Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Brian's Dad: Pressure Sore Preventing Recovery Therapies

For seven weeks now, Brian has been in treatment for a severe pressure sore which has him largely confined to bed, lying on his side & stomach--& understandably frustrated. We still do not know if he will be able to avoid plastic surgery or how much longer it will be before he can participate in recovery therapies at Race to Walk, where his paralyzed legs will be put into motion. We do know that severe pressure sores are very slow to heal & can be dangerous, so Brian must abide by the restrictions placed upon him.

Despite this, Brian’s attitude & demeanor are remarkable. I truly have my son back. He rolls with one punch after another with a quiet assurance, taking charge. The dry wit is back, often targeted on me (& I do give him plenty of material). Thankfully, he & his mom have a lot in common. Louane is able to stay steady & confident while helping him gain his independence. Her presence & demeanor are invaluable. As they always have, she & Brian make a great team.

Soon we hope to have a standing frame. The medical literature is well-documented with the health benefits that occur as a result of placing a spinal cord injury patient into a standing position on a routine basis; yet, insurance seldom helps. To some degree, so much of this seems to be common sense. Getting the body into an upright position & putting paralyzed limbs into motion all have well-documented health benefits. Dr. Wise Young of the Spinal Cord Institute at Rutgers University, neuroscientist & former principal physician to Christopher Reeve, commented on the importance of a using a standing frame. He said that the most important singular activity a paraplegic can do to keep their bodies readied for taking advantage of promising emerging therapies is to routinely get into a standing frame--& so Brian will.

Thank you for following this blog & for your continued concern & support for Brian. We will keep you posted. I also find it very encouraging receiving comments from you; thanks very much Sara Ficken for your recent note.

Kermit – Brian’s Dad

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Child-Like Faith

I have to admit that I've been struggling to feel a personal connection with Jesus these past few weeks for reasons I just can't articulate. I've been praying about it, really just asking God to help me feel His presence & His love for Brian, my family, & me. Honestly, the genuine plea of the father of a suffering child in Mark 9:24, "Lord, help my unbelief!," has just constantly been running through my mind.

These past few days, God has really answered this plea by showing His love through the outpouring of generosity of the women at my wonderful church in the surprise celebration of the any-day-now arrival of my daughter (Thank you all!) & the way he touched my son's heart as I have narrated for you below.

Also, as always I have to thank all of you not just for your support of my brother but for the entire family, mine included. Those of you sending notes of encouragement, etc. have no idea how much of a blessing there has been in your timing. Whether you meant to be or not, you were used to answer a prayer!

Anyway, yesterday Owen took a big spill chasing one of our poor dogs down the hall resulting in a big, fat, bloody, busted lip. After consoling my hysterical toddler, I went to start dinner while Owen & his dad crashed Matchbox trucks off of various household items. Here's the dialogue I'm told ensued:

O's Dad: When trucks fall, they don't get hurt. But people & animals can get hurt when they fall. Like Uncle Brian has a pretty bad "bump-bump."

O: Pray for Uncle Brian.

(O's Dad, slightly surprised as we do pray for Brian with Owen in most of his bedtime prayers but honestly it's been quite sometime, as in months, since either of us have prompted Owen about this specifically, proceeds to say a short prayer for Brian.)

O: (Nodding assuredly to his dad) Amen. Uncle Brian feel better.

O's Dad: (Walking into kitchen) Let's go tell Mommy what we just did.

Me: (Putting on my best I'm-so-excited-high-pitched voice while expecting, hoping for "pee-pee in the potty," quite honestly.) What did you do?

O: Pray for Uncle Brian. Uncle Brian feel better.

Wow. It was such a sincere moment, I felt my eyes well up with tears. I guess that's what the Bible means when we are told to have the faith of a child (Matthew 18:1-4). Who cares about that stupid potty anyway?

So, I'm not one looking for signs & wonders (Matthew 12:29), but I'm going to take this touching of my young son's heart as confirmation & answer to my prayer that Brian, life will get better.

Thanks to God & for how He uses so many of you in helping my unbelief!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Guest Post from Brian's Sister, Myra

Myra, Owen, & I had a great visit with Brian late last week & Myra, Brian's youngest sister, wanted to share some reflections on that visit with all of you...

Kara & I visited Brian this week. It was during this particular visit Kara & I made it our mission to arrange for some good ol' family time via a picnic dinner at Carmel Road Park. To prepare for this outing, we headed to the nearest grocery store to pick out an assortment of food. My dad decided to accompany us on this grocery trip to ensure we picked an appropriate dessert; I mean help watch my nephew, Owen (well, he did give Owen a few firm no's when he started punching each & every potato chip bag ;).

Earlier that day, a bunch of us had been talking about what defines people as people. One notion that came up was “walking & standing upright." Although I neither agreed nor disagreed with this statement at the time, I felt something tugging at my heart to scream out "No!". It wasn't until today that I understood why I wanted so strongly to disagree.

When I returned home, I thought nothing of the conversation & went about my business. That night as I prepared for bed, I felt a strong urge to continue with my current studies in Proverbs. Feeling tired & lazy, I chose to ignore that urge & instead opted to close my eyes & go to sleep. As I began drifting off for what I felt was going to be a great night of sleep; I was abruptly awakened. I would lie awake tossing & turning the next thirty minutes wondering why I was struggling to fall back asleep. Unable to fall asleep, I finally decided, okay, fine I will continue reading in Proverbs. Not feeling particular thrilled with my decision, I obligatorily opened my Bible to Proverbs. I began my studies “conveniently” where I left off last in Chapter 6 (For those familiar with Chapter 6, you might understand why I place quotation marks around the word conveniently. Part of this chapter explains how God expects us to use our time. He makes several references to sleeping. Specifically:

Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids (Proverbs 6:4).

How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep (Proverbs 6:9)?

(Well God's to answer that apparently was right now.).

Over the year, my relationship with God has grown. I have developed a more personal relationship with Jesus. It has been through this growth, that I have come to realize God is a funny guy. I find when I least expect it, God reveals himself in ways that make me laugh. To me, this is a strong testament to how God so desires for us to develop a personal relationship with him. God knows that for me personally, humor is a great tool. He knows that I respond well to it & sometimes uses it to teach & motivate me. He also knows that sometimes I need very literal examples to understand the deeper meaning of his words (Hence the irony of Chapter 6). Do I think God expects me to sacrifice sleep? No. But because of this literal example I now better understand what He really means.

I lay awake reading & studying Proverbs for about an hour, reading to about Chapter 15. As I closed my Bible, I began to thank God for all the wisdom He revealed to me through my studies. I also asked him, as he commands in Proverbs 7:1-3, to help me remember His teachings, to be able to use His teachings to uplift others, & bring them into a relationship with Jesus. No sooner could I say amen, my new found wisdom brought me back to that conversation about what makes us human. I, now, undoubtedly understood why I felt the way I did about standing upright & walking as a requirement to be human. I thought of Proverbs 2:6 & 10:

For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding...For wisdom will enter your heart & knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

It is with unwavering confidence I can say “walking & standing upright” does not define us as humans. All one needs to do is look at a monkey, a gorilla, or even a lemur to see they all have the ability to walk upright & yet they do not live as humans. Rather, it is our ability to make choices, to feel an array of emotions, to think, & to communicate that defines us as humans. No other creature comes even remotely close to having the ability to think & communicate with such a freedom & capacity as we do. But God knew this when He created us. That’s why He created a Bible & He's constantly showing us how powerful our own words are.

I know I still have a lot to learn & study, but nowhere in the Bible have I found where God talks about or even emphasizes the importance of walking. Instead I find over & over again how powerful our words are. Our words represent who we are, what is important to us, & how we think of others. Words have the ability to hurt people, to uplift people (such as those kind, encouraging, hopeful, & prayerful words which so many of you have graciously provided for Brian & for us), to bring people closer to or further from God. Proverbs is full of such reminders:

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (12:18).

An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up (12:25).

The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit (15:4).

In this world, I agree walking & standing are important. Our infrastructures are designed based on that functionality. I see this especially as I witness the struggles my brother will face with a wheelchair & I am excited about some of the technological advances that will make mobility more of a reality for him, hopefully in the very near future. However, just as my brother's paralysis is not made for the kind of world we live in neither are we. We are worth more & made for so much more. God shows us that we are to live our lives based on His teachings & not on what the world values (2 Corinthians 1:12). However, in order for us to do this we must have faith in His Son & His promise. Webster defines faith as "something that is believed with strong convection, without question." Unfortunately for many of us our desire to want to have all the answers to our questions before we will believe & the desire to have complete control are the biggest obstacles to faith.

Loyal blog followers will recall that as Brian still struggled to survive in ICU, my dad clung to God's instructions in Proverbs 3:5, ones that continue to be relevant to our coping everyday of this journey.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart & lean not on your own understanding.

God doesn’t expect us to understand everything all at once. He doesn’t want us to waste our time trying to find the answers in life without Him or for us to put hope into things that don’t involve him. God wants us to instead use our time to work on developing a personal relationship with Him & to learn to trust Him. That's why Proverbs 3:6 tells the rest of the story:

In all your ways acknowledge Him & He shall direct your paths.

God teaches us over & over again, particularly in Proverbs, that only through this kind of commitment will we gain the wisdom needed to understand.

To close, I leave you with Proverbs 10:25:

When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.

God never promises us a life here free of disappointments & struggles. One look at the indescribable suffering of many innocent that surround us will confirm that; however, what He does promise is an eternal life free of all the horrible stuff.

As I closed my Bible that night, I asked God, “Do you think You could spend some time teaching me a little bit more about Proverbs 3:24?

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down your sleep will be sweet.

A literal example of this teaching was very much needed for my understanding... ;)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Guest Post from Brian's Dad, Kermit

Below my dad wanted to share a little bit more about some of the day-to-day experiences on the road to recovery with Brian (Brian, if you ever read this post please note that these comments are totally unedited--so any & all eye rolls, etc. should be directed specifically to Dad. Thanks. ;).

However, before the below-misadventure begins, on behalf of Brian & the entire family; thank you so much to all of you for all your generous support through gifts made directly to Brian, my parents, & through NTAF.

We have made the PDF of Brian's appeal letter available for anyone interested in printing & sharing with others who may have an interest in helping or soliciting financial assistance for Brian as well.

I am also discussing with my Dad the possibility of starting his own blog to continue sharing some of the day-to-day encounters of this ever odd couple. I mean, heck, he's on Facebook now, why wouldn't he have a blog, right?

So, please stay tuned...

In no way can I come close to duplicating Kara's writings in this blog. Not only did she pen Brian's initial steps on his long road towards recovery, but she's provided a testimony for our Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ.

Kara is nearing the projected date for Faye's (our granddaughter) arrival. So for the time being, I (Brian's Dad) will share with you Brian's recovery efforts. I do so believing that others seeking hope for recovery from paralysis will find this epic beneficial. My belief of at least partial cures for paralysis is not emulating from a grieving father desperate for hope. Rather, it is based upon hours & hours of research, venturing into the worlds of neuroscience & bioengineering. God willing, Brian will be successful in his recovery efforts against tough odds as will others via emerging therapies. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

First Father-Son Outing:
As Brian & I neared the entrance to Harris-Teeter, I wondered if he would cling close to me. The answer came quickly--it was as if the checkered flag had been waved. I barely caught a glimpse of him as he wheeled deep into Aisle 2. A glimpse of my reflection in a mirror offered a reasonable explanation. Was it me or Christoper Lloyd ("Back to the Future") staring back? I had dressed for my best impression of a crazed scientist or an old man recently escaped from confinement. Unkempt with much too long white hair was accented by my attempts to pass off bedroom slippers as real shoes. I much prefer sweat pants to slacks and yes, pulled well high as was the custom in the 1960s. My t-shirt read: "in the absence of horizontal thermal advection, diabactic processes determine precipitation type" - "geek speak" for will it be rain, sleet, or snow?
Okay then, I would keep my distance. However, Brian's whereabouts were easily traceable from his dropping items into our grocery basket--Fruity Pebbles, Vienna Cream Cookies, Edy's frozen lime Popsicles. As his items continued to fill the basket, the thought occurred to me--was he testing me in public? Would this crazed looking old guy tell the well-kept & nice looking young man in the wheel chair, enough already; put it back!

For our next outing, maybe a remote public park where no Fruity Pebbles are in reach would be a better venue? Maybe you all have ideas for Brian & Kermit's next outing on Brian's road into the future & on toward recovery?

Friday, May 1, 2009

In Memory of Savannah

Just wanted to inform you all that little Savannah passed away early Thursday morning.

Thank you so much to so many of you who inquired about her periodically & prayed for her & her family.

Please continue to pray for Savannah's family as they process such a tremendous loss.

If you have moment, I encourage you to read her mother's post about Savannah's passing:

What a comfort to know that this special little girl is in no more pain & with her Savior...

What an amazing testimony of faith this family is for all of us during such a time of grief & tragedy...

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).