures in London, Natalija returned to Vilnius – her future husband, whom she met when she returned to her hometown to rest after working on cruise ships, was already waiting here, and her grandmother was also waiting – they were always close and got along well, but the old woman’s health got worse and needed to be taken care of.

The son is diagnosed with autism

Since then, Natalija lived in Vilnius, and her desire for adventure was overshadowed by domestic concerns. After starting a family, the woman soon had a daughter, Ugnė, who is now 13 years old, and then a son, Algimantas (11 years old). It was necessary to take care not only of two small children, but also of a grandmother who was very ill.

Additional concerns arose from my son, who was a very restless child who cried a lot and slept little. In addition, he did many things more slowly than the other children, played in a strange way and did not look people in the eye at all.

When Algimantus was about two, his grandmother died and the child was diagnosed with autism at the Child Development Center.

“Understandably, it was a shock, there was a lot of disappointment and pain. In addition, the understanding came that a new phase of life has begun, and it is necessary to put as much as possible into my son, to engage with him so that he learns as much as possible in life,” said the mother.

So she did not work at her regular job for a while, and devoted all her energies to the education of her son. For example, she relied on the card system recommended by the Development Center – she knows that parents of other children with autism say that it does not help, and it really takes a lot of patience before you introduce them – but it worked out very well for her family, because thanks to the drawings on the cards, it was possible to communicate with a child who did not speak at all until he was four.

There was no shortage of other activities. For example, the woman noticed that her son was very interested in the sign “Angry dog” hanging on the gate – after he had already been taught to pronounce a few words, he could point to the sign a hundred times a day and ask: “Who is here?” Who is here?’

Then the mother interested her son in other signs of a similar type, later she and her daughter constantly played a game with those drawings and asked each other what was depicted in them. This is how the boy’s vocabulary expanded, and there were also funny sayings: “Here is a sign ‘you need to go to the sea’.”

The biggest entertainment is historical questions

The mother was also very concerned about her son’s diet – he ate very few products, there was a stage when he ate practically only black bread for several months – you couldn’t offer him anything else.

However, his mother’s constant work with Algimantus has paid off – he is now no longer diagnosed with an autistic disorder, he only has autistic features – for example, he is sensitive to sounds, attentive to some details and still eats few foods.

The boy studies at the Blessed Teofilius Matulionis school, in an ordinary class, a special pedagogue works with him once a week. The mother notices that the child does much better when learning with individual attention than when learning together with the class.

He talks a lot, but only about things that are interesting to him – about what he did at school that day, he probably won’t tell his mother. He stays away from his classmates, communicates in a business-like manner, but does not enter into big friendships. Instead, he has one good friend of the same age in the homestead, with whom he can talk for hours.

“He is not very interested in science, but there is always one thing that really engages him. This is history at this point. For him, the biggest entertainment of the evening is to answer the historical questions I ask. He knows both the history of Lithuania and the world, he can tell a lot about various wars, empires, historical figures (including their dates of birth and death) – in other words, he knows much more than I do,” Natalija was surprised.

An insidious new diagnosis

After her son started attending school, the woman started working, and now she is also studying for a master’s degree in social demography at VMU.

But Natalya was able to breathe easier for a short time – three years ago, she divorced her husband, and soon after that, her son received a new diagnosis – type 1 diabetes.

Now the woman understands that the symptoms of the sudden illness were visible for some time, but she did not think that something was wrong. It was summer, the child drank a lot of fluids, but still his lips were dry and he often ran to the toilet. Mom wrote it off for the summer heat.

But in the fall, the boy’s condition did not improve, it was obvious that he had deteriorated. His mother made an appointment with the family doctor, but he did not get time for the visit – one day the child’s movements became strange, his speech became incoherent, circles were visible under his eyes, so they went to the hospital. Diabetes was quickly diagnosed there, and after giving insulin, the child recovered within a couple of days (without this preparation, the body does not absorb fluids and dehydration occurs, and as soon as he received the treatment, everything settled down).

Type 1 diabetes cannot be cured, it can only be controlled with insulin injections, so you just have to learn to live with it. It is not simple. “It is necessary to always predict what and how much the child will eat and how the body will react to food. For example, if he is going to exercise, he can also eat carbohydrate-containing products so that his sugar level does not become too low, but if it is too high, it will already be necessary to knock it down with insulin. Sometimes twelve injections a day are needed. It is especially bad if the numbers are too low, then the person may faint, convulsions may begin,” explained the mother.

He lost his job due to his child’s illness

Diet control is made even more difficult by the fact that Algimantas does not eat much and, as if on purpose, was most fond of high-carbohydrate foods, which now have to be severely restricted. What to say about the fact that it is not easy for children to give up sweets and other delicacies. True, from time to time it is possible to invite the boy to try a new product, he recently started eating meat (but necessarily mashed).

Natalia wakes up to her son at night and checks his blood glucose level. True, the child always has a special device with him that beeps if the indicators reach a dangerous limit. However, it happens that the mother wakes up at night and feels anxious that maybe the device has not started, maybe the batteries are dead – so she gets up and checks if everything is okay.

Now, during the day, the child already knows how to measure the glucose level and inject insulin by himself. In the beginning, he had started to cheat and sometimes took the drug unnecessarily to calm down – I had to talk to him a lot about how to live with this nasty disease.

The family, which now consists of three people, avoids going on longer trips, because it would become especially difficult to control the food. And mother and daughter also had to change their eating habits, for example, now they don’t eat products made from white wheat flour either (but whole grain flour products can be eaten).

Natalya lost her previous job due to her son’s illness – while she was learning to live with diabetes, she had to come home during the day to feed the child and check glucose levels, and the employer did not accept this.

Now the woman can work calmly, she just has to think carefully in advance about what her son will be able to eat and prepare the food.

“I am very grateful to my new employer, the energy company Connecto Lietuva, for taking me to work with my concerns and sending me to the doctor or sanatorium if necessary. In addition, this job has a very good atmosphere, colleagues and managers are understanding, the company is socially responsible, so I was really lucky in terms of work,” said a woman working as an occupational safety and health specialist.

She says that over the years she realized that it is necessary to take care not only of family members, but also of herself – after all, if she is completely overworked and tries to take care of the children last, nothing good will come of it.

A woman tries to look at life optimistically. “If it seems that something is not going the way it should, maybe you just need to lower your expectations, and life will become easier,” noted Natalija.

The article is in Lithuanian

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