Dear friends and loved ones,
As I type this update, I’m back home in Florida having returned here Tuesday evening this week. I arrived out in San Antonio last Tuesday, 3/1, about 12:10 p.m. their time, rented a car and fairly flew to the rehab hospital to be with Kris. She knew I was coming. I’d been counting down the days with her each time we spoke to her on the phone for the past several weeks. She was on her way to afternoon therapy when I came around the corner of her hallway, and I could have literally scooped her up in my arms the minute I saw her. Her hair has grown so much! was my first thought. And, she has on a short sleeved shirt, was my second! She was cold!
That’s how the week started. There is a second bed in her room and I was able to stay there with her the entire week. I had spent nights with her before, and it was always special to be able to do that. But the nights are very long, as anyone who has been in a hospital or health care setting knows. For a brain injured person, nights seem to resemble those of an Alzheimer’s patient: they are anxious, somewhat depressed and frightened, and they definitely find it difficult to sleep for long periods. It’s something akin to sundowners syndrome, I would think. Medications play a role in her anxiety, no doubt, but the bottom line is... she just doesn’t sleep very much. Combine that with a midnight feeding and 4 a.m. water feeding, along with other necessary ups and downs, Kris’s nights are long. But I think she was comforted knowing I was there and that I would be there for her through the next seven nights. She understood from the outset that I would have to leave to return to Florida, but she understands that we will come back the first week of April to stay through to November. She understood... but the day I left was still difficult and very hard for both of us.
Anyway, that was the start and end of my week. Now during that week, some more accomplishments and concerns came to light. First, Kris is now typing sentences and answering questions on the computer. Russell brought in a large key keyboard for her to use and that seems to have helped with her dexterity and being able to push hard enough on each key as she types. Her spelling is right on, but she tends to have all her fingers of her left hand resting on the keyboard (typical typing procedure!) but she strikes keys unknowingly sometimes. Once she sees the mistake, however, she reaches over, backspaces the error out, and fixes it! I was simply amazed! Oddly enough, and something that truly concerned me immediately, however, her right hand has begun to atrophy a bit from lack of exercise and use. It was much more limber when we left at the end of December, although she was still not able to do too much with her right arm. Now, it seemed as though the right hand was worse and, even if she lifted her right hand up with her left hand (which she often does), the right hand was still not cooperating. I asked to have more massage and stretching of her limbs during her therapy sessions, and that seems to have helped a little.
In addition to typing sentences and typing words on queue, she has been working on math problems: division, multiplication, adding and subtracting. For the most part, she answers all of those questions accurately. Multiple choice questions on a computer screen are answered by Kris either pointing to the correct answer or typing the words to answer the questions. She reads perfectly. It does take a while sometimes for each question to be read, understood, and then the answer provided. But her mind is clear and sharp! Praise God!
Another huge concern was her anxiety and her depression. Evidently when she was upgraded to her new level of therapy care about mid-February, the huge change hit Kris very hard and she was overwhelmed. New therapists, new routine, new areas to go to, social group settings (which seem to make her more anxious since she cannot speak): all of this became very overwhelming and Kris seemed to shut down. It is typical, I am told, and quite understandably so. TBI patients do not tolerate even a small routine change well at all; this was huge to her. In a session of free-lance typing, she typed the words “All new change.” That pretty much told us what she was concerned about. Thank heaven for the computer and her ability now to begin a line of communication. And, speaking of communication, she surprised Russell along with a family friend and I on Sunday by typing everything we asked: our names, children’s names, interesting things, such as the fact that Andrea had on “new clothes,” (she noticed that!), and... would you believe... she typed her birthdate when the friend asked what year she was born!!! 1965! One of the attached photos shows Kris typing on that new keyboard. You can see Joshua talking to Andrea as they work on a puzzle in the background. Andrea has really grown!
By the way... notice Kris’s earrings in that same picture? Since we had extra time on Saturday and Sunday mornings, I was able to shower Kris, wash her hair and blow it dry, put on a little makeup for her and put on her earrings. Voila’! She looked like a million bucks (of course I’m not prejudiced at all!), and she really seemed to enjoy all of that. There’s not much time during the week for such pleasures but I did have her earrings on every day. Guess it’s a woman thing, but it surely makes a difference to her to look nice since she is so aware!
In the other attached photo, Kris is standing at a work table, picking up blocks and putting them in the coordinated color canister. She was to use her right hand for this, which she did. But it just wouldn’t work sometimes, so... she would pick up the block with her left hand, put it in her right hand, and drop it in the canister! Imaginative thinking, I’d say!!! She laughed about it when she was “caught!” Her sense of humor is delightful!!!
Before I left, I was able to attend two working meetings: one with Russell and all of Kris’s therapy/case management representatives, and another with just the her case manager there at RIOSA and the director of therapy. When all was said and done, it was agreed Kris will have an extra physical therapy on Saturday and one extra PT each day. She has two group sessions in the afternoon, which includes sitting around a table having open discussion about one’s concerns and feelings. Since Kris cannot speak, it’s difficult for her to participate in these sessions, and I believe her time in at least one of those sessions could be put to better use: i.e., more stretching and muscle massage time in an OT setting.
In any case, my week with Kris was both a gift of joy as well as being saddened that she had fallen into a bit of a slump. But the next few weeks will pass quickly with all that we are doing here and we’ll be in Texas before you know it. We have two more shows here in Florida and then we’ll be on our way! Before we leave for Texas, however, I will have the joy of seeing our new little granddaughter, Ainsley Kristine Swann. Daughter Stephanie’s little baby was born on January 2nd. I’ll be driving George’s sister, Nancy, home to PA on March 23rd and that trip takes two days. By Friday, March 25th, I’ll be spending the day with little Ainsley! Woo hoo! (A photo is attached, by the way!)
The joy of the months ahead in Texas will be made even more joyous because all our “kids” are planning to visit at some point in time. Perhaps not all at once, but they are coming! Their visits will no doubt be a real boost to Kris and to us as well! There will likely not be an update for a while, so please bear with us. And please do continue your prayers. One of the most important things of which we now know is that Kris’s recuperation will take a very long time. Each step is painfully slow and tedious, but there are rewards along the way with each wonderful accomplishment. Pray also that she will be able to stay at the facility where she is now for some time yet. Questions about her progress frighten us because, in order for her to stay there, she must show signs of progressing.
God is so very good... and our faith in His healing is ever strengthened by your prayers. As I sat with Kris late one night, I patted my hand on her knee as a way of saying, “It’s okay, honey. Everything will be okay!” She reached over and patted my knee, as if to let me know, “I know Mom. It’s okay!”
God bless you all greatly!
Carol and George
P.S. Also please pray that the gas prices don’t go up any higher!
Join us as we pray that God will reveal daily improvements in Kris… to the point that will cause folks to know that God is answering prayer and He will be greatly glorified.