Carolyn turned 59 last Thursday. Many thanks to those of you who sent her greetings. Gifts, of course, don't mean much to her now, but I fed her all the chocolates and pistachios she could eat, and that made her happy. But what made her REALLY happy was when I called her dad, Dayton Wallace, and put him on the speaker phone. You should have seen the way her face lit up when she heard his voice. Unfortunately, her mother had an accident recently and was in the hospital, so Carolyn couldn't hear her voice too.
Ever since I brought Carolyn back home from New Jersey, I had hoped to get her parents up to see her. Chase has volunteered repeatedly to go and bring them to stay with us as long as they wanted. They've agreed to come, but other events have kept them from setting a date, and now it's obviously not possible for them to travel until Carolyn's mom gets out of the hospital. However, I'm still hoping that we can get them here. It would be such an incredible boost to Carolyn's morale.
Which brings me to another subject. A lot of people ask me if it would be okay to come and visit Carolyn. My answer is that friends and family, without exception, are always welcome. All I ask is that you haven't recently been exposed to an infection like a cold or flu, and that you call ahead and give me time to make sure that she's dressed and ready to receive visitors. Also. be aware that Carolyn's reactions on seeing people she hasn't seen in some time can be unpredictable. As I've explained in the past, it is common for brain injury patients to have a disconnect between what they're actually feeling and their ability to express it. Not always--usually her reactions are clear and appropriate. But sometimes she'll yell as if frightened or angry when she's really trying to express delight. Yet with patience and a little gentle teasing ("Are you trying to sing to me, Carolyn?"), she'll usually start laughing and showing her true feelings. Then again, there are some days when she's "spaced out" and just not connecting at all. It's unpredictable, but she's getting more consistent in connecting with reality.
Last week, Chase and I got to take a break and go on a weeklong backpacking trip to Panama. The preparations were more than a little complicated because I had to arrange to be continuously accessible by phone, should anything go wrong with Carolyn. Verizon has service in Panama, but at a roaming fee of $3 per minute. Fortunately, there are WiFi apps that allow us to communicate for free, and almost everywhere in Panama has WiFi now.
I toyed with the idea of putting Carolyn in the nursing facility while I was gone, but decided against it. Every time I've put her in an institutional setting, we've gone from one infection to another, and she winds up back on tube feeding because no one wants to take the time to prepare her food so she can feed herself. So I arranged for 24-hour care with her usual caregivers and explained what was going on to her regular doctor so the caregivers could turn to him immediately if any problems developed. The arrangements for Carolyn's care cost a lot more than our vacation, but at least I had the comfort of knowing that she was safe and comfortable at home and being taken care of by people who genuinely know and love her.
As for Chase's and my trip, it was a blast, with lots of unusual events that only backpackers would appreciate--such as spending the night in a "hotel" that consisted of a bamboo elementary school classroom strung with hammocks on one of the Puna Indian reservation's archepeligo of tiny Caribbean island paradises. Backpacking is one of those things that you either "get" or you don't, and those of us who do get it never outgrow it. In every backpacker's hostel I visit, I encounter at least one person in my age group or older. My favorite was a 69-year-old grandmother taking her 19-year-old grandson on an around-the-world trip to acquaint him with the lifestyle. Chase has already posted a lot of photos of the trip to his Facebook page, and I'll be doing the same in short order. But enough about me--you're here to read about Carolyn.
Progress is coming slow right now. Just today, we were finally able to get her back in the standing frame. Even then, the ulcer on her foot from the people in Omaha misapplying her foot brace still hasn't healed entirely, and we're going to have to go slow so as not to make it worse. Carolyn seemed to do well--she laughed and smiled while upright, whereas she previously just showed irritation with us. But it's important for her circulation, bone density, and to strengthen her leg muscles. Whether she'll ever walk again we cannot know, but this is the only route that will give us a shot at it. And she is getting more consistent with her Yes/No responses.
Normally, I would go into a rant on some medically-related topic about now, and I have a good one in the making. But I'm running low on time and energy right now, so it will have to wait.