Friday, January 23, 2009

Getting Him Back

Brian's working so hard in rehab. He's faced with learning to gain his independence in ways so many of us cannot even begin to comprehend. He's trying hard to make sense of it all, see the potential for goodness in his loss, to grow his faith in & his understanding of the Lord. Thankfully & as can be expected from our God, I believe we see the Lord responding.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer & supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; & the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts & minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

As we continue to lean on Him, God continues to answer our prayers & grow our faith in His assertion that He is a kind & loving God, with a plan for all of us that surpasses all earthly knowledge & understanding.

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom & knowledge of God! How unsearchable [are] His judgments, & His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to him, & it shall be repaid to him again? For of Him & through Him & to Him [are] all things, to whom [be] glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:33-36).

Brian & my parents participated in their 1st medical treatment team meeting yesterday & like so many of you, the staff integral in his recovery (doctors, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, & the list goes on) echo a special fondness they have found for him too, though they can't say what exactly it is for sure that draws them to him.

I don't think I can either, but I'm going to give it a try:

One recent memory that embodies my brother was right after I had Owen & before Brian moved to Charlotte. I'm going to be honest--motherhood was (& still is) NOT a natural adjustment for me. Owen was a "high-needs" baby (the more pc term, old school baby books refer to this temperament as demanding & difficult). I was (& still can be) a very selfish new mom, so we were obviously not an ideal combination (Yet one that God uses to teach me so much!). I remember Brian calling one day to see how things were going & I burst into tears, (probably for about the 5th time that morning), told him how horrible the morning was & through snot-laden sobs rambled about how much I just wanted to eat & take a shower.

Not interrupting me even once during my lame fit of self-pity, Brian then calmly offered (in that way he can where his voice kindly implies he just doesn't see what the big deal is, the answer seems so obvious) to bring me lunch & watch Owen, though he admitted he had no idea what he was doing. He gets here with a couple of sandwiches, I cautiously hand him Owen, & run. When I finish cleaning up, I walk out to find Owen sleeping peacefully in Brian's arms...

Brian is genuinely interested in helping people. He has a presence & poise that often says a lot without him saying hardly a word. He has a quiet strength about him that impresses. He is loyal, respectful, patient, & supportive. He is a person, (& a male at that!), who actually listens. He always seems to handle intense pressure with amazing grace. He's also pretty darn funny too.

Yeah, so you might notice I left out athlete. Athlete has been a big part of his identity for so long & maybe it still will be when all this is said & done, but it doesn’t really define who Brian is anyway. Don't get me wrong, the natural strength & athleticism he possesses (that his nephew also shows signs of) are blessings that will serve him well as he heals & makes physical gains. However, when we all think about what it is that makes an impression on us with Brian, the word athlete just doesn't begin to cover was the exposure he got as an athlete that allowed so many to see these truly special characteristics, characteristics that remain intact to who he is & that I know God will build upon, no matter what the final package might be.

Of course, Brian's participation in the medical meeting? Apologizing for complaining too much. Apparently the team was taken aback with this response. First, I doubt many people suffering a spinal cord injury roll into their first meeting apologizing for feeling a little angry & bummed about things. I mean, Job repeatedly wishes he'd never been born while enduring all the tragedies he faced (Job 3 & Job 10). (So, even if you are a complainer, like I admittedly can be, thankfully God thinks no less of you when you take those concerns to Him). Second, apparently in the spectrum of patients with spinal cord injury--Brian's hardly what they consider a complainer. Need I say more about those parts of his personality that touch so many of us?

Brian already has such a foundation for God to use to touch so many lives. The more Brian comes to learn about & trust Jesus Christ, even when faced with situations as painful as his, we know that the Holy Spirit will work to grow those fundamentals of who he is into so much more.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Awakening

I think we can say this was the weekend the switch got flipped (For finding cliches annoying, I've resorted to using them a lot lately, yikes!). In speaking with Brian, it seems that honestly before Thursday, January 15th, his memory of anything starting with the weekend of the 12.14.08 car accident is spotty, at best.

It was intense to be there as he really just started to grasp circumstances we've all had the luxury of knowing & processing for a month now. My husband noted that though it's gotta be hard for Brian to have to accept our accounts as the most he'll ever know about the past month of his life (Um, you should have been dead, was repeated often, I think.), it's probably another blessing that trauma victims are not aware of much that goes on initially, as it gives all of us who need to support him some much needed time to get over all our issues & be that much stronger in our faith & answers to his questions.

He still remains in so much pain. From what I understand, almost every little bone in his back is broken in addition to the broken ribs & titanium rod to get used to. Don't forget, they had such trouble stabilizing him initially, when they investigated internally for damaged organs (via a huge incision in his abdomen, which miraculously, [per the OR doctor] revealed no spleen or sections of his pancreas had to be removed), there was severe bruising & fluid leakage that also has to heal. Despite the severe & ongoing pain, he's trying his best to cooperate with eating & therapy exercises (Exercises that only make him hurt that much more as he works core muscles in ways he's never had to.). Some medically good news though: he did get the trach out Friday! He's got an annoying patch over his throat but that will most likely be removed & healed next week.

Anyway, with the awakening, we said goodbye to Julio. I think Eliana bringing her mom on Saturday prompted Brian's request for the tools for a good shave. He did a super job, given the junky razor he was provided & looked quite handsome this weekend, I think.

Brian also got moved into a different room (with the view of a fabulous concrete patio--one possibly covered in snow tomorrow?) & his cell signal's better so go ahead--text & call away--but don't get him too distracted from his therapy (bossy older sister kicking in, sorry)!

I want to continue to thank you for all your visits & support. We've told him so much about all those who have made their love & prayers known on his behalf but since he's only running on memories post 01.15.09, now's the time to remind him you're here. That said, here's how to reach him once again:

Visiting Hours:
M-F 4-9
Sat-Sun 12-9

Mailing Address:
Brian Keeter, patient
Carolinas Rehabilitation
1100 Blythe Blvd
Charlotte, NC 28203

As I said, he's trying to stay motivated to work through the pain but it's really hard for him. I know so many of you are busy but I'll be honest--if you can spare some time to come & see him, please do, especially during the week (Though weekends are fine too!). He's such a respectful guy, that if he knows people are coming to see him, even if he's been up in the wheelchair for the minimum the therapists request him to, he'll fight through the pain & stay up to visit with a friend, which results in much needed strengthening for him in this recovery (unless it's past dinner, then he's understandably done with the chair for the day ;). Also, if you can think of any food he might eat, feel free to pick something up--for you & him to eat together. The hospital food honestly isn't bad but...

Though he was hurting intensely, particularly on Sunday, he agreed to a field trip out of the rehab center, down through the underground tunnel, & into the main hospital cafeteria for lunch with about ten of us. It's probably been the most "normal" thing he's done thus far & it was great to see him surrounded by people who care so much about him having "normal" conversations. Definitely a highlight from the weekend.

As always, it was so hard to say goodbye but I know he's in good hands with Eliana, my parents, his Charlotte friends & family, & those of you who always seem to find a way to drive down for a visit during the week--& most importantly through building a relationship with the God who saved his life.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9).

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).

I spoke with him on the phone for just a moment this afternoon & was encouraged by his determined attitude, one I know God is providing as an answer to Brian's & so many of our prayers.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Meet Julio

From the bits & pieces I got today, Brian seems to have had a pretty good day!

He was awake & upright for most of the day, which is a leap of progress from where he was even just yesterday in terms of working through the pain. Maybe, just maybe, he's seeking the Lord, who implores us to place upon Him so many of our burdens (Matthew 11:28-30)?

(It also reminds me of a daily devotional I read earlier this week that I get from RBC Ministries. This one, entitled The Bible's School of Prayer gives a few short Biblical examples of how God wants us to be honest with Him in prayer, even when we're angry, complaining, & asking that's a loving God!)

Before today, my parents were having a hard time getting him to stay sitting up in the wheelchair as long as the therapists wanted him too. In fact, I forgot to recap a funny story from the other day:

I called one afternoon earlier this week to see if I could catch him. My mom answered & though he was in the room, she didn't hand him the phone because he was in so much pain & wanted to get back in bed. Being the sassy (Bossy?, Any other adjectives you guys, Brian, Leah, & Myra? Wait, don't answer that...) older sister I'm probably known among my three siblings to be, I said you might as well put him on, what else is he going to do? He definitely told me he was in a lot of pain. He even got so frustrated with how much he hurt, that he told me he had to go, handed my mom the phone, & wheeled himself out of the room to find someone who would help him get out of that chair. My mom had to let me go so she could follow him!

(But he is a very good brother & remembered to call me back the next day.)

My dad's approach to getting Brian to stay in the chair has been a little different but quite effective as well. He used to play this role with us a lot when we were really little, I've seen him do it with his neighbor's small children & with his grandson now too. He'll feign dumb to get a rise out of small kids & decided to try that route with Brian when he was hanging out with him in the chair. When Brian started asking to go back to the room to lie down, my dad continued to "get lost" on where Brian's room was, getting Brian deeper & further into the bowels of the building till Brian got so fed up, he wheeled himself in the right direction. Whatever works, right?

Apparently, the physical pain is the biggest hurdle he's facing right now...dealing with not just a spine injury but all the other broken bones & such from the accident. For those of you who've been in a hospital situation where you are asked to rate the pain...this will help put it in context...Brian seems to stay at a constant "8," which the medical folks say sounds right for someone with his injuries. Their goal is to get him feeling more like a "2" before he's released. I just can't imagine being on that high on the pain scale all the time.

I've been able to talk with him on his room phone a couple times now this week & the fog seems to just lift that much more each day as well, such a blessing! He continues to have greatly supportive visitors, both in Charlotte & from all over, coming to see him. Some visitors last night & today are answered prayers that I know are planting some great seeds to help Brian make sense of all of this (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). Eliana, in addition to bringing some of these seed-sowers, also brought him some Chipotle Grill last night, which he apparently ate quite well...& he even still ate some breakfast this morning. So, we know he's trying hard to work through all of this!

Julio, Julio? What does that have to do with anything. Not much really.

I heard he & my dad got (matching, uh oh?) haircuts at the hospital today though apparently Brian is growing a "Mexican-esque moustache thing" that he's not quite ready to let go of just yet. Eliana says she's calling him Julio till it goes. So, maybe, just maybe we've still got some more fog to lift, after all.

I know Myra, Brian T, Owen, & I can't wait to spend the weekend with Julio or Brian...Nos vemos manana, Jul!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Sleeker Model

Brian continues making needed progress. He had the smallest trach inserted today, which most importantly means he is breathing all his own air through his own mouth & nose. If all goes well the next two days, the trach will be removed entirely!

My dad said it well: In about a month, Brian went from countless tubes (while on the brink of death) to needing no tubes. For you, when you read this Brian--God is being faithful to you!!!

Though he wasn't happy about it, he spent a good two hours in the "sleeker" wheelchair today, one that doesn't recline like the monster truck model does (for dizziness, which he didn't have at all in the sportier version today). It really hurts his back because it provides him with a lot less support but it's the progress he has to make in order to move on with his life. He swears he's not getting in it again but thanks to trauma fog & such, we doubt he'll remember when they get him to do it again tomorrow.

He still doesn't like eating, though I know he ate an entire meal for Eli the other day (& drank half of that awful Ensure they're always sticking on those plates, now that's a miracle) & my dad got him to eat a good breakfast and some lunch earlier today after not doing so hot on this assignment yesterday.

From what I hear, he seems to be growing more aware of what's going on each passing day & in a more depressed, frustrated sort of way. They are trying to get him interested in doing some things other than just watching tv & hope to have his laptop up & running here soon.

Brian remains so blessed to continue to be the recipient of such generous outpourings of support...a fairly steady stream of Charlotte & Raleigh visitors, financial donations, & nameless other vital provisions meeting his numerous needs.

Speaking of outpourings of support, thank you all for your prayers, comments, & support for little Savannah. My heart has been so touched to see those of you reaching out to another family in need of your love. It has honestly been one of the high points of this current step in Brian's recovery thus far.

Savannah is hanging on, they think her most recent severe episodes were the result of septic shock, which can be fatal though hopefully they've caught it soon enough for it not to be so. The doctors also are becoming more convinced it is an underlying mitochondrial disease. They are sending a frozen sample to be tested at a larger hospital, which isn't quite as accurate as a live sample, but a start. Savannah just isn't stable enough to travel to the out of state hospital that specializes in this sort of thing & her family will have the financial burden of the testing & travel to consider when the time comes as well.

I've been reading a little bit recently on the biblical perspective of suffering. Now might be a good a time as ever to share one verse that really speaks to my husband & me.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials (James 1:2).

Greg Laurie gives the example of Paul & Silas to help us understand what it means to have "joy" in trials.

Paul & Silas were traveling, preaching the gospel, & starting churches. They ran into trouble when sharing the message of Jesus Christ resulted in some shady business guys losing their means for profit. They were beaten severely & basically chained in a dungeon.

Rather than sit there & curse God asking him, "Why?," (Which is what I probably would have done initially.) they chose to pray & sing hymns Acts 16:20-25 (You really ought to link to the whole story, it's a pretty intense, but quick read from start to finish).

The point?

Having joy in trials doesn't just happen. It isn't because Christians freakishly look forward to trials; however, what does make us different is that we have a hope, a hope unseen by those living by the standards of the world (Romans 8:24), which is probably why we might look like freaks sometimes.

It is a:
Hope not seen but known in a Loving God who sent His Son, saved us, & in this gift comforts & sustains us (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). Hope that lives in us every day through the Holy Spirit, bringing us joy & peace (Romans 15:13). Hope that draws us closer to Him in mind & in our actions, providing for our every need (James 1:3-6).

Yes, Hope sustains. Hope brings us joy, even in trials.

I know Savannah's family would agree, that it is a blessing to have support from others seeking to maintain the joy in life's trials.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Helping Others

Brian continues to show such strength & heart as he endures this transformational journey!

The big medical news this weekend is they anticipate being able to replace his current trach with an even smaller one with the possibility of getting it out entirely perhaps by the end of the week!

He had some visitors this weekend too. In addition to his faithful Charlotte regulars, including his good friends, my aunt & uncle, & of course Eli, he also had a couple more Raleigh friends come down for the weekend. Leah also spent a good deal of time with him, just hanging out with her brother & getting my parents to take a much needed break.

Leah was so impressed with his recovery, mostly with his attitude. When they ask him to do an exercise, he nods his head, & asks how many reps. He fights through the pain written silently across his face. All the while, he continues to express concern for friends & family, saying that he just wants to help other people. To hear his selfless perspective while he endures learning how to do things we all take for granted & that he could do even a month ago in addition to all that pain, is such a blessing from God. More often than not, when I hear beautiful outcomes, such as the one I believe we are witnessing in Brian, & from tragedies like his, I find the Lord to be the cornerstone of almost every single one of them.

Leah also said that he loves having each & everyone of you visit. In fact, at one point, he even told Leah since no one else was visiting him, he was just going to go to sleep! Almost immediately following, his good friend & his friend's girlfriend, who have be such constants at his side since this whole ordeal started 12.14 walked into the room & Brian changed his mind. Now how's that for timing?

God continues to show that He is such a powerful God that He is able to work Goodness even through circumstances like these. Our wonderful, wonderful church—Calvary Chapel Cary—one of the Calvary Chapels nationwide who base Sunday meetings on worship & study of the Bible precept upon precept, line upon line (Isaiah 28:10), is wrapping up a detailed study of Galatians. Galatians was written by Paul in response to false teachers trying to pull churches in the region away from the message of God's gift of Grace into a message based more on following rules. One of the points Pastor Rodney explained from Galatians 6:1-10 is how Christians, knowing His Grace, are called to bare the burdens of fellow believers & to do good to ALL, especially other Christians in need.

I have noticed a growing & quite diverse following of this blog. There are some of you concerned for Brian & wanting to know how he's doing that stop here frequently (some who appreciate my Christ-driven perspective & some who just tolerate it, I'm sure ;) & then there are some that have been brought here not so much for a relationship with Brian but as source of encouragement in dealing with their own life sufferings. It is so wonderful to see that God already is using Brian's situation to minister to others in need.

One of the families falling into the category of both those concerned for our family & experiencing serious trials of their own, is the family of a former colleague of my father's & his daughter, who I hung out with many years ago. Jennifer's nine year old daughter & this well-respected coworker of my father's granddaughter, Savannah, has been in the hospital since around Christmas I think, with rare, serious, and life threatening complications of celiac disease. Her family has been close to losing her at least twice now & the doctors still can't pinpoint what exactly it is that is causing Savannah to stay so sick, speculating possible mitochondrial disease. Jennifer has been keeping a blog on her daily status,

Jennifer sent me a picture of Savannah today & I can't tell you what a beautiful little girl she is. I can't even comprehend what Jennifer & her family must be going through, especially because I know that Jennifer's constant vigil at Savannah's bedside takes her away from her other two children. To see suffering in children so young especially, I imagine there aren't words to adequately describe how much more it hurts.

In the spirit of bearing each other's burdens & in respect of Brian's expression of a desire to help others already, I want to ask you to consider this family in your daily prayers. We will just continue to be faithful & hold fast that God will provide & take care of Savannah & her family in the way He knows is best, even when we simply cannot understand.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Inspiration & Encouragement

"I have wasted too much time in life doing stupid & trivial things, I want this to be a life changing event for the better."
Brian Keeter, 01.09.09, day #2 in Rehabilitation

(Well, that & request to his mom for Cheerwine--seriously.)

If we didn't believe already that Brian was chosen to be spared by & for the Glory of God:
the progress he's making, the ways he's already blessing others, & how others are blessing him & his family are all proof that we know we serve a kind & loving God!

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose, Romans 8:28.

Brian's physical strength: The rehab doctors already acknowledge he comes into this process with strong upper body strength & were quite impressed, for example, with how well he did today doing weighted arm exercises (pull downs of 25 lbs. with each arm) from his chair. Remember, this is after almost three weeks in bed, with too many bones broken in his back & chest to count, & a titanium rod in his spine, just to name a few battle wounds.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to [those who have] no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew [their] strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint, Isaiah 40:28-40:31.

Brian's mental strength: Though he still comes in & out of the fog often, he's more & more lucid everyday. Not only, but he's having some very reflective responses when dealing with the specifics of his adjusting to the loss of his legs. His first comments are often thoughts of concern for some of his family & friends--implying worry about how their lives will be impacted with his disability or just a general concern for their well being too.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power & of love & of a sound mind 2Timothy 1:7.

His dad broke the news about the paralysis when Brian asked him quite directly the day before he moved into rehab, "What's the plan?" while motioning towards his legs.

His dad explained what he knew:
Through the kindness of God, his life had been spared. There would be & already was good from this. He assured Brian he would be as strong as ever in his upper body & a quality life awaited him.
He then told him what he didn't know:
We don't know to what extent you legs will work again. But we do believe that your legs will improve over time from what they are now. No one can predict to what extent.
He then explained his bottom line:
Just trust in God & work hard.

(My dad so missed his calling as a football coach...says his son-in-law, my husband.)

My dad also requested I re-post visiting hours:
M-F 4-9
Sat-Sun 12-9

Brian had some visitors stop by yesterday evening & today. The visitor I told you all about the other day, the one God pressed upon me to call (Yes, I know it sounds freaky but once you really listen to the Holy Spirit, there are a lot of things you feel led to do & not do, though I always seem to stupidly do the ones even when told not to do them too.) that I found online, stopped by to see my brother today.

Byron, it turns out, works for Joni & Friends in Charlotte. I won't go into too much detail, you should check them out, but it was started by Joni Tada, who was made a quadriplegic in a car accident over 40 years ago. They are dedicated to "communicating the Gospel & equipping Christ-honoring churches worldwide to evangelize & discipline people affected by disabilities." Byron brought a lot of materials for Brian to help him adjust, shared his own personal story of overcoming adversity & defying the odds to have more use of his body than originally diagnosed, & plans to go back & visit again.

More people making the drive from Raleigh & the surrounding area also came by. I know a few others, including his sister Leah, have headed down there this weekend also. Many thanks to all of you for your continued support!

For those of you unable to visit, you may send cards to the following address:
Brian Keeter, patient
Carolinas Rehabilitation
1100 Blythe Blvd
Charlotte, NC 28203

My dad also investigated the internet connectivity issue & learned that sometime next week Brian should have access to email (they'll set up his laptop in his room) & his cell phone. Just don't expect to text with him as liberally as you may have before--he's got a lot of work to do!

Though he's only starting to grasp what lies ahead & I know this next year will be filled with innumerable ups & downs, I have to share some more of my personal testimony. God has been so faithful in answering our prayers to give Brian strength, peace, comfort, & hope. I know the Holy Spirit is moving in Brian's life & I hope you all will see this, & seek Him too. It's all you have to do to start.

But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find [Him] if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul, Deuteronomy 4:29.

God has so freely offered Brian two very special gifts. Without a doubt, it is by God's mercy that Brian's life was spared. His life was spared to allow him to be saved by receiving God's grace through his son Jesus Christ.

Finally, I came across this scripture as I read the Bible last week before going to sleep. It spoke to me so deeply for Brian's situation & to hear his outlook today, (I know there will be ups & downs, who doesn't have them in life even without a life changing event such as this one? Though conquering those by our faith in God are what it's all about.), it's just another confirmation that God is at work in his life & in all of our lives as they cross paths in concern for him right now:

For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come, 1 Timothy 4:8.

I know! There is something in the Bible about everything--who knew!?!

Don't get me wrong, Brian will have to work hard to get the quality life we know he can. However, just as God brought him even this opportunity, God will provide Brian all things he needs to get through this process & to this new life.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Starting Rehab...

Brian currently is wrapping up his first full day in rehab!

They "wheeled" him through the tunnel yesterday evening & after another restless night, they put him right to work this morning.

He got to shave himself (which couldn't have been any worse than the job Dad did on him in ICU--no offense, Dad) & even comb his hair. I guess the side part is no longer. Wonder if he'll let Brian T. give him a haircut? It's no Mitchell's look but, hey, it's in the budget.

Though I've yet to visit the rehab hospital myself, I hear it is the building next to the hospital. They keep him pretty busy during the weekdays, about six hours of therapy during the week & two on Saturday. I'm told that though he has constant visitors (aka, my parents), he'd love to see some with less gray hair & those who are a lot more fun (Did that get the point across you wanted, Dad? About how you count but not really? Of course, I'm jesting about the not counting part--we all know the constant dedication & commitment my dad shows to his son & his recovery. But the cooler visitors--on that one, I'm totally serious.). Brian's pretty tired & still coming out of the cobwebs from the trauma (I remember one of the first nurses changing one of his IVs the first night he was in ICU called it "milk of amnesia"), but once he gets his bearings, he enjoys the company.

The visitors schedule:
M-F 4-9 pm
Sat-Sun 12-9 pm

He had a good friend come from Raleigh to see him yesterday & another one from Charlotte stopped by last night. Eliana continues to be so amazingly supportive & always seems to get the Brian we know & love to come out for a little bit. We love you & thank you, Eli!

Today he spent a good amount of time rolling himself around in a monster truck wheelchair. He hasn't gotten the sleek model yet, as this one allows him to recline if he gets dizzy, but my dad said he did well, more out of a desire to get out of his room than anything. He did send some people & other wheelchairs scrambling on some of those tight turns down the hall. Rookie. Guess he'll work on those again tomorrow. I'm just impressed he had the strength to do it after all the time he's been stuck in bed.

He's not much for eating, who would be with all he's been through, but of course it's important that he does. Well, bring in Mom. She got him to eat a dinner of phenom proportions compared to earlier today. Apparently the trick, in addition to being the Mom she is, is to give him one bite that's really equivalent to, say, 12.

On a more serious note, we still don't know where Brian will end up in terms of the final outcome. Again I just have to share how much murkier of a process this is than I would have ever imagined. He has a lot of therapists working with him--not just for the trauma to his legs. It's almost like a reset button has been hit & he's lost some time that they have to help him regain & readjust to--some of those more day-to-day sorta things. This apparently is pretty normal for what all he's been through & even just getting up & moving in a routine seems to take care of a lot of it already.

I got to speak to him on the phone today to tell him that he's got a niece coming in June. He said he was glad to hear that Faye (It is another small miracle that we're having a girl as my husband & just don't agree on boy names & we've got enough to focus on right now without wasting time on that discussion!) was healthy, especially because we had a major health scare with our son when I was 20 weeks pregnant that probably laid the foundation for my faith in Jesus Christ that continues to help me make sense of all this too. Another story for another post, perhaps.

Anyway, I have to say that, though he's got a lot of work ahead of him, he continues to defy odds with how rapidly he progresses--which is a good thing because insurance companies these days sure don't like you to stay put in the treatment you need for very long! Though, again, something for another post, perhaps.

I made contact with the Spinal Cord Injury Support Group point person today in Raleigh to start looking at where we go from here in terms of resources & how to get him some emotional support from people who've been there & she was great. Apparently, Raleigh has great support group, so I'll definitely be at their 1st meeting with 100 questions later this month. My parents also learned of the Charlotte chapter. Ironically enough, these are the only two areas in the entire state with this resource (When I say ironically, I really mean continued blessings from God, for those of you haven't caught onto the subtle spiritual undertones of this blog--forgive me, I'm feeling punchy tonight ;). The Charlotte group meets next weekend so my parents are excited about that. As Suzanne in Raleigh told me this evening, there is no manual for this stuff--though Jamie said & I agree that we're going to write one with Brian when this is all said & done.

An even more immediate blessing is this wonderful man who used to run a support group in Charlotte that I called today as well. Though his group no longer meets, he wasted no time contacting my parents & will be going to see Brian on Friday. He was injured 20 years ago at the age of 14 & even invited my parents to see the custom built home he & his wife live in now. I know my parents are so excited for Brian to meet him & to meet him themselves as well.

I just can't help but think about how what all of us are experiencing with Brian in this crisis envelops completely what Christ came to teach. One of those many times someone was testing Him to see if He was who He said He was:

Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments [is]: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This [is] the first commandment. And the second, like [it, is] this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:29-12:31)."

First, we give such glory to God for his merciful sparing & healing of Brian.
Second, we say a prayer of thanks for you all everyday. We continue to be so touched by all this love & support for Brian & our family, especially when we all know that the journey is just beginning.

At this point, I have to say, it's like the actual accident itself was the easy part but I have to find such comfort in all the Goodness that has come out of something so seemingly horrific thus far...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Getting Out but Feeling Broken

Such great news I was waiting to share but I just can't wait any longer...

Brian's been deemed medically ready for rehab! We learned that over the weekend but weren't sure if there was space, so I was waiting to be sure before I shared the news.

God provided an immediate room for Brian & he'll move to the rehab center as soon as the insurance does the prototypical approval of the treatment. I would expect that to mean he could be out of there as soon as this evening but no later than mid-week. Once he's set up, I'll let you all know where would be the best place to send him personal well wishes & cards.

My dad took the night shift last night & Brian actually seems to be dropping some of the out of character nocturnal fondness he'd recently developed in favor of getting some sleep (Though, I don't know, his girlfriend is from Columbia & seems to have brought some of that out of him. ;). My dad said he did really well considering all the fluid he continues to rid from his lungs through a painful, frequent cough. That's what typically what wakes him up.

He had some more visitors today--my aunt, uncle, & cousin have been helping my parents with taking part in the 24/7 shifts now, in addition to everything else they continue to provide for our family. Even family of friends from Raleigh drove up to help today too.

He's still eating okay & they had him sit up for awhile again today but he's really not digging it. He doesn't say much & when he does it's evident that he's starting to become aware of the severity of the situation & loss of his legs, though he doesn't want to be. He's pretty frustrated & standoffish right now. What compounds the situation is the fact that all of this is manifest in the shock involved in recovering from such a level of trauma & the fog from all the whack medications they give him for pain & agitation.

It's hard. In my stupid little head I had it be so much more black & white. He'd be in ICU, he'd snap to, & they'd move him to rehab. It's so much grayer than that. He's becoming aware of things but he's still too medicated to know what he's thinking & he's not really into talking much at all. How do you support someone in this situation??

Jamie's post on 1/1 is a good one to look back to for guidance but it's still hard. I don't know how to best support him really other than to do it. I know many of you are getting back into the swing of things following holiday time off but if you can find time to come out & support Brian, now's the time to do it. Please don't take the disclaimer about how he's feeling to mean the contrary. My dad pointed out that so many of Brian's friends say that some of his greatest qualities are his ability to listen & convey ongoing support (Interestingly enough, nothing that has anything to do with his also amazing physical abilities). Now is the time that he could use the same from all of us.

I can also say, knowing one day that Brian will read this, that his recovery isn't just for him. It's for so many others. He's touched so many lives & God is giving him this opportunity to touch so many more & show His Goodness & His Glory. Statistics obviously mean nothing in his situation, leading one to conclude that any comfort or answers found in them are false.

We have to continue to have faith that God will continue to provide defiance of the odds for Brian. We also have to continue to praise Him, taking comfort in all He continues to provide for Brian & for us as a family as we try to adjust. Every step of the way God has been faithful, has blessed him with better than expected outcomes, & given us more support than we'd ever have dreamed. We have to take comfort in Our Savior because He shows us that statistics aren't where the true answers lie.

Myra & I visited Horizon Christian Fellowship in Charlotte yesterday & the message was so personally touching. Pastor Terry told of the story so many of us have heard in Mark 6:30 where Jesus makes five loaves (of barely bread that only poor people would eat) & two fish (the sardine, salted kind again that only poor people ate) into enough food to feed 5,000, maybe even more. What have never occurred until I heard his teaching was how the people were fed. Jesus didn't give them the broken food, He gave it to the disciples to give the hungry & tired followers. The broken food is more than symbolic of His sacrifice for us, it's also symbolic of how when we've been broken, He can work through us to share His Love with others that much more. We have to see the Glory through Brian's current feelings of brokenness & the potential he has to reach out & touch others that much more in his recovery.

Please continue to let Brian know how much he's reaching out to you, how much his feeling broken is inspiring you to believe in him & the God who heals him.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Get Me Out

Yesterday Brian's sister Myra & I headed to Charlotte as his sister Leah headed home. Switch shifts, I guess. The staff like for family to be present 24/7 at this point in the process to ensure the patients receive adequate care.

We know how tired our parents are (though they don't like to admit it) & are trying to let them let us give them a break. Thanks to all of you who continue to visit & who offer to help with the 24/7 schedule.

Leah spent most of the day with him yesterday & though I haven't yet spoken directly with her, the nurse assistant said Brian gave her a rough (but loving, of course) time. I've even heard rumors he had her in a headlock!

Myra & I got to the hospital that night & Myra spent the night with him. Nights are his most restless hours but he did well for his little sister.

I had the wonderful opportunity to spend the day with him. My husband stayed home with my son (the longest we've ever been apart, my 17 month old & me!) so I could spend a good deal of time with Brian this weekend.

I couldn't have asked for anything more from Brian today. He's getting better & better at leaving on the trach plug. Apparently, a lot of times it takes patients awhile to get used to it because plugging the trach slightly makes them feel anxious in their breathing. With the plug in, this means he can talk. So, talk we did. We,ll for Brian. Many of you who know Brian know he can be of few words (I mean, he did grow up with three sisters). So, I consider it huge progress to do what we did. We made some phone calls to Mom & Dad, Eliana, & Owen, telling them hello, bye, & even threw in some "I love yous" (VERY huge from him!). This of course, is between his regular requests for "help" & "get me out."

He's constantly looking for someone to jailbreak him from the hospital. When he realized Myra was no worthwhile accomplice in this mission last night, he gave up & moved onto me. Once he figured out I wasn't there to do anything other than make him stay awake so he'd actually sleep at night (honest doctor orders), he fell asleep & wouldn't wake up (Cold washcloths were of no assistance--not even the guy who came in & cleaned the floor with the industrial cleaning machine was waking him up.). When he figured out his friends that came by today really didn't have the car ready & waiting, he told us as the nurse walked out of the room--"I'm going with that girl."

Between the medications, we get a glimpse more & more of our Brian. He shot Myra last night (at her insistence) with the Nerf dart gun Leah gave him. He got so annoyed with the nurse & me this evening, he kept pulling the sheet up over his head.

On the flip side, he cooperated quite nicely & ate three wonderful meals (Though I got his back--those apples, half those eggs, & that banana cake looked absolutely horrid--no way was I making him eat that stuff.). We were able to leave his hands unrestrained ALL DAY & he didn't pull out a single thing! Even the nurses commented on how well he was doing today, even just compared to yesterday. He even was drinking on his own & making less of a mess than I did trying to help him!

Don't tell Owen but Brian was much easier to look after--there was a lot less crying & he's not nearly as messy!

His tiny room (& is it tiny) was filled with more kind gifts since I saw him last--cards, angel ornaments, clothing, an ipod speaker dock (which came in handy playing full blast recordings of Owen, one strategy in the Must Keep Brian Awake arsenal today), Gatorade, & more.

The doctors had nothing but positives to say. His heart looks good, he's eating well, he's really getting strong at clearing out his lungs, the trach plug isn't bothering him, & more. They anticipate another move down, up, however you see it, in this long process in the near future.

One final note--I just spoke to Myra, who is taking the evening shift before Eliana comes with dinner & a movie, & the conversations she's having with him now are smoking what he had with me even 12 hours ago. They've been talking about what to watch on TV, how much his back hurts, & that he's hoping he'll find out he has another nephew when I go to the doctor on Wednesday...

It never hurts to say it again, so I will:
God is being so faithful to Brian through our faithfulness in Him!

We continue getting answers to so many burning questions that always point back to the miracle He gave us in keeping Brian alive & giving Him this chance to redefine himself & make such an ever greater positive impact on those around Him.

I love how Pastor Rodney so succinctly explained the relevance of the story of Paul & the "thorn in the flesh," (a "thorn" that literally translates to a tent stake) in 2 Corinthians Chapter 12:

God ALWAYS answers prayer. He says yes, no, or wait. When He says wait, He wants you to keep asking, which in turn draws you that much closer to Him.

So keep drawing closer to God!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A New Year's Message from My Friend Jamie

(The following is a guest post timely with the New Year. The post below this one also is new today & gives you the update on Brian's move into a different, less traumatic, I guess you'd say, level of the trauma-icu floor today.)

To the friends & family of Brian...Happy New Year!

I am Kara's new friend, Jamie, & the sister of her (Kara interjects: absolutely wonderful) employer...that's how we met. My sister asked me to connect with Kara when Brian first got in the wreck because she knew that my being a nurse, medical social worker, administrator--plus--having had a catastrophic illness four years ago that caused me to have to retire & live temporarily in a nursing home at 50 years old (K: Which I understand took a lot of self-advocacy & work to get released from)--might make me somewhat (K: more than somewhat) of a resource for the family during this traumatic new experience. And so, for the past couple of weeks Kara & I have been passing resource information & suggestions back & forth. Most all of what I know I learned from being a patient and not from years of college, a wall of degrees or licenses & 30 years of experience working in the field.

Last night was New Years Eve & I thought about my experience & Brian's future. I wanted to be able to tell all of you some things that would make it easier for him & maybe even for yourselves as you struggle to make sense of what happened & how to best support him:

Today we set up our 2009 calendar, most of you probably did the same. I am going to suggest that you take out your 2009 calendar & choose one or two days each month (for the whole entire year) & on those dates write "GO VISIT BRIAN." I say this because in the beginning I had tons of visitors, but they slowed down & eventually some people stopped coming over all together. For those people who truly can't visit or who just want to do something else in addition to, write "SEND BRIAN A CARD" at least once each month for the whole 2009...& then DO IT!!!

Another thing to think about in a couple of months is finding things you can do with Brian while you're visiting. At our house we make pinatas for charities to sell (K: Well, I don't know about pinatas, but I do know Brian has always flitted with the idea of being a Big Brother, maybe something with's a start ;). We also weave newspapers into mats for the local no-kill animal shelter. Why am I telling you this? It is VITALLY IMPORTANT that people in Brian's long road to recovery are also on the GIVING end of charity. So much gets given to us that we become lopsided. It's important that once Brian works through grieving the loss of his old life he finds worth & possibilities in his new one (K: I think even making sure he knows what a blessing he has been & continues to be in your life right now is a great start!).

It's hard when life changes completely & everything you knew & did just suddenly is totally different. Some days it's really difficult to find the meaning & feel any connection with others.
Brian's situation is a little different than mine...he's younger & once we learn the extent of paralysis & he gets some rehab he will have all sorts of future possibilities... heck, he'll even likely be able to go back to college free...that opens endless potential. But first he'll have a long road of therapy, learning his new way of life, & how to make things work. It will be easier if friends & family stick by for him. Don't expect him to begin making motivational speeches in February...he might still be angry yet then. It will take some time. It always seems hard to watch families & friends want to rush us, with the best of intentions, through the grieving processes--even knowing every stage is necessary to get to the other side & resolve in an emotionally healthy manner (K: So many of you have been so good on this touchy subject already, thank you.).

Well, that's enough of my philosophy on the subject.

In summary:
  • Take care of yourselves.
  • Make a visiting shift schedule for the hospital.
  • Mark your calendar for future visits so that you commit to staying consistent.
  • Be consistent in telephone calls & cards.
  • Help Brian find meaningful activity where he GIVES to others at some point.Read up on grief & accept his reactions as they happen.

I hope you have a wonderful new year. Thanks for letting me into your lives.


Moving Day

Brian officially relocated. He's still in trauma icu but he's been demoted, promoted, I don't know how you look at it--either way--the medical team feel he's a lot stronger & in a lot less need of immediate care. They placed him a room right across from the nurse's station & are still monitoring much of his vitals.

I know the visiting hours are different in this part of the still 11th floor but I don't know to what extent. I do know the staff continue to be generous & flexible with Brian & visitors so the move should not impact visitor allowances at all. I also think my parents are forcing themselves to take these other visitor time for breaks. I have only an idea of how hard this is for them both as I miss being with Brian constantly as my brother & I can only imagine what I'd do if he were my son. I almost think it is harder to relinquish some responsibility & control than to try & maintain it. This is where I have to thank God that He's in control & once you truly come to know that His will is for an ultimate (& oft unseen to us because it's beyond here) good, you can receive some much needed freedom in that trust & realization.

He had some New Years Eve & New Years Day visitors...his super supportive Charlotte friends brought him a cheeseburger last night & I hear he had a lovely lunch of pasta & green beans with Eliana today, though the tea & apple juice weren't quite as tasty. She said she kept trying to make him eat more to the point he kept pulling his blanket over his head & hiding. It's so great to hear that he's eating pretty well & showing some personality. A friend Eli brought from Durham today even got one of B's killer fake smiles.

A couple of other friends also made the drive from Raleigh to see him for a little while today. It is so encouraging to see that Brian's support continues to grow the further along he comes, he's going to need it. We continue to get such outpourings of help, we know we are all going to need it.

His heartbeat still looks good, which they were pleased to see, as some ongoing irregularities can be expected. He's still on a lot of medicine for the pain & still spending a lot of time sleeping.

My mom said they've finished the book of John & moved onto Matthew. Matthew was the tax collector who Jesus asked to follow him, tax collectors often skimmed off the pot for themselves & were pretty much despised by the general population as much as prostitutes. People thought Jesus was nuts for hanging out with people like this but that's what so great about Him--He didn't care. He just wanted to make life better for anyone willing to ask for it.

Anyway, Brian pretty much sleeps peacefully when she reads, given the agitation we've witnessed up until this point, that's a good thing! He still passes time trying to get at the tubes but apparently they are letting him spend a little less time restrained. He's also still trying to talk but it seems it might still just be a little too early.

I've got a great guest post I'm going to put up here shortly. It's quite timely given some folk's propensity to making resolutions right now, though admittedly, I'm just not one of those resolutions people...