Category Archives: Journal

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.


Oh, How the Tides Have Turned…

The photos featured are one of my brothers and me recreating a photo from almost two years ago. He and his wife were visiting Charleston for the first time in a pretty long while and his wife showed me the first picture at dinner their first night in town earlier this week. That’s when the idea struck me “We have to change places now”!
Before & After

Shepherd Center ASW Jet Ski

To Alabama and Beyond!

Three weeks ago the rents and I were just starting to see the Palmetto State in the distance. We were driving back from Jackson Gap, Alabama, which is where Shepherd Center holds their yearly spring camp, Adventure Skills Workshop (ASW), for both brain and spinal cord injury survivors. While this was awesome and everything it is not where our journey began.

We left Charleston a little over three weeks ago (Tuesday, May 12) for Atlanta because I was asked to speak at middle schools in the Atlanta school districts alongside fellow TBI, spinal injury survivors and Shepherd Center therapists to conclude a 3 week course Shepherd Center had written for 7th graders. We were all tasked with telling how we ended up where we are today, answering questions for them so that they can get a better understanding of the reality and the challenges that are the new norms for the survivors and they also learned about the professions of the different disciplines of the therapists. I ended up speaking at two different middle schools on that Wednesday and Thursday. The Wednesday presentation consisted of four different Biology classes that came in one at a time for an hour at a time over the whole day’s class periods. We started the presentation with a Shepherd Center Counselor as our host/moderator and after she introduced herself, she passed the mic down to each one of us, we introduced ourselves and stated how we acquired our injury or what therapy discipline they practice at Shepherd Center. We then opened the floor to the students to ask questions throughout the day. We would get questions asking everything from “What do you do different from before and after?” to “What could you have done to prevent your accidents from happening?”. This last question was my favorite because these were middle school students so anything anyone the least bit elder said would hopefully be in these kids minds forever. We would all preach to not forget your helmet no matter how it makes you look or to not play with stuff like electronics while driving, even though these kids couldn’t drive yet it would once again be in their minds forever.

On the second day at another Atlanta middle school we once again sat on stage in an assembly where every kid was enrolled in Biology classes that included the Shepherd Center curriculum in their course of study came into the auditorium, but this time they all came at once. While this seemed quite overwhelming at first my nerves slowly but surely relaxed. We started the presentation the same way, but had a lot more curious minds in this assembly. I was joined on stage by one fellow presenter from the day before, but the other presenters were completely different survivors and therapists. It was pretty awesome to see that all of us survivors had the same thing in mind; to pass the word to younger people about how to avoid ending up in our shoes. All in all, both presentations went better than I expected as far as educating and influencing the students overall.

Shepherd Center Throwback2015

Once the Thursday presentation was over we then headed to Shepherd Center. My inpatient Physical Therapist, Meg Canale, was nice enough to give my other Shepherd Center therapists a heads up that we were swinging by and got them all together for lunch. After lunch with all of my inpatient therapists we then went up to the second floor to see the rest of the therapists, therapy assistants, nurses and nurses’ assistants. After we had a chance to say “hi” to all of them Meg then introduced us to two parents who had a son, Cody, on Shepherd’s inpatient brain injury floor. It was awesome that we were able to talk to them as a survivor and caregivers and give them hope. When we were almost done speaking to the Cody’s parents came rolling up with the same Occupational Therapist I had during my stay at Shepherd Center. It felt awesome to talk to him and tell him he was doing much better then I was when I was in his shoes. When we ended our conversation with Cody and his parents we then headed to Alexander City, Alabama to stay the night and to prep ourselves for ASW!

The next morning, after staying in Alexander City we left for Camp ASCCA, where Shepherd Center’s Adventure Skills Workshop is held annually. After arriving at around 10AM I signed up for all new activities that I couldn’t due last year do to my fear of getting in the water and a groin pull I had gotten in therapy a few weeks prior to last year’s ASW. The first thing I did after signing up for different activities was take my swim test to assure that I could participate in the water activities. After passing my swim test with flying colors I then went waterskiing behind a boat and it was A LOT more fun than I anticipated. After waterskiing I then went jet skiing!Shepherd Center ASW Jetski Jet skiing was definitely the biggest PT exercise at camp. It worked both sides of my obliques as we would turn either way, left or right. We then moved to the art room to tie dye some shirts, which I loved to do this year and last year because they end up being my personalized take home memorabilia! The next day I woke up and did another oblique workout on the jet ski, went scuba diving in the pool and then did my favorite camp activity of all, the peaceful and serene activity of kayaking! Following kayaking I completely changed pace and went innertubing with my Shepherd Center Inpatient Physical Therapist, Meg Canale, and my Dad, which of course was a blast with those two people! I finished my ASW outdoor activities with the one that was the most strenuous activity they have there in my book…the Endurance Wall. The Endurance Wall is a climbing wall on one side and a pulley wall on the other where you are required to continually pull yourself up slowly but surely. I opted for the pulley wall and I’m happy to say that both the ASCCA camp advisors and Shepherd Center therapist said I was one of the fastest hemiplegic campers to ever make it to the top in the time I did! It was well worth it too because after making it to the top I got to take a zip line down off the tower! The final night they always have an ASW ice cream night and a dance to wrap up the weekend. Meg actually managed to pull me out on the dance floor (never have been a dancer) after I finished my ice cream. I felt like I might have embarrassed myself, but it was fun! That Sunday morning we packed all our stuff up and hit the road for a 7.5 hour drive back to Chucktown during which I did some speech exercises, kicked it with my parents and things of that nature.

Anthony Macchio Student PT EvalIt was great to get home and I quickly settled back into my weekly therapy sessions. I was then approached by a professor at MUSC to participate in a research study. So on Monday, 6/1/15, I got to help more people learn about brain injuries! The group I got to help this time was the same MUSC 2nd year Physical Therapy class that I had the previous pleasure of speaking to about my recovery process thus far. This time I got to participate as a brain injury survivor case study for a group of students for the class’s first neuro therapy eval. They monitored my body movements and strengths while doing a few “sit to stands”, as well as my gait pattern and muscle strength evals on some very different and sophisticated devices through MUSC research department, which was nice enough to let me and the students partake in. I’m looking forward to seeing what the high tech readings from the research machine have to say, continuing the home exercises they have made for me and hopefully continuing this activity every year!


Benefit FriendsJust the other day a friend of mine posted a Timehop of her and a few of my other friends at my benefit fundraiser which was two years ago, 4/13/13. I have to say thank you to all the family, friends and businesses who helped contribute and attend the event! You all helped bring me back to the East Coast 10 days afterwards and a plethora of other things. Timehop also reminded me that I need to update my blog…

Therapy, as a whole, is getting trickier and trickier. I’ve moved on from practicing solo task and movements on their own, but I am now learning to multi-task all of the things I’ve learned into one fluid movement.

As far as Occupational Therapy goes I am currently learning to do things such as use my left Hemiplegic hand in everyday tasks while standing. One issue we’ve found is that my posture likes to collapse, but my OT Therapist, Tara Murphy, and her OTA student, Rachel Marshall, found that if we put some weight in a book bag and put it on my back it’ll keep my posture upright. We are hoping to decrease the book bag’s weight  with the goal of getting my back and its muscles more acquainted with staying upright. I have also been working on buttoning buttons since I can now engage my left hand for assistance more than I ever could before, after my tendon release surgery. We initially started with exercise buttons in the gym, but I have now graduated to putting on a button up shirt all by myself. Speaking of dressing myself I have been getting up and out of bed, getting myself to the restroom, doing all of my toiletries and dressing myself in the morning – slowly but surely!

Physical Therapy has had its ups and downs. I’ll start with the downs and end on a good note. I graduated to a single poled Offset Cane and then got demoted due to relying too much on the cane for weight bearing. With my original Physical Therapist, Katherine Bennett, I started working with her for two hours a session four days a week at Roper St. Francis had her first baby, Luke, a week and a half ago. While this in an AWESOME thing and I can’t wait to meet him, it is a major drag cutting back to a little under half of the amount of time I’ve had devoted to Physical Therapy over the past year.

Me walking 1/4 mile with no assistive device

Me walking 1/4 mile with no assistive device

On to the better side of Physical Therapy, I have an great temporary replacement Physical Therapist, Jamie Hamric, and Katherine’s third year MUSC PT student, Amy Graul, who both have stepped up to the plate! With less PT in the hospital it has driven me to do more exercises at home. Everything from standing with no device, heel/toe lifts and working on my posture. I also managed to walk a full quarter mile with no cane, walker or any assistive device on 3/8/15! Yesterday I went to the Neurologist to get my Baclofen Pump filled and we reduced the amount of medicine it’s releasing as my tone is slightly reducing which is due to massage therapy with Jerry Tiller. Before I go in for my massage I see a Neuro Muscular doctor, Blaine Crevar, and we are working on my eye sight right now. That is improving, so that gives me hope that I’ll be able to drive one day! Both of those forms of therapy were introduced and the first three months paid for by a fellow support group member, Tina Doscher!

When it comes to Speech Therapy I have been working on articulation and letter blends all in one with my Speech Pathologists Jo Ann Fischer, Kelly Moose and their third year Appalachian State ST student Rachel Lyszczyk. We started to add Voice Therapy to the mix, but both my articulation and letter blends heavily decreased while focusing on getting my voice out of my throat. Once again, multi-tasking comes into play. Thankfully though I recently met a MUSC Speech Therapist who specializes in Voice Therapy while visiting a ENT for a Laryngoscopy and she did a little trial run to see how her method might work for me to get my voice out of my throat. It was definitely beneficial! I am planning on taking a break from ST at East Cooper Hospital and seeing her for as long as she deems necessary. On a side note, I am speaking to a MUSC 2nd year Physical Therapy students’ Neuro class later this month. I really enjoy spreading the word about TBI prevention and recovery methods and will also be speaking at Shepherd Center’s middle school talks in Atlanta on the way to Shepherd’s Adventure Skills Workshop camp in Alabama.

Speaking of Adventure Skills Workshop (ASW), that is sure to be a blast and you can definitely expect to see an update about how awesome that was!

Sorry for the double post due to GoDaddy technical difficulties.

2 Year Anniversary

I forgot to update the blog about my 2 year anniversary post last Sunday, February 1st, 2015. I am still making substantial improvements day in and day out, slowly but surely. Couldn’t do it without everyones’ continued prayers and support, thank you, I couldn’t do it without you all!

Two Year Anniversary

No Chair

This is where my chair sat all last weekend (1/2/15-1/4/15) while I walked to and from the car and then in and out of multiple destinations with both of my awesome parents spotting me as I walked with no walker. I figured this would be the best way to start out the New Year and a way to start my yearly goal of kicking my chair to the curb,No Chair

Home Again Home Again

One of the first things we did when we returned home to Mt. Pleasant, SC was to interview at-home caregiver businesses to take me to therapy whenever I would have it and provide in-home care. We were not having much success in finding the ideal situation, but, then my buddy Michael Onorato stepped up to the plate. Michael agreed he would take me to therapy everyday and hang out with me in my off time. I was, and still am, very appreciative that my elementary school buddy would do such an awesome thing for me! My parents and I initially went to East Cooper Hospital on September 11, 2014 for a PT, OT and Speech Therapy eval, as recommended by Shepherd Center’s outpatient facility. After my PT and OT appointments we heard the unfortunate news that insurance was no longer going to cover Speech Therapy. After hearing that my heart dropped, but the East Cooper Speech Pathologist, Katie Edwards, was nice enough to give me a free eval while my dad contacted both our insurance case manager at the time and Shepherd’s Pathways. East Cooper’s PT therapist, Suzanne Rodgers, was also nice and told us that she didn’t think that East Cooper rehab would be the best therapy source for my TBI related injuries and specific therapy needs, so she referred us to MUSC and provided us with MUSC’s outpatient therapy’s number.

Walking on the elbow platform walker at MUSC.

Walking on the elbow platform walker at MUSC.

Once we got into therapy at MUSC I was registered with all three disciplines, which were once again covered by insurance, even Speech (thankfully). I started in PT learning how to scoot down a mat, which doubled as my bed, while sitting on the edge and walking on an elbow platform walker, focusing on lifting my left leg fully. In OT I would put a heated pad on my left shoulder’s pectoral muscle to help loosen it up before stretching it and trying to open sealed containers myself. For Speech Therapy I was mostly focusing on the letters my tongue was having troubles producing like ‘K’, ‘G’ and ‘CH’. Unfortunately, MUSC was unable to schedule therapies more than one or two times a week. With my injuries I needed to work as hard and often as I could to achieve the best outcome for my recovery. So one day while I was at MUSC my dad did some investigating and found Roper St. Francis Rehabilitation Hospital who said they could give me all three disciplines three days a week.

Katherine, Michael and me during a PT session

Katherine, Michael and me during a PT session.

I am now attending Roper St. Francis and have been since December 9, 2014 (almost a YEAR!!). My PT is a recent graduate from MUSC, Katherine Bennett, who is all about nuero-cases and has recently gotten her nuero-IFRAH certification. We have been working on everything from isolated muscle strengthening to walking with no support or assistance. I initially started PT for 1 hour 3 days a week, but am now doing 2 hours 4 days a week because Katherine saw my potential and enjoys working with me! My OTs, Tara Murphy and Lindsay Deane, are awesome as well. We are currently focusing on getting more range of motion out of my left arm and I’ve already learned how to put on all of my clothes myself. One of my OTs recommended I should get tendon release surgery on my left finger joints because they want to fist-up and we’ve already tried everything we can do to get them to relax, so I am having surgery to relax my fingers in a few weeks, December 3, 2014 (right fingers crossed). I was released from Speech Therapy at Roper around May 2014 because the therapist ran out of ideas to help me gain anymore speech intelligibility or to help my dysarthria. Since May I started with a few new Speech Pathologists at East Cooper Hospital: JoAnn Fischer, who previously worked with TBI cases in Baltimore, at the Kennedy Krieger Institute; Katie Edwards, the one who had been nice enough upon my return home to give me my initial speech eval; and Kaylen Alford, a recent graduate from App State with her degree in Speech Therapy. I just finished 6 weeks of LSVT (Lee Silverman Voice Therapy) to help get the volume of my voice up to a higher decibel in everyday conversation. And while doing my ‘ahh’s I got them up from 3 seconds while at Shepherd Center all the way up to 19.5 seconds with the help of East Cooper! So that’s my story so far. I will make sure to keep you all posted on big obstacles that I overcome and how my surgery goes on December 3rd!