Sunday, August 29, 2010

9 Months Later...

Here we are nine months post accident and there is so much to talk about! Last time I posted, Jennie had just undergone surgery to replace the boneflap removed to allow her brain room to swell. The surgery went exactly as planned and it was a super moment to no longer need the imfamous pink helmet. Jennie had to have her head shaved again to undergo this surgery and experienced expected swelling to her face and temple area. While this was somewhat discouraging for her, the swelling went down over the next several weeks and her hair has now grown enough to shape into a pretty cool and funky hairdo (that Jennie designs on her own...but more on that to come!). The week following surgery, Jennie started going back to therapy at a local rehabilitation center. Initially, she went to physical, occupational, and speech therapies three times a week. Shortly into going to therapies, her neurosurgeon (our hero!) released her from his care to a more regular doctor - a physiatrist - that helps with the rehabilitation process. Within a couple months, she met her goals in physical therapy and was able to phase out of that. At this point, Jennie has no physical limitations! She has been able to walk on her own for awhile now but her stride has continued to get smoother, her balance is much improved - she is able to wear her favorite Rainbow flipflops, and she was even swimming under water this past week. She takes care of picking out her own clothes, getting dressed, putting on makeup, and fixing her own hair into a fun, spiky style. While she is excited that her hair has grown out a bit (covers up any proof of stitches/surgery!) she still can't wait for it to grow to her shoulders and do some fun highlights (possibly at her new job...keep reading).

One of the toughest things Jennie has had to deal with is her ability to communicate. Being able to find the right words she would like to say has been hard. She has been talking a good bit to our mom lately and just a few weeks ago she initiated her first conversation with me (to tell me that my son was flirting at the pool...haha). Her vocabulary is rapidly increasing and she is gaining confidence in talking with other people that she meets. Jennie now has a new Facebook account and cell phone and is able to operate both fairly well on her own. She uses an additional computer that has a program called "Speak-to-me" that allows her to type a word in and the computer will voice the word. As she continues to work on reading and writing, this has really helped to be able to identify what her friends write to her and know for sure the reply she would like to use. She is also able to recognize all letters/numbers on the keyboard and does recognize some words that are more common in conversation. Her handwriting is improving and she is able to copy words onto paper.

As Jennie continues to get better, she has been able to regain a bit of a social life. She has gone to the movies a few times, has enjoyed the beach and pool, and is able to go out with friends to the mall and out to eat. Some of her future goals are to get a part-time job, have easier more in-depth conversations, learn to drive (long-term goal but she is really excited about this one!), and continue to work towards living more independently. In the last couple weeks the process has been started to get her into vocational rehab. This is the next step in working towards getting a job and continuing speech and occupational therapies. Jennie will be assigned an assistant of sorts that will be close in age to take her on outings for about 10 hrs. per week. Once she gets a job, she will also have an assistant that will stay with her as long as needed to help her learn her job. The director of a local company that offers these assistant services had an initial meeting with Jennie a couple weeks ago. She was super impressed by Jennie and learned that she loves fashion and always had a new style hairdo. The lady immediately thought of a good friend that owns a salon downtown for a possible job opportunity. Jennie made a great first impression and will start volunteering there a couple hours a week to see what she is able to handle and hopefully will grow into a real job. She is very excited about's a job that is doing something that interests her, it's in a cool location and Jennie told me that they play great music.

Since being home from Atlanta, many blessings have come Jennie's way. However, many of these opportunities mentioned above have happened because of an enormous amount of hard work on behalf of our mom. She has worked tirelessly to see to it that Jennie gets every opportunity possible. None of this has come easy for anyone, especially Jennie. Despite how extremely tough this process has been, Jennie has remained in the best of spirits. Sometimes she gets impatient about returning to normalcy, gets a little upset about her hair or how hard it is to talk to people. But for all she's been through, we are so proud to see how strong she has remained. She has no need for any medications, has no problems with seizures (a common issue with brain injury), and truly does have a good quality of life that is continuing to getting better. There have also been opportunities for Jennie and our family that have allowed each of us to give back and offer support to other families dealing with a similar situation. Most recently, Jennie was invited by the Shepherd Center (the rehab center in Atlanta that Jennie spent 4 months) to attend a symposium on brain injury at our local hospital. She was able to encourage some of the very nurses and therapists that worked with her in her first few weeks post-accident just by being there and showing the possibility to live a quality of life after such a severe injury.

Thank you for continuing to follow along on Jennie's Journey! We are always in need of prayer - specifically: improvement in conversation, reading, writing, and the new job opportunity at the salon.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Busy 2 weeks!

Since Jennie has come home from Atlanta, she has undergone surgery to replace the bone flap in her skull. She spent 3 nights in the hospital and came home on a Friday. That following Sunday our family went to church together and holding back the tears was just not possible when she walked through those doors. What a great feeling! She started therapies the next Monday and had 3 days worth of that this past week. Today, she had her stitches removed and now the final healing can begin. What a busy two weeks it has been but so very nice to have that behind us. Her time in Atlanta seemed like such a long time and now Atlanta seems years in the past. Jennie is continuing to say new words everyday and is great at saying her own name now without any prompting. The road before us is still a long one but overall things are just a little easier now that she is home.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

All is well

Jennie made it through surgery without any issues! They were able to reuse her portion of skull that was removed 5 months ago. Overall, the doctor felt good about how everything should heal and said cosmetically it should be unnoticeable several months from now. She has some expected swelling and has a pump draining fluids for the next day or so which is all routine. She spent the night in the ICU to have close monitoring and is currently able to move to the neuro floor as soon as a bed opens. It was such an exciting day seeing Jennie's doctors and nurses that had been there back at the beginning of all this. It did our hearts good to know that all our praying, crying, and fighting had paid off. It was a proud moment to see Jennie's strength get recognition from the very people that had doubts that she would ever have hope of a normal life again. It is so very important to have family and friends that will be your voice to fight for you. I can't even sum up how many meetings we had with doctors, nurses, social workers, case workers, and others that were just so very negative and disappointing. It was faith that got us through and I am proud of our family for standing up after being kicked down so many times. I know that God helped us make decisions for Jennie that have gotten her to the point she is now. It was refreshing to be able to walk through the very same doors of the ICU last night and hold my head high and say, "Yes, that is my sister and she is going to be more than ok!"

Monday, May 3, 2010

Here we go...

The appointment with the neurosurgeon went well today. He called Jennie "The Wonder Child" and was very excited about the progress she has made. Her surgery is scheduled for 1pm tomorrow - May 4th. Her bone has survived well in deep freeze and will be replaced making the same incision as done before. She will stay in the ICU at least one night to be monitored very closely. The doctor didn't have very many concerns about the success of the surgery. He said that using her bone rather than something synthetic reduces the risk of infection. He also informed us that he prides himself on his super low rate of infection with his surgeries, much lower than the average in the country. Since her brain has shifted from the impact, there will be more space between her skull and brain than before. This poses a possibility of fluid build-up. That is another specific that we can all be praying for. All in all, Jennie is very excited to get this behind her and work on growing out her hair for all those fun hair-do's that she's known for. :) We fully trust Dr. Melin and his team to do an awesome job tomorrow. I will try my best to keep everyone posted throughout the day!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Jennie is HOME!

Today was a day that has been long awaited. Jennie and our mom came home from The Shepherd Center! She is doing so well and I am very relieved to have them both home. This week will be super busy so we would love your prayers to help get us all through. Monday, we will meet with the neurosurgeon team to discuss the specifics of surgery. As of now, the surgery to replace the portion of skull removed will take place on Tuesday, May 4th. She will recover from this surgery and is set to begin therapies the following Monday. Please pray specifically that Jennie's bone has survived well in deep freeze and will be able to be used, that the doctors are focused and calm, and that the surgery goes exactly as planned with a quick recovery. I will keep everyone posted on specifics as I get them and also on when Jennie can have visitors following surgery. I can't wait to rejoice with those of you who saw Jennie early on and have truly experienced a miracle of God!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Surgery Scheduled

I wanted to post a quick update to let everyone know that Jennie's neurosurgeon has decided to do surgery Tuesday, May 4th. This surgery will be to replace the portion of bone removed from her skull. This was sooner than we expected but he doesn't want to wait any longer after she returns to go ahead with it. Please mark your calendars for this day and remember to pray fervently for her and for the doctors. She will then begin her therapies on May 10th. It's reassuring to know that the docs and therapists feel that she will have a quick turn-around following this surgery!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Home is in sight!

On April 30th, my husband and I will make our final trip to visit Jennie in Atlanta...then pack her up and get the heck outta dodge! The Shepherd Center has been a fabulous place that has allowed Jennie to progress so far. With that being said, we miss her and my mom like crazy and are all so tired of our lives being upside-down. Jennie is continuing to improve on her speech but is getting frustrated by her inability to put her thoughts into words. She is working on saying her name, responding to greetings, and saying her age. She is able to recognize written words. One exercise she worked on while I was there this past weekend was to identify the names of the months written on cards. The months were mixed around out of order and she could identify each month by pointing to it when she heard it spoken. I am unsure how well she is able to read full sentences at this point, but she is able to distinguish words on cards when asked. She can repeat the word after she hears it, but is unable to say the word on the cards by just reading it on her own. One neat thing that we discovered is that she can sing along and remembers lyrics to songs that she knew prior to her accident because the memory of lyrics to music is stored in the right side of your brain. She can remember nursery rhymes, the ABC song, and many songs on the radio. In preparing for Jennie's return, I went to a local rehabilitation center last week to take a tour and meet the therapist in charge. I was very impressed and am excited about Jennie continuing her journey with the group of therapists they have there. One of the speech therapists looked familiar to me and turned out that she evaluated Jennie while she was still in the hospital, about 30 days post-accident. I remember back to the moment of her coming in to see if Jennie would respond to her in any way. It was a very heart-wrenching moment for me and this therapist when Jennie wasn't able to respond to her. She was soo very excited to hear of Jennie's progress and they are all ready to work with her when she returns home. A very exciting moment that happened this past week was when Jennie was able to throw her arm brace for her left arm in the trash! Her bone has finally fused back together with about a 10 degree curve. She has a decent range of motion...not quite able to reach her left hand to her left shoulder but overall, can use both arms well. The doctor said that surgery is a possibility but not something he would recommend because it wouldn't guarantee any more range of motion than what she currently has. The first week home in May will be a very busy week for Jennie. She will have an evaluation for speech, physical, and occupational therapies starting the first Monday back. She will also go back to the neurosurgeon team to discuss restoring the portion of her skull that was removed. Her bone has been stored at the hospital in deep freeze since being removed and may be able to be used once again. In some cases, the bone may deteriorate when outside of the body and if this is the case, they will call in a plastic surgeon to create an artificial one to use. Either way, this will be a fairly easy procedure and shouldn't require a long stay in the hospital. Thinking about her undergoing this surgery has caused me to think back about how amazing a neurosurgeon she has. Dr. Melin thought so quickly, considering the circumstances, to have removed this portion of her skull to allow her brain room to swell. I cannot imagine the stress his job entails but am so grateful for his expertise which aided in saving Jennie's life. On that note, I am going to sign-out for now...thank you for following along and continuing to pray for our family!