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!