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!
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! 👍🏽 😃
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.
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!
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 where 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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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”!
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.
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! 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.
It 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!
Just 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.
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.
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,