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Tanner’s Story

Thank you for visiting our CaringBridge site. We created it to keep family and friends updated on Tanner's condition. We will also use it post any prayer requests. Please feel free to sign our guestbook and leave an encouraging word. 

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. 

Carol, Travis, and Tanner Underwood were in a serious car accident on I-35 Friday, March 23. Carol and Travis had minor cuts and bruises, but Tanner was flown to Scott and White in Temple to treat head injuries. He was sedated in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, where doctors monitored the swelling in his brain and brain activity. After several weeks Tanner began to experience partial consciousness, opening one eye and making a few gestures in response to our commands. He stabilized.

One month later he was transferred to a Baylor-affiliated rehab in Dallas called Our Children's House where they specialize in treating pediatric victims of traumatic brain injury. Rather than focus on rehab here, we fought "storming" for multiple weeks. When this was finally brought under control, Tanner faced some significant GI tract inflammation and infection. At the end of six weeks, we were able to arrange through our insurer for Tanner to move to Cook's Children's Hospital in Fort Worth in it's rehab unit where we stayed for another four months. While at Cook's Tanner had surgery, got off some of his powerful (but inhibiting drugs), obtained a Baclofen pump (implanted in his abdomen), increasingly displayed more alertness and responsiveness.  In short, he finally emerged from his coma. He began to answer questions with signals from his eyes, hands and feet. One of the most glorious days was when he demonstrated that he still had the ability to read.  Then he showed he could still do math, even algebra.  He began to work with an in-hospital school teacher and even was able to write messages to us. On October 3, 2012 we had a glorious homecoming parade awaiting us in our neighborhood and we brought Tanner back home--his first chance to be home since the late afternoon of that fateful day in March. We were able to hire a full-time (M-F) nurse and this has been a huge blessing, allowing Carol to return to work.  In January, 2013 Tanner began to return to school, on a very limited basis.  He has been doing significant therapy at Hope Therapy in Waco.  And he returned to school on a M-F basis in August 2013 attending regular classes each morning and then doing therapy at Hope each afternoon.  He has also been blessed with speech therapy through Baylor University.  He still must use a wheelchair as his left side body movements are very minimal (the leg and especially the arm).

Tanner speaks with friends (labored but still speaking), he laughs, he shows his old wit, he plays video games, he watches his favorite Seinfeld episodes on t.v., he goes to Baylor basketball and football games again.  There is laughter in our home where once our lives were filled with tears, sorrow, grief, horror, and fear.  We have Hope.

Our path is long, non-linear, and full of intimidating challenges still. But we have already known joy and experienced celebrations.

We are in a place where angels (posing as nurses, doctors, school teachers, and therapists) serve as the hands and feet of God making miracles happen. And so we await our continued miracle, letting Tanner's mind continue to heal and his cognitive thoughts re-emerge as God knits him back together again.

Please join us on this journey of faith and healing. Please pray for our family (Tanner, his parents Carol & Jim, and his older brothers Travis &Tyler). We are asking God to heal him as we learn to trust in His goodness and love for us all.

Tanner's life is God's glory.

Latest Journal Update

Waiting

We are again long overdue for providing an update on Tanner.  

I could blame it on a busy life, which is true.  And false.  Because I think the delay in posting is because I want something dramatic to report and my feeble eyes often fail to see or appreciate blessings for any sustained time.  A powerful passage in Psalms says we are to "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." (Psalm 27:14).  In a sense the waiting comes easy because we have no other choice.  But how we wait is important; do we wait in bitterness, hopelessness and fear?  Or do we wait with gratitude and hopeful expectancy?  I wish it were always the latter, but in moments the waters of fear can suddenly burst through a crack in our dam of faith unleashing great emotional harm. Other than prayers for Tanner's progress, as I will outline below, Carol and I could both use your prayers when our family enters your thoughts for strength, hopefulness, patience and gratitude.  Okay, back to Tanner.

Tanner started his junior year of high school with an aggressive schedule. He is taking an additional hour of class each day and also continuing one in-home class.  His daily routine involves leaving our home at 8:30 and returning for lunch and afternoons filled with various forms of therapy.  Four days a week he is at our local (Hope) therapy clinic and at Baylor for additional speech therapy with grad students; Wednesdays he is on a horse doing hippo therapy for his core strength.  His course work is going well; we just received his six-week report card yesterday with all good grades.  This is a huge blessing and one I try not to overlook.  For I remember a day in the summer of 2012 when Carol and our niece Jessica were moved to tears to see Tanner prove that he could still read.  With his short-term memory struggles, it is incredible that he is able to learn and retain new things in his classes.  He is currently reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" with his english class. Tanner's classmates also voted him to be their junior class prince for Lorena's recent homecoming--I'm including a pic of him and the princess in the homecoming parade. Tanner has always loved getting attention so these were precious moments of joy for the whole family.

Tanner is definitely stronger thanks to his therapy.  He does such a good job with his standing.  The new leg braces we received at the end of our stay in Houston this summer give him much greater stability.  It has become clear to us that the biggest struggle for him with walking is that he tends to bend at the waist as he takes steps.  In so doing, he is not consistently supporting all of his own weight nor staying balanced.  He told me last night that it was hard to focus on moving his legs and staying upright at the same time when he is trying to walk.  Walking would be such an enormous blessing to regain.  We were talking last night about how we long for being able to go hiking in the mountains again someday.  Our hiking vacations were our favorites but this just isn't possible at this time.  I do feel that this will happen; one day we will finish hiking to the top of a trail ending in a dreamy blue lake with the summit of the mountain above reflecting in the still cold waters.  We will sit on rocks next to the water as we rest with a drink of water and some cheese.  Tanner will turn to me and smile. And I will respond with tears flowing over my own smiling cheeks.  

We love the autumn with its cooler days and Baylor football games.  Last Saturday we all thrilled with the excitement of being in attendance helping cheer our Bears to a dramatic come-from-way-behind victory.  To my shame, I must admit that I convinced the family to leave the game in the 4th quarter when we went down by 21.  Tanner was stubborn, however, and refused to leave because he said that we would win.  So we all stayed to appease Tanner.  He was right, of course. His unwavering faithfulness helps to teach me a lesson I should have learned long ago about remaining steadfast regardless of the circumstances.

Tanner's speech is really much better than it was six months ago.  While it can still be difficult to decipher at times what he says, he has many moments where he does a terrific job articulating words.  Lessons learned about breathing deeply help as well as simply practicing as much as possible.

In terms of his upper body, we have Tanner wear a splint at night on his left wrist and hand to help keep the hand and fingers open.  During the day he frequently wears a cast on his left arm to try to stretch the muscles and help him straighten it.  One thing we are very excited about is the possibility of obtaining a "Bioness" nerve-stimulator for him to wear on the left arm.  We got to see this in action during our last few weeks in Houston.  The rep was very excited to see Tanner's response to it with the fingers on the left hand opening and closing immediately.  The idea is to re-teach the brain to open and close the hand and fingers, learning new pathways to replace the old connections that were lost in the accident.  The unit is expensive and so we are working with the state and other grant providers to help with the funding for this.  We have reason to be hopeful about this coming through but your prayers for this to happen would be greatly appreciated.  I believe this is the single most important thing we can do to help regain some functioning in the left arm and hand.  (We will then turn our attention to obtaining such a device for the left leg.  If you google this device, you can find dramatic videos online showing people regain walking almost immediately, aided by these units.)

Next month we plan to spend Thanksgiving in Macon, Georgia with my brother and his family.  It's been so long since we have been able to visit them in Georgia.  We will have many things for which to give thanks on that day.

I am sure there are many other things I should mention but am leaving out.  But I wanted you to know that progress continues.  Not as quickly as we'd hoped but it still occurs.  I know that God is not yet finished writing this story.  Thank you for your continued prayers and for sharing our excitement whenever additional blessings occur.
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Comments

15 Comments

Andrea Sulak
By
Since I only read your posts every few months I'm always surprised by the level of progress but to you living this day by day it may seem to drag on. But progress is being made and of course our timing is not God's timing. Prayers will continue to be sent your way. Gig'em! (thought the Aggies are not doing nearly as well as the Bears)
Becky Hanne
By Becky Hanne
Thanks for the update. How cool was that. Prince Tanner. It has a nice ring! Continued prayers for each thing you mentioned.
Craig McMahan
By Craig McMahan
I am so happy to hear of Tanner's continued progress. His tenacious spirit and a unfailing faith are incredible, a humbling inspiration to all who have followed on this journey. We remain steadfast in our praying for Tanner and for you all, knowing that you are held in holy hands.
Rene Weir
By Rene Weir
We continue to be inspired by Tanner and his journey. Carol was so very gracious answering my questions when I ran into her at the grocery store. Our thoughts and prayers, as always, are with you. Sic 'Em!
Pam Watts
By Pam Watts
Thank you for these updates and important reminders. Your messages never fail to be a "word in due season." Your family remains such an inspiration to us!
charlene parker
By Charlene Parker
So excited to hear of Tanner's newly elected Homecoming Junior Prince. What fun! And so thankful to our God for his continuous progress. Prayers for all of you and you continue this
journey. God is good ... all the time.
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Susan Swanson
By Susan Swanson
gina green
By Gina Green
It really is amazing to see how far Tanner has come! We continue to pray for his progress and the ability to secure the new stimulator device. Thanks for continuing to share this journey--love to you all!
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Linda Thoma
By Linda Thoma
Thank you for the update. We continue to pray daily for Tanner. He is a real inspiration to us!!! You say Tanner is on a therapy horse on Wednesdays, would it be possible to someday do a hike on a horse? Just thinking out loud.....
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Bridget Fuselier
By Bridget Fuselier
I loved the description of the family hiking trip that is to come. It was so vivid I cried. I know one day you will be posting a recap of that moment. Our prayers continue for all of you.
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