Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Update from David
Aloha to our Ohana,
Much has taken place since the last update so let's start where we last left off -- with the final few days of Theresa's healing journey at Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado. As with the previous week, the last couple of days here were mostly spent on testing and range-of-motion measurements to compare with those taken in January when Theresa first arrived. In most cases, the repeat testing shows improvement in physical, occupational and cognitive functions and pretty much confirms what we already know in our hearts; our Lord's healing powers have graced Theresa and allowed her to regain so many of her faculties in so short a time. For this among many other reasons, we continue to show our praise and gratitude.
In addition to the testing, the final few rehab sessions were also geared towards teaching us skills we would need for the transfer to the next facility. Not only does Craig Hospital have state-of-the-art exercise and rehab equipment but there is also a room dedicated to teaching transfer techniques between wheelchair and common modes of transportation. The previous week, we had learned how to move from the wheelchair to a car and now it was time to transfer to an airplane seat. For those who have seen those narrow aisle wheelchairs at the boarding gate, moving from wheelchair to that contraption was the first lesson. We completed it successfully and then Theresa learned how to transfer to an airplane seat. Having now learned all we could in the short time remaining, there was a feeling of nostalgia and sadness that we would be leaving behind all of the dedicated and caring staff at Craig Hospital. Theresa's almost 3-month stay here made her a long timer and it showed as there were only two other patients remaining from her arrival time. The staff had a small graduation party for Theresa and a few others leaving this week and it touched everyone's heart when Theresa unexpectedly gave a farewell and thank-you speech. We will miss everyone at Craig Hospital and know that we cannot thank them all but here is a short list of those that truly made a difference: Alan, Kent, Holly, Katie, another Katie, Megan, Celeste, Maureen, Pat, Karen, Eric, Marisa, Jules, Avy, Kelly, Tina, Jim and Candi. Without your loving care, Theresa would not have progressed as far and for that we are truly thankful. We hope to see you at the one year check-up and will bring sufficient chocolate covered Kona coffee mac nuts for all to enjoy.
Wednesday last week was devoted to traveling from Denver to Bakersfield, California, quite an adventure in itself. To show how far Theresa has come these last three months, we spent $$$$$ for the services of a flying nurse, portable medical equipment and medical transports at both ends to get from Honolulu to Denver in January. This time, all that was required was a wheelchair-accessible van to get us to the Denver airport where a rehab aide from the Center for Neuro Skills (CNS)would be waiting, then a short 2-hr flight to LAX, followed by a 2-hr drive to Bakersfield for a total cost of $$$. Aside from the monetary savings, it was truly amazing to watch Theresa pretty much take care of herself and even carry on a lively conversation with the TSA agent while being gently hand searched. The Lord continued to watch over us as we boarded the Southwest Airlines flight -- Theresa's wheelchair is so small that it could be wheeled right up to the first row aisle seat and all she needed was to stand and do a 180 degree shuffle to sit comfortably in the bulkhead seat, a move that we accomplished with the same precision as dancing a foxtrot. The flight went well although it was the rehab aide's only second time ever on an airplane, the first being her flight out that same morning. Upon arriving at LAX, deplaning, gathering our baggage and boarding the CNS handivan, we thought we were making good time until we reached the 405 freeway. About two hours later, my phone rang and it was the CNS admissions counselor calling, wondering where we were. I looked around and said, we just passed the exit for West Hollywood, and then there was dead silence from the other end. She could not believe it had taken us that long to travel the first 10 miles (16km); we could have gotten out and pushed Theresa's wheelchair faster! A few hours later, we did arrive safely at the CNS residential facility and after getting an exhausted Theresa unpacked and settled into bed, I went off in search of some much needed rest too.
The first couple of days at CNS was definitely an eye-opener for Theresa and me. When they say they provide rehab therapy around the clock (and not just during the scheduled rehab sessions) they mean it. In addition to the morning activities of toileting, bathing, dressing, etc., Theresa was expected to participate in preparing her own breakfast and even planning out her lunch and afternoon snacks. Since we were both new at this, the rehab aides did provide some pointers and Theresa grudgingly began to learn the routine. The change in surroundings compared to Craig Hospital was a definite shock and one that Theresa did not appreciate at first. Although the scheduled rehab therapies at the CNS clinic were familiar, the residential living facility is nothing like a hospital setting and more like a throwback to college dorm days and living with roommates. Recall that in her current condition, Theresa is not readily accepting of change and was threatening to check herself out of Craig Hospital when they changed her bed a few weeks ago. So during the second night at CNS, it shouldn't have surprised me when Theresa phoned multiple times asking why we couldn't continue to stay at the Craig Hospital family apartment and just attend out patient therapy there. Despite trying to convince her that this was the next path along our healing journey, Theresa came up with the idea that if I did not get her back soon, she would wheel herself outside, hail a taxi to the airport and fly back to Denver using her credit card. There wasn't too much I could do that night except to pray for reassurance that we'd made the right choice and sure enough, by the next morning Theresa had a slight change of heart and was ready for the commute to the rehab clinic. In fact, Theresa's attitude improved throughout the day and during the physical therapy evaluation, she not only stood for 24 seconds with no assistance but she then walked for over 20 feet (6m) using just an elevated walker (more than doubling her previous record at Craig.)
This past Saturday, I accompanied Theresa on her first outing at CNS, a weekly shopping trip to pick up groceries and other necessities. Ignoring a couple of chain supermarkets, Theresa decided to check out Trader Joes, a store that we've heard about but could not experience in Hawai'i. As our little entourage went up and down each aisle (and some twice) Theresa checked her shopping list, made her choices and filled our cart. One elderly bystander even jokingly asked where my engineer's hat was, seeing that we formed a small train with Theresa in front, me in the middle, and the shopping cart behind us. Despite going way over the weekly alloted budget, this grocery shopping rehab exercise really gave Theresa a sense of accomplishment and she was beaming with pride upon exiting Trader Joes and waiting for the return ride to CNS.
On Sunday, we were hoping to attend a service to thank our Lord for guiding us here but it turns out we missed the outing to the local churches as we had not signed up in time due to our late arrival. Rather than feel left out, we watched church TV for an hour and gave our thanks over the air before realizing it was an LDS service, not that there's anything wrong with that. Later that afternoon, as a consolation for not having space for us for church, there was room on the CNS bus to visit the Bakersfield Museum of Art. While not in the same league as the Met, the exhibits were interesting and based on fabric designs and sculptures however Theresa was more fascinated by the outdoor garden and all of the flowers and herbs in full bloom. Yes, it seems spring has already arrived in the Central Valley and we arrived just in time to marvel at more of God's glory. This was followed by a jaunt over to the river park where we saw a family of ducks floating by. On the way back to the condo, Theresa thanked me for a beautiful day together and she said it reminded her of those carefree days when I flew out to Montreal during her residency and we spent the weekends going to Boston, Ottawa or Quebec City.
The rehab therapies these past couple of days at CNS have concentrated on testing and setting baselines to measure Theresa's healing progress. Some of these tests replicate what was done at Craig Hospital and in one cognitive rehab session, Theresa surprised the speech pathologist by recalling how to perform the test. Needless to say, that test was skipped as the results wouldn't be accurate since the subject already knows the answers. As with the first few days at Craig Hospital, Theresa continues to impress the rehab specialists here and they are amazed at how she is performing compared to the discharge notes from the last facility. Theresa is beginning to embrace the teaching methods here and she is already forming bonds with the physicians, therapists, aides and other patients. She told me last night that although she had her misgivings at first, this was the right choice and she will continue to work hard to be able to return to Hawai'i on her own feet, dance the Hula, and snorkel in the ocean with the wild dolphins again. For this among many other blessings, we are truly thankful to our Lord for His gift of grace and healing.