Monday, November 17

Rainy Day In The City

It was going to be a long day.  Jackie had another test and doctor visit to attend today.  The test was in the morning and the doc appt early in the afternoon.  It was one of those days that you just want to stay in bed.  It was cold, windy and rainy.  Not the best day to be transported in a wheelchair.  We shouldn’t complain, we have had many transports and this was the first one with bad weather.

Jackie had just enough time to get ready and eat breakfast before we were picked up. He had the test done first and then Jim pushed the wheelchair across the street while I held an umbrella over Jackie’s head.  It made no sense to be transported in a van for an appointment that was literally right across the street.  We received good news from the doc. Based on the test results, we can start weaning Jackie off one of his meds.  PTL

We didn’t get back to Magee until about 3pm.  Jackie got caught up on his meds and then had a magnum bar and some fruit as a snack because we had missed lunch.  Magee had packed a box lunch for Jackie, there was just no time for him to eat it. After his snack he rested in bed.

Once out of bed he ate dinner, took a shower and then got back  in bed early.  It was a long day and the regular therapy schedule would start up once again tomorrow morning.

Slowly but surely Jackie’s body is healing.  PTL There are many more miles to go, but hopefully the next part of the course will include less medications and more physical strength.  Prayers, positive thoughts and patience, as always, will be our GPS.

“As long as you as an individual… can convince yourself that in order to move forward as best you can you have to be optimistic, you can be described as ‘one of the faithful,’ one of those people who can say, ‘Well, look, something’s going to happen! Let’s just keep trying. Let’s not give up.”
~Tom Hanks

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Saturday, November 15 – Sunday, November 16

Weekend Update

Saturday

Dr. K was working this weekend and stopped in to check on Jackie. He had seen Jackie at the end of the day yesterday and had told him a silly statement he wanted him to remember. When given cues, Jackie remembered most of the statement. Remembering things of high interest comes easy to Jackie. General information is sometimes hard for him to remember. His short term memory should improve with time.

Jackie was gearing up for three therapies and ate a good breakfast. Speech was first and Jackie spent the hour with Amy. She was actually the therapist that did Jackie’s initial assessment at Magee. He spoke his first words with her. They went to her office for the session where Jackie sampled a Hershey bar and graham crackers. He enjoyed eating both without any issues. PTL

After a short rest break, PT was next. Erin was actually working this weekend and we decided to go outside and practice transferring Jackie from his wheelchair to our car for the first time.  We went out to the parking lot and Erin showed us the best way to transfer Jackie in and out. We even took a quick spin around the block. This was the first time Jackie had sat in an actual seat in a car since February. PTL When we returned to Magee both Jim and I took a turn doing the transfers. I’m sure we will be practicing one more time before we head home. There were some concerns on how Jackie would be able to balance himself around turns, but with two pillows and an extra strap placed around his torso and the front seat, he did well.

Jackie ate a good lunch and rested in his chair, he had one more session to go. One of the weekend therapists who he had worked with once or twice before picked him up and took him to the gym. They did some stretching, practiced some activities of daily living and also did an exercise where Jackie blew bubbles into liquid. This was meant to help with his breath control and it seemed to work as the next day Jackie was able to drink a Starbucks Strawberry Smoothie out of a straw better than he has been able to in months. PTL

After his therapies were over we spent time with Nana, John and Jackie’s Aunt and cousin. It was Nana’s birthday and we helped celebrate with homemade muffins made by Aunt Carole. We had a great visit with everyone and Jackie even had a taste of the birthday treat.

It had been a long but good day. Dinner was next and then a shave, shower and bed.

Sunday

Jackie was able to eat breakfast before Jenna arrived for Recreational therapy. Jim and I grabbed a quick breakfast in the cafeteria while the two played Wii. They trialed a new fishing game but decided to play Wii air hockey instead. As always, Jackie had fun and worked on sitting balance all at the same time.

The rest of the day was open as Jackie did not have any other therapy sessions. We decided to get caught up on opening cards that continue to arrive and inspire Jackie to keep working hard. Thanks to all who have sent them to Jackie during his journey.

The rest of the day consisted of eating meals and watching football. We also had a chance to talk with Lindsay. At one point during the early evening hours the three of us were talking and Jackie said, “I can’t wait to go home.” Jim and I reminded Jackie that even though it is ok to get excited we go day by day. With that he replied, “We’ll get there.” Shortly after he said “It’s going to be heaven.” PTL

When you are frustrated about your home to-do list that is not getting done, take a breath and appreciate everything that you already have. I’m sure Jackie is not at all concerned about the condition of our house, it could be a total mess but it would still feel like heaven to him. After all, the only thing that matters is that he will be home. PTL

“But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.”
~Elizabeth Edwards

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Friday, November 14

Positive Progressions

Jackie spoke with Dr. K and team, got ready for the day and ate breakfast. He is consistently hungry when he wakes up and his swallowing function improves with each day. PTL Jackie and Becca went to her office for his speech session. They worked on several things including cell phone skills.

After a short rest in his chair it was time for PT. Erin reserved the treadmill on the fifth floor. The Christopher and Dana Reeve foundation helped fund the locomotor training room where the treadmill is located. Knowing how much Jackie likes his Vector work outs, I asked him how the session went. He said it was his favorite because it feels most natural of all the exercises he does. It takes three therapists and a computer operator to ensure a safe work out. It may sound like a lot of manpower for one patient, but based on Jackie’s comment, it is worth it.

Jackie definitely worked up an appetite and was ready for lunch. He is finishing all of his meals quickly and we may start asking for double portions of meat. His weight gain has been consistently 2-3 pounds a week and he is now back to his college weight. PTL

He rested in His chair prior to OT. Among other exercises Paula continues to work with Jackie on transfers from his chair to many different locations in the gym. By the time OT is over Jackie is allowed to rest in bed if necessary since at this time of day, his day rehab schedule should be over. Today he wanted to lay down and take a break.

After getting up he ate all of his dinner, watched a little TV and turned in for the night. Jackie is gaining weight and getting stronger, but is still unable to get in bed by himself, walk unassisted and use his left arm for anything purposeful. Still his initiation, speech and swallowing function continues to improve. PTL My three Ps come into play once again. Prayer, positive thoughts and patience continue to guide us through each day and have helped Jackie improve to the point where heading home is actually going to happen. PTL We continue to feel blessed by all the people who have touched our lives with love, support and friendship and for that we give our deepest thanks.

“I believe if you keep your faith, you keep your trust, you keep the right attitude, if you’re grateful, you’ll see God open up new doors.”
~Joel Osteen

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Thursday, November 13

New Goals

It was a busy morning, Jackie ended up eating breakfast with Becca during speech. They also worked on spoon techniques to help move food to the back of the mouth and other oral exercises. One of the exercises focused on the muscles on the left side of Jackie’s face.

Erin and Jackie headed to the vector for PT, but had to switch gears as the computer system was down. They went back down to the gym to do their usual work out. Once back in his room, Jackie ate a large lunch. His appetite continues to increase. PTL

One of Jackie’s new goals at Magee is to get him ready for his next phase of rehab. We are currently firming up plans to enroll Jackie in a day rehab program back home. A day program does not include rest time so Jackie has been challenged with omitting his bed rest in the middle of the day at Magee. In order to meet this goal he relaxed in his chair vs getting in bed. It is now even more important to ensure he is getting all of his needed weight shifts.

Paula was out today so Natalie helped with Jackie’s OT workout. They practiced putting on and off a shirt and also worked on balance while playing hockey in the gym using a cane as a stick.

When Jackie got back to the room, his mentor was waiting for him with two dishes of frozen yogurt. The two played table top corn hole and talked about things neither Jim or I could talk with Jackie about, since we have never been through something similar to what they have been through. Jackie always seems to enjoy the sessions.

Jackie was very tired by early evening. We even had to help him a little with dinner. He took a shower and then went to bed.

I hope your nights are restful and your days are full of new experiences, new goals, learning and thanks.

“The most important key to achieving great success is to decide upon your goal and launch, get started, take action, move.”
~John Wooden

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Wednesday, November 12

Day By Day

Over all of these months we have learned to live one day at a time. Even though we are overjoyed that Magee has given Jackie a discharge date of November 25, we continue to focus day by day. It is just best that way.

Jackie started eating his breakfast with us and then finished with Becca. She was splitting her session with Jackie between breakfast and lunch and as usual had a surprise for Jackie. For lunch she had ordered a cheeseburger for him to try. He actually ate half of the burger before getting tired and asking to finish with the ground portion of his meal. PTL

Prior to lunch Jackie completed two additional therapy sessions. He spent an hour with Lori, Magee’s art therapist. Lori had a request at the same time to work with an older patient from the third floor. She decided pairing Jackie with this patient may be a good idea and she was right. He happened to be a Flyers fan and enjoyed hearing about Jackie’s time with the team. He also is an avid fisherman so the two told fish stories as well as they could. Jackie once again chose to paint a fishing scene with a boat and fish. What a grand day it will be when he can fish once again. Throughout the session the man had words of encouragement for Jackie. When he left the room, Jackie turned to the left and told him it was nice meeting him. The intergenerational art session was a success for both Jackie and his new friend.

Jackie went right to PT after art. Today a prosthesis and orthotics vendor was here to make molds of Jackie’s left lower leg as well as his left arm. These molds will be used to make the custom fit braces that will ultimately aid in the return of functionality on Jackie’s left side. Initially, the braces will help fight the spasticity that is inhibiting progress. In the mean time, Jackie will wear the temporary braces made by Magee and will also continue wearing his old cast overnight to keep his ankle muscle stretched.

After a short rest it was time for OT. The focus for today’s session included me. Paula came to the room and coached Jackie and I through different types of transfers. Jim has been doing most of them lately and it is time for me to start doing more especially since we are going home soon.

It had been a very busy day so far. We had just enough time for Jackie to enjoy a visit with Grandma and Grandpa on the second floor terrace and enjoy a Magnum bar before they had to catch the train.

The rest of the day included dinner, a call with Lindsay and Florent and bed. Jackie was still recovering from his big day yesterday and fell asleep quickly. The time spent with the Flyers was still having a positive impact on Jackie. I truly believe the outing made him realize that he is starting to get better and will actually be getting out of the hospital. PTL

“A Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting.”
~Napoleon Hill

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Tuesday, November 11

“A Day I Will Always Remember”

Our family was together today to share in Jackie’s first outing in 8.5 months. The only other time Jackie has been out of the hospital was for CAT scans and doctors visits. Today was a huge day for Jackie and we were so glad Lindsay was able to join us.

It all started with visits from a former Flyer and club ambassador, Todd Fedoruk. Jackie really enjoyed his visits and a connection between the two began. Todd was able to set up an outing for Jackie to watch a practice and meet some of the team. This sounded like a dream come true as not only Jackie but Jim and Lindsay are hard core Flyers fans. Jim’s Philly upbringing and love for the sport got the kids hooked. The question was, could it be arranged. With help from Magee staff, we were able to make it happen. Paula, Jackie’s Occupational Therapist would travel with us to not only help us but also to turn the outing into an extremely beneficial therapy session.

Before we left Magee Paula stopped by the room for an ADL session to help Jackie work though his morning routine of getting dressed and eating breakfast. Then Jackie headed to the gym and had his cast removed. This should be the last cast he needs. PTL Not long after he got back to his room,  we packed up and arrived at the Flyers SkateZone in Voorhees, NJ a little before noon.   We caught the last half hour of practice. We were able to stand right beside the ice on the opposite side of where the public was viewing the practice. Paula helped Jackie stand several times so he could really see the action on the ice. At one point a puck slammed the wall right where he was standing. I wasn’t sure how he would handle the noise and stimulation, but he was a champ and did great. Once the practice was over he was invited into the locker room. A rare occurrence and one that created memories to last a lifetime.

One by one many of the players came up to Jackie and spoke with him. Jackie did not say many words in response, but soaked in every word of encouragement that came his way. His favorite player, Wayne Simmonds spoke with Jackie for a while, then left the locker room and came back with a signed stick with a personalized note for Jackie. Steve Mason signed his practice stick and handed it over during his time with Jackie. Even Coach Berube and Assistant Coach Laperriere came in to say hi. I was moved by the sincerity and honest interest everyone had in making Jackie feel comfortable and good about the progress he has made so far.

I can honestly say I have now joined the ranks of the rest of the family and absolutely am one of the Flyers biggest fans. As for Jackie, the impact the trip had on him was immense. Not only was the trip good  from a physically therapeutic perspective, but mentally it has lifted him to a positive place where he hasn’t been since the beginning of February. PTL When I asked him what he thought of the day he said it was, “a day I’ll always remember.”

When we got back to Magee Jackie had a late lunch and then we helped him get in bed for a much needed rest. Lindsay said her goodbyes and headed back to DC. The rest of the day went quickly with dinner, a shower and then bed.

For Jackie, I would equate today like a desperately needed water stop when running a marathon. It gave Jackie the boost he needed to push through more assisted stands than I have ever seen him do. Overall the outing fueled not only his body but his spirit with positive energy. PTL

A special thanks goes out to Magee for helping us make this happen and for the Philadelphia Flyers organization for creating a once in a lifetime opportunity for happiness and healing.

“You wouldn’t train for a marathon & then give up a mile before the finish line. Same goes with your life & dreams.”
~Dawn Gluskin

Read more about our day: http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/flyers/20141112_Flyers_embrace_Bloomsburg_assault_victim_Jackie_Lithgow.html#WRR49HeJ7IsepXJF.99

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Monday, November 10

Silver Medal Day

Transport arrived at 7am this morning to take us to Jackie’s follow up appointment with his Neurosurgeon. Our doc was pleased with the results of the test taken right before the visit and was also glad to hear Jackie’s voice. He reached for simple objects in his pocket like a pen and small flashlight and was amazed that Jackie could quickly identify each object and its color. Jackie even completed easy multiplication problems. PTL When testing Jackie’s left side he was able to see slight movement in the left arm and even greater movement in the left leg. PTL He has the same opinion as Dr. K and feels that with time Jackie’s left side should begin to engage more. Our next appointment is now scheduled for late in January. We are hoping that Jackie can surprise him with more progress by then.

Since we were able to get to see the doc a little early, we were back at Magee in time for PT with Erin. Besides his normal workout, she worked on different chair options for Jackie. She brought him back to the room in a new chair which we were to test throughout the rest of the day.

Immediately after PT Jackie had lunch with Becca. He was starving as he only had a very small breakfast in between his test and doc appointment. He could not wait to eat. Becca had ordered ground meat for him to try and he proceeded to eat double portions along with other foods. She decided to upgrade his diet to allow him to eat ground meats. PTL

We helped Jackie get in bed for a short rest before OT. Paula did some stretching and put on Jackie’s elbow and hand braces. Jim and I stayed back in the room getting some things organized. I was on pins and needles, and was about to pull off a giant surprise for Jim. He is the assistant golf coach at his high school and with everything going on was unable to coach this season. The girls team which he helped to start and coach from their Freshman year on were mostly seniors this year and had won second in states. This was a huge achievement for the girls and the school. Jim had tossed around the idea of taking a trip back for the tournament but felt he needed to stay in Philly. Not long after the win, the head coach got in touch with me and said that he and the girls wanted to come to Philly and present Jim with one of the silver medals. I thought it was a terrific idea and worked with Robin a new Magee staffer who helped pull everything off. We totally surprised Jim. He walked into the decorated conference room and was taken back when he saw the girls team. It was a beautiful moment for all of us and one I don’t think I will ever forget. Jackie was able to join in on some of the fun. We talked in the room for a while and then gave everyone a tour of Magee. After the tour Jackie and I went to his room so he could eat dinner and that allowed Jim to take his time and say goodbye to the girls.

When Jim got back to the room, Jackie finished up his meal and enjoyed a Magnum bar for dessert. He was exhausted from this very busy day. We helped him get in bed and he watched some TV before dosing off to sleep. He was awakened by Lindsay who had taken the train in from DC. She had come to Philly for a very special day that was to unfold tomorrow morning. They hugged for a long time and then Jackie fell fast asleep.

“No one has ever achieved anything from the smallest to the greatest unless the dream was dreamed first.”
~Laura Ingalls Wilder

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