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