Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another long and productive day

We haven't posted in a while, but Jon has still been busy these last few days. He's had two days of therapy so far this week, and they have been working him hard.

Both days in PT, they have had him on the stair stepper, which he has not done before. He's done one machine where he sits and the motion is more back and forth. But on this one, he had to stand up and take actual steps, which I know wore him out. But he did it! It's still hard for him to completely bend his left knee, but when forced, the knee can bend. He has also been walking more and more without his cane (hopefully only at home and therapy and not at work!). I think his gait has improved significantly. And people we saw this week who we haven't seen in days or weeks even comment on how his walking is getting better and better.

OT has been tough, but he's definitely been making progress. Each day this week he's done something he has not been able to do before. He can hold his arm up a bit more than he could, he actually had some movement in his wrist, and has had more strength in his hand and was able to hang on to cones, which he couldn't do. So I think he's made some great strides this week!

Jon also had an appointment with the hematologist this week, to see if there was something that showed up in his blood work that might indicate a reason for his stroke. So the good news is they did not find anything. Of course that means we still don't know what caused it, but we are both relieved that they didn't find anything that worried them.

Overall I think things are going pretty well. Again our friends at UMHB have been great about taking Jon to work and bringing him home. And our friends at church have been terrific. For two weeks, we've had wonderful people who have picked Jon up at the house and bring him to S&W for his therapy. That has been a tremendous help! It's tough for all of us to juggle working, kids, therapy and extracurricular activities, but with the help of some wonderful friends, we're getting through it just fine.

So thank you again to all who continue to help and offer support. After two months, we still need it!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Another day of firsts

This is Jon, back in the "author's seat". I just wanted to post a quick update, as we close out another busy week. I had PT and OT today, and mom and dad gave me a ride and watched therapy for the first time since we came home.

It was a day of milestones, just one day after I was told I was lucky to be where I am today. I got the okay in PT to move full-time to a single point cane. And was also told that I could walk around the house without use of a cane at all - sometimes! That moves me one stop closer to walking without assistance, something that has been a goal for the last two months and two days. We also spent a lot of time on working on restoring strength to my left leg. And I definitely feel it - during therapy and after! More work means a bit more soreness and fatigue, but it's worth it all.

I also had a full day in OT. We worked on regaining movement and after almost a month of not seeing me in therapy, mom saw significant progress, which is another source of encouragement. I don't always see the progress, since I'm so close to the process. I am looking forward to a chance to rest up over the weekend before facing another busy week next week. And I feel blessed to have that opportunity in light of yesterday's news.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Good and Not-so-Good News

Brenda is back doing the narration today, and it's been another busy day in the Wallin household. Jon didn't have therapy today, but had an appointment with the neurologist this morning, so he spent the morning in my office with me before we headed over.

Overall the appointment went well, even though we did hear some good news and some not-so-good news. For the first time since the stroke, we were able to see the MRI results and see how big the bleed was/is. Both of us were surprised at just how big of an area it covered. The doctor told us it was a 6.5cm bleed (close to two and a half inches, ish!). When you think about the total size of the brain and how much room there is in there, that's a pretty substantial amount. All along we've been told he had a "substantial bleed," but we really had no idea what that meant, or how big that actually was. But today we definitely got an idea!

While the neurologist was encouraged by Jon's progress, he pretty bluntly told us he was more amazed that Jon pulled through at all. It's hard to sugar coat what he said, but he basically told us that many patients with that large of a bleed don't survive, or if they do, end up comatose. That one statement definitely brought tears to my eyes! I'm not sure we both realized how close we were to a much different outcome. And while all along we've been thanking God for His role in Jon's recovery, we are even more thankful that he was able to come through it like he did!

So to say the least, Jon's doctor was very impressed with his recovery to date, and very encouraged and encouraging that much more is to come. That was wonderful to hear! So the good news: the recovery continues - we continue to see progress and everyone around us is encouraged that much more is to come; the not-so-good news: they don't know what caused it and because it was such a substantial bleed, there is still a significant amount of blood on the brain, which means it might take a bit longer than we had hoped to recover. But we do know it's not an IF for recovery, it's a WHEN!

While parts of the appointment were scary and eye-opening, it makes Jon feel somewhat better knowing that because of the severity of the stroke - it will take some time before everything comes back, and we can't get too discouraged if it still takes longer than we hoped.

It's back to therapy tomorrow. Jon's parents are coming into town to take him, their first time since Jon started outpatient therapy. I know they are anxious to get a first-hand look at how he's progressing. Then I think we will all be ready for the weekend!

And while we've known since the day of the stroke that prayers and God's oversight have gotten us through this, it was made pretty clear again today just how much God has literally carried and blessed us. So again we have to say Thank You to Him and to all who offered their prayers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Two Months In

This is Jon back with you, but hopefully I can talk Brenda into taking over before I finish. Today marks the two month anniversary (although that really doesn't seem like right word to use) of the stroke. It seems hard to believe how much progress has been made in that time. It hasn't always gone quickly, but as we look back, I really have come a long way.

I've made it through my first week and a half back at work. I'm still working half days, but I've accomplished a few things in that time and it feels very good to get some work sent out of the office. I had a full day of therapy today, and boy can I feel it. We worked hard on restoring movement in my left arm during occupational therapy and saw some positive things. There was a little more movement than in recent days. That was encouraging and certainly makes the hard work seem worthwhile. I even got to make a few of what the therapist called my "Arnold"poses. Now I just need to get some muscles to go with those poses. He also used the e-stim unit and got some movement out of the shoulder that was new. For those of you who have followed the blog all along, I spent some time working on all fours and did without any "incidents" like the last time we worked on that in Waco.

In physical therapy today, we worked a lot on balance. There is still some work to do there, but I should be ready for a round of Wii Fit any day now! We also got the go-ahead to buy a single-point cane. That would bring us one step closer to walking completely on my own. I also consider that to be very encouraging.

We go to the neurologist tomorrow and hopefully we might get a few answers as to a cause. That will be the first of several doctors appointments coming up in the next few weeks.

As I look back over the last two months, in some ways it seems to have flown by. But in other ways, the stroke seems to have happened years ago. Not knowing what to expect going into this "adventure" has made it difficult to gauge progress. But I do know that I am encouraged by what we've accomplished and I certainly feel more independent. The therapists and doctors all know that we want and expect a full recovery and it is nice to all be on the same page, working to that end. Thanks again for your support, this has definitely been a team effort.

I've just about run out of things to say, and I couldn't talk Brenda into taking over. I'll get her back on line with her take on things soon. Take care and thanks for reading!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tag - I'm It!

Apparently we are now tag-teaming the blog! So the wifey is back in charge. It's easier for me to write than Jon, because I give more detail and talk more about how well he's doing than he will!

Jon has had a busy but productive week. He went back to work Monday (really Tuesday) and has worked every day this week. I think that's a pretty good accomplishment considering it's just about seven weeks since he suffered his stroke. Fortunately for us, he works at a great place and has great friends who are willing to pick him up at the house and bring him home every day at lunch! That helps me out a great deal, and we really appreciate the continued support.

I think work has gone pretty well for him. But in addition to heading back to the office, he's back in therapy, although not as often as we would like. We are used to the 3-4 hour/day schedule we were on in Waco. So to only go a few days a week is difficult. But they are definitely working him hard when he is there.

He had both physical and occupational therapy a few times this week, and they are definitely pushing him, which he likes. Even though the sessions are shorter, they are more intense, so we hope after a few more appointments, we'll start to see the results! In physical therapy he's working on refining how he walks. He strictly uses his cane now, hasn't been in his chair since we've been home, so they are helping him strengthen and "perfect" his gait. Next week he starts three days a week, so that will be good.

In occupational therapy, he's definitely working hard! His therapist is as determined to get him back to full function as he is, and that makes both of us feel great! He had a long session today and worked a lot on shoulder movement - which is coming along - and strengthening his elbow. We've only had a few sessions, and I know Jon wants to see big progress each time, but it will come. For now, once again, we're glad to see even some minor progress, and we are definitely seeing that! We have to keep reminding ourselves we are in this for the long haul - nothing is an easy fix - so we just have to hunker down and get through it.

Overall, I think Jon has had a great week. He's back at work, back in therapy and our little family is starting to get back into a routine. Our lives will still be challenging, but we can deal with that. It's easy to dwell on what we don't have, what we've lost, what we are facing, but when we truly look at our lives, it's easy to see that despite what we are dealing with, we are truly blessed. We have each other, we have friends, we have family, a church filled with members who stand behind us, and we have faith. With all of this, there's no doubt not only will we get through it, we'll be stronger and recognize how lucky we are!

So stay tuned. There's no telling who will be at the helm next post! But we'll keep everyone updated! Thank you all again for your continued support and encouragement.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

First Day Back

So, it's Jon here again. Just returned home after my second day of work. The first two days back in the office have not been my most productive, but it has been SO good to get back and see everyone. I am limited to four hours a day in the office right now, but I'm looking forward to being able to stretch that out some again soon.

We also went back to therapy on Monday and it was refreshing to be able to get back to "work" on my recovery. Most of the day was spent with evaluation. I must have done okay because the physical therapist felt like two days of therapy a week will be enough. We may push for more as we go along, but I saw that as a positive. The occupational therapist sounds much more aggressive. we will be going three days a week for what he called a "very aggressive" month of therapy. I am a little concerned by that, but am looking forward to some immediate or rapid progress.

We go back to the hospital tonight for another MRI and testing that we hope will reveal a cause for the stroke. I had to have more blood drawn this morning and I am tired of being stuck with needles. Hopefully, we are almost finished with that aspect, too.

Just wanted to give everyone a quick recap and I will keep working on getting Brenda to return to the blog soon. Thanks and God Bless!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

More New Beginnings

Once again, this is Jon typing the blog as I give Brenda another night off. Tomorrow (Monday) will be a really big, but we'll have more on that in a minute.

We had a nice relaxing weekend as we tried to rest up for a big week. The family went to church together for the first time since the stroke this morning. It was a great feeling to get back and say thank you face-to-face to so many people for their prayers, cards, support and encouragement. Then we went out to lunch and made it home just in time to watch the U.S. Women's Soccer teams incredible comeback victory over Brazil. It was so much fun to see Brooke's reaction and excitement. That probably sounds mundane to most of you, but we've come to enjoy the mundane since it gives us a chance to get back to the way things were before the stroke.

We will have more "new beginnings" tomorrow. I will return to work tomorrow morning for the first time since May19th. I will be on what the doctor calls "light duty" for the time being as I continue to build up stamina. Then we have my physical and occupational therapy evaluations on Monday. It will be nice to get back to "work" in that way, too. We also hope to get my therapy schedule tomorrow so that we can make some plans and get a better idea of what my days will be like for the next few weeks.

Thanks for putting up with another entry from me and I promise to turn things back over to Brenda soon. Sorry for the delay in posting, but there hasn't been a whole lot to report. Hopefully, progress will pick up again this week and we will have more good news to share again soon. Also, thanks to all of you for continuing to follow our blog!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Jon takes over the blog

I have hijacked the blog from Brenda, so please bear with me. I can promise that this edition will not be as clever or well-written as most. But I will do my best to get you up-to-date.

We've made it through five days at home and I think we've adjusted pretty well. There haven't been any major problems, although I do feel a little lazy since I am not currently in therapy. That all changes next Monday when we go to Scott & White for my outpatient evaluations. A series of follow-up doctors appointments will follow in rapid succession as we continue to search for a cause for the stroke and check my progress from it.

We have spent a lot of time being a family again over the past week: We've watched a bunch of movies, played a bunch of games and just been together. That has been very nice, but the kids are going back to camp and Brenda goes back to work tomorrow, so another shot of reality is on the way.

We've also made a couple of forays out into the "real world" and those have gone well. We've been to a couple of my favorite restaurants in an effort to keep Brenda from having to do so much around the house. I am afraid I can only use the stroke as an excuse to get out of housework for a limited time.

I mainly took over the blog tonight because I wanted to say a few things about Brenda and she won't ever type them when I ask her to. She has been so amazing and so strong over the past 48 or 49 days. She's always been there for me, spent as much time as possible with me in therapy, has returned to work, organized someone to be with the kids when she couldn't be here, cooked dinners, cleaned the house, and so many more things that I know I am forgetting. But she has also faithfully kept this blog and has done an amazing job even when she typed through tears. I appreciate that more than I can ever tell her. I could never have made it through this without her and her reaction to our successes was the major inspiration for me to reach new highs. I definitely married up and feel so blessed to have her in my life.

I also hope to return to work on a limited basis next week, so there will be another step on our return to our new "normal."

Thank you for letting me take over for tonight and hopefully we will return to my ghostwriter soon. I apologize for any typos and for any rambling. I also want to express my thanks to all of you for following this blog and for your prayers, support and encouragement.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Day We Came Home

Day 43, and we finally made our way back home! It was the day we have been looking forward to for so long, and it's great to finally be back home.

It was an emotional morning, as Jon finished therapy on his last day. And they did not take it easy on him. He had a busy day in PT first thing this morning. He walked more without his cane and worked on balance. One thing they want is for Jon to become more steady when standing on surfaces that don't offer the same support as the tile floor he got used to walking on. So if he ends up on grass or in mud, he is learning how to keep his balance. That is another one of those things that sounds easier than it is. I think this is something we will do more of once we begin outpatient therapy.

OT and speech went as usual, and they sent Jon home with some tools that he can use to continue to build strength in his arm.

We finished therapy at noon, and by that time had already signed all of our paperwork to be discharged! So it was a surprise to be able to leave earlier than anticipated (and before lunch, so we could avoid another hospital meal).

Jon was able to say goodbye to each of his therapists, and before he left, they all came by to wish him well. It was an emotional farewell and I know that while they were happy to see him head home, they were sad to see him go. They've all become pretty attached to him and all take pride in the progress he's made. So while we were ready to get out, it was hard to leave the new "family" who adopted him for the last five weeks.

Our foray out of our hospital home was successful, and we had a good lunch in Waco before heading home. We're getting used to being out and about, and while it's not always comfortable, I think it will get easier the more we do it.

I'll let Jon give his account of what it was like for him to come home.

"As we turned the corner to pull up to the house, Jacob, Brooke and my mother and father were standing behind homemade signs they had taped to the fence welcoming me home. They were all waving and beaming, and I have to admit it was another pretty emotional moment. I was not expecting that and didn't even know the kids were home. But I can't imagine a better homecoming than the welcoming party waiting in my front yard.

We ate dinner at home as a family for the first time since May 19 (granted it wasn't a home-cooked meal, but those will come soon!). It was a great feeling to see our life beginning to return to normal. And while there is still plenty of work to be done before the recovery is complete, we have made such great strides already and have a great head start heading into outpatient therapy. Being at home together as a family can only help speed up the process.

And because we have been through so much and have been able to accomplish so much, some of the days seem to run together and it's hard to keep up with all we have done on each day. So I am thankful that we have the blog to keep not only you all posted, but gives us a record that we can look back on. And yes there is video of some of my accomplishments, but I'm fighting the 'release' of that footage for public viewing. But I know Brenda will show it at some point!"

We are looking forward to a relaxing weekend at home, and spending more time together as we adjust to life on the "outside". We hope everyone has a happy Independence Day, and thank you all again for the well wishes.