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.”