Searching for the right TBI rehab facility

January 14, 2008

Where is the best place for Sam? In my last post, I mentioned that we are looking for a new rehab facility for Sam. I spoke of the Rehabilitation Research Center at Santa Clara Valley Med Center in San Jose but as Erin speaks to more people at the VA hospital, she isn’t sure that is the best place for him right now.

This past week, my wife and I visited CareMeridian in Elk Grove, Ca. which would be very convenient for our families since it is only about a 30 minute drive from our homes in Citrus Heights. It was a nice facility, and may possibly be in the plans (maybe at a later date) but we aren’t sure if they would be aggressive enough with Sam’s therapy.

Sam and Erin in rehab gym_Palo Alto VA_12_27_07

Another promising rehab facility we will be looking into is Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital in Kentfield, Ca (Marin County). This facility is about 20 minutes north of San Francisco. The administrator of CareMeridian had a lot of good things to say about this facility and the doctors at this location.

We are in a very difficult and scary time. Where is the best place for Sam to improve as quickly as possible with his current limitations? It is possible Sam may go to one of the rehab facilities I mentioned previously for a short time period and then be placed in another facility as he improves and is able to go into a more advanced program.

We’re finding that there are a lot of brain injury/rehab facilities for really aggressive treatment of brain injured patients, but patients who are much farther along in their rehab than Sam. There are other facilities that are more “maintenance” type facilities for patients who have hit their peak…we want to stay away from them! But—there aren’t many rehab facilities for people like Sam who are somewhere in the middle with their rehabilitation.

The bottom line is that we need your prayers in this time of discernment. This is uncharted territory and so far, there isn’t a lot of guidance available. Hopefully as Erin talks to the doctors and social workers at the VA hospital in Palo Alto, she will gain a much clearer picture as to the best place for Sam under his current circumstances.

Sam’s medical status: Sam has been making steady auditory improvements. The therapist have been working with having him breath through his mouth and in the process, he has been getting better at moving his tongue. Although, he is not talking, he continues to get more vocal.

Erin has been working hard to improve Sam’s brain functions. She keeps coming up with little brain teaser games to play with Sam like giving him multiple choice questions about various subjects. Sam is answering her with the American Sign Language (ASL) for each of the choices, A, B, C or D. For example, they were playing a trivia game and Erin asked Sam which one of the four items was not part of the twelve days of Christmas. I believe she said the answer that didn’t match was, “whistler’s whistling”…and Sam got it correct. She asked him to spell his name in ASL and he was able to do that too. Erin is working towards getting away from the one finger for yes, two fingers for no communication and step it up a level to the multiple choice scenario, again with the help of ASL.

Sam continues to do the stationary bike and “standing frame” which is a device that slowly moves him from a sitting to standing position. He is up and out of his bed in the wheelchair twice a day.

Overall, Sam is becoming more responsive. When someone walks into the room, he will look over to the door to see who is coming in.


Gratitude Campaign for our Military

January 8, 2008

A way to say thank you to our military: Have you ever been in an airport or just walking down the street and seen one of our military men or women in uniform and wanted to thank them for their service to our country? Most of us have the little magnetic “support our troops” ribbon on our car which is nice—but it would sure be great to thank them in a more personal way. If you’re like me, you see them walk by and you hesitate and think, “no, they’ll think I’m crazy” or you just chicken out and then it’s too late.

gratidude campaign_thank youThere is a way to thank our troops…check out the Gratitude Campaign site. Whatever your opinion is on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, keep in mind that the men and women in our military today volunteered to serve our country. They volunteered knowing they’re lives would be put in great danger. They have more or less written a blank check to our government saying, “this is my life, use it as you wish”.

New Beginnings: Erin told us on the phone yesterday that the sermon at her church in Palo Alto and also the sermon in Eric’s (Sam’s father) church were both about new beginnings. That seems appropriate and very comforting because in mid February, Sam will be moved to a non VA TBI (traumatic brain injury) facility.

We don’t have very many details yet, but we hope he will be moved to the Rehabilitation Research Center at Santa Clara Valley Med Center in San Jose which is about 30 minutes closer to Sacramento. What is really interesting and exciting is that this facility basically wrote the book on TBI rehab. According to their web page their nurses are rehab nurses, whereas the Polytrauma center at the VA hospital in Palo Alto only has a few rehab trained nurses.

You can find out more at their web site: Click on the “rehabilitation center” icon at the bottom of the homepage. There is also a nice video introduction to the brain injury rehabilitation center that can be accessed from their “Highlights” icon on the right side of the page, or click on this link.

Sam’s medical status: Sam made some nice progress this past week. His finger dexterity has been improving lately, especially his index, ring finger and thumb which are the most important for picking up and letting go objects.

The speech therapist has been working on getting Sam to swallow (I’m assuming in preparation for drinking and eating through his mouth again). She was having him swallow and then cough in sequence but yesterday during their session, he changed things around a little and coughed and then stuck his tongue out at her instead.

This week in the therapy gym, Sam has been using the “standing frame” which is basically a chair that he gets strapped into that lifts him up into a standing position. It’s not a walker, but a device that prepares Sam to eventually be able to stand on his own.

Erin told us that lately Sam has been trying so hard to speak to her. She asked him this week if he was trying to say “I love you” and with a very pained look on his face, he signed “yes”. Can you imagine not being able to say those words? We take so many things for granted.

Erin has been taking off the side railing to Sam’s bed lately and laying down next to him. She said he really likes it when they can take a nap together. Yesterday he fell asleep with his head on her shoulder.