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!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Almost 4 months

It has almost been 4 months since Jennie's accident. Wow, how far she has come! This experience has been life-altering for Jennie as well as those who are so close to her. I am truly unable at this point to put into words just what I have gone through as her sister. Overall, I have been having a bit of writer's block so I apologize for the lack of updates. I just returned from a visit to see her and my mom. Jennie is continuing to get more fluid in her movements and ability to do daily tasks. Her speech and language are also improving, slowly but surely. I brought her some of her own clothes from home to try on since she's been wearing easy-to-get-on clothes. She looked so good in her jeans, fitted t-shirt, and pearl necklace! So much like the normal Jennie. We have learned that her complications with speech and language are characterized as apraxia and aphasia. Aphasia is the inability to produce and/or comprehend language. She seems to be comprehending very well just not able to put into so many words what she is thinking. Apraxia deals with a range of skills including speech but overall means the loss of the ability to perform learned purposeful movements, despite having the desire and the physical ability to perform the movements. When she returns home, she will be seen within the first week by the neurosurgeon team to plan the surgery to replace the bone flap that was removed in the beginning to allow her brain room to swell. We all can't wait, including Jennie, to get this over with so she can ditch the pink helmet and grow out her hair! She will also be referred to a more "regular" doctor that will then make decisions regarding speech, physical, and occupational therapies as well as check on things like her eye sight and the condition of her left arm (still in the brace). Please pray specifically for Jennie's improvements in speech, language and decision making. Also, pray for our family as we travel back and forth to Atlanta, deal with the bill arrangements/insurance, and the preparations for Jennie's return home.

Monday, March 8, 2010

May Day

Jennie is continuing to improve. We have an official date that she will return home - May 1st! Thank you to those of you who have sent encouraging messages recently and especially those who have sent in memories with Jennie. The area of memory and language skills is going to take awhile for Jennie to regain. From the expressions on her face, she clearly remembers old friends and family that she was close to. The plan starting next week will be to try some memory enhancing drugs to help jumpstart this area of her brain. To her friends - recent ones and those from the past: Another idea along with writing memories would be to make a short video of yourself for Jennie. You are welcome to send those to my email - (or any other personal messages you would like me to read to her). Also, she can still receive mail at the Shepherd Center - 2020 Peachtree Rd. NW Atlanta, GA 30309. Thank you for continuing to keep Jennie's recovery in your prayers!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How far we have come since that breath!

Over the last couple days I just can't get the image out of my head of my mom and I standing over Jennie's bed in the ICU hours after her accident and my mom telling her "Jennie, we need you to BREATHE!" The doctors were going to take her off the ventilator for a moment to see if she would take a breath which would prove her brain was still alive. Jennie took that breath, PRAISE God, and she has made huge strides ever since. Believe me, it's been a very bumpy road, but seeing her this weekend just filled me with amazement all over again. My visit to Atlanta was a lot of fun. Jennie now lives in the Shepherd apartment with our mom and is attending the Pathways day program Mon-Fri. Two weeks ago was a tough week as they made this transition. Jennie had really gotten comfortable with her therapists and was now having to learn new faces and get adjusted to a new schedule. Our mom also had to cope with taking care of Jennie 24/7 without the help of any nurses. Phew! When I saw them this weekend, now another week under their belts, I would never have known the struggles they had the previous week. Jennie loves being in the apartment...a welcomed change after months of a hospital room. She has accomplished all the huge steps along the way including feeding herself and walking everywhere (no more need for a wheelchair!). She is now working on improving all areas of language, cognitive thinking, and ability to do everyday tasks on her own. She is able to repeat pretty much any words you tell her one at a time and is surprising us now and then with her own thoughts on the conversation. She is also doing well to match items such as letters, numbers, and pictures. We went out to eat a couple times and she handled it very well. I can't even explain how awesome it was to hang out with her outside of the 4 ugly gray walls that have enclosed us for months. We are so fortunate that after such a traumatic injury to her brain that she is overall very happy. She laughs and smiles a lot and is agreeable to trying her best and following direction. The plan for now is for her to remain in Atlanta until May 15th. We all can't wait for her to come home!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Huge Milestone!

I just couldn't wait til my usual weekly update to tell everyone about this! Last night, Jennie said her first sentence. :) Our mom was hanging out with her and talking about their plans for Jennie's last day in the inpatient program. The day before patients are discharged is considered family training day and involves a day-full of following Jennie and her therapists. Jen said the name "Ashley" a couple times, her recreational therapist, and then continues to tell our mom that "Ashley has eyes like you." How awesome that she was able to make that observation, remember it, and then speak it into a sentence! Just a little later, I called and told them I wasn't feeling well. After hanging up, Jennie says, "She's sick," referring to me. She is truly catching on to what's going on around her and is really trying to communicate. She even said "mom" for the first time yesterday...what a nice Valentine's present. :) Her eyesight is also improving as she is showing more accuracy when grabbing objects, using her fork to spear food, and also when walking. By the way, she walks everywhere now and is keeping her eyes looking up. She only uses the wheelchair when she is going to another floor or when she isn't with someone as a safety precaution. Please be in prayer for her and our mom as they move in together tomorrow morning.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Last Weekend...

as an inpatient! Jennie will move into the Shepherd apartment with our mom on Tuesday. The apartments are very nice, very accessible, and are one step closer to working towards moving home. This will be the beginning of the outpatient Pathways rehabilitation program that she will go to 5 days a week from 8:30-2pm. This program will last roughly two months. The plan is for her to get everything she can out of that program before the next step of moving back home to NC. That will be just in time for warm weather and trips to the beach! Once she returns, she will still continue to receive therapy while living at home.

Jennie went on her first outting yesterday with other Shepherd patients to the Mellow Mushroom for lunch and ate pizza. She was able to leave her wheelchair on the bus and walk all the way in to the restaurant! She has been speaking more this past week. She does well to repeat words one at a time back to you and is still working on her ability to say responses on her own. She is consistently able to answer "yeah" when talking in conversation with her and can also say "hi" on the phone when we call her. This past Thursday, Jennie's therapists all got together, grabbed her radio and recent "Best of the Grammy's" cd and had a dance party in the gym with her. She was up on her feet dancing along and even moving her hips a bit! She has definitely become one of their favorite patients and are all sad to see her go but excited for how much progress she has made in just 5 weeks. The nurses and staff at Shepherd have been so positive since the minute she arrived. They helped to renew our confidence that we have all been fighting and praying for a reason and it has truly made a difference.

On that note, thank you so much to all who have helped Jennie along the way; EMS guys, surgeons, doctors, nurses, case workers, and especially family and friends who have been so supportive and not given up hope. Hundreds of people have been involved in Jennie's recovery and I am certain that each of them have been guided by the hand of God who has truly performed a miracle in her sweet life.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Jennie had another big week of improvements. On Thursday, my mom called me and gave the phone to Jennie and she said "Hi" to me clear as a whistle! She has been up until this week shaking her head for "no" but finally came out and said "no" loud and clear for my mom when she was trying to get her to push the button to open the door. It's so exciting to hear her saying more words! Another huge step this week, she had her feeding tube removed yesterday. The doctor has given her the go-ahead to eat anything she likes. Tonight, I received a picture message with her best smile yet...turns out she was eating a burger. :) This week she has done well picking up utensils on her own. She is also no longer having to take blood pressure meds. Jennie has also started parking her wheelchair and began walking more. She is working on keeping her head up and staying balanced. She wears a belt around her waist that the therapist can grab if she loses balance, but overall she is doing well to walk along on her own for short distances. More work has also been done to help Jennie identify words on paper. She does a great job distinguishing between yes and no and was able to find her name today. One specific prayer request is for her eyesight which may be giving her some double-vision making it difficult to distinguish between similar looking words and also confidence with walking. Hopefully, that will get better with time as so many other things have. In just a couple weeks, she will move into the apartment with our mom and start the outpatient program. At that point, she will be able to go anywhere as long as she is up for it. How exciting to taste that freedom! If only the weather in Atlanta was better...bring on spring already!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Words can't even express... awesome our visit with Jennie was this weekend. When David, Jack, and I walked into her room for the first time and my mom announced that we were there, she turned her head towards us and gave us a huge smile. (Sidenote: David is my husband and Jack is our 15-month-old red-headed cutie). Within minutes, she was out of the bed and in her chair with just a little assistance. Jack instantly loved playing with all the gadgets on Jennie's wheelchair and had her laughing right away. Next thing I knew, we were strolling down the hallway with Jennie leading the way using her feet to wheel herself swiftly along. She does a really good job manuevering through the hallways and can even pivot to turn around in as small of a space as the elevator. After checking out the gym for a bit, we decided to see how Jennie and Jack would do together with him riding on her lap. She held onto him tight, he leaned back on her and Nana (our mom) pushed them fast down the hallway. Jennie did great holding up her feet and hanging onto Jack and he was smiling from ear to ear. That would be one of many trips that they would take together over the weekend. We made our way up to the family room which has a kid's corner, couches, computers, a tv, and a kitchen area. We hung around and watched Jack play for awhile. This was a moment I had been wanting since the night of the have Jennie chilling out with us again, participating, and enjoying her surroundings. She smiled, laughed, raised her eyebrows at the right moment, tracked along with Jack as he ran down the hallway, and reached out her hand to touch his head. It hasn't been since Thanksgiving that we were all together in a relaxed setting and it truly warmed my heart. The next day, I helped Jennie with her lunch. She is now eating all of her meals! I helped by getting a bite on the fork and then she would take the fork and raise it to her mouth on her own. She also was able to hold onto her drink containers and take sips on her own. Since she is doing so much better about eating all her food, she doesn't have to drink all the Ensure anymore...great news! She makes the worst face when she swallows that stuff. :) At lunch, I was able to get Jennie to say Jack's name! I asked her if she would try to talk to me and figured I'd prompt her with some words to say. She said his name in a whisper but it was very clear two times in a row. She was trying to tell me something today before we left but I was unable to understand her after a lot of attempts. Even though I kept asking her to try again, she didn't get frustrated she just laughed and tried again. I can't wait to be able to hear her voice loud and clear once again. She is also getting better about using both her arms and hands. I showed her how to sign "I love you" and she was able to do that multiple times. She also showed me the correct number of fingers when I counted up from 1 to 10. When we got to 6, I told her we would have to use both hands and she just kept right on going slowly but surely aligning her fingers to show me the correct number. I was really impressed by that to say the least. What a week of full rehab has done! I was just in awe of how far she had come in the 3 weeks since I saw her. She will remain in the inpatient rehab program until Feb. 16th (give or take) and will then move into a Shepherd Center apartment with my mom and attend the Pathways day program 5 days a week. It is such a blessing that she was able to get into this next step in the program which will truly prepare her and my mom for life outside of Shepherd. Please continue to pray for Jennie's ability to make decisions on her own and to continue on a path to communicating more clearly. I have no doubt that she will continue to progress in leaps and bounds!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thumbs Up

Today Jennie ate her first full meal at breakfast! Eating real food is getting easier for her and she is chewing and swallowing well. She was able to identify multiple objects such as: utensils, sock, cups, and cards to the matching picture of the same item. She also identified the written words "yes" and "no" every time...more than 10 times in a row! Another cool thing was that she gave a thumbs up when asked by one of the Shepherd staff. One issue that has been looming is whether Jennie has any sight in her left eye. Since waking from her coma, this eye has had a harder time opening and generally is only half-way open when the right eye is fully open. The therapists had suggested that they would cover her right eye with a patch to "test" the left eye but have waited until she was a little more alert to not cause her to become frantic. Today they covered the right eye and....she can officially see out of the left eye! It is a little lazy but followed all the objects put in front of her without the help of her right eye. Another great start to a new week!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Card Fairies

A special thanks to the Cricut Card Fairies for sending hand-crafted cards to Jennie while she has been at the Shepherd Center. These have been very special to her and especially to our mom. How nice to receive mail on a regular basis that is so personalized and being sent from multiple different states. We really appreciate all the thought and love that is coming in from near and far. You have certainly helped to brighten Jen's room! I was curious to learn more about the "Card Fairies" and came across their message board. Maybe you are crafty and would like to join in this neat mission:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Movin' on up...

Today marked a big day for Jennie...she was accepted to move up to the full rehab program at the Shepherd Center! She has currently been in a more acute rehab program that has included 1.5 hours of therapies per day. Starting tomorrow, she will receive a shower every morning, 3 meals of real food, and 3 hours of therapies. I’d like to take a moment to explain just how awesome our God is and how truly miraculous it is that Jennie is at this point *already*.


In order to move up to the full program, Jennie had to be considered a level 4 on the Rancho Los Amigos Cognitive Scale (highest being 10). Before leaving Wilmington, Jennie was a strong 2 on this scale. Back on the Thursday before she left for Atlanta, December 31st, when we first met the liason from the Shepherd Center (also named Jennie!) we would learn that there were some hiccups with insurance since we were dealing with another state and this wasn’t going to be an easy acceptance. The liason told us that Jennie could have a strong chance at getting a scholarship due to her young age so we could bypass the insurance issues, however, she would have to be a Rancho 4 in order to qualify. Her advice was to wait the LONG weekend and hopefully she could qualify at a 4 on Monday. This made our hearts sink because we couldn't even imagine that being a possibility within 4 days and maybe not a possibility at all. I am so proud of my sister to be able to sit and write tonight that even though she didn’t make it to a Rancho 4 and get a scholarship, a clause in the law allowed her to remain on her insurance and make it to Shepherd and she has now skipped right on over being a 4 before they had the chance to reevaluate her today and is now considered a Rancho 5!! For those interested in reading the full details of this scale here’s the website:


Some fun things that have happened in the last couple days: Yesterday, Jennie received her first "real" shower and loved it! That has got to feel great after weeks of sponge baths. She also has started trying real food - she had some fruit loops and is trying different liquids such as 7up and Ensure. She still has the feeding tube and will continue to have this as backup but as part of the new program, she will have 3 meals a day. At this point, she isn’t showing much interest in eating. Hopefully with introducing some different types of foods and drinks over the next week, she will gain some more interest and enjoy real food once again. She has also been mouthing words and has said a few out loud. Last night she said the word “cold” to indicate that she felt cold. The past couple nights she has tried to talk to my mom but is speaking too quietly to understand just yet. She continues to laugh at jokes, is still working on using both arms, and is quite mobile in her new wheelchair using her feet. I cannot wait to see Jennie in person next weekend! I could continue this entry for much more, but I will rest for now and update with more exciting news soon!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Going Shopping!

Today marks two weeks at the Shepherd Center and man has God worked some miracles in Jennie's life in that short time! Yesterday, Jennie was walking along pushing a shopping cart with little assistance from the physical therapist. She went all over the place and did an awesome job! She has continued to share smiles and has a new wheelchair to further help her with mobility. I previously mentioned a test that she has once a week to score her on the "Coma Recovery Scale." The highest possible score is around 24...two weeks ago, Jennie was a 7, 1 week ago she was a 13, and today she is an 18. The speech therapist (the one that performs the test) said that a few of the categories take all patients recovering from a coma quite awhile to accomplish (speech, forming meaningful sentences, etc.) and so a 20-21 is a super score. To already be at an 18 is just wow! Jennie has also started to form her lips as if she is trying to say words and all the therapists have heard her say "yes." Look for more big news as the week goes on. ~Jesse

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Such a sweet sound

This morning, Jennie laughed out loud! My mom was aggravated with the nurse for removing Jen's brace to put her shirt on (big no-no) and in the midst of expressing her frustration (aka telling him off)...Jennie began to laugh. Kinda hard to be mad when that happens. :) She has continued throughout the day laughing and smiling at silly jokes. This is a first for Jennie since her accident and such an awesome and fun milestone. Hope this brightens your day, sure did mine! ~Jesse

Friday, January 15, 2010

Overall - good week!

Jennie had an exhausting yet good week. This was her first full week of therapies and my mom had lots of good reports to pass on to me. Oh how I wish I were there seeing it all in person! During physical therapy, Jennie has continued to work on walking with the assistance of some neat equipment and is doing well with alternating her feet standing as well as sitting in her wheelchair. She has worked a lot on using both of her hands this week. She was able to take 2 cups that were stacked together, unstack them, and then restack. Also, picked up a spoon and put it in and out of the cup. Using her left hand (the broken arm) she has gotten pretty good at stacking rings on a post and is also getting better using her right hand (the muscles in this arm are still very tense). She has also been helping to wipe her face with a washcloth using her right hand. Another cool task she was able to do was to recognize the #2 on a foam board that has the numbers 0-9 cut out. She was asked to point to the #2 and push it into the board, and she was able to indicate the right one! It is clear that Jennie is able to understand at the very least basic conversation. She has been cooperating and participating more this week. Her and my mom ended the evening by watching some tv last mom asked if she would like to watch tv and she turned her head in the direction of the tv even before it was turned on. One of the goals that we are focusing on is to have Jennie be able to communicate yes/no in some way - thumbs up, nodding her head, etc. Thank you all for your continued thoughts, prayers, and acts of kindness for our family. ~Jesse

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Good Day

Today Jennie had a pretty good day. She has a new wheelchair that has removeable foot rests so that her feet can reach the ground. This makes it so that she can work on scooting around on her own and help with working towards walking. With some assistance, she was getting around and was alternating her left and right feet well on her own. Being able to focus on moving her feet to move around has also calmed Jennie down some while she spends time in the wheelchair. Also, when she is laying down, she is able to push up her bottom when her knees are bent to help with getting her pants on. Her neck also seems to be getting stronger and she is holding her head up better without having to remind her to put her chin up. Our mom worked on holding Jennie in a bear hug and walking backwards with her. Jennie handled this pretty well on two occasions and was looking my mom right in the eyes as they went along. The plan for now is for Jennie to remain at Shepherd for at least a few more weeks. At that point, if the program is appropriate for her needs, the rehab center in Wilmington has already expressed accepting her. The thought of coming back home brightened both our mom's and Jennie's spirits. In general, Jennie seems to be a little less upset throughout the day and is doing better to take in her surroundings. A couple specific prayer requests are for Jennie's cognitive thinking to improve and for overall body control. We are all so proud of Jennie. :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


So, I'm back home in NC and my mom and Jen are in Atlanta and it just down right stinks. I want to be there for every moment with Jennie and to be by my mom's side through this. The last couple days have included a lot of educational classes for the family members that my mom has taken part in to learn all about the brain and the possibilities that the future holds. It's obviously necessary to get as educated as we can but it forces the reality of the situation back into the forefront of our minds. Jennie did get her neck brace off on Monday. That should be a big relief for her. :) The huge prayer request right now is for Jennie to progress enough to be able to handle the full day rehab program (3hrs/day). Currently, she is in a more acute program and receives 1.5hr. of rehab a day. I want to plead with each of you reading this to please hold Jennie as tight in your heart as you all did the moment you heard about her accident. This moment is not any easier than it was 6 weeks ago...a different moment with different challenges but difficult as ever. This is a very tough road...words just can't even describe it. I know that Jennie is hard at work and that's what I expect of all of us supporting her. The only thing that we can all truly work hard at right now is to pray. Please take a moment throughout your day and do just that. ~Jesse

Sunday, January 10, 2010

First Weekend at Shepherd

We have learned in these past 6 weeks that things slow down on the weekends. The same is true at the Shepherd Center. Jennie had just one therapy yesterday (speech) and Sundays are a day of rest. This helps the patients gear up for a long week of work. My mom and I have been working with Jennie over the weekend and she is still continuing to make progress. She is really working hard on lifting her arms, especially the left one to grab for objects and to hold our hand. It is very obvious that she is having to think very hard and it takes a ton of effort for her, but she is getting it. I will be travelling home today. Please keep my mom in your prayers as she is here this week with Jennie. ~Jesse

Friday, January 8, 2010

Address to the Shepherd Center

Jennie can receive mail here at the Shepherd Center. Please address it as follows:

Patient Jennifer Savickas - Rm #224
Shepherd Center
2020 Peachtree Rd. NW
Atlanta, GA 30309

Mail can also continue to be received at my church:

Crossroads Baptist Church
Attn: Jennie Savickas
340 Covil Avenue
Wilmington, NC 28402

Thank you for all the mail that has already been sent. We read these cards and letters to Jennie and hang them in her room.

Birthday Wishes

Today Jennie celebrated her 22nd birthday. Not exactly where she would have chosen I'm sure, but we are glad to have her alive and with us to celebrate the milestones that she has made in the last 6 weeks (as of today). During occupational therapy today, Jennie opened and closed her left hand well on command and made a very good attempt with her right hand. Her left arm is the one that is broken and in a brace...we learned that the break is significant enough to keep the brace on for another 6 weeks. That's a bummer but she is planned to get her neck brace removed on Monday! That will certainly be a relief and hopefully allow her a little more freedom with her neck and head. During speech therapy, we were educated about a coma recovery scale that rates how Jennie is progressing. She will receive this test once a week to monitor her progress and be scored on various areas. She also was given some ice chips to see how well she can swallow. She is definitely swallowing some but not quite consistently yet...and it's hard to tell with the neck brace on. So we had to hold off on that birthday chocolate pudding but hope to have more to come on that next week! During physical therapy, she was put in a swing-like contraption that allowed her to walk while relieving some of her weight. This was a fun time going across the gym with Jennie doing well to alternate her steps with some assistance. We also learned that she is officially in what is considered a "minimally conscience state." This is up from first off being in a coma which lasted about 2 weeks to then being in a persistant vegetative state to now in a lessened consience state. We are making progress people! This was explained as sort of like the time when you are about to wake up so you kinda hear what is going on but aren't quite sure of your surroundings - a dreamlike state. She is definitely trying to vocalize as well...tonight she made a very muffled yell a few times. Again, it is so hard seeing her be frustrated and emotional but we know that this is along the road to recovery. Please continue to pray for strength for Jennie and also for my mom. This is very hard on our family but we are Jennie's strongest cheerleaders and have no intentions of giving up hope anytime soon. Thank you for all the birthday wishes.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Shepherd Center

Hi Everyone, this is Jen's sister, Jesse ~ I have broken into my sis-in-law's blog to update on my sister :) (hope you don't mind LuCinda!). Jennie arrived on Tuesday, 1/5/10, in Atlanta to a wonderful rehab facility called the Shepherd Center. She and my mom had to fly in a small jet plane from Wilmington and then be transported by ambulance. Tuesday through Wed. afternoon, Jennie was in the ICU while the nurses monitored her to see what her current status was. She has been off the ventilator for some time now and is doing great. She has a special bed that is super comfy and has bean bag pillows to hold her in snug. The bed is designed with a net around her so that she will not be able to hurt herself or slip out of bed. Kinda makes me feel like she's camping in a tent :) Today was her first full day of therapies including physical and occupational. She has a special made wheelchair that allows her to be brought around the facility to the gym and on other future "field-trips." During physical therapy, she was asked to choose the green ring from two (a blue and green) and she chose the green one even though it was further away. That was super news! Overall, Jennie looks great. Her skin color is beautiful, her growing hair feels soft, the expressions she is giving, and the look in her eyes...I can tell she is making progress. The nurses here are soo attentive to the point that my mom just doesn't know what to do with herself. The 40 days at our hospital in Wilmington were such a long is so nice to be at such a specialized facilty where the care is superb. I arrived today to visit for a long weekend. I gave Jen a hug when I first saw her and she began to tear up. It is so hard seeing her get emotional but awesome that she is showing signs of emotions. She is also starting to make sounds and try to vocalize...another sign of communication! The schedule is very rigorous each day - all patients are up and at em by 7:30am and are in their wheelchairs hanging near the nurses station until their scheduled therapies. She had her best night of sleep since day 1 last night. Tomorrow is her birthday! She will begin speech therapy tomorrow and hopefully be able to start swallowing some fun foods and liquids (we may try to sneak her some chocolate pudding if all goes well to celebrate her birthday!). Some specific prayer requests: for Jennie to be willing and able to participate in each of her therapy sessions and for her to gain better upper body strength...her legs are super strong! I hope to update more often now that we are a little more settled. Thank you all for your continued prayers...they have made all the difference!