Since her swallow test turned out so well last week I decided to treat her today. I brought Lindy French fries and a chocolate shake from In-n-Out and boy did she gobble down the fries (minus several that disappeared in transport😁)! I was tickled to see her truly enjoy something for the first time in over a year. When she got down to the small crispy pieces at the bottom I asked if she was done, but no, she was determined to eat those too! She liked the chocolate shake, but didn't have a lot of it. I'll work on bringing more nourishing foods in the future, but this was pure fun!
Time just flies and I can't believe it's been so long since I gave you an update. Melinda is still at Newport. I've learned a lot about the relationship between insurance companies and facilities - Blue Shield in particular. They are not well-liked because of their slow approval and payment process and so facilities find other excuses to exclude a patient. No progress on finding a nicer place, unfortunately.
But my sister is receiving decent care and physical therapy. Two big goals that we could use your prayers on is getting weaned from the feeding tube and progressing to a wheelchair. Friday she passed an important test towards eating more normal food - a barium swallow test. So now she can progress to more solid food, not just the unappetizing pureed food she is reluctant to eat. One step forward!
Yesterday we Facetimed with her niece and 3 month old grand niece. Melinda had a smile on her face, was engaged in the conversation, and told them "I love you" when we said goodbye. It was a good day! Prior to that she didn't want me to clip her fingernails and grouched a little about rushing her to spread lotion on her hands by herself. Both reactions were so good to see as they are indications of her asserting her will and knowing her own mind again, as opposed to being completely passive. Little by little, sometimes unnoticeably, Melinda is coming back.
Thursday I think she was reading from a Thomas Keller book on her own! She didn't want to read aloud, but she told me what it was about. Communication is still difficult as words come out scrambled much of the time, but I think she knows what she's saying, even if we don't yet.
Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support!
The nursing facility we are still hoping to get Melinda into has said they can't accommodate her right now because of the amount of physical therapy she needs. They say their staff is already maxed out. Sandy put her on a waiting list to make it clear to them we aren't going away. Very disappointing. But she's in God's hands and He has a plan. We'll keep trying to get the best possible care for my sister! Thank you for your prayers!
With the help of our wonderful professional patient advocate, Sandy, we found a wonderful new facility for Melinda and had the transfer paperwork sent over yesterday. Today we found out she wasn't accepted based on her insurance. Because they are a Blue Shield provider and Melinda's primary is Blue Shield, this doesn't make any sense. Sandy is going there tomorrow to get more info. on their decision and 'do battle' to get her in. Please pray that Sandy will be successful and that they will reverse their decision. But always, that God's will be done.
This update is so long overdue that I want to apologize! I was blessed to spend ten days with my brand new baby granddaughter in Virginia, then back to school with my 2nd graders and the busyness of life.
Melinda has been well. She took another trip to UCLA for adjustments to the shunt. I'm always grateful for their expert care! She continues to talk A LOT! Much of it doesn't make sense, but to her it does. She can also respond very appropriately to questions or in conversation. She is engaged when in conversation with visitors and enjoys the company.
She's been on pureed food for the past month. Much of it looks pretty unappetizing and she won't eat it - which doesn't surprise me at all! But if she likes something, she'll eat it all. I'm eager for her to progress to 'real' food, but without a speech therapist approving it, they won't change things. I know she's ready because I've brought in treats a time or two that she's had no problem eating. The problem has been disputes with insurance coverage. She hasn't received the therapies or treatment she's entitled to due to her facility making egregious errors with their submission of claims. Our professional insurance advocate I hired with 'Go Fund Me' resources has been working for months on our appeal to the state of CA on denial of coverage by Blue Shield and we just got word two days ago we won! An answer to prayers! It's been difficult having the facility lawyers threatening my sister and me with delinquent bills, fines, turning us over to creditors, and lawsuits. I'm hoping that we can now start looking at a new place with better care for Melinda. Thank you all for your prayers and support!
As we all celebrate the birth of our Savior I want you to know you all are in my prayers. I'm so thankful you are keeping my sister in your hearts and prayers.
The last few weeks have not been the smooth road I naively hoped for. After three days of the therapies: physical, occupational, and speech, insurance declined approval - primarily because her facility and assigned doctor haven't changed her status from custodial to skilled care. A very frustrating situation! Sandy, our wonderful patient advocate, is persistently working with them to understand the need for this change in status. We are heading there this morning to meet with anyone who will listen.
My sister's UCLA doctor has ordered an emergency CT scan - today if possible - to determine a cause for the decline in her comprehension and awareness that had improved so tremendously 3 weeks ago. I'm not optimistic that the scan will happen today, for obvious reasons.
But I know she's in God's loving hands. He has a plan for her and it's perfect. Please continue to pray for grace and peace for Melinda, wisdom for Sandy, and sensible personnel at her facility.
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.
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