Journal entry by Gigi Lynch

We have so much to be thankful for this year. Our family and friends support has been wonderful and we are so grateful for each and every one of you. These last two and half weeks have been really busy but fruitful in so many ways. Mel was discharged by occupational therapy and only has to do three more sessions of physical therapy which is fantastic progress! We finally found a wonderful speech therapist who actually makes house calls!!! After evaluating Mel, he said the exercises we were doing were too simple for him and gave us more difficult ones to challenge him. He’s also having Mel call him every other day and leave him a 30-second voice message so he can determine his progression on a regular basis. We’re very happy he’s back on track with someone who understands what he needs.

After much deliberation, I decided to take Mel out and let him drive the car—first, we did a school parking lot and then I let him drive me to take the trash to the dump which is all on back roads. He did great. He’s chomping at the bit to get his freedom back (who wouldn’t?). We haven’t had any luck finding anyone to evaluate him for driving although his physical therapist tested his peripheral vision and had him do some obstacle course walking with his vision partially covered and he did fine and I gave him the same test the doctor in Chicago gave him (that he originally failed) and he passed that, so I made an ‘executive’ decision to let him try it. The next step is, of course, is driving in traffic. We’ll try to ease into that over the next week or so and see how he does. He’s highly motivated so if I can just get him to keep both hands on the wheel and his eyes on the road, I think he’ll do fine. Keep us in your prayers—LOL! 

The house is coming together slowly but surely and we’re enjoying the lovely fall weather we’re having (sorry, don’t mean to rub it in Alaska friends!). We had horrible weather for the first ten days so we really appreciate seeing the sun again. 

And, for the first time in over thirty years, Mel and I will be spending Thanksgiving together at the hunting camp where I’ll finally get to try some of this scrumptious Southern cooking (all cooked by the guys, thank you!) that I’ve been hearing about for three decades. Have a wonderful day wherever you are and whoever you are blessed to be with. Love you all!
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Journal entry by Gigi Lynch

Hey everyone! Well, it’s been a crazy week—some wonderful things and some not so much. Thankfully, the wonderful outweighs the other by a landslide. Moving in our new home has been demanding in that it takes a lot of time and hard work but the effort is really worth it. We’re enjoying making our nest here and rediscovering some favorite things about being in LaGrange. The downside of the week was finding out how horrible the VA system is here in Georgia. It literally is rated one of the, if not THE, worst in the country. We were so lucky to get an appointment with a PCP this week but she warned us that therapy and specialist appointments were at least 3 months behind and Community Care (which is where you get referred out to a doctor in the community takes just as long). It’s a crime that our veterans are being treated like this. The doctor was really frustrated and we could understand why. We may end up using our secondary insurance if this week doesn’t produce any other good news regarding therapy appointments. We’re fortunate that we have that option when so many other veterans don’t.

Mel is doing really well. We’re doing as much therapy at home as possible—no substitute for the experts but I can tell his speech is slowly improving every day especially when he really concentrates on breathing correctly and ‘chewing’ the words. 

He’s having a good time here hanging out with Larry although I know he’ll be happier when he can drive again himself. 

Hope you all are staying warm wherever you are—for our Alaska friends: we got down into the 20s last night here in LaGrange! 

Love to all and have a wonderful week!!

Journal entry by Gigi Lynch

Hi everyone,

Thank you for continuing to follow Mel’s journey. The week before we left was a blur of therapy and doctor appointments, getting medical records (literally six times to the hospital), packing, shipping boxes, and getting the house ready to close up for the winter which we’ve never done before-now there’s a learning experience for you! You wouldn’t believe the kind of things you forget to do that wake you up at 3AM! However, for the most part, they got done, or, as my friend, Jean, who has been doing the snowbird thing for 25 years says, “If it doesn’t get done, let it go.” Words of wisdom for sure. 

Anyway, Mel finished up with therapy in Alaska. It all went well. He also had to do an additional sleep study ordered by his neurologist last week and we are SO happy to report that it went very well. He knew he had sleep apnea and has been faithfully using his CPAP for five years but the doctor was worried that maybe the machine was not detecting everything it should. Let me just say this in case you don’t already know (because we didn’t)—check in with your doctor once a year if you have sleep apnea because if you’re still tired during the day, then something else could be happening. The neurologist said that the ultimate test is this: Can you stare at a blank wall for thirty minutes with no outside stimuli and stay awake?” Well, any of you who know and love Mel know that he can’t do that—so now they’re considering some additional medication for him. Sleep is SO important. It’s the time our bodies and especially our brains take to heal and if you aren’t getting restful sleep, the stress it adds to your body is extremely harmful...especially to your brain as we’ve been learning while we’re here in Chicago. Did you know that untreated sleep apnea is the number one indicator that you could have a stroke? No? Don’t feel bad...We didn’t either. 

We got to Chicago and we were so happy to have Jennifer join us Monday. She paved the way with her friends here at the Shirley Ryan Institute and it was just wonderful to have her here. Wish she could have stayed the whole week but a long planned work lunch called her back to DC the next morning. Mel did great in all his sessions and we walked away from each of them with some nuggets of knowledge that we hadn’t gotten before. For instance, the PT examined his neck and larynx and told him that he was holding a lot of tension there and his larynx was really high in his throat and that was one of the reasons for the hoarseness he is experiencing that is inhibiting his vocal projection. Today, he finished all his therapy appointments (PT, OT, speech and orthotics) so we celebrated by taking an architectural tour by boat on the river here. It was a lovely fall day and we got to relax for the first time in weeks.

We meet with Dr. Harvey on Friday and look forward to his recommendations for further therapy and then on Saturday we head to Georgia! Stay tuned! Love you all!

Journal entry by Gigi Lynch

Good morning! Forgive me for not writing—in the last few days, we’ve been really busy getting things done around here. Bryce and Kaitie have been invaluable, doing everything from reprogramming our garage door openers (which were opening the neighbors’ garage door!) to updating my computer (helps to have two techies in the house) to cooking and cleaning and packing and the list goes on and on. Bryce left yesterday and Kaitie leaves today. Needless to say, we will miss them terribly but will look forward to seeing them at Christmas. 

Mel is doing better every day. This morning he said his breakfast tasted the best it has since the stroke. One of the side effects is that it seemed to have affected his taste buds—so this is a great sign that it’s coming back! We have an extremely busy week ahead of us with seven therapy sessions and three doctor appointments in addition to packing and getting the house closed up before we leave this Saturday. 

His speech is still improving and we believe it will continue to do so. We’re really looking forward to going to Chicago to meet with the therapists there. The ones here have been wonderful however we’ve heard so much about the cutting edge research that the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab has done that we are hopeful they will add more techniques and tools for him to move even farther forward in his rehab. 

Anyway, if you don’t hear from me much this week, don’t worry. We’ll actually have more time on our hands in Chicago so I’ll keep you updated after our meetings with the therapists and doctors there.

Love you all!

Journal entry by Gigi Lynch

Mel’s OT and PT evaluations went really well. He will do two sessions a week with OT/PT/ST until we leave next Saturday on the 27th. We saw his PCP yesterday and, although she was concerned about the stroke, she said that overall he was doing well. While we were at the hospital yesterday, we stopped in for a quick mini reunion with all this therapists. They were overjoyed to see him doing so well and asked him to please come back when we return. They are such a great group of people there at Providence. Tomorrow, we will start Speech Therapy which he is looking forward to. 

We’re also looking forward to having Kaitie’s boyfriend, Bryce, join us for a few days. Originally, he and Kaitie were going to fly up and celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary with us, instead, we decided to put off the celebration until he could get here. Another reason to celebrate is that he just got a huge promotion yesterday at Microsoft! We’re so proud of him! He flies in tomorrow night and will be here till Sunday and then Kaitie will leave Monday night to go back to Seattle. 

For those who know our friend, Jean—her surgery went great and she’s doing really well. Thank you for your additional prayers for her!!

Hope you all are counting your blessings. We sure are! XOXO

Journal entry by Gigi Lynch

Hey everyone! So sorry haven’t written anything over the weekend. Honestly, it’s been a whirlwind but thankfully things are starting to come together with a great deal of help from everyone. 

As of this morning, we are scheduled to leave in two weeks on the 27th to go to Chicago where Mel will be working with the therapists at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab. The only thing that might prevent this from happening would be VA approval but we had to go ahead and book flights so we could be sure we could get them. Bless United and Delta and Alaska Airlines—all who have been so helpful in helping us cancel, rebook and schedule flights for not only us but Kaitie, too. 

The next two weeks are going to be very hectic so forgive me if I don’t post regularly. For my Anchorage friends, we don’t know if we’ll get to say goodbye in person because we’re still waiting on his therapy schedule here and between that and a lot of other appointments, we still have a lot to do to get everything ready for us to spend the winter in Georgia. If at all possible, we’ll try to make time, but please forgive us if we don’t. 

Thank you for all your prayers and support. They’ve gotten us this far and we are SO grateful!!

Journal entry by Gigi Lynch

Yesterday was a busy day. Mel had an appointment with his endocrinologist which went well. Everything is in the normal range. We did some speech therapy together and the three of us played a game of Scrabble. Kaitie won but he came in second. I don’t want to talk about how I did. Let’s just say it’s been 15 years since I played him last time—I think you’ll figure it out. 

Today we have a home health evaluation which will be good to assess if we need to change anything here. We’ve installed grab bars but he’s doing so well he hasn’t even used them. He starts PT again on Monday and I know he’ll enjoy that. He’s always up for a challenge!

Well, it’s the weekend so you know where he’ll be tomorrow. Hope you all have a good one and if you have time for more prayers, please say one for Jean. Her surgery is today and we’re hopeful all goes well with her recovery, too. 

Love you all!

Journal entry by Gigi Lynch

Needless to say, Mel is very happy to be home and we are very happy as well. He’s getting around just fine. We gave him the day off from all his therapies but we’ll be working with him over the next few days until he starts ‘for real’ again next Monday. 

He actually said he wished he could have spent another two weeks in the inpatient therapy at Providence because he saw so much improvement and the people there were wonderful. We’ve got our fingers crossed that he will be able to get into see Dr. Harvey at the Shirley Ryan Abilities Lab in Chicago. They have been very helpful and encouraging. Dr. Harvey literally co-authored the book on stroke rehabilitation and has all the latest therapies there, so fingers crossed and prayers going up that we can make that happen. 

Looks like we’ll be heading to Georgia in conjunction with that ‘hoped for’ appointment in Chicago and we’ll let everyone know when we’ll be leaving. We want to be sure to get down there before we have to worry about the ice up here. 

Love you all!!

Journal entry by Gigi Lynch

This is Mel’s last day in rehab at Providence! He’s come a long way in just five days of therapy. The therapists are pretty confident that he will make a full recovery. It will just take time and practice which he is anxious to do because he’s already seen the benefits. 

We’re going to be busy going to follow up doctor appointments and setting up his outpatient therapy plus we are going to try and leave for Georgia earlier since we will be closer to family. I know many of you want to see him and we’ll try to make that happen if at all possible. 

Just know that all your prayers and support have been working and we are forever grateful. Love you all!

Journal entry by Gigi Lynch

Well, Mel had a good day here for about five hours watching football. He still has a ways to go to learn how to slow down a bit—you all know what a hard charger he is—but we believe that tenacity will get him to where he wants to be. His speech is really improving so we’re hoping that very soon he’ll be wanting to see friends or be able to talk on the phone.  

He’s coming home on Wednesday and will start outpatient rehab soon afterwards. 

Jean, bless her heart, insisted that she felt strong enough to go home so we spent the evening with her at her house. She did great! I’m surrounded by tenacious people! She just texted me this morning and had a good night sleeping in her own bed. It looks like she’s going to need surgery on her wrist and the doctor thought it would probably happen within the next week or so depending on the surgeon’s schedule. He’s supposed to be the best hand doctor up here. 

Please keep our daughter-in-law, Becky, in your prayers. She started chemo a week ago for breast cancer and she got dehydrated two days ago and is in the hospital but her levels are getting back to normal and she hopes to be home in a few day. Todd got home safe and sound and I’m thankful that he’s there now to help her. 

Thank you all for your prayers and support. I know I keep saying that but it’s because they mean so much to us. We couldn’t get through this without friends and family. In the coming weeks, I promise if we need help, I’ll let you know and I appreciate all the offers!! 

Journal entry by Gigi Lynch

On Thursday, September 27, 2018, Mel had a stroke (specifically, an acute infarct in the left corona radiata) some time during the night. The wonderful news is that he's going to get better. His brain is rewiring itself despite the clot, and he is mentally all there. They are treating his symptoms with medication and a variety of therapies. He is experiencing some difficulty with speech (clear at the best of times, a bit garbled when he's tired), a lack of fine motor skills in his right hand, and a bit of peripheral vision loss in his right eye. These symptoms have improved over the weekend and will continue to improve with therapy. The doctor is very optimistic that he will make a full recovery. He is currently being treated at Providence Alaska Medical Center and will probably be released this week.
Mel’s Story

Site created on October 1, 2018

Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and close friends updated in one place. As you can imagine, the road to recovery is a deeply personal one, and while we are happy to share Mel's progress here, we would appreciate if you did not share on social media. We are so grateful for the outpouring of love, prayer, support, and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting.