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One (Unbelievable) Year!
As you can see, Eileen has recovered and her sense of humor is intact. But the road was long. She spent three weeks in neurological intensive care (where she nearly succumbed to pneumonia); another three weeks in a comparatively weak "long-term acute care" hospital (where we very nearly lost her again); and about a month in the transitional care unit of the wonderful Jones-Harrison residence, where she really began to get well. I brought her home for the first time on Memorial Day for tuna sandwiches (a delicacy when you live in a nursing home) and, just over a week later, on June 6th, I brought her home to stay, with the belief that coming home would be the best therapy in the world (which it was). Not everyone agreed, most notably the nursing staff, but her therapist at Jones-Harrison did, and so we set up a little nursing operation of our own, here at home. And I didn't sleep too well for a few weeks.
The rest of the story is very exciting. Eileen immediately began intensive, outpatient, physical, occupational and speech therapy, five days a week, at Park Nicollet/Methodist Hospital, which is just 2.5 miles from our house. We were previously told that she should do inpatient therapy at Sister Kenny-Courage for a month, but that would have kept her in a nursing facility, which is what we wanted to avoid. And we have been richly rewarded for our judgment that we could do it ourselves, with excellent therapists and medical staff. Eileen finished physical therapy by late summer and promptly forgot where she had put her walker and cane (but she held on to me a lot). Then she completed occupational therapy in the fall and decided she could cook again (woohoo). And then, after more than 100 sessions with Tina, her superb speech therapist, who worked tirelessly on her Wernicke's "auditory" aphasia condition, she decided she was ready to head out on her own, drawing on both her education and her dedication to keep getting better. That was two weeks ago and she continues to make definite progress.
Through all of this, we have learned that the brain is remarkably plastic and that it responds well to intentions and efforts to change and repair it. This is something that was misunderstood until quite recently in western medicine, but has been believed and practiced in Indian "ayurvedic" medicine for thousands of years. Physical exercise is very important in this process and Eileen has religiously walked with me every morning this winter, about two and a half miles, indoors, at the beautiful Southdale Mall in Edina. Today, she actually walked further (about four miles overall) than she did the day of her attack one year ago. And tomorrow morning she will meet with her personal trainer in Stillwater (where Peter lives), who really puts her through her paces, especially focusing on right-side strength and coordination. It's fun to see this sweet lady put on boxing gloves and spar with her trainer, who uses that technique to challenge the brain's ability to do something different than it ever has.
One deficit remains: Eileen has limited peripheral vision to her right; not enough to meet driving standards in Minnesota, so I am happily driving her wherever she needs to go. Western ophthalmology does not see the way out of this condition but ayurvedic medicine and people like her personal trainer believe that the brain can be healed and retrained in this area, as well. She frequently stops and says she has just had a flash of vision to her right, especially after excercise, which is very promising. I also often note that she sees as much to the right in the car as I do. Today, she warned me that there was a car coming from the right in a parking lot before I saw it myself. I love that kind of backseat driving!
I have thanked many friends in these pages over the last year, and I thank you all again for what you have done, even if it was just calling to say hello... really. But there are unsung heroes, whom I have not thanked, who would all say that they were just doing their jobs. Yes, but in a way that sets them apart from all others. First is Dr. Josser Delgado, the young, neuro-interventional radiologist, who saved Eileen's life one year ago tonight by inserting a tiny platinum coil, through a long catheter that passed through her heart and into her brain, to stop the bleeding aneurysm. Not only did Josser do his job, but he has also kept talking to us all year and has never failed to respond to a text message, usually in just a few minutes (and on weekends too). Thank you Josser! Next, there was friend of a friend, Dr. Mike Tedford, ENT par excellence, and former chief of staff at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, who was always around to help us in any way he could, including performing Eileen's tracheotomy, "with just a couple of drops of blood". Mike was also just a few minutes away, any time by text message, during those tough first weeks. Then there was Dr. Sanjeev Arora, the wonderful physiatrist who saw Eileen three times in the long-term acute care hospital, when she was virtually immobile, and told us he thought she would recover at least 85% of her physical abilities. It seemed unbelieveable at the time, but he was right! And then there was Tony Thissen, the young, six-foot- six, head of physical therapy at Jones-Harrison, who, along with his side-kick, Lois, somehow perceived that they could stand Eileen up and get her to walk again, when she was still being lifted out of her bed with a Hoyer lift, because her right side was so weak and immobile. That kind of "outside-the-box" thinking is what makes impossible things happen and it was really unbelievable to see it when it did. Tony also told me I should put Eileen in the car and take her home, one beautiful spring afternoon in May, which was the beginning of the process through which she came home for good; again totally "outside-the-box". Thank you Superman and Lois Lane; you did it!
Finally, as I have mentioned here several times, I have had a virtually life-long devotion to Venerable Fr. Solanus Casey, the simplex Capuchin priest-doorman/porter of St Bonaventure Monastery, in Detroit, who enabled so many people to miraculously heal. Solanus would not have subscribed to the word "miraculous", however, because his admonition was always simply "Thank God ahead of time for the outcome"; a very succinct way of telling us to entrust our outcome, whatever it might be, to the Creator God. If you stop and think about it, all of those "outside-the-box" things described above are what have created Eileen's outcome, for which we are so very thankful. I have learned to begin every day by thanking the Creator God ahead of time for today's outcome, whatever it might be. Thank you dear Father Solanus; see you soon!
March 10, 2016
Our Christmas Greeting
Happy Christmas-time to you! We are enjoying quiet days together, after a trying nine months. Mostly, we are giving thanks for our outcome, both now and into our future.
Eileen’s recovery from her brain aneurysm,against the odds, has been remarkable and she has been home for six months now. She continues to work with an excellent speech therapist for Wernicke’s “receptive” Aphasia, but has completed all of her physical and occupational therapy. She walks well and gets a lot of exercise. Not everything has been accomplished, but the brain’s ability to repair itself is amazing, so we give thanks and look to future outcomes.
Our journey of these past months has shown us that life is about how we love and treat one another; nothing more. So, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, our message to you is simply: “love one another” and slow down to really make that so, as never before in your life.
In thanksgiving for what is to come,
Eileen and Jack
P.S. We hope you enjoy this picture of our grand children, Cosette (16) and Harrison (14). They are really nice young people and we are very thankful that they are with us in the Twin Cities.
Walking is the single best exercise we can do and there is something almost magical about the 10,000 step goal. If you try to do it daily, as I have over many years, your body noticably changes for the better. And Eileen is marveling about how much better she is starting to feel, especially on her right side, with new feelings in her arms and legs and noticeable improvements in her right-side vision.
Eileen began focusing on independent exercise in the last few weeks, as she completed months of excellent physical and occupational therapy at Park-Nicollet/Methodist Hospital. She will continue speech therapy for some time to deal with the aphasia aftermath of her attack. She has made remarkable progress with this therapy, as well, but the type of aphasia she has takes time to remedy. Those of you who saw the "King's Speech" will remember that "Bertie" (King George VI) largely overcame his speech impediment, when he became angry or passionate about something. Likewise with Eileen; when she gets excited or passionate about something her aphasia disappears and her words flow freely. She knows exactly what or who she wants to talk about, but often just cannot find the words or names. Needless to say, that's pretty frustrating.
Please join us in contining to thank Creator God, in advance, for Eileen's outcome. There will be more.
Eileen is Cooking!
The picture is worth a thousand words. Note how easily she is using her right hand, which would have been unimaginable a few months ago. This lady is dedicated and I predict she will drive her car in the next couple of months. She still has peripheral vision issues to her right but that too is getting better every day.
We will keep you posted.
August 17, 2015
We did not anticipate a specific outcome, over the last three and a half months; we simply gave thanks to Creator God for the right outcome, whatever it might be. We think we might be seeing it now and are very happy with an outcome that is beyond virtually anyone's expectations, but we continue to simply give thanks every day for what might be.
We especially give thanks to true friends, who have stuck with us over these trying months. And we specifically include those who, for lack of something else to say or do, simply called, e-mailed, sent a card, or checked in on Facebook to say hello and express their support. You learn quickly that anything at all is a whole lot better than nothing at all. You learn to count your friends in times like these. And I won't forget.
There are some I would especially like to mention: Dear, dear friend Shelli Nelson, nurse-clinician and spiritual-healer, was at Eileen's bedside at least six or seven times, in the Abbot Intensive Care Unit, Regency Long-term Care Hospital (not the best place) and Jones-Harrison Transitional Care Unit (best of all, on Shelli's recommendation). Shelli spoke confidently to Eileen's conscious-being, when there was virtually no sign of Eileen's consciousness. Most remarkably, the only things Eileen remembers from those physically unconscious days and weeks are Shelli's visits and healing words.. Shelli reported both Eileen's departures and returns from this dimension, during those times. In the end, she reported Eileen's return, saying: "You can hang your hat on it!". Thank you Shel for all you have done, not the least of which has been feeding us, with the help of super-husband Brent, on multiple occasions, especially the day after Eileen arrived home from Jones-Harrison; a little early but with lots of confidence. All should know that Shelli is blind and, incidentally, makes a mean banana cream pie with real whipped cream! And so it is.
On March 10th, the night of Eileen's aneurysm, I had the presence of mind to ask old friend and compatriate, Mike Casserly, for help. I woke him in the middle of the night and asked if he would go with me to Abbott-Northwestern Hospital, where Eileen was being transported. Mike sat with me all night, keeping me awake with McDonald's coffee, picking up Peter at the airport and John at his apartment, and simply being with Mary Anne, John, Peter and me, all that next morning, when Eileen was in surgery; finally hearing the report with us that she did not have significant brain damage (which has proven true). Mike also gave me some really good advice in the next couple of days. He said: "Lots of people are going to ask you what they can do to help. Recognize that they really mean it and ask them to feed you over the next few weeks."
And so I did. I would especially like to thank next-door neighbor, "par excellance", Sally Euson for cooking for me when I needed it the most. Again and again, Sally has left great meals at my front door. Can you believe that Sally's watermelon has no seeds in it? She takes them all out for me! I will never forget what you have done Sally. And keep up the good work; there are two of us now! :)
As good friend, Fr. John Forliti says: "There's love in the food". There are many others who have fed and nurtured us over the last three months, and I hope I don't forget anyone. Thanks to Michelle DeLamielleure-Joncas (my good friend Dick's daughter) for lots of chicken parmesan; Karin Casserly (Mike's wife) for two great veggie soups; Denise DeRosario for visiting and feeding John (and me) gourmet dinners (love the Bouillabaisse); Sheila,down the street, for another two yummy veggie soups; Mary Riviere for Easter munchies and sinful fudge; Brooke and Jerry Darby in Stillwater for a wonderful Friday night dinner with so much good wine I nearly got a DUI (really!); Connie and Keith for two nice casserole portions; Claudia and Mike for guacamole and lasagna; Kevin and Dana for a snowy, Sunday night neighborhood dinner, when times were very tough; and Wes, down the street, who appeared at our front door yesterday with delicious Italian meat balls, saying that: "people might have forgotten about you by now". Eileen had them for her birthday lunch! And, of course, Shelli and Brent and sweet-neighbor Sally, as mentioned above. Thank you, thank you, thank you all! I have stacks of dishes to return, so please be patient with me. By the way, Eileen is pretty impressed by how good a cook I've become. She's taught me how to pan-fry salmon and I make a pretty mean veggie chilli, excellent hummus, and great tuna fish or grilled cheese sandwiches (tides us over).
Not much more to say. Eileen is home, working with excellent, out-patient, speech, occupational and physical therapists at Methodist Hospital, three miles from our house, and is getting better every day. I predict she will be driving her car before winter returns to Minnesota. I've generally been wrong in my predictions thus far, so it probably will be sooner.
Remember always Blessed Solanus Casey's admonition to those seeking his healing at the door of St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit: "Thank God Ahead of Time".
Finally, I have given a lot of thought to my prayers, especially while saying my rosary in these last three months, and I have been moved to recast the Lord's Prayer in a non-gender specific, personal, multi-dimensional way, which I'd like to share:
Your name is holy,
And your will is done in all dimensions.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive me my trespasses, as I forgive those who trespass against me.
And put me not to the test
But deliver me from evil."
June 26, 2015
First Time At Starbucks
May 30, 2015
Home Again, Home Again (higgelty piggelty)
On Thursday, May 21st, a beautiful day in Minneapolis, Eileen's excellent physical therapist at Jones-Harrison (Tony) suggested we try a car transfer from her wheelchair. That went so well he let us take a drive, which of course meant a trip to our favorite hang-out, Lake Harriet, the gem of Minneapolis' four lakes (they're all gems but Harriet is the diamond). Eileen was so overjoyed that we talked Tony into letting us go again the next day. Then, believe it or not, on Memorial Day, we came home for the first time. I had predicted that she would walk through the front door sometime this summer, but I had no idea that it would be so soon. We walked around the whole house, without the assistance of her walker, reacquainting her with her bedroom and its new carpeting and the den with its new wood floor. Son, John, joined us for grilled cheese, sweet pickles and coke, a real homecoming feast, and the neighbors stopped by to kiss her and express their amazement.
On Wednesday, May 27th, exactly 11 weeks after her brain surgeries,we returned (in my car with just a walker) to Abbott Northwestern Hospital for the removal of her stomach tube, which took all of five minutes and, for the next hour or so, we toured the ICU and met with her doctors, who, from the looks on their faces, were truly amazed at the extent of her recovery. On her own, she stood up for each person and very sincerely thanked them. She even showed Dr. Delgado, her extraordinary interventional neuro-radiologist, how she could walk, virtually unassisted.
Given all that has happened this week, we ventured out again today (Friday) and went flower shopping at our two favorite nurseries. Eileen enjoyed sitting in the car, people watching, while I went in and got what we needed to complete our garden for the summer, and then we went home again for a couple of hours for more toasted cheese. As we drove around, holding hands, we mutually decided that she will leave the confines of Jones-Harrison in the next week or so, as soon as I can make the house a little more handicapped friendly. She will then begin outpatient physical/speech/occupational therapy at one of several excellent facilities in Minneapolis, which we will determine in the next few days. She especially needs intensive speech therapy to overcome the aphasia condition that hinders her ability to express the very clear thoughts she has in her mind. We're getting about 75 percent of what she wants to say and it's safe to assume we'll get most of the rest, after continuing therapy. Whether she'll drive her car again is an open question but, based on recent performance, I would venture that she will, and probably sooner than anyone expects!
Please remember again (and don't forget) the admonition of Blessed Solanus (Bernie) Casey, who told thousands of petitioners at the door of St. Boniface Monastery, in Detroit, to simply "Thank God ahead of time". Through this, he became one of the most prolific healers of our time, such that he will soon be canonized as Saint Solanus, by the Church.
Chalk up another one Bernie!
(And thanks to the late Marie DeLamielleure for introducing me to Fr. Solanus and putting his medal/relic in my pocket so many years ago).
May 29, 2015