Sunday, March 11, 2012

Kris Update: The Texas Trip

Dear Patient Prayer Warriors!

Returning on the plane yesterday, I had every intention of putting an update together as soon as I got home last night. Only one day late this time, however, the update brings both good news and more hope for Kris.

As always, the visit with Kris is fun yet emotional, happy yet sad, uplifting yet it tears at my heart strings. In her room in the older part of the VA Hospital in San Antonio, Kris is cared for by the very, very best nurses and nurse aids, therapists and other staff members. My first impression was that they actually have great lines of communication, and they meet weekly with the patient and family members. It’s quite an outstanding program after being in facilities where a care plan meeting had to be scheduled and, most times, didn’t happen.

The expansive, beautiful new Audie Murphy Poly Trauma Center is not completely open (thus the reason Kris is in a room in the older building), but her therapies are all given in the new building. The staff who will work in the new building is already in place and, once all the “bugs” are worked out, they along with the patients will “move in!” I am so hoping it will be this week so that Kris will be able to move in at least for a while.

I spoke about Kris’s depression in the last update, and she has evidently experienced some of that even while doing so well at the new therapy center. When I arrived out there Thursday, March 1, she was very obviously glad to see me and excited to show me all the things she can do now. Some involve her own personal hygiene, such as: brushing her teeth, combing her hair, washing her face, etc. These are such menial tasks and she had tried before, but never as good as now. There is a “want to do it” drive in Kris that seemed to have withered over the past months, and I was overjoyed to see the gleam in her eyes again.

But there is much more to tell. Her work in physical therapy has been great, the working with her neck in occupational therapy is paying off, and her work with the Dynavox in speech therapy has really begun to show signs of improvement. Kris feels the improvement and, even while there are still minor down moments, she seems to be excited about her progress. This is remarkable and I was ecstatic. Her sense of humor and funny little things she does has returned, and I watched her really try to form sounds in her speech class the other day. Unfortunately, the eating potential is yet to be improved and another swallow study on Friday (before I left on Saturday) found her not able to swallow when asked to. However, unlike before, she held her head up almost straight for the entire time the study was being done. Of course, I don’t know if I could swallow a mouthful of applesauce laced with powdered Barium either!

In spite of all these wonderful improvements, which include her movement with assistance and her ease in getting up and down and walking and working to get herself in and out of bed, Kris’s time at the VA is coming to an end, I’m afraid. It was, after all, a four-week study, and the director of therapies at the Audie Murphy Poly Trauma Center has specifically asked that Kris now go to another facility for yet another therapy program. I was given this news last week in the care plan meeting, and my heart sank. After lengthy conversations with Dr. Johnson (the head of all therapies at the Center), however, I am willing to go along with it in the hope that renovations at home will now be able to start. Evidently, Kris had to take part in the four-week program at Audie Murphy before funding could be released from the VA to Russell for the renovations. (Ah, yes... the policies and procedures of politics!)

I would ask for your prayers as Kris makes yet another facility change. Especially pray for her safety (she seems to be concerned about this move since it’s farther from home again), and pray that she will have peace in her heart over this new program. It is designed, I am told, to give her more in depth therapy through one-on-one staffing for up to six hours a day each week. It is meant to re-train patients to further care for themselves given their own limitations at the end of the program, and it is hoped she will learn even more ways to communicate, if not finally speak all together. It is designed to aid patients re-entering normal home environment, and the program is to last one year. That’s where my heart begins to ache!

Pray, also, that the powers-that-be at the Center might allow Kris to be able to stay at least another week or so, in order for her to be able to experience the move over into the brand new room she recently picked out for her own. The angel nurse, Janet, took Kris over yesterday afternoon to help boost her spirits, and let her pick the room she wants. If her move to CORE (the other facility to which she will go) doesn’t happen first, Kris would be the very first patient to take residence in the shining new Audie Murphy Poly Trauma Center. What a neat article that would make: “Major Ratliff First To Move Into New VA Center.” Frankly, I think she’s earned that right!

So, I left yesterday morning with a lighter heart because Kris is pushing forward again, but a heavy heart because of what she faces now. I wanted to be there when she moves, to help her be more comfortable and feel good about her new surroundings. Of course, Russell said he will be there and take her up to CORE, but making things “homey” require a woman’s touch. Just my opinion, of course, and Mom’s touch is the best.

Having said that, I’ve attached yet another photo of Kris using her walker and really “steppin’ out!”image We had such a sweet time and shared lots of special moments again: funny, tender, and very special. What a joy, and that little gleam in her eyes is just... Kris!

Blessings and love,

Carol and George

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