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Root of the Problem

Hello blogging world, Anthony Macchio-Young here. I am going to be responsible for updating my blog from this post on, give my Pops a break. Figured I’d start with the root of the story with the bicycle accident and how I got my TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).

It all started 6 days after moving to San Mateo to find a Graphic Design job. One of my professors, Jensen Hendriks, had put me in contact with a friend of his who builds apps for iPhones and just moved to San Francisco himself. On the sixth day my bicycle, that I shipped from Florida, had come in the mail the morning of February 1st, 2013, so I thought I’d take the CalTrain up to San Francisco and pedal to the networking party my new connection was having.

Tag  they required I used for my bike on the CalTrain.

Tag they required I used for my bike on the CalTrain.

I left with my bike on the CalTrain in San Mateo at around 6pm. Arrived in San Francisco around 6:45pm and then pedaled myself to one of my true passions in life…craft beer, 21st Amendment brewery and then went to City Beer Store for another craft beer. I pedaled away and realized I was headed in the wrong direction, stopped and asked a couple the way to Russian Hill, they told me and I started pedaling in the right direction. I then turned onto a main road and started going downhill. As I traveled downhill I didn’t notice the trolly track because they were foreign to me. My front bicycle tire then gets caught in the track and I flip over head first (had my helmet on thankfully). I stood up immediately and three bicyclist on the sidewalk saw it all go down and said I needed to go to the emergency room and then stopped a taxi van for me. He put my bike in the back, then asked me where I wanted to go, and I said CalTrain. I waited for around 15 minutes for the CalTrain, got me and my bike on, took a few pictures of my head because I knew something was wrong, but TBIs were so foreign to me I thought it was just a concussion, so I thought staying up throughout the night would do well enough.

Picture taken on the CalTrain to check for any visible wounds.

Picture taken on the CalTrain to check for any visible wounds.

We arrived in San Mateo and I got out, walked my dilapidated bike back to my apartment, then realized I had lost my keys somewhere along the way (thankfully), called a few locksmiths with no luck at 11pm on a Friday night, texted my then girlfriend, who was a flight attendant, that I’d need her to stay up with me that night, then took my jacket off and bunched it up like a pillow, and passed out on the apartment’s community porch (last thing I personally remember). My neighbor, whom I never met, found me and dialed 911. The cops came and thought I was beyond drunk because a bottle of beer that I bought at City Beer Store, 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze, had broken in my book bag. My neighbor then saw me having seizures because she was very familiar with seeing that with her epileptic brother and recommended that they call an ambulance. The medics were then smart enough to take me to Stanford Hospital rather than San Francisco General. Dr. Odette Harris, Stanford’s managing TBI neurosurgeon, performed surgery on my Subdural Hematoma on the left side of my brain and I was in ICU for two weeks and one day and then transferred to Kentfield Acute Rehab in Marin County.

Next post will cover my story with recovery in therapy thus far!

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Trikin’ It!

The mom of all moms, my mom, has been telling both my brother and me that we need to be sure to have our Christmas list ready by Thanksgiving day, at the VERY latest. At first this was equally as difficult as it is each and every year. Then, one day, during an OT session my therapist, Vicky Whalen, and I started talking about bike riding because another neuro patient at therapy was busy practicing riding a harnessed bicycle. I would peek over at her with my jealous eyes without being able to hide it and that enticed Vicky to bring up the fact that the other patient was rather big into biking before her accident and invested in a trike for home use.

After hearing this it made me think, “TRIKE! That’d make a PERFECT big present for my birthday (12/21) + Christmas present!” Upon returning home
I texted both of my parents about the idea and they suggested for me to
call around and see where in town we could find a good one. I agreed that that was a good idea and was sure to call my “go-to” bike shop in town, thesantatrike Trek Bicycle Store of Mt. Pleasant. Also known as, the store where the bicycle I was riding during my accident came (which I had also gotten for Christmas one year). After relaying the heads-up that they fortunately had an adult trike in stock both of my parents agreed that we would be going up there that Saturday! With all of the anticipation of getting to try and pedal a legitimate bike setup  the following three days of the week were truly going by slowly but surely. BUT, when that day finally rolled around I had no problem waking up at a decent hour…even on a Saturday at that! Upon walking into the Trek Store we coincidentally started talking to the store’s “shop mom” and she took us back outside, where the trike was being modeled for the world to see.

Upon sitting on the bike my nerves decided to show themselves by allowing the extensor tone in my left leg to shoot out and my left arm to contract-in via my flexor tone. I had honestly come to terms with the fact that such a thing was likely happen because although my brain was familiar with the act of riding a bike, it just hadn’t experienced the real thing in 3+ years. Not to mention that I was feeling a slight case of anxiety because I only had that one chance to give it a go. As well as the fact that I was in front of the “shop mom”, who I had never met before and my dad who had his phone out to use as a camera to show the world that I was back to my usual pastime of pedaling around.

trekstoreAfter being unable to keep my left foot on the pedal and almost
running into one of the building’s exterior columns (not pictured in this image) due to my left hemiplegia I decided to call it quits on this highly anticipated event… When I did so the “shop mom” indirectly revealed as to why they refer to her as that and stated that she was sure that she could talk the manager on duty into allowing us to take home the trike on approval for a “test drive”. At first I didn’t allow myself to get my hopes up, but sure enough the “shop mom” did what all moms tend to do and did not give false hope! My mom and I had ridden up there in her sedan and my dad met us in his magazine distribution van, which obviously tends to be FULL of magazines, so neither vehicle was able to take it off site right then and there. We all agreed that my dad could pick it up that next day, Sunday, 11/30. In the meantime “shop mom” convinced the repair guys to replace the default pedals with racing bike type pedals that had toe straps that wouldn’t allow my left leg extensor tone to cause problems with my foot slipping off the pedal.

That Sunday, when my dad rolled the bike in the house it had noticed that one of the rear tires had unfortunately become flat somehow. That drove my dad to do something he’s been meaning to do for his own personal beach cruiser for awhile…buy a bicycle tire pump. None of us really had a chance to try and pump the tire back up until the following Thursday after I had therapy when I realized that’d make a good goal for me to try and pump it up on my own and, more importantly, the fact that I did not want to overextended the favor that Trek was oh so generous to grace us with. I was successful in my attempt in pumping the tire up, but the air maintaining its place in the tire not so much. I once again texted torkertristarboth of my awesome parents with the not so awesome news of the incompetent tire. My dad had, thankfully, agreed that he would be able to run the tire up to Trek to have them replace the tube. After hearing that I called Trek to assure that they would be cool with that and they were!

When my dad returned home with a tire that had a new tube that was able to remain fully inflated it was a relief to see. With that being said we immediately put it back on the trike! I felt inclined to ask my parents if they would mind spotting me on a trial run right then and there. I then decided I’d better not ask because I know that they would have just made the very reasonable point that it was dark outside and it would have been only my second time trying to attempt pedaling around since my accident, so I managed to fight my drive to get back in the swing of things.

There unfortunately didn’t turnout to be a good time for us all to take the trike for a test run the next Friday either. Although, my mom and I did make a commitment that evening that we would DEFINITELY take it out that next day, Saturday, 11/5, before I left for plans with a friend at 1 p.m. and my dad also made the commitment to return the trike to Trek that following Sunday!

When waking up that Saturday I once again had no issue getting up…for the trike’s sake. I got ready on my own that morning, like I’ve been doing everyday for at least the last two years, but this time MUCH faster than normal in anticipation of getting another chance of pedaling around completely on my own! After eating breakfast my mom and I went straight outside and I gave the trike a second try!

The first thing I noticed different about riding it around our cul-de-sac was that I felt under MUCH less pressure so much so that I was able to think about step one, mounting myself on the seat. With that being said I figured out that approaching the bike from the lefthand side allowed my left leg to remain planted and my right leg to go through the trouble of going up and over the frame. Step-two should have been me pulling my left leg up into the racing pedal cage that Trek was nice enough to install. I have to admit that I honestly didn’t have the patience to fight my left leg’s tone to get it strapped in there, so I had my mom help execute that step. I then helped to stretch my left arm up to the handle bar, took the parking break off and began pedaling! I was a little surprised that my left arm wasn’t forcing me to turn the whole trike to the left, but the fact of the matter is that it wasn’t!  Although, when I went to take an intentional turn to the left I experienced the only real problem of that ride. That issue was that I think the seat might have been a notch too high because the handlebar insisted on butting into my left knee while trying to get a little more oomph into a full u-turn. I thankfully managed to still turn around safely/efficiently though and started coasting back to the house like it was no problem at all!

Long-story short, I’ve officially narrowed my big Christmas present down to asking Santa for one of two different makes and models of one-speed adult trikes that Trek recommended, but both will need aftermarket racing caged pedals added! In reality though my parents can feel free to get me which ever bike I have on my list as both a birthday AND Christmas present seeing as my birthday always has been, always will be, close to Christmas on 12/21. Not to mention that neither bike is inexpensive, so I’d rather not come off as a spoiled brat by getting the trike as just one rather MASSIVE gift. SO, if anyone would like to go for a ride around the block shortly after Christmas I’ll be more than ready to join you!

First Time for Everything

Yesterday, while at my typical Thursday MUSC OT/PT sessions, I completed a goal for both the real world bucket list of things I had yet to learn before my accident AND post acquiring my TBI. While this goal never really seemed significant before my TBI it hit my bucketlist upon realizing that I am now a 26 (almost 27) year old “man” who had to wear a tie to a family friend’s wedding this Monday who had to ask his dad to put his tie on for him. Not to get too emo on you all, but I can only hope to tie myself my own tie on my own wedding day one day…

Edmundo

Endomondo Goal #1

I once again have not had any time to reconstruct my recovery blog’s web presence this month (September 2016). BUT, I do have rather decent news to announce though!

I have yet to be able to meet my longterm goal of getting my gait pattern (walking pattern) down to the typical stride of a healthy human-being while using my Jawbone, step/distance wristband tracker, that the Bullingstons were nice enough to send me. Having not met that goal (yet) I decided to scour the Apple App store for the best free running/walking stopwatch app that I could find. After weeding through a few different ones I found one from UnderArmor called Endomondo, that I first mentioned in this year’s July entry. Endomondo keeps all of the data collected stored throughout the week no matter how much it is used. Which was one of the key issues that I found while testing other apps. After finding this I am able to start the clock upon standing up/walking and pausing it upon sitting down. At first I was having trouble remembering to start and/or stop it when doing so, but I’ve now got it down like clockwork (pun intended). Upon me getting in the routine of keeping track of both my standing and walking times with said app I then decided to take a screenshot of my phone every Sunday and make it a goal of mine to try and reach higher numbers, all around, the following week.

The image below is a series of four consecutive weeks. You’ll see that I have managed to  meet said goal (for the most part)! Not to mention, that I’ve managed to escalate my gait speed up in the second two screenshots!

edmundoweekly9-24-blogpost2

P.S. This past week’s timer is not showcased because I had under the skin toenail removal on both of my big toes due to a bad case of ingrown toenails on both of my big toes. With that surgery it made my toes more sensitive and has prevented me from walking. : / But, I’ll be good to go soon! …slowly but surely. 😀

Mama B Homepage

Workin’

Last month I was planning on not updating my blog for the month of August 2016. I said rather that I was going to redesign the blog’s UI/UX design instead. Well, I (un)fortunately have not found the time to do so. I have really been too busy with a few graphic design projects, so that’s what I’ll focus on in this entry.

While dipping back into the creative world, more so this year than any other time since my accident thus far, I realize that I have been incredibly humbled and blessed to have gotten my degree in Digital Arts and Design from Full Sail University. I say this because there is, of course, a plethora of occupations that one can choose to pursue and the one that I did I am still able to execute…even after my accident. How I have been able to retain all of the information about each program learned while attending college AND keep my creativity flowing after suffering my TBI is FAR beyond me. There seems to be only one person I can thank for all that and that would be a higher being.

Mama B Homepage

Here’s some branding and WordPress site design that I’ve been working on for a friend’s mom, Mama B.

Stepping On Up

This’ll be a relatively short entry for my month of July blog posting…

I say that because after creating, and still tweaking, the WordPress blog layout for Mama B at MamaBSays.com it has inspired me to do a full make over to my recovery blog. With that being said I may, or may not, have a post for the month of August at all. That’ll just depend on how quickly I can manage to revamp the blog interface front of you now…

On a BRIGHTER note, I’ve been keeping track of my standing and walking times via the Edmundo app on both my iPhone and Apple Watch. When I first began using this I was either forgetting to start and/or stop it upon sitting and/or walking. After many failed weekly tracking sessions throughout the past few weeks I have managed to accurately track a few full weeks. After getting a full week’s distance and time spent standing and/or walking, I then made it a personal goal to try to move faster AND get more time on the clock. As you can see, I haven’t done exceptionally well at doing so…until today (pictured)! I’ve managed to set the bar, in my opinion, so HIGH that I’m honestly a little intimidated as to how I’ll EVER be able top this week’s, 9:32.52 hours. Only time (and my personal recovery motivation) will tell…Edmundo Record

P.S. If you’re visiting this blog between today (7/17/16) and around the end of August 2016, please excuse the its layout disruption due to user interface redesign…

Anthony_Macchio_ASW004

Third Time’s the Charm

This time last month (5/19/16, when I started writing this post) my parents and I were checking into our hotel room in Alexander City, Alabama. We were doing so in order to prepare ourselves to wake up early the following morning and make our way to Shepherd Center’s adaptive springtime camp Adventure Skills Workshop (ASW). Although it was a GREAT time, I’ve jumped the gun on our full vacation.

We had hit the road on Wednesday, May 17 with our Google Maps route set to a hotel in Atlanta as our first destination.The hotel we had setup was the one that my mom had been staying in while I was I was a patient at Shepherd Center, for a little #waybackWednesday. We made it there safely and comfortably on time for dinner at Houston’s with an old classmate from Full Sail University, Andrew Molan and his girlfriend. The next morning we got ready and checked out a little past 9am in order to make it to Shepherd Center’s outpatient facility Pathways, where I had also been a patient and now returned as a guest speaker to share with current patients my experience as a TBI survivor .

pathwaysTooCool

Me looking too cool for school at Pathways way back when.

Before we made it to Pathways we swung into the local coffee shop nearby for a few reasons. The first being so that the three of us could fully embrace our #throwbackThursday in Atlanta we were all having. The second being, for me at least, was to get my coffee fix for the day. The last, and most important reason, was for me to tweak my MUSC PT student presentation for the new purpose of presenting it to Pathways’ patients! This presentation was arranged thanks to my Shepherd Center Speech Therapist, Kimberly Wood, and Pathways’ Speech Therapist, Lindsey Piland, knowing that I’m now a loudmouth and enjoy speaking in front of whoever might be able to further themselves from hearing about my recovery process thus far, whether it might be medical professionals or patients.

After my presentation, thankfully, went over well we all then drove to Shepherd Center for a lunch in the hospital’s cafeteria that we had arranged with all of my therapists that I had while there. It was, of course, GREAT to see them all! They truly feel like family to both me and my parents, no questions asked. After their lunch hour was over we went up to the second floor, where I resided while I was a patient there, to see the rest of our Shepherd Center “family”. It was once again great to rekindle each of our relationships with each and everyone of them! And then, while we were up there, we remembered that my Physical Therapist, Meg Canale, had told us that she would like for us to speak to a patient and both of his parents who were all from Charleston as well. Upon me walking into the Charleston patient’s room I once again had a #throwbackThursday/deja vu moment overcome me. It really made me feel good to be walking and feeling said deja vu, as well as giving the patient and father something to look forward to down the road in his recovery. While in his room my parents and I talked to him and his dad about how he acquired his injury and gave them both advice as to how to embrace their new lifestyle change to its fullest. Before leaving his room his mom had just returned, so it was nice to be able to meet her and have them all be there to share our head injury support group’s contact information with all of them. I’m really hoping to meet with them all again in one of our Trident Head Injury Support Group meetings!

Shortly after I took the opportunity to show off “my walking skills” with a cane to all of the inpatient therapist that helped me get to where I am today…we hit the road to Alexander City, Alabama (where this entry began)! After spending the night at the Super 8 motel there we checked out and hit the road by 8:30am in order to make it to Camp ASSCA, where ASW is held, by 9am in order to get there first thing and enroll in different activities before they all got booked up!

After getting my weekend activities all planned out the first thing I did was go to the camp’s pool to see Dr. Q for her to conduct my swim test. This is always the first thing I do when starting out my camp activities in order to gain access to water activities and show that I’ll be able my hold to my breath and flip my self around in a reasonable amount of time, in case of a spill while on the lake or in the pool. Shortly after passing my swim test we then made our way to the climbing wall.

20160520_130551I had scheduled this activity as my first one because that one tends to be my second favorite. After getting all suited up with a harness and, of course, a helmet, I began the rope pull climbing wall. I was honestly a little disappointed in the time it took me to reach the top, but everyone down below said that it wasn’t half bad. Bad timing or not, I reached my goal of making it to the top of the wall and was able to coast down on the zip line, or the key reason as to why this is my second favorite activity!

After getting back to my chair we then rolled over to my number one favorite activity of kayaking, This activity is my favorite because of the peace and serenity kayaking has ALWAYS had on me, even before my accident. Another reason I enjoy this activity at ASW is because it is organized as a first come first serve activity that tends to always have an open kayak ready to go!

Following my favorite activity was then the camp’s lunch-hour. We had the pleasure of giving ourselves a regular table of campers to eat at our table, on a whim. They included Juan Machado, a spinal cord patient that we had met last year, and Tate Mikkell, a fellow Trident Head Injury Support Group (THISG) member whose mom, Marsha Mikkell, was nice enough to bring him. The other fun thing about lunch is seeing fellow returning camp members upon finishing meals and talking with them about what they’ve been up to since seeing them the previous year. Not to mention being able to see the all of the improvements that each and everyone of the campers made over the year, whether they be big or small!

When we finished dinner we then went down to Camp ASSCA’s new art room, below the cabin with our room in it. While there we each made our own custom made tie-dyed shirt. This is always a fun activity to me and allows us to bring home wearable souvenirs to remind us of the “groovy” time we had at ASW any given year!

At the end of our first day at ASW 2016 I decided that it’d be a good idea to pass on the camp fire and s’mores and go to bed a little early in order for me (and my parents) to have a good amount of energy for the following full day of ASW activities.

Upon waking up a little before our clocks hit 8am we all got ready for a camp breakfast. We had yet another good time with the same group of campers making up our table. We all mostly shared what each of our schedules were for the day and looked back onto the day before and how much fun we all had. When breakfast was over we then headed down to the lake for me to get ready for the waterskiing time that I had scheduled.

Anthony_Macchio_ASW002When we first got down there it hit me that I didn’t think about the water being colder in the morning than it might be later in the afternoon. So, after getting in and feeling the fridget temperature I could feel my muscle spasms (tone) take full effect! After the boat managed to pull me out of the water I was VERY thankful to now be feeling the cool breeze being created by the high speed pull of the boat, believe it or not. My favorite experience of this activity at ASW this year (2016) was that I was able to que myself and sway around within the inner wake with a little oblique leaning going on! When I could tell that the boat had started heading back to the boat ramp that we had started at I felt the fear of my body hitting the cold water, and my tone overreacting, again overcome me. The cool thing was though that when I became fully emerged again I found that the activity of waterskiing surprisingly warmed up my body enough to overcome the coldness of the morning’s lake water temperatures!

Shortly after being back on dry-land I followed through with my next scheduled ASW activity and jumped right back on the water, via jet ski! This was a great activity to work my obliques last year, and this year was no different…except for the fact that we added 10 more MPH to the speedometer (from 30 to 40MPH). Not to mention, that I was able to comfortably maintain my spot on the jet ski itself! I was very surprised by this last statement, but I need to be completely honest with all of you, loyal, blog readers that have read this far into this post as to why I was surprised. I had woken up mid-sleep the night before with a little fear that I might fall into the water due to my, so thought, weaker stature while either waterskiing and/or jet skiing. I was VERY happy that I had proved my insecure self-conscious wrong once again!

Anthony_Macchio_ASW003I decided to treat myself to my favorite activity once again post proving myself wrong, as a reward to one’s self! I also wanted to make it a point to get back to kayaking the second day of camp because of the therapists running that activity. I say that because they had an adaptive paddling device that we had toyed around with the day before, but we all really wanted to put it to use the following day. Upon getting me on the water in a tandem kayak with an University of South Alabama student, Kate Brueggenheimer, and a new Shepherd Center Occupational Therapist who specializes in brain injuries, Christine Stewart, rode nearby us on her own single person kayak so that she’d able to correct any malfunctions I had while using the device in realtime. It definitely had its complications, but we all had different ideas of how we could make it work with various materials that we did not have onsite this year. Therefore, we all made a promise to one another that we’d be sure to bring whichever material we had in our own mind to camp next year and AT LEAST one of them would surely fix the problems we were having!

After partaking in three different activities ON TOP of the water we headed to the pool so that I could go scuba diving UNDER the water! It had been fun for me to get in the water and put my swimming to the test the past two years, but this year scuba diving was fun in a different way. Before going under with the professional divers they showed me a cool little diving propulsion devise that one can just hold in front of themselves and move right along. I was definitely looking forward to the underwater standard swimming portion of this activity, but this looked too fun to pass up! Toying around with the newfound device definitely made it hard for me to resurface with the real world on the other side of the pool water and me.

When I finally HAD to resurface it was time for our last meal and table real bonding moment with our regular table mates. I could definitely tell that everyone had had just as great of a time at ASW with their full days schedule as they did the day before, plus some! When dinner was coming to an end we gave everyone at the table our formal goodbyes because we knew that we would be leaving in the morning before breakfast was to be served. But, before we would leave in the AM we all had one more evening activity to partake in.

That activity was really not much of an ACTIVE-ity at all. I say that because it was just a leisurely sunset pontoon boat right for just eight camp goers, ourselves included. With the GREAT weather conditions, TRANQUIL waters and a BEAUTIFUL sunset it was an absolutely PRICELESS way to end the day and ASW 2016 as a whole!

Then, to make our little vacation even better, the back roads (back?) to Charleston were wide open with not much traffic! We also had the pleasure off making a pit stop at Lake Oconee, GA at my Aunt Sherry and Uncle Ray’s house! I hadn’t seen Aunt Sherry since I was a patient at Shepherd’s Pathways much less interacted with either of them since I was about five years old. With that being said, it was GREAT to both of those things, but it also felt good to walk into her house and show her how far I have come since last seeing her!

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A sunset photo taken from the pontoon boat the last day of ASW 2016.

Best of the Best

My parents have been a HUGE benefit to my recovery and, of course, my life as a whole. With that being said, I’ve decided that this May blog posting will act as a belated Mother’s Day present AND an early Father’s Day present to the both of them!

First and foremost, I have to start off by giving them both props for being emotionally stable enough to have been woken up at 3AM EST on 2/2/13 by a phone call from two San Mateo, CA police officers informing them that their son, me, Anthony Macchio-Young, was on an ambulance and being transported to Stanford Hospital. After me only living on the West Coast for six days, at that! I could only imagine the inner turmoil the both of them must have been feeling while having to go through the trouble of finding the first flight out of Charleston, SC to San Francisco, CA. Not to mention having to take care of ALL of the other traveling necessities while one’s child is unconscious in ICU from a brain injury. One could assume that these two must have been through this before…but we are all very thankful that that was not the case! So, that can only mean that they are two of the best parents mankind has ever seen!

Belated Mother’s Day:

After my mom, Kim Young, flew out to San Fran with my dad the day after my accident and she didn’t leave my side until after returning home from ICU, acute care, Shepherd Center inpatient rehab and Shepherd Center’s outpatient rehab, Pathways seven months later. All of these initial rehabs were between the dates of 2/12/13-9/7/13. This was a real savings grace because I got to see her face each and every day. And we ALL know what just seeing one’s mom’s face can do in a time of desperation!

ryanAndMomUpon returning home she was required to go back to work. At first this was a different, off-kiltering, scenario for me, but I then realized that this was just another obstacle I’d have to overcome “slowly but surely” in my recovery process. Don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate every little thing she does! Whether it be preparing a meal, making my bed in the morning or any motherly type thing that she might do for me! The only thing is that I’m hoping, yet scared, that I will one day learn to live on my own again and I’m sure that I’ll have to relive my mommy withdrawals yet again.

Early Father’s Day:

My dad, Bill Macchio, wasn’t able to stick around during my inpatient days because he’s my family’s primary income source and owns his own business. He made it a point to visit as much as he could, while I was in both California and Atlanta though! Speaking of Atlanta, after my benefit fundraiser in April of 2013, that was organized by a group of family friends in Mt. Pleasant, SC, my dad took the money raised and did some research into the best neuro rehab hospitals within the US and found Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA. After finding the best rehab center closest to home, Charleston, SC, he then began studying the best way for me to get there. After investigating a few options he found that Delta Airlines would be the best choice. He was able to purchase three one-way tickets to Atlanta for a traveling nurse, my mom and me with the funds raised at the fundraiser.

My dad with me on my first day at Shepherd.

My dad with me giving thumbs up to Shepherd Center.

Since my mom and I returned home and she had to return to work it really became my dad’s time to shine! When I’ve got a doctor’s appointment scheduled he’s my number one man to take me or arrange for one of his employees to do so. Every Sunday I look at the upcoming week’s schedule and we then make plans as to how I’ll be able to make it to the various appointments for said week. I, of course, hope that I’ll one day be able to drive myself to appointments, work, social events, etc…

I’m making it one of my long term goals to eventually live on my own once again and let these two wonderfully awesome parents enjoy a life of their own, as most all parents end up doing once their children are out of the house for good. In the meantime though, I’m always attempting to make myself less and less of a burden on them. I can honestly thank each and every one of my therapists for making this more and more a realistic possibility. But I guess I never could have ever gone to and gotten through all my many therapy sessions without my mom and dad’s help, so…THANK YOU BEST MOM AND BEST DAD!

Neuro Nerds

As I’m sure many of you know, I received the majority of my therapy since returning home to Charleston, SC at Roper St. Francis’ Downtown location. Roper St. Francis’ outpatient therapy became my home away from home after going there for physical and occupational therapy four days a week for almost two full years. My parents and I then decided it was time to get some new/fresh eyes on my recovery process.

My Shepherd Center therapists brought this strategy to light for the three of us after seeing them use this tactic themselves. I had my regular Occupational, Physical, Speech and Recreational Therapists team, but would periodically have sessions with different rotating registered therapist, or even Physical and Occupational Therapy Assistants, in order to allow a fresh set of eyes to view my weaknesses/strengths. This showed great results on all ends of the spectrum!

With that being said, after going to Roper St. Francis for so long, 12/13-10/15, we decided it’d be best to ask the MUSC Physical Therapy Neuro Professor, Dr. Sara Kraft, what local therapy gym she thought had the best neuro focus.MUSC logo She told us that MUSC had recently reopened their gym in Mt. Pleasant with the plans of having all disciplines included to focus specifically on neurological issues. After hearing that one of Dr. Kraft’s former PT students, Eric Monsch, who had worked at Vanderbilt Stallworth in their Neuro inpatient Rehab department in Nashville, TN, was there I switched gyms to MUSC Mt. Pleasant right away. I had my first appointment with him on 10/21/15. After seeing his neuro nerd knowledge in-person I was very happy that we decided to get some new eyes on my recovery process! Although, there was an initial hiccup in the
move because they hadn’t yet acquired a neuro Occupational Therapist. The MUSC Rehab Manager, Ann Benton, was quick to inform us that they were going to transfer one of their own OTs out of their inpatient department very soon.

After about a month and a half of seeing Eric, MUSC had brought an OT neuro nerd, Vicky Whalen, over to the outpatient side of things. I had my first session with her on 12/1/15 and realized that she’s REALLY ON TOP of the neuro rehab game. So much so that it wasn’t till after the first two months of seeing her that we repeated something we had done together. Even more surprisingly, she had so many tricks up her sleeve that we did exercises that I had never done with any of my other OTs in the full 2.75 years I had been in therapy. This came as a big surprise to me because I had been saying, jokingly of course, that I could basically become any discipline therapists I’d wish to become because of the amount time that I’ve spent observing all of them. So, thanks for proving me wrong Vicky, thanks a lot. I’m kidding but that is really how much neuro nerd knowledge she has…

LSVT BIG LogoEric and Vicky made an awesome new set of eyes. Then, come mid-January, Eric has some unfortunate-news that he was going to change departments at MUSC and use his neuro skills in the MUSC Research Department. When he left at the beginning of February I had PT with Laurie Woods, who specializes in LSVT Big. It was once again GREAT to have yet another set of eyes on my recovery process. Especially from a therapist that specializes in a very particular neuro strategy for Parkinson disease, at that.

I only saw Laurie for just about a month because Mrs. Benton hired the first neuro nerd I had met when starting therapy in Charleston, Katherine Bennett! Katherine was my initial Physical Therapist when starting at Roper St. Francis, but she then had her first baby on March 4th, 2015. After her three month maternity leave was over she tried to get a part-time position at Roper, but they unfortunately did not have such a position open. Seeing her in a therapy environment again feels like a meant to be kind of scenario. I say this because after her not seeing me for almost a full year she has a fresh set eyes on my recovery, yet she is familiar with my typical patterns.

Katherine and me walker

Walking into MUSC therapy on my walker.

MUSC’s neuro gym has been a great choice overall, but they’ve only been able to see me two days a week from the get go. At first this was a little discouraging to my recovery process. That negativity ended up having a reverse effect and ended up showing me two perks of less therapy. The first being that it entices me to do my at home exercise program on my floor exercise mat, at the very least, two days a week. I’m even able to do my exercises on the floor when I’m by myself and even GET UP OFF OF THE FLOOR BY MYSELF! …which I’m obviously really excited to say I’m able to do. The other part of my home exercise program is for me to use my walker while at home alone. At first this had me a little worrisome, but now I’m walking and standing for 3 hours of the day while home alone. The second perk I’ve seen with less therapy is the fact that I’m able to focus on my love for design much more than I have been able to since my accident!

#ThrowbackThursday2

SPOILER ALERT: This next post is all about the second half of my Throwback Thursday experience. If you have yet to read #ThrowbackThursday1 I would highly suggest you do so before diving into this one!

When the Grand Cayman government ambulance had finished backing up into the Health City ER port the hospital’s group of staff, that had been waiting for me for God only knows how long, immediately popped open the rear ambulance doors and began to get me off of the van. Next, they transferred me from the ambulance bed to an ER bed of their own and began running my vitals and getting my information in order to get me checked-in. While I was laying there I remember my aunt getting introduced to a patient liaison, as well as a partial owner, while my mom was busy getting introduced to the burden of totting all of the luggage out of the ambulance. Not to mention that her and the EMS crew had to deal with the complexity of reassembling my chair which was rather complex, seeing as we hadn’t been doing that since I had acquired new, more cumbersome, disassembly parts. After about 10-15 minutes of unpacking from the ambulance, checking-in and getting my vitals the Neuro Surgeon came to check out the situation.

He was a mighty humble Indian man who introduced himself as Dr. Komal Prasad. After all of our introductions were done he did a MUCH MORE thorough physical eval  than Royal Caribbean’s onboard doctor and nurses that included my heart rate, pupil tracking and sensitivity tests. Being able to hear and see his intellect on the neuro scheme of things was a massive relief after feeling extremely weary of the ship’s medical staff’s take on such a thing. Once the physical portion of my eval was done he then called down to the Radiology department to assure that they had a CT scanner ready to be used to assure there were no signs of internal bleeding, much like my first brain injury, a subdural hematoma. Thankfully, the Radiology department was ready to see me, so we headed that way.

Health City's CT Scanner

Health City’ Grand Caymans CT Scanner

The two male nurses that helped me upon our arrival were now helping to push my ER bed and Dr. Prasad, as well as the patient liaison and owner, were close behind giving my mom and aunt a rundown on what the Radiology department would be running their test for. Upon entering the Radiology department only the nurses, doctor and I were allowed into that particular ward due to X-ray beams, so my family members were asked to wait outside. After seeing both the exterior AND the interior of the CT scanner in person for the first time since California two months post initial accident was the first sign I had of my heart dropping. Then, after my scans were completed I was lifted from the scanner and back to the hospital bed. I was then rolled out in the department’s private hallway and left there alone while the nurses went back in the Radiology reading room. While laying there alone I could only slightly hear the conversation Dr. Prasad was having with the others, but my subconscious felt as if it was hearing much more.

While I wish I could say I was hearing good things, it was in fact my subconscious interpreting quite the opposite. I could vaguely hear Dr. Prasad explaining the scans to the other medical staff saying things like, “That’s evidence of the past injury, dried blood…” Then of course, I couldn’t hear his statement and filled the gap with horrifying news like, “…and that splotch you see there is fresh blood and what we’re about to perform neuro surgery on.” After that subconscious interpretation of the results my heart dropped in full and I was terrified for my future.

After almost throwing up upon deciphering their conversation the medical professionals walked back into the hallway after about 5 minutes, which felt more like 30 minutes to me. I was incredibly curious as to what the results actually were, but I was feeling WAY too intimidated to hear such a thing. Upon reentering my ER room and getting my bed back in place the doctor started going over the CT scan’s results with both my mom and aunt in the hallway outside the room’s door. I felt a little rude but obligated to call them into the room and include me in the bad OR good result briefing.

Dr. Prasad, my discharge nurse and I.

Dr. Prasad, my discharge nurse and I.

The first thing the doctor stated was that the CT scan did not reveal anything we should worry about in terms of a new brain injury. That primary detail really helped settle my incredibly nervous rumbling stomach! As he continued to elaborate on what the CT scan revealed I was a little surprised because my negative state of mind while laying in the vacant hallway had actually heard part of the radiology overview conversation correctly. He had explained to both the medical staff and us that there was and still is evidence as to where blood had dried from my first accident. He then continued to recommend that I stay the night there just incase something out of the ordinary revealed itself. We all agreed that that would be a good idea and Health City was nice enough to find an available hotel room for my mom and aunt to stay in that night.

When they left, I had the biggest throwback Thursday feeling overcome me when being rolled into a general patient room with a nurse-call remote and TV in front of my bed. They didn’t have a large patient population at the time, so I thankfully had the room all to myself, kinda as if I were at Shepherd Center. While finally letting my nerves calm down I got to meet Health City’s lead Physical Therapist upon her doing a few basic evals to once again assure that I was fully there cognitively. After that I got a hospital dinner menu where I read the word “shrimp” and I thought, “Shrimp is generally always appetizing. I really just hope hospital shrimp don’t ruin that for me!” Upon receiving my plate and as the generic hospital plate cover was removed I saw a beautiful and delicious looking plate of five MASSIVE shrimp, long sliced carrots, cucumbers and edamame type pees. The only thing that seemed to have been missing was that there was no cocktail sauce. That was only a problem until taking my first bite of these big boy shrimps. They were not only oversized shrimp, but they were seasoned to perfection and became the first ones that I felt no need for said cocktail sauce. All-in-all that Health City HOSPITAL dinner ended up being the BEST meal I had over the whole vacation, cruise ship and all, believe it or not.

When waking up that next morning (10/16/15) I was very happy to have woken up at all and to have known that the worry of another TBI could be lain to rest! After celebrating such good news with myself I had then heard the my mom and aunt were due back at anytime, which got me a little excited because we had the remainder of the day to explore Grand Cayman!

Timehop Tears

I am writing this post with watery eyes because of the things the mobile app Timehop has been telling me happened on my social media pages three years ago, around when my accident happened. Every time that I’ve opened the app for over a week now I’ve seen a number of family members, both close and not so close friends, coworkers, classmates and professors that had all reached out to me during my time in ICU and Acute Care, primarily through Facebook. I have seen, and continue to see, comments left on my personal page’s wall saying things like they had just heard about my accident, wishing me the best, stay strong, etc. After seeing these kind of reminders, it’s compelled me to login to Facebook and look back into my Facebook wall to see just how long Timehop would continue to get me teary eyed every time I opened it. Upon logging in and scrolling down three years, it made me both happy and sad to see that my Facebook friends cared enough about me and my recovery to continue posting to my wall far past February, 2013. I’ve even come to the realization that they are still leaving the same eye watering comments on my wall and various things that I post nowadays. All in all, I’ve written this blog entry to say THANK YOU to everyone out there who started, and continue, my stride to recover from my TBI.

timehopBlog

P.S. Note that I’m saying thank you for being part of my motivation for recovery and NOT for bringing tears to my eyes whenever Timehop stumbles upon your comments.

My 3rd Re-birthday!

Today marks the 3rd anniversary of my accident, or my 3rd re-birthday. I am very thankfully that I’m still making progress, slowly but surely, as I stand up at my new stand up desk at home alone. I once again have to say that I could not have done/continue to be making such progress without all of your prayers and support, so thank you all very much!

sanFranSign3years

Timehop reminded me of this photo I took as I got off the CalTrain before I got on my bike the night of my accident.

Almost 3 Years Until My Rebirthday…

Here’s a picture of my plane ticket that I took upon boarding my flight from Orlando to San Francisco…if only a higher being of any sort could have told me what was to come six days later. But that didn’t happen, so now the only thing to do is look on the brighter side of things and how far I’ve really come in both my mental AND physical abilities! 👍🏽 😃planeTicketBLOG

 

#ThrowbackThursday1

I hope everyone had a great holiday season and a happy and safe New Year celebration! I’m making a New Year’s resolution for myself for me to update my blog at least once each month. I did this because I have been a major slacker at updating it and keeping everyone informed as to where my recovery process stands…so this blog posting is titled Throwback Thursday for three reasons. The first reason being that I’m actually updating my blog after about five months, the second being that my brother, his family, aunt, cousin, mom and I all went on the second cruise I’ve ever gone on October 11-18 and the third reason you will learn about as you continue reading.

This throwback Thursday actually started on a Saturday, 10/10/15, as my mom, dad and I drove down to Merritt Island where my Aunt Toni lives that is just a stones throw away from Port Canaveral, where the boat departed from the next day. The boat was to depart port at 4pm that Sunday and go on a Caribbean tour to Haiti, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and then return home all within one week.

Corona_Extra___you_say_Only_on_a__royalcaribbean_cruise_for_this_guy_Our first visit was to Haiti which I figured was going to be quite sketchy seeing as it’s an 80% 3rd world country, but it turned out that Royal Caribbean apparently purchased a portion of the island that is completely annexed from the rest of the population. At first I wasn’t too happy about having fun on this underprivileged population’s land, but after soaking in some rays, seeing all of my family having fun and a few Coronas later I began to enjoy myself!

Jerk_Chicken______redstripejamaica__Light______Jamaica___The second stop was in Jamaica. The rest of the family booked an excursion to explore the Jamaican waterfalls. Seeing as that wasn’t a handicap friendly outing for my wheelchair my mom and I scoped out other excursions and found an accessible van tour around Kingston. We saw pretty cool landmarks throughout, learned some fun facts and ended up at a restaurant where I was able to enjoy some jerk chicken and a Red Stripe!

For our third stop, on Thursday 10/15/15, we stopped in the port of Grand Cayman. The island’s port is too small for any one cruise ship to dock on land, so we had to take taxi boats, or tenders, to the island’s downtown port district. My family was going out on a catamaran to swim with the stingrays, so my mom and I just lolly gagged around the downtown area. We went in and out of various stores just killing the time we had by exploring the islands culture, much like we had learned to do from our driver in Jamaica. At one point we asked two law enforcement officials caymanCruiseswhere the best place to eat was and they pointed the way to the Guy Harvey’s restaurant. When we sat down on their upstairs patio area, we were told about their restaurant month menu with some pretty awesome deals and then looked at our watches and we figured it was perfect timing for the rest of the family’s excursion to be coming to an end. Upon seeing this my mom and I decided to call my Aunt Toni to see if all of them would like to meet us for a bite to eat before getting back onboard. She answers her phone and upon my mom proposing that they all come to Guy Harvey’s she reminds her that the boat’s schedule is still running on EST and that our phones had automatically changed to an hour behind because that’s the time Grand Cayman runs on. Upon hearing this fact my mom’s laid-back mood turns to a frantically urgent one seeing as we were going to need to pass through customs, check-in with our boarding passes and then catch a tender back to the boat. When we were just about to get up from our table my aunt and my 17 year old nephew come onto Guy Harvey’s porch telling us that they wanted to help us back to the boat and assure that we get to the tender on time.

When we were all walking out of the restaurant with my mom pushing my wheelchair I could sense her frustration and worry that we could possibly not make it to the tender dock on time, so I asked her to let my nephew push me to relieve whatever tension I could. He had been pushing me all around the ship on the vacation thus far, so none of us had any problem of him doing so.caymanFacePretHospital Picking up on my mom’s anxiety of boarding the ship in a timely manner he gets a little pep in his step and then spots a shortcut between Grand Cayman’s shipping container dock to their tender dock and begins to change directions. All this time I’m reaching into my right-hand pocket to pull out my boarding pass for our ship’s tender. When I realized he was taking a turn off the beaten path I looked up to see an incredibly large holed drainage grate I knew would not be compatible with my chair’s front wheels. I attempted to yell, “STOP, DON’T GO THIS WAY,” but was unfortunately cut short while vocalizing “STOP”. The wheelchair’s front wheels had become lodged in the grate, which due to the forward momentum caused me to be flipped out of the wheelchair and propelled forward onto the left side of my head. As fate would have it, I was unfortunately unable to brace myself from full impact due to reaching for my boarding pass with my one good hand/arm!

My mom and aunt came running up behind us and if I thought my mom’s emotions were in turmoil about catching the tender before I was very mistaken. I couldn’t see her face, but I could without a doubt hear that her emotion bucket was flipped upside down! Of course she was scared to see the horrifying event of her TBI surviving son hit his head in heavy impact yet again, but I could also tell that she was attempting to hold her emotions back in order to not make my nephew feel bad for his mistake. Upon the two of them frantically making their way to me, a port guard who was on duty in the nearby port check-in booth followed close behind them with a towel to apply to my newly acquired wound. When I got up and back in my chair the port guard then continued to be gracious and led us to the tender dock where she got the three of us pushed to the front of the line to get back on the boat to discuss with the ship’s doctor what had happened and what we could to assure it wasn’t another TBI.

Here’s the long story short on the ship’s medical staff…they didn’t have the best attitudes nor medical backgrounds. Not to mention our Royal Caribbean ship definitely didn’t have the proper medical equipment on board the ship, so my aunt, mom and I ended up debarking the ship on yet another tender with all of our baggage and a medical assistant to escort us to the ambulance the ship had called for us.

When we landed back in the tender port and the assistant informed us that the ambulance was scheduled to be there in 5 minutes to take us to the newest hospital on Grand Cayman, Health City Hospital, which had a Neurologist on-staff that the ship’s doctor had contacted.healthCityLogo After 5 minutes the ambulance did in fact arrive, but when the paramedics got there they had to deliver us some bad news…They informed us that they were not going to be able to take us to the hospital that was expecting us for a couple reasons. The first being that the hospital was 45 minutes away and they were on duty on the port side of the island for the day, so they didn’t feel comfortable driving that distance from their post. The second message they delivered was that they could legally (since they were government employees) only take me to the island’s other hospital which was a government hospital. The last thing they said really sent shivers down my spine because they also informed us that the government hospital didn’t have an onsite Neuro Surgeon and if a CT scan showed anything negative then and only then could they legally transport me to the hospital we were scheduled to go to 45 minutes away…

A second ambulance was called and it arrived just 5 minutes after the other one, but it seriously felt like at least 30 minutes. When EMS techs stepped out of their vehicle they immediately went into a pow wow with the other EMS crew and then came to my mom and me while my aunt was busy running our baggage through Customs. The EMS guy that came to speak to us told us that they were with the government too, but that they were in charge of the side of the island with the hospital we needed and just happened to have dropped someone off at the government hospital near the port. With the luck of that ambulance being near us at the time of the ship’s call and a couple of government ambulance attendees, one from the US originally, that were gracious enough to take us to the planned hospital, we all got in their ambulance.

While on the ride to the hospital the US citizen EMS attendant rode in the back with my totally awesome mom and me while my totally awesome aunt rode up front with the driver. As we left the downtown area the driver turned the lights and siren on, but turned the siren off when we left the busy downtown district. While riding in the back I continued to have shivers running down my spine while thinking about how my first TBI was a Subdural Hematoma and that I had an hour and a half lucid period until the slow bleed within the brain took full effect. The attendant riding with my mom and I didn’t help my case of the shivers by telling us he was not sure that Health City Hospital would accept me and if they didn’t then we would all be required to take another 45 minute ride to the government hospital back on the port side of the island. The good side of the ride there was that all off my vitals appeared to be normal. When we FINALLY approached Health City Hospital they in fact appeared ready as could be for my arrival with a welcoming crew of different medical professionals standing outside the Emergency Department entrance waiting for us to arrive. Seeing all of them ready with open arms to help “a stranger in a strange land” really helped ease my case of the shivers!

My next update, #ThrowbackThursday2, will include my visit at Health City, the rest of our stay on Grand Cayman and how we got back home.healthCityBuilding

Home Alone

Since I posted that photo of my friends and me from two years ago at the beginning of this month I’ve felt that I should update the blog with an actual entry as opposed to just a picture, so here we go…

I’ve very fortunately progressed to the point where I can stay at home alone comfortably & safely now, and have been doing so since the end of May! Before I felt comfortable doing so I looked into the prices of Life Alert and Lifeline. After getting quotes from both of those providers I began brainstorming alternatives. And BAM I noticed that the Apple watch was available for preorder! The Pops and I went to the Apple Store to preview the watch before preordering one. I found that they have a band that is always attached in a circle form and loosens up by a magnet which was a great option for me seeing as I’m hemiplegic and don’t have full range of motion in my left arm, the wrist that I’ve always worn a watch on. So far I haven’t fallen while at home alone (or even at all, knock on wood), but always having a way to call someone for help if need be gives me a sense of ease. Plus, the Apple Watch has already paid its self off if you compare the price of the watch to Life Alert or Lifeline’s setup and monthly charges.

Mirror | mirror is the recent logo I've developed for a client.

Mirror | mirror is a recent logo I’ve developed for a client.

There are a few downsides to being home alone though, the first being that my buddy from thirdgrade, Michael Onorato, is no longer with me during the week to hang out with and go do different things. As well, without him at home with me I can only do speech and arm exercises. As to be expected, I initially didn’t feel too comfortable doing standing exercises with no one at home to spot me, watch or not even watch me at all. Recently though, I have gained much more confidence in standing alone while doing household activities such as brushing my teeth, shavingmy face or empting the dishwasher for my mom. I have also been transferring from my wheelchair to one of our living room’s wingback chairs by myself to work on my computer for client work…or writing my blog update. I have been very grateful for the fact that I have fully retained all of the design disciplines, as well as the depths of the programs I learned while at Full Sail University.

Something I’m not too grateful for is the blasted heat that Charleston experiences in the summer time. I say this because when it was cooler outside I would do my walking exercise with no assistive device around a neighborhood pond with my dad there spotting me, but 90+ degree weather will really get to me. Since my accident my internal body temperature will escalate much more, kind of like I’m a cold-blooded reptile. The good thing is though that today is the Fall Solstice, so we can only hope that means that temperatures will go down for walking’s sake.

My first nuero PT while in SC with her new babyand her husband after walk in and out of church.

My first neuro SC PT and me with her family.

Although I haven’t been walking with no device, except around our house a little, I have been using my single pole offset cane to walk in and out of church, restaurants and a variety of other establishments. The cool part is that I’ve seen my gait pattern’s pacing increasing by minutes at a time, slowly but surely, by using a free app that tracks the position of your phone via GPS and tells you exactly how far you’ve gone in how much time. The reason I feel it necessary for me to use my cane while in throngs of people is that I feel intimidated and scared that someone might bump into me, or something of the sort, and the cane gives me that little bit of security to move forth.

 

Come next week, I’ll be helping out in another one of Dr. Sara Kraft’s neuro classes with different PT students. She’s also told me about a video that she would like me to be the neuro patient in to help educate every discipline of therapy learning about Neuro Rehabilitation. I will be sure to post about that experience in my next post. While on the topic of videos, I will commit to finish editing the video from the one hour talk I gave to Dr. Kraft’s 2nd year neuro class’s PT students in April before the end of the year and share it on here!

A little selfie action before we hit the road on September 7, 2013.

Home Sweet Home

Today marks the two year anniversary of my parents and I making the trip back home to Mt. Pleasant, SC from Shepherd Center, as well as all the other inpatient treatments post accident.

My friends at a welcome party they held for me.

My friends at a welcome party they held for me at my parents’ house.

A little selfie action before we hit the road on September 7, 2013.

A little selfie action before we hit the road on September 7, 2013.