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