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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Saturday, November 8 – Sunday, November 9

Weekend Update

It was a busy weekend. Jackie had therapies and visitors both days. Saturdays Rec therapy with Jenna was pushed from the morning to the afternoon so Jackie could play Wii with the other patient his age. We have a lot in common with his family and both Jackie and him have been on school golf teams. The two played Wii golf and a little bit of bowling. It was a great session. On Sunday, Jenna and Jackie had their bowling rubber match. Jenna won by just a couple pins, but Jackie rallied back when they versed each other in golf.

Jackie’s therapy sessions focused on stretching and checks on his cast. He had two sessions on Saturday and one on Sunday. He ate well, napped and of course watched sports. He managed to stay awake until the end of the Flyers game on Saturday night and then fell asleep.

Between both days Jackie enjoyed the company of many relatives and a few friends. I love seeing him sit back and listen to the banter of family conversations. Even though it is tiring, I can tell he loves it as it keeps his mind off of where he is and the routine days he has come to accept. As with most of our visitors who haven’t seen Jackie in a while, they are pleasantly surprised to see his progress. PTL Jackie still has many miles to go on this journey, but is finally taking positive strides that I believe he can even see himself.

Sunday night was a busy one. Jackie needed a haircut and Jim decided to try out his barbering skills. Considering it was the first buzz cut he has given, it turned out really well. It was like a full service shop as Jackie also got a shave from his Dad. Then it was time for a shower and bed. It was the end of a very good weekend and was time to get some rest for the start of an even busier week.

I hope you could enjoy some laughs with family or friends this past weekend. I also hope you continue to appreciate even the smallest things in your lives. As Jackie continues to struggle with purposeful movement in his left arm, he often needs help scratching an occasional itch on his right arm. This makes me think about how I used to lose sight of the simple joys that we experience every day and just don’t notice. Like being able to scratch our own itches or get dressed without help. Every minute of our lives is a gift, sometimes we just move too fast to realize it.

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
~Lao Tzu

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Friday, November 7

Appetite For Recovery

Jackie’s appetite continues to increase.  PTL This morning he ate oatmeal and then ate some pancakes and three homemade chocolate chip cookies.  I really didn’t think Jackie was going to be able to have any of the cookies, but Becca decided to give them a try and Jackie did well.  They are still not approved for his diet, but tasting ‘real’ food is  such a wonderful treat for him.

After breakfast and speech Jackie had an art therapy session and then headed to PT.  Once again limited by his cast, Erin did a lot of stretching and made sure the cast was ok.  She put the walking boot on which made things easier to transfer Jackie from place to place.

Jackie ate a big lunch, in fact he ate double portions of soft meat. PTL  Keeping Jackie on the soft diet, may be a little boring for him but it has allowed him to build up his eating endurance.  Soft foods take less energy to chew and they have allowed him to regain confidence in his swallowing function.

He rested after he was done eating and then headed to OT.  Paula did a lot of stretching especially on Jackie’s left arm, which was very, very tight.  She also made a new custom brace to bridge Jackie until the one that is ordered comes in.

Jackie watched some ESPN and ate a magnum prior to dinner.  He then ate a good meal, got a shower and went to bed.  I feel that not only is Jackie’s food appetite increasing but so is his appetite for recovery.  PTL He is getting stronger with each day and I hope he is starting to believe that some day there will be a finish line that he will cross, not in a wheelchair but with his own two feet.

“It is often your deepest pain which empowers you to grow to your highest self.”
~Karen Salmonsohn

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Thursday, November 6

Cast Back On

It was one of those mornings that I wish I could have let Jackie sleep in. He is woken up three times during the night for nursing checks or meds so getting him up for the day is hard especially if he is sleeping soundly, and today was one of those mornings. By the time he dressed, received morning meds and talked with Dr. K it was almost time for speech. He had jut started eating when Becca came in. She finished breakfast with him and then worked with him on clear pronunciation. She gave him pictures and without her looking, he had to describe the picture so she could guess what it was. Becca could understand most of what Jackie was saying and coached him to speak clearer and louder for the words she couldn’t understand. This may seem somewhat elementary, but is proof that Jackie’s verbalization is coming back. PTL

It was now time for PT and the team decided another cast was needed to continue to stretch the muscles in the left leg to the proper position. This cast will stay on until Tuesday and then will be cut off and used as a brace. We were now back to using the power lift again for the first 24 hours as Jackie was not to put any weight on the left leg.

Jackie was hungry and couldn’t wait until the lunch trays were brought up to the floor so he had a Magnum ice cream bar as an appetizer and then ate his lunch. He rested but did not sleep and then got ready for OT.

Paula finished her evaluation of the new left arm brace and decided to move forward with placing an order. The brace will really help Jackie’s left arm and hand stay in a position to help relax the muscles that continue to be tight and pull up the arm. Paula also worked with Jackie on his fine motor skills as they worked on a writing project together.

Back at the room Jackie wanted to watch ESPN prior to dinner. After he ate we helped him get in bed early since we wanted to elevate his new cast. Jackie fell asleep watching the Flyers.

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.”       ~Helen Keller

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