Since my last post in July 2019:
Matthew has made tremendous progress. Physically he was doing well even last summer. He is running anywhere from 3-9 miles/day, about 5x a week. We ran a family team relay marathon in October. Matthew ran the longest leg of 6.8 miles and completed his leg before we could even get to the transition point before he arrived. We went on a family vacation in August and hiked all over Acadia National Park in Maine. Matthew hasn't struggled physically since the first 2-3 months after the accident. Still wanting to play soccer, but for at least another year the physical contact sports are not allowed.
As of early December 2019, he passed his written driving tests, reaction time and driving evaluations and was authorized to drive. Initially we limited his time behind the wheel when driving conditions were good and allowed only short trips into town and his outpatient rehabilitation therapy sessions. Eventually he did have to drive in some snow covered slippery road conditions without issue.
It gets even better. Last Fall, we signed Matthew up for 1 class as Washtenaw Community College after discussions with his Speech therapist and rehabilitation doctor as part of his therapy recovery. They felt this would be a good idea to see how he handled one class. Due to the traumatic brain injury, he does get extra time to take exams as his processing ability is not as quick as it was prior to the accident. Matthew is interested in an Engineering degree at the moment, so he elected to take Chemistry 2 in the Fall. He started off with an 82% on his first exam and was getting mid 70% grades on his weekly labs. Darlene and I were so excited, but he wasn't happy with this result. He thought he should be getting mid to upper 90%. His second exam improved, but was still in the 80's percentile. It was then we had a quarterly appointment with his doctor mid term. During this discussion, the doctor made comments regarding Matthews scores. While good, he assumed he likely would have done better prior to the accident based on him academic background and his prior pursuit of a Computer Science degree at MSU. He suggested Matthew might want to try Ritalin to help him with his study focus. He told Matthew he would likely never be back to 100% but this drug might help him get closer. We left and Matthew was a little dejected when hearing this, but also took on the challenge to work harder. As the Fall term continued, his 3rd exam was in the 90% and lab grades were in this range as well. All without taking the Ritalin drug due to concerns with side effects. His last exam and his final exam were both higher than 100% due to the extra credit questions. He ended up with an A- for a final grade in Chemistry 2. He was so excited and we were so elated and proud! For the winter term, he is taking 2 classes. Physics and a humanities class which was not technical or math related to assess his abilities in reading and writing. While Physics is challenging and he sometimes get frustrated, he is doing OK. Exams in the 80 percentile and scoring better than the average. He is also getting 90's and 100% on his written papers in the humanities class. His reading and writing skills seem to be doing well also. The classroom teaching of course is now being provided over the internet from home due to the corona virus lock down. All of which he manages every week on his own.
A year ago, I could only pray and hope he would be at this point academically a year later. The doctors, therapists and nurses were not indicating he performance at this level one year later would be likely improbable. They were tempering our expectations back then. I think he is exceeding even the most optimistic predictions the medical staff might have expected and conveyed to us. He has had such a positive attitude through this entire period of time and the health care staff are constantly telling him and us the same. This is the common theme we have been hearing for months. He has never had the anger or mood issues which are commonly associated with this type of injury. His personality has not changed, although he is more focused academically. He offers to help around the house, where previously you would have had to beg him to do a chore. His frustration periods only occur with the tough engineering classes. Those events are few and short in duration, and I would say expected regardless of BTI history.
His outpatient therapy sessions are almost complete. He hasn't had physical or occupational therapy since summer 2019. Speech has been reduced to 1 day a week and his therapist actually thought about ending it earlier this year. We asked her if she would continue until May in case he needed some reading and writing techniques to assist him academically. She had provided some studying techniques during the Fall, which I believe helped Matthew with his study habits as well.
I know I have conveyed a very positive progress and outlook, and you might think there has to be some challenging recovery periods. I can honestly say I don't think anyone would ever notice or think he had ever had a severe brain trauma accident if you were to see or talk to him. He does take longer to complete the exams, so I am sure his time to process is slower than before. He has commented when visiting with his friends and in a group with loud music in the background, it was hard to focus on the multiple conversations. The group would laugh and he would laugh along with them, but not fully understanding why they were laughing until some short period of time after when he completed the brain processing. So I am sure he is dealing with some deficits in processing time due to the accident versus before. When I've asked in the past, he has told me he can tell, and is aware his processing ability is slower than before the accident. He realizes this, and I'm sure it will still get better overtime. He may never truly be back to 100%, but if he has any deficits they are really difficult to see or impossible to observe.
I don't think we could have ever hoped for a better outcome one year later, aside from the accident never happening in the first place. We are truly blessed and so thankful for his progress. I see a bright future for him and continue to pray he maintains his positive attitude and hard work. A future I could never have imagined in those dreadful days shortly after the accident.
Know there are many things to be thankful for, as we all deal with this virus concern. I know in those early days after the accident, I struggled to have a positive outlook. I have learned through this experience there is always hope and the possibility for a brighter future. I wouldn't let my mom and dad convince me of this when they tried in those early days after the accident. I lashed out and told them I didn't want to hear about a positive outlook when Matthew was fighting for his life on a ventilator and brain swelling was a real concern. Thank you mom & dad, and I am sorry for lashing out then. You were right as usual. Even though I am 56 years old, I can still learn from the both of you.
Darlene and I again, are so appreciative of all your thoughts, prayers and support over the past year. I hope and pray you and your families are safe and doing well. Take care.