Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Update Wednesday morning 11/30

It's going to be another busy day today!  First, Dale has school from 8:25 - 10:25; then, we get to go home for an hour (I'll be tending my sick Katie); it's off to PT at 12:30, followed by SP at 2:00; we rush back to school to pick up my girls; home for a few hours to clean, fix dinner, and get ready for church; we'll attend the church service from 7:00 - 8:30 or so; and finally, back home to collapse gratefully on the couch!  I am thankful for each therapy session Dale gets to attend; however, they definitely make a full schedule.

Dale had a pretty rough day on Monday.  I realize he had several "days off" in a row due to Thanksgiving Break, but I don't think that was to blame for his severe shakiness.  I allowed him to sleep in Monday since I had to leave Katie and Emily home sick anyway.  When I went to help him get ready for the day, I was almost shocked by the extent of his jerking movements.  I have not seen his limbs jerk quite that badly since he started this improving trend.  I helped him quite a bit with dressing; he combed his hair and brushed his teeth by himself.  Then it was time to tackle the stairs.  Dale has become quite fearful of walking down the stairs.  It seems all he can think of is falling.  At one point, I could simply hold his hand while he kept the other hand on the rail while stepping down carefully.  On Monday that was not possible.  Dale kept stumbling, almost as if his legs kept giving out on him.  I tried several different "holds" that didn't seem to help at all; he kept needing to sit down on the steps to avoid falling backwards.  (Falling backwards going downstairs is obviously not as bad as the opposite, but it still undermines Dale's confidence.)  We made it to the landing between flights, Dale crying and saying, "I wish I was downstairs already."  I just about carried him down the next flight, standing beside him and pulling him up against me with my arm around his waist.  Even with this added support, Dale was jerking wildly and scared stiff.  He even told me, "I'm terrified!"  We stopped repeatedly to allow him to calm down before attempting the next step.  Finally, we were once again on solid ground.  I guided Dale around the corner of the couch so he could sit down.  He was stumbling badly by now with every step; I was so afraid he would go into a seizure.  He half fell/half sat down on the couch, crying hard.  I stayed by him for a few minutes, reminding him over and over, "Dale, you're safe now; you're sitting down.  You're safe."  I waited until he had calmed somewhat, then handed him a pop-tart (comfort food) to enjoy while relaxing.  Thank the Lord, we didn't need to leave for PT for an hour.  Dale just sat, relaxed, and watched TV.  This time allowed him to lose most of the jerking behaviour, as well as restore his confidence that he could get through the day.  He continued to be very shaky the rest of the day, but he did well overall.

PT went well, especially considering the rough start to the morning.  Dale struggled a bit while getting on/off the exercise bike and other equipment, but I stayed close enough that he felt safe enough to keep trying.  That was the important thing.  Eventually the therapist took Dale into the smaller pediatric gym to work on OT stuff.  Dale didn't think twice when she had him get down onto his knees to work at a low bench; she and I shared a grin about that!  When she and Dale were playing catch (still standing), I was absolutely amazed by how well Dale released the ball each time!  Always before, his left hand would almost fight with his right to hold on to the ball, causing him to have trouble throwing a ball or dropping a bean bag.  On Monday, his left hand worked beautifully with his right; he threw the ball or bounce-passed it just fine---no hesitation whatsoever.  I have not seen that since his accident!  (I know it seems like I say that alot, but with each improvement, the statement holds true!)

Overall, Dale is doing quite well.  I was talking to my husband the other day (something I try to do regularly!) about Dale's progress.  We were excited in looking back at just how far Dale has come in less than four months.  From not even knowing if he would wake up, to seeing him scratch his nose on his own, to watching him throw a ball with ease---there are not enough words to express our joy and thankfulness!  Our God is miraculous; there is healing in His very breath; He has chosen to heal Dale and bring him through this "re-becoming" process, and we are awed by the chance to watch Him work.  The six-month mark since Dale's accident will be the first week of February; imagine what we will be thanking God for then!  I can't wait to look back at the one-year mark and see just how incredible our God's healing of Dale will prove to be.  Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it!

Guess what I discovered in a corner of the dining room?  Three boxes of Christmas decorations!  It looks like one of the girls wanted to "help" me by clearing off the dining table.  Unfortunately, their help did not extend to actually putting the decorations where they belong---around the house.  They simply stashed them in a corner for later!  Oh, well---thank You, Lord, that someone at least tried.

John 4:35 - 36  "Say not ye,  There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest?  behold, I say unto you,  Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.  And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal:  that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Update Saturday morning 11/26

Our family has enjoyed this holiday season very much.  Chad has/had Thursday - Sunday off work; this has never happened in the history of our family before!  He has gotten to sleep in (until about 6:30 a.m.---somehow he never can sleep much past this), get to some projects around the house (clean out the garage), and in general relax.  I have enjoyed sleeping in and having extra fun time with the kids playing the Kinect.  I think the children have enjoyed being out of school and playing around more.  The girls get a chance to relax instead of the usual rounds of school, volleyball, homework, odd jobs, etc.  Dale has even enjoyed the break from school and therapy, and it seems he's getting better at tolerating his sisters!  I wondered if he would spend the entire Thanksgiving break screaming at the girls, but it's not been too bad.  He still screams, but, when asked what is wrong, is willing to tell what is bothering him.  This is much better than the general screaming and pointing, although it will be wonderful when he learns to control the screaming and just speak.

My girls and Dale have been playing video games alot this break, something the girls rarely have time for and Dale was not able to do just a month ago.  Do I have to be thankful his thumbs and coordination have improved to allow him to sit and play a video game?!  Just kidding.  It is so good to see this kind of improvement in our son after not knowing what to expect.  Dale is also improving in his bathroom skills.  He is getting more independent, not needing me to cue him which steps to take or even to just get up and go.  It's been three or four days now that he has gone by himself with no help!  Praise the Lord!

We all consumed excessive amounts of turkey, stuffing, pie, and veggies these past few days.  It's amazing how jam-packed our refrigerator was prior to Thanksgiving Day---and how empty it is now!  There used to be a time when Thanksgiving leftovers stayed around for a while, causing people to groan, "Turkey again?"  Now, the remaining food is gone by the next evening.  Could be because we have seven people in our family now, not counting the dog who eats whatever she can steal off an unguarded plate!  We thank our wonderful Lord for so generously providing for us at Thanksgiving and always.  I don't think it would be fair, though, to blame Him for the extra pounds we are now carrying!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, too, only without the extra weight.  We are now entering my favorite time of year---Christmas!  We have already begun listening to carols on the radio; tonight we will put up our tree, rearranging the furniture to fit the tree in a corner somehow.  Each year my husband and I make a vow to only buy "a few presents" for the children.  Each year by December 25th, the Christmas tree with its surrounding presents seems to have spread to take up half the room.  About the second week of December, we abandon the attempt to "organize" the placing of presents under the tree and just start shoving them under wherever they will fit.  Of course, our curious dog, Peanut, feels the need to regularly go on snooping missions around the tree, ripping holes in the gift wrap and knocking off ill-placed ornaments dangling too low.  Then there are the questions:  "Mom, can we please open our presents on Christmas Eve?"  "Dad, I don't see any presents for me.  Didn't you get me anything?"  "Can we open just one right now?"  (This one coming about December 2nd.)  "Are we having a treasure hunt this year?"  Each year---just as my parents did when I was young---we open our stockings Christmas morning.  The stockings are filled with goodies, including one clue.  This leads them to a present and another clue.  Four or five clues later, they have extra gifts.  These are usually just small, fun items....maybe earrings for the girls, candy, a stuffed animal (we have enough of those but somehow we always end up with more!).  Each year they ask, as if we would ever skip the treasure hunt.  The replies to these questions are always the same:  "Yes, you have some gifts" or "No, we are not opening our gifts early" and "Do we ever open a gift on December 2nd?" and are accompanied by various emotions ranging from compassionate and understanding to exasperated and fed-up.  Eventually the threat is issued:  "Stop asking me or else!"  Or else what?  We'll cancel Christmas?  Take all the presents back to the store?  As many times as I have been tempted, I have never taken a present back just because the kids are overexcited and/or annoying.  Somehow, each year, we get to the end of Christmas Day with all five kids and our sanity still intact.

And that brings me to my point.  Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, a reporter from KING 5 news stopped by for an interview with our family.  She said she had been trying to think of a family in the area who had much to be thankful for this holiday, and she immediately thought of ours.  And she was right.  God has blessed us so much this year, as He does every year.  The blessings and gifts are just more evident this year.  As we told the reporter, we are very thankful that our son is doing so well, that our girls are healing and moving on, that our family is still intact.  God has been good.  I say that as if it's something new I have discovered or something no one else has ever experienced.  Of course, God is good; did we expect anything else from Him?  But, in a real sense, we have experienced anew God's goodness, His grace, His mercy, His compassion, and His miraculous healing power.  We truly can say from our thankful hearts, "God is good."

James 1:17  "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Update Wednesday afternoon 11/23

I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!  In the rush of preparing turkeys, dressing, pies, and the rest---and the resulting fog of overstuffed gluttony!---let's be sure to give abundant thanks to our wonderful, loving Heavenly Father for all He has given us.  Each of us, I believe, has at least one thing to give God thanks for and most of us have much for which to be thankful.  I fully believe in enjoying Thanksgiving dinner (and leftovers) and watching football and upcoming Christmas movies, but I personally want to be sure I thank the Giver of all life and blessings before I take even one bite of turkey or green bean casserole.  Thank You, my Father, for simply being You.  Without You, I am nothing.

On a side note, the young man who broke his arm during our basketball game (which we WON!) underwent surgery yesterday to repair the nerves and such in his arm.  I have not heard an update on him since I received this information, and, since Thanksgiving break began today for our school, I probably will not have an opportunity to find out how he is doing until Monday.  I'll let you know how he fares.

Dale was supposed to have PT yesterday morning, but just before we were to walk out the door for school, he had an episode/seizure.  I had noticed his leg shaking more than usual while helping him get dressed.  I made sure we slowed down a bit and took our time.  He had some trouble on the stairs---nothing new---and we walked into the kitchen to get breakfast.  Some unnamed individual (this means no one would 'fess up) had eaten the last pop-tart, so I handed Dale a lunch-sized bag of chips to eat.  I know, I know.  This was highly unhealthy and showed an alarming lack of parental concern for his nutrition, but we were in a hurry.  (That's really no excuse; we're always in a hurry, it seems, on school mornings!)  When Dale went to eat the chip, his hand jerked wildly, causing him to smash the chip against his mouth.  I decided he should sit down to eat his chips.  He headed for the couch, but I redirected him to the table.  Somewhere between the couch and the table, he began falling.  I don't think he stubbed his toe or anything; it seemed like he couldn't make the transition from "go to the couch" to "go to the table" easily, and, in trying too hard, his brain glitched.  I was standing behind the chair, ready to help him be seated, so I was close enough to catch him as he went down.  Praise the Lord!  I couldn't hold him up, but I could make sure he didn't hit his head on anything as he fell.  By the time I eased him down to the floor, he was already in the seizure.  He may have begun seizing on the way to the table, which would have caused him to fall.  Dale wound up lying on the floor between the table and a bookshelf (our house is filled with books, it seems), where he remained while enduring the full episode.  I was able to comfort him, letting him know he was safe and it would be all right.  When the spell finally ended and he began breathing deeply, I made sure he wasn't going to choke on the bit of moist chip still in his mouth and made him comfortable.  My oldest, Amanda, was already going to stay home because she was ill; I called her downstairs and told her to keep an eye on him while I ran the other girls up to school.  We were by now horribly late, but we had a good (bad?) excuse.  I dropped the girls off, told the office why they were so late, and hurried home.  To my surprise, when I walked in the front door, Amanda and Dale were sitting side by side on the couch, watching TV!  What a lovely surprise!  He had apparently awakened; Amanda had helped him up; and Dale was busy changing channels when I showed up.  I called and canceled PT since our appointment time would have had us leaving the house about ten minutes after I got home---too soon for Dale to have fully recuperated.  However, Dale and I were able to go up to the school at noon for the Thanksgiving Lunch they provided.  He ate turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and two pieces of pumpkin pie.  He was fiiiiiine!

Thank God for my son's zany sense of humor!  Monday at SP:  the therapist asked Dale to "name just one thing you did this weekend."  Dale's answer was, "Breathe."  She and I laughed so hard; Dale just sat there with a goofy grin on his face.  After giving another answer that was more personal (!), Dale went on to work hard for an entire hour!!!  He has never been able to work steadily for that long.  Of course, she mixed things up some for him, going from activity to activity, but she stayed with one activity at a time long enough for him to have to work to concentrate and answer her questions.  Dale shows definite improvement in his speech.

Something we learned today:  Dale has not forgotten how to navigate a computer or what his library card number is.  Yesterday, Dale asked repeatedly to go to the library.  We told him we would go the next day.  This morning when he woke up, he asked me if we could go to the library.  So we made sure we went to the library before going to the store for last-minute Thanksgiving items.  Our library has two computers in the children's section, one for the kiddies to play games and one to access the library system.  Dale sat down, clicked on the correct heading, and began typing in his library card number to access his account.  Ashley and I were smiling and hugging each other behind him!  Just one more thing we've discovered that he can still do.  Dale can also close the van door from the inside.  I didn't think he could until he did it yesterday without any urging on my part.  So I made sure I told the girls and Chad about that so we don't do things for him that he can do himself.  Dale has also not forgotten how to play video games.  He is downstairs right now, having lots of fun directing a car all over the place.  He seems to enjoy way too much ramming the car into buildings and running other drivers off the road.  (Remind me to be thankful he is nowhere near old enough to get his license!)  This morning, Dale got up by himself, walked into the bathroom, shut the door, and used the toilet by himself.  This is a huge thing!  He cleaned up, pulled up his pants and underwear, and closed the lid---all without my prompting.  Unfortunately, he couldn't get the bathroom doorknob to turn, so he had to knock on the inside of the door and wait for me to let him out!!!  Just another tidbit from the Ostrander nuthouse!  If we are not all certifiable, we soon will be.

Again, Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!  May you enjoy this day of celebration and festivities with a thankful heart, as we will.

Daniel 6:25 - 27  "Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.  I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel:  for He is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall be even unto the end.  He delivereth and rescueth, and He worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, Who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Update Saturday afternoon 11/19

To let you know:  We received a report from the oldest sister of the young man who was injured during last night's game.  He both dislocated and broke his arm.  He dislocated his elbow (painful enough) and also broke the humerus above the elbow joint.  He may need surgery to ensure proper use of his hand.  This, however, was not the same arm he injured previously, nor do we know if asthma played any part in his treatment.  He is definitely out for the season!  Thank you for praying.  Kirsten

Update Saturday morning 11/19

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!  Our God is wonderful, omnipotent, gracious, and always ready to save.  He saves us from hell; He saves us from our past; He saves us from our mistakes; He saves us from ourselves.  He is above all things, in all things, before all things, and will be forever in Heaven.  Yes!

Dale had SP and PT on Thursday.  I was a bit concerned about PT because we were going to work with a new therapist.  We had met her once before and she seemed nice, but we had really only spoken a few sentences to each other.  She followed Dale and the other therapist around, just watching to see what works best for Dale.  Plus, Dale was really tired Thursday.  We had special meetings at our church this week; Dale had attended church Sunday night, Tuesday night, and Wednesday night.  You know how exhausted you feel just from the extra physical effort to go to church several nights in a row (as my husband put it, "I had to shave two days in a row!"), not to mention being spiritually drained from the preaching, conviction, and general "stirring up."  So, I was unsure how PT would go.  Dale surprised me by cooperating very well and performing all the tasks the new therapist laid out.  He got up and down off the floor for various exercises; he played catch with her; he got on the swing for a short minute.  He walked on the treadmill at a speed of 1.1 for almost three full minutes!  We were all impressed.  He only balked at remaining in a kneeling position while inserting bolts into pre-drilled holes in a box (OT); he said this hurt his knees.  Once he got up and sat on a padded table/mat, he was able to finish the bolts.  He even got himself a cup of water twice from the dispenser.  The therapist and I talked for a few minutes afterward and agreed that PT was a success!

Then Dale had SP.  Lisa is so good with him, praising him for doing well, encouraging him to keep going even though he may be tired, and being firm yet kind with him about using his words instead of screaming.  At the end of SP, Lisa said she was impressed with Dale's improved endurance levels (able to think and answer ten or more questions in a row) and comprehension levels.  She stated that it seems obvious that the comprehension was always there (we knew this!) but that his speech difficulties kept Dale from expressing that comprehension.  Now, Dale is able to answer questions better, reiterate some ideas, and even give answers to "I have to think" questions (like "Why do you think the dog barked at the frog?").  On that note, Chad asked Dale the other day a question which Dale wouldn't answer.  Dale just kept shaking his head and half screaming with his mouth closed.  Chad asked him, "What is keeping you from answering?"  Dale replied, "My tongue."  As humorous as this is, it is probably a very accurate answer.  Dale is having to fight with his tongue, his brain, and his memory to get out even the simplest words.  But, if anything, he is a fighter.  He has proven that from the beginning.

On Friday, we got to go back to Good Samaritan Rehab for a follow-up appointment.  Dale got to see the same physiatrist who oversaw his care in the hospital, and this doctor was pleased to see how well Dale has progressed since being discharged.  He mentioned he saw definited improvements in Dale's walking, speech, ability to move on command ("Touch your nose; lift your left leg; hold your arm straight out; etc."), and overall demeanor.  After the appointment, we walked around for a few minutes and visited the OT and PT gyms to see Dale's former therapists.  It was good for them to see him and good for Dale, too, I think.

Last night, our school hosted our first volleyball and basketball games of the season.  Dale and I got back from his appointment in time to watch his sisters playing volleyball.  They both played very well---and that's not just "proud mama" talking!  Our girls' JV team lost but actually played well as a team; our girls' varsity played two different teams and won both games!  At this point, Dale was drooping, so Chad decided to take him home.  I stayed to watch the rest of the games.  Now, the boys' varsity basketball game got underway.  Mind you, we were playing our rivals, a Christian school from over the mountains, so this was an important game.  All in all, it was a really good game with points scored by both teams and fairly decent calls by the referees :-) until we got about halfway through the game.  I don't recall exactly when this occurred; I just remember the emotions rolling throughout the gym.  One of our boys went racing down the court, setting up a pass play under the basket.  The ball sailed too far, and he valiantly leaped after it, attempting to sling the ball back into play before it bounced out of bounds.  He was successful in whacking the ball back into play, but the force of his efforts propelled him into the wall at the end of the court.  He hit the wall pretty hard, the high-speed impact bouncing him off the wall and straight to the floor.  He immediately began writhing and yelling in pain.  If you've never heard a young man yelling in agony, consider yourself lucky.  I don't think I ever had before.  The referee blew the whistle, the coaches came running over, and then the call went out:  "We need Mrs. Goltiao!"  She is a wonderful, godly lady in our church whose own boys played basketball for us not too very long ago, and she is an excellent nurse.  Anytime something happens on our church or school grounds and she's around, she hurries to help.  The gym went silent save for the whispered prayers circling the building.  One of our coaches pulled several teammates over to form a human wall, shielding the injured young man from the curious and the concerned alike.  His father was present as well as his sisters; my oldest, Amanda, went over to comfort his oldest sister who is a classmate of hers.  An ambulance was called; when they finally wheeled him out, he was breathing through an oxygen tube but not intubated.  I believe he suffers from asthma which may have complicated matters.  The report came back:  his arm is possibly dislocated, possibly broken.  Please pray for this young man to have complete healing with no growth plate complications.  Did I mention he had broken this same arm already, within the last year, I believe?  I cannot imagine the pain he was going through.  God bless him.

I recounted all of this because it affected my girls somewhat.  Amanda and I were crying and praying together for him.  He sits by her in one class and is always joking with her.  After what happened at the beach with Dale, now she was the one hugging the sister of the injured young man and comforting her.  Katie said as well that hearing the prayers around her and hearing people say "I hope he's all right" threw her back to that day on the beach with people all around saying that same thing about Dale.  She was trying to be strong last night and not cry, but it was hard on her.  Praise the Lord, we are not still at the beach or in the hospital, begging God to spare Dale's life, or even at a grave site, asking for God's comfort and strength.  We are still beseeching Him daily to continue His marvelous work in Dale's mind and body, but there is definite light at the end of the tunnel.  Dale has made incredible strides in these three-and-a-half months---imagine what the next months will bring!  We do have an amazing God, One Who is mighty to save and strong to heal.  And you know this would be true if God had chosen to take Dale on Home or have him live out his remaining days in a hospital bed or revert to a small-child mentality and never "grow up."  God is good.  Our hearts are overflowing with love, praise, glory, and honor for our awesome God.  The Lord be praised!

Psalm 91:1-4  "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress:  my God; in Him will I trust.  Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.  He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust:  His truth shall be thy shield and buckler."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Update Wednesday afternoon 11/16

Just a quick post this time...I'm operating under the philosophy of "It's now or never!"

First, THANK YOU to those who commented after the last update.  Your feelings, your thoughts, your prayers brought me to tears.  I do try to keep Christ's perspective in all this (and everything!), but our family is most definitely human and we do struggle every day with doubts, fears, and temptations.  The prayer that was posted---thank you so very much for that.  You captured what my heart cries out each day.  I appreciate all of you who lovingly and thoughtfully comment, who have followed our son's miraculous story from the beginning or perhaps just found out, who never comment but pray along with us each day.  You are allowing God to touch you, mold you, change you through Dale---and we will never be the same, will we?

Second, let me give a short (but, praise God, ever-growing) list of Dale's recent accomplishments.  (1) Dale is able to speak more now and more clearly as well.  He still screams some but can express his feelings or needs verbally better now.  We still have to remind him to use his words!  This morning on the way home from school, we decided to stop and get some tomato soup for lunch (nasty weather outside, grilled cheese and tomato soup inside!).  Dale said something which I didn't hear, so I asked him to repeat it.  He said, "When you get to the library, stop."  He hasn't been inside the library--family favorite---since his accident.  You know I had to let him!  We only spent a few minutes, but it was worth it.  (2) Dale is doing well with the worksheets we use at school.  Some are reading comprehension; some are math; some are "tell me about the picture."  He really does verbalize more now.  SP has been working with Dale to lengthen his sentences, using five or more words instead of one-word answers.  (3) Yesterday, Dale surprised me twice by getting out of the van by himself!  He unbuckled his seat belt, opened the sliding door, and slid out to his feet.  The first time, I unbuckled myself, got out, walked around the back of the van---only to find Dale on his feet outside the van!  I nearly jumped out of my skin.  The second time, I was ready.  (4) Yesterday, during our walk, I asked Dale, "If you could be any character on Regular Show (cartoon), which would it be?"  He answered, "Either Mordecai or Rigby."  These are the main characters and pretty cool---to a kid.  I then asked, "If I were a Regular Show character, who would I be?"  Dale answered, "Benson."  Benson is the boss.  I said, "Why Benson?"  Dale very easily replied, "Well, he's always yelling orders."  Dale was punished severely for his impertinence---just kidding!  We both got a good laugh out of it.  (5) Dale sits by Dad in church now.  This enables Dad to poke him whenever he tries to slump over; thus, Dale is encouraged to sit up straight and listen properly.  This also means Dale is at the other end of the pew from his sisters, which means peace and quiet during the service.  Also, I get to focus on the sermon more and not on Dale's quirks like standing up, slumping over, leaning on me, etc.  We all win!  Except maybe Dad.  At least he's not complaining.  :-)  (6) Dale's teeth brushing techniques are improving.  He used to brush well on the right side, upper and lower, and that was it.  I began brushing his teeth at night after he had tried, just to try to prevent cavities because Dale was not quite doing a good enough job.  Now, Dale brushes well on both right and left sides and even the front teeth!  If you think this is not a big deal, try switching your toothbrush to your other hand and brush for a while.  It's hard!  Dale is re-learning this as well as many other things; it's good to see improvement in this vital area.  (7) I saved the best for last!  When we got home this morning after school, the library, and the store, I made sure Dale got out of the van safely, then helped him up the one step to our front porch.  I then said, "Dale, wait a minute.  I've got to get this stuff out of the front seat."  By the time I had leaned insde, gathered up the books and bag of groceries, shut the van door, and looked up, Dale was at the front door, trying to turn the handle.  I hurried up behind him, saying, "Are you trying to open the door?  It's locked."  Then I looked at the lock.  Dale had found the spare house key (I won't tell you where we hide it, but obviously Dale knows!), inserted the key into the lock correctly, and had turned the key.  I reminded him to let go of the key and turn the doorknob, which he did, and the door opened.  Dale had remembered where to find the key, how to insert it into the lock (I still have to remind myself if the teeth go up or down!), and just needed a bit of help remembering to turn the doorknob!  WOW!  All of these seemingly small bits of progress add up to such big improvements over the last few months, few weeks, even few days.  Thank You, Lord, for letting us see Your miraculous work in action!  Like those time-progressed photographs that show a milk drop splashing up, we can see God's hand working in Dale's brain and life.  And, by simply being here and being near, we are touched as well.  Amen!

Luke 1:77-79  "To give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins,  Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us,  To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Update Monday morning 11/14

Thank you to everyone for your patience while waiting for updates.  I'm sure you are tired of hearing my poor excuses for not updating more regularly; please accept one more apology!  I keep thinking, "I need to update the blog"---and that's about as far as I get.  It's not that nothing has been happening; it's just that (1) I don't think you want to hear every excruciating detail of our lives (you know, like when the dog throws up from eating off someone's plate illegally or when the dryer screams because a shoelace got stuck in between the tub and the wall) and (2) I want to be sure to share more positive news than negative.  Mind you, it would be very easy to state only negative thoughts.  Our family's struggles with Dale's condition and Dale's struggles with learning to think and move again are constant.  There are no "days off"; there are no days where we forget what happened, mainly because it is still happening.  This is his life and our lives now, and we are still adjusting to the challenges each day brings.

My second oldest, Katie, broke down last night in tears, saying, "I miss Dale.  I miss his stutter while trying to talk too fast."  This, of course, brought me to tears, so we held each other and cried for a bit.  The simple truth is Dale is different, and, as a result, we are different.  I don't mean to sound whiny or complaining, but it's true---things are different now and we are still uncertain if things will ever be normal again.  I know in a very real sense that life will never return to the same state as before.  Mine and Chad's awareness of our children has been heightened, and that will never go away.  They thought we were overprotective and cautious before!  My girls are lucky I let them even out of my sight now.  Our daughters will always remember that day at the beach and the subsequent days in the hospital.  Their outlooks are permanently changed because of Dale's accident.  They no longer have the innocence of believing no harm will ever befall them simply because it hasn't yet.  Their lives, their faith, their inmost beings have been impacted, and there is no going back.  My oldest daughter, Amanda, who is seventeen now, felt the brunt of the guilt and remorse over Dale's being injured.  She, being the oldest, felt she should have protected him and kept him safe.  She told me she had kept an eye on him all day, and then, the minute she relaxed and let herself get involved in a game with some friends, he got pulled under.  When she heard the shouting, she immediately scanned the area for Dale and could not find him.  She will never get over the feeling of lying prostrate on the sand, begging God to find her brother.  My second daughter, Katie, who is fourteen, was also present that day at the ocean.  She described to me how her friend's brother came running over to them, screaming at them to get out of the water.  They looked at him in confusion because they were not that far out; they thought he was overreacting.  He was the one who told Katie, "It's your brother who is missing!"  She stumbled out of the water, looking around wildly for Dale, realizing he was nowhere in sight.  She, too, began praying and begging God to save Dale.  They watched as the rescue personnel began criss-crossing the waves, looking for any sign of him.  Agonizing minutes ticked by, hope trickling away, a knot in their stomachs as the knowledge pressed in on their frightened senses---it was taking too long.  Then the jet skis converged on one area, and they saw Dale's body pulled from the ocean.  My girls watched Dale's lifeless body be carried ashore, watched the EMTs begin working to find some sign of life.  They will never forget how cold Dale looked, how pale his skin was, how desperately the EMTs performed CPR, trying to restore Dale's breathing and pulse.  They will always have these memories emblazoned into their subconcious.  My third daughter, Ashley, who is ten years old, did alot of growing up this summer.  She was the one so scared when Dad picked them up from our friend's house in the middle of the night.  He told her there had been an accident at the beach and Dale was in the hospital very ill; she wanted to ask him more but was afraid it would hurt her Daddy to have to talk about it.  She could tell something was seriously wrong.  Not until Chad brought them to Doernbecher the next morning could I talk to her and explain what had happened.  Tears burned in her eyes as she asked me, "You mean Dale could already be in Heaven?"  I had to answer honestly, "It's possible."  At that point, Dale was still in a coma and unresponsive.  During those next hard days, it was Ashley who drifted silently in and out of the PICU, sitting quietly by Dale's bedside or holding his hand, then returning to the waiting room where she assumed responsibility for helping Emily, our youngest and only five, to pass the time by coloring get well posters for Dale or playing games with her.  Even Emily, young and unable to process all that had happened to Dale, understood that he was very ill and needed lots of prayer.  She still wants to be the baby of the family and sometimes gets frustrated because I have to spend more time with Dale now, thus limiting my time with her.  I have put effort into making Dale's routine workable for the rest of the family.  My husband, the tower of strength that he is, struggles daily with the fact that his son, his only son, may never leave home.  Dale might be with us the rest of his life, never fully able to care for himself, never holding a job, never marrying.  And, while we thank God for giving us back our son, the thought of the unknown future weighs heavily on both mine and Chad's hearts.  This "accident"---for we know nothing is accidental with God---has most definitely changed our lives forever.  We know "all things work together for good"; some days we can see that more clearly than others.  Please continue to pray for us---all of us---as we step forward into this new future God has prepared for us.

On a happy note, Dale's increased therapy times (we are now up to four a week, two SP and two PT) seem to be helping him already.  He is more willing to speak to express his needs and desires.  He still screams some, but that has decreased in the past week.  SP therapy is working with him to increase his endurance levels and concentration.  She started him off with just a question or two to answer, then increased the amount to five questions without taking a break.  Dale is now working up to answering ten questions or doing ten simple activities without stopping or crying.  He is reading more now in SP and thinking of correct answers very well.  He is also doing well in PT.  His physical endurance level is increasing, as well as his ability/desire to continue working at something even though he is tired and wants to stop.  These signs are indeed positive and encouraging.  Our case manager has done an incredible amount of behind-the-scenes work to arrange all the therapy Dale needs, as well as appointments with the doctor, neurologist, physiatrist, etc.  Praise the Lord---I would be sunk without her!

You know, God is good no matter what.  He is good if the sun shines; He is good if the wind blows; He is good if the crops fail; He is good if the harvest is bountiful.  Our God deserves our praise, our love, our devotion, our honor.  I am so glad God chose to save a sinner like me!  HE IS GOOD!!!

Proverbs 3:5-6  "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Update Tuesday afternoon 11/8

Dale had an amazing day yesterday!  He got up, got dressed (with help, of course!), went to homeroom at school, then came home and ate breakfast.  He had PT at 12:30 p.m.  I fully intended to give him an early lunch since we would be gone later, but I forgot.  Despite this, Dale participated in PT and did great.  He did not cry as much as before; in fact, he had been working at various activities for half an hour before he gave his first protest.  Even then, the therapist encouraged Dale to keep going, distracting him by offering a choice of PT exercises to do.  Dale was able to work hard at these exercises/activities (they are trying to do PT and OT together) for at least 50 minutes!  This is the longest I have seen him work since the accident.  Of course, being the wise lady that she is, the therapist changed activities often and kept Dale very involved by letting him choose what he wanted to do.  It's all good for him!  She is the most patient individual with Dale, and she always treats Dale as he is---a mixture of 12 year old developing young man and somewhat frightened small child.  Then, after PT, we had a SP appointment scheduled.  I told Dale that, after SP, we would get some lunch.  I was hoping and praying that he would "endure to the end" and get some work done in SP.  Once again, Dale did awesome!!!  He answered questions for the therapist, pointed out pictures when told, even read a bit.  He began to scream three times, but the therapist reminded him to use words instead and Dale calmed back down and stated what he wanted.  I cannot tell you just how great Dale performed!  He worked hard for about 40 minutes and then shut down.  Almost literally!  He was doing fine; then she began to ask questions about our dog.  She showed Dale a picture of a snake (EEEEEEEK!) and asked him if he had one at home.  Dale nodded his head.  (We DO NOT have a snake at home, nor will we ever!)  She then asked him if he had a cat at home for his pet; Dale nodded.  (Again, no.)  I chided him, saying, "Dale, are you going to answer yes to every question now?  Do we have an elephant at home?"  Dale just nodded!  Obviously, he had hit the wall.  He was ready for lunch!  I praised him up one side and down the other for his excellent work both at SP and PT; then I rewarded his behaviour and took him to Burger King.

In many ways, Dale is a 12 year old boy.  His body is growing like that of a boy his age; he enjoys humor of that sort (anything having to do with bodily noises); and he can't stand hearing his sisters jabber.  But, in many ways, Dale is much younger and needs to be re-taught things.  His writing, while in cursive, is more like that of a 2nd grader.  I have to have him fill in the blanks to create sentences similar to a 2nd grade curriculum.  He tends to be very emotional---crying easily, screaming, tiring easily.  Some habits have stayed with him (method of brushing teeth, how to control TV remote, being silly/crazy) while others need cueing to remind Dale what step comes next.  He is doing better feeding himself and not taking such gigantic bites; he drinks from a cup just fine; he is beginning to remember about half the steps to follow to go to the bathroom.  Fastening his pants is coming back; buttoning his shirt is still a ways off---his hands shake so much at times that it is difficult for Dale to bring the button and buttonhole together.  We still practice tying shoes.  Dale is remembering all the steps; he just does not pull the laces tightly enough to make a secure bow.  (Interesting comment about older vs. younger people's methods of shoe-tying; I would not have made the connection.)  Since his recent spell while getting into the van, Dale has had no trouble at all climbing in.  Walking up and down stairs is getting easier; he has an easier time going up than coming down.  Sunday in church, I had to take Dale out of the main service because he couldn't handle the noise and crowd of people.  Once we got in the overflow room, he settled down just fine.  He tried again on Sunday night to put up a fuss; this time Dad got involved.  He moved Dale to his other side, away from his sisters and told him to settle down or else.  Dale chose "or else" just once; he started to scream.  Chad's hand reached over and pinched Dale's knee.  You should have seen Dale jump!  I think he thought Chad had made an idle threat; he found out differently.  Dale had a hurt look on his face until I leaned over and said, "Dale, Dad warned you."  Then he realized there would be no pity forthcoming, so Dale straightened up and behaved.

This morning, Dale got to attend homeroom, class time with me (working on SP worksheets and reading), and history class!  The teacher said Dale did well, only "making noise" a few times and sitting there the whole class hour.  Praise the Lord!  I'm scheduling extra PT and SP appointments which will fill out Dale's daily schedule; I am also getting Dale into as many of his morning classes as possible.  I want to keep part of the early afternoon free so that Dale can rest some before his sisters come home from school and drive him up the wall!  Also, there will be more school activities in the coming months (Veterans' Day assembly, Thanksgiving lunch, sports games) that Dale can attend to make him feel part of school again.  Even if Dale is unable to gain enough information during classes to take any tests or receive a grade, he benefits from being around his friends and being part of a "normal" school day.

Last Friday and Saturday, our church hosted a Christian Ladies' Seminar.  My girls and I attend every year, but this year was special.  Dale is doing well enough that I don't need to be by his side every moment, so I could attend the whole event; and my pastor's wife asked me to speak about our family's experience with Dale's accident and these following months.  What a frightening privilege!  I thought I was going to fall on my face, both literally and figuratively, but I've had several people tell me they appreciated my talk and are praying for us.  Basically, I told the ladies that, while our family is certainly no one special, our God is.  "When I am weak, then am I strong."  God gives us the strength, courage, grace, and endurance we need exactly when we need it.  We simply have to make the decision that we will trust Him no matter what.  And we cannot wait until a tragedy hits to make that decision; we need to be trusting God all along for Him to be able to make "all things work together for good."  No one, whether Christian or lost person, is exempt from hurt and sorrow.  I'm just so glad we have our Heavenly Father Who is waiting to wrap us in His arms and help us get through hard times like this.  He is ever ready to help us with whatever we face each day.  Sadly, we often rush right past Him while dragging our heavy burdens and struggling to make it through the day.  And we wonder why life is so hard.  We complain and say, "Isn't life supposed to be easier for a Christian?  After all, I am God's child.  Why is everything so difficult?"  Mostly, it's because we fail to take advantage of the comfort, peace, and strength God offers, choosing instead to shoulder everything ourselves and getting more discouraged as our birthdays pile up.  Please, please---don't wait another moment before stopping and deliberately closing your eyes and praying.  Ask God to help you see all the ways you reject His help, and then ask Him to forgive this sin of "I can do it myself-ishness."  Our God loves every one of His children and, as His Word says, "is not far from any one of us."  He wants to relieve you of so much you carry, if you just let Him.  Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul; thank You, Lord, for making me whole; thank You, Lord, for giving to me Thy great salvation so rich and free.  And thank You for telling us that we can always pray, anytime, anywhere, and You will hear us.  I love You, Lord Jesus, with all of my heart.

I Corinthians 13:1 - 2  "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Update Thursday afternoon 11/3

Whew!  Wait just a moment while I get my breath!  Are there certain calendar weeks or months for you that you know are going to be completely full and you will be running full-tilt from start to finish?  The end of October through the beginning of January is like that for us.  We have birthdays, holidays, Christian Ladies' Seminar, evangelist meetings, school functions, sports games--you name it.  Plus, my second oldest daughter has been down since Sunday with a migraine.  She was diagnosed back in June as having a migraine (to the tune of a $2,000 ER visit), and she was down for a week and a half then.  We have been dosing her with everything we can think of, including prayer, but nothing seems to be working.  So I have been somewhat busier than normal taking care of everyone, helping Dale, and doctoring Katie.  Plus, this weekend is our aforementioned Christian Ladies' Seminar at church; we host a huge ladies' conference, invite churches from all around to come join us, and have special speakers.  Our theme this year is "Obtain Favour of the Lord"; our preacher's wife has asked me to speak at CLS because, as she put it, "I don't think any family in our church has obtained more favour of the Lord than yours this past year!"  So, I've been busy planning and praying (and worrying) about that as well.  I do thank God for an opportunity to speak to Christian ladies about the wonderful God we all serve.  So often we women get so caught up in our hectic everyday lives built around "living" for God that we forget to walk with God.  That is the key to living a joyful life for Him as opposed to a dutiful life.  So, I'm excited and nervous all at the same time.

I have begun administering (such a big word for simply "doing") the assessment tests with Dale.  As I expected, he is breezing right through the sight word tests; he's halfway through and shows no sign of hesitation.  I've been changing out tests and activities every five minutes or so in an effort to keep his attention from wandering.  Even so, I need to cue Dale or repeat questions often.  I'm using some worksheets that SP gave me as well as Hidden Pictures (which we love and Dale is good at) and other assessment tests.  I tried giving Dale a writing assignment yesterday; he needed to write a few sentences about "My Pet."  He understood the task but couldn't put his thoughts together coherently enough to write them down.  So today I tried writing sentences along that topic, leaving blanks for Dale to fill in.  He did very well on that, filling in "My pet is a dog" and "Her name is Peanut."  The next sentence was "She is a fluffy _________ dog."  I expected him to write "white" or "cute."  First, Dale surprised me by putting a comma after "fluffy" to separate the adjectives---good job!  Then, he wrote the word "deranged" in the blank!  "She is a fluffy, deranged dog."  I said, "Dale!  Deranged?"  At which point, we all cracked up!  Just typical Dale humor.  He has always looked for the ridiculous and silly and thrives on making someone else smile (or groan).

All seemed well---then I pulled out the math test.  I set it down in front of Dale; he took one look at it and I could tell I had lost him.  I read him the instructions for the first question (counting coins) and told him to begin.  He started fidgeting and doodling on the paper.  When I encouraged him to think and focus, he began to melt down.  First came the "NO!"s and then the screaming.  Maybe he was just tired or ready for a real break, but I couldn't believe how upset he was over counting coins.  I told him we would be done after just that one question, but this did not seem to pacify him.  He continued to scream and cry and refused to do the math.  And math is his favorite subject!!!  I tried to help him by pointing to the separate coins and asking him to name each coin and state its value.  He could do it, but he cried the whole time.  I finally had to set the math test aside, work on another activity for a couple of minutes (with him still crying), and then return to the math question at the very end.  We still never got back on that solid "I'm willing to work" footing, but at least we got some work done.  Every little bit helps his brain reconnect damaged wires.

I have a wonderful answer to prayer to share!  We got word today that Dale has been approved for Medicaid.  This will be retroactive, starting on August 1st of this year and continuing through July 31st of next year.  Praise the Lord!!!  This should help a) pay medical bills, b) reimburse us for already-paid medical bills, c) pay future medical bills---are you sensing a theme here?, and d) pay co-pays at Dale's therapy appointments.  This should mean that we can schedule Dale for more therapy than just the one-a-week he's getting now in each area.  Like I said, every bit helps!  We have been praying that God will allow only what He wants us to have concerning financial help, and this is His answer.  Thank You, Lord, for supplying our need.  Yes!

We still have people stop us in the store or wherever and tell us they recognize us from the news and are praying for us.  God has touched alot of people's hearts with Dale's story; He said He can work all things for good, and He certainly is now.  Reader's Digest held a phone interview with us a while back; they will have a story about the miracle God worked in Dale in their Christmas edition which comes out this month.  Every once in a while we are contacted by someone (media, church, etc.), asking if they can use Dale's rescue and recovery story in their publication.  We are very thankful that God has deemed us, not worthy, but able to reflect His glory through this seeming tragedy.  The road ahead is filled with ups and downs, and, frankly, we don't know where God will take us.  But, in all things, through all things, after all things---He is Lord; He is worthy to be praised; and He is ultimately trustworthy.

I Timothy 1:17  "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.  Amen."