Journal

Journal entry by Leila Viss

From Leila in Florida

It’s Saturday evening and Chuck and Carter are in the kitchen cooking Carter’s favorite Mediterranean meal that includes baked marinated chicken, jasmine rice, greens and homemade hummus whipped up in his Ninja blender. 

I arrived here on Tuesday evening thanks to Southwest Airlines. Every passenger wore a mask, I strategically sat in an aisle seat so no one asked to sit in the window seat in the same row and no one was allowed to sit in the middle seat. I purchased a water bottle in the airport and snacked on a granola bar during the four-hour flight.

For part of the trip, Chuck drove at 30 miles-an-hour through a major thunderstorm to pick me up from Fort Lauderdale. 

After waiting for three-and-a half months, it was quite something to reunite with Chuck and Carter. It was something to treasure and somewhat of a painful throwback to what life was before I left Florida. I’m not sure if there are words to describe the visit and my emotions. The best I can do: good, glad and sad.

Chuck brought me back to the first-floor, two-bedroom first-condo that we scrambled to find back in January. It’s well kept thanks to Chuck’s outstanding cleaning regime. It seems to accommodate Carter’s lifestyle of recovery. That’s good. 

Three weeks after his right-knee surgery at the Paley Center, Carter seems more energetic than when first released and the knee continues to bend just a little more at every physical therapy appointment. Chuck is on his third of six weeks of administering antibiotics at 4pm every afternoon through a PICC line in Carter’s right arm. Carter usually dozes off for a while after the procedure. The last time I saw Carter he was in a hospital bed and confined to a wheel chair. Now I watch him stand and walk tall on his left foot while hobbling on his right foot. Things have improved dramatically. That’s good. 

On Friday, we went to the Hanger Clinic so that Carter could be fitted with his new prosthetic. We learned that connecting an arm to a prosthetic requires suction and tight straps around his upper torso.  If both are not just right, the prosthetic won’t stay on or work. After two hours, Carter left wearing the prosthetic and we headed to the fish store. Carter selected some new sea life for his fish tank. He adds certain fish and coral with intention to his pristine tank. That’s good.

The same evening, Andy and Christine came over for a dinner of make-your-own tacos. Andy works with Carter at Loggerhead Marinelife Center and kept Carter above water after the accident and brought him to the boat which eventually brought Carter to shore. Christine saw Carter get hit by the boat and swam over to Andy and Carter and wrapped a tourniquet around Carter’s arm with a bungee cord that she had on her paddle board. Andy and Carter were friends before the accident and were snorkeling together. Christine did not know Carter but witnessed the entire event as she was just 25-feet from the boat herself. She didn’t think twice about coming to help. That’s good and we are glad that both Andy and Christine were there and took swift, selfless action to bring Carter to shore. We are also glad that we know Andy and Christine. Andy volunteered for LMC before he became a full-time employee along with Carter. He and Carter both enjoy fishing and fish tanks. His powerful story about how he landed in Florida is one I look forward to sharing in my book—yep, it’s coming along. Christine brought homemade Angel Food cake and fresh strawberries for dessert even though we didn’t ask her to bring anything. She strapped a Rubbermaid cake holder on the back of her motorcycle. As she washed her hands when she arrived, she apologized for her dirty fingernails. She’s been fixing the axle on her Subaru.

In the morning, Carter requires help with getting his compression socks, shoes and his AFO (ankle foot orthotic) on before he gets out of bed. He sits for a good part of the day listening to podcasts, texting, watching fish videos, reading fish-related books, playing piano, drawing at his desk and caring for his fish tank.  At night he needs help with taking shoes off, getting in the shower, wrapping the ice pack around his knee...

As Carter recovers, he’s becoming more independent but there are crucial tasks that he cannot do alone....yet. It’s assumed that the prosthetic will help with some of these. It will take some time to adapt to the robotic body part. And so, we wait for healing. When I let reality sink in a little further and realize the road ahead, that’s what makes me sad. For now, we settle in and wait to see Carter return to life the way it was before and Chuck to return to Colorado for good.

At this point, the good must and will outweigh the sad. 

Hugs and blessings to you all as we wait for Covid-19 to be flattened for good. It’s been a long road for all of us with more waiting ahead.

Take care and take courage,
Leila







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Journal entry by Leila Viss

From Chuck in Florida

A week ago we learned Carter would have to endure another hospital stay at St Mary’s after his outpatient surgery turned into a pretty big ordeal.  It wasn’t pretty at all, but he made it through 4 nights and was able to be discharged Monday afternoon.  I think he slept over 12 hours Monday night.

He’s doing ok.  The wheelchair has come out of retirement, meaning he uses that to get around – including at the off-site appointments.  He is able to bear weight on the right leg as tolerated and increases his walking distance every day – today was couch to kitchen and back.  His pain levels are pretty good for what they did in surgery, and he manages his pain with Tylenol.  His appetite is back too.

Paley and team wanted him back in PT right away, so we’ve started those visits again.  He did not lose any degree of bend in his right knee. 

The wound vac was removed.  The wound vac was kind of a pain because it was attached to tubes taped onto Carter, and he had to haul the vac everywhere he went.  The incisions were quite large, one on each side of his leg.  And another one around the back of the knee which they used for the nerve decompression.  His wounds are now covered with antibiotic tape, a dressing, and adhesive tape.  They will start removing the stitches in a week and a half.

I’ve been coordinating home health care and answering home health and insurance calls.  Not sure why our insurance company needs their case manager calling me to tell me Carter was hospitalized?  I have to administer antibiotics through the PICC line once daily and schedule follow-up appointments.

The best thing about this week is having Chase and Brittany around.  The windows are clean, as is the storage room.  The kitchen is well-used and sometimes the dishwasher runs twice daily.  Carter and I have someone to visit with besides each other.  Family is family and the bonds we are creating now will forever strengthen us.  We had fun together getting the eel out from hiding, and I think we figured out how to ensure the eel stays in the main tank.  I heard Kirby’s Air Ride being played on the Game Cube.  We found an excellent catering place that sells family style meals.  And I realized Chase likes to go the grocery store as much as I do – we overbought and Brittany spent a long time reorganizing everything in the fridge. 

Life is good!

From Leila in Colorado

It's always interesting to read what Chuck writes for these posts because I usually learn something new--didn't know Carter had an incision behind his knee although I knew they did take a look at the nerve. I just didn't put two and two together. It's also good to hear that Chase and Brittany landed just at the right time and shipped in fresh energy--just what the doctor ordered.

I also have to say that Chuck's last sentence comes somewhat as a pleasant surprise. I know for a fact that he wasn't saying that two weeks ago when anticipating the upcoming hospital stay. Both Chuck and Carter suffered intense anxiety in anticipation of going back to the hospital. I also know that Chuck digs deep and powers up the fortitude to take charge despite setbacks, hangups, and annoying events that would drive me over the edge. And that is why he is there and I am here. The garden has been left fallow this year since the master gardener is not around but Levi and I are managing the yard work and the koi in the pond. Erin, Levi and I are also cooking together. Yes: I'm cooking thanks to Home Chef.

All that being said, I truly wish I was in Florida to see Carter again and to give Chuck a big, long hug--not just an elbow bump. It will happen in due time.

For the time being, I'll take "Life is good" as the best mother's day gift one can get during a pandemic.

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms and for those celebrating their moms and to our moms: Gert Viss and Joanne Alberda.

Journal entry by Leila Viss

From Chuck in Florida

Quick update to let you know that Carter’s surgery got moved up one day to April 30.  I dropped him off at the surgical center at 6AM and went back home because I’m not allowed in the facility and tried to keep busy so I didn’t think about it.  I was not successful at not thinking about it.  Did a couple of online yoga classes but still couldn’t shake off the anxiety.

The surgery they had planned – clean out the wound infection on the surface of his right knee and decompress the nerve that is causing the right drop foot.  Outpatient.

The surgery that happened - cleaned out the infection (surprise!) by the bone and the hardware in his right distal femur, remove the plates and screws that held it together, fill the hole in the femur (surprise!) with cement that will eventually be absorbed (no surgery necessary to remove it), clean out the skin infections (the areas that were draining) by his knee and explore 8 inches of nerve that runs his foot, to find that there’s no dissection and lots of hope it will regenerate.

Dr. Paley did Carter’s surgery.  His staff was texting me during the surgery, and he Facetimed with me afterwards to explain everything.  It worked out quite well.  No surgery waiting room.  No pacing around down the hospital halls during surgery.  No doctor/family conversation in the hallway afterwards with other people around.  I prefer this way of communication over how things went with Carter’s previous surgeries when I was allowed in the facility.  We are very grateful for Dr. Paley and his staff for overseeing Carter’s recovery.  They are a world-class outfit.

It was a major surgery and Carter will be staying at St Mary’s for a few days.  Not ideal ever, but especially disappointing because there are no visitors allowed.  And not a good time to be stuck in a hospital.

I’m taking over a bag to the hospital with some essentials which will be brought to him.  And I can still take over meals for him and the staff will deliver them to his room.

It was good that the infection was found, cleaned out, and will be treated with antibiotics.  Carter’s blood work showed signs of infection but the docs couldn’t figure out where it was.  And he never had a fever.  Carter will come home with a PICC line again and will need injections (nurse Chuck has to brush up on his skills).  He will also come home with a wound vacuum which will need to be monitored. 

So there’s some work ahead for everyone.  And some major recovery, but he’s much stronger now so I am sure the recovery will be quick and he’ll be back to therapy in no time, hopefully much improved because of what was done in surgery.

Chase and Brittany just booked flights arriving Friday night, May 1.  I’ll enjoy the company and the assistance.

Levi just texted me that he and Erin are able to help out as well, so they will most likely be here later in May. 

And thanks for your continued thoughts and prayers throughout this time in our lives.  Our whole family feels your love and support.

PS
Carter agreed to an interview last week with a local TV station reporter. Here's the link: https://www.wpbf.com/article/carter-viss-speaks-for-first-time-about-snorkeling-accident-that-cost-him-his-arm/32274130?fbclid=IwAR3EYfNdUd0dijfRFS6tfzOSTo27lGxFdSyM7ILj72xd0H_Zaq1FB8hxrvQ#

Journal entry by Leila Viss

From Chuck

Since our last update from Florida, there’s been more progress and more delays.

On the progress side, Carter has continued his pastime of fishing.  Andy is gracious enough to take Carter out to some favorite spots so they can enjoy spending time together and catching more fish.  After coming home the other day, Carter said it was one of the best fishing days he has ever had. 

More progress on the walking.  Carter walks beyond the pier and back when he’s not in too much pain.  What has helped with the walking is the new AFO (ankle-foot orthosis) brace for his right foot – a carbon fiber AFO with more spring action.  His gait is now a bit more natural than it was with the firm plastic AFO.   He’s getting a bit more confident by testing his ability to stand and move while barefoot – we’ll see how that transpires.

Carter has started to sketch using materials given to him by his cousin Kassy.  The desk we assembled earlier is getting a lot of use.  He is also spending more time at the piano and has been working on recording some pieces.  He also spends a lot of time with the fish tank, cleaning the walls, changing water, rearranging corals.  The eel has been in hiding since Andy brought it over a few weeks ago, so we’re trying to coax it out of its hiding place with no success as of yet.

We’re still on lockdown, just like most everyone else.  I go to the grocery store as necessary, and I will go out to pick up meals provided by the Meal Train.  And we will go out for Therapy as well.  We were going to therapy 5 days a week, but we’ve reduced that to 3 days a week due to the fact that we need to preserve enough sessions (as the number of sessions are restricted per insurance) for after surgery. 

Still no indication of when surgery will happen.  The sinus on his knee is still draining fluid.  We haven’t heard of any infections in the lab yet.  We wait, just like so many other people, for news that our non-essential surgery can be performed.

Easter and the Holy Week came and went.  We both attended our church services online.  For me, that was attending South Suburban Christian Church’s services – Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  I was touched by each service and am thankful for the ability to stay in touch with my Denver church while I’m living in Florida.  As we all move through these uncertain times, we find blessings in places we never thought we would. 

From Leila

Chuck wrote his portion on Thursday and I've been delayed in posting it. Since then, there are a few more developments. First, Carter's surgery is now scheduled for May 1st. Apparently, they are allowing non-essential surgeries back into the OR lineup. We're not clear on what procedures will be completed on his right knee but it's expected that Carter will be back at St Mary's for a one-week stay. Chuck and I are pleased that the surgery will happen sooner rather than later. Carter is not pleased to be headed back to the hospital.

Last evening, my sister Lorilynn, her husband Ivan, Chuck and my mom and dad hopped on a Zoom call. Like all Zoom meetings, the first 15 minutes were a comedic hullabaloo of reconnections, sound issues and strange camera angles. Chuck appeared and disappeared periodically as he was tending to the laundry and because his internet kept dropping. Despite a virus unexpectedly revisiting Mom and Dad's computer (do computers get COVID-19?) they trouble-shooted their way and proudly attended their first Zoom hangout. It was our first virtual family gathering of 2020, most of us showered, some in need of a hair wash and all of us in need of a haircut.

During our online conversation, a few more questions were answered about Carter's recovery. He is down to taking two Advil a day and before bed, takes some CBD with THC tinctures. He takes no Gabapentin for his right arm phantom pain. He now uses his right arm to stabilize objects. The prosthetic coming soon will assist immensely with Carter's ability to help himself.  One thing that Carter cannot do is put on his shoes because he cannot bend his right knee as needed. Chuck's prepared to stay in Florida until Carter is independent. Carter is prepared to be independent as soon as possible. Living with your dad as a 25-year old when being accustomed to not living with your dad for 6 years prior, has been an adjustment for both of them. I commend them both for getting through this together in relative peace and calm.

Below are pictures of Carter's latest catch-and-release fishing escapade. Andy hooked the fresh bait on Carter's line and Carter did the rest. Fish be warned: Carter is back at it. 

I wrote a blog post called "What Day Is It?" (
https://www.leilaviss.com/blog/what-day-is-it) last Saturday about how the lockdown has blurred our days. The time warp the world is experiencing is similar to life in a hospital. The post includes a video of Carter playing Bach's "Prelude in C" that he rearranged for left hand only. None of his playing is prompted or guided by his mother. It keeps things better between us. :-)

Below, you'll see a video Carter just sent me yesterday of him playing "It is Well With My Soul." The arrangement was sent to him by a fellow piano teacher and virtual friend, Daniel Light, who has been following Carter's story since the accident.

Take care and take courage,

Chuck and Leila

Journal entry by Leila Viss

From Chuck in Florida

Two weeks of isolation have passed since my last update and things are not too different here in Jupiter than they were two weeks ago.  Carter and I have settled into a routine of life, much like everyone else around the world.

Our routine includes one outing Monday-Friday, usually therapy for Carter.  But we had a few interruptions to that flow this past fortnight.  A few of them were because of Carter’s right knee which is still draining fluid.  During our meeting with our Infectious Disease doctor we were told Carter’s bloodwork indicates a possible infection and the doc would like to have some knee fluid collected and analyzed in the lab.  So we went to the Orthopedic doc for some fluid extraction fun (I stepped out of the room).  As of right now, the labs are negative for infection. 

The Orthopedic doc also wanted to get an X-ray with the aid of injected dye to see where the fluid is coming from out of the sinus – the name for fluid site.  So another trip to the doc for more tests.  The results of the tests showed the origin of the fluid is not in the joint, which is good.  That good news added to the good news that it’s not infected either.  Bad news is that they can’t do a cleanout surgery because it’s not considered essential. So more tests were ordered, and Carter went in for a CT scan for further analysis. 

I’ve been praying for healing for the right knee for several months now.  The swelling in his knee has gone down some, but with the sinus still active and very little improvement in the bending of the knee over several weeks of therapy, I’m getting a little discouraged overall.  The surgery to decompress the nerve which should help his foot drop is also considered non-essential.  Sigh.

Another non-therapy appointment was with our prosthetics provider.  They took a cast of Carter’s right arm the other day in order to prepare the silicone socket that will slip over his arm and hold the prosthetic.  The process is pretty lengthy (made lengthier due to COVID), and we’re hoping in 6 weeks Carter could be using a prosthetic for his right hand.

The lack of a right hand has not deterred Carter from playing the piano.  He’s working on several pieces, including one that was composed for Carter by one of Leila’s friends.  He’s also relearning songs he used to play with two hands and effectively playing them with just his left hand – and they are beautiful.  I’m hoping he will let me record them sometime.

Other news is that we ordered a nice desk from Amazon and we both worked hard putting it together.  Carter figured everything out using the wordless instruction sheet, and did probably 80% of the work.  He did mention that he really could have used another hand in the process of putting the desk together.

He also went fishing with Andy the other night, socially distanced of course.  He was able to fully tie a hook to his line, bait the hook, catch fish and release fish all on his own.  Andy said that Carter even out-fished him.  When they got back to our place Carter mentioned how nice it was to have the smell of fish on his hand again.  That cracked me up.

Retired Equipment Update - The fancy pill box I purchased from Walgreens when Carter first was released from the hospital is now being used to house the vitamins that I take daily.  And the quad cane that Carter relied on for 6 weeks is now resting in the closet.

We’re thankful as always for the meals being provided by the Meal Train.  And we’re thankful for not getting sick.  And we’re thankful we can still go outside and walk.  We’re also thankful for your support and prayers. 

Please pray for Leila, Levi and Erin, Chase and Brittany, all sequestered back in Denver.  It’s very hard being apart, but again it’s a blessing to be able to be here for Carter at this time.  And continue to pray for our health to stay good and for Carter’s overall recovery to progress down a positive road.

From Leila in Colorado

And, please pray for Chuck and Carter AND for the whole world. This COVID-19 lockdown is quite distressing on so many levels. I'm sure you have moments of despair and then you find the strength to carry on.

Levi, Erin, Chase and Brittany and I are all fine (dealing with life and not sick) and work online at home. All piano lessons are now virtual with multiple camera angles and even a little fancy stage lighting thanks to daughter-in-law Brittany who keeps me updated with online must-have tools. Brittany is a dynamic and innovative preschool teacher and has managed to connect with her preschool class through Zoom.

Although Chase would never claim it to be a big deal, we are ecstatic that he's presenting his Ph.D. defense as part of his doctorate in applied math this coming Monday via Zoom. It's open to the public. If you have any questions about Circuits in Optimization, I'm quite sure Chase can answer them for you.

We're all finding new routines since the gym, workplaces and the church are closed. On nice days, it's hard to keep six feet away from the neighbors as we are all outside. Levi and Erin do most of the grocery store shopping and most of the cooking, although I've proven myself as a capable meal maker as I can boil and heat things up quite well. We've found Uber Eats to be incredibly handy and aim to support our local restaurants as much as possible.

One project that has been therapeutic for this household is called Onward. It's a piano solo that Carter composed and played in high school, I learned it by ear when in Florida, notated it and then Levi learned how to play it. The proceeds of the digital score go to directly to Loggerhead Marinelife Center as long as their doors are closed.

Here's a link to the backstory of why and how this project came about: https://www.leilaviss.com/blog/onward-piano-solo

And, one more thing. Our care pastor Joe Hess asked if I'd write something up that he could read during his online Good Friday sermon. I was hesitant at first and then wrote something.


From Joe:

The overall theme of my message is from Philippians 3:10 “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, sharing in the fellowship of his suffering, becoming like him in his death.”

The overall framework of the message will be the 7 last words/sentences of Christ from the cross.  The verse I thought of for you is Jesus’s 3rd word from the cross from John's Gospel:  “Dear woman, here is your son.”  and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” 

 
1. Could I ask you to think and pray on one or both of those verses.  
 
2. Could I have you write a paragraph or 2  - on some of what you’ve been through this year and how God may be speaking to you in and through those verses?
 
With your blessing, my hope is then to weave your thoughts/words into my Good Friday message.  


From Leila:

I could never relate to Mary as a teenage mom but always felt compassion for her situation. And, I never deeply connected with her as a mother standing at her Son’s feet nailed to a tree until Black Friday, 2019. 

 

When Joe asked me to reflect on the third words of Jesus, I almost choked. In or out of context, they hit too close to home, he’s got to be kidding.

 

But then, I thought about it. I haven’t shied away from the brutality and reality of Carter’s accident so why stop now. So, I’ll share the scene I recently described in a rough draft for a book, a memoir of our family tragedy.

 

“We were told to remain calm as we entered ICU room 403. As we walked towards his bed I remember my knees buckling as I moaned from somewhere deep inside. The nurses were ready to remove me from the room. Hysteria is not allowed in ICU. I held on tightly to Chuck and together we studied Carter. He was massive. I thought it was because he’s a tall, muscular guy but we soon learned that he looked like he was too big for the bed because his body was so swollen from the trauma.

Long “door handles” called external fixators were screwed into his left leg to align and hold the bones together. A tube was stuffed down his throat deep into his chest and was secured with tape across his lips and face. A black brace fastened with velcro around his right knee and thigh locked them both in place. Plastic that looked liked packing tape clung to his right shin and was connected to what we would learn later on to be a wound vac. His entire left hand, his dominant hand, was wrapped in ice and bandages in the shape of a boxing glove. The right arm was missing its forearm, wrist, beautiful long fingers with large nail beds. Blood seeped through the bandages where the arm was severed. Dried blood caked his toe nails and gathered around the cuticles. Every part of what was wrong with Carter blurred our vision—at this moment— to what was right with him: his beautiful face remained untouched, his large chest, though covered with wires and tape, looked strong and muscular. 

The body of our Carter was changed forever.”

 

When you give birth to a perfectly healthy baby with ten fingers and ten toes, the thought never crosses your mind that five of them could be taken away, permanently. 

 

Experts claim there are five stages of grief and one is acceptance. I’m not sure I ever will accept this change in Carter’s body. But, I am determined to find meaning, a sixth stage recently added by grief experts. 

 

Carter believes his present state is God’s will for his life. He’s determined to make an impact with his story. He’s found meaning and although I’m dragging my feet as I still mourn for what’s been lost, he’s inspiring me to do the same.

 

So it is with Good Friday, we find meaning at the foot of a bloody cross. In his words to his mother, Jesus was reassuring her that she would be looked after and that his suffering would make a difference, a world of difference. It’s not until we sink to our knees and see the Son in the brutal grasp of the dark side as His mother did, that we can accept it’s significance and rise toward the light of His resurrection.


Take care and take courage,

The Viss Family

Journal entry by Leila Viss

From Chuck in Florida

COVID-19.  How quickly things change.  All paths that we have before us are now different than we thought they would be a few weeks ago.  Everyone shares similar concerns.  Here are some of our new realities:

Visits to Florida planned by Leila, Chase and Brittany were canceled.  Levi and Erin have plans in early April to be here, and have not yet canceled their flights.

Carter’s surgery on his right leg had been scheduled for late April, but quickly got canceled as all “elective” surgeries are now on hold.

Carter’s upper extremity prosthetics expert has not been able to visit Florida again.  We are looking at alternative prosthetists in case things don’t work out with our current one.

The Paley Institute remains open for PT and OT.  They take our temperature before we are able to enter the clinic.

Food supply is limited, but today at the store I purchased everything for pasta with Italian sausage and mushrooms along with ingredients for chicken soup.  We have 12 rolls of TP left. 

The beaches here are closed and access areas are roped off and any violators will be cited.

Our favorite Thai restaurant for “take-out Thai night” has closed.

In reality, Carter and I have been self-isolating now ever since he came home from the hospital.  So this new reality for everyone else doesn’t seem too disruptive to the life that we have settled into.  I’m just glad people are paying attention to washing their hands now.  Too bad it took something like this to make that happen.

I do have some new things to report.  Progress continues slowly as we slog along through this recovery. 

  • Daily therapy continues and I’d say the most progress being made right now is in the area of Carter’s endurance.
  • Carter goes for walks along the path by the beach without me now. 
  • We went for a walk in a natural dunes area the other day.  My phone said it was over 1.5 miles.  Carter had to walk on mostly grass and sand.  When we got back to the car we dumped out a ton of sand from his right shoe.  Since he can’t fully lift his foot up, the sand unnaturally settled into the shoe. Side note - I’ve come to realize that living with sand in your house in Florida is something you just get used to.
  • Andy called me at 9:45 the other night to tell me there was a huge leatherback turtle nesting on the beach near our condo.   I quickly went out there, somehow found Andy, and we watched a 1,000 pound sea turtle finish her nest and go right back into the ocean.  She was over 6 feet long.  She had already been tagged years ago and another LMC staffer who was also there told me that the turtle will lay 4-5 more nests along the beach this season.
  • I heard the piano being played for the first time this week. 
  • We have a make-shift gym next to the piano, as now the gym I just joined has shut down.  Carter continues to work out with his stepper and also weights.
  • Carter’s fish tank is looking great.  He takes care of it and feeds the creatures that reside in it, including his eel.  After the accident Andy went promptly to Carter’s place to get his eel from Carter’s tank and put it in his tank for safe keeping.  Now the eel is back in Carter’s tank, hiding somewhere for now.

 

From Leila in Colorado

This past Tuesday evening I held a private and brief sob fest when I canceled my flight to Florida. I was sad to miss out on being in the same room as Chuck and Carter, but, the trip did not seem worth the risk. Would I contract the virus? Would I be able to return home?

Just when I thought I may be getting a handle on our family’s new reality, COVID-19 rocked the world’s reality. Now, everything that we hold dear like freedom, routine and some form of control over the future has been kicked out the door. My cancellation is just one story out of billions who are left spinning with disappointment or loss. In some way, we are all grieving. Thank you for taking the time to hear of Carter’s progress when you are facing your own struggles with quarantine, job loss, empty grocery store shelves, canceled weddings, vacant pews, scares with illness…

Chase, Levi and his girlfriend Erin--who managed a return flight from her home in Hawaii last Friday to work in Denver--are accustomed to working online. That is NOT the case for most piano teachers. Although I teach a few lessons online, I much prefer in-person lessons. As I take two weeks off from teaching, I’ll be exploring Zoom and other online tools to keep the studio up and running. Daughter in-law Brittany managed to teach preschoolers using Zoom!

One adult student replied to my online lesson alternative with these words:

“I’ve been using Zoom a lot this week - one happy hour, one coffee group and even an extended family Yahtzee game over Zoom - so would be willing to give it a try for our next lesson.”

 

Thoughts and prayers for you as you reinvent life and practice hope during these most unsettling circumstances 2020 has delivered to your door step.

Although we’ve been forced to keep a distance from each other, the words “we are not alone” keep looping in my head. 

Leila

Journal entry by Leila Viss

From Chuck

The latest week reminds me of when Carter was “slogging through” things in the Rose Kennedy suite at St. Mary’s, waiting for doctors to allow weight bearing on one limb.  We are “slogging through” therapy time now.  Considering this – there’s not quite two months between the two slogging times, but the physical ability that Carter has now verses the time in the hospital are strikingly different. 

Therapy continues on and progress is slow but emerging.  A major part of his recovery relies on the ability to bend that right knee.  It’s happening, but very slowly.  Dr. Paley has a surgery in mind to help that knee bend.  And the right foot still drops.  Dr. Paley also wants to work on decompressing the peroneal nerve that’s causing the foot drop, and if that doesn’t help he’ll look into doing a tendon transfer surgery to help Carter control his foot.  So there’s a road ahead for his right leg, and it could be a longer road than what we wanted, but we’ll take what we can get.

Every so often I’ll review the Caring Bridge journals in the past and I’ll randomly choose a date and read the journal on that date and I’ll be quite shocked about how much progress has been made between the date of the journal and now.  The last journal entry I read was when I was kicked out of PT in the hospital because I was jumpy that Carter would fall over while sitting up in bed.  Today, Carter can stand up on his own when wearing shoes and walk over a mile.  Progress.

I also took another look at the first picture that was posted, when Carter was in the ICU the Friday after Thanksgiving.  So many emotions rip through me when I see that photo, mostly because of the shock of what we have all been through, but also because he’s home now and doing as well as anyone had hoped.

We’ve had more walks to the pier.  More strangers encouraging Carter on.  A little less drainage from the scar line on the knee.  Ankle weights on the right arm to strengthen the shoulder.  Compression sock on the right leg to reduce swelling.  More equipment retired to the closet.  And Amazon delivered a stair stepper which Carter uses daily.

Carter continues to take less and less prescription meds, and I keep track of everything he takes twice a day in my journal.  We take his BP/Temp/Pulse daily (well, most days) and I record that too.  Some days he has the blues, and I think it is because of some withdrawal symptoms from the meds along with the realization of the permanency of his injuries.  But we’re charging on with it.  He took absolutely no meds prior to the accident, and that’s our goal for the future.  And I’m confident he’ll conquer the physical things in due time to the best of his abilities.

Condo life has its challenges.  The recently replaced gate system left me stranded outside for some time the other day, but thanks to a neighbor I was able to get in.  I know the neighbor because his bathtub above me has leaked into my shower.  Now I have a big hole in the ceiling above my shower. The plumber is supposed to fix it this week sometime. 

And what about me?  I’m finding my way here.  Almost seems like home now.  I joined a gym to get back into working out, back doing yoga, loving the meals provided via Meal Train every Monday/Wednesday/Friday, know my local Publix like the back of my hand, freely swear at all the bad drivers here, reading more books, trying to enjoy this time of my life as much as possible, including the beach close by.  I haven’t been surfing yet, but I’ve been looking at surfing videos on YouTube. 

-Chuck

From Leila

COVID-19 has rocked the world. We're all experiencing various levels of unrest because of this powerful virus. When our son Levi heard that the NBA suspended their season until further notice, he decided we needed to go to the grocery store NOW and stock up. And so, we did.

I hope I can make it out to Florida if airlines continue to fly. A big piano teacher conference in Chicago that I was suppose to attend and see many of my dear friends from around the world was canceled.

I just finished a new blog about my experience with grief, resources about grief and ways I'm coping with it. Although it's not the point of the post, I'm noticing that feelings stirred up by this pandemic are similar to those of grief. 

You can read my post here.

Thank you for all your dear and kind words of support.

Please stay well! 

-Leila


Journal entry by Leila Viss

Progress to report from Florida

We have now transitioned from home-based therapy to outpatient therapy.  Carter will have either physical or occupational therapy daily at the Paley Institute.  The therapists there work with patients who have had very complicated surgeries.  They’ve seen about everything, but I don’t think they’ve seen a Carter before.  Every one of the therapists we’ve met have been very knowledgeable and caring.  One of the advantages of outpatient therapy is that the facility is housed with all sorts of equipment to help Carter improve.  It’s pretty impressive.

Carter continues to gain independence around the house.  The only physical help he needs from me is transferring from the bed to the wheelchair in the morning and from the shower bench to the chair at night.  I help him with getting his socks and shoes on, mostly out of convenience to him.  But that’s really it. 

Last week we met with the prosthetics company, and they determined that Carter’s arm is too swollen to fit him for a socket, so they sent him home with a shrinker sock that he wears that helps reduce the swelling.  They also noticed he still has a lot of sensitivity in the arm and wants him to work that out with the occupational therapists.

Carter’s right knee scar line still has not healed up from the abscess.  We met with the infectious disease doctor yesterday and he took a culture to get it analyzed to determine if there’s some sort of micro-bacteria festering in there.  I wish it would just clear up.  We dress it and will meet with the surgeon if it still hasn’t healed up by next week.

He has a little more bend in the knee now, and is walking about everywhere.  Because the knee can bend more, now when we go to appointments he rides shotgun – no more need for the board to slide onto the back seat. 

At the beginning of last week Carter stated he wanted to walk to the pier by the end of the week.  I’d say it’s about a half mile from our place.  We went out every day of the week, inching closer to the pier each time.  On Sunday, he firmly had it in his head he was going to make it…and he did.  He walked over a mile that day.  With me standing beside him not helping at all. 

Most people we cross on the path are polite and say “Hi.”  I was struck by what one person did and said.  He looked at Carter and then looked him in the eye and said “Hang in there, bud.”  I don’t think I’ll forget that act of kindness.  Just a reminder that a little bit of kindness goes a long way.

Chuck

Progress to report from Colorado

Our family’s biggest adjustment since I returned back to Colorado is dealing with the absence of Chuck. All have stepped in--Chase, Brittany and Levi are remarkable.

The biggest progress I made on the home front is that I’m on top of the snow removal and the driveway is clear, trash is set out on Tuesdays just before the garbage trucks come by and I remember to get the mail most days. 

Living with Levi is a sweet change of pace but we both need to be more proactive about meal planning and grocery shopping.

I haven’t stopped worrying about Carter’s well-being and that of Chuck. It’s a hectic pace keeping track of appointments, insurance, leaky pipes and work, too. Thankfully, I heard an LMC volunteer stopped by with a meal for the two of them and is a massage therapist and gave Chuck an in-home massage.

There’s healing and peace that comes when I play piano and I just finished a piece that was started in Florida during those rough weeks of slogging through. 

You can listen to it here

Thank you—wish there were stronger words that amplified our gratitude—for all you do and who you are as we continue to walk this road.

Leila

 

Journal entry by Leila Viss

From Chuck

The rash is going away. We’re not sure what caused it, most likely all the meds that Carter’s been getting the past few months. Speaking of meds, he’s currently taking only one pain med specifically for nerve pain, and two other meds – one he takes at night and one he takes in the morning. Quite a different med regime than what he came home with the first time from the hospital just over 3 weeks ago.

Having Chase here was a blessing. He is a very patient person, and I leaned on that patience particularly during the hospital episode this past weekend. We also enjoyed cooking together, and we had fun exploring some local restaurants, both dining in and dining out.  We all fit in the condo quite well. We have an extra bed to setup in the tank room if anyone else wants to come out and visit.

We were informed of a turtle release at LMC happening on Tuesday the 25th. Unfortunately we had already scheduled an important appointment with an orthopedic surgeon that morning, so we were not planning on attending the release--the release of not just one but, two turtles.

But as we've come to learn, things change quickly.

On Monday we met with a new orthopedic doctor, Dr. Paley from the Paley Institute (https://www.paleyinstitute.org/). People come from all over the world to have surgeries at the institute, and he’s located right near here in West Palm Beach. And, he’s in our insurance network. 

Dr. Paley looked over Carter and his x-rays and immediately formed a plan for his right knee and his right drop foot, the two things that have been on my mind since Dr A did surgery on those limbs in early December. The plan includes intensive therapy, possible surgeries, more therapies. 

He also recommended that Carter proceed with a socket prosthetic for his right arm and we have a fitting scheduled for that on Thursday.

And we are not going to proceed with TMR surgery in the near future because we want to focus on getting Carter back up and independent. We’ll see how he gets along with the new prosthetic and then determine if TMR would be something Carter would benefit from later on down this unpredictable road.

Long story short, Dr. Paley is Carter’s new orthopedic doctor. We couldn’t be more thrilled. Because of this, we could cancel the Tuesday morning appointment and see the turtle release.

Now I have to mention another new friend, a doctor, who facilitated everything so well. Dr Lichtblau is Carter’s rehab doctor, and thanks to him, we were able to meet with Dr. Paley and get the attention Carter needs. I must say, Palm Beach County Florida has amazing doctors.

Back to the turtles…Carter, Chase and I went to the double turtle release. LMC has a cool wheelchair that can go on the beach so Carter jumped (well, not literally) on that and we wheeled him to the beach. The two turtles released were Ballard (our family adopted him) and Bailey (missing a front right flipper--yes, from a boat strike.) The release was magical. 

Being back at LMC was also magical for Carter. He walked most of the time he wasn’t in the beach wheel chair. He was loved on again, by staff members and Tuesday volunteers. It’s clear we need to visit different days of the week to cover all of the volunteers.

Some other observations:

  • I leave the wheelchair in the car now for appointments because Carter wants to walk and he’s getting really good at it.
  • Carter is gaining more and more independence at home because of his ability to get out of chairs and walk on his own when he has his shoes and brace on. When he’s barefooted, he needs the wheelchair.
  • As independence is gained, more and more we lose dependence on the medical equipment we took home from the hospital.
  • The Meal Train is a blessing I cannot even begin to describe.  Knowing food will be provided for us is a huge relief to me, freeing me from one less responsibility.
From Leila

Sighing relief from the Florida news looking to be in a positive direction. 

Basking in the love and support given by so many dear friends...
  • From Dean and Dee--delicious meals and rich conversation. 
  • From Nan--divine butternut squash soup with more meals in the freezer.
  • From church--too many to name here.
  • From dear friends and the community--who gathered to celebrate a young man (Levi's friend from K-8 and whose parents are also our friends) who lost his life far too soon. 
  • From all the Florida community surrounding Chuck and Carter.

Hugs...

Journal entry by Leila Viss

As I post this, Carter is still sleeping. Sleeping in his OWN bed.

From what we had heard from the infectious disease docs yesterday, it was assumed Carter would stay at least one more night for observation.

Turns out that he was discharged last evening as his vital signs were fine. The docs are running tests and designing a plan to ease the rash. First in line—steroids and no more oral antibiotics.

Dr. Borrego and his trauma team knew of Carter’s admittance and planned to check on his right knee but never made it. Too busy. We understand as we were thankful Dr. Borrego was available Thanksgiving day for Carter when it really mattered.

Carter has appointments with Dr. A and his new orthopedic doc and physiatrist this week so the knee will be attended to very soon.

Chase picked up Indian food for dinner for them to eat back in Jupiter.

That ends that chapter. 

Thanks for hanging on tight with us. We never know how short, how long or how rough the ride will be.

-Leila

Journal entry by Leila Viss

This is Carter's mom, Leila.

The story began to unravel yesterday when the West Palm Beach sheriff called us with the news that Carter was snorkeling and struck by a boat. After countless conversations with Florida Fish and Wildlife agents, caregivers and then a long, tedious, painful red-eye plane ride, we finally saw Carter in the state you see him in the photo below. 

Since a picture speaks a thousand words, I share this picture. It's the brutal truth and it hurts, oh does it hurt.

Chuck and I and the family are not OK and yet, we find OKness in the unending support we continue to receive from Carter's Florida "mom" named Nancy, faithful friends, work place family--the Loggerhead Marine Life Center, his church family, the caregivers at St Mary's Hospital and my dear sister Lorilynn and her sweet husband Ivan. And, of course all the friends and family around the world who continue to reach out and want to help.

And...when ready, I'll tell you more about the story of Andy and Christine, the two that ultimately saved Carter's life. Carter was conscious during the entire horrific event.

We need prayer warriors to lift up Carter's legs. They must remain infection free so that corrective surgery can begin.

We need prayers and support for our Denver children Chase, Brittany and Levi as they await the latest news of Carter.

Chuck and I are asking why. We take turns losing it, sobbing, and comforting each other. While Carter is sedated we have the luxury of being as weak as we need to be. We know that when Carter is slowly taken off the sedation, we will need to be strong for him. 

For now...

Carter’s Story

Site created on November 29, 2019

This Caring Bridge is a page for family and friends  to stay updated on Carter Viss' recovery. We thank you for your prayers, encouragement and interest in Carter's story. 


On Thanksgiving Day Carter was out doing what he loved most; diving in the ocean near Palm Beach with a good friend. As a Marine Biologist, who works for a Turtle Rescue Center, Carter has always valued ocean life and ocean safety. While he was out diving, he took every safety precaution possible and put his flag up to indicate where he was diving. Unfortunately, he was run over by a boat. Carter lost his right arm, sustained a break to his left wrist, and has severe injuries to both his legs. 


Thankfully, Carter was rescued by his good friend and another Good Samaritan and brought to a Level 1 trauma hospital nearby, where he is receiving the best possible care. Carter was conscious arriving to the Hospital and has since demonstrated that he is a fighter. We know this will radically change Carter's life and he will go through many surgeries on his journey to recovery- BUT- we also know that Carter is  strong, determined, in excellent health and he serves a mighty God! 


As his family, we are forever grateful to his friends, coworkers, and church family in Florida who were God's hands and feet when we could not yet be there. The Viss family will be updating this site as often as we have significant updates to share.  



"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through deep waters I will be with you... they will not overwhelm you. For I am the Lord your God, your Savior." Isaiah 43:1-3



*** Please note this is not a donation site for Carter directly. Any donations made on Caring Bridge go towards powering their site.  At this time we do not have a donation site set up, but if that changes in the future we will post an update here ***

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