Saturday, February 28, 2009

Release Date: 03.03.09

Assuming nothing monumental happens over this weekend, Brian is set to be released from Carolinas Rehab on Tuesday, March 3rd, marking the end to an 80-day hospital stay. Though he's understandably daunted by leaving a world where wheelchairs are the norm for one where they are anything but, I think at the same time he's grown weary of the hospital setting.

Again, I have to constantly remind myself to look back to day 1 of this 80-day journey so far & thank God for even getting us here. It doesn't hurt to remind him & all of us, especially when we feel so bummed out by what he's facing & how he's feeling, that he shouldn't even be alive. God has been so faithful in answering our prayers & giving Brian outcomes greater than ever anticipated by so many medical experts thus far.

I pray everyday that Brian will come to see how God has interceded in Brian's life in answer to our prayers (he honestly has no memory at all of more than half of this extended hospital stay) & encourage Brian to experience first hand what God will do for him--not just physically but even more importantly, spiritually--as he comes to lean more on Him as well.

[Through] the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. [They are] new every morning; Great [is] Your faithfulness. "The LORD [is] my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!" The LORD [is] good to those who wait for Him, To the soul [who] seeks Him. [It is] good that [one] should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the LORD (Lamentations 3:22-26).

I really love those verses. Really, really do.

Next week, Brian will be moving into a small, one bedroom apartment not far from the hospital to try life in Charlotte the next few months. His dad & other family members will most likely be spending a good deal of time with him initially (yes, in a one bedroom apartment--yikes ;), helping him adjust & get settled. From what I understand, with the help of one of the doctors, his dad arranged for the complex to install an iron gate that will close off the apartment's small patio so that Rocco (his Rottweiler mix--the dog that was supposed to be so tough but is about as dopey & lovable as they get, sorry Brian, had to say it ;) can spend some time there with him also. It's been a long time since Rocco & Brian have been together--reunited & it feels so good, right?

Thanks, as always, to those of you who have already been so helpful in securing some much-needed items for Brian's apartment. Though he had been planning to move in with a friend before the accident, he had been staying with family in Charlotte for awhile trying to secure more steady employment in commercial real estate, so he definitely appreciates the assistance in equipping a place of his own.

This move truly marks a new phase in Brian's journey, one we can expect to be rocky, at best, for quite sometime, particularly for the first year. The hospital stay was all about rehabilitating him from the trauma of the accident & learning how to live with paralysis--no easy tasks, no doubt--but also nothing compared to the recovery journey that lies ahead.

Once released, Brian will be taking part in ongoing outpatient therapy meant to help him regain as much use of his lower body as possible given the severity of the spinal compression--the true initiation of recovery. Most of his therapy will continue at Carolinas Rehab in Charlotte. Unfortunately, insurance & Medicaid only pay so much of this process, most insurance companies consider their responsibilities complete with the discharge from rehab & successful transition to life in a wheelchair. Thus, the rest is often left up to the patient to find a way to cover.

Thus, he & his dad also will begin looking into what programs are available both locally & nationally to help him really recover what he's lost. I'm sure Brian's dad could tell you a lot more than I can, but in summary, for now they are leaning towards exercise-based therapy programs founded upon the premise that the spinal cord is a much more intelligent organ than given credit & that getting people with paralysis out of their chairs & moving in ways they used to helps it remember how to do a lot of the things it forgot.

For those interested, here are some examples of programs & facilities that offer the sort of things they would be looking into:

Project Walk (San Diego, CA)
Shepherd Center (Atlanta, GA)
Race to Walk (Mooresville, NC--& just a cool story about an NC family who recently started this program after experiencing their own paralyzing catastrophe).

Brian also will need access to some rather expensive & specialized equipment, once again, not often covered by insurance. Once he & his dad get settled this week following his discharge, I hope to post more specifics on all of this for all of you so generously wanting to help.

Of course, I also will be sure to let you all know how the "roomies" are doing.

Finally, I must say thanks once again to all of you for your ongoing support & prayers for Brian, these gestures are so incredibly integral to his difficult recovery journey.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sprung for Valentine's Day

This weekend was another visit of ups & downs, I think. Probably the unexpected course to expect for the next few months (at least) as Brian & those who love & support him continue to adjust to life with a spinal cord injury.

Initially the rehab center planned to release Brian mid-February; however, last week they decided to keep him until sometime next week. I'm hesitant to state dates because they are constantly changing (& he hit a couple minor health snags that should be resolved before that time but if not, will postpone his discharge) though I'll be sure to let everyone know when that release date does actually seem approaching & concrete.

In the meantime you can continue to reach him through the Carolinas Rehab Hospital though be sure to check with the front reception desk for his room. He was moved to another room last week (One they first planned to place him & three other patients in--he & his dad quickly advocated for that situation & were able to secure him another private room.) as they begin massive construction in this part of the facilities.

Owen, Brian T., & I got in to Charlotte in time to get Brian out for dinner in the main hospital cafeteria along with a high school friend of Brian's who stopped by on her way out of town Friday evening. Brian seemed in decent spirits, it doesn't hurt to watch 18-month old Owen go screeching, toddling, screeching, running, screeching, falling, screeching, & jumping through the long tunnel you take to reach the main hospital building (It's those great echos, I think.). And though a rehab gym isn't high on many people's most exciting places to be list--let me tell you--it's a veritable gymboree heaven for a toddler, especially playing with his grandpa.

Brian had planned to spend most of Saturday morning apartment hunting in Charlotte with my parents & aunt. He was understandably pensive about how it was going to go--getting in & out of the car for frequent stops & for the 1st time with a wheelchair. Unfortunately, some pretty severe pain issues (more severe than he'd experienced in quite sometime though his upper body muscles are in a lot of tight soreness from working them all the time) that morning kept the doctor from feeling comfortable to release him to go.

Though he was daunted by the realities of this outing, I think he ended the day more frustrated at the pain & setbacks than anything, which I think can be seen as good progress in his recovery & adjustment. Just last week, I don't think he was ready to leave the familiarity of the hospital setting, this weekend I noticed a much more intense desire to just get out of there & get on with it, even though he's not anywhere near the physical healing he'd like.

Given the cabin fever, Eliana, Brian T., Owen, & I--with Brian's full cooperation--sprung him for Valentine's Day dinner out. The rebels we were, we didn't even check him out (& funny enough when we got back so many staff who've grown so found of Brian were all quite excited to hear that he'd gone).

Given our limited options within walking distance of the hospital, we made our way to Outback. After an hour wait, we got a perfect table & had a very nice dinner, one where I think all of us sorta forgot all we've been through two months ago to the very day. Logistically, it wasn't even that bad to pull off. Admittedly, I found the glances at "that disabled guy" as Brian so poetically expressed it much more minimal & friendly than I honestly expected. I guess it helps that we don't see him that way anyway, I mean, he's our Brian.

All in all, I consider it a great success. I mean, we picked his 1st non-rehab related outing to be at peak dinner hour, on a Saturday night, on Valentine's Day no less! I think it was a confidence booster for him. If that went as smoothly as it did, maybe he just doesn't have so much too worry about after all...

(I do have a confession to make though--we left with a few items we did not start with: Owen stole the waiter's pen & Brian unknowingly lifted his table linen. We didn't notice the linen till we were clear out the door! Oops. ;)

Typically, I must admit that I do not care in the least for Valentine's Day, but this one was quite an exception. When your son comes toddling in out of nowhere, hands you a card & a box of candy, well, that's just heart-warming (Thanks, Daddy.). When you have the opportunity to go to dinner & witness the genuine love between your shouldn't-even-be-alive brother & his absolutely-amazing-&-adorable girlfriend, well, that's heart melting. Even Owen was so touched, I think he literally crawled across the table at least twice to kiss his "Uncle Sad." (Long story, reference the Said No Better post :).

It makes me think to of how there are so many references to God's love in the Bible--not just the New Testament. He repeatedly begs those in the Old Testament to turn back from their sinful ways & into His loving arms, that he'd forgive them but for whatever reason, we just can't do it. We can't do it but he loves us even still & so He's done it for us. That's why God provided us the sacrifice of His Son.

I know Brian is trying to reconcile his new life with the concept of a loving God. I think a lot of us impacted by Brian's accident, believers or not, struggle with the same thing. There are so many wonderful ways to explore this concept:
  • To seek out others experiencing suffering but also believing in God's love & purpose. For example, I read the FAQs on the Joni & Friend's web page in the car home yesterday (I previously & mistakenly identified Joni Eareckson Tada as becoming a quadriplegic from a car accident, it was actually a diving accident.). If not able to read the whole thing, please scroll down to the Disability & the Subject of Healing section. She's a powerful testimony for us all, no doubt.
  • To attend a church or listen to pastoral teachings that will help motivate & grow your faith. Any church that focuses on Biblical teachings is a great place to start.
Just to name a few.

The simplest one though? Just remember the cross.

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends...No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you (John 15:13, 15).

When you feel you've been dealt a rough hand in life, that life doesn't matter, & no one cares, all you have to do is bring yourself back to that cross.

Thank you all again for the love you continue to show Brian & our family. Please check back soon as I will be updating with information about Brian's potential upcoming discharge once we know more.

Also, so many of you have been insistent about wanting to contribute to Brian financially (& so many of you already have so generously given, especially considering economic circumstances right now). We are in the process this week of setting up a tax-deductible, medical-expense based account in Brian's honor with a highly recommended organization that will also work with those creative, ambitious, & wishing to facilitate various fund-raising events. The link to that information will also be posted here.

Finally, some of you may recall the little girl, Savannah, I mentioned earlier in the blog. She had started to show some signs of improvement & the doctors were appearing to possibly be closer to a diagnosis. However, I just learned that she is showing some more serious symptoms once again that has warranted replacing the breathing tube & putting her back into pediatric intensive care. As you remember & pray for Brian, please also pray for her health & for the strength of her family. Like Joni Tada, they are another amazing testimony of faith in God's will during incomprehensibly difficult situations.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Tough Decisions

Again, thank you so much for your ongoing prayers, love, & support. Brian continues to be shocked at the number of cards, care packages, telephone calls, & visits from people he had no idea cared about him so much.

Apparently he hosted quite a party the weekend before last in his little, tiny rehab hospital room & this weekend there was a steady stream of company as there always is during the week too.

Brian knows how fortunate he is to have you all encouraging him & as he would do, he's reached out to some other patients who aren't so fortunate, sharing his support & yours with them also (& a glimpse of that humor too, if you're lucky:).

Again, thank you, thank you, thank you! We cannot thank you on his & our behalf enough. Thank you!

He continues to do the rehabilitation placed before him--therapy helping him learn to be self-sufficient, comfortable moving himself, building back the strength he lost from being bed-ridden for a month, & the strength he'll need to adjust. His physical strength continues to be impressive & quite an asset for him on this seemingly incomprehensible learning curve.

They have ordered a wheelchair for him & finally got a temporary one to replace the chair he's been using the past three weeks. The one he's had to use was just horrible--didn't turn well, offered no back support at all, & I'm sure Brian could tell you more things it did wrong & didn't do right. I know the shortcomings of the equipment are 100% legit (I've seen it) but I also know the fact he's having to learn & plan to use one when he leaves is utterly crushing.

Mentally & spiritually, he is trying so hard & still working through the grieving process of his loss. We are optimistic that he'll continue to regain some sensation & use, but we know it will be a long journey & he'll have to focus on the other parts of life that are equally, if not more important, to helping him fully heal at the same time.

He'll tell you he has ups & downs. This past weekend was a little more full of downs but even his downs aren't as low as many of us would go. And again, who wouldn't have their moments?

We know he can have a full life without 100% use of his body & we all hope for the day he feels sure of that possibility too, but for now, it's almost harder to see him wrestle with this side of things than it is to see him have to endure the immense physical pain. He is trying to so hard to be strong not just for him but for all of us too.

Brian has a medical team meeting again this week & they are floating a release date mid-February. Of course, this is more insurance-driven than anything, quite a commentary on the state of health care in this country. A system that has unarguably has the best resources in the world & we still aren't nearly as effective as we should be in helping a person heal. Grrr, I digress...

At this point, he has decided that he wants very much to remain close to Eliana & continue/restart life in Charlotte. It's a brave decision as the resources to help him stay are even more limited than they would be if he came to live with family in Raleigh, speaking volumes of his determination to try & make the best of life post-accident.

I know he & Eliana mean so much to each other (& to one another's families) & honestly, I admire them both so much for the sacrifices they are preparing to make & the willingness to face so many unknowns together. As Brian has a long road still ahead of him, we thank you for continuing to make efforts to stay connected to him even when he remains in Charlotte. Please also pray that God's hand will be upon the medical team meeting this week as they explore options for Brian & that He provides Brian & Eliana with the strength & support they need as well.

On another note, we've learned of some helpful online resources that some of you all might find useful with regard to understanding the world of spinal cord injuries:

Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

Unite 2 Fight Paralysis
Brain & Spinal

One other important thing I wanted to share was another Days of Praise devotional that really spoke to me, particularly with regard to the difficult issue of suffering.

These free subscription email/snail mail devotionals are one of many things done by the Institute of Creation Research, an organization devoted to demonstrating the Bible's accuracy & authority through scientific research, educational programs, & more, particularly in how creation & science overwhelmingly point to the Creator embodied in the Bible.

Anyway, to sum up this devotional, Fitly Framed Together, & just to put it in the heads of those of you might end up reading the rest of this post but wouldn't dare click the full link ;):

When you enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you are given eternal life. Right there. On the spot. Done deal. No waiting till you get to heaven to see if you got it. No having to do or not do things to achieve it (John 17:3).

That said, we all have a special role we will learn of when we meet God face to face based on what happens here. In God's presence, we'll comprise His church. Paul uses the analogy of being part of a great building with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone in order to help us understand something beyond our realm in a way we can fathom (Ephesians 2:13-20) (A technique seen in studying the layers of the Bible & as a good friend of mine recently noted: Hello!?! That's why Jesus spoke in so many parables.).

Each stone has a special role in this building. Stones of various shapes, sizes, etc. are all vital in its completion.

In the temple building that's written about in the Old Testament, all the cutting, molding, & chiseling of the temple stones was done in the quarry, so only the perfected pieces were brought back to the building site for inclusion. That's what is happening here. We are being perfected into our special place as God grows our faith through life's circumstances & trials. When we leave here, we're ready to serve (Revelation 7:15-17).

That said, we know that believers faced with trials & sufferings, like Brian, are being asked to grow their faith & are going to turn out to be very important pieces of this temple--& rightfully so!

Sci-fi stuff for a lot of you, I know...It's like there's got to be forces at work here because those of us who so wholeheartedly believe this believe it as much as those who wholeheartedly don't, don't.

God's got a special place for each & every believer & that's what we're here to work on. This world is just preparation in a temporary setting for its application in eternity (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

I just take so much comfort in this, it's a comfort that grows with each passing day I spend time learning more about our God, & a comfort I pray will help strengthen & encourage Brian too.