Dan Church's Journal
Written May 25, 2012 3:53pm by Colleen SmithAn emotional week…
It was so important that I got to spend all my time with Dan last week. I was able to focus on every aspect of his recovery both physically and emotionally. We really had a wonderful time together, but we were all way overdue to be together again. Unfortunately, Kodi has been a complete disaster ever since my mom brought them up to Denver. It might have just been her time to fall apart and that is only fair. We are very lucky that my aunt and uncle are patient people as their house just got really loud.
The kids finally got to see Dan on Tuesday and it was very hard for all of us. For starters, I was a nervous wreck, and then Ryder & Kodi completely fell apart right before we met up with Dan. Cjay was smart enough to buy a present from Dan, to the kids, in order t...o break the tension and Jenna was kind enough to bring her dog to do the same. The kids barely looked at Dan and stayed very far away. I was heartbroken. Having the kids there really magnified how different things were. Needless to say Dan and I have had many tears over how hard this is on the kids, and how different Dan’s role as a dad is right now. I spoke with Ryder and Kodi a lot that night and it seemed to help because the next day was way better. Ryder and Kodi joked around with Dan, talked to him, and even rode on his wheel chair. Another obstacle we encountered with the kids is how over stimulated Dan gets with them. He keeps saying “I forgot how much they move around.” Regardless, we will take whatever he can do each day in order to rebuild our relationships together…small strides in the right direction.
Speaking of strides, Dan is doing great with walking. Dizziness continues to be his biggest hurdle so we hooked him to this crazy contraption that would catch him he fell. He rocked it, so we also started stairs and walking to a few therapy classes he has everyday. I also just got okayed to take Dan off campus to a nearby park this weekend which will be very nice since the weekends get long. He is also doing better with swallowing thin liquids now that the tube is out of his nose. It is still very deliberate but he aspirates much less. This is wonderful especially since I have a mini heart attach every time he does that.
The other great news we just got, was concerning a study we signed Dan up for. Most men who suffer a traumatic brain injury have low testosterone for about a year after the accident. The problem with this is they have a very hard time building their muscle back up. The study we signed Dan up for tested his blood but turned out he was not low. In turn he qualified for the control group where he gets a little extra therapy/tests on the weekends but doesn’t have to take any weird hormone replacements…I am thrilled!!!
We are truly overwhelmed on a daily basis by the compassion and love that we have received in our time of need. Big hugs and kisses.
Written May 21, 2012 5:31pm by Colleen SmithUpdate: Monday, May 21st 9:30 am;
When looking back on Dan's week-to-week progress, this week was a solid week for Dan. We learned a lot more about several of his medical issues in addition to making some strides in his rehab. Ryder and Kodi were in Gunnison for the week so Tracy got to spend a lot of quality time with Dan, which was great for the both of them. Cjay was also able to make it down for the week and spent a lot of time helping Dan in rehab. Our Dad also spent most of the week at the hospital with Dan which I know was helpful. Dan had a lot of people here this week which allowed us to focus on managing some finance, insurance, and other issues. Tracy stated it well when she said "we all have different strengths and weaknesses, which is why we make such a good team". She's right, we all work with Dan a little different and he confides in each of us in different ways. This recipe seems to be working well so far.
Concerning his medical issues, we received mostly good news this week. First, the blood clots in his sinuses, jugular, and right arm are still significant areas for concern and provided Dan approval for another week of acute medical care. He is on anti-coagulant meds and will be for the foreseeable future until they dissolve back into the bloodstream. They did have to change his medication this week because his platelet count was low, which appears to have worked so far. He received a lot of attention and testing for his right eye this week and heard some great news about his double vision and movement problems in that eye. The doctors believe they can perform a low impact surgery to disconnect one of the muscles in his eye from a bone that is broken, which will allow the eye to move more freely again. They expect this mechanical fix, combined with his brain learning to coordinate his two eyes again, to restore his vision close to what he had before the accident.
We also received good news in regards to the 7th nerve palsy that has caused paralysis in the right side of his face. He did a test this week where they put small needles in his face, and they were able to measure neurological activity when asked to move his face. Even though his face isn't moving, it is showing activity in the nerve which means it is not severed. They are cautious in the way they speak to us, but we believe this is a sign that the nerve will continue to heal over time with the potential of a full recovery. We also believe that this may also tell us something about healing the 8th nerve, which controls the hearing in his right ear. We believe his 8th nerve will also show improvement over time because the 7th & 8th nerves were injured in the same area of the skull. The neurologist wouldn't comment on this however we believe Dan could get over some or all of the neurological hurdles to hearing on the right side, however the structural hurdles are a different story. This leads us to the bad news where Dan did not perform well in hearing tests in his right ear. This is a result of a combination of the 8th nerve palsy and his inner ear damage. The inner ear damage is considered to be permanent, while the 8th nerve palsy resides in the unpredictable realm of nerve damage. They have told us that there are some new reconstructive procedures for the inner ear they'd like to propose so we'll see what they have to offer. His inner ear damage is currently causing hearing loss, vertigo, and balance issues which significantly impact his ability to sit up, stand, and walk.
Dan is enrolled in a combination of speech, occupational, physical, and psychological Therapy. The area of focus in speech therapy is swallowing. Dan was able to move to a pureed diet last weekend, then moved on to a mechanical (chopped) diet this week. We counted calories most of the week and he is cleared on calorie intake, but not yet on fluid intake. His swallow is still very delayed causing him to aspirate when he drinks thin liquids. He is doing some therapy exercises to help this but his nerve damage combined with his throat muscle issues (from the vent-tube) make this difficult. We continue to use thickeners for his fluids and he remains on the feeding tube to allow the dieticians to give him water and fluids as needed. For the 2nd consecutive week, we hope he comes off the feeding tube during the week.
In occupational therapy Dan is setting goals and learning to do things like brush his teeth, shave (thanks beard buddies), go to the bathroom, and normal everyday things. He improves each week and we continue to challenge him when he's not in therapy with things such as cutting up his own peaches, putting on his own restraining belt, or wheeling himself to the gym. Dan did receive a new wheelchair mid-week in PT where he can now move himself around with a combination of his feet and arms. He says this is very tiring, but I think if we keep challenging him with everything he does, it will come around quickly. Dan also continued to improve his walking from a physical standpoint, but his biggest hurdle is his balance (inner-ear). He can basically walk by himself at this point when holding onto a shopping cart (under close supervision) which is great. Tracy and the therapists are working with Dan on his stretching, but he is very tight from laying in bed for a month. They will keep working with him on this and it will improve over time. We're hoping to get stretching exercises from them that we can work with him on over the weekends.
Dan had a lot of visitors this week which he enjoyed. Several of us from the bachelor party ran a marathon relay Sunday morning in Denver and took a picture with Dan in our Raider style "Team Dan Church" shirts following the race. I'll post photos following this update. The kids are coming back to town this evening and Tracy, Mary (Tracy's Mom), and I will be with Dan all week. I'm sure the kids will stay entertained. Nancy (Dan & I's Mom) will come in this Thursday to help with kids and rehab as well. I'm beginning to think about how to get back to work over the next few weeks so we'll see how our schedule works out. We continue to keep in mind it will be a slow road from here and progress will be measured on a longer time scale. As we continue to work with the hospital on funding options and medium-term plans, we will learn more about what the next year will bring. All of that aside, Dan produced positive results for yet another week and is in a better place than last Monday. Progress is all we can ask for.
Written May 16, 2012 5:28pm by Colleen SmithIt has been a wild week. Dan & I both had a very hard time when we first got to Craig...there were a lot of new faces and places. We are starting to get to know everyone here and feel a little more comfortable. Dan and I both really like all the therapists, doctors, nurses and techs but there are just so many people that Dan is having a hard time keeping track of them all...as am I. It sounds l...ike we will be inpatient at Craig until early to mid July and then move to outpatient.
Jenna, Jeff, Ryan, and Colleen stayed with Dan so I was able to come home for a quick weekend to play with the kids. It was so nice to be home, see our dog, and some of our friends. The very simple things that we all take for granted. Ryder and Kodi then stayed in Gunny with Honey and Papa so I could get some things done in Denver and spend more time helping Dan for a couple days. Ryder was so happy to play with his friends and go to school. For the most part the kids have handled this all very well but Ryder especially has some pretty sad moments.
Dan and I have had a good time together. He always says he wants to go back to work and play with kids which are two of our major goals here. I think he is funnier than before the accident and definitely more agreeable. All the nurses love him and he even got hit on the other day. Cjay told him he could use his wedding ring, Dan refused and said "the service would decline considerably." They keep telling me that Dan will become very angry as he becomes more aware, but for now, he is on his best behavior. I am able to understand everything he says now, his balance is very off but with a shopping cart or one person he can walk around a little, food intake has been a struggle but we are in the process of counting calories. We are very hopeful that we can get the feeding tube out soon. Once that is removed the kids should be able to see him in the garden outside. I am just afraid they are going to fixate on that tube and be freaked out by the hospital setting. The sight, hearing, and skin sensation on his right side (the side that hit the ground) is very weak. They think they can help his double vision with a minor surgery but his hearing may be permanent. He said he is going to use his hearing loss to his advantage when I am talking to him in the car...that didn't go over well. The biggest thing I am learning is how slow he is processing everything. He will take these test and what would take you and I a few seconds to do, he has to break down and understand every little part of it. Open ended questions are very over whelming. I talk fast and switch topics fast and have had to be thoughtful about slowing down.
Overall, this is a very hard time in our lives but I am confident that we will give thanks for it helping us become closer as a family and more compassionate as individuals. As always, words cannot express the gratitude we have for all the support. We are so fortunate.