Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rolling toward September

Hello everyone, my apologies for not following through on the promise to post more often. But this is Jon back with you after another busy week. The summer is officially over now, even though in many ways it never seemed to start for me. Brenda and Brooke are in San Antonio this weekend for Brooke's first select soccer tournament of the year.

The kids started school on Monday and are off to great starts to the school year. They really seem to like their teachers and we are happy to hear that. As I mentioned above, Brooke is in the midst of her select soccer season. Jacob started football and had his first practice in pads this morning. So things are getting busier in so many ways.

UMHB also returned to school this week. Our first official games of the 2011-2012 school year come this week, so work is really ramping up. I hope I am ready for what's coming. I am a little nervous about my first seasons "post-stroke" to see how I hold up under the increasing workload.

We met with the PM&R doctor last Monday. It was the first time we had seen him since leaving Waco. He was encouraged by the progress and saw improvement. That was encouraging to us. He also gave me the okay to extend my work days on those days I don't have therapy. So I worked a pair of six-to-seven hour days last week.

It was another busy week in therapy, too. Physical therapy continues to go well. I have two more weeks of twice-a-week PT sessions before we cut back to once a week. In her words, "We can start to phase you out. " I still feel like I have work to do and things to accomplish, but we will start to do more of that with at-home exercises and work.

OT will continue to be a three times a week affair. There is more work to do with the arm, so we will keep working it harder. The encouraging thing is that we will continue three sessions a week because I continue to make progress. If things were stagnant or "plateaued" we would back off some. We also did some testing to judge my fitness to return to driving. I did well enough to earn their recommendation. Now I will just have to convince the DPS that I'm safe to get back behind the wheel.

Now, I thought I would respond to Ellen's request to hear about some of the difficulties or challenges I face every day. I prefer to think of them as challenges because I don't want to put a negative spin on it. I am just going to be honest, so I hope it doesn't come across as complaining.

Probably the biggest challenge I face is having to rely so much on others. I'm not cleared to drive, so I have to catch a ride everywhere I go. I also have to ask people for help at work, at home, at church, and a few other places. That is not an easy thing for me to do. I am ready to be more self-reliant.

Another big challenge is dealing with simple tasks that become much harder with limited use of one arm. I can't fold clothes, dry dishes, stuff an envelope, open a jar, tuck in my shirt or button hings as easily as I could before. The frustration that goes with that presents another challenge.

At work, I think the biggest challenges are: typing with one hand, not being able to carry stuff and fatigue that seems to hit way too early. That is all getting better, but it is still something I will have to continue to overcome for a while.

I also know that I have an outstanding support system in place to help me deal with those challenges. And I am so blessed to be in the position I'm in. So many people face much greater challenges than I'm facing, I am a lucky man and I thank God for that every day. Hope you are all doing well and we will post again soon!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Three Months and Counting

I was going to be lazy and not post tonight, but thought I'd update everyone since its been a week since the last post. I also think it is a good idea since today marks another milestone. Three months ago today, my life changed forever. I won't call it an anniversary because that word doesn't really seem to fit here. But it is certainly a good time to reflect on where we've been and where we are.

By the way, this is Jon again. Brenda took the kids to see "Harry Potter" tonight since none of them had been to see it. I've never read any of the books or seen any of the movies, so I stayed home and watched my own little "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" marathon on DVD. (Don't judge me.)

That also gave me a chance to rest up after another hectic week. All of the fall athletes are back on campus at UMHB and that means work is really picking up. I would normally be very stressed and working 8-10 hour days this time of year. Now, I have to squeeze all of that stress into a four-hour day! :)

Our kids go back to school on Monday. I honestly can't believe the summer is over. Although certain parts just seemed to drag by at the time, in retrospect, this summer have been the quickest I've ever experienced. The kids seem to both have a mixture of excitement and nervousness (if that's even a word). I'm also not sure that either kid feels like they had a real summer.

As for me, we had three more busy days of occupational therapy and two productive days of physical therapy this week. I may not see the rapid progress I am hoping for, but as long as I and the therapists continue to see any progress, I know we are moving in the right direction!

Three months ago tonight, I was lying in bed in the ICU at Scott and White with no real idea what was happening to me. Much less an idea of what the recovery would look or feel like. At that point, just getting out of bed would have been a victory in my mind, so that tempers my frustration now. I know I have come a long way and I am very encouraged by the potential I have to move a long way from where I am now.

Three months in, I think we are past the point of major breakthroughs each day. But I also realize that even some things I consider minor are still breakthroughs. I carried a bag of groceries in from the car in my left hand today for the first time in three months. So I've got that going for me. I also hope we are past the point of any major setbacks. Everything has been so positive and encouraging to this point and I don't want to lose any of that forward momentum.

Classes also start at UMHB on Monday. I will have two interns and a work study student to help me this year. I am excited about filling those positions and getting more help. But it is also hard for me to let things go and rely on other people. I am praying for strength in that area, along with continued strength during my recovery. Your prayers are also still appreciated in all of those areas.

We go back to the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation doctor on Monday. It will be my first visit with him since I left Waco. I am hopeful for the okay to start work toward driving again and maybe getting the okay to stretch out my work days a little on those days I'm not in therapy.

Thanks again for following along, I will try to answer Ellen's request in my next post. Hopefully in sometime less than a week from now. You have all been a big part of us getting through the last three months. Not quite sure how a person normally celebrates the three-month mark of their recovery, we are still learning through this. But none of us have any doubt that we have so MANY things to celebrate from this time-frame.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sorry for the delay

Just realized it had been almost a week since we had posted and I thought I'd better update everyone. This is Jon posting again as Brenda and the kids hit Great Wolf Lodge this weekend for an abbreviated version of summer vacation. We had planned to take a bigger trip this summer, but for some reason just didn't get it done. I am so glad they get a chance to spend some time away, they've definitely earned it! Would have loved to go with them, but I still don't think water activities are my best option right now.

So, I am here at the house with mom and dad stuck taking care of me. I appreciate the company and it sure helps having someone around in case I have to open a jar or something like that. (I've made substantial progress, but a few things like that still give me fits.) But I also like to think of myself as getting more independent and hopefully pretty soon I'll be ready to take care of myself for an entire weekend.

It is hard to believe that the kids start back to school in just over a week! The summers always seem to fly by and when you spend 43 of those days in the hospital, trust me, it speeds up even more. Things are also about to really ramp up at work. The football team reported to campus today and for the first time in 13 years, I didn't make it by to see them check in. Practice starts on Monday and I will be there to help with the media requests. I'm not sure I've gotten myself back into football shape, yet. I am also worried about cramming all of that work into my half days, but I have lots of people that are happy to help me and I feel so blessed to have such cooperative and understanding bosses and co-workers.

We had another productive week in therapy this past week. We've dropped one day of physical therapy as they seem to think I am making enough progress to do that. But I also have lots of exercises and stretches to work on during the rest of the week. I thought I was finished with homework!

I had three different therapists in occupational therapy this week. It was interesting to see the differences in approaches and exercises. But they all have something in common: they like to make me work! I enjoy that and it is certainly what I need. Each one saw progress and that is so encouraging.

The highlight of the week came on Thursday afternoon. Mom and dad picked me up from work and we went back to Hillcrest Rehab for the first time since I went home on July 1st. I had a chance to see all of the therapists I had worked with during my stay and thank them once again. It was gratifying to see the look on their faces when they saw me and the progress I was making. Everything looked very much the same, everyone was in their same places. It was almost a bittersweet experience having spent so much time there. It was great to catch up with the people in what for a time was our "home away from home." The smiles on their faces, the hugs and kind words meant the world to me. Everyone seemed genuinely pleased to see me. Apparently very few people come back on their own. No one leaves there as a finished product, and I hope it did them good to see how some of their hard work was paying off with me. I am no finished product myself, but I am glad they could see improvement. My physical therapist in Waco, Annissa, was leaving the next day to move back to her native Canada and it was important for me to say goodbye and wish her well before she left. My only regret was that Brenda couldn't go with me because they all asked about her and sent their best. I think seeing their reactions to my visit would have made her feel good, too.

That should just about catch you up on what's been going on since my last post. Thank you for continuing to follow the blog. If there is something you'd like for me to post about, I am open to suggestion. I like to give the people what they want. Thanks again to all of you, take care and God Bless!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What I've Learned

This is Jon, finishing up a relaxing weekend while Brenda and the kids enjoy themselves at a church swim party tonight. I've made a lot of progress, but don't think I'm quite ready for the pool yet!

We are about two and a half months into our adventure and I really still have no idea how long the recovery process will take, but we are certainly in it for the long-haul. I went back and re-read some of Brenda's posts and realized just how little I remember about the timing of some of those important milestones. Reading those posts was emotional for me, but it was also very educational. That got me thinking about the things I have learned so far, so please excuse my attempts at depth in this post.

I have learned that I am a little stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. I went back to work 53 days after suffering what the doctors tell me should have been at least a "devastating" stroke. I am proud of that fact and also proud of how much I have accomplished since May 20th. I have also learned that there are a lot of things you simply can not do by yourself. I can't imagine trying to get through this without the support of Brenda, Jacob, Brooke, my parents, Brenda's parents, our work friends, our church friends and the prayers of people we don't even know and I certainly can't name here. My recovery to this point has definitely been a team effort and I feel like there is a multitude of people counting on me and invested in my full recovery.

I have learned that my family has in some small way touched the lives of more people than I could have ever dreamed. We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of response and honestly never realized just how many people cared about us. That is a wonderful feeling and is also tremendously humbling.

I have learned that my children are incredibly strong and remarkably resilient. They have handled so much with such grace this summer. I am extremely proud of them and consider it a compliment that they have turned out to be such fine people.

I have learned how much a kind word, a smile, a card, or a prayer can mean to someone. That support kept us going through so many difficult times and I hope we can provide that same lift and comfort to others.

I have learned that the human brain is a complicated and amazing organ. The fact that I've regained so much after such a significant injury to my brain has also helped me realize how rarely we really push ourselves the way we are capable.

I have also learned that there are some easy lifestyle changes to make that will hopefully pay off. I've eaten more salads in the past two months than in the previous 40 years combined and I am also exercising regularly now. Of course, my exercise comes in the form of therapy, but I'm counting it!!!

I've learned (and hopefully I can stick with it) that I need to make and spend more time for my family. I took Friday morning off so I could watch Jacob's final day of football camp and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Probably much more than Jacob did :)

In therapy, they keep stressing the fact that I have to relearn the way to do simple tasks and I've relearned a lot this summer. I've relearned how special my wife is and just how important she is to my life. Brenda has been my biggest cheerleader throughout this process, but she has also been so much more: my strength, my best friend, my shoulder to cry or lean on, my confidant, my kick in the pants when I needed it, my scheduler, my driver, my personal chef and my soulmate. I know I am leaving some things out, but hopefully you (and she) get the idea.

I have also relearned the importance of focusing on the little things I can do as opposed to the bigger things I can't do yet. I still need to work on re-learning how not to get frustrated by those things, but I'm working on it.

I have re-learned the power of prayer and the strength we can draw from it. I know that we can't pretend to understand God's plan for us. But I know there was a reason for this and I certainly hope to make the most of my second chance.

We get back to another busy week of work and therapy this week and I look forward to the chance to share more progress with you in the near future. Thank you for letting me ramble tonight and thanks again to everyone of you for your love, support and prayers!!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

We're still here

First we have to apologize for not keeping the blog updated. Now that we are in somewhat of a daily routine, it's hard to remember that we need to keep everyone updated on how Jon is doing! Jon has done quite a bit since we last posted and has made even more progress.

Jon has been going strong in therapy still and is really doing well, especially in PT. Last week they gave him the green light to walk some at home without his cane, and this week they told him he could walk around some at work without it, just not long distances. So that's good news. I think he's doing very well with his walking. His gait is improving, with and without his cane, and they have been working hard on strengthening his left leg and helping him bend his knee more. This week he has been on the treadmill, which I know is much more difficult than it looks. Luckily his therapist stands behind him in case he decides to slide off the back! Luckily, we haven't seen that yet. Although I'm sure I could get us on America's Funniest Home Videos if he did!

Today she had him doing lunges, which are hard enough when you have two strong legs! I had not seen him do those yet, and I thought he did an awesome job. He could lunge with his left leg and hold himself in that position, most of the time without holding onto the rail. I thought that was very impressive.

I know he's still frustrated because the arm still has a long way to go, but I can tell he's making progress in OT. Each time he goes, they have him lay on his back, and hold his left arm up. The first few times we tried that, he couldn't hold it up. Now he can hold it up some, and each time, it seems like he can hold it longer and longer. The focus right now is on his shoulder. If he can gain some additional strength in his shoulder, that will help everything else. And I see some progress there as well.

Around the house we are really seeing some small signs that he's coming along. He was able to use his left hand to turn on a light and hold on to the laundry basket. These sound like such small things, but for us, those are huge milestones that are very encouraging. He's supposed to be using his left arm more and more, even if he can't actually do much with it, he's trying to do more and more with it. And one day, it will kick in!

Jon saw his primary care doctor this week, and it wasn't very illuminating. As usual, they still can't figure out what happened, but overall his doctor is very encouraged by his progress. He has one more MRI to look forward to in a few months, so that is our last ditch effort to see if we could find something. Jon hates those MRIs, so he's definitely not looking forward to it.

Overall things are going fine with the family. The kids are starting their activities again, so it's going to get even more hectic, but that's what life with kids is like.

We appreciate everyone continuing to ask about Jon and his progress, and the encouragement we still receive on a daily basis. Thanks for hanging in there with us!