Monday, August 06, 2007

Final Post, From Sandy

Hello Friends and Family,

It’s time to do one final update and draw this blog chapter to a close. When Sarah initially began this blog, she focused on the positive, which I think was a wise thing to do. So that you can understand all that God has done, though, I need to give you what I now know to be an accurate picture of my original situation: I didn’t even know this until fairly recently since John and the kids wanted me to be moving positively toward recovery.

- I was completely paralyzed – both on my right and left side
- I was in a coma-like state for almost a month
- Doctors told John that I might not live (50% of patients in my situation don’t make it to week 4. When I made it to there, my chances started to improve.)
- When it became apparent that I would live, they suggested that he find me a room at a convalescent hospital because that might be all the improvement I would see
- I had four brain surgeries
- I first moved my right hand on December 9th ... about a month into this "adventure."
- I have no memories of anything that occurred between the car ride to the hospital with Jennifer and Christmas Eve.
- My first memory is a sweet one ... a Christmas Eve lessons and carols program that Sarah put together for our family. We sang and read Scriptures by a Christmas tree that Jonathan and Christopher had set up in my hospital room. Little Jonathan (our grandson) crawled on the foot of my bed. Yes - a very, very sweet memory.
- Once I began to "come to," and make sense of my situation, nights were the hardest. I so dreaded those long, somewhat sleepless times without my family around me. I knew they had to get sleep also, but nights were really long, tough times.
- When you have been paralyzed for a while, every joint in your body stiffens and tightens. We are still working to re-establish the range of motion in all of these joints – from my fingers to my vertebrae to my knees and ankles, etc.
- Also, your brain has to relearn how to do things. I have had to think my way through relearning the most simple things ... steps, crawling, sitting, standing, getting in and out of a car, writing, rolling over in bed, and so much more. It really makes me appreciate our complexity – how "fearfully and wonderfully made" we are.

When we made our second attempt at coming "home" (to the rental home John secured for us rather than our home on Lazy Dog Road):

- We used a lift to get me from one place to another. John had to get me into a sling, hook up to the lift, then lift and wheel me to a new location and lower me into place. Each step was painful. We had to spend a few minutes ranging my legs before trying to move, in order to reduce the pain.
- It was hard to sit for longer than a few minutes.
- I was extremely uncomfortable in a wheel chair, or in a bed, in fact, most of the time.
- I was taking an amazing number of meds; slowly we sorted them out and reduced the number to the minimum necessary.
- I was able to move my right leg and right arm, but was very weak. I had on negligible movement on my left side at that point.
- My peg tube (through the abdominal wall, directly to my stomach) was still in.
- I was often very confused, especially at the end of the day when tired.
- We were getting up every 45 minutes to one hour during the night to move, reposition, go to the bathroom…all through tremendous pain.

Next steps...

- As I got stronger, we started to do a few manual transfers from chair to wheelchair, or back, using a gait belt.
- I started to move my left arm soon after we got to the La Barr Meadows house.
- Over the next month, I started to move my left foot a few inches.
- We spent our days doing as much therapy as I could stand – about 4-6 hours.
- From what we read or heard, you have to learn to stand before you can walk, so John built a standing frame. I spent as much time standing up in it as I could tolerate.
- With the generous help of my parents, we purchased a used wheelchair van, so that we could get ourselves to the best neuro rehab person around, Carme. It was a brilliant decision.

So, that’s a summary of my "history." Where are we now?

- No more gait belt (affectionately called my "tail"). I wore it around my waist so John could hold on to me and prevent catastrophic falls. My balance now is good enough that I move around on my own.
- I walk mainly with a single prong cane, even in crowded places like church and stores.
- We have moved back to our Lazy Dog house!
- Most folks have a living and dining room in their home. The Palmers have a physical therapy room full of special equipment.
- I am cooking simple meals, and cleaning the kitchen and downstairs of our house.
- I am reading, writing, and typing again.
- I can walk a very short distance without a cane!
- I continue to do lots of therapy each day, but also lots of "life."
- As Sarah’s blog mentioned, I walked down the aisle at Jonathan and Jenn’s wedding... this July, which had been a very specific prayer request.

My most sincere thanks go:

- to my Creator, who knows the innermost workings of my brain, and who alone can open new pathways there.
- to those of you who helped with Christopher – especially the Fay family who made sure he got to every single mountain bike race, giving him a fabulous junior year in high school.
- to those who visited at the hospital and/or when we got home
- to the Davis family who opened their Roseville home for our family to stay in, which greatly helped them. They came to affectionately call it the "EGG House" – Extremely Generous Gift.
- to those who stayed with me so John could get much-needed breaks and get in to Autometrix, often cleaning our home while you were there.
- to those adults and children who sent cards, posters, notes, "bouquets" of Bible verses, and more. They were such an encouragement to me.
- to all our fabulous co-workers at Autometrix who have taken on extra loads so John could stay home with me and help me get well, and who have continued to reach for the goal of excellence in his absence. And to those involved in making the p.t. equipment that I needed ... it is a big reason that I’m walking today. (And, not to rub it in, but I won the race!)
- to all the nurses, therapists, and doctors who played a part in my recovery. In particular, to Carme, my incredible physical therapist, who was the first person to acknowledge the goal of walking as a reasonable goal; who not only worked me hard, but also prayed for me. And to Dr. Jensen, who practically turned cartwheels in his excitement over my progress!
- to all of you who brought incredible meals and other yummy things. (My family has higher expectations now!) Your generosity meant that John spent his time doing therapy with me rather than feeding us. Thank you.
- to all the TLC ladies who picked up the balls I had been juggling and added them to their own juggling routines. I am thrilled that it all continued so well … a tribute to your skill and dedication.
- to all who prayed ... I sincerely believe that God heard and responded to your requests. I truly think those prayers are a significant part of why I have had such an amazing recovery.
- to my incredible sisters who came to help out – and kept us "afloat."
- to my parents who, as they have done throughout my entire life, made me think I could do anything – even walk again, against all odds. And to my "second set of parents," my in-laws, who were continually encouraging me along. (Dad, I won every single "walker race"!) And perhaps the biggest thank you to you is for raising the wonderful son who has walked through this at my side.
- to my four wonderful children who all came right away. I have no memory of your visits, but I treasure the knowledge of them. Christopher homeschooled himself for the balance of the year (including trigonometry and physics – well done!!) Jonathan, Sarah, and Emily came to visit as often as possible. Sarah and Nathan got married twice within two weeks – the first time in a garden at the hospital so I could take part.
- to my best friend / husband who has fully demonstrated the fulfillment of the vow he made 29 years ago – "in sickness and in health." He has never complained – not once. He has been my companion and encourager throughout all of this. He helped me see God in the midst of everything. He fought for my best care as I was moved around among four hospitals. After we finally came home, he was up at night every 45 minutes with me for months. Again, without complaint. He has kept me laughing, while helping me do the hardest work I’ve ever done. When I’d get frustrated about something I couldn’t do, he was always there to remind me of my progress. He has designed special physical therapy equipment for me. He’s been mom, dad, husband, friend, housecleaner, taxi-driver, nursemaid, cook, housecleaner, organizer (John? An organizer? Yup! He’s learned all kinds of new things!) and so much more. He was content to take a sabbatical from Autometrix to help me recover. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without his incredible contribution. What an example of devotion in marriage you have given our kids. Thank you, Friend.

Each of you was Jesus in the flesh for me ... His hands and feet, so to speak. The words "thank you" seem almost trite. Know that they come from the bottom of my heart. I am deeply grateful.

We would sincerely appreciate your continued prayers. We still have a long road ahead, but like the Israelites, we can remember what God has done while we look forward to what he will do!

Once again, our deepest thanks. We look forward to the day when we can help you. (But no aneurysms allowed!)


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Lots of Good News

I wanted to share with you all a big answer to the very specific prayer request I posted here a while ago.

Mom walked up the aisle for Jonathan's wedding ceremony on July 13. No wheelchair, no walker - just Dad on one arm and a cane in the other hand. If you have been following my Mom's recovery you probably know that doctors predicted she would never walk - in fact, that she would never do a lot of the things she's doing now. Isn't it unbelievable how great she looks? (Thank you, God! And thanks to all of you who have been praying for Mom!)

Here's a photo of Mom and Dad with Thomas, their youngest grandson.

Finally, we have more good news. Mom and Dad had been unable to find Mom's wedding rings anywhere since Mom's hospitalization, and they had begun to believe that the rings had been lost. While I was visiting them in California, Dad found the rings as he was packing for the trip to Jonathan's wedding in Carson City! He must have placed them in his travel shaving kit during an overnight stay in a hotel while Mom was in the hospital, and then forgotten where they were. Mom was overjoyed to have the rings on her finger once more.

Friday, June 01, 2007


Yesterday Mom was able to climb up and back down a flight of stairs with the help of her therapist and a single-prong cane!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Half a Mile

Here's an update on Mom's walking progress - and a photo for proof!

Two weeks ago Mom and Dad started going to their church almost every day for walking practice. The church has long hallways with thin industrial carpet that's not too difficult for Mom to walk on (with the help of Dad and her walker). The first day of walking Mom did 1/8 of a mile and was pretty tired. The next day she did 1/4 of a mile and was exhausted. That 1/4 mile walk took almost an hour. But by the end of the week, Mom could walk a half mile. This past week Mom did a half mile every day and was able to get her time down to 31 minutes. Dad's latest email to me on the subject shows off his "coach" mentality: "Her form is also improving a lot." :)

Initially Mom and Dad assumed that Mom would need a 3-inch heel on her left foot with a flat shoe on her right foot since it's still hard for Mom to straighten her left leg. Now Dad says that things are already looking hopeful, and Mom may be able to wear matching flat shoes in another week.

Mom has a wonderful doctor who has been very encouraging. He loves the contraptions Dad and the employees at Autometrix have made for Mom, and he is very happy with Mom's progress. At an appointment last week he told Mom to keep up the good work, saying, "You're beating the odds!" He wants Mom to continue walking lots despite the pain she feels in her joints from the heterotopic ossification (If you're having a hard time keeping your medical terms straight, you can refresh your memory... I first wrote about heterotopic ossification here). Mom's doctor actually hoping that the motion from stretching and walking will challenge the ossification and perhaps stop the process.

I'll end this post with the last paragraph from Dad's recent email to me:

In what may be the most exciting news of all, Mom slept 4 hours straight last night, between 1:00 and 5:00. Previously, she had been up every 45 minutes to 1 hour for most of the night. Thank you, Lord, I need the sleep.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Steps Toward Walking

I know I'm way past due for an update here! Please forgive the lack of posts. To be honest, since Mom is doing so much better now and I know that she regularly reads my blogs, I feel a bit strange writing about her. Like I imagine mothers of toddlers feel as they blog about a child learning to walk or being toilet trained, all the while aware that someday that child will read it himself. Ha-ha.

Anyway, Mom is doing quite well. Here's a recent email from Dad:

Today was a red letter day! This morning at PT [Physical Therapy], Mom started with intense stretching, but it was less painful than lately. Then I thought that Carme [Mom's physical therapist] was going to either have Mom walk with the LightGait or with a walker, but she took one arm, and I took the other, and we strolled (Mom says we lurched, and that's closer to the truth) around the room. Then Carme got a cane (the kind with four feet) and she and Mom walked around the room again. Holding Mom's arm, she had Mom actually step up onto the treadmill, about a 4-6 inch step, and stand there while she put on the harness. Getting into the LightGait used to be a 10 minute process, involving three adults. This time it was Carme and Mom in about two or three minutes. Then Mom walked 0.25 miles in 16 minutes. She was exhausted, but happy, and it was beyond amazing, given what the doctors initially told us! Mom's left leg still has a long way to go to get straight, but we're seeing progress.

After we got home, we still did our usual therapy schedule, for the rest of the day. Then tonight, Mom helped cook dinner, folded laundry, rubbed my back (a red letter day for sure) and we're about to get ready for bed.

Isn't Mom's continuing progress amazing? Please keep praying - it is a great source of encouragement to Mom and to all of us!

Here's a picture of Mom in the LiteGait:

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Worth a Thousand Words

On Easter Sunday Mom and Dad went to church for the first time since Mom's brain aneurysm! They also went to my Dad's parents' home for Easter dinner. Mom is able to get out of the house so much more now thanks to the new handicapped-accessible van and to the fact that she is getting so much stronger. Here are some pictures from Easter:

Mom and Dad with Kim Thompson:

Mom talking to Shayleigh Davis, a girl in the co-op (Mom loves every student in the co-op and has dedicated so much time and energy to each one of them):

Mom with two wonderful friends, Yvette and Heather:

I saved the best for last:

They sang the song 'In Christ Alone' at the Twin Cities Easter service, which has become a favorite for both Mom and Dad through Mom's time in the hospital and her continuing recovery. It's one of my favorites, too. I'm going to end this post with the words to the song:

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
'til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Specific Prayer Requests

Mom has begun therapy with her new therapist, Carme (Car-may), and Mom and Dad both think she is just fantastic. She's been very encouraging about a prognosis for Mom's recovery. She's definitely going to be working Mom very hard! Mom has therapy on Mondays and Thursdays.

At her first appointment this past Monday, Mom and Dad filled out some paperwork. The last question on the form asked what Mom's goals were. Dad said he wanted to write, "Walking, running, and dancing," but Mom just had him put down "walking." When Carme read the form, she told Mom, "You want to walk again; good," and Mom backpedalled a bit, explaining that she knew it might never be possible. Carme said, "How soon do you want to walk?" and Mom answered that she'd like to walk in time for Jonathan and Jenn's wedding in July. Carme replied, "I think that's a reasonable goal. I can't make promises, but I'll do everything I can to help your 'fearfully and wonderfully made' body achieve that goal." Yay!

Lots of doctors have been telling Dad that any progress that can be made after a stroke will occur within the first 3-6 months, and that we shouldn't expect further improvement after that. Carme told Mom and Dad that neural plasticity (the ability of neural circuits to change in function or organization) is very real, and it is quite possible for other parts of the brain to take over and compensate for lost or damaged portions. She can't guarantee specific progress for Mom, of course, but she seems optimistic.

At Thursday's therapy appointment, Carme put Mom into what's called a "LiteGait." A harness around Mom's waist supports her, and the LiteGait rolls on wheels. Carme moved Mom's left leg and foot, and Mom moved her own right leg, and Dad wheeled the LiteGait along, and through all this... Mom 'walked' across the room twice! Dad reports, "It was pretty cool."

Also on Thursday, Carme asked Mom and Dad if they attended church. She then asked if Mom was being prayed for by a prayer chain. When Mom and Dad replied that lots of people all over the country and even the world have been in prayer for Mom's recovery, Carme responded that she'd like us to ask people to pray for three very specific things:

1. For Mom's left leg to be able to straighten.
2. For Mom to be able to align her hips directly over her toes when she is in the standing frame.
3. That Mom will be able to walk in time for Jonathan and Jenn's wedding in July.

Mom requested that I put these specific prayer requests here on the blog for the benefit of the prayer chain of friends and family who read here. Well, there you have it! Start praying, please!

I hope it's helpful to all of you to have some specific prayer requests in mind concerning Mom's recovery. I just want to remind you how encouraging it is to all of us in the family to know that Mom is in the thoughts and prayers of so many. Thank you.