A Little Light At The End of The Tunnel – The Adventures of My Amazing Guy Continue…

This is Paul’s x-ray from his 6 week post-operative check up today – he’s looking to the left.  (Original accident details here.)

How many plates and screws do you count?

How many plates and screws do you count?  (Okay – 5 plates and 13 screws.)

Based on the encouraging way his body is mending, here’s what his surgeon says he can and cannot do:

He’s now allowed to turn his head.

He can drive.

He “can” lift up to 20 pounds, but cannot “pull” or reach over shoulder height if anything feels “too much”, i.e.,  he has permission to try but is not routinely lifting much.

He’s released from wearing his brace, unless he’s in a “risky” situation.  (The surgeon said most patients are not released from this for a minimum of 3 months.)

He can sleep on his side as his broken sternum and ribs allow.

He can take a Tai Chi class.  (His idea because he’s going crazy.)

He can do aqua-therapy as part of his occupational therapy.  The occupational therapy basically keeps his muscles limber and ready for when the nerve function returns “on its own”.

He cannot do physical therapy for his upper body yet; he has to wait at least 3 months post accident to let his body heal.  So that means I can still beat him at arm wrestling, wrestling in general, and thumb wars.

While I still can...

While I still can…

He can be patient as he tries to write, type, and play the guitar.  The doctor advised it can take a minimum of 6 months for internal swelling to abate.  She still anticipates a full recovery, but stressed the patience aspect.

Ditto for his voice while it is still getting stronger as it recovers from the double-surgery incisions.

He can return to hearing arbitration cases. (Are we surprised he has one scheduled for tomorrow?)

Here’s what we agreed he can and cannot do…

He cannot walk ZuZu, our 55 pound bundle of black lab/pitbull “pull”.

She will play 'til you drop.

She will play ’til you drop.

He can fold clothes (good use of fine motor skills).

He can vacuum.

He can do limited cooking (the qualifier is if it requires a knife…).

The most he can do outside is water plants in the garden.  We bought a new lightweight hose…

Have you seen this new hose?  Seriously, it's a miracle!  Where in the world have I been?...

Have you seen this new hose? Seriously, it’s a miracle! Where in the world have I been?…

 

He can walk 3+ miles per day.

We can take a Tai Chi class together.

Why no, this won't be complicated at all.

Why no, this won’t be complicated at all.

What I can do:

Try to stop hovering (What can I say, Nurse Ratched habits die hard.)

Be grateful that my sunshine Paul is lighting up more and more every day.

Have faith in what the doctors say regarding the healing times:

~ A year for Paul’s neck to heal.
~ 3-6 months for his broken ribs and sternum to heal.
~ At least 3 months for his voice to heal.
~ 6 months to 5 years for his right hand/arm to heal – with the emphasis on the short end of that time frame.

The best news is that the doctors, nurses, and therapists are continually impressed and amazed by what a “good healer”  he is, and a full recovery is still expected.

Go Paul!

Thank you everyone so very much for all the continued generosity of goodwill and heartfelt prayers.  They do work.  We love you all – P & G

ADDENDUM ~ ONE DAY LATER:  He survived his first solo outing, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so tired as when he returned.  He slept his first night through since coming home from the hospital.

And,  he has a new appreciation for his limitations – after spending 15 minutes fiddling with his top dress shirt button, he ran out of time and had to ask a maid in the hall to assist.

In other news, he discovered Taco Bell’s vegetarian Cantina Bowl and fell in love.

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For Better or For Worse… Um… What exactly did I agree to in those vows?

In a couple of weeks, Paul and I will be (quietly) celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary.  That’s pretty big.

Yeah, those things.  Wedding bells.

Yeah, those things. Wedding bells.

As I was wrestling with some ancient pavers from my brick stash to accentuate my new lavender area last weekend, I let out a strangled scream when I noticed a gray mouse stretched out inches from my foot.  Only my guy didn’t come running to save me.

I froze waiting for the mouse to make a move.  It didn’t.  Slowly it dawned on me perhaps the mouse was dead.  Poor thing.  But then I realized I would have to dispose of the body.  Its little dead eyes were staring at me.  Ack.

Where did it come from?  The brick pile I was bare-handing?  Ack again.  I’m always careful to watch for snakes in case one has curled up in the warmth of sun-soaked bricks, but this mouse… well, he didn’t look like he’d been trapped for a long time.  Actually, he looked perfectly alive, except he wasn’t moving.

This one's alive.

This one’s alive.

So… I found a garden stake and oh, so gently, prodded him.  He was stiff as a board.  Gross.  Now what?  I’ve had my share of single days and trust me… I’ve done what I had to do when I found dead birds, dead squirrels, and more.  But, once I got married, well… those kind of chores got shifted off my “to-do” list to Paul’s to-do list.

That got me thinking about our marital division of duties.  Paul did 99 % of the cooking, grocery shopping, lawn-mowing and heavy yardwork, vacuuming, car maintenance, home repair, financial paperwork and 75% dog-walking and dishes, while I did 99% laundry, straightening, setting the table, gardening, decorating, and remembering birthdays and anniversaries.  Fifty-fifty (negotiable) items like cleaning the bathrooms depended on company stopping by – if you know what I mean.

It might seem a bit lop-sided, huh?  When I began working 40 hours again, I wily negotiated the household duties so I could also take a year-long masters screenwriting program (MSC) and step up to the writing plate once and for all.  Also, part of the reason we were able to make this arrangement was because of Paul’s flexible arbitration schedule, allowing him (as he often told me if dinner was a bit late) to rearrange his duties to go wind-surfing, or dare I say… mountain biking on a glorious Tuesday afternoon.

Paul told me he was proud of my devotion; I spent 40 hours a week at work, and – he calculated – another 40 hours a week in the MSC program.

I wish.

I wish.

Enjoying the respite of food preparation from the month-long smorgasbord parade of lovely meals (and I have enjoyed it) since his accident, I’ve fallen off my “green” diet, which I had adopted to combat the hives I get.  (Yes, I’ve seen specialists and that’s an article in itself.)  Now my hives are back, worse than any time in my life.  They  re-appeared two years ago when I was training for my Olympic triathlon and are now aggravated by various things.

Bottom line, Paul didn’t sign up for Hive Woman (who, it turns out could care less about actually cooking), either…

So, back to Paul… his condition continues to improve to the point where yesterday he had his first occupational therapy session at the out-patient facility.  He’s agreed to possibly guest-blog about his condition, so I won’t steal his thunder here, except to say, he’s got major work to do (on one test his left hand scored a 40 while his right – dominant – hand scored a 2), but now he can measure his progress, which means a lot to my goal-oriented guy.

Near the end of June, instead of visiting Bar Harbor, Maine, where we wed on the seacoast amidst the lupines, we’ll probably get some champagne, hopefully a bit of chocolate, maybe sneak off for a picnic, and celebrate the fact that we’re blessed to be as well off as we are.

This is pretty much how it looked...

This is pretty much how it looked…

As always, we are thankful to our neighbors, friends, and relatives who continue to mow our lawn, bring in our trash cans, walk our dog, provide food, and pray for us.  It is much appreciated as we continue Paul’s recovery.   Love, P & G

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Venturing Out. Like Scary Stuff Maynard.

The original beatnik attributed with originating "Like" as in "Like cool, man...   Like, thank him, or hate him for that.

The original beatnik attributed with originating “Like” as in “Like cool, man…”
Also started “You Rang?”  (No, Paul does not have a bell…)

You remember Maynard G. Krebs?  He was Dobie Gillis’ sidekick.  The first hippie/beatnik on TV.  I barely remember watching the TV show, but enough to reference.  Pretty sure my dad didn’t like him.  If you want to watch clips like “WORK, man?”,  start watching links here.

Paul is chafing at the bit to do more.  There is a fine line between what he tells me he can do and what his restrictions actually are, so I’ve been known to ask for verification in writing.  He had no problem getting the order for 6 massages a day confirmed.

What He Wants To Do

Besides everything…

- Vacuum (Bless His Heart – The therapist said he could try as long as he doesn’t move the vacuum from floor to floor.  Paul assures me it is lightweight; because, yes… how would I know?)

- Drive (Not for at least 6 weeks – and when he can turn his head…)

- Water the garden.  He wants to help and I appreciate that, but am thinking this falls under pulling, such as laundry, which, no, he cannot risk.

- Use his right hand the way it should work, as in typing, writing, guitar playing, eating, etc.

What He Physically Can’t Do

- Laundry (This might be a permanent restriction in my book.)

-  Walk our 55 lb. dog who likes to pull.

-  Use a knife, or other sharp instruments.  His right hand shakes from the nerve damage and the left hand is uncoordinated and weak.  i.e., no cooking when a knife is required.

-  Ride in a car (Right, so how  can he even want to drive yet?)

-  Lift a gallon of milk.  I leave small  containers of milk and the rest of the food he wants on the lower shelves of the refrigerator .  There’s also a little stack of plastic plates and cups on the counter.

- Raise his hands above his shoulders.

- Shave.  His scar under his neck is still healing and his hand isn’t steady.  He suggested I shave him.  Really?  Seriously?  Uh, no.  I prefer my mountain man “as is” for the time being.

What He CAN Do

- Walk alone as far as he wants (as long as he calculates getting back home) without the walker,  but wearing the neck brace.

- Walk with someone who can handle ZuZu.

- Wear the neck brace at all times.  As the surgeon said, people respect people in neck braces, and Paul cannot afford or withstand the slightest hug, or misplaced touch.  The teeniest cough or sneeze sends his ribs into excruciating pain.  He also needs the brace for protection in case of a fall,  and support as his neck becomes tired.

The other thing is… it’s become his “badge” of what happened.  Yes, we have new replacement pads, but he “likes” the old ones because his blood (and who knows what else) from the surgery is  visible.  I asked the nurse in the hospital to change the pads while he was asleep and she deferred me to the physical therapist.  When I asked the physical therapist if she could change them (There are about a hundred different little pieces “to be assembled” so I couldn’t figure it out.), Paul jumped in and said he “liked” it the way it was because…  the blood, now the sweat, and the tears.  Okay, another reason not to get too close to him.

The instrument of torture and protection.

The instrument of torture and protection.

- Strum the guitar and sing.  His voice is becoming clearer and stronger.  I LOVE to hear him sing.

- Play lots of board and hand intensive games with little pieces for his right hand to use such as:

- I didn’t know there was a game called Farkle, but one of our neighbors has a                          standing date to challenge Paul. (Thank you!)

- Dominoes

- Cards

- Stacking coins (okay, not a game, but good practice)

- Marbles

- Stacking games, hmm, maybe I should get him some Legos…

- Monopoly, backgammon, checkers, chess

- Anything  else he can think of that fits his restrictions.  And he is thinking.

Besides the fact that this is Doby Gillis posing next to Rodin's Thinker, is it just me, or does it look like guys on their thrones?

Besides the fact that this is Dobie Gillis posing next to Rodin’s Thinker, is it just me, or does it look like guys on their thrones?

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, Paul’s getting there.  We continue to be blessed by the helping hands of family, friends and neighbors mowing our lawn and bringing us meals.

Something so sweet it bring tears to our eyes is a fence project which Paul was in the process of planning and “building himself” when the accident happened.  A couple of big-hearted guys have offered to provide the labor and go ahead with the project.  (Ironically… it might be completed even faster than with Paul doing it himself.)

No, the hammock is not going up this summer.

No, the hammock is not going up this summer.

We debated going forward, but at my urging, we are.  I envision our back yard garden as Paul’s sanctuary as he continues to recover this summer.   I love to garden, and when people worry I’m not taking care of myself, they should know I’m very happy planting, weeding, transplanting, and drawing energy from getting my hands in the dirt.

Paul is so touched by the cards, texts, calls, and e-mails he’s receiving.  Not to mention impromptu walk-by or drive-by visits.  If he’s sitting out on the front porch, he’s fair game.  If he starts to look tired, I step in and become Nurse Ratched.  As much progress as he’s making and how impressed people are when they see his energetic attempts, when everyone’s gone and he’s worn out or has “over-done” , he looks about 100 years old, so I am still – I know – overly protective.

PS:  I played a nurse in our high school play, Hip Hippie Hooray.  How’s that for weird Karma.  When I find my “publicity shot” I will add it here.

So, this is my weekly update.  Hard to believe it will be a month on Tuesday since his accident occurred (original 5-6-14 details here), and I’m still learning exactly what happened.  One chilling, freaky, and overly scary detail that reminds me how lucky we truly are.  I overheard him telling a close friend that after the impact when he saw stars, he looked over and saw his right hand and arm twitching and moving of its own accord.  He couldn’t control the “flopping” around and realized there might be a problem.  Hello Houston.

houston

That man.  So glad he’s here.  And so glad for your support.  Thank you.  Love you, P & G

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Everything Changes – Let the Sunshine In.

This Memorial Day weekend, we stayed home.  (Paul’s original accident details from 5-6-14 here.)  (The first update on his condition here.)  Knowing Paul was on the screened-in porch most of the time, I was happy to work in our backyard as much as possible, unplugged from everything and everyone except him and nature.

First the ferns...

First the ferns…

Over the past fifteen years, a giant maple tree on the right side of this photo towards the back, shaded our yard so well, it was like a forest glade.

That tree slowly and sadly died; then had to be removed.  Many things in our backyard are seeing sunlight for the first time in at least twenty-five years (my guess).

In the first rays of spring, the ferns and hostas have done exceptionally well this season. However… they will soon burn up as spring light turns to summer heat.  One of my projects over the weekend was moving as many ferns to the safety of the shade from our other maple (way in the back) as I could.  I trust they will adjust.

I also trust Paul will adjust.  He is getting strong enough to talk more –  in spurts, and assert his independence.

Based on his therapists’ recommendations, we had an agreement.  He can walk by himself if he’s wearing his neck brace and using his walker.  (I added cell phone, (baseball cap if it’s hot), and water bottle to his basket.)  Or… he can walk wearing his brace without his walker if he’s with me or another trusted, capable, and approved (by me) companion.

However, as we hashed out yesterday, NO, he cannot walk without his walker if the companion is also walking our rambunctious 55 lb dog, ZuZu.  He put me on the spot and I suggested he make a choice; the walker and the dog (being handled by the companion), or no walker/no dog.  Ultimately, he chose the former.  No, I don’t care if I appear to be Nurse Ratched.  We’re talking safety first.

Daddy's girl, sure, but also capable of knocking a grown man over.

Daddy’s girl, sure, but also capable of knocking a grown man over.

So you see, I’m catching him pushing the boundaries.  Which is a good thing, yet…

En Garde, I say, Mr. Betts.  En Garde.

Happy Tuesday after Memorial Day and have a great week.  Thank you for your continued prayers ~ P & G

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Mrs. Knievel? I don’t think so.

It’s been an interesting week.  Paul’s had two more sets of x-rays, seen two doctors, and had 6 total visits from  home health care nursing, plus occupational and physical therapists (2 each).  They all agree.  He’s doing better and has a long road ahead of him.

The original accident details are here.

The Facts

Paul’s lungs are clearing, but he was told not expect the pain to go away for at least 12 more weeks.  That’s 3 months…  He doesn’t complain a lot about the broken ribs, but the broken sternum has a huge hematoma (big bump with lots of swelling) on top of it that makes him cringe if people looking like “huggers” get too close.

Not today.

Not today.

He still has the blood clot behind the sternum, but it’s dissolving slowly.  He sees the lung doctor again in two more weeks and continues to use his respirator tool as much as possible to build up his breathing force and keep his lungs clear.

Coughing is his biggest challenge which brings on pain, so he has to be careful not to eat too much at one sitting, or to talk too long, and to drink lots of water.  Oh, and while laughter is generally good medicine… it hurts too.

His neck x-ray also showed he’s healing as he should.  He must continue to use his brace if he’s not sleeping or stationary/sitting in a chair.  I’ve caught him a couple of times “forgetting” to put it on to move across a room and we’ve had words about this.

He cannot drive yet, and actually said to me later that if he’d known when the doctor asked him to turn his head that she was assessing his ability to drive, he’d have made more effort. Uh, huh.  Like I’m getting in a car with him.  Another 6 weeks at least.

He was having trouble sleeping so we talked to both doctors about him getting off the pain meds and muscle relaxers (Some are narcotics which can affect his ability to sleep; seems like a dichotomy to me…), so he’s switching to a combo of regular strength Tylenol and Aleve.  I bought a bottle of each and then Paul informed me we already had two bottles of Tylenol (from 2009; that’s how often we use pain meds…) – those have been pitched.  We also clarified he could not have alcohol while taking narcotic RX’s as the combination is counter-productive to healing.

The 19 staples in the back of his neck were removed in less than a minute (I did leave the room in case of male screaming…) and his scar will soon not show when his hair grows back. (Did I tell you they called him Sasquatch in the hospital?)  I see there is a Sasquatch Music Festival on the Gorge River in Washington (the state) for Memorial Day Weekend; one of his target windsurfing destinations – maybe next year…

Yes, my guy is one hairy dude.

Yes, my guy is one hairy dude.

He was given the green light to shave the area around the front neck surgery.  His beard had grown in so thick (and white) during the past two weeks, the assistant doctor didn’t recognize him.

One of Paul’s biggest concerns is the nerve damage to his right (dominant) hand.  He’s has about 4 hours of exercises prescribed every day which he’s being pretty diligent (and motivated) about doing.

The neurologist gave us an excellent analogy.  Imagine your thumb being smashed in the car door (Who never had that happen?).  The door can be opened, and the pressure removed, but the thumb still has to heal on its own.  The surgery opened up the nerve passages at his neck (C7, I think), but nerves grow at the rate of 1 mm per day, so… we have to be patient and keep working.  It could be six weeks before he sees any significant improvement in his hand.

Six weeks seems to be a magic number as that’s when improvement in his raspy voice should also happen.

The neurologist emphasized that while Paul is recovering as well as he is for what happened to him, he’s not to lose sight of how serious his injuries ARE (She stressed the present tense, not the past tense.) and that she was very happy not to be looking at a patient permanently in a wheelchair.  She sees him again in 3 weeks (halfway to six…).

The Rest of the Story

So… a few other tidbits.

His mind is working.

My dear husband got one of the therapists to write a note that he’s to have as many mini-massages as he wants, whenever he wants.  He forgot to have her write that I’m to drop whatever I’m doing, even if I’m in the bathroom.  Sorry honey.

He told me I was the best nurse ever.  Then he told me when he called the nurse about switching the pain meds, she said (upon his asking) that,  yes, he may have an “occasional” beer or glass of wine if he’s only taking Tylenol or Aleve.  He then informed me he was ready for his beer as it was Friday night and I was home from work for the weekend.  When I calculated it hadn’t been 24 hours for the narcotic to be out of his system, so he couldn’t have a beer until Saturday, he told me I was the worst nurse ever…

Speaking of nurses, he got a new nurse this week, Ed, who spotted Paul’s guitar and made him play – a bit.  Apparently Ed plays exceptionally well and Paul loves it when Ed comes to the house.  He most recently played Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”.  When Paul said he also sang to him, I asked if he was cute… Natural question, right?  One question that always stumps my guy.

Eric Claption, Circa 1973.  For some reason, this is how I imagine Ed, the nurse.

Eric Clapton, Circa 1973. For some reason, this is how I imagine Ed, the nurse.

We think getting off the narcotics will help him sleep.  I hope.  He was starting to walk around the house in the middle of the night with his neck brace on and sooner or later I would wake to see him looming over me in the dark.  Asking if I was awake?  Like a Zombie with broken body parts, shuffling and swaying and mumbling.  Considering all the drugs pumped into him in the hospital, we have a plan to detox and fill him full of good stuff.

Once Paul was allowed to eat in the hospital, nothing appealed to him, but he needed to regain his strength.  I ran home to make a smoothie only to discover our 19 year old VitaMix was kaput (Oh, yes, long story there but the final analysis proved that Moi did not cause the damage…), so I contacted the company and made the best deal possible and our newly refurbished VitaMix is ready to use.  Today’s the day we’re adding smoothies full of greens and health back into both our diets.

Dark Thoughts

I can’t imagine being in Paul’s shoes.  He was way more active than most people I know.  He is seldom content to sit and veg. He is more restricted than he’s ever been, and his will is not overcoming his physical limitations.  Think Alpha Male.  He also has a total klutz for a wife who is also super slow at doing certain things.  Imagine his frustration at watching me open (for example) the cap on a ketchup jar and seeing it fly across the room, accompanied by my usual “Darn it.”

So, when I (and others) tell him how lucky he is to be as incapacitated as he is, he doesn’t necessarily feel that way.  He said “lucky” would be to have walked away from the accident with a few scrapes and bruises…  Well, I let this sink in as I pondered how to answer.  Everyone is entitled to feel overwhelmed and “Why me?”  for awhile.

So, I changed the subject and asked him to list 10 things he was grateful for.  He gave me 5.   The next day, I asked for 5 new ones.  He easily answered.  We are counting our blessings every day.

Bright Thoughts

His occupational therapist asked if he knew any five-year olds.  By chance, why yes, we have a special five-year old, J– , right next door.  If you’ve ever seen Paul around children, you know they get along so well because Paul has that eternal childlike enthusiasm and wonder that makes the kids tell their parents “Paul’s the fun one!”  (Guess who I am; the one who makes them take their meds and stop jumping on the bed with Paul…)

Apparently five-year olds have these games that are perfect to hone Paul’s fine motor skills.  J– generously and proudly brought over a crate of his games/toys to share with Paul, and he’s been put in charge of making sure Paul wears his neck brace when they walk.

In fact, the day Paul was having his darkest thoughts (above), he took a nap and when I told him J– was looking for him to walk, but it was too late, Paul was stricken that he’d let a five-year old down and vowed not to do that again.

Thank you, Mr. J–!  We love you.

Final Thoughts

Um, I might have to amend some of these comments/descriptions as Paul has already pointed out discrepancies in my last entry.  Like, he walked 100 yards before the guys who found him got their vehicle.  (Ok…)  I suggested he is free to write his own guest post.

But here goes.

We are touched by the generosity of our friends, family, and neighbors, even those who do not know us so well.

Our yard is being magically mowed. (Yes, I do know who’s taking charge of that and THANK YOU!)   By the time I get home from work, our trash cans have been whisked back into place, the dog has been walked, and let me not forget the food.

Omg, people tell me I’m close to describing food porn when I list the wonderful things people are bringing to us.  I admit, since Paul took over the cooking (Hey, I used to like to cook, but why?  Paul loved to cook and I had other things to do.), I haven’t cooked beyond salads and brownies for the past 20 or so years…

It’s a huge help on weeknights especially, but I think I might have to start running again pretty soon as I am an eating machine. While Paul’s appetite has returned, he is proud to say he’s reached his formerly elusive goal weight (What is it about guys and their high school weights?) which he has been trying to do these past 20+ years, but never thought he’d attain it this way.

Since we’ve been married, Paul has grown into a bit of a curmudgeon as far as inviting people (No honey, you need more people than me…), but is now opening up and enjoying visits from our sweet friends and neighbors who bring him Sleepytime Tea, and books on tape, and politely sense when it’s time to leave.  (Coughing and waning voice is a good cue.)

We’ve also reconnected with many friends and co-workers we haven’t seen in years and it brings tears to both our eyes when Paul gets a touching card or message.  Why haven’t we stayed in better touch?

Paul’s also starting to get feisty about riding his mountain bike again.  I say no.  He says yes.  I say… we’ll talk about it (way) down the road.

I’ll end with this quote from one of our 7 nephews (who asked not to be named in front of his mother) that made Paul – painfully – laugh:  Injuries heal, but being a bad ***bad words*** lives forever.  Something like that.  (Any guesses which nephew?)

Apparently someone told Paul he sustained more injures than Evel Knievel when he jumped the Grand Canyon.  I checked when looking for this pic… Evel did a lot of other things, but he never actually jumped the Grand Canyon.  Sorry honey.  You will never be Evel Knievel because I am not going to be Mrs. Knievel.

Ack - Evel and his bike.  Please don't give Paul a shirt like this.

Ack – Evel and his bike. Please don’t give Paul a shirt like this.

Hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend.  I intend to get a bit more centered (code for organized), work on my screenwriting/marketing, garden, give mini-massages, and breathe the fresh air sitting on the back porch with Paul.

THANK YOU  again to ALL our angels out there.  We appreciate  you more than you know.  P & G

PS:  I hear Paul playing his guitar as I write this and although it’s not quite his usual…. it sounds great to me.  Ed, I owe you!

 

 

 

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The New Normal – A Change In Perspective

My guy likes to have fun.

My guy likes to have fun.

My husband, Paul, is almost two weeks post mountain-bike accident.  During that first week while he was in the hospital, I had a bit of time.  Time to pray – cry – hope – reflect – give thanks – and time to text, e-mail, and call the first wave of family, friends, and neighbors.

Then he was released and ever since, I’ve barely kept ahead of the snowball of communication as word spreads.  Thank goodness for those family, friends, and neighbors who are keeping us afloat as my time vanishes.  I’ve decided (upon the advice of good friends who’ve been there before) to communicate most of our future news and developments via blog posts which I will simply categorize under “All About Paul”.

In this post, I’ll try to summarize what happened and bring our situation up to date.

The Accident:

Imagine a sunny spring Tuesday afternoon (May 6, 2014).  My athletic, outdoors-loving, husband lets me know he’s going mountain biking at Comlara Park at Lake Evergreen, where there is no mountain, but lots of trails specifically designed for people like him.  People like me look at the obstacles and decide—maybe not.

Seriously?

Seriously?

I arrive home from work before 5 pm to find our dog, ZuZu, ready for her walk and dinner.  No Paul, but it’s a beautiful day, so I know what he’s still doing.  By 6 pm, I’m settled in a chair with my laptop, preparing for my weekly teleclass for my master screenwriting program (one of my favorite times of the week).

Daddy's girl

Daddy’s girl

The phone rings.  It’s Paul’s cell.

Me:      “Hi Honey, where are you?”

Him:    “BroMenn ER.  Can you come?”

My heart does a little flip.  But then… my husband has a history of being a bit of a trickster.

Me:      “Right.”

Him:    “I’m serious.”

Me:      “What’s wrong?”

Him:    “I don’t know.  I can’t get out of the car.  Will you just come?”

There’s something in his voice that makes my heart flip once more.  But—again, he likes to tease me.

Me:      “Okay, but you better be there.”

I fly out the door, hoping he’s playing his game.  I race the five blocks from our house to the hospital ER, my heart beating faster the closer I get.  I turn the corner, and there’s his car.  He looks sick, green.  I don’t see any blood — no bones sticking out of him.  Maybe he’s okay.

After a brief Q & A, he grows testy and I can feel the fear from inside him because he can barely move his right hand.  At his insistence, I remove his shin guards and tell him to stay put while I get the ER staff to come out.  He argues and insists on walking to the entrance about 50 yards away.  When I suggest he at least let me grab a wheelchair, he unsteadily starts lurching by himself.  I do what I can to support him, knowing I will have no effect at keeping him still now that he’s decided to move.

I learn a few details and as soon as we walk in the door, I say he’s had a bicycle accident, was thrown on his head, feels nauseous, and he’s whisked into a wheelchair into Trauma One, where a neck brace is applied and it all begins.

Before fast-forwarding to the injuries, this is what happened; pieced together from what he said during the time in ER and after his surgery.

He was riding (alone) on Trail #3, and approached a ramp, which consisted of a series of planks over a tree stump in the middle of the trail. I believe this one rose up 3’- 4’ in the air, leveled out, and ramped down.   (See Paul’s comments for the bike group on FB here.)

As Paul ascended, something (his pedal?) caught on the ramp, and pitched him forward off the bike, over the handlebars.  He probably did a somersault, landing on his back, shoulders, neck, and head.  The bike followed and bounced off his chest.  Yes, he was wearing his helmet.

He says the one he used was shorter and a bit steeper, but same concept.

He says the one he used was shorter and a bit steeper, but same concept.

We’re not sure if he lost consciousness for a short time, but when he realized what happened, he lay in the grass knowing he couldn’t get up immediately.  He couldn’t feel his right arm, which scared him.  He said he knew he’d “really jacked up his body”.  He tried to get up, but felt nauseous, so he stayed down.  Sometime later – 20  to 40 minutes, another mountain biker came along, followed by two more.  They debated helping him up.  (Paul had his cell on him, and could’ve called 911 or me at any time, but didn’t think it was that serious.)

Ultimately, and I’m sure at my husband’s insistence, they got him up, and started walking.  I think he was a bit shaky, because one of them got his truck and drove back into the area where they loaded Paul and his bike (which was undamaged – let’s get our priorities straight here; we’re talking mountain-bikers) into the vehicle.  They took him to his car and helped him in, again questioning whether he should drive.

Not his exact bike, but an example:  Specialized Carve 29'er SS Rigid - I'd like to say it's for sale.

Not his exact bike, but an example: Specialized Carve 29’er SS Rigid – I’d like to say it’s for sale.

Hindsight is not a luxury during a time of crisis, and although some have second-guessed the decision to get him up and let him drive, I know my husband, and I am confident he insisted on helping himself.  Also, we are truly thankful someone found him at all and at that point, he was in God’s hands.

The Injuries:

After x-rays, CT scans (with thousands of views), MRI’s (one botched thanks to Paul’s claustrophobia), blood tests, urine tests, and I frankly don’t know what else, we were told Paul suffered the following:

- 15 fractures total

- Basically, he had a broken neck;  3 cervical vertebrae, 3 thoracic vertebrae

- 8 ribs (2 floating which means they broke from the sternum), and a broken sternum/breastbone

- Concussion

- Punctured lung

- Nerve damage to his right arm/hand

- Hematoma/collected blood behind the sternum which had to be monitored and is still there

- Various “minor” injuries including abrasions, black eyes, severely bitten tongue.

I’ll spare the details leading up to surgery including a day and a half in ICU, the evaluation, the repeat tests, his pain, and the agony of realizing how serious his injuries were.

Basically, Paul’s vertebrae were fractured on both sides of his spine which put his spinal cord in a very precarious position of being compromised at anytime.  His skull and upper seven vertebrae were literally not attached or anchored any longer to the rest of his spinal column, as I understood it.   Fifteen years ago, his head would have been screwed into a Halo brace.

The doctors were serious when they said it was a miracle he lived, not to mention not being paralyzed, as a result of the accident and his movement afterward.

The Surgery:

His surgery lasted over seven hours, partly because the surgical team constructed a special table to “flip” him over once the first part of the operation – inserting a plate with four screws through the front of his neck, was completed, so six more screws and four rods could be attached through the back of his neck/nape area, and he had to be painstakingly positioned because of the precariousness of his fractures shifting.

I was blessed to have the company of family and friends, plus many texts, calls, and e-mails, during that time, plus updates from the surgical team, as his surgery progressed.

The Aftermath:

I won’t go into all the nitty-gritty (not yet anyway…) of his six nights in the hospital, and observing his excruciating slow progress (which frankly hurt to watch), but ultimately, he was released to come home just shy of a week.

Today is his sixth day home, and again with the help and support of friends and the hospital’s home program, we are adjusting and making it work.

His progress is slow, but I see some sort of improvement every day.  The doctors are optimistic he will have a full recovery, although I believe patience will become a learned trait for my normally kinetic husband.

Right now, I want to combine communication of what’s going on with Paul to this central place for those I cannot reach out to as often as I’d like.  I will continue to post as developments progress.  He sees two of his doctors next Tuesday, so we are looking forward to hearing what they think.

We are both grateful for everything that has transpired in the way it was meant to happen.  While there may be some dark moments, we know they could be darker, and we are thankful to be where we are.  It was an accident and it has re-prioritized what’s important and how we spend our time.

We are especially thankful, again to the guys who came to his rescue, and the medical staff at BroMenn, from the fast-acting emergency care to the nurses who kept him in line to the many doctors and surgeons who all had an amazing impact on his recovery.

There will  be touching moments, frustrating moments, learning moments, retrospective moments, humorous moments, and insightful moments.  Having a 2 lb. lifting restriction opens a whole new world of what can and can’t be done, for example.

I know I will be sharing and am hopeful Paul will choose to be a “guest” blogger when he wants.  As he gets better, I will let you know.  I’ve been very protective to let him heal, and will always err on the side of being overly cautious.  He is beginning to reach out as he feels more able, although I’ve noticed his progress ebbs and flows when he’s over-reached, something I try to make him aware of.

A different type of biking - Paul is the guy in the white shirt in the middle.

A different type of biking – Paul is the guy in the white shirt in the middle.

It is our new normal and we will adapt.

Thank you for your support and prayers.  ~ P & G

 

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Things I Learned About Myself From A Semester Abroad

JD:

Very proud of my niece. Glad to hear she “apparently” likes tomatoes!

Originally posted on morganjuraco:

bunkers2

When I moved to Spain for a semester, I knew no one. No one. It was scary and intimidating, and at first, lonely. I’ve always been someone who has enjoyed being alone. But it took studying abroad to realize that while I may like to be alone sometimes, to watch tv or read a book, I didn’t know how to actually be alone. Studying abroad has been an amazing experience: I’ve seen incredible places, met great people from across the world, and eaten some delicious food. Despite all of that though, the most valuable thing I have gained from this trip is confidence.

Three months ago I thought I was confident. I had jobs and leadership positions on campus, great friends, and belonged to a sorority who promoted confidence more than anything. By second semester of junior year I actually felt like I was getting my life together and…

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Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments