From the brainline.org website: It’s March. That means it’s Brain Injury Awareness Month — a yearly effort to raise awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research. To help you make the most of the events this month, BrainLine has created a comprehensive list of what’s happening across the country. On it you will find everything from the goings on at the Congressional Brain Injury Awareness Fair on Capitol Hill to the Walk and Roll-a-thon in North Carolina.
Also, take a look at our Calendar, where you can always find monthly listings of events, conferences, and other goings-on in the TBI community. You can also submit your calendar items to us at info@BrainLine.org.
Sam’s medical status:
Sam and Erin have had a tremendous few weeks since Tony and I last updated you all. One afternoon as Erin was clipping Sam’s toenails, which she always finishes with a nice lotion rub; Sam was trying to follow her movement, but the telescoping television kept getting in his line of sight. He pushed it one way, then the other. He said and I quote to get it right, "I love, how you show me how much you love me". On the day I was there, Erin washed his hair in his chair and I was impressed how good a job she did with very little excess water. When she finished, she draped the towel over Sam’s head with the instruction to dry his hair. I thought he would quickly pull the towel free from his head; but he just started drying it with a lot of rubbing action. (see pic) Sam was moving his fingers up Erin’s torso and she asked him what he was doing, and he answered, "I’m taking my fingers for a walk". This last week he gave Erin a "wet willie"; a junior high school trick just meant to annoy. Their social worker is a girl named Debbie, and Erin had Sam make a card for her for her birthday. When they saw her in the hall, without prompting, Sam gave her the card and said, "Happy Birthday". With tears in her eyes, she asked Sam’s permission to put it on her wall, to which he responded, "Frame it". In (2) 1/2 hour sessions of speech therapy, Sam said 195 words and phrases. (Yeah, they count them) This is the most he has done, beating his former record by 70+ words. These included open ended questions (other than yes or no answers), multiple choice, and phrase answers. One of the most darling memory exercises that Erin has him do is to number her kisses to him. She’ll say what number is this?; get a kiss and then he’ll retort 8 or 9 or 14. It’s working. Sam is also getting good at propelling himself with his very strong right arm. He knows how to reach back far on the wheel and give himself a long stroke to move himself forward, which he does if Erin stops to chat with others and he wants to go. He tried it one day while Erin was pushing, so She had to pull over and give him some instruction in wheelchair safety. She asked him, "How many fingers do you have"? He shows her 5, and then She asks, "How many would you like to keep"? which he also answers 5. Ha!
The most exciting things this past week involve Sam walking on a treadmill. It’s called a "lite gate" and uses a harness, much like the standing frame. It enables him to walk, but he must use his own power to get his legs moving. His drop foot has impeded this so far but the physical therapist is enthused as Erin and I are. They will continue to work on it with a boot to keep his feet straight thereby allowing him to walk under his own power. This IS exciting. Erin also told me tonight that Sam motorized his chair from the cafeteria to the gym without assistance. This involves several turns and much control, so again another first. Mike was impressed, Erin was so proud she was moved to tears, and I am as always in awe of the way that God continues to push him forward. There is a distinct possibility that Sam and Erin will return to the VA in Palo Alto soon. This is also good news as he isn’t going to have to go to San Francisco to get his infections ironed out.
More Sam Updates as of March 11th: Eric’s update was from the 4th of March. I wanted to give you a little more information on Sam’s move back to the Palo Alto VA Hospital. On Monday of this week, representatives from the Palo Alto VA Hospital came and did an evaluation on Sam. They put him through a series of test to ensure he would benefit from additional speech, physical and occupational therapy at their location. They were very impressed with how quickly he responded to their questions and his ability to speak in complex sentences. As Eric said, Sam has been doing very well with his speech therapy and seems to be going to the next level of awareness just at the right time. After the evaluation, Sam was accepted back into the program at the Palo Alto VA. Erin called her mother this morning and said their move date will be March 23rd. Sam is scheduled to have surgery on his left calf muscle to lengthen it (due to the drop foot). He will also have his esophagus dilated which will help him to begin drinking and eating again…I’m assuming it will also help with his speech. Erin put Sam on the phone to talk to Julie (Erin’s mother) and they had a nice little conversation. When Erin got back on the phone she said to Julie, “that was awesome, he was carrying on a conversation with you!”…Things are looking up. Thank you for your prayers!
Peace to all,