Wednesday, October 29

A First

This particular hump day started out as usual. Visit from Dr. K, all the normal meds and breakfast with Becca. Jackie had some independent time with a couple of the other patients and then headed off to the gym for PT.

All the exercises Jackie had been doing in the past on his stomach were going to pay off today. He was getting a cast put on his left leg from a little below his knee down through his foot. This was a first for Jackie. His had never had a cast before. It is similar to the traditional cast that I remember as a kid. The one where the person who had it seemed so cool and had everyone sign it. Jackie, on the contrary, was not looking for signatures. The goal of the cast is to force the muscles in his foot to stay stretched at a degree that will make it easier for him to walk. Right now the therapists stretch his foot during therapy sessions, but it reverts back to its original position. The cast will stay on through Monday and then it will be cut off and the back half will serve as a brace to be worn at night to ensure the muscle stays stretched. The first 24 hours are tricky because Jackie cannot put weight on his foot. For all transfers we had to use the electronic hoist and sling. It had been quite a while since we had to use this device and it certainly reminded us of how far Jackie has come. PTL

Lunch was next with Becca. Jackie continues to eat more with each meal and Becca is still incorporating different food types. Swallowing liquid right now seems to be the biggest challenge. After a short nap Jackie headed to the gym for his OT workout.

When OT was over we headed to the second floor terrace. Grandma and Grandpa were here and so was one of Jackie’s cousins and her husband. It was a little chilly but we stayed outside long enough for Jackie to enjoy his Magnum bar. We headed back inside and said our goodbyes in Jackie’s room. We struggled with keeping his casted leg elevated in his wheelchair so moved him into bed early. Jackie enjoyed relaxing without any distractions for a while and then watched some of the World Series before nodding off.

Jackie continues to amaze me with his strength and his will to do whatever is necessary to get better and back to the life he knew and loved. The three Ps, prayer, positive thoughts and patience, continue to guide me and keep me on track. There are days that I lose sight of them. They are like the smallest letters at the very bottom of the eye test chart, but something inevitably brings them back in view.

“Patience and Diligence, like faith, remove mountains.”
~William Penn


Tuesday, October 28


Not counting getting ready and taking morning meds, Jackie started his day having breakfast with Becca. He spent a little bit of independent time with some of the other patients and then headed to PT. His work out in the gym consisted of stretching, transfers and standing balance. While standing, a tall mirror is wheeled in front of Jackie. It has a shelf at the top. Jackie must put bean bags one at a time on the top of the shelf while trying to maintain his balance. As Jackie continues to work on walking, standing balance is just one of the key factors for success.

Lunch with Becca was next. Her strategy of introducing new foods slowly is working as Jackie’s swallowing function continues to improve. PTL  Even though he ate some lunch he still received some nutrition with his noon meds. We made sure Jackie was able to rest today. His therapy after lunch is more productive when he has some time to relax prior to the session.

Paula picked up Jackie and they had a jam packed session. They stretched, worked on bed transfers and sitting and standing balance. They also teamed up for a short while with Erin and walked a short distance, then finished up the session practicing putting on a shirt.

Jackie had made it through yet another day of therapy. A trip to the second floor terrace was in order as well as a Magnum bar. We were blessed with another beautiful fall day and the sounds of the city helped bring the outside world in.

Jackie’s break had to end as it was time for more nutrition and afternoon meds. Since Jackie was too tired yesterday we were never able to connect with Lindsay. Today we called early. Jackie was able to talk with both her and Florent. Jackie’s voice was not as strong as the last call but I think it was because he was still in his chair vs laying in bed. Ultimately for Jackie just hearing their voices is enough to lighten his mood.

Becca had ordered a dinner tray for Jackie and based on the fact that he was tired we decided to eat in the room vs the dining room. Being in a busy environment can be too much stimulation even when Jackie is rested. After he was done eating it was time for a shower and then bed.

Today, please take a moment to count your blessings. Not just the big ones, but the ones we take for granted like standing, walking and eating without any cues on how and when to swallow. Our lives can be filled with so much more joy if we just have the right mindset to let it in.

“I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.”
~Martha Washington


Monday, October 27

Monday Monday

It was Monday, the start of the hustle and bustle of the rehab work week. It was time to get back into the daily routine. Jackie spent a half hour with Becca and shortly after headed up to the fifth floor for an early PT session. Erin had reserved the electronic stimulation bike or stim bike. Jackie rode this once before and enjoyed it. They wheeled his chair up to the pedals and then strapped in his feet. The electronic impulses are given through small patches strategically placed on different muscle groups from the abdomen on down through his left leg. The more Jackie was able to use his left leg, the less electronic stimulation was felt. It was a great work out for his muscles and brain.

After a little break, Jackie had lunch with Becca. He consistently need less reminders while eating and is continuing to work up his stamina. PTL Time got away from us and we realized there was no time for a nap. Jackie reclined in his chair and rested as best as he could. Paula picked him up for OT and they worked on many things including stretching and standing. Paula also made minor adjustments to Jackie’s wheelchair.

Even though Jackie was very tired he pushed through knowing it would be an early night. We went to the patient dining room next door and sat at the table closest to the big bay window. We all ate together, things were starting to get back to normal. PTL

By a little after 6pm Jackie was in bed. He was exhausted from a day of therapies and no rest but had pushed through. We watched a little TV but it wasn’t long before he was asleep. There are many necessary interruptions throughout the night, but going to bed early would ensure a decent amount of sleep and rest. Overall it had been a good start to the week.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
~Arthur Ashe


Saturday, October 25 – Sunday, October 26

Weekend Update

Saturday and Jovie

Eleven o’clock could not come fast enough. We were all so excited to see Jovie. Luckily Jackie had two therapy sessions in the morning which helped keep our minds off the time.

Jackie started the day with Jenna and Recreation Therapy. Jackie had the choice to play several card or board games or the Wii. It was a no brainer, he chose the Wii. He played Jenna in Wii bowling and only lost by a couple pins. He continues to get better at using the controller and seems to really enjoy playing. PTL. Shortly after Jenna’s session Jackie headed to the gym for PT. We had a therapist who was new to us but has been with Magee for years. Her experience was obvious as she stretched Jackie and even helped him take a few steps.

The rest of the day included the usual med and nutrition intake and of course Jovie. I went down to the entrance to meet her and our friends and was greeted with a full frontal attack of fur and love. She cried and I was hugging a piece of home that we all miss so dearly. We went up to the room and the furry greetings continued. She constantly amazes us with the care she uses with Jackie. She puts her front paws on his knees and gets her head as close to his as she can. It was interesting because, the entire day she tried licking Jackie’s left hand open. This is the hand that stays clenched most of the time due to spasms. Even though Dr. K joked and said it was because she thought he had a treat, I truly believe she sensed it was an area that needed healing.

It was a beautiful day so we spent time on the terrace and in the room. Two patients in particular wanted to see Jovie and it felt as if she was on her first service dog mission, even though she is not officially certified. It was great to be able to bring a smile to other patients faces. She was so good and gentle with all of them it was amazing.

The day went quickly as it always does. We had to say goodbye to her and our wonderful friends. It is a long day for them and we so appreciate their willingness to help us stay connected.

Jackie does not have much to get excited about these days, but today the smile on his face lit up the room and he too could feel the warmth of home just by seeing and petting his dog.

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”
~Roger A. Caras

Sunday and Football

Recently we have gotten to know another family at Magee. They are in a similar situation as their 19 year old son is in the room two doors down from Jackie. We have been trying to get the guys together, so we decided to watch the Eagles game. We were able to use a larger room on the floor with couches and a large screen TV to watch the game. They are Eagles fans as well. We were all decked out in Eagles gear and had a great time together, despite the outcome of the game. Jackie made it the whole way through until the beginning of the fourth quarter, which was huge. Even though he hardly spoke, he seemed to enjoy the ‘family’ type environment and watching the game with someone his age. It was a great day!

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”
~Lou Holtz


Friday, October 24


Typically when you or a loved one is in the hospital you don’t use the phrase TGIF unless you are getting discharged. Weekends and weekdays all blur together into one giant block of time that doesn’t seem to have an end. Today was atypical. We were celebrating the fact that it was Friday because our furry family member Jovie was coming for a visit tomorrow. We had just seen her two weeks ago, but the fact that we would see her again so soon was a bonus and something we could all look forward to. With that said, we still had to make it through today to get to Saturday.

Jackie woke up hungry and was able to eat all of his oatmeal for breakfast. Becca saw him for half a session of speech in the morning and then planned to see him again for lunch. In between he managed to fit in a Magnum bar and then spent some time with other patients in the community room.

Erin has been working Jackie hard in PT and today was no exception. They went up to the fifth floor and had a workout on the treadmill. After several walks Jackie got off and did more assisted walking down the hallway. It was a good session. Immediately following PT he ate two helpings of soft meat and some mashed potatoes with Becca. PTL Erin’s session had worked up an appetite.

After a rest he headed to OT for some stretching. Then he worked on sitting and standing balance as well as scanning to the left. Paula also adjusted his left arm brace. Jackie is to wear it as often as he can.

After meds and some nutrition we headed to the terrace for Jackie’s second Magnum bar of the day. Then we went up to the room and settled in to the shower, shave and bed routine.

As the days tick away our thanks continues to build for the love and support we have felt from all of you. Someday thank yous will hopefully be written, but
until then please know how much we appreciate everything. PTL

“Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting.”
~Haruki Murakami


Thursday, October 23

Eight Months

February 23, 2014 will be a day we will never forget. It was eight months ago today that Jackie’s life took an abrupt turn. There is no reason why this senseless act of violence occurred. It is unthinkable and devastating. If any of us would have been told that eight months later Jackie would still be in the hospital, we wouldn’t have believed them. Our iPad which was new when Jackie’s journey started is now maxed out on storage with pictures and videos that chronicle Jackies recovery. While Jackie was at therapy Jim and I went through the videos to see if there were any files we could quickly delete. During the process we realized how far Jackie has come. He has made it through some really rough times. His body, so frail at times, made it through countless surgeries and infectious setbacks and had so many foreign tubes, drains and IVs we stopped counting.  What he has experienced is more than anyone should have to endure. Your prayers, positive thoughts and support have helped him make it through and we can’t thank you enough.

Jackie began the day having breakfast with Becca. He ate all of his oatmeal and had a couple sips of juice. PTL He transitioned over to the community room for his independent time and played a card game with other patients. He interacted well and even laughed at one point during the game.

In PT he worked on standing, sitting and walking with Erin. She said that his standing was very good and keeps getting better and better. PTL

Lunch was next with Becca. He continues to eat well on the restricted diet. Becca is keeping him on it as it is easier to eat and is helping to increase his stamina and improve his swallowing slowly but surely. After he was done eating he napped or should I say he rested.

Paula was off today so Brian came and picked up Jackie for OT. He stretched Jackie’s muscles and used electronic stimulation on his left shoulder. They worked out to the sounds of Usher and had a good time.

The rest of the night consisted of meds, Magnum snacks, mashed potatoes and frozen yogurt. Then is was time for a little TV and then bed. Putting the eight months aside, we are very grateful for all the time we have spent with Jackie and we celebrate the hurdles he has been able to clear as he continues to head toward the finish line. PTL

“The more obstacles you overcome, the stronger you become. Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, you get stronger and more resilient.”


Wednesday, October 22

Hunger To Recover

This morning Jackie woke up hungry. PTL I sense his hunger has a double meaning. I believe he is truly ready to start eating normal foods again and I also think he now has a noticeable hunger to get better. PTL He knows that the harder he works, the sooner he will get home; and that is the ultimate prize. That will most likely mean more than any other thing he has ever achieved in his life.

Dr. K stopped by and examined Jackie. So far the mix of drugs that he is taking is starting to take effect and is showing positive results in his therapy sessions. PTL Jackie spent a half hour with Becca and ate his entire bowl of oatmeal and drank some milk. His independent time was next, and on Wednesdays he will be spending them with Lori the art therapist. Jackie did not feel like painting or drawing so the pair sat in front of the big bay window in the dining room next door and just talked. I’m sure Lori in her quiet, calm demeanor lead the conversation, but Jackie participated more than he has in a while. PTL

PT was next. Jackie’s muscles were stretched and then he took some steps. Erin is still helping move his left leg, but even with her help the movement trains the brain to help reconnect to the natural movement of his legs.

Lunch with Becca was next and once again he ate a good amount of the food on his tray. After eating we helped Jackie get ready for a nap. As soon as he laid down there was a knock on the door. It was Nessie, a little Shelty that is one of the service dogs that frequents Magee every now and then. Jackie had seen her once before in the gym. She stayed for just a short while, but her visit brought a huge smile to Jackie’s face and her little bark made Jackie laugh.

Grandma and Grandpa were here and sat with Jackie as he rested. Jackie atypically fell asleep so Paula agreed to push back her therapy session a couple minutes to let him rest. The session was productive and included stretching, especially his left arm. He came back with his left arm brace on. It helps hold his left arm in a bent position so Jackie’s muscles don’t pull it upward.

Jackie’s busy day continued with a second get together with his mentor. Once again they had a great time and played table top corn hole. Jackie won and really enjoyed the session.

As you probably have guessed, the night ended with a Magnum bar for an appetizer, mashed potatoes for the main course and another magnum bar for dessert. Then it was a shower and bed.

Jackie is really tired by the time 7pm rolls around every night. I’m sure he hungers for the night he can once again sleep in his own bed, one without rails and movable parts.

“Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it. Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way.”
~Les Brown


Tuesday, October 21

Routine Is Good

Today started with the normal routine of meds, a visit from Dr. K and getting dressed. Paula came in at 9am for an ADL session focusing on washing hands, brushing teeth, combing hair and all other typical hygiene tasks. Unlike those of us with desk jobs, the therapists get reality checks everyday and understand and appreciate the smallest things in life, like being able to put socks on without assistance. Now that Jackie’s glasses are helping with his vision it is easy to see that his brain not only wanted to forget Jackie’s left eye, but his entire left side. This left neglect is something that can be worked on daily. Paula continues to put everything on Jackie’s left to force the brain to see and react to stimulus on that side. She also sat with Jackie while he ate his oatmeal making sure he looks down to see where his spoon is going. Before his glasses, he would not even look down and just felt where the bowl was with his spoon. We are making progress. PTL

His independent time went well. The staffer who oversees the room is a very loving person and has put my mind at ease about leaving Jackie by himself. He has been playing some games with different patients and listening to his music or watching TV.

PT and the Vector were next. Jackie continues to have good trunk and head control while walking and continues to work on his left leg movement. Patience is key. Jackie went to the dining room with Becca immediately after and ate well. PTL We helped him get in bed for a nap and then he finished up his speech session with Becca using the iPad as a tool.

The rest of the day consisted of snacks, nutritional supplements through his feeding tube and more snacks. Jackie gained three pounds within the last week. PTL We stayed in the room, watched some TV and then it was time for bed. A routine but good day, we will take as many of those as we can.

“Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.”
~ Henry Ford


Monday, October 20


I’ve been reading some books during the night while sitting by Jackie.  This is atypical for me as I always have to be moving. Sitting and reading a book has never kept my mind where it needed to be.  Things have changed.  I guess when you truly find something you enjoy reading it will keep your attention.  Jim  downloaded the Kindle app on our iPad and we have added many books to the library, most TBI related and others about service dogs.  In one of those books there was a reference to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and it seemed to perfectly describe TBI as well.  It equates it to a snow globe. Everything gets shaken up and every facet of your life and physical being is floating in the air and out of your reach.  With hard work the pieces will come down, and recovery will occur, but the pieces will never fall exactly where they were. It is not better or worse, it is just different. Wishing for the ‘old ‘ you or loved one is the worst thing you can do. Accepting and embracing the new ‘you’ or loved one is truly a blessing.

Jackie’s day started with a visit from Dr. K and team.  We were excited to share Jackie’s progress over the weekend with him.  The morning then flowed into its normal rhythm of getting dressed and ingestion of morning meds.  Then it was off to speech with Becca.  When the two returned to the room Becca said it was a beast session. We told her she had to come up with another term since Erin has already claimed that for her PT sessions with Jackie.  Becca then quickly came up with rock star and that fit.  Jackie was very attentive and focused in her session.  He used all verbal responses and never had to revert to a thumbs up or down.  She decided to have Jackie try some of the oatmeal I used to make for him in the mornings.  When I dropped it off at her office I knocked on the door, opened it and Jackie immediately turned his head to see me and said, “Hi Mom.”  I know many of you hear these words all the time, but for me it was like I heard them for the first time.  Jackie is starting to come out of the fog again.  PTL

Immediately after speech Jackie had a follow up eye exam.  His prescription glasses came in and they seem to be working much better than the temporary pair he was using.  The doc confirmed that the prisms are forcing Jackie’s brain to recognize the left eye.  It is not an overnight fix.  It will take a while and many different lens updates until we ultimately know the extent of Jackie’s vision loss.  We plan to follow up with the doc in a couple weeks.

We took Jackie to the common area for his independent time, but he was there only a few minutes before Mark came to pick him up for PT, Erin will be back tomorrow.  Jackie had a good session mixed with stretching and a little bit of walking.  Even with the weekend stretching, Mark mentioned that Jackie’s muscles were tight. As Mark was wheeling Jackie out of the gym and through the fourth floor lobby he ran into Jim and I sitting with another couple. We had a surprise visit from two very dear friends of the family.  Gary was the preacher at my mom and dad’s church for a long time before he ironically moved to lead a church in Bloomsburg, the same town of Jackie’s university. He was a spiritual rock for us during the many touch and go days at Geisinger hospital and has continued to visit Jackie at Jefferson and Magee.  It was wonderful to see both of them!

Nana arrived shortly after and so did Visa, the service dog from Jefferson.  Jim and I took Jackie back to his room and let him visit with Visa and her human mom Jane. Jackie enjoys petting her, it relaxes him and makes him smile.  Two huge things when it comes to therapy.  After the visit we spent some more time with our visitors and then Jackie rested for a bit before OT.

He then took an early shower but returned to his chair for a mashed potato and gravy snack.  We watched a little TV and then helped Jackie get in bed for the night.

We continue to take things one day at a time, celebrating the fact that at each mile marker of Jackie’s marathon, more and more pieces are starting to fall into their new place. PTL

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami


Saturday, October 18 – Sunday, October 19

Weekend Update

Saturday started with Recreation therapy and Wii golf.  We used a family room on the floor with a large screen TV and as always Jackie enjoyed the time with Jenna. We then headed back to the room and Jackie ate a morning Magnum bar.

Before long it was time for PT.  To help make Jackie’s week day therapy sessions more productive, weekend therapy sessions have been scheduled to focus on stretching.  The goal is to try to keep Jackie’s muscles as loose as possible.  His left arm is always tight and stays in the bent position for most of the day.  It was so tight on Friday, that he could not even use the robot for exercises.  We all keep working with Jackie to try to tell his brain to loosen instead of tighten the muscles in that arm. Sometimes it works but unfortunately doesn’t last long.  As with everything TBI related, patience and time are needed.

Jackie got some noontime meds and rested.  He stayed in bed while a good friend from home and his Mom came to visit.  After some catching up we all moved to the terrace.  The guys had Magnum bars.  Jackie ate very well and I think that his friends visit had something to do with that. It was great to see them.

Later in the afternoon I did some laundry and the boys did some stretching.  The therapists have shown Jim the correct way to stretch Jackie’s muscles. It is not as good as if the therapists stretch them, but still helps in the overall picture to keep them as loose as we can for as long as we can. A shave and shower was next and finished up the night.

Sunday also began with Recreational therapy.  Before Jackie worked with Jenna there were some morning routines to complete including getting ready. It was amazing, on one occasion Jackie used his left had to hold on to the object so the right hand could take off the cap. PTL. Slowly but surely the left side is engaging. Jenna took Jackie up to the greenhouse on the sixth floor to paint a pumpkin.  Jackie was attentive the entire time and we brought the festive pumpkin back to his room.  Speech started in half an hour.  Jackie had met this particular therapist once before.  She decided to have the session in his room.  Since Jackie was hungry he decided to have a magnum bar during the session.  It was a great way for her to evaluate his swallowing function. When we found out that she was fluent in English and Spanish I asked Jackie to say something since he took the language in high school. He said, “Hola.”  Then I thought I would go a little further and asked him to ask how are you in Spanish and he did.  PTL

Due to a slight change in the schedule, Jackie went to the gym for OT immediately following speech.  Brian and Jackie focused on stretching,but also played the sports team logo matching game created by Pete, the past PT student at Magee.  Using this game made Jackie do some stretching of his trunk and arms to place the correct team name on the right logo.  It was another good session.  PTL

Jackie’s noon nutrition and nap were next.  We could tell Jackie was tired even though he did not sleep much.  We let him stay in bed longer than normal.  He actually started using the bed functions to raise and lower his head.  Getting comfortable is another story.  It is difficult to lower his left arm so it is always curled up under his pillow and he cannot bend his left leg when it straightens out.  We usually help reposition so he can sleep better.

After getting up we decided to go back to the family room to play Wii bowling and golf.  Jackie continues to get better at using the controllers and on screen commands, a sign that his gross and fine motor functions are starting to come back. PTL

We wrapped up the weekend watching some football and Comedy Central and eating take out.  Jackie enjoyed his mashed potatoes and gravy. The weekend revealed some progress in Jackie’s initiation and abilities. PTL We will continue on with prayers, positive thoughts and patience.

“A dream doesn’t become a reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”

~Colin Powell