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!