Gosh! I reread the update that I posted on Monday, March 27th and life is already so different. Of course, you won’t be able to read this update until Mr. Webmaster returns from his far off and fabulous vacation, but I wanted to keep the news rolling while it’s fresh on my mind.
Tuesday morning, the 28th, I received a call from the admissions nurse at Shepherd. She is actually the same one that evaluated Danny at North Fulton Hospital before he was accepted at Shepherd for the PREP program. She asked the routine questions and informed me that she would be faxing the information over to our medical insurance provider for their review. She encouraged me not to worry that it is customary for our petition to go before the insurance company’s medical director. I certainly did not expect to hear from her later that same day.
As I answered the phone, I was nervous that insurance had quickly slammed the door on Danny returning for acute rehabilitation. Actually, she asked me if we could get Danny there on Thursday morning at 9am for readmission. I was shocked to say the least, but thrilled at the same time. Nothing could have wiped the smile off my face for the rest of the day. I felt like the Lord had opened the door and let me peak inside at what great things He was about to do for us.
When I got home and told Danny what was going to happen, it didn’t seem to really sink in. Then, when everyone else got excited, he got scared. I’m not sure what he thought was happening, but it scared him since he didn’t understand. Like I said previously, I think Danny is beginning to comprehend that there is something wrong with him. He has asked me numerous times why he can’t remember things. He doesn’t like being stuck in the wheelchair and doesn’t get why he can’t just get up and walk.
After much assurance from me and his family, Danny has grown to understand that he is in the right place for now. The staff at Shepherd can help him more than we can at home. Danny’s first day was a whirlwind of meeting his therapists for the first time, again; meeting the doctors and getting him settled in his room. As the day passed, he seemed more comfortable staying there which put our minds at ease. I called at 5am to check on him and they were giving him a bath. In the background, I could hear how pleased he was with them for waking him up so early. Needless to say, they were receiving a dose of the “love” we heard from Danny at home.
I spent the majority of the day with him on Friday. It was nice to have some alone time with him. It was a rarity at home just due to the circumstances. He was glad to see me and told me that he had missed me. We met with the neuropsychologist and she asked Danny a series of questions. He knew where he was and understood what they do there. When asked about the positives in his life right now, he replied first that he can eat and secondly because of me. It was precious. Like a child, he speaks whatever comes to his mind so there is no agenda, just sincerity.
Friday afternoon, Danny’s speech therapist Jennifer, performed another swallow test to see how far Danny had progressed. I was able to accompany Danny to the test and prayed the whole time. When Jennifer was finished reviewing the test results with us, she asked Danny what he wanted for dinner. He said he wanted pizza and coke and she told him that she thought he needed to order it! I started crying and asking her a ton of questions. So, the greatest news is that Danny is no longer on a restricted diet. He can eat and drink whatever he wants! Praise the Lord! No more tube feedings and he is even swallowing his medication in pill form, not crushed! And, that was only his first day!
Danny has done fantastically with his eating and drinking. He seems to drink anything that is put in front of him. I can not imagine how good it must feel to have something cold on in your mouth after months of nothing. He feeds himself and is now able to swallow his medication with liquids instead of applesauce. We’re hoping to get the feeding tube removed next week as it is not necessary anymore. Praise the Lord!
On the weekends, the patients are given a reprieve of therapy. The basic schedule is that patients are up at 7:30am, eating breakfast at 8:30am, lunch at 12:30pm, dinner at 5:30pm with therapy sessions and rests throughout the day. Danny receives all three therapies twice daily in 30 minutes blocks. With TBI patients, it is important that they get ample rest as they tend to tire easily. Saturdays, patients receive one type of therapy in the morning and Sundays, there is no therapy at all. During the week though, it’s nose to the grindstone and they wear him out.
In Danny’s first day of physical therapy, he graduated from the tilt table to the standing frame; another weight bearing contraption. Aren’t we glad that we never invested in a tilt table? Anyway, I saw Danny push a soccer ball with his left foot and when they put him in the standing frame, I was able to look up at my husband for the first time in months. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get to him to give him that hug I’m longing for, but by faith, I’ll be able to do that without Danny having to have assistance soon enough.
Danny is also working on sliding from his chair to the bed or the therapy mats. They use what is called a sliding board. They place under his leg and the other end sits on the bed or mat and Danny has to push with his legs and arm to slide himself across the board and out of the chair. At this point, Danny does this with major assistance from the therapists, but I imagine that mentally, it is gratifying to him to not have to be hoisted in the air from one location to the other.
Occupational therapy allows Danny to begin to learn daily living activities; brush your teeth, shower and dress you, and participate in life independently. Danny has done well with assisting them with his shower; he brushes his own teeth and is able to spit. He now sleeps in a wrist brace for his left hand to stretch the tendons in his wrist and palm. He is moving his fingers and hand faster and faster each day it seems and his grip has gotten much stronger. It is slower coming along than his right hand was, but the point is that he is getting stronger.
A fun thing that Danny is doing right now is learning how to drive his new motorized wheelchair. It is part of his therapy, so he doesn’t get it all the time, but this week, he has done well spatially and has a good sense of direction. Yesterday, he had to travel out of the unit, down the elevator to the gift shop where he had to purchase gum for his occupational therapist, Allison. She chaperoned him and gave him the money, but he had to count out the correct amount of cash and receive the change. Allison said he did a good job. They also have used a virtual reality type device for Danny to learn how to reach and pick up objects and place them in an order. Danny’s job on the exercise was to lay bricks and arrange floor tiles; obviously something that Danny has done before. Dr. Kaelin said that he was impressed with how well Danny did.
Speaking of Dr. Kaelin, he was on vacation last week, so he is thrilled to see Danny doing so well and is excited to see firsthand how Danny progresses this week. Dr. Kaelin’s goal is to keep Danny there at least another four weeks. There are patients that have been there months and while I’m not sure how they get to stay that long, I’m encouraged that perhaps we can stay as long as Danny needs it.
Personally, I have seen a difference in Danny’s mental capacity. He has moments where you can tell that he is retaining information. He asks repeatedly what happened to him, why he is at Shepherd and when he can go home. I finally figured out that home means being with me and Corbin, but I have to tell him that home is not what or where he remembers it to be. He still thinks we have our own home. Danny is initiating questions which shows a thought process. Usually his first question to me is why am I here and when can I go home. However, the other day when I walked in he asked me how Corbin was doing. He has become attached to me and Corbin much more than he was at home and even asks me to bring Corbin to see him.
Danny told me the other night that he misses his life. I asked him what he misses and he said me and Corbin, his truck, our home and riding. Specifically though he said he misses the freedom of riding. He attached an emotion to the act which was good to see. I told him we’d talk about riding again some other time, but I was encouraged to hear him express that he misses his life. I assure him that while I want to have him home with us, it is short term sacrifice for long term gain. That has become our motto during this time at Shepherd.
I feel like this is the start of our life again. I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and my restored husband is at the end of it. Right now, I hope that Danny begins to become the man, the husband and the father again. For so long, he has been the patient, the baby, but now he has to grow back into the roles that he has been called to. We have to work at the husband-wife relationship again and Danny has to learn to be a father to Corbin. I long for our own time, our own life back; a family wholly restored. Whenever this is over, I plan on taking my family to some undisclosed location and staying for at least a month; no interruptions, no distractions, just us.
A few business bits of information; there is now an address that I’ll post for us on the Contact Us page. It’s P.O. Box 420735 Atlanta, GA 30342. If you’d like to donate, you can send checks to that address, but please make note in the MEMO section of your check “Diaz Benefit Fund” for your tax deduction. Also, the brochure for the Chopper Golf Classic is moments from being complete and I hope to have a link posted so you can print out the flyer and register to play or sponsor. If you have any questions about the golf tournament, you can contact Jason Warrington at firstname.lastname@example.org Again, the tournament is scheduled for June 14th at Bradshaw Farm Golf Club, so mark your calendars for a fun day of golf and prizes. If you’d like to volunteer the day of the tournament or if you’d like to donate services or giveaways, please contact Jason.
When I stop to think about how much people have gone out of their way to help my family, I’m utterly amazed by everyone’s generosity. Thank you for all the baby gifts, money, food, but mostly the words of encouragement to me and Danny. I know that the Lord is using this situation to touch many people and I’m humbled by His choice to use me and Danny. When all this is through, we’ll have to have one big party for everyone to celebrate what the Lord has done.
Many blessings to you all,
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