Tag Archives: Anthony Macchio

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Standing to Pedaling

Before I begin this post I have to make it known that I am typing this entry, in full, with my laptop in my lap, using both my left and right hand and with a timer running. I am doing this in place of my New Year’s resolution of typing my OT, Vicky Whalen, one email a week with the my stopwatch’s time featured in bold at the bottom. So, that’s what the random bold type will stand for at the bottom of of this entry, and the posts to come.

I don’t know how many of you use the app Timehop, but I’ve done a blog post about it before and you can learn exactly how it works by clicking the link in this sentence. Anyways, while perusing my past social media posts, via Timehop, on Monday last week, 1/16/17, I was humbled to find that I had posted the video below, from now slightly over three years ago, my first time standing on my own with no hands OR any assistance from anyone else, on pretty much every social media account I have!

Standing up on my own, no assistance from anybody or my hands!

A post shared by Anthony Macchio (@amacchio) on

With the thought of me accomplishing such a milestone in my #slowlybutsurelyTBI recovery process I started thinking about what the most recent milestone that I’d accomplished might have been and/or what the next one can be. I, of course, then started thinking of how awesome it was that I can now pedal around on a trike that I’m fortunate enough to call my own. BUT, my cycling skills are definitely not up to the quality that they very well could be. Because of seeing my standing video though, it encouraged my brain and body to ride with their upmost precision…for a TBI survivor that is. During my ride on Thursday (1/26) my mom, dad and nephew Tyler were all nice enough to accompany me by walking along side me as I pedaled. There were quite a few things to highlight while on this family outing of a ride/stroll around our neighborhood!:

1. My left arm’s flexor tone never felt the need to kick-in and pull my left hand off of the left handle bar…even though it had insisted on doing so on every late afternoon ride prior.

2. On top of my left arm’s flexor tone not making itself known, neither did my leg’s extensor tone. I was mostly surprised that neither of my hemiplegic extremities’ tone had made themselves known due to the fact that I had an audience, of sorts, following me around and spectating my every move. I say that because when I’ve been in the spotlight in the past my first sign of nervousness came out in said tone in both of my left extremities.

3. After getting to the end of our first lap I asked everyone if they’d be willing to go around for a second lap, and they thankfully said yes! The second lap went just as smoothly as the first one and I could have pushed my luck on a third one, but figured it would be best to call it quits after my first go at two laps. Upon me getting back to our starting point (our house) I stopped my Strava cycling tracker and was MUCH more than happy to see that my first go at two laps around our neighborhood was just a mere 1 minute and 41 seconds added onto my, then, triking record of 15 minutes 45 seconds for just ONE lap!

With all of the above accomplishments having been achieved after just my Trike Ride #4, I can only assume that the recovery process via my trike will not exactly follow my recovery hashtag and soon to be new recovery blog’s new primary URL, #slowlybutsurelyTBI. 🙂

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chsmap

To: Chucktown, With Love

I ALWAYS have been thankful to have grown up in the awesome town of Charleston (Chucktown), South Carolina. But, after my accident I’ve grown to appreciate it for  even more reasons as to why it’s awesome!

chsmapUpon growing up I learned to respect the fact that this was such a historic city, littered with fun AND educational facts around every corner (literally)! I was also thankful to have grown up in the low-key side of the river, in Mt. Pleasant, where all of my skateboarding buddies and I were able to ride our BMX bikes all around town, from the ages of around 13 ~ 15, with no real worries of getting into any real trouble with motor vehicles, in both our eyes or our parents’ hearts! The delicious food and entertainment, for every age, offered around the Charleston area is another reason that I have always been thankful to call this home.

Although, I have always loved being able to claim Charleston as my home, I was obviously ready to get out of the place where I had grown up and broaden my horizons beyond here. This urge overcame me after attending, and later working at, Full Sail University for my first three years away from home, in Orlando, Florida. After being employed there for a full year I had decided that it was now time to scope out other jobs around the U.S. because exploring the foreign land of the Orlando, and Florida area as a whole, was like a breath of fresh air for me when learning the ins-and-outs of new terrain as a whole.

Even though I was looking to be one of the very few born-and-raised Charlestonians to branch out of my hometown I was, and still am, VERY happy to claim both Charleston my home-sweet-home and my literal HOMEboys as my friends! More details as to why I claim my love to both of those parts of my life below.

chshospitalsCharleston – Before my accident, and even before returning home from my stint at acute and inpatient rehabs, I hadn’t truly seen how amazingly awesome the Charleston Medical Industry is as a whole. I say this because I have been able to see the proper doctors, therapists of ALL disciplines, MUSC professors and students…and the list goes on that have all been able to pinpoint and treat every medical issue that I’ve had since my accident! I am also thankful to have returned home to Charleston, as opposed to somewhere else, because I can remember a handful of fellow inpatients that returned back home to their homes in rural towns with no real Medical Industry presence at all. So, Charleston has surprisingly managed to win my heart over even more than it had as I was growing up in it! Which, all-in-all, makes me even MORE proud to say that I was born and raised a native Charlestonian while now living back here again with all of these transplants who were once just tourists!

My friends at a welcome party they held for me.

My HOMEboys – As I stated earlier the majority of us born-and-raised Charlestonians tend to continue to hunker down here in the Charleston area and continue to call it home, as the majority of my childhood/teenage friends continue to do. So, once again, upon returning home from my acute and inpatient rehabs I was happy to find that this was still the case! The very day that my parents and I had driven home from Shepherd Center a friend of mine from 3rd grade, Michael Onorato, had contacted all of my best friends from my childhood/teenage years for a welcome home party. This was a surprise, yet also a  phenominal realization, that born-and-raised Charlestonians were continuing to maintain their Lowcountry residency. I still continue to take advantage of this perk and reach out to all of my friends still here in town for whatever kind of awesome Charleston activity that might be happening at that given time!

While typing this post, I have grown even MORE thankful for both the city of Charleston and my HOMEboys’ presence in my life, which I had honestly thought would NEVER be possible…so thank you Charleston for continually showing me how fortunate I am to have been born-and-raised here AND for talking all of my awesome HOMEboys into sticking around…because they continually drive my progress in my recovery as a whole!

With both of these points being made, bring it on 2017! Charleston, my HOMEboys and I are ready for ya!

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!

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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.

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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 .

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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.

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.

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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!

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.

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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.

#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

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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

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!

Stage 2: Inpatient Rehab

First Step

My trunk failing to support me on my attempt to take my first step.

I started remembering what was happening and going on around me 2 weeks after ICU. While at Kentfield Rehab, in Marin County, California, the Speech Pathologist was working very hard on getting me to move my tongue and get some kind of sound out of me, but had no luck. In Physical Therapy I would mostly stand up in the standing frame and 23 minutes was my record while there. I also tried to take a single step but failed miserably, with my trunk collapsing. For Occupational Therapy I would do a board with different sizes and shaped pegs with my right hand because the left side of my body was completely immobile and still does suffer muscle tone. Meanwhile friends and family ran a fund raising party for me back home, Mt. Pleasant, SC, while my mom was staying in California with me and until I got home. After the fund raiser my dad had accumulated $15,000 (Thank you everyone!) and the first thing he did was buy my mom, a traveling nurse, and me first class Delta tickets to Atlanta because they would be bigger seats than coach and way cheaper than renting a private jet. So they took my trache (surgical opening to restore normal breathing) out on April 19, 2013.  Then on April 21, 2013 we then caught a 5am flight to Atlanta to continue inpatient rehab at Shepherd Center.

 

My first full day of therapy at Shepherd Center I said my first word ‘hi’. I then worked on my memory, both long term and short term. Within the first week I was there I did a swallow study to determine how well I was swallowing. I passed my swallow test the first week I was there and was put on a level 1 diet (pureed food) and eventually level 2 (honey thickened liquids and fine foods). Another thing I did in Speech Therapy was practice yelling out ‘ahh’. The typical, healthy, person can yell out ‘ahh’ for 20-25 seconds, but while at Shepherd I could only get mine up to 3.5 seconds tops. In Physical Therapy I was first started on serial casting to get rid of my ballerina feet, then moved on to mat exercises, walking in a platform walker with Bioness (remote estem device), graduated from the hoyer to heavily assisted transfers, and practiced getting into a vehicle for my parents’ sake. Occupational Therapy consisted of arm stretching, getting the first movement out of my left arm, and the FES bike (pedaler for OT and PT that consist of estem).

'Pedaling' my way to the city on the FES arm bike.

‘Pedaling’ my way to the city on the FES arm bike.

While there I got a Baclofen Pump to help reduce tone in my left leg and had surgery in my left ankle/achilles tendon to correct the ballerina feet because the serial casting didn’t help as much as everyone hoped. Graduated 4 months after being at Shepherd and I was then invited to their outpatient facility, Pathways.

Next entry will be about outpatient therapy.