I found out this afternoon that during her physical therapy session today Melinda was able to sit on the edge of her bed and lift her legs, so she's now ready for a wheelchair! This is so much sooner than I ever hoped! AND if her blood gases look good tomorrow, her trach will be removed. They've had it completely blocked for a couple of days now and so far she's breathing great with a strong oxygen level. Another milestone! God is good!
Dear Heavenly Father, One year ago today you changed my sister's and my family's life forever. I thank and praise you for the goodness and mercy you have shown us. This valley has been a terribly dark path to walk, but I know we've never been alone. Not only have you remained steadfastly by our side, but you have sent so many others to comfort, support, encourage, and minister to us. I thank you for them and ask you to bless them. You have boldly shown us your awesome power through my sister's healing and the answers to so many prayers along the way. I ask that you would continue to show mercy and grace to my sister in abundance. I thank you for the faith you've given us so that through the darkest moments we've been able to cling to the cross of your Son, our Savior, knowing confidently that we are more than conquerors through His atoning sacrifice for our sins. Your Word has nourished and sustained us, given us hope and peace. We don't know the road ahead, but You do. I pray that your will be done. Amen
My heart and mind are so full of excitement I can't sleep tonight and so I want to add a follow-up to my last entry.
Melinda had an appointment yesterday with the head of neurosurgery at UCLA as part of his long term study of TBI. This is the first time he's seen her since she (essentially) woke up about 8 weeks ago. He was amazed by her improvement - no exaggeration! He actually got goosebumps. He is changing the trajectory of her treatment by upping the physical, occupational, and speech therapy with the expectation that she will be ready for a rehabilitation hospital in the future, which is a completely different kind of treatment than her current long term care. His reaction says so much about the incredible progress Melinda is making. The power of our awesome God at work!
In her 2nd speech therapy session on Wednesday, the therapist quickly realized she was ready to try swallowing water. Melinda held the cup and had no problem drinking it down. So then the therapist went to the kitchen and got pudding, cut up fruit, and a meat pie to try. No problem eating the solid food! Typically a TBI patient needs several weeks of therapy to be taught how to swallow again and gradually builds up to this stage. Such a positive leap forward! What a simple, yet profound, pleasure there is in these simple abilities.
Every day is filled with good news on Melinda's progress. It's great to have joyful things to share with you! She is talking up a storm. Some of it doesn't quite make sense, but many of her responses are on point. She clearly has memories of growing up, including our school and church's name, holiday celebrations, activities at the local Y, pets, etc. Her short-term memory is much more vague. She's even reading and writing! I can't believe after 10 months of very little response, she can read and write already! Amy, who is now visiting 3 times a week with the most wonderfully creative activities, had my sister write a note for me in a Thanksgiving card - all by her own hand and sentiment. A blessing beyond my hopes and prayers! And a bit of good news on the insurance front- they've approved physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Today when I arrived, all the supplemental oxygen tubes were disconnected and the trach tube closed off (temporarily for now).
I was teaching my 2nd graders this morning about Hannah and her prayers for a son - which God provided in His own time. A reminder that God's timing is perfect and His plan for my sister's future is full of His grace & mercy.
Melinda has been doing really well and continues to amaze everyone with her alertness and efforts to communicate. Today she FINALLY had physical and speech therapy evaluations and now qualifies for speech therapy 3 times a week. (Results of the physical therapy eval. coming tomorrow.) This is such good news! She really showed off in the speech eval. this morning: counting to 10, naming several body parts, answering questions. Such progress when you remember she hadn't made any attempts to communicate until 6 weeks ago! Earlier this week she told Amy, her cognitive therapist, that we had a dog named Toto and pet mice growing up (weird, but true!); evidence that some longterm memory is there.
With all this good news, I would still like to request prayers for insurance disputes. The appeal for coverage continues, with Blue Shield and the facility NOT playing nice with each other. Once again I have to say how thankful I am for the wonderful professionals God sent to us in the forms of Sandy and Martine - two smart, experienced, and tenacious ladies fighting tirelessly on my sister's behalf. They keep me sane! And thanks to all of you for your cards, loving notes, cards, and prayers!
Thank you to all who sent Melinda birthday greetings, wishes, and prayers! The cards cover all three wardrobe doors in her room. She looked at each one attentively and even recognized some names and faces. It's been fun for both of us to open each one the past few weeks! We've been watching a favorite old DVD together today - Anne of Green Gables. We also did face time with two of her nieces.
Amy, who comes three times a week, had a very exciting development to share - Melinda typed out answers on an iPad when asked her favorite fruit, vegetable, and other things! I didn't know yet that my sister could still read and write! I'm quite amazed at how quickly her cognitive abilities are coming back. So exciting! She talks softly quite a bit, not everything makes sense, but a lot does.
There is so much to praise God for today, her birthday. A couple of months ago I feared it would be a dismal occasion. I'm so thankful for all His blessings, including all of you!
Just to follow-up with the results of a 2 week test of Melinda's heart, brought about by the period of A-fib before her last surgery. The heart doctor says her heart looks great and there is zero indication of any irregularity.
She continues to talk quite a lot - just really hard to hear or understand. Even with the speaking tube on she speaks in more of a whisper than out loud. Her therapist Amy understands her the best and is having back and forth conversations with her! I haven't had that much success. But her short responses or comments are understandable and so welcome to hear. It's not clear yet how much memory she retains.
Tomorrow she has a speech consult. That person will do swallow tests to decide if she can start to drink or eat - which she clearly WANTS to do, and who can blame her! Melinda is getting antsy in bed and wants to get out. Hopefully physical therapy can be ordered soon. I'm not sure what the hold up is. All of these are such good signs and exactly what you'd expect of someone getting better. Everything is very encouraging after such a long period of waiting.
Thank you all who have sent the birthday cards! I take a few more to share with her each day I go. She is very interested in them and pays very close attention. Many names seem familiar to her. I will be making a garland with them to hang near her bed. I'm taking her birthday off of school so I can be with her all day and share the day with her and make it as festive as possible. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts, prayers, and birthday wishes with her (and me😊)!
I'm so thankful to be able to share that Melinda's progress is continuing. Two days ago she put chapstick on by herself and tried a hat on that I brought for her. She used both hands to put it on and then let me know she didn't like it! I have a few other options for her consideration tomorrow- 😆! She continues to mouth words and is trying really hard to communicate. Today with Amy, her cognitive therapist, she was whispering/mouthing words, when her RT for the day asked if she wanted him to put in a speaking tube - DUH! We didn't even know that was possible! So he did and she and Melinda had a conversation! I wasn't there, but am excited to get there tomorrow after work! This all is such an answer to prayer!
Today's visit to my sister feels momentous and like the beginning of a new phase in her recovery. She gave me a BIG smile when I arrived this morning- a first! She was alert, holding her iPad, watching videos, turning her head to the left, (she's been looking right for many months), and listening and watching everyone who came in her room. Several staff people came in to comment on her improvement. Best of all, as I was leaving and said "I love you," she very clearly mouthed "I love you" back! As clear as can be! Thanks and glory to God for answering so many prayers!
October 31 is her birthday-she always enjoyed sharing it with Halloween. I would love to have lots of cards to share with her and put up in her room. If you would like to send birthday greetings or a note, you can mail them to my home: 2027 E. Mount Vernon Ave. Orange, CA 92867. I hope to make her day as special as can be. Thank you!
It's been so encouraging to see my sister so alert and aware, I couldn't resist an experiment today. One of our favorite homemade candies growing up was divinity, made by our dad. Both of us discovered through the years how challenging it is to make if the air humidity isn't just right and finally gave up - too many failed batches. And it's really hard to find a candy store that makes it. I ordered some from a catalog last week with my sister in mind, and maybe a little for me😉. Turns out it's about the best I've ever had! So I brought some to her today and asked her if she wanted to taste it. I got a nod, so I gave her a tiny taste. After almost 10 months with nothing in her mouth but oral hygiene products, the sensation was clearly strange for her, but she was pretty eager to try several tastes. Just the act of having her open her mouth, savor it, and see her swallow, was miraculous to me. A month ago she wasn't doing any of that or showing any signs of understanding the process. Another step forward. I fervently want my sister to progress to the stage where she can enjoy some of the simple pleasures of life and we're heading in the right direction!
It's been an incredible blessing since Dec. 2 to see how many people care about my sister and are praying for her! A friend guided me to this website as a way for you to hear how my sister, Melinda, is doing in her recovery since her tragic fall from a ladder putting up Christmas lights.
She is a resident in a sub-acute healthcare center in Costa Mesa, CA. Recovery is very slow, but there is progress. The first month after the accident she was in a coma or vegetative state. The 2nd month she was awake, but unresponsive. This last 4-6 weeks we have seen her attentively listen at times, nod her head at questions, track things with her eyes, and even show small controlled movements with her right hand - swiping through photos on a phone! It's unclear how much she understands since she is unable to speak due to a tracheotomy performed at UCLA after the accident. I believe she recognizes family and friends because she definitely perks up when we are with her. Hopefully she will soon be returning to UCLA for surgery to put her bone flap back in place on her skull.
According to neurologists this is a critical period in her recovery to have as much brain stimulation as possible. So visitors are welcome! You might not detect a response in her, or she might sleep through your visit, but she is definitely aware on some level. If you are interested in visiting her please email me for more information.
Please continue to pray for my sister - for healing and the peace that passes all understanding. Pray for the process I am struggling to work through with insurance, disability, and financial resources.
One promise and comfort I cling to throughout all of this is that my sister is still the child of God He made her to be. Circumstance have certainly changed. But His promises, love, mercy, and grace are still hers through her baptism. God is good and he is holding her in His hands. I don't know what His plans are for her, but I know they are good. Cathy, Melinda's sister