Saturday, May 11, 2013

My Man, A New Creation!

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19)
I don't fully know how to express to you that James is such a different person than he was before his wreck. But let me tell you, there has been great happiness at our home lately. Great thankfulness.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:3-7)

I know this passage is from Revelations 19, but it is what happens in heaven when God looks down on my new husband:   

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

    For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
    and give him glory!

Tomorrow a long-awaited day will come. James is getting baptized, he is making a public stand with Jesus. He's stating that his faith is strong in his salvation- he has, maybe like the disciple Thomas, needed to feel instead of just hear. He woke up from his sedation a thankful man. Aware of what he has and what he almost forfeited. And the symbolism of baptism is especially poignant since he came awake- literally awake from the very edge of death, to a new life.
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:3-4)

"For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  

Now I look forward to a new chapter in the Dear family story. For a while now it has been a ship without a captain in a big deep sea. 

But looking ahead instead of behind- even just looking at each day- I am, for the first time in a long time, optimistic and cheerful and buoyant with hope. And I want to tell you that as you read this story- since, because it isn't your household, it's just a story- that this is a story of renewal and redemption, and it can be your story too.

You don't have to be hit by a truck to have Jesus renew your life. Of course, James is a little bull-headed and needed quite a bit of... stimulus... to get his attention fully. But Jesus' offer to give you a do-over, to make you into what he designed you to be- it's for each of us.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 
to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24)

I love, love Zephaniah 3:7, and am thankful for the image of God rejoicing over James with singing, and proud to be married to a man who delights the Lord.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

April at a Glance

  1.  First acupuncture appt; get pool membership
  3.  acupuncture
  4. James might have smelled cookies
  5. first swim- 6 laps!

  6. gets new Yoga routine

  7. Jenni and Cornell return to Louisiana
  8. installs T-posts around garden

  9. first day on landscaping job site

  10. swims 12 laps

  11. Men's Retreat starts

  12. home from retreat


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Follow Up with GP.... and New Meds?

The week after James got home from the VA, he had a follow-up appointment with his GP.

Which is just silly. That's a phrase you use after you call a nurse hotline about your rash. That's certainly not the grand finale to the three-month hospitalization after a traumatic car wreck.

So, his DR mainly said, "let's get you off of those painkillers!" and he wrote James a prescription for a lesser painkiller to be paired with Alleve. Yes, Alleve. You know, what you take sometimes, that you buy at the grocery store.

So it comes in the mail. All VA meds come in the mail, unless you are at a big facility that has a pharmacy where they can hand it to you if you wait there. But mailing it is no biggie, cause he has a week or two of his regular painkiller left.

James is game, he definitely doesn't want to get hooked on them, so he wakes up one morning and is ready to start the new regimen. We try it for nearly 3 days. It sucks. He is miserable. He's always asking, "when are they due?" Jenni and Cornell and I are spending lots of time rubbing his feet.

Finally I'm like, "Forget this!" and put him back on the other. I call his VA DR and get his RN's voicemail. I leave a stern and thorough message that James tried the new meds, that they didn't relieve his pain, that we went back on the old ones, and that he needed a refill. It takes him nearly 10 hours to get his pain down to a manageable level after he swallows his first dose back on the good stuff.

James has had many RNs and friends tell him how easy it is to get hooked on the painkillers. That they will just be a fixture of his life- forever. Always. This is not appealing to him so we spend time discussing the difference between "needing" and "wanting" painkillers. There is a difference between being afraid of real pain, wanting it managed, and still being in the early stages of healing-- and just wanting a buzz off a painkiller when you are not in pain. Not in recovery anymore.

To be continued...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April 7 & 8; ER Visits

So.... I last posted about James' GP giving James a new prescription of less potent medicine so that he could get off the narcotic painkillers, which he was running out of.

Well, the short of it was, the narcotics didn't arrive in the mail in time. James tried to cope, but finally, I loaded him up in the car and took him the Temple VA emergency room. The nurse was horrifying- rude, condescending, and insulting. The ER doctor gave James a dose there and then a day's worth of meds. Hopefully, the prescription would come in the mail by the time they ran out!

It took longer to file a complaint for the heinous intake nurse than it did to get the meds.

Of course, they didn't come in Monday's mail, so Jennifer had to run him back up to the ER for another dose orally and then a dozen more to take home.

Finally, they did come and we could breathe a sigh of relief.

Obviously, it wasn't time to get off of them yet. His accident was a mere 3 months ago! Every large bone in his body shattered, nearly. He wasn't even supposed to be discharged from the hospital yet.

I did the math. There are 206 bones in your body. Each hand has 26 bones; each foot has 27. That's 106 bones right there in your hands and feet!

Cause it just isn't fair to leave them in- unless of course you've broken your hand or foot- I didn't count hands or feet. So under those guidelines, James broke nearly 30% of his bones. Big bones- and nearly every one shattered. (What would it be if we counted each break instead of which bone!!)

 Ok, Ok, if you did the math really it would be 14% of his bones broken. It just doesn't seem right though since it's all his long bones that affect everything he wants to do.

Monday, April 1, 2013

March at a Glance

  1. weekend pass home
  3. small group with church
  4. return to Temple, get meds, back home
  5. hospital room emptied, 30 x-rays, grab bars installed at home
  6. hand strength test, DISCHARGED!

  9. Austin American Statesman news article runs!
  11.  first opthalmologist appointment at VA
  16. James drives first time
  23.  Welcome home party
  24.  follow-up ortho appt (bones)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Welcome Home Celebration

Some weirdo photo-bombed a nice picture of Michelle and I
So we had a nice party for James after he had some time to resume normal life. Family came up to attend, some people from church, and families from our homeschool group. We had people add their fingerprint to the tree poster that was for visitors to his room. It was a nice shindig, potluck, with a group photo at the end... wait, I have to get that from Michelle!!

People mingling...

I got a photo collage and also the article framed nicely.
I chose some photos that told the entire story- it's hard to tell, but L-R there are
  • James in PT
  • opthalmologist appointment
  • James with new truck
  • James and I 
  • James at Seton, sedated, Jan 3
  • front fender of van
  • kids and James group pic from Brackenridge
  • Joseph's fat leg with the Pray For James bracelet
  • starflight taking off
  • big group pic from AAS news article
Also I took the newspaper article and got them to mat it nicely and put both in matching frames. I had these for people to see at the party.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On the Road Again!

Blessings keep landing on our family!

James was offered a really decent work truck- a '96 Ford F-150. He got it for an unbelievable price and we, thanks to all the gifts and insurance, were able to get it totally legal! No more temporary tags for the Dears!

It has all its stickers and registration and insurance. It has great tires and a bench seat. It's perfect for James to pick up plants and haul landscaping stuff in. He is getting the windows tinted and spray painting the tool boxes.

Also, crazy enough, James practiced driving Sunday afternoon!! And did great!

I backed the truck up out of the driveway and aimed it towards the dead end. I got out and James slid across the bench and buckled up and pretended to run me over, revving the engine as I walked around the front. He went to the end and turned in the circle, and backed into a driveway and headed out again. Of course, I expected him to turn back into our drive and say "whew! Got my feet wet, that's it for the day!" but nooo he just kept on going to the stop sign and turned left out onto the real street... with real cars...

He did well. We were in a residential neighborhood and there was no traffic really. He comforted me with phrases like "I don't have the luxury of a close stopping distance anymore" and others like it. I told him he was not allowed to eat, talk on the phone, change the radio, put on the AC, or do anything other than drive. Of course he nodded "yes, mom" and knew I was only halfway joking.

We talked a lot- nice to be alone in the car- and about him adjusting to driving with such a big blind spot. I'd driven home a few times with one eye closed, to see what it was like, and I think his biggest issue is going to be judging the distance to other objects. He can look a second longer when he has to change lanes- he can leave a bigger stopping distance- but he's going to pay a lot of attention to how far he is from all the stuff we drive around. Like curbs, parked cars, etc.

When I'm the passenger and I look towards him, he looks perfectly normal. His face is in profile and I can't see his left arm. Everything looks normal but I am all choked up imagining that anything horrible could ever happen to him again. I want to wrap him in cotton and keep him safe but he is a big boy intent on living his life.

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

And... you'll never guess... A kind, generous, hilarious homeschool family we know GAVE us this van- Newer than our wrecked van by three years, leather seats, and icing on the cake- a little tv in the ceiling! The kids are so overjoyed. The icing I like is actually the new transmission and new tires. We had to replace the brakes and also get it legal- insurance, inspection sticker, tax, title, license, (feels so good!) and finally I was on the road again!

The family seems to want to stay anonymous but here is a BIG OL' THANK YOU! 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mar 12- Visit to the Opthalmologist

James had his first VA opthalmologist appointment.

We were at first annoyed at having to wait past our appointment start time. James had sat the entire car ride up to Temple and then there were no seats in the waiting room, so I was concerned at his endurance level. While we waited, I looked at the DRs who came out of appointments, took the next patient list, and then went in to their next appointment. I was trying to see which of them I hoped was James' DR. The old guy? The new young guy? Which would give him the best care?  The secretary apologized and told us that James' doctor was especially thorough and always ran late.

So it turned out that James' DR was none of the ones I had seen. He was middle-aged, on the young side, and had longish hair. He liked James' shirt (I Support the Right to Arm Bears) and pulled out his smart phone to take a picture of it.

The DR didn't really know what James was there for, he just had a referral. So he asked James what happened, what he needed. James started but pretty quickly I had to fill in dates and DRs notes from our time at Brackenridge and Seton. Some of it James had heard and some was new.

He especially didn't know a whole lot about sympathetic opthalmia. So he stared at me while I talked. The DR was very, very thorough. He did an exam to create a baseline of condition for James' good (right) eye. He had just gone to a conference where he learned more about sympathetic opthalmia, and it was his opinion that James should have had his damaged eye removed. He understood about him being unconscious and all. But he said that now at any time James could lose vision in his good eye.

He didn't say (or deny) that the risk of it developing was .02%. He said the two-week window of removal to remove risk of sympathetic opthalmia was a standard. He strongly said do not get LASIK in the good eye. He strongly recommended to wear protective eyewear all the time. He said he had a client who lost an eye because of an injury sustained hanging a frame on the wall!

He measured the stiffness? pressure? or something of  his right eye with some tool and then when he tried to do the same to the left, he said, "Oh, it's just flat. Oh, it's too flat." and couldn't measure that side. He didn't take an ultrasound or order one.

Finally the secretary called him and said the next patient was waiting.

We went over to optometry and looked at the prescription safety glasses. They had a pair that wrapped around like the glasses you wore in chemistry class. They had a pair that looked like snowboarding goggles. They had sunglasses that fit over regular glasses. We ordered James' same frames he had before but with the left lens an opaque dark grey.  We couldn't decide on all the safety glass combinations.

When he has a patch, his dark thick frames are distracting and it's too much too look at. We're thinking a patch has to be worn with rimless wire glasses- the most low-profile glasses you could get, because visually the patch takes over.

So now James is looking at patches online. Craaazy selection, but he has it narrowed down to either the rattlesnake skin or the alligator skin. Or this one. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Beauty from Ashes: Blessed to Be Home

 Today, Sunday March 10, 2013 the Austin-American Statesman, our local paper, printed an article about James and his recovery. It was awesome but far too short- by our opinion.

Here's the link: "Finally Home, Man Feels Blessed After Devastating Dec. 31 Wreck"

Isaiah 61

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
    foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
    you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
    and in their riches you will boast.
Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours.
“For I, the Lord, love justice;
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
    and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
    and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
    that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”
10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
    and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
    and praise spring up before all nations.

If you know anything about James and I's journey and/or story before the wreck, you'll see how much I, especially, love this passage. God is faithful! 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mar 5 & 6: Slow Leaving

Tuesday March 5 2013

So our story ended yesterday with James coming home for a one-night pass -with no meds. He took Alleve again, alternated with Tylenol, but by the time early morning arrived- for us, about 7 a.m.- he was ready to get going to Temple to get some real painkillers.

He and his mom went to get him discharged this time so I could do schoolwork with the kids. Instead of just the simple matter of seeing the DR, James actually had thirty X-rays so that orthopedics could check how well his bones were healing before they would sign off on his discharge from the rehab floor. In addition, he had to go wait at the pharmacy and get a big bag of medications to take home.

Cornell took down James' posters and packed up the stuff that was in the locker- we remembered the key this time!!

His 2nd poster from Brackenridge
His 1st poster from Seton
a collage of family we made for his VA room
a tree made from the kids' arms/hands, with guest's fingerprints as leaves
inspirational photo of the Rainbow River in FL, the family...
Cards we rec'd recently
An interesting thing he learned- his DR isn't assigned to the Rehab floor. She works on the fifth floor, which is actually hospice! She is evidently stellar and gets to pick and choose her patients. She chose James for the severity of his injuries. She seemed disappointed when she met him, James remembers.

The DR needed to read the notes from the orthopedics, so James and Cornell came home that night.

Meanwhile, back home, a home health guy installs a grab bar and a transfer bench for the shower. We are also cleaning the house and the kids for... a photographer... from the Austin American Statesman, the local newspaper! He came by and took pictures of us for... an article on the front page or front page of the Metro section!! He said I can buy the CD of images from him- you know I asked!

Wednesday March 6 2013

Finally James and I went up to Temple for the last time as an  inpatient. We moseyed up to the rehab floor about 10:30. We were under the impression he had an orthopedic appointment to read his X-rays, but really they just sent notes to the DR. So we were waiting for her. James took a nap- he had been crutching around instead of rolling around- while I messed around with the settings and layout of my new phone. Finally he woke up and we went to OT to order a few things for the house. The shower spray handle diverter that my dad had installed had already broken. Also they had ordered him a blood pressure cuff and electronic measuring device and had to give us a few-minute briefing on how to use it. OT measured his hand strength again.

Feb 5-
Left hand:21
Right hand: 58

March 6-
Left hand: 61 (improvement of 40 pounds!)
Right hand: 84 (improvement of 26 pounds!)

So his DR finally came in. She said orthopedics was pleased with his healing progress. James said he saw the rod in his thigh and how it was covered with new bone. She asked if he had his medications, and encouraged him to do his exercises, and to make a follow-up visit with his regular DR in Cedar Park.

We were all ready to go but she said the RN had to read over her notes and sign off as well. For Pete's sake!

James has one nurse who is a real piece of work. She loves to complain that he is coddled and complains that he doesn't eat the hospital food, and she rejoices when she "gets" to rip tape off his poor hairy body. She didn't want to look over or sign the papers because she wanted him to sit there waiting. Finally. Finally it was all done.


Mar 1-4: Trial Weekend Home!

speeding through the grocery store shopping for crawfish boil supplies
Ran into my main handler! Michelle took this picture of us
Mixing spices to rub on a rack of ribs
James was given a  pass home on Friday March 4. Jenni packed up some of his stuff and brought him home that afternoon. The pass would last until Monday at 10.

James hit the ground rolling. He went all over town. He got in and out of the cars. He oversaw the test drive of his future work truck. He enjoyed his home and the kids' noises. And HE COOKED. Oh, how he cooked. He made a full crawfish boil. He made racks of ribs. He made chicken and wild rice soup. Mmm!

He decided he didn't want to go back, but we had to because he ran out of meds. On the other hand, for the last dose he had 2 Alleve and did ok. Because he was avoiding eating hospital food, we stopped at Dairy Queen and got dinner. This, in turn, made us miss his DR and not get discharged that night! (But we had forgotten the key to his locker so we would've had to come back anyway.)

So I hauled his CPAP and toiletries and clothes up to the rehab floor. Ok, he walked on his forearm crutches and I pushed the stuff in his wheelchair. But, I did set up everything and fill his Camelbak and CPAP and moments after I said goodbye and got down to the parking lot, he called me and said "Come back up here! I'm leaving!" So I had to break it all down again and pack him up to go home for the night.

So with no meds for the evening (although he got a dose while I set up all his stuff) and a 1-evening pass, we went home.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Elevator Etiquette in a Wheelchair

Wheelchair/ Elevator 101
      by new expert Tracy Dear
for those learning to push a wheelchair or maneuver it themselves

When you put a wheelchair on an elevator, back into it. If you remember this one concept, you will succeed.

There is an unbreakable social law to face only to the front in the elevator. Even if you are in a wheelchair, this applies to you. You may be tempted when entering an empty elevator to head in foot-first. You may think- and sometimes be correct- that you'll have time to spin around in such a situation, but don't get comfortable. If the elevator moves quickly between floors you might not have time. More likely, there are people behind you that want to join you in that empty elevator. If you go in headfirst, others follow you, and you could find yourself STUCK facing back, with no room to maneuver to face front.

Horrors of Horrors! Don't do it! Everyone will be uncomfortable with an attempt to adjust your position or worse yet, you'll have to face backward for the duration of the ride.

In addition, the hierarchy of who enters or exits an elevator: wheelchair first, then ladies, then others.

Thug life- so, clearly, not a Danimals yogurt drink. Odwalla.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Being in Public

Have you seen these fabulous bracelets someone got to remind people to Pray For James? They're the best.

Now that we've spent some time- seems like a lot, but only a few days of errands- it's becoming evident that there's a lot to notice about him when you haven't been in the loop, or don't know him. Prayer Requests at end of post!!

I was thinking about the difference between real life/ hospital norms when I was walking my nephew through the VA hospital last week. We were walking through the Hall of Honor so he could find all 6 guns in the different displays- ok, we were just getting him out of the room so my MIL and SIL (not Cornell and Jenni, but Vickie and Randi) could visit with James. We came across an old dude- crazy bed-head, pjs askew, huge bruise on half his face (seriously, I wondered if he had escaped his ward)- and we just smiled and kept walking. No biggie. In a hospital everyone is tactful and averts their eyes, or is understanding and frank and kind.

I was worried that life in the real world would be (of course) more stressful and.. "real"...? Here are two examples of interactions we had at the VA last week. We were at the coffee kiosk standing in line. James said how easy it was to drop an addiction (tobacco) or unhealthy habit (coffee- I beg to differ) when you were without it while unconscious or hospitalized for two months.

Almost as soon as he said this, like he was overhearing  eavesdropping   and just dying to jump in the conversation, the guy in front of us asked James what his unhealthy beverage of choice was. Of course they get into conversation about his wreck and God saving him and his recovery.

Later we were riding the elevator and a tall grandpa dude comes in (you can almost classify veterans to which war by their physical abilities. I would assess that this was a Vietnam veteran because although he was older he was able-bodied.) He was really quite tall and was standing beside James. I was standing in front of James' wheelchair, leaning on the side wall of the elevator. He was subtle, but I could tell the grandpa was stealing extended glances at James' scar on his scalp. A lot of extended glances. It's a lot to look at, and of course it stirs up a hundred questions.

 Below is James with his new eye patch playing pirates with Nathan. Of course we forgot that he also wears glasses and the two don't really work together (Every fashionista knows not to overdo the accessories!).
The only glasses he has are the prescription sunglasses that had been lost (oh, that I "happened" to find after the wreck, thanks to the God who cares about the details!). But them being shaded has been nice- it camouflages his damaged eye for casual conversation with others.

I think the swelling from the surgery has continued to go down- his damaged eye isn't swollen completely shut any more. This only means that towards his nose, it's open the tiniest bit. Sagging is such an ugly word. Also, James has become familiar enough with the injury that he has looked at his eye- inside, under his eyelid- twice. He thinks it's smaller than it was (like, last month). Mainly his most prominent emotion when seeing his eye is sadness. It's a strong feeling of grief when you look at something that has been ruined from what it was, what it was designed to be.

He's talked some about having it removed- which is a good idea if it is unable to keep its own volume stable. I told him how the prosthetic can sit in front of the damaged eye and that the eye doesn't need to be removed just because it's ruined. We'll see.

Anyway this is a post about real life versus hospital norms.

 So yesterday and today James and I went out running errands. The man has been cooped up so long he is raring to get out and see the world. Yesterday we went to the Sprint store and the grocery store. Today we went to see a truck we are buying, to the grocery store, and to the mall.

As we're walking towards Chik-Fil-A through the food court, I'm seeing some looks aimed at James. I'm busy getting things and paying for things and running around doing tasks that usually we'd be splitting. Things are on my mind that are never even considered- is the table on the outside aisle? Is the space wide enough for him to get through? What is wrong with people?

We were in line at the Best Buy store to get me a new phone. Then a couple comes up and butts in front of us. Then we realize they were just milling around waiting for their turn and were actually in front of us. We realized this as they offer us to go in front of them. Then we get into conversation with them which ends up with James telling them the whole saga and the woman crying- like, tears. This kind of experience balances out the skinny creep who tried to ! get James to ! fight with him ! in the grocery store ! parking lot!! While he was in the rolly scooter cart!! Does he think James is rolling around for fun?!

Another thing- not having a handicapped tag is seriously a drag. It is so hard to do anything in the tiny space between cars. And parking James in the parking lot aisle (so I can back out and give him more room) is asking for trouble. Not only could a car come up and stare, waiting, but your broken/healing/sense of humor husband could pull a trick like this:  I parked him against a parked car. He slouched over and stuck out his lip. I told "If anyone gives you money, throw it back." I got in the van to pull out of the parking space. I see him exaggeratedly slouching over, saying "Disabled vet! Disabled vet!"

Damnit man, get in the car.

Specific prayer requests for this nutcase:
  1. that he continues to have a good sense of humor
  2. that he keeps his balance and doesn't fall
  3. that his opthalmologist appt (March 13) goes well
  4. that he can come home from the hospital soon
  5. that the kids continue to help and be positive and have a team spirit
  6. that he can find openings to tell the Gospel in his story
  7. that he regains his sense of smell
  8. that he regains feeling in his face (upper left quarter, mostly)
  9. that his pain diminishes and is manageable
Thank you all. All of your prayers are reaching God and affecting his recovery. Thank you!!

Going Up to Temple VA

Although Temple is more miles from our home than Brackenridge, it takes about the same time to get there. Only to Temple we get to go 70 MPH instead of 40 because there is no traffic.

I've been going up to Temple nights. Every third night, to be exact. I leave about 6:30 pm. Cornell goes up every third day, and leaves about 10 am. This way, James gets time alone to do stuff himself and then also time with someone who cares about him. Not to mention our most important role- bringing him food. Cornell usually brings a kid to hang out with him as well. James has been surprising us by meeting us in the lobby sometimes.

Thai food, my purse, and a bag of stuff James requested.
I-35 north an hour or so.

The entrance to the VA Hospital in Temple, Texas.

You can see his Camelbak hanging from his trapeze- cold water and a place to clip his phone.

Yes, that's a Toy Story pillowcase.

What does PT Look Like?

James requested that he have PT twice a day- 30 minutes each session. PT is Physical Therapy for strength building and OT is Occupational Therapy for skill building.

Mean Ol' Jim is James' morning physical therapist. He tells terrible riddles and laughs at James in a friendly-manly joking way. He weighs about 120 pounds and is probably 60.

Nikki is James' afternoon therapist and is about 45 and very cheerful. She says he should just go home already.

Here's what morning PT looks like:

Leg lifts, horizontal and vertical. His healing hipbone was too painful so it got support. 

Working core muscles by spinning the blue ball with his foot.
weight lifting

This is me messing around with the Thera-putty. James' assignment with OT was to find 20 rubies in the putty. I only found 15. But it was tons of fun.

Friday, March 1, 2013

February at a Glance

  1. Tracy's Thai birthday dinner at Brackenridge

  3. Moved to Temple VA via ambulance
  4.  first hot water shower in 36 days!
  5. meds not given regularly, therapist gives evaluation
  6. stood beside bed; first PT session at VA

  7. James shaves head, face

  8. James sees scalp scars

  9. starts PT 2x/day; Dentist smoothed broken teeth
  10. big meeting with entire care team; plans for discharge

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Feb 20-21: Daddy Coming Home?!

Well, today is day 4 of our new routine...

This part of the post isn't so much about James' recovery- although you'll get some new exciting information in a minute- but about us back at the home front trying to make things smooth for his (imminent!) return!

This past Monday morning was the dawning of a new program for change in our household. With James coming home soon enough, I wanted the house to run more efficiently and with less hounding from me for things to get done. Of course, I also don't want crap laying around the floor for James to trip over.

I laminated some charts, got some money in dimes, and divided it up between four jars.  I gave the kids a weekly responsibility and two monthly chores. Then they would rotate to a new responsibility or chore, so they could all learn all the stuff for the household. Plus they are all making their beds now I had to teach them.

This is just adding to their normal jobs like brushing their teeth, cleaning their rooms, putting away laundry, putting away school stuff, cleaning up toys. etc. So the way it works is this:

The money is in the jar. If you do your jobs
  1. without complaining
  2. all the way- not half way or shoddy
  3. right away
then your dime stays in the jar. If not, then it goes in my jar. If you forget to do it, you have to do it anyway but no dime. If you say stupid or hate, you forfeit a dime. If you help a sibling or do above and beyond, you could get rewarded with a dime from mom's jar.

It has been fabulous. Right this minute, my coffee table and kitchen table and carpet and end table and kitchen counters are all clear and clean. All the animals are tended to, and everyone just jumped on board with a willingness to get it done and keep their dimes. Woo hoo!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Today James was scheduled to have a meeting, called an IDT, which stands for Interdisciplinary Team. It consisted of about12 people who looked after James in different ways. The pharmacist, the OT lady, the PT lady, the dietitian, the social worker, the RN assigned to James, the "umbrella" DR who is over James, the recreational director, and at least 4 other people were in a conference room. Every 90 days a veteran goes in and they go over the Care Plan for the patient.

I was joking with James that it was going to be like the scene from Shawshank Redemption, where Morgan Freeman's character goes before the parole board to try to get approved. Well, it might have been that way for the veteran before or after us, but not James.

We went in. Everyone was glad to meet me- I have only been going up at nights, in Temple, so I hadn't met anyone really. Then I flopped my big three-ring binder open on the table. If they were less glad to see me, it didn't show. (And as a side note, why is everyone I meet stunned to see I am not a wizened unattractive hag?! And feel they have to say so? It's getting old.)

They went around the table one by one talking about James' progress and then next steps. I was most interested in what PT had to say- that in 2-3 weeks, James would get a weekend pass to COME HOME! for a few days and see what was up with the house, what was difficult to do and what was hard to manage- the shower, the steps, the porch, whatever. Then they would give him tools and send a contractor to fix the stuff so he could maneuver better. Then a week or so later, he WOULD BE DISCHARGED to the status of an outpatient!!

I told the PT woman that I trusted her but that I wanted her to tell me that James' request to do PT twice a day wasn't going to damage him or actually slow his recovery. She said it certainly wouldn't. It's 20-30 minutes a day.

The attitude, the electricity of the room was nearly tangible. The team was loving the fact that James was a strong, motivated young man- healing, pushing boundaries, doing his assignments (like exercises in his room during the day). I have said before that every other veteran there is older than James by about 30 years. They actually said 'stay, so we don't get a grumpy difficult patient after your bed is empty,' but we told them NO!

We got all our questions answered and all our concerns addressed. So that was an exciting day.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Then, today! James called this morning and told me that PT said for him to bring socks and sneakers in... he needed better traction for walking. What!!! Cornell took Jackson and Lily up for the day- with socks, sneakers, enchiladas, tetrazinni, an Odwalla protein drink, and some veggie juice I made that morning. James and the kids played Uno and chess and hung out. Then James was scheduled to go to PT. They all got to go, to watch.

Tonight James calls me. He sounds exhausted. He has just called his nurse for morphine, the first shot in about 5 days. He says, "I walked today."

I shriek and ask a hundred questions. "Did the kids see? What did they do? How far? With what? Like, limping walk? Did it hurt? How did your wrists feel?"

He said the kids were there, and they were jumping up and down and cheering him on. He said he was totally crying. I asked if their cheering made it hard or easier to walk. He said he was so encouraged that the PT instructor told him to slow down.

I just about fell over when he said how far. I was expecting it to be maybe 6 feet or so, or 6 feet and then turn around and go back, but he said HE WALKED NEARLY 60 FEET!! This man, his determination- is unbelievable.

I've always said that he always gets what he wants. If he decides he wants it, nothing is going to get in his way to get it- it's exciting to see him want GOOD things and GOOD activities!!

He also told me he used a regular walker, not the arm support one I showed you previously. He was wearing his wrist brace on his right arm though. Cornell told me, with her eyes bugging out, that she just couldn't believe how he was progressing.

It was exactly a month ago today that the nurse let us sneak the kids in for their first visit. It was a month ago today that James first remembered the day before. And here he is, walking.

Praise the Lord.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Feb 8-18- General Update

Well, where has the time gone- over two weeks without an update?!

I guess that shows two things- how stable James is, and that this really is the ONGOING recovery.

I'm not even going to attempt to cover each day since I posted last. Prayer requests are at the bottom of the post. Here are points of activity that I remember:

PT is every weekday.They ask James to do 3 leg lifts, or whatever, and he does 6. I assume they will stop him or dampen his enthusiasm if it would hurt his recovery? He wants to get out of there as quick as he can. On the one hand, I want him to work hard when he has serious meds available and a quiet place to recuperate after a workout. On the other hand, I want to make sure he won't injure himself or slow his recovery by pressing too hard.

OT seems to be every few days. They issued him a hip replacement kit- see above. It has all sorts of tools to help him get stuff done himself- reach things, put on socks, etc. They gave him a finger strengthener tool (it's also in guitar magazines), and two foam cubes for squeezing. One is harder (less porous?) than the other. She said the average hand strength for a man his age is 120. His left hand is a 20 and his right hand is a 50.

If initially James was upset/disappointed at his VA assignment, he has decided that he thinks it's a good setup. The things we were concerned about- medicine timeliness- has turned out to be ok. He is able to get up in bed, put his legs off the bed, and transfer safely to the wheelchair himself. He can eat and pee himself. He even rolled himself out into the rec room and got his groceries and made himself food! Here's a wrap he made with muffaletta (olive tapenade) on all sorts of crazy meats I had to wait in line at the deli for.

He was initially keeping to his room all the time. The curiosity of the other vets was nearly palpable. They were trying to figure him out based on watching me and Jenni and Cornell come and go. He couldn't sit in the wheelchair for long, and is sometimes anti-social, and was stressed. I'm sure it was a downer that he was the youngest man on the wing by at least 30 years too. I didn't want to push it, but every other one of those men ate every meal at the table with each other except James. Now he is still in his room 80% of the time, but he is out in the rec room sometimes and knows all the men's names now.

Then of course, Jenni went back to Louisiana for two weeks or so. Gotta bring home the bacon, and check in with her peeps (Is peeps plural? I am so old/uncool). So we have had to adjust the "visit James" schedule a lot. Instead of the three of us switching up, it's Cornell and I. The kids need me more in the day, so I stay home with them and we do school and run the house. Then every few days I go up to Temple in the early evening and James and I eat together and have a sleepover. We listen to stand-up on Pandora and watch Walking Dead every Sunday night. Cornell goes up every few days. It's been up and down for James having so much more time alone, but even with the low points he thinks it's good for him.

Here is a picture of Jenni and James when she was getting ready to leave for the day, and fly home the next day. You can see his eye seems swollen underneath- he describes his new look as "Wrong end of a broken bottle fight" or "Russian prisoner." He can't wait to stand in line at HEB, get no questions, and scare little kids. He says.

He is just getting a look at his scars this past week or so. I was shaving his head and his face in his bathroom. We were up in front of the mirror so I could reach the electric outlet, so he was staring in the mirrow. He thought his scar from his clavicle repair was a shadow. He wanted me to take a picture of where the brain drain was inserted. When I showed it to him, he finally saw his scalp- his scars from the facial surgery. He called it "knarly."
Here's his scar on 1/16/13
Here's his scar from 2/16/13

He has been pretty adamant about getting home as soon as possible- so he starts PT twice a day tomorrow.Yikes! I hope they know what they are doing, but you can be sure I will ask. He is really amazing- he can bend his left arm a little beyond 90 degrees! He is working on increasing the twisting action of his wrist, which is really tight.  He can lift his left leg up really well.

Prayer requests:
  1. His left knee gives him a lot of his pain. When he had his femur set, they moved his broken patella aside to  jam  insert the long rod in his femur.
  2. His face is numb on one side. He can only flare one nostril! He can't feel above or below his left eye. He can't feel his upper left lip or his forehead on that side.
  3. He can't smell anything, and it interferes with his appetite and enjoying food.
  4. The top of his right leg is tingly and sometimes numb.
  5. He really misses the kids, but since our visits don't overlap anymore, it's more of a chore to bring them up for just a few hours. And the gas prices!! 30 cents higher since we left Brack!!
  6. He gets fatigued sitting in the wheelchair for very long. His TV sound is broken and we watched Walking Dead in the rec room this Sunday, and he barely made it through.
  7. He is doing really well not using the morphine. He doesn't want to become dependent on the other pain meds either- but he can't imagine not taking those at this point, especially with PT. 
  8. His pain is frequently a 6 or 8, on the scale 1-10.
He isn't on the mechanical soft diet any more, but he isn't eating off his tray very much either. He is drinking vegetable juice I make him, or Odwalla protein smoothies, or frozen fruit smoothies in the little blender his mom brought with her. He's still requesting food from home- could you expect less from a chef like him?

He has had a couple of visitors in Temple. His landscaping partner has come to visit a lot, and a few others. It's about 45 minutes north of Round Rock. He has been really grateful to have his phone replaced and service turned on. He can call people and get company when no one is able to come up to see him. Many people have sent him cool texted photos of their life and surroundings- weird or beautiful things they see when they are out and about. You can do it too, his number is (512) 797-8105. Be sure to tell him who you are if he doesn't already have you in his phone!

If you go see him, it's north on I-35 to exit 299. Get on 190 until you see the exit for 1st-5th street. It'll take you off to the right for a hairpin turn over the highway. Turn right at Avenue R and then you'll see the  VA on your left. Turn in, stay to the left of the flags, and park in the left lot over there. Walk in under the overhang- where they have valet parking- and go through the carpeted foyer, past the piano, to the elevators. Go up to the sixth floor and then go to the left down to the wing called Chisolm Trail. He's past the nurse's station and both rec rooms, on the left wing, in room 06. Of course, if you want to mapquest it or whatever, put in Teague Tower, VA hospital, Temple, Texas. South First Street and Veterans Memorial Parkway are the same road.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day

Here's a quick poem from James which he wrote around Thanksgiving 2012.

Mere words defy your love.
Core to my foundation
You are the roots to my leaves.

When you catch me staring
I'm pondering the Grace of God
and its endless bounds.

I only hope that when I meet Him
I have something to show for
his blessing of you to me.

Proof of his mercy lies in my unworthiness.

The wonderful thing about fruit
is that we may be blessed
with another season to improve

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Feb 5-7 -A Quick Update

Tuesday, February 5 
Today was James' first day at the VA in Temple. It was a mixed bag. There are pros and cons. I spent the night last night and I also spent much of today with him to get the feel for the place.

The nurses report that they don't bother the patients pretty much at all during the night. They give you meds but they don't take your vitals every five minutes. So he will get rest. The meals are still "mechanical soft" so that means tasteless and pre-chewed. He's been demanding requesting certain foods from home: it's a good thing his sister and his mom can cook. So far, egg salad and fettucine alfredo.

He was weighed and has lost another 17 lbs, putting the total for 5 weeks at 42 lbs.

The dietician came by and said since he can't have whey-based protein supplements she would try a clear drink and yogurt.

The nurses are less engaging and have more patients so they never come with pain meds on time. It's been a huge problem.

There is a fridge where we can put James' food and if we keep relabeling the date they won't throw it out. And James thought of bringing in his Camelbak and hanging it from his bed so he can get a drink whenever he needs more easily than a cup. How's that for traumatic brain injury?!

He has locking drawers and cabinets in his room so I put anything of value in them. Then, of course, I have to find the key. He sleeps really well when I am there and the kids need me so I have been spending the day with them and sleeping at the VA with James. There isn't paid parking at the VA but the drive is further. Thank you, THANK YOU for anyone who has given us a gas card!!

Wednesday, February 6 
Jenni and Cornell took Lily and Jackson up for the afternoon. James helped Jackson with math on his bed and wiggled Lily's first loose tooth.

James had a great idea to send him pictures over the course of the day of what we're doing or seeing so he can "get out and about" vicariously through us. So I sent him text pictures over the course of the day. If you want to encourage James this way, send him a picture or give him a call at (512) 797-8105.

James' physical therapist came by and did some assessments and gave him some elastic bands to exercise his arms with. He said James will be able to put full weight on his left leg in April, until then it is only a quick toe touch to shift weight to his good leg.

 Thursday, February 7

Because James broke both his wrists, he can't lean on a conventional walker. He needs what is called a platform walker, and the difference between it and the other are these forearm supports pictured above. This way he gets support to stand (and eventually, walk) without further damaging his healing wrists.

Here is James in his first "real" PT session- he's standing bedside with the support of the platform walker, doing leg lifts (from the knee) with his left (bad) leg. Then he sat in the wheelchair and went to the PT room. (you can see the line of hair on his scalp over the stitches from his facial surgery. I shaved his head and had to leave the hair over and next to the stitches so it left an interesting... "look." Doesn't the back of his arm look unremarkable at this distance?!)
 It has all sorts of gear and equipment. He sat in his wheelchair and they put weights on his ankles- about 5 pounds maybe. He did alternating leg lifts- 20 each leg. Then he did kicks- 20 each leg. By then, he had broken a sweat.

To me, this would be expected. But the therapist jumped up, got a wet washcloth, and took his BP. She used an arm cuff on his lowest right calf. (Because his right arm has a PICC line and his left arm is so injured, they take his BP on his right calf.) She was using the wrong size (not a leg cuff) and he was in a sitting position with his leg, obviously, below him. His BP was something like 168/124, I forget- pretty high. She raced him back to bed and took his BP on his leg with the right cuff, laying down, and it was 124/76. We had both explained he just sweats a lot, but I guess she was better safe than sorry. So he got about 30 minutes in today. Every day his PT is at 2:30 so you could pray for him then, and after, when he's exhausted/recovering.

Early this morning they took a blood sample to analyze his pre albumin? albumin? levels. Any number over an 18 is what they want to see. It's a measure of ?available protein? for repair and rebuilding. Anywho what matters is James' level was a 24! So he's getting enough protein. Trauma patients need a lot of protein to heal. James can't digest whey so many protein drinks make him sick. We've been bringing him food from home so we've worried wondered if he's getting enough. And he is!!

Mon Feb 4- VA for Rehab

Well James was given about half an hour notice and then was put in an ambulance and brought to Temple's VA hospital, Teague Tower, for his rehabilitation.

He was very discouraged at first. They put him in a semi-private room with an old guy and then moved him to a private room. I guess there is at least one advantage to having a large loud young family!

His mom was with him when the transfer happened, so I didn't get up to Temple until  the first night. He's on the sixth floor. His wing is called "Chisolm Trail." It smells... the halls smell... like... old hospital, I guess. When he was wheeled in, he surely saw the labels "Nursing Wing." Like, nursing home. Average age patient is 65 or so. Mostly amputees. All Army vets at the moment. Two rec rooms, with large square tables, with some sort of clear polycarbonite covering assembled puzzles as decoration. Your last name and the emblem from your branch of service is in a slidey-plaquard thing on the wall outside your door.
His room is an interesting shape. It has a little lobby made by a curtain. Then there is his room, a rectangle, where the bed is, jutting out into the center. Then there is an alcove corner behind that with a dresser and a rocker. He has a window overlooking  a couple dozen American flags and some of the fine sprawling town of Temple. Did you know that "Temple is home to more physicians per capita than any other community in the nation?" I certainly didn't! His bathroom is FABulous- he has a wheelchair that goes right into the shower. Did you notice the heavens break open before you and the sound of angels come down yesterday? Cause they did over Temple when James had his first hot water shower in 36 days. Aaah!

There were a few reasons the transfer was hard on James.
  1. the social worker that day at Brackenridge had no social skills when she told James about the move.
  2. remember how tired he was after a 10-min foray to the 1st floor garden last week? Multiply that by 12 or 15 and that's how long the transfer to Temple took. 
  3. when he arrived at Teague Tower he had 3 physical assessments in a row by different people. Exhausting.
  4. he wasn't in their computer so his meds were put off. His pain got to an 8, usually it's at a 4. It's much harder to get back down from a high number.
James was at first quite dejected and unhappy with the whole situation. But soon enough he began to react in his new mindset- looking for God's will in the situation and wondering who he was there to influence with his story.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Helping Healing Naturally

This is half of the bruise January 2. It extends under and to the inside of the left thigh. They said he lost 4L of blood,
but none of his broken bones broke through his tough young skin so the blood just puddled under the breaks.

My first secret weapon is ARNICA (see flowers on left).  It is arnica flower extract held in a white petrolatum/paraffin base. On the package it says that it is for dry skin and abrasions.... but it has a magical effect on bruises and bumps. This stuff makes a goose-egg lump flatten really quick. It makes new bruises dissapate within a week. It makes old bruises break up more quickly. Put it on any kind of swelling and it really helps...I've been putting it on his thigh and left arm (where there is intact skin only) to reduce swelling and it is remarkable how well it is doing. The nurses couldn't believe how quickly the bruise on his thigh was healing.

After he started PT/OT every day I amped up the arnica use. I got another gel that included comfrey, boneset, and other plant extracts like calendula. I also got homeopathic pellets that dissolve under the tongue. In addition, I looked for liquid arnica for him to ingest but could only find a distillation in 76% alcohol. I'm still looking locally.