Seven months and counting since Danny’s accident, my accident and your accident; everyone has been touched in some way. We’ve all experienced a piece of this whether it is that you merely call your loved one to say how much they mean to you or cry your eyes out for the loss. Grief is something that I’ve never spent much time pondering. I lost my grandmother twelve years ago and I miss her, but her death was a journey from life here on earth to life everlasting.
Grief is also the loss that I’m experiencing because of this accident. I lost what I thought was my life, our lives. Nothing will ever be the same whether it is better or worse than before. I wonder if time will always be measured by “before the accident” and “after the accident.” Is that how I’ll start all my stories? “Well, Danny used to do…” or “He can’t do this now.” I look at pictures from before the accident (see?) and I don’t recognize the couple in them. Those people don’t exist anymore. I feel like I’m expending all my energy just maintaining life instead of living it. But, how do I live when my breath, my life, my future lies in the person of Danny? Okay, let’s not over-spiritualize what I just said. Yes, my life is in the Lord; my purpose is to be an instrument to further His Kingdom. But, come on. You know just like I do that our lives are wrapped around the ones we share it with. You can’t blame me for that. Everything I do, I do for Danny and for our family.
Okay, sorry, I’m just in one of those moods. I haven’t felt like writing or calling anyone and even writing an update. Not that I don’t have news to share, but I wish I had more. I wish this were over and I could tell you all that Danny is walking, ready to go back to work, playing with Corbin and taking me out on dates. I wish I could share that we’re searching for a new home and we’ve been able to buy Danny the truck he always wanted. But, I can’t now. I can hope that I will one day be able to say those things and trust me, when I can, I’ll be shouting them from every roof top and writing it on every billboard in Atlanta.
Last Friday I watched Danny use a fork for the first time and be able to eat food that he had to chew; cooked carrots and a banana. He used the fork like he never stopped and had no issues chewing or swallowing. It is amazing to me how his mannerisms have remained the same. The first time I saw him reach up to his face and comb his eyebrows with his fingers, my heart jumped. It was Danny!
Anyway, we’ve been able to slowly add things to Danny’s diet that he has to chew. Lisa, his speech therapist, is planning on coming five days next week to really work with Danny on his chewing and swallowing. She wants him to work hard so that we can schedule another swallow test soon. Hopefully that means we’ll be getting that feeding tube out of this stomach.
Now, several people have asked me why he can’t have any liquids by mouth yet. Well, once you understand how your mouth works, you will see why he can’t have anything to drink. Basically, everything that went in Danny’s mouth used to fall back into this throat and make him choke, even his saliva. Liquid is especially difficult to control and is easier to choke on. So, the textured food that he is eating now, works out the muscles in his mouth and throat, but is less likely to make him choke. Liquids will more than likely be the last thing Danny is able to have by mouth. Make sense?
Physically, Danny has begun reaching up for a ball above his head with his right arm from the shoulder. He has also reached across his body to grab it from over his left side. So, we’re seeing more movement in his right arm. We’ve also seen some more movement in his left fingers. He can tap his left forefinger and open and close his hand. I’ve actually seen muscles in his left forearm. It is encouraging to see the left arm begin to heal. It is the same process that we saw with his right arm. Susan, the physical therapist has started to place Danny on his stomach during his sessions. His mother often asks me if I heard him yelling all the way at work since Danny doesn’t like it very much. However, he does very well with his head control and is able to push himself off the mattress a bit using his forearms.
Danny’s legs are getting better, but it is taking longer than I had hoped. He stretches more often and is more cooperative when we do his exercises. I can feel him resist and try to participate in the exercises. We’ve yet to get the tilt table and I’m about ready to buy one and then submit the claim. It’s almost been four weeks since Dr. Kaelin ordered the table and our insurance company has still not seen the order to certify it. It’s so frustrating sometimes when people don’t work as quickly as you hope.
Mentally, there are some small steps that I’ve noticed lately. It is very rare that he calls someone by the wrong name, even Corbin. He has also been able to learn new things such as the process for which we transfer him in and out of bed. He needs cueing most times, but is able to recall things that he had no former knowledge of; his medications, his nutrition, his feeding tube, etc. In fact, he has gotten so protective of his feeding tube that we have not had to restrain him any more at night.
Danny’s mood still swings dramatically. If he is agitated, there is a reason for it. Just like Corbin cries when he is hungry, dirty, in pain or sleepy, so does Danny. His language is still pretty colorful, but he will apologize for it after he says it. He’ll say something rude, but then catch himself and say that he didn’t mean it. He definitely speaks before his thinks. Then again, sometimes, he surprises me.
Last night, after Danny finished his dinner, we stayed at the table. I had Corbin sitting on the table and Danny told him that he loved him. I asked Danny to tell Corbin about himself so that he could get to know his Daddy. Danny started telling him that he played soccer in college, but then he got hurt and had to have knee surgery. All that is true and Danny even told him what school he played for. Another time, we were watching television and a Jiffy Lube commercial came on and Danny said, “I used to work there.” True. So, Danny has these random moments of clarity and I can only hope that we’ll begin to see more of them.
We took Danny to church last Sunday and he did great. He continues to get better each time we go. He complained less about being cold and the noise. Danny doesn’t like loud noises; blender, vacuum, baby crying, and people clapping. It scares him for some reason even though he knows that it is harmless. He usually adjusts though and gets used to it. Danny sings along with the choruses and seems to really pay attention to the sermons. He even laughs at the right moments.
As expected, we had quite a gathering around us following service. So many people have been praying for him that they want to see the progress of Danny firsthand. It’s hard for me though to have Danny approached by people he doesn’t know. For people with a traumatic brain injury it just further confuses them or agitates them to be in environments with large crowds, loud noises or several conversations going on at once. Danny often apologizes for not remembering people when he didn’t even know them to begin with. Anyway, I’m trying to get used to it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly thankful for everyone that lifts us up in prayer, but I also have to think about how Danny feels and what is best for him. It tends to be a very fine line sometimes because I do want people to see the fruit of their prayers to the Lord; to encourage them to pray more and to see that their prayers are affective. Prayer does work.
Speaking of church and prayer, I promised that I would update the site with information on how to give financially, if you feel led. There has been a benevolence fund established at our home church, Mount Paran Church of God. To donate and receive a tax refund, please follow the steps below:
- Make checks out to Mount Paran Church of God
- In the “for” line, write “Benevolence”
- Place check inside an envelope with “Allison Diaz” written on the outside
- Place that envelope inside another and mail to: Mount Paran Church of God, 2055 Mt. Paran Road Atlanta, GA 30327.
Again, I include this information in the update because several people have expressed interest. I do not post this information asking for your donations, but merely place it for your information purposes only. Please only give if you feel led. There will be other ways to participate coming soon (golf tournament and motorcycle ride) and I’ll update the site with that information as soon as I hear more.
Next Friday we return to see Dr. Kaelin at Shepherd Center. I’m getting anxious about getting Danny back in Shepherd, but want to be patient so it’s the best time for him to benefit the most. I think that he being back there will make him focus on progressing more and we’ll see results faster since there won’t be any distractions. He’ll benefit from having all therapies everyday, but of course, he won’t be in the home environment. Perhaps that will be better for him though; again, no distractions. It’ll be a hard transition for those that take care of him everyday. We take pride in the fact that Danny is so well taken care of at home. It’s even in his chart with the home care provider that we take such good care of him. No nurse will ever be as good as we are at taking care of Danny and we have high expectations, but I think it’ll be better for him to be able to completely focus on the tasks at hand – himself.
Please keep me in prayer for wisdom in making decisions that are best for Danny. Pray for Danny’s spirit, that he will be encouraged by his progress and be able to see it for himself. As always, continue to pray for strength for us all and rest when we’re able to grab a couple of winks.
I thank you again for all that you bless our lives with daily; whether it be prayer or gifts, it is humbling to be blessed so much. I can only hope that my small “thank yous” are enough to express to you how much I appreciate you.
I’m going to post some more pictures, so make sure you look at the Family Album.