Tuesday, October 20, 2015


When you think about it, our lives consist of a long string of events.  Some are large, some small, some are very routine while others occur unexpectedly. Our family knows all to well about the unexpected events; however, those very events have enabled us to get to know so many wonderful people and have made us realize how blessed we are to have such a huge support network.
This past Saturday we were heading to an event in Philadelphia. We were driving east on the Turnpike heading straight toward a sky that was painted with a beautiful sunrise.  PTL Several months ago we decided to set stretch goals for Jackie. Jim had read that the Flyers Charities were planning their 2015 5K and we all thought it was worth a try.  The Flyers have been a huge inspiration for Jackie and this was a good way to give back. I’ll share more about the day later in the post.
Since I haven’t provided an update in a very long time, I will attempt to take a paragraph or two to get caught up.
Jackie’s second annual golf tournament was held on May 30.  Jackie and I were unable to attend the first one last year as Jackie was still at Magee. What a blessing that Jackie was able to attend this year and see and feel first hand all the love and support from our community, friends and family.  Jackie’s rehab team from Hershey came to support him and had been working with him on his golf swing.  With stabilizing support from Jim, Jackie hit a beautiful tee shot to kick off both the morning and afternoon groups of the tournament.  Jim, Jackie, Lindsay, Florent and I were able to greet the majority of the golfers as they drove to their assigned holes in their carts.  It was incredible!! The rest of the day included a silent auction, lunch and a mixture of hugs, tears and fellowship. The event ended with a special meeting with the Bloomsburg U chapter of the Greek organization Zeta Psi.  This was Jim’s fraternity in college and was the fraternity Jackie was going to start pledging the day after he was injured. To Jackie’s surprise the gathering of 20 plus brothers, ranging from charter members to new members, inducted him into the Fraternity as an official member.  I cannot begin to tell you how much this meant to Jackie. A goal he may have thought was no longer going to be possible, had just come true.  Many joyous tears were shed that night. We hope Jackie’s friends who organized the tournament, the members of Zeta Psi and all who helped, attended and supported the event know the huge, positive impact this day had on Jackie and our entire family.  Thank you!
Other big events that have happened recently included family vacations and visits back to Bloomsburg’s campus.  Jackie observed a class in his major and was able to meet with old friends on campus – PTL. Jim has returned to teaching and Jackie and I are staying focused on his rehab schedule.  I made the decision to leave my job at The Hershey Company and have enjoyed every minute spent with Jackie.  I have consistently worked, even after the birth of the kids, as Jim stayed home with them in the summers. I am blessed to be able to spend time at home with Jackie now.  PTL My goal is to find another job in the spring/summer. I enjoyed my 23 years at Hershey and was overwhelmed with all the support received from the company and my dear work friends.  Thanks does not seem adequate, but please know all that you did meant so much.
Jackie’s rehab schedule is about to embark on a new path.  As of today, he has completed his PT and OT sessions at Hershey Day. PTL He has been getting up and heading to Hershey 3 to 4 days a week since December 2014. He will continue on with Speech Therapy.  Jackie is still not running or playing basketball but his therapists and docs feel that ‘life’ should be his therapy right now.  We can always return for additional sessions in the future.  Jackie will continue to participate in aquatherapy at the Hetrick Center and a new addition to the schedule is Yoga. A friend of mine from high school owns Free Spirit Yoga, and has taken Jackie on as a new student.  Yoga is a very good practice for TBI and Jackie is enjoying it and is starting to see benefit from the sessions. We also plan to get Jackie to the gym for additional work outs. His vision therapy continues with Dr. Bytoff.  The sessions are paying off as Jackie’s vision continues to improve. PTL Jackie even had a drum lesson, which was beneficial to many aspects of his therapy.  Thanks to our local rocker and dear friend Ed!
We continue  to work with Bloomsburg on plans to get Jackie back to college. The University has been very supportive. Just a couple weeks ago Jackie was asked to perform the coin toss at a home football game.  It was an incredible day.  We had lots of family and friends attend the game, as well as two of Jackie’s friends who traveled from another University to be there.  Jackie also met and spoke with some friends from his Freshman year who are now juniors and his fraternity brothers were also there cheering him on.  It was amazing to see reconnections being made.  The stadium was full and it was a beautiful day for a game.  While Jackie, Jim, Lindsay and I walked out onto the field, the announcer talked about Jackie’s story and his will and determination to get better.  When he walked off the field, the stands erupted with applause. For so many reasons this was a really, really good day! Thanks to the University and all who have supported us along the way.
Two other events happened at our house.  Not only is the stair lift gone from the stairs leading to the second floor, but the ramp leading up to our front door has been taken away! Thanks Mike and Matt! This is a huge sign of Jackie’s progress.  PTL We are still near Jackie all the time, but he independently walks from room to room.  We continue to keep a close eye on him when doing the stairs, but feel more comfortable each day.
Yesterday we took a trip back to Magee for a follow up with Dr. K. The check up went well.  PTL We were able to see many of our old friends and had the chance to catch up. Some of the nurses and CNA’s that we were not able to see on our last visit, almost didn’t recognize Jackie. It always feels good to go back and visit.  We will return to Magee at the end of the year for another check up.
The Wells Fargo Center in Philly was the site of a big event for Jackie this past Saturday where he participated in the Flyers Charities 5K. Jackie has been connected with the Flyers in one way or another since his days at Magee.  Each interaction fueling Jackie’s desire to keep pushing forward; Saturday was no exception.  Over a dozen family members and friends traveled to Philly to support The Flyers Charities and this stretch goal for Jackie.  We were all in the process of registering for the race when Linda, our contact with the Flyers, asked us to head to the stage area.  We not only were able to meet and talk with Coach Hakstol, Assistant Coach Laperriere, and other members of the Flyers organization and their families, but were blown away by what happened next.  Jackie received the first Flyers Charities 7th Man Award – in honor and recognition of overcoming adversity with determination and a relentless spirit of will.  Wow, what an honor.  We were all so happy, so grateful and so very proud of Jackie and all he has accomplished. Soon after the award presentation the race started and we brought up the rear of the participants.  We pushed along Jackies wheelchair just in case he would need a break in the middle of the race. We passed mile marker one and all was good. PTL We got to about 1.5 miles and ended up taking a little shortcut to the finish line.  Security was glad as they needed to get some roads opened. Just about this time Coach Laperriere circled back after finishing the race and walked with Jackie to the end.  We figured Jackie walked almost 2 miles, his longest walking distance yet. PTL A huge thanks to Linda and everyone with the Flyers Organization for once again giving Jackie the gift of inspiration and creating a day he will never, ever forget.

During the 5K I asked Jackie if he was tired, his response to my question is quoted below.

“Being tired is for wimps. The only W I know is winning.”
~Jackie Lithgow

“A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.”

~Wade Boggs


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Human Mile Markers

Jackie’s marathon continues and his progress has been nothing short of amazing. PTL We had the chance within the last two weeks to take trips back to early mile markers in his journey and visit the many caregivers and professionals who have had a huge impact on Jackie’s recovery.

Our first stop was the police station in Bloomsburg. One of the officers that was at the scene the night of Jackie’s injury had years of experience as a flight medic. It was his judgement call, along with other health care professionals, that saved Jackie’s life that night. It felt good to thank him in person as well as the detective who helped put pieces together from the night we wish we could erase from our lives.

After a short drive up the hill leading to Bloomsburg University we met with an old Fraternity brother of Jim’s who works in Student Affairs. He and his wife provided much support for us in those early weeks and he continues to provide assistance with Jackie’s goal of becoming a student once again. I thought I might cry, but none of us shed a tear as we walked on campus. I think it is because Jackie’s will and desire is so strong, it leaves little room for doubt or weakness. This determination deserves to be fueled with positivity and action plans. We will return to Bloomsburg in the near future to talk about next steps.

Our last and final stop for the day was Geisinger Medical Center. Even though Jackie’s time there was short compared to time spent in Philadelphia or Hershey, we made a special bond with some of the staff there. We wanted to thank them for caring for Jackie in those first critical weeks after his injury. We were able to visit with some nurses, doctors and therapy staffers. We sat in a corner section of the lobby and were able to visit with everyone as their schedule permitted. It was during this hour and a half that tears started to flow. For us, the intensity of memories that changed our lives forever came back as if it were yesterday, for them it was a chance to see one of their critically ill patients actually getting his life back. In just six weeks time, we had created a bond with many of these staffers that is hard to explain. We entrusted them with Jackie’s life and they helped us survive just as much as Jackie. Their support went well beyond their day to day jobs. One of our favorite nurses and her Mom traveled to see the Pope in Italy and had one of Jackie’s support wristlets blessed. PTL We joked about the fact that Jackie was really meeting everyone for the first time, since he does not remember his weeks at Geisinger. When we were wheeling Jackie to the cafeteria we reminded him that this was the first time he was in a wheelchair at this hospital, his mode of transportation while he was there was always a stretcher. We said our goodbyes with hopes that we can once again make a stop to catch up and continue to share Jackie’s progress with them again in the future.

Exactly a week later we headed to Philly for another big day. Appointments with Jackie’s neurosurgeon and Dr. K. as well as visits to Jefferson Hospital and Magee Rehabilitation Hospital were on our schedule. It was fun driving through the city as we headed toward the hospital parking garage. Jackie was so much more verbal and aware of everything happening around us. His CAT scan went smoothly and even though it had been six months, the staff still remembered him. We then wheeled Jackie a couple blocks through the city and entered Jefferson Hospital as visitors for the first time. PTL We headed to the cafe and very quickly moved up to the ninth floor. This is where Jackie spent all his time as a patient in either the Neurological Intensive Care Unit or the step down unit. Julie, Jackie’s OT helped spread the word that we were there and at one point took Jackie and wheeled him around to the nurses stations. We had Jackie walk into the hospital gym. What an incredible sight, not only to see his progress but to see the reactions of the therapy staff who we got to know so well and who helped Jackie when he was so sick. It was a moment I will always remember. Jim and I caught up with Julie and Jackie and were able to see some of the nursing staff that carried all of us through very rough times. Time went too quickly as we had to say our goodbyes and head to Jackie’s first appointment. Jackie’s neurosurgeon had not seen Jackie for six months and needless to say was ecstatic to see his progress. He even took a video to send to two of his residents who we got to know and respect. We thanked him for literally saving Jackie’s life more than one time.

Back in the car we headed to our home away from home, Magee. We get so excited to go back and see our Magee family. As we were waiting for Jackie’s appointment with Dr. K. one of the cafeteria staff saw us and stopped by for a visit. Some of our friends on the cafeteria staff had already left for the day, but we were able to catch Chef Ken who had left the building but came back in once he learned we had arrived. He made an incredibly huge, beautiful and delicious strawberry cake for Jackie. Thanks Chef Ken! Jackie’s appointment with Dr. K went well, we are so grateful he continues to see him.  After the appointment was over we headed to the fourth floor therapy gym. It was there that Erin, his PT who hadn’t seen him since January, ran up to him and could not believe his progress. We were able to see Paula, and Becca and the rest of the therapy teams as well as some of the nursing staff and other Magee staffers. My face hurt from smiling, it was awesome!  We are so happy we chose Magee for Jackie and know that we have friends there for life.

Jackie’s weekly therapy routine continues at Penn State Hershey’s Day Rehab program. He is also still hitting the pool two times a week at the Hetrick Center. We have added an hour of vision therapy with Dr. Bytoff every other week and are doing vision exercises as often as we can at home. Jackie is getting local neurological nutritional counseling from Dr. Turnpaugh, and we truly feel that this is a big piece of Jackie’s recovery plan that is fueling his progress. Jackie has gone to movies, golfed 6 holes with our help and is insistent on walking as much as he can without his walker. His vision dictates that we are still by his side at all times, but we are hands off unless he needs us. For long distances he is still using his wheelchair. Scott the director at Hershey Day feels Jackie’s potential for recovery is limitless and so do we. As long as he is showing progress, he will get up and head to Hershey. We cannot say enough about the Hershey Day staff and their expertise in this phase of his recovery.

Our lives continue to be blessed by so many who have touched us at many mile markers in Jackie’s marathon to recovery. In the last two weeks we were able to personally thank many of these caregivers who will always hold a very special place in our heart. Please know what you do has had a positive impact on our family and I’m sure many others!

We have also made many new friends at Hershey Day Rehab. Recently a fellow patient of Jackie’s who we got to know lost his fight and will never make it back to college. He had been a vibrate young man and will be missed by many. God bless you Michael.

Please continue to enjoy every day of your lives, try to take a deep breath and move on when things seem tough, try to laugh as much as you can, don’t sweat the small stuff and always be kind.

“What your mind can conceive & believe you can achieve!” ~ Napoleon Hill

(Jackie’s first speech therapist, Lenora, framed this quote and gave it to Jackie when we left Geisinger. He has had it in his room ever since and continues to believe! As I look back, it is more than a coincidence we chose Magee as their mantra is ‘Believe in a Way Back.” Jackie is on his way. PTL

I would be remiss if I didn’t give an update on the second golf tournament held for Jackie on May 30. As this post is already long, I’ll write another one soon to share details of that incredible day. Thank you for your continued positive thoughts and prayers, they are working!


Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Better Person

When I thought about how I would begin this post, I thought about six words that I have been telling Jackie over the last couple of weeks. These words are not meant to put focus on me, rather to applaud and celebrate Jackie and how in his recovery, he has ultimately helped me. “You make me a better person, ” I tell him often. When I start to become negative or complain he says, “Cry me a river,” or plays a mini violin with his good hand. When I feel tired or sometimes a little down, his laughter, outstretched arms and sense of humor gets me back on track. When I tend to over nurture, he reminds me that eventually I am going to have to give him independence again. How crazy and wonderful is this. My son who is recovering from a severe TBI is helping me be a better person every day.

He is so determined to continue to improve, that it isn’t a matter of if he will walk on his own or go back to college, it is simply a matter of when. It is amazing the progress he has made since my last post.

He recently received a new wheelchair that he moves on his own with his feet. Yes, both feet! PTL When we started looking at these chairs and tested some out, he had to rest his left foot on the foot rest and his right foot had to do all the work. Now both feet are powering his independence! The day our wheelchair representative dropped it off at rehab, Jackie was so excited. Thank heavens Grandma and Grandpa were there, because he pushed himself out of the rehab door and straight to the elevators before we had a chance to gather all of our belongings. It was actually an incredible feeling to see him finally able to go somewhere on his own without having to ask for help. PTL

Day Rehab in Hershey continues to go well. Occupational Therapy is still focused on increasing functionality in Jackies left hand and arm. He is now purposefully trying to use his left hand for many tasks. Speech therapy keeps getting harder, but that is a good thing as Jackie continues to get better cognitively. PTL Physical therapy work outs are focused on walking and balance. In fact Emily wants Jackie to continue to walk with help most of the time. For longer distances, for instance if he goes to a store, he can use his new chair. This is helping to increase Jackies stamina but certainly is hard work. A new twist in his therapy included a trip to CATRA (Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association) for some equestrian therapy. This served as both Physical and Recreational therapy. Shirley and Ben started CATRA about thirty years ago and have been helping people get back on their feet, literally and figuratively, ever since. Jackie’s experience was way beyond what I expected. Shirley mapped out a course of tasks that Jackie had to do on the horse, including putting rings on poles, picking up and putting golf balls down tubes and even core exercises like standing up in the stirrups and putting both hands on the heads of his side walkers. He even got to hold two-week old kittens. If you are ever looking for a place to volunteer, CATRA is a wonderful choice.

Peg, Jackie’s Recreational Therapist and Emily, PT, had accompanied us to CATRA and now were taking Jackie on another outing. This time to Beaver Bend Golf Course, a picturesque little chip ‘n putt course that is perfect for the beginner. Another patient went with us who has been battling Parkinsons and this was the first time he was going to be on the links in three years. Jackie was able to walk three of the holes with Emily and then took advantage of his wheelchair to finish out three more holes. Jackie used a chipper and a putter as Emily held him to keep him steady during the shots. Dad was coaching him through and by the last three holes Jackie’s game was starting to come back. PTL It was an awesome afternoon not only for Jackie but also for his older friend who now saw hope to get back on the links.

Aquatherapy at the Hetrick Center and music therapy in our home continue to give Jackie added rehab benefits. Each day he continues to get stronger and stronger and one of these days he may just dunk Allyson after a hard workout in the pool.

Sticking with the goal of short distance walking, Jackie is walking with our help into his hair appointments at Salon on Simpson in Mechanicsburg. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be taking Jackie to appointments other than to see a doctor! He is even sitting in the regular chair now versus his wheelchair. A big thank you to Marci, her staff and customers for their support – and of course for Jackie’s new stylish haircut!

Mother’s Day weekend was full of fun and firsts. We traveled to visit Lindsay and Florent for the first time since Jackie’s injury. PTL We had a barbecue at Florent’s parents house with Jackie’s new cornhole boards in tow. What a wonderful day. We enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by Florent’s parents and even played a couple games of cornhole. The next day was spent with my Mom and family. Once again the cornhole boards were put to good use and this time my Mom and I beat the boys! If you ask Jackie he will tell you he let us win since it was Mother’s Day. Jim’s Mom came to visit the following week, so we were able to enjoy the company of all the Moms in our lives. PTL

As any parent knows there is not a handbook to follow when it comes to raising your children or dealing with tragedy. We often get things wrong and learn along with our kids. I am so proud of both Lindsay and Jackie and I thank them for reminding me that life is full of hard work to reach goals, but must also be sprinkled with laughter. It is about striking a balance and truly deciding what is most important and what can and cannot wait until tomorrow. And it is about constantly striving to be a better person, guided by faith, patience, grace, love and thanks.

Ongoing thanks continue to flow to our family, friends, co-workers and community for their generous love and support. We would not have made it this far without you.

“Let your past make you better, not bitter.”


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Springing Back

I love spring. More sun shines on our days and trees awake from long winters with strength and beauty. Jackie is following suit.

It has been over a month since my last post and I have much to share. Within the past two weeks Jackie has enjoyed his first movie in a theatre since his injury and finally went fishing. Something he has wanted to do for a very long time. PTL We loaded up our old bass boat and headed to a small lake not far from our house. Jackie wore a life vest the entire time and sat on the middle seat. Our short trip included a catch of two small bluegills. Jackie even took a nap sprawled across the seats. This was a huge day for him, he was tired but happy to be getting back to something he enjoyed doing. He even used his left hand, as much as he could, but Jim still baited his hook for him and helped with the catch and release. It was amazing how much Jackie remembered about the boat and although he was unable to help get it docked and undocked, reminded Jim of all the things he used to do so they wouldn’t be forgotten.

Two other recent highlights centered around two visits, one at home from a group of his old friends from Bloomsburg and one in the Flyers locker room! The visits happened on the same weekend and made Jackie happier than I think I have ever seen him since his injury. It was incredible to see him sitting on the deck with his friends, all sitting around a big table talking like the old times as if nothing had happened. It brought tears to my eyes. The kids even got a chance to break in brand new, home-made corn hole boards, given to Jackie from our very crafty and dear friends and next door neighbors.

The day before the BSU gang came over, Jim, Jackie, Lindsay, Florent and I were invited down for the Flyers last game of the season. We even were able to visit the locker room and Jackie was able to catch up with some of his favorite players. The fact that they took the time to speak with Jackie after their last game of the season reconfirmed what we already knew about the Flyers off ice. The new memories created this day for Jackie will never be forgotten.

It is hard to believe Jackie has been attending the Day Rehab program at the Penn State Hershey Rehabilitation Hospital Outpatient Center for almost 5 months. His hard work is rewarding him with good progress. His left leg is advancing on its own and is getting stronger. His Flyers logo’d left foot brace keeps his left foot in line and Emily his PT is really starting to concentrate on his balance and focus, two of the main things holding Jackie back from independent walking. His left arm is starting to become a little more functional. Melissa and Ashley his OT team work that left hand hard, pushing him to use it for many exercises and tasks. His speech sessions are getting harder for Jackie every day with increased levels of cognitive thinking. We constantly remind Jackie that Dawn is the one who will get him back to college courses. Peg, Jackie’s recreational therapist is even starting to work on Jackies golf game, putting for now, just in time as two of Jackie’s old High School golf team members are holding a second annual tournament for him on May 30 at MayApple Golf course in Boiling Springs.

Aquatherapy continues to be a big part of Jackies recovery. He now gets in the pool two times a week, one session for half an hour and the other for an hour. As I was typing this part of the post, Jackie was napping on the couch. This was only the second time he has been in the pool for an hour and it uses a lot of his energy. He always looks forward to working and playing hard with Allison and Jared in the pool.

Jackie’s music therapy is also in full swing and he really enjoys it. Lori uses different instruments to help engage Jackies left arm and hand. They have also been working on Jackies memory and use the songs on his old phone to play, “Name that Tune.” Just this last session we got Jackie on his feet and worked on moving both feet in different directions to the beat.

Our local eye doc was able to reduce some of Jackie’s prescription in his glasses. PTL His brain appears to be starting to recognize his left eye and with eye therapy this should hopefully rule out the need for surgery. As with everything, time will continue to help his vision.

Another sign of improvement on his left side is Jackie’s smile. Before it was very evident that the left side of his mouth stayed in place while the right side of his face turned upward with that beautiful smile. Now his mouth is starting to turn up on both sides even with just a small smile. PTL We are still seeing long term memory gaps and work continues on his short-term memory.

Earlier in the week we returned to Magee for a three-month check up for Jackie. Every time we visit it is like going back to our ‘home away from home.’ We honestly never met one employee that didn’t want to be there, and we interacted with many employees during Jackie’s stay. We were all so excited to see everyone and Jackie was able to show off more of his progress. We were able to see, hug and catch up with many of our friends. It was a wonderful visit and Jackie’s check up with Dr. K. went well. We are already looking forward to visiting again for Jackie’s next check up in July.

Each new day we strive to sprinkle fun on top of the hard work, but there are times that Jackie gets frustrated and just wants to be independent again. I truly believe this is a sign of him getting better cognitively. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to have all of your independence stripped away when you were just starting to embrace young adulthood. Jackie admits he was never the patient type, but as you know with TBI it is all about patience, hard work and of course positive thoughts and prayer.

We continue to be blessed by so many. A big thanks to all the Hershey Rehab, The Hetrick Center and Living Unlimited staffers for creating a fun environment amidst the reality of rehab challenges. We’d also like to thank all of Jackie’s friends for sticking by him as he continues to heal, he so longs to be back at college and just hanging out with his old buddies. Thanks as well to Todd Fedoruk and the Flyers Organization for providing inspiration for Jackie to keep pushing through and of course thanks to our family, friends and community for their continued love, prayers and support.

Just like the spring which blossoms into the summer, Jackie’s determination and desire to get his life back will also blossom into independence; even if it is measured one small step at a time.

I believe in process. I believe in four seasons. I believe that winter’s tough, but spring’s coming. I believe that there’s a growing season. And I think that you realize that in life, you grow. You get better.
~Steve Southerland

The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring. ~Bernard Williams


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Remembering A Most Special Day

While riding home from rehab in the back seat, boys in the front, I decided to read some of the very early blog posts. They flooded my brain with memories and eyes with tears. Jackie has come so far and he has worked so hard to get here.

I remember one of the old veteran docs on the trauma team at Geisinger telling us that based on his experience the best chance of recovery occurs if patients wake up from their comas within 14 days of their injury. It was March 10, 2014 – day 15. Jackie was still asleep. The night before, his college held a prayer vigil where many students stopped to pray and sign two massive banners that ultimately hung in Jackie’s room all 6 months while we were at Magee. Jackie was in the Long Term Acute Care facility and Lenora his first speech therapist stopped by. She started talking to him and he actually squeezed her hand on command. Then the most beautiful, most miraculous thing happened, he slightly opened both of his eyes. I can’t explain it other than to tell you it was truly a gift from God. Jackie was back.

A year has passed from this reawakening and we think back and celebrate this most special day. There were so many uphill battles that would have to be faced, but at least Jackie had a chance to fight them.

He continues to attend Physical, Occupational and Speech therapy sessions four days a week in Hershey. The gym is on the smaller side which allows everyone to get to know each other. The staff is great and they genuinely care about each and every patient. Jackie is making good progress. Thanks to his PT and a walking brace, his left leg is advancing forward on its own. PTL He still needs assistance to walk, but is getting a little better each week. He still needs to think about many things in order to try to stay balanced and walk just a couple steps. We are reminded every day how many things all of us take for granted. Jackie is also working hard with OT to start using his left arm and hand. We had his arm brace adjusted and push him at home to try to use his left hand to hold items. Letting go of the item is still a chore. We are being patient and are not going to give up until Jackie can type or text with both hands. He is making great strides in Speech. He is participating much more in conversations and initiates many of them himself. PTL He is even speaking louder. Becca from Magee would be so proud!

Aquatherapy is one of Jackie’s favorite therapies. Next week he will start getting in the pool two times per week. We were able to meet Dr. Hetrick who invented the HydroWorx pools and he told Jackie to keep giving 120%. He had a brain injury as a child and knows first hand how tough it can be to get back on your feet.

Next month Jackie will be starting music therapy. We are hoping that it will help in its own way to reconnect pathways in Jackie’s brain and pave the way for new connections.

March is Brain Injury Awareness month. According to the Brain Injury Association of America, 2.5 million children and adults sustain TBIs annually. At least 5.3 million live with a TBI related disability. Please continue to practice patience and positivity with your friends and loved ones who may be one of the millions living with a TBI. Thanks to all for your prayers and for sharing your love and hope with us.

“Happiness comes only when we push our brains and hearts to the farthest reaches of which we are capable.”

~Leo Rosten


Monday, February 23, 2015

One Year

It was a Saturday night, February 22, 2014, we were with friends at a Hershey Bears hockey game, thankful for all the blessings in our life. After all we had two awesome kids, one a college graduate paving her way on her own and making us proud with every step and another also making us proud by enjoying and embracing his independence at college, stepping up to responsibilities and loving it. Life was good!

We had started a room project at home that day and were planning to finish it the next day, February 23. The upstairs of the house was quite a mess, but it was only going to be that way overnight, or so we thought. We were asleep for a couple hours when it happened. The incoming call that would change our life forever and create ripple effects throughout many others. Jackie had been injured and was being sent to a hospital near his college. As would any parent, we immediately got into the car and headed to Danville, PA. At this point we did not know the extent of Jackie’s injuries, but knew it had to be more than a minor injury since he was not being sent to the local hospital. Later we would learn that he was life flighted a mere 9 miles from the local hospital to this level 1 trauma facility. About half way there we were finally able to talk with the trauma team. The doc on the other end of the line did not give us a recap of Jackie’s condition instead said, “How far away are you?” I can’t explain exactly how we felt but I remember being sick to my stomach, in disbelief and I’m sure in some form of shock.

Jim was driving safe but fast. If pulled over, we knew the police officer would understand. What seemed like an eternity to get there was actually a little less than two hours. We ran into the ER entrance and were greeted by a couple of Jackie’s friends and a social worker; another red flag that things were not good. She took us through the hospital up to the Intensive care unit. We rounded the final corner and there, surrounded by at least 8 or more medical professionals was our boy. He had a bolt in his head to gauge internal pressure and was on a ventilator with too many tubes to count. How could this happen? It was time to wake up from this really bad dream. As the early hours of the morning continued, Jackie survived his first of many surgeries and his marathon to recovery commenced.

Fast forward one year and thanks to many prayers, caregivers, and an outpouring of love and support, Jackie is making positive strides each day. As we live and focus on each of these days we realize we have been blessed to spend so much time with Jackie. Time slips by so quickly but we have been able to capture a slice of his life and we are enjoying every second. As he heals we are reminded even more how kind he is, how funny he is and we have fallen in love with his new laugh. He gets up every morning and even though he still cannot dress himself completely or walk independently, charges forward and gives each day everything he has.

Aqua therapy is going very well. Jackie loves going once a week and walked with the help of two therapists on the treadmill in the pool going the distance of about two football fields. His balance, trunk control and left side continue to be a challenge, but are not dampening his will to walk on his own. He is exhausted after his half hour session, as he is when he gets home from his four day a week sessions at Hershey Day Rehab. He is very aware when he needs to rest and continues to just want to get back to normal. We purchased a padded chair for the kitchen table and now help him transfer to this chair instead of eating in his wheelchair. He loves his Hurrycane and cannot wait to beat Grandpa in a foot race.

We can feel in the depths of our hearts that prayers, positive thoughts and patience will lead Jackie back to independent living. Until then we will continue to do everything possible to make his next 365 days better, one step at a time.

“When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide’ll turn.”

-Harriet Beecher Stowe


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Steps Forward

As I sit in the family room while Jackie naps, I find myself counting my blessings. I know that seems hard to believe after all we have been through. Would I change things if I could, absolutely, but that is simply not possible. Instead the best way to live is day by day, not looking back and not looking too far forward. Feeling grateful for all that we do have is our daily approach to life. Our faith, family, friends and community continue to make this doable each and every day.

Since I am no longer posting on a daily basis, I have many updates to share. The biggest ones are a result from our one day trip back to Philly. Jackie had follow-up appointments with both his neurosurgeon at Jefferson and Dr. K at Magee. The morning started with a CAT scan. It surprised me, but Jackie said he did not remember any of his countless other scans. Many members of the radiology staff remembered us as we were quite the regulars. After the scan we wheeled Jackie across the street to his Neurosurgeons office. To say the least, the doc was very pleased with Jackie’s progress. Our next follow-up is scheduled for July. PTL

I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt to get in our own vehicle to drive Jackie to Magee versus waiting for sometimes hours and then loading him up in a transport vehicle. Walking into Magee was like going back to our temporary home. Jackie put it best when he said it was the people he missed the most. We agree. We didn’t get to see everyone, but did see all of his therapists. They became our friends and were so instrumental in getting Jackie to where he is now. Tears were shed as they witnessed Jackie’s progress. We also spent some time with Dr. K. He has always been positive about Jackie’s chances for recovery and was happy to see all of the changes in just two months. Just as he had done once before, he got Jackie involved in a conversation and then removed his peg tube. PTL. Jackie wanted it out so badly, but knew there was a chance it may have to stay in. Needless to say, Jackie was stronger than I ever would have been when it was removed and barely flinched. He is now tubeless and could not be happier. It had been an incredibly long but awesome day. Jackie had his best night sleep yet as he could now move freely in his bed. We are scheduled to go back to Magee in April.

We are currently working on getting Jackie involved with as many therapies as possible, always keeping his energy level in mind. His therapies at Penn State Hershey Day Rehab are going well. Jackie’s PT knows how desperately he wants to walk. She reminds us of Erin from Magee, in tune with everything that needs to come together in order for him to take his first independent steps. She and the PT staff work with him on many things to get him there. At the end of the last couple sessions she helped him walk with a cane. A huge step forward for Jackie! PTL Granted without her support he would fall but each session he gets closer and closer to his dream. Speech, OT and Recreational therapy are also going well. Jackie is now back on a regular diet and continues to work on activities of daily living. Jim and I still assist him with mostly all daily tasks, but similar to PT, each day brings more improvements. Next week we are adding aqua therapy to Jackie’s schedule. He will be going to The Hetrick Center and will be using one of their HydroWorx pools. Two therapists will initially be in the water with him. The pool floor raises up to allow him to transfer via wheelchair into the pool. Then it lowers and the floor becomes a treadmill. The warm temperature of the water and the fact that he will only feel 30% of his body weight should help engage his left side even more than land exercises. Starting with just a half hour session will be extremely tiring, but will be the only therapy he has that day.

In reference to TBI awareness, a good friend of mine from college told us about Kevin Pierce, an Olympic hopeful snow boarder who fell and suffered a TBI. He was right on Shaun Whites heels in fact, he beat him in many events leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics. An HBO documentary, “The Crash Reel” is about Kevin and his accident. Jim, Jackie and I watched it and even though each TBI is different, it is amazing how some of the daily struggles post TBI are similar. Kevin and his family started the LoveYourBrain Foundation in hopes to help improve the lives of people affected by brain injury. If you are interested, check out the documentary and Kevin’s site, LoveYourBrain.org.

Our thanks continues to flow to so many, for fundraising events, dinners, visits, words and books of encouragement, shoveling snow, and continued prayers. Watching the national news can be depressing and even thinking back to what happened to Jackie makes you wonder what the world is coming to. But we can tell you from our experience that there are a multitude of really wonderful people still out there. We are truly blessed to know and have felt their love.

“You can’t stop the future
You can’t rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret
…is to press play.”
― Jay Asher


January 7, 2015


Jackie reached a new milestone on January 3, his twentieth birthday. It was a day of celebration, a day to look forward to a new year full of recovery and promise. Looking back he really only enjoyed 51 days of being 19, the remaining 314 days of his 19th year need no description. Lindsay and Florent helped celebrate which made the day even that much more special. Additional family celebrations are being scheduled, we just need to space them out a bit. We are always cognizant of the fact that he tires easily. Time still remains the biggest healing factor for TBI.

We have truly settled in to life at home and it is the best feeling in the world. Jackie is enjoying home cooked meals and continues to add more to his diet. He has had a healthy weight gain since he has been home and continues to increase his liquid intake. PTL

The transition to Hershey Day Rehab is also going well. Electric stimulation therapy is being used on both his left arm and leg. His sitting balance continues to improve and his work on transfers continues. There are actually three other Magee ‘graduates’ that are also enrolled in Hershey’s day program. One of the patients told Jackie today that he already notices improvement in Jackie since the first day he saw him at Hershey. This is sometimes tough for us to see since we are constantly with Jackie, but so wonderful to hear. PTL

We are still working on his short-term memory as he asks the same questions over again at times, but are helping him figure out the answer on his own. He knows it, he just doesn’t force himself to use his brain to think hard enough. His voice is improving, except when he is tired which is always the case on the nights we are home from therapy. He is starting to be more verbal in conversations, even if it is just a couple words here or there. When it is just Jim, Jackie and I, he sometimes comes out with one liners that make us laugh really hard. I cannot tell you how good that feels.

We still do not look too far ahead, as we celebrate each day, rising to daily challenges and smiling at small victories. We continue to be blessed with so much support and love. Please know how thankful we are and how much it means to us.

“No stars gleam as brightly as those which glisten in the polar sky. No water tastes so sweet as that which springs amid the desert sand. And no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs through adversity. Tested faith brings experience. You would never have believed your own weakness had you not needed to pass through trials. And you would never have known God’s strength had His strength not been needed to carry you through.”
― Charles H. Spurgeon


Thursday, December 25

A Season For Miracles

No matter what your religion or beliefs, we sometimes hear or experience miracles in our lives. As our family celebrates the miracles of Christmas, we are also celebrating our own miracles. From the birth of our first child, Lindsay, we have learned many things about the fragility of life. She was a preemie and as first time parents we experienced more than most with our share of intensive care stays and ambulance rides. Lindsay fought through a rough beginning and has blossomed into an incredible young women. Jackie was healthy from the start and full of life until a senseless act of violence changed that on February 23, 2014. He has now been our focus and the fact that he is still with us, a miracle.

For those of you who have been reading my blog, I apologize for the delay in posts. After being home for nearly a month, we are finally getting settled in and are so blessed to be here. PTL We are now familiar with our new routine and Jackie could not be happier to wake up in his own bed, nudged along many mornings by Jovie, our Golden Retriever. Our transition from Magee Rehabilitation Hospital to The Penn State Hershey Rehabilitation Hospital Day Program has been a smooth one. We are so grateful to Magee for their months of work with Jackie to get him to this point and look forward to the weeks ahead with the team at Hershey.

Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy and Recreational therapy continue to be part of Jackie’s rehab schedule. Jackie is working on standing and sitting balance. The Hershey team is also working with Jackie to learn how to make transfers on his own from his wheelchair to the mat or to a chair. Strength and balance are still needed before this task can be completed. Braces on his left arm and leg are starting the long process of stretching out muscle tone and tightness. Different walkers are being tried to give Jackie the best aids for walking assistance. Walking on his own without assistance from a therapist will still take some time.  Although a huge mental struggle, Jackie played a game of backgammon on Monday during rec therapy. With much coaching he was able to get through the game and ended up winning at the end with a clutch doubles throw. He was absolutely exhausted by the time we were in the car for the 45 minute trip home. Jackie seems to be withstanding the commute to and from rehab well, but I’m sure it tires him more than we know. Although, just being out and in the car has got to make him feel normal again.

Appreciating all the things we used to take for granted seem to be the norm for our every day life. I hope your holiday is filled with family, love and laughter. Life is too short and unpredictable to have it any other way.

We continue to receive support in so many different ways. Thanks to all of you for bringing tons of joy to our lives.

“Rejoice in the spirit of Christmas which is Peace, the miracle of Christmas which is Hope, and the heart of Christmas which is Love.”


Thursday, November 27

Home At Last

Tuesday night Jackie slept in his bed for the first time in nine months and two days. PTL He ate dinner at the kitchen table and watched TV from a recliner. Jovie, our golden retriever, would not leave his side. Now he starts yet another leg of his journey to recovery. After taking a few days off, he is going to start therapy at a day rehab. It is uncertain at this point how long those sessions will last. After day rehab he will move to an outpatient therapy program, confirming the fact that Jackie’s recovery is a marathon not a sprint.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I wanted to share our thanks to so many of you. For all of Jackie’s caregivers, for everyone who has said even a single prayer, for those who have sent positive thoughts our way, to all who have donated or ran fund-raising events, we thank you. To all who have sent cards especially those of you who send many cards we thank you. To our family and friends who have gone above and beyond in absolutely every way possible, we are humbled by your love and support.

Our lives have changed forever and at the same time have been touched by so many. We have met and made some wonderful new friends and we feel incredibly blessed today. Jackie made it to his Grandparents house for a short visit today. I cannot express how wonderful it was for Jackie to be part of a normal family gathering. PTL We are transitioning well to caring for Jackie at home. Magee did a terrific job of preparing us. There was not one thing that they missed. We will miss all of our friends there.

I won’t lie, caring for Jackie at home is demanding but we are so thrilled to be here it doesn’t matter. As with everything, we will get settled into a new routine and things will run like clockwork.

I hope you all were blessed with days full of family fun and friendship. Now that we are home, I plan to continue posting updates but I may just post one or two a week and I’ll try to post on the same days each week.

Thanks again for following Jackie on his journey. His progress has been fueled by all of you and for that we are extremely grateful.

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
~Oprah Winfrey