Dearest prayer warriors and loved ones!
Where to begin! There is just so much to tell you all and, yes, it is all good stuff!!! The only bad thing about heading to Texas last Tuesday (November 8th) was that we had to leave home by 5 a.m. in order to make the drive to Orlando and catch my 8 a.m flight. From there, it was smooth sailing all the way.
Wednesday morning, Kris had an appointment at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) with the ear, nose and throat team. Once again, the discussion turned to Botox injections and it was decided she is still a candidate to continue the injections, albeit, perhaps stronger doses and in more areas in her neck. They checked her esophagus by scoping her, and found the voice box to still be very good, the airway well protected and covered, and the epiglottis still functioning very well. Feeding her small amounts of soft or pureed foods and water very carefully should continue. True to form, the therapists at Country Care Manor have been doing just that and, as a matter of fact, the day I arrived, Kris had been eating mashed potatoes and doing extremely well. Another... Praise the Lord!!!
On Wednesday afternoon, the three case managers working with Kris representing the VA and the Air Force came to Country Care to visit her. Russell, Kris and I met with them for almost an hour before they went out to Kris and Russ’s home in LaVernia. They wanted to see where the renovations will be made and get a feel for what the VA inspector saw and suggested several weeks back. Russell informed them the plans are with the architect and there are two potential scenarios: enlarging an existing bedroom to include all the equipment and everything Kris will need, or building a completely separate little studio-type apartment at the back of the house which will also house everything she will need. It will be connected to the house itself by a very short breezeway. There are pros and cons for both.
Thursday, I did something I’ve wanted to do for a while. Kris usually wore her hair with a bit of auburn highlights and, of course, that hadn’t been done since before the accident. I had talked with the beautician at the facility and she let me use her shop. I gave Kris a hair color, shampoo, haircut and style right there, and the outcome lifted her spirits tremendously. We had so much fun doing it, and the “ooo’s” and “aahh’s” Kris received really made her smile.
On Sunday morning, Joshua brought Andrea to see Kris, which always makes Kris’s day. (I snapped the attached photo on the front porch of Country Care Manor.) Then, at long last, Russell and I were finally able to do something we had talked about for some time: take Kris home to her house for a brief visit. There was a lot of explaining and admonishing this would be merely a first step and there will be more visits. She will be going home for good one day, but she would have to return to Country Care for now. The visit lasted almost two hours, and Russ explained all the things he wants to do to make the house ready for her. She wheeled around inside with wide eyes, and he even showed her some of the projects he’d been working on.
Kris hadn’t been home since she left for work the morning April 21, 2010, that horrible, fateful day. Sunday was a monumental occasion!!! Even their little dog, Jason, was excited and, of course, Andrea and Joshua were really glad to see her start this series of visits. In all honesty, she handled it pretty well when it came time to leave, but she did get depressed for a time once back at the facility. I had bought a Christmas tree for her room and proceeded to put it together and she actually helped me put some ornaments on it. That seemed to help a bit.
Another milestone occurred Friday last week. We were told an appointment had been approved for Kris to finally go to the Audie Murphy Poly Trauma Center to be interviewed by head of the Center’s rehabilitation department, Dr. Elizabeth Johnson. The appointment had been set for Wednesday, the 15th, but I would have to leave on the 14th. So, once again, our dear Air Force case manager prevailed and had the appointment changed!
Dr. Johnson is a delightful, lovely lady; very articulate and extremely “on top of things” in her position at Audie Murphy PTC. She interviewed Kris, who responds very well to yes and no questions, and I helped supply other information as well. Dr. Johnson was convinced her “team” of expert therapists could do great things for Kris. She decided to start with several sessions for them to “nail down” what device or devices Kris could best utilize for communication, then bring Kris in as an inpatient for several weeks to really work devotedly with her in all forms of therapy while concentrating heavily on speech. Once the plan is formulated, Dr. Johnson wants Kris to undergo some x-rays to determine the condition of the cervical spine, then she will have her eyes examined, and have a psychologist perform some mental cognitive evaluations as well.
Kris was then interviewed by the man in charge of all mobile support equipment, and he evaluated her for a motorized wheelchair. This will aid Kris in being able to recline just enough to allow her head to be against a head rest. This will enable her to straighten her head and neck, which have been strongly drawn to one side. So much so, that it is extremely difficult for her to look straight for any length of time. Kris took to the chair immediately and took off down a hallway like a shot! I expected to see a burnout spot on the floor! Laughingly, he said she will have several return visits with him for “driver’s ed” and, hopefully, Kris will have that much needed motorized chair very soon.
All in all, the entire set of events last week have again raised our hopes and expectations to an all-time high. Early Tuesday morning (yesterday), I met with the medical doctor on staff there at Country Care Manor, and he was already making the necessary changes to some of Kris’s medications as had been suggested by Dr. Johnson the day before. The rest of the morning was filled with making certain Kris was up, fed, dressed, and ready for her day. As my time to leave approached, good-bye became increasingly more difficult. But, in her own little way, she reassured me with a little tap, tap, tap on my shoulder as we hugged. It was something we started that last fall: we hug each other and I pat her shoulder while she pats mine. It’s her way of saying, “It’s okay, Mom,” and, “I love you.”
I had to leave for the airport by early afternoon, and Russell was kind enough to drive me there. He said he was grateful for my visit because he knew it helped Kris and him. I was extremely grateful for the use of his truck and to be able to stay at their house. It gave me at least a little time with the kids, although not near enough because they leave for school so early in the morning and I returned late each evening.
My apologies for such a lengthy update. It is packed full of possibilities, however, and even possibilities are good where Kris is concerned. She’s a tough little gal, as many of you already know. She now has a great deal to work toward, and we have so very, very much for which to be thankful. God has opened doors time and again. Please pray believing, as we do, and we thank YOU for each and every prayer!
Blessings and love,
Carol and George