Let us first begin by thanking you all for your love, support, encouragement, calls, texts, visits etc ...but most especially for your prayers.
Here is what happened: Thursday evening at about 9pm we were packing and preparing to head to Pullman the next morning for Mom’s Weekend w/the whole family, when we received a phone call from WSU student health informing us that Kellen was hit in the head with a softball during an intramural game with his fraternity brothers. Kellen touched home base and someone on the other team was going to throw one of Kellen’s fraternity brothers out at home and it hit Kellen in the head as he was on his way to the dugout. We found out later that Kellen finished the game & even struck someone out. Initially he seemed ‘ok’ but when his friends were driving him back to the fraternity they realized they should take him to the hospital because he was unable to communicate. The decision his fraternity brothers made saved his life. When he got to the hospital, the doctor called us & said that following a CAT scan he had severe bruising and bleeding on the brain and would need to be air-lifted as soon as possible to Spokane. They said it was serious and that we should get to Spokane right away...he would need emergency surgery to relieve the pressure so as not to cause brain damage. We began praying as soon as we received the news and didn’t stop for the next 5 hours to Spokane; tears combined with our pleas to God for our son. We tried to text or call as many people as we could to ask for prayer for Kellen and we felt the effects of that immediately. Your love & prayers made the drive and the next few hours bearable.
During the drive we received word from the hospital in Spokane (Sacred Heart) that Kellen was about to go into surgery. He would be in for 2-3 hours.We also heard from the helicopter crew who said Kellen was in“critical but stable condition.” Upon arriving at Sacred Heart, we waited a half hour more for Kellen to get out of surgery. When the surgeon walked towards us I held my breath as he explained the severity of his condition.
The good news was the surgery went well. He stopped the bleed but Kellen had a large bruise that went deep into his brain affecting his motor skills and he also had a couple small bruises that they would have to keep an eye on for swelling. The surgeon also explained to us how there is a time period of 72 hours where the swelling could increase. Dad was concerned if he was in a ‘life-threatening’ situation & he told us that we shouldn’t be worried. The surgeon didn’t know the outcome but explained that his left side wasn’t moving at all but had the potential to return in some capacity. We waited for another 30 minutes and finally got to see him.
Although it was difficult to see him intubated, we were grateful that he was still with us. We were up all night praying and trusting in God.The next 24 hours he progressed better than expected. The right side of his body was fine and even the left side improved. When they pinched his left toe,his leg would twitch and move up. He recently showed a little sign of movement in his left hand, which made us all smile and gasp for joy with this sudden improvement. We are rejoicing in the baby steps; the squeeze of his hand, the tiny twitch of a finger or simply listening to him breathe instead of the noise of machines helping him.
We are overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support…grateful for the texts and phone messages, the visits, the words of encouragement and the prayers. It is what keeps us going and gives us hope. His recovery will be more like a marathon rather than a sprint, and we will continue to update you on Kellen’s progress in the days/week/months ahead.
Thank you for your continued prayers for Kellen. We love you all.
John, Jennifer, Kellen and Brendan
“But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hand” Psalm 31:14-15
Wow. It's hard to believe it has been 9 months! Blessings to you all this Christmas season. We are grateful for your love and continued prayers for Kellen and our family as we have felt every single one...truly. Our lives are being transformed as we continue this journey and we are humbled when people stop to remind us they still pray for Kellen....wow....and because this is a marathon...we are grateful for the cheers, support, encouragement and yes, prayers along the way...we are almost to mile post 20!! (Actually 3/4 of the first year) And since the first year after brain injury is so important, we have been measuring our time by that number.
Around the 6 month mark Kellen asked at dinner, 'Will my talking ever get better? I know what I want to say but it sometimes doesn't come out the right way?' The only time we notice his speech sometimes slurring together, like he has had a little too much to drink, is when he is very tired. It is as if his thoughts are moving faster than his tongue can go. He still has numbness around his mouth and he even noticed that he is less efficient with sunflower seed consumption :) He put a handful in his mouth thinking he would be able to spit the shells out one by one, but much to his chagrin, he began coughing and choking as he tried to maneuver them in his mouth...all while laughing at the effort. He really doesn't take himself too seriously which is one thing I personally have tried and failed to accomplish in my lifetime. I'm learning by Kellen's example. In the meantime, we feel 'blessed' to journey with him as he and we learn and grow from this brain injury. We also see answered prayers in his wonderful attitude and spirit and we are so thankful for this great gift.
On October 15 we traveled to Eugene to see Mike Baum at Oregon Neurosport who came highly recommended to us by another Physical Therapist who had witnessed miraculous results under his care. He gave Kellen different exercises to implement in his daily routine as well as an electro-stimulator which causes his hand and wrist to move freely and 'normally' by attaching electrodes to his forearm. His fingers are able to open fully now and extend which is exciting to witness!
Cognitively we have noticed amazing improvement!! Kellen received B's in his Statistics and Economics classes at SPSCC, which will transfer back to WSU and has begun Accounting and Business Calculus at SPSCC. He will not return to WSU this semester as previously anticipated, but it was his decision and we believe it is for the best. It was initially thought that Kellen would experience some short-term memory loss which we noticed in minor situations in the beginning. Since our last post, the only 'memory event' was during the therapist visit in October when asked what month it was, Kellen responded, "September?" When corrected, he replied, "I don't know why I just said that, gosh....I'm just living." (If that had been me, I might have overthought the situation, possibly gone in for a mental eval, started medication...haha I'm exaggerating...but not much. :) 'Help me to trust in You, Lord.'
Kellen drove for the first time after 8 months. Even though he was officially cleared to drive after 6 months, he did not feel comfortable until now. So finally one day in early December he said, "OK, I'm going to drive to my PT appointment.' It was like he was 16 all over again. 'Really, Kellen? Are you sure you are ready?' And off he went... again I think...'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.' Proverbs 3:5
At the end of October he had his final OT evaluation. We had been praying for signs of improvement that we possibly had been missing. Recovery reminds me of a baby learning and growing after a few months. When one hasn't seen an infant for a few weeks or months, the 'visitors' will typically notice small changes that mom or dad may not recognize in their daily observations. This was the case for us, and Kellen as well. We asked for some small reminder, a bit of hope amidst the 'daily grind.' And that is what we received and even more than we had anticipated! In August, it took Kellen 3 minutes to stack poker chips or put cans on top of a platform. With the October evaluation, he completed the task in under 30 seconds. With his arm and shoulder strength, on a scale of 1-5, (5 being 'normal') he received a '3' during his August evaluation. After the October test, she gave him a 5! He told the therapist, 'But my left arm strength still 'feels' weaker than my right side.' After some discussion she changed it to a 4++! His 'normal' was different than hers. Maybe she was basing it on a 50-year-old patient instead of a 20-year-old competitive young man! His grip strength improved significantly as well! His right hand obviously at 100% strength, his left HAD been at 15% with previous tests. With the first grip, it jumped to 52%! (with an average of 36%, twice as strong as before!) He also had to flip over 5 cards laid out across the table. It took him over 3 minutes previously to flip those cards over; with the most recent test, 30 seconds!! 'Thank you, Lord, for the gift of hope and encouragement.'
We also took a trip back to WSU for Dad's weekend which took a lot out of Kellen. He had been struggling with getting enough sleep and I had been struggling as well; waking up after only an hour; mind racing; couldn't stop 'thinking' about all that has happened and the unknown. 'Are we 'doing' enough? Am I helping him to rest and heal? Is he resting too much? With therapy 'complete,' there is so much more he needs to 'do' in his recovery...worry...fear... with more worry, came more exhaustion. Sleepless nights. As Kellen would struggle with sleep (essential for healing) I would struggle with sleep just thinking about him struggling. It became a vicious cycle. I cried. I prayed. cried some more....and prayed more fervently for answers that I wasn't 'hearing' nor receiving. I began to recognize that I was putting my hope and trust in his and our efforts rather than trusting God to lead and guide us in that area. I was reminded, 'Be still and know that I am God.' That day I received a text from my goddaughter Allie, who had seen me tired and worn out in Pullman, reminding me of truths we talked about when she was young, 'Aunt Jen I wanted to let you know that God is with you always, helping you with all of the hard times. You shouldn't have to carry all of the weight of the family stresses, especially with Kellen. God will guide you and carry you...'Thank you, Lord, for that reminder in dear Allie.'
In early November, Kellen announced that he was going to train for the Capitol City Marathon. Again I thought, 'Really, Kellen?' How about starting off slowly like the 5-miler? I admired his ambition while worrying about his 'overachieving.' After cautioning him about pushing too hard, he went to the gym and swam a half mile and ran 4 miles on the treadmill, the longest he had ever gone even pre-injury (This also was one week after his botox injections) He seemed tired from the workout but not overly so. Although a bit worried, I thought, 'Wow, Kellen, maybe I was wrong.' He woke up the next day looking like he got hit by a truck. It was more than a 'tired' look. I had second thoughts about dropping him at SPSCC. Thought he should just go back to bed. He told me he hadn't slept well...but insisted on going. When I returned home I saw his name come across my phone, 'Mom, my whole left side is numb and tingly, what should I do?'....Well Kellen, don't freak out like I'm about to do....I had been reading a book about strokes and brain bleeds. Had he burst a blood vessel in his brain from over-stressing himself the day before? For any doctors or neurologists reading this, please don't laugh at my emotional, possibly irrational thoughts, but 'What was happening?' I asked myself. 'Stay put I will be right there.' I called John. 'Please call Greg Bell and ask him what we should do.' Should I bring him In? Take him to Emergency? Help! I drove a little too fast back to SPSCC while pressing redial (7 times to be exact) on my phone to Kellen who wasn't answering. Pray. Be calm. Why isn't he answering? Did he pass out? Is he by himself? When I arrived, he texted....'Mom, I'm ok. It stopped. You can go home.' Uh, yah, right....'Come out as soon as you can.' When he got in the car, he explained he was fine, but suddenly his vision became blurred and had what he thought was 'vertigo.' Long story short, he was having a mini-seizure we later discovered after talking with his caring, supportive and 'calm neurologist' Dr. Bell. Greg explained that these can be brought on by fatigue, low blood sugar, stress, or other factors...fatigue. He slept for 3 hours afterwards. Kellen had another 'episode' over Christmas break due to more fatigue with a busier schedule and a cold that just won't go away, so he is back on anti-seizure meds and trying to be as balanced as possible. It's difficult to keep an ambitious 20-year-old who wants to be back to 'normal,' somewhat contained. I would strap him down if he let me, or if it was legal...during our Small Faith Sharing Group we had at our home during Advent, we reflected on the Annunciation when the Angel Gabriel came to Mary to 'announce' that she would be 'overcome by the Holy Spirit,' to bear the Son of God.'....She was 'greatly TROUBLED'....but 'PONDERED this in her heart' and ASKED 'How is this possible?'....When circumstances are beyond my capability to heal or even 'control'...God asks me to be patient and trust...Do I trust Him in all things, like Mary did? He is teaching me. I'm afraid I am a slow learner.
In December, Kellen did 'boy push-ups' with his physical therapist at Emilie Gamelin! That was awesome to witness. He continues to battle this illness that doesn't seem to go away despite our greatest efforts of fluids, NyQuil and rest. We are scheduled at the end of the month to be in San Diego for an intense week of Occupational Therapy with a Doctor who 'invented' a form of OT called Neuro-IFRAH. People fly in from across the nation to see him and participate in his clinic so we are asking for prayers for improved health, strength and endurance for Kellen during his two 3-hour appts each day. It seems overwhelming, but we are praying and trusting this is where he and we are being led to go. He will celebrate his 21st birthday while there on the 29th! Maybe not the setting he was anticipating, but thankful he is here to celebrate! It is through God's Grace and Provision, along with your generosity and prayers, that he/we are able to go. Thank you.
I will close with these words from a text I received from our friend and neighbor, Julie, who is a teen I was blessed to sponsor during her Confirmation:
"Yes, I pray that my pain might be removed, that it might cease; but more so, I pray for the STRENGTH to bear it, the GRACE to benefit from it, the DEVOTION to offer it up to GOD as a sacrifice of praise.'-Joni Tada from 'A Place of Healing'