Saturday, December 31, 2011

Update Saturday afternoon 12/31

Dale is one tired puppy today---and so am I!  On Wednesday, we received a surprise phone call from Group Health's neurology department.  We had an appointment for Dale scheduled for February 1st; this was just to be a follow-up neuro evaluation with the same neurologist who saw Dale when he had a seizure at Good Sam (inpatient rehab).  We had made the appointment a few weeks back and were disappointed that Dale couldn't be seen any earlier as we really wanted to talk to the neurologist again.....just to be sure that there was nothing else we could do for Dale during his seizures or anything other signs we should be looking for.  Our wonderful case manager called and, as a result, the neuro doctor said he could see Dale as a follow-up patient rather than a new patient (since Dale has never been seen in the neuro office, he was being viewed as a new patient).  Anyhow.....the neuro office called and said that Dale's office visit was moved up to January 5th---this coming Thursday!  Then, two days ago (this Thursday), we received another call informing us that the neuro doctor wanted Dale to have another EEG conducted since (1) Dale has not had an EEG since mid-September, (2) they were never able to get a sleep-study EEG performed, and (3) Dale has improved so much that it would be good to "see" how his brain is functioning and what areas are still showing signs of damage and need further healing time.

All that to say---Dale had to be deprived of sleep Thursday night so that he would naturally fall asleep during the EEG on Friday.  This caused a small uproar in our household schedule---namely, MOM had to go without sleep as well!  I had to keep Dale up until midnight Thursday (this was not too hard although he did start getting tired about 10:00 p.m.) and then awaken him at 5:00 on Friday morning.  He actually did very well all day Friday without much sleep.  He was not cranky and irritable (I was!) and didn't complain about the lack of sleep, even going so far as to inform me that he could stay up two days if he needed to.  (I didn't need to ask how he knew that; he's been to sleepovers at friends' houses where they probably had contests to see who could stay awake the longest!)  In fact, he seemed so awake that I was concerned that he would not be able to fall asleep for the test.  Throughout the day, Dale was rather shaky at times, undoubtedly due to his brain and body being extra tired.  When we arrived at the building complex, we parked in a garage across the way from the EEG wing.  It was only a short walk through the complex and across a driveway to the correct wing, but we barely got half-way there before Dale began seriously shaking and needed to sit down.  I thought he was going to have another seizure right there in the hallway (the doctors told us that lack of sleep can trigger one), but taking a rest break seemed to help and we were able to get to the EEG department without further problems.

When we arrived and had checked in, Dale and I sat in the waiting room for a bit.  We looked around in some alarm because the entire wing seemed to be deserted except for us and the EEG staff.  I'm telling you---the place was empty and, frankly, rather freaky.  It looked just like those scary movies where the person wakes up and the hospital is silent and deserted and they stumble out into the hall to find the nurses' station abandoned and everyone has vanished.  This was probably due to the holidays, but still.....I'm glad Dale was beside me or my imagination would have shifted into overdrive!

Once Dale and I were in the testing room, everything went great.  The technician was able to run the complete test, performing more detailed testing than I had seen Dale undergo yet.  (He's had three or four other EEGs.  We are both becoming pros at this---except he doesn't remember any of the others!)  When it was time for the sleep study, the tech left the room and turned out the lights so that Dale would not be disturbed by any typing she had to do during the test; Dale fell asleep quite naturally, I think, and slept for about thirty minutes.  He had a bit of a hard time waking up afterwards; he was still soooo tired.  I'm so glad that the nurse and technician were able to stay with Dale for the short minutes it took me to get back to the van; they walked with him to the elevators, then down the hall to the side door where I was able to pick him up.  I don't think there was any way he would have been able to make the walk back to the van.  His brain was tired and his body had had enough!  He revived some on the way home, entering the house in time to eat dinner and relax.  I had already assured Dale that he could go to bed as soon as he wanted to that night; he still stayed up until 9:00.  Once in bed, he slept for twelve hours straight!  Even today, Dale has been shaky some but doing well.  He wants assistance to walk down the hall or to the table, but he can get up and take his turn playing the Kinect just fine!  Either he's pulling the wool over our eyes or he can move better than he thinks.  I know that playing the video game (Kinect sports) is automatic to him; thus he doesn't have to think about his movements, making him comfortable in his own skin.  However, walking outside or down the hall reminds him that his body doesn't always respond like he remembers it doing, so he feels like he needs help.

Every day, in so many ways, Dale is improving and making excellent progress.  Chad and I have decided that Dale is ready to attend more school, so we (Dale and I) will be up at school until lunchtime each day.  This means that Dale will be able to attend 3rd hour (math) and 4th hour (Bible) now.  We believe that Dale's endurance levels have increased to this point, although we are being careful to introduce extra class time slowly so as to be sure that he is not overwelmed physically.  I believe his brain will handle the extra listening and learning time just fine.  He will be attending classes but not taking tests yet.  Maybe we can extend Dale's school day to include all his classes by the start of the fourth quarter!  Wouldn't that be amazing?  Chad and I were discussing this yesterday, and we know that Dale will have a good bit of make-up work ahead of him, but he doesn't need to tackle that just yet.  We can order PACEs for him (work-at-your-own-pace learning booklets and tests) to help him learn what he has missed; that may be during summer school this year and possibly throughout next school year, even into next summer---we'll see.

God's blessings are numerous and overflowing in our lives, and we cannot thank Him enough for what He has done.  Dale's drowning, his rescue, and his not-just-survival-but-amazing-comeback is almost too incredible for words.  Our Heavenly Father has shown His mighty hand to the world.  We are awed every day at His power to heal and are humbled by His using us as His instruments by which He chose to show that power.  Our hearts are so thankful, Lord, for Your generous gifts whereby our lives are made richer and for Your people who have allowed You to work through them to bless our family.

Happy New Year from the Ostranders to all of you!  May God become as real to you in this next year as He has proved Himself to be to us.  God bless you!

Numbers 6: 24 - 26  "The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:  The LORD make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:  The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Update Wednesday afternoon 12/28

We hope everyone had as wonderful a Christmas as our family did.  We opened our gifts Christmas Eve; everyone got a few nice gifts and at least one thing they were ecstatic about.  Of course, our present-opening was made more precious to us because we had our whole family still.  Many times over the course of these holidays have we given thanks to God for sparing our son's life and for restoring Dale's brain to nearly full function.  We opened our stockings and had our treasure hunt (family tradition) after the morning service on Christmas Day.  We don't have any special plans for New Year's Eve/Day except to attend church and watch football.  (And, of course, begin a diet!)

We were supposed to do our stocking/treasure hunt Sunday morning before church, but I got delayed and had to move everything to after church.  This turned out to be a good thing because, about 15 minutes later, while getting ready for church, Dale had a seizure.  He seemed to try hard to avoid this one, but his brain apparently needed to reset.  He was in his room, having just finished getting dressed.  For some reason, instead of sitting back down in the chair, Dale tried to perch on the edge of his bed.  His mattresses sit a little higher than normal; if you try to sit on the edge, you tend to slide right off.  When he began sliding, he got scared.  I had my arm around him, keeping him from falling, but Dale still felt like a fall was inevitable.  I said, "Dale, just sit down."  He replied, "I can't!  I can't!"---and then stiffened as his brain shut down for a moment.  I'm telling you.....that kid is a dead weight!  Katie came in and helped me hold him until the seizure ended.  As soon as we were able, we eased Dale fully onto the bed and covered him with a blanket.  I made sure he was on his side so that any excess drool (or worse) would not pool at the back of his throat and cause problems.  Dale slept for a good bit afterwards, causing him and I to miss the morning service, but woke up just fine and has been doing well since.  I'm thankful these episodes are merely reset buttons and not set-backs.

Dale had PT this morning.  The therapist challenged him with a few new exercises which Dale performed willingly and well.  She is trying to get him (his brain and body) to separate his leg movement from his trunk movement so that he can balance better and move better.  Imagine having to turn your whole body, not just your arm, to reach for a glass of water.  Dale's movements are not nearly that bad, but subconciously he overworks his body when he could simplify his movements.  The therapist also had Dale do some stretches with a gate belt for a strap positioned around the ball of his foot; he needs to pull back on the belt to pull his foot forward towards his knee (while sitting on the floor).  This will eventually stretch out his ankle muscles, allowing his feet more freedom of movement which will, in turn, adjust his center of balance.  All these changes will help Dale to walk more confidently and catch himself more easily if he stumbles.  Speaking of which, he has been doing better with that.  It is obvious that Dale is thinking things through more now, instead of just letting nature take its course whenever he stumbles or loses his balance.  This morning, for the first time, Dale was able to put his feet into the stirrup pedals on the stationary bike by himself.  He also swung on the platform swing a bit, being willing to have his feet not touching the floor constantly.  He was visibly shaking by the time PT was done but only because his muscles received a good workout.

We don't see SP again until next week, so we have been working some on the language worksheets I brought home.  Every little bit helps; every week we see improvements.  As Chad recently told a reporter, when you're "in the moment", it's not easy to see progress; but when you look back over a week or two, the improvements are definitely visible.  Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!

A couple of weeks ago, a reporter from the Tacoma News Tribune came over with a photographer and held an interview with Dale and me.  The photographer took several nice shots as well.  The reporter called Chad the following week and spoke with him, getting "Dad's" insight into Dale's therapy and the family's general welfare.  Last Wednesday, the same photographer attended PT with us to take some pictures of Dale in action with his therapist.  The TNT ran the story on Christmas Sunday on the front page (!!!) with several nice photos of Dale, me, our dog Peanut, and our PT therapist.  If you get a chance, look at the story on their website......just Google "TNT" or their paper's name and you should find it with no problem.  We appreciate the good job the reporter did.

Thank you to those who sent Christmas greetings---we enjoyed each card and letter we received.  A special thank you to those who sent gifts to our family.  Please know we sincerely appreciate your generosity and kindness to our son and to all of us.  Dale remarked this morning, "If only my accident hadn't happened, then we wouldn't have to do all of this stuff (PT, SP, etc.)."  Yes, life would be different right now if August 5th had been a normal day.  But I truly believe that life would not be as sweet, our children would not be as close, God would be Someone Who only did miracles "back in Bible times" if not for August 5, 2011.  God's plan has indeed far surpassed my own meager, fanciful dreams for my family.  Dale is a different person today than he was six months ago---but he's a better, different person.  He is calmer, kinder, sweeter, less likely to get angry with his sisters, more obedient than before.  Our family is closer now, more aware of the fragility of life, more compassionate toward others, more humble, accepting, forgiving, caring than before.  And other our church, across the country, around the world.....have grown closer to the Lord, have opened their hearts to us, have been used repeatedly to bless our family, have become part of our family because of this past August.  You are almighty, Lord Jesus.  Your will and Your plan is always best.  I thank You from the bottom of my undeserving heart for allowing August 5, 2011, to unfold according to Your purpose.  May we always remember You first when heartache comes, when tragedy strikes, when blessings shower down, when trials multiply.  Thou art worthy, O Lord.

I Corinthians 15: 10  "But by the grace of God I am what I am:  and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all:  yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Update Friday afternoon 12/23

I praise God again for His amazing grace and miraculous healing of Dale.  This morning, Dale reached another milestone, albeit one he may have to convince his body and brain of a couple more times before he is officially past it.  He fell off his chair while getting dressed.......and he did not go into a seizure!  This past week Dale has not wanted me in the room while he is changing his underwear and pants (something new---the not wanting me present, not the changing his clothes part!), so I will set out his clothes within reach of his chair and leave him to it, telling Dale to call me if he needs help.  This morning, I stopped outside his door a couple of times and asked if he was all right; his response was always, "Yes."  A minute later, there was a muffled thump, followed by Dale's rather irate voice saying, "I NEED HELP!"  Amanda, Katie, and I burst into Dale's room to find him lying on his side on the floor.  He was shaking and upset, more irritated than anything else.  His irritation increased when I simply commented, "Oh, you fell."  (I think he was expecting me to baby him or show more sympathy.)  I continued, "Let's get you up."  This was when the real problems began.  Apparently, he had been trying to get his second tennis shoe on when he overbalanced and fell off the chair onto the floor, smashing a couple of his (cheap) wooden airplanes when he landed.  When he tried to get up on his knees preparatory to standing, Dale began shaking badly and had no muscle strength in his arms (to push himself up) or in his legs (to stand).  He began crying a little in frustration and a bit of fear.  It took us a couple of tries with rests in between to get him kneeling; then he was able to stand fairly well with my added support.  I comforted him, reminding him that it will not always be this hard and that his body will eventually be strong and reliable again.

The blessing in all of this?  Three weeks ago, two weeks ago, falling off the chair followed by shaking would have brought on an immediate seizure.  Today, Dale worked through it, enduring the shaking and even exhibiting stronger emotions than just fear.  There were several moments where he was shaking badly enough---and scared enough---that I was concerned he might go into a spell, but I kept reminding him of what Alison (PT therapist) had said about "the worst that could happen."  I reminded Dale that, now that he had fallen, all he had to do was get back up.......all he needed to think about was getting up again, not falling more or shaking more.  Praise the Lord!  This may be just what Dale needs to help him work through the next fall or stumble or shaking episode; this may be what he needs to prevent himself from automatically seizing.  I praised Dale for thinking through the fall and shakes, for calling out when he needed help, and for staying as calm as he could and continuing to try.  Thank God for my son!

Now, to all of you who are feeling sorry for Dale and sniffling on his behalf, STOP!  Your feelings toward him will change when I relate the awful trick he played on his sister yesterday.  This was a very mean thing to do; it was also 100% Dale.  Amanda and I had gone to the store to purchase some groceries so that we would have a more varied menu than bread.  Ever been there?  :-)  Katie was in charge while I was gone.  Dale said he had to go to the bathroom, so Katie helped him up from the table and walked down the hall with him to the restroom.  When he was done, Katie kindly assisted Dale back to his chair to finish his lunch.  (Bread, remember?  Just kidding; we had beans and cornbread---Southern food!)  As they reached the table, Dale began shaking and half-fell into his chair, landing poorly on the seat.  He continued shaking badly; then, he stopped, his head lolling to one side, his eyes open.  Katie, fearing the worst, anxiously questioned him, "Dale, are you all right?"  Dale then sat up, looked at her, and said, "Ha-ha!"  THE LITTLE STINKER!!!  He was playing a joke on her!  All in favor of his immediate and everlasting punishment, signify by alternately gasping in disbelief and laughing.  The "ayes" have it.  He will be banished to his room for at least a nano-second.  Can you believe he did that?!  If he truly had any idea the anguish we have been through because of him, he wouldn't tease like that.  Of course, he remains unrepentant and chortles gleefully whenever he thinks about his horrible joke.  Shame on him!

Today at SP, Dale had a shaking episode just as we walked in the door.  He is finding more and more that these shakes do not have to stop him, just make him take things a little slower at times.  We arrived at SP on time (a miracle in itself) and got up to the second floor.  (No, we did not walk up the stairs; are you crazy?)  As we entered the SP office door, Dale's feet and brain seemed to disconnect for a moment.  He began lurching rather wildly, crossing the five feet from the doorway to the first available waiting-room seat in a somewhat undignified fashion.  He managed to drop sideways into the chair, still twitching occasionally.  Lisa (SP therapist) and the receptionist just stood there and watched in consternation.  It seemed like they weren't sure whether to rush to his aid or hold up a scorecard.  The whole time, I was asking Dale, "Are you all right?  Are you going to make it?"  The concern lacing the questions was completely cancelled out by the laughter gurgling through each word.  It really was a funny sight!  Dale attempted to answer me but couldn't get two words out before the next one got strangled by his recurring twitch.  It sounded like he had a bad case of the hiccups; it looked like he was undergoing recurring electro-shock therapy.  To make matters worse, Dale kept trying to right himself in the chair, getting halfway through the re-seating process before the next shake jolted him right back to where he was to begin with!  Finally, he was seated properly, at which point I told him, "Just sit there for a minute, okay?"  After he calmed down, we were able to join Lisa in her office and had a great hour of SP therapy.  ***BLESSING UPDATE***  Dale is doing so well in SP that, after January, he will only need to have one SP appointment per week!  How many of us thought back on August 5th that by the end of January Dale would be talking so well as to be able to decrease his SP therapy?  I have trusted God all along to know what's best for Dale and to do what's best as far as his healing is concerned, but I underestimated His timetable.  Again, thank You, Lord.  You are incredible!

Mark 9:23  "Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."

Luke 1:37  "For with God nothing shall be impossible."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Update Tuesday evening 12/20

Merry Christmas to all of you!  We are excitedly preparing for the upcoming holiday.......actually, that's not true.  We are enjoying doing pretty much nothing during our break from school with all its joys and not-so-joyous moments (otherwise known as tests).  This extreme laziness rather irritates my husband who believes that a minute not spent engaged in an activity that is wholesome, educational, or at least chore-related is a minute wasted.  I, on the other hand, am what I like to call efficient---which means I work fast and furiously to accomplish my chores as quickly as possible so that I may laze around the rest of the day doing as I please, usually reading or napping.  I am productive in spurts; my house is not eligible for a Mr. Clean commercial but neither is it going to be on the next "Hoarders" episode.  I use the "I have five children" excuse to explain any and all messes, piles of laundry, unwashed dishes, and the war zones that are, in actuality, my children's bedrooms.  Our house has that "lived-in" look that some people call homey.  It's really just the result of six (sometimes seven, if Chad forgets to take his shoes upstairs) people dropping things in the most convenient spot.  I'm not as bad as the kids are about this, but I do contribute.

So, today, since we all had a day off (girls---from school, and Dale---from therapy), we were out of real reasons not to clean and we spent a good deal of time straightening up and wading through the stuffed animals (we really could start a zoo), trying to decide what to get rid of since we know they'll get more when they open their presents.  (Who started the whole stuffed animal idea anyway?  Chad and I will sign the petition to have their name removed from history.)  Please pray for the structural integrity of our house; it may not stand the strain of all the toys bulging its walls much longer!

(On a side note, Dale has been saying that what he wants for Christmas is more Legos.  Since he doesn't remember all the boxes of Legos he received in the hospital after his accident, can we just wrap those up and stick them under the tree?  They'll be just like new---to him, at least!  Would that be unethical?  Just wondering..........)

At PT yesterday, Dale's therapist said something interesting that I have repeated to Dale off and on since then.  Dale's confidence level has been alot lower since his last seizure, and he is unwilling to walk on his own.  He asks for one of us to hold his hand at all times, even into the bathroom.  He's told us that he is afraid he will fall.  I was relaying this to his therapist who turned to Dale and said, "Dale, if you stumble, what's the worst that could happen?"  He replied, "I might fall."  She said, "Right!  That's the worst that could happen---you might fall.  That's all."  She was trying to get him to see that, even if he did fall, he could get back up and keep going.  I've reminded Dale of this a couple of times, talking it through with him, wanting him to realize that falls are a part of life and all he has to do is get up again.  Hopefully this will eventually sink in and he will be more willing to walk on his own, but for now we give him that added support.

Also at PT yesterday, his therapist brought her own small cotton candy machine, and she and Dale made cotton candy together.  I'd never seen a cotton candy machine that small; I've only seen the big ones like at the fair.  She and Dale had fun making and eating cotton candy.  While waiting for the machine to warm up, Dale did some exercises:  the treadmill (it's easy for him), the rebounder (he throws a ball at a propped-up trampoline and catches it on the rebound), and the stationary bike.  Dale almost fell trying to catch the rebounded ball once; after he regained his balance, he simply asked, "Could you get that (the ball) for me?"  This was a good step for him, not focusing on the near-fall but instead on what to do to keep working.  His PT therapist is so good at making Dale enjoy physical exercise and feeling like a success at whatever exercise he chooses to do.  I thank God for her!

(You know I'm just kidding about the Legos.......right?)  :-)

After PT, Dale went on to SP.  The SP department is located inside the Tacoma Mall Office Building.  When we reached the mall parking lot for Dale's 2:00 p.m. appointment, I was tempted to turn around and go home.  That place was packed!  We literally circled the building's parking lot (which is adjacent to the mall parking lot) four times trying to find a place to park.  We finally headed to the side of the building where, frankly, the lot is not as smooth in order to find a spot.  I parked the van on the outside edge of the side lot; the pavement was cracked and full of bumps where nearby trees had spread their roots a bit too far.  This gave Dale a bit of a challenge walking, but he did fine.

SP went great.  She had Dale working extra on listening to a story, answering questions about the plot, and repeating the story with all the main details.  He really did well the first time (repeating the story after having just heard it).  She went on to something else for about ten minutes and then returned to the previous story.  Dale repeated the story again with all ten main details.  If you had sat in SP a few weeks before during the testing and heard how hard it was for Dale to repeat a story at all (and how impossible it was for him to remember it ten minutes later!), you'd realize what an incredible improvement he has made in such a short time!  THANK YOU, JESUS!!!  His SP therapist is helping Dale improve his short-term memory and learning attention span, while at the same time showing him again how to listen and study for quizzes and tests.  Yes!

Then came the challenge of getting out of the mall parking lot.  I'm telling you---I am not one of those people who thrive on big crowds and elbow-to-elbow contact and fighting for parking spaces.  I heaved a sigh of relief just exiting the parking lot!  Not thirty seconds after we pulled onto the main street, Dale and I heard an announcement over the radio of a car accident on the freeway just outside the Tacoma Mall.  Yeah, we were glad to be headed home.

To answer someone's question:  Katie's headaches come and go.  She is not suffering constantly with them as some people do, and we are learning what causes them so that she can be prepared for and possibly prevent their occurence.  Thank you for your kind concern.

Do you know what Dale said to me yesterday on the way home?  He said, "I'm glad I'm a boy."  I asked him, "Why?"  He told me, "Because Jesus was a boy."  I, being a girl, had never thought of something like that.  I'm glad to know my son is thinking about his Saviour and wanting to be like Him---even though it seems like he has an unfair advantage already!

God bless you all during this holiday season and all throughout this next year.  As full as our hearts are with the love and prayers you all have offered, we wish for more......we wish you to know our Saviour more fully this coming year than you have ever before.  God is faithful; God is true; and He always keeps His promises.  Christmas is a promise kept.  God bless you!

Luke 2:11  "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

Friday, December 16, 2011

Update Friday morning 12/16

This will be quick as we have a home game starting in about twenty minutes!  There are alot of little improvements and blessings to report that have occurred since the last update; I will only list a few right now (see previous sentence!).

Dale seems to be "waking up" more and more nowadays.  Not that he's been walking around in a dream-like state---just that he is asking more questions now about his accident and remembering things somewhat better now.  I say that cautiously.....Dale still is struggling with short-term memory loss even about events that have happened in the last month.  For instance, our school secretary handed me Dale's school picture this week.  Dale took one look at it and said, "I don't remember having my picture taken."  Mind you, the picture was taken the last week of November.  But we are still too close to the accident date to determine if Dale will have lasting memory deficits; he's improving daily in so many areas that it is impossible to predict what lasting effects he may suffer three, six, twelve months from now.  Praise the Lord and Yeeee-Haaawww!!!

Did you notice Dale's new picture for his profile?  That is the aforementioned school picture, the most recent shot we have of our son.  Isn't he handsome/cute?  He's still young enough that I can call him cute.....just not to his face!  I also updated his profile, although most of the information you already have gleaned from this blog.

Daily, it seems, Dale is returning to his normal saucy self.  Yesterday, Chad and I encouraged him to get up and play the Kinect for exercise.  Dale didn't want to at first.  I said, "You need to get off the couch and get moving."  His reply?  "I'm walking!"  Clearly, this was not enough, so Dale and Amanda played Kinect sports games for a while.  She said Dale did really well, lasting through two games before asking to take a break.  Of course, he attends PT twice a week and does walk, climb stairs, etc. all the time---he just wanted to be lazy!

Thinking back to that first traumatic weekend, waiting to see if Dale would live or go on home to Heaven, watching each time the nurse or doctor performed "responsiveness" tests on Dale, our hearts breaking a little more each time Dale didn't respond, hearing the doctor's pronouncement that in reality there was no hope.........and seeing my son play the Kinect, hearing him tell jokes once again, knowing God is still using His indescribable healing power on Dale's brain, watching Dale "wake up" a little more each day.......I can only say:  We serve a living God.  We don't worship a dead Saviour Whose power ended on the cross.  We serve a risen Saviour, a powerful Creator, a miracle-working Almighty God Who is showing each day just how BIG He really is!  Chad and I have said from the beginning that God is good no matter what and we trust Him no matter what.  God has decided in His infinite wisdom to allow our son to recover from the accident; I believe it is so that everyone may see His mighty hand at work.  He is truly wonderful, awesome, majestic, and always right.  Thank You, my Father, for what You have planned for Dale and our family and, indeed, all Your children.  I love You, Lord.

Romans 5: 1 - 5  "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:  By Whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also:  knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Update Monday afternoon 12/12

My husband, children, and I wish to express our gratitude to all of you who have been continuous in prayer for our son Dale and our whole family.  Every day we feel the love and care God's people are showing to us, and we see the definitive benefits those prayers are bringing forth.  To those of you who may not be Christians or do not share our faith in an all-wise, all-powerful, loving God but are following this story because of its human appeal, thank you for your concern and your thoughts toward us.  We have been so overwhelmed by everyone's kindness and continued generosity in time, money, love, and gifts.  Thank you for making our family feel special and constantly bathed in prayer.  What a tremendously uplifting feeling to know our names are always in God's ears!  We cannot thank you enough and only hope that some day---maybe not even until Heaven---we may personally thank each of you for all you have done and are doing.  To those who read this blog daily (or, at least, every time I update it!) but have never commented, we covet your prayers and continued thoughts of us Heavenward.  You will never know how much you all have meant to this family through this God-sent blessing-in-disguise.  He is the Master Planner, the One Who knows how everything will work out best and what is needed most in our lives.  If we only trust Him fully, allow Him free rein to guide our lives, He will "work all things together for good."  He can and He is.

We have had several people both in person and on the blog ask if they can do anything for our family this Christmas.  I realize our family's name comes to the minds of most people who wish to do something a little extra for someone at this time of year, and we sincerely appreciate each and every gift we receive.  As you are probably aware already, we do have significant needs stemming from Dale's accident---loss of my teaching income, hospital bills still coming in, spending more than usual for gasoline to go to/from Dale's increased therapy appointments, etc.  But please do not feel as though you must do something for us just because our name has been in the paper alot!  There are alot of needy families out there, in your home church or in your neighborhood, who would love to have a little extra something this Christmas.  God through you all has blessed us so much recently that it seems greedy to tell folks, "Sure, you can give us some money for Christmas!"  Having said that, if you would like to send a Christmas greeting, you may send things through our church:  Chad and Kirsten Ostrander, c/o Bethel Baptist Church, 524 E. 176th Street, Spanaway, WA  98387.  (I did ask our pastor's permission first before re-posting our church's address!)  And, as always, thank you from the bottom of our hearts just for being you.  God bless you, every one!  :-)

On Friday, Dale went to SP and finished up the testing.  These tests have been very helpful in showing us just how much Dale has improved in SP and what areas he still shows weakness in.  We discovered that Dale's visual memory is much better than his language memory.  On one part of the test, she had Dale copy a geometric shape with lots of lines and dots.  About ten minutes later, she had Dale draw the same shape from memory---and he did very well.  I would've remembered literally only half of the drawing.  She and I were surprised at how much Dale remembered visually.  However, in one part of the test, she read Dale a list of words (ten or so) and had Dale repeat as many as he could remember.  She did this three times in a row, then set that part aside.  About ten minutes later, she asked Dale to repeat as many of those words as he could remember.  He couldn't remember any!  She then asked him if he recognized any words from the first list in the list she was now reading; again, he couldn't recognize any.  So, we now know that Dale's visual memory is quite good while he needs definite work in language memory.  That is now one of SP's new goals for Dale to work toward before the next testing in a couple of months.

Unfortunately, again this Monday morning, Dale had a seizure.  It has been exactly one week since his last episode, and again this spell didn't seem quite as long as before.  He fell asleep afterwards as usual, but he woke up completely within about twenty minutes.  He used to sleep for a couple of hours afterward.  Something new about this spell:  he remembered having it!  I asked him, "Do you remember the seizure?"  He nodded his head.  Surprised, I asked, "What do you remember?"  Dale replied, "I remember falling down and then blacking out."  WOW!!!  That has never happened before.  Usually, he doesn't remember anything, and this time he remembers falling (half-falling onto the couch before sliding to the floor) and then everything going black.  I was with him the whole time, even tried to prevent the seizure by helping him sit better on the floor, but I guess his brain just needed to shut down for a brief time.  Praise the Lord, Dale has been fine since and attended PT and SP as scheduled.  Last Monday, he had an episode, after which he had two or three good days in a row.  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were not so good; he was shaking badly and very unsure of his ability to walk, insisting on someone holding his hand even to sit down on the toilet.  Since the spell this morning, Dale has been walking better and willing to let go of my hand to move.  Amazing!

Did I mention he fell in class on Friday?  Like I said, he was pretty shaky, and, while going to his assigned seat, his foot caught or something and down he went.  I had just escorted him to the bathroom and back to History class; I glanced back through the door as I was walking away and saw the teacher lunge to try to grab Dale before he hit the floor.  Poor Dale!  He wound up on the floor with a lump on his chin where he connected with the desk on the way down.  He didn't bite his tongue or go into a seizure though.  We gave him a minute to calm down (he was crying in pain and fear), and then I helped him up and walked him back to my classroom.  He was able to still attend SP later that morning, as you know, and that helped take his mind off the fall.  In the car this afternoon, I mentioned that he has no therapy scheduled tomorrow; I told him he could go to school in the morning and then we could go buy Dad's Christmas present together.  He said, "No."  I asked him what he meant.  He told me, "No school, only shopping."  When I questioned him as to the reason why, he explained, "Because I don't want to fall."  So I volunteered to walk with him to class and make sure he was seated safely each time.  He agreed to this!  I told him I didn't want to embarrass him by walking to class with him (you know.....mother walking her seventh-grade son to class!), but he said he didn't mind.  It's kind of nice to have my son still want me near him at school even though I could wish for a different reason for doing so!

So, all things considered, Dale is doing well and still plugging along.  (Is that even a phrase?)  God is good, as always, and He will continue to be though our feelings on the matter may change or falter.  Isn't it amazing how God created us in His own image and yet we turned out sooooo different?!  Maybe Star Trek's Data had it right:  human emotions are highly overrated!  It's reassuring to know that even when our personal lives are stormy and our thoughts are in a tangle, God remains steady and sure, unchanging and eternal.  Have you ever said, "It's a good thing I'm not God!"  I have, many times.  We would be in "a world of hurt" if I were in charge!  Thanks be to God for giving us free will to choose our own paths and then flooding His path with brilliant light to show us the way in which we ought to walk.  Thank You, Lord, for Your Word to direct us and guide us daily.  Once again, You have made life so simple for us---just trust and obey.

Galatians 6: 7 - 9  "Be not deceived; God is not mocked:  for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.  And let us not be weary in well doing:  for in due season we shall reap if we faint not."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Update Thursday afternoon 12/8

Each day brings new things to be thankful for---and new challenges for both Dale and myself.  Yesterday, Dale went to SP.  On the way, he said, "I don't want to go to physical therapy."  I replied, "We're not; we are going to speech."  After a few minutes he said, "I don't want to go to speech."  I explained how much speech therapy is helping him improve his vocabulary and voice longer sentences and such.  He seemed to accept that, staying silent for several long minutes.  Then came the sweet sounds of "But I speak fine."  Oh, thank You, Lord, for allowing my boy to regain his speech to the point of being able to say, "I speak fine."  This is actually what I have (recently) been praying for:  that Dale would recognize his abilities and begin to wonder why he has to attend therapy sessions.  I have been careful to explain to him in basic terms the accident he had at the beach and how it affected his brain and body, trying to help him see his need for continued therapy.  (He'll go whether he agrees or not, but I believe he'll continue to work hard at each session if he personally sees the need and increased benefits.)  After his "mouthing off," I told him that he should tell Lisa (SP therapist) that; he grinned and said, "No, no, no!"  Of course, I did tell Lisa on him, and he got to grin some more at her offended sniff.  She was just playing along!

THEN---She finished up with Dale some of the tests she had begun last Friday.  At the end of one set, she had Dale use certain phrases in a sentence.  He did really well and even got a little sassy with her.  She gave him the phrase "even though" to use in a sentence.  Dale thought for a moment, then began to grin.  I asked him, "What are you going to say?", having seen that expression before.  Dale's sentence was "Even though I already said sentences, you are making me say more!"  The little snot!  He was very pleased with himself over that one---and so were we.  The next phrase was "as a consequence"; Dale's sentence was "If I don't do my chores, I get punished as a consequence."  (Who says his memory is faulty?!)  Lisa countered with "As a consequence of making you say sentences, you can speak more easily."  Even Dale had to acknowledge that was true.

Dale scored pretty well on the speech tests.  He scored right in the average range for speaking longer sentences and following instructions.  He scored in the low average range for understanding how words relate to each other (like "water/fluid" and "hot/cold") and grammatically forming sentences correctly.  Did I even put that right?  This sounds better:  forming sentences that are grammatically correct.  Maybe I need SP therapy!  Overall, she was pleased with how well Dale is progressing and now has new goals for Dale to work toward.  I am thrilled with the progress and improvements that I can see just in the last month, and it is obvious that Dale loves being able to express himself.

Oh---Dale told me another joke.  What did five say to six?  Seven eight (ate) nine!

Dale had PT this morning, and he got to tell his first joke to the therapist.  She loved the "fungi" punch line.  Dale was shaky again getting up this morning, but that is partly due to his not going to bed until nearly ten o'clock last night.  Amanda, Katie, and I stayed after church to help set the stage for the school Christmas play which is tomorrow, so Chad took the other three kids home with him.  I assumed that he would put them to bed......silly me!  When we walked in the door at 10:15, my two youngest girls were still sitting on the couch, watching some show on TV; they informed me that Dale had just gone to bed.  I, being the gentle, submissive wife that I am, very kindly and lovingly explained to my dear husband that the children have a bedtime during the week of 9:00 p.m. and that this bedtime is set and observed so that everyone gets the proper amount of sleep to awake refreshed and eager to begin a new day.  (And, if you believe that, I've got some lakefront property in the Sahara to sell you!)  Soooooo, everyone was rather tired this morning when Mom came around, waking everyone up and dragging them out of bed to get ready for school.  Once Dale got going, though, he seemed to perk up a bit.  ***GRAND ANNOUNCEMENT***  Today, for the first time since August 5, 2011, Dale put on both socks and both tennis shoes by himself!  (I had to tie them for him, but that's beside the point.)  And, for the past few days---in fact, ever since his seizure spell on Monday, he has been walking down the stairs with ease, needing only my hand to hold and taking each step at a time.  His PT therapist noticed this today, commenting on how much improved Dale is over the last time she got to be with him.  Dale has two PT therapists who work with him, but the other one gets more time with him than the one today.  He worked hard in PT, accepting challenges and not crying once even though he stumbled a few times.  Just a few weeks ago, if he stumbled or felt scared, he would cry.  But not today!  Dale tried one thing after another, taking short (60 second) breaks in between activities.  He worked steadily for the full hour and left cheerfully, knowing he had done his best.....and knowing he had nothing else scheduled for the rest of the day.  So we came home and he played computer games for a while before lunch.

I mentioned that there are new challenges for me.  I have to purposely hold myself back from doing everything for Dale.  He does not need that, neither will it help him.  Not until Chad put Dale to bed the past two nights (insert small frown here) did I realize I've been doing too much for Dale at bedtime.  Chad told me, "Dale took off his uniform pants, put on his sweats, took off his shoes himself."  I didn't know he could put on his sweats and take off his shoes by himself!  So, this morning, I let him try putting his own socks and shoes on and voila!  I've already backed off in the bathroom, which is good for Dale.  When we approach the van, Dale opens the sliding door, climbs in, pulls his seatbelt around and fastens it, and closes the door all on his own.  I've learned to stand back and watch, ready to help if needed but keeping my hands firmly at my sides otherwise.  Dale dresses himself in the mornings; I only help if his shirt gets stuck or his zipper won't pull up.  This morning, when coming out of the bathroom, Dale got upset with me.  I was in his room, sitting on the bed, waiting for him to come out so he could get dressed.  Dale opened the bathroom door and said, "Mom!  I need help!"  I rushed out into the hall---only to find him standing in the bathroom.....just fine.  I asked, "Why do you need help?"  He shrugged his shoulders.  He didn't really need help---he had finished up fine; he just wanted me nearby in case there was a problem.  I gave him a bit of an exasperated look (after all, he had caused a significant jump in my heart rate), but inwardly I was pleased that he spoke up when he wanted something.

In this month of rushing around, preparing for the church Christmas cantata, the school Christmas play and program, the teen Christmas banquet, Christmas General Store at church for the elementary Sunday school kids, planning activities for Christmas break from school, and addressing a million Christmas cards---stop.  Take a moment each day......just a moment because you may not have more.....or you may choose to forgo this advice if I asked for ten whole minutes!......and thank God for being Him.  He is Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.  Thank Him for the greatest gift of all, the most amazing gift anyone could ever give or receive......His Son, Jesus.  God the Father could have said "No"; He could have said, "I won't give My Son.  I won't give that gift.  You'll just waste it anyway."  But, instead, He said, "Yes."  Fathers, think for a moment.  What if someone was dying and their only chance to live was if your son donated his heart---but he had to die to do so.  Would you be willing to allow your son to die so that someone else might live?  Mothers, imagine for just a moment what it must have been like for Mary.  She was so young, so pure.  I don't mean she was sinless, just fully dedicated to serving God no matter what.  She gave birth to her firstborn son, knowing He was only hers on loan from God the Father.  She knew she would one day watch Him die for the sins of the world.  This sounds so noble, but, in reality, Jesus' death was excruciating, humiliating, horribly painful, and in the end agonizingly alone.  Could we as mothers stand at the foot of the cross as Mary did and willingly let our son die for a world who didn't care, didn't want Him?  God.....Father, Son, Holy Ghost.....paid an immense price for our salvation.  Please don't let His gift go unnoticed in the whirlwind frenzy of "Christmas"; stop and thank Him for His gift, for His love, for His goodness, for His care, for all He does, for all He is.  He is Jehovah, the Great I AM.  He is all we truly need.

John 3:16 - 17  "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Update Tuesday morning 12/6

Dale is getting a little extra time off from his busy schedule, though not by his choice.  Yesterday, he had another seizure episode just after getting up in the morning.  I could sense he was shaky getting out of bed, but he walked into the bathroom just fine and closed the door.  It has been a few weeks since I have needed to be present in the bathroom with him to help cue him what steps to take.  I walked down the hall to the girls' room to get my littlest one clothes for the day.  There was a loud thump (which we think was the toilet lid), then Dale cried out, "MOM!", and I raced back down the hall.  By the time I got the door open, he was already on the floor in a seizure.  By all appearances, Dale lost his balance while bending down to lift the toilet lid and fell; in trying to catch himself, his brain went into seizure mode.  This one was different, though.  First, he called out to me; he's not done that before.  Second, the spell didn't last as long as the others, shaving off ten to fifteen seconds from the duration.  Third, Dale "woke up" from this one sooner than usual.  This could be because we put a pillow under his head to make him more comfortable on the bathroom floor while he rested and recuperated.  Unfortunately, the pillow was directly over the vent while the heater was on.  Within ten minutes of the spell ending, Dale pushed himself upright with his arms and began retching.  He never actually threw anything up (he hadn't eaten breakfast yet), but he acted like he needed to.  I think the heat made him feel sick to his stomach, and his body reacted like it would under normal circumstances, seizure notwithstanding.  The poor guy was still half in/half out of it; he couldn't keep himself sitting upright---his body looked as boneless as a cat's!  When I asked him to look at me, he could do it; it just looked like he was drugged.  Finally, Amanda and I got him standing; Dale moved his legs properly to walk into his bedroom; and I put him in bed.  At last he could rest comfortably.  A friend of mine came to take the girls to school since I could not leave Dale---and there was no way we were going to carry him to the car!  Fourth, Dale recovered more quickly from this episode than any other.  He slept just a short time afterward, waking up easily and getting ready for the day as if nothing had happened.  I asked him if he remembered even getting up the first time, and his answer was "No."  Amazingly, he seemed even better after the seizure than before.  I can't wait to ask the neurologist about this because Dale was not shaky at all getting ready.  Usually he has a hard time keeping his leg from jumping around while trying to put his foot into his shoe.  After the seizure, his legs were steady and he moved with ease.  Could it be that the seizure actually helps his brain reset?  It's kind of like when we feel sick to our stomachs---we generally feel better after we go ahead and throw up.  It seemed like Dale was able to get dressed, move his limbs, and even walk down the stairs more readily after the spell than before.  This may be a case of "the cure seems worse than the illness." Dale gets even more time off.  We got a call this morning canceling his PT appointment because his therapist called in sick.  It is cold and flu season after all!  So Dale is at present in history class, after which we will head home for some extra relaxation.  I tried to interest Dale in doing a thousand push-ups, but he wouldn't take the offer!  :-)

Dale's speech is improving with incredible speed.  At SP last week, the therapist had him look at a picture and describe it in a sentence using a specific word.  (For instance:  there might be a picture of kids playing on the playground and the specific word might be "slide.")  The picture was of a man and woman gardening with a cat and dog racing around in the background, and Dale needed to use the word "and."  He stated his sentence, "The woman is not working as hard as the man," and sat back, finished.  The therapist looked at him and said, "I don't think you used the word 'and'."  Dale replied, "Yes, I did."  She had him repeat the sentence.  Dale said, "The woman is not working as hard as the---oh, I guess I didn't!"  You see how he caught himself just as we would?  He has begun speaking more and more, and, personally, I think he is both thrilled and relieved to be able to express how he feels and what he wants.  This morning, in the chaos of trying to get out the door, several of us were talking at once, including Dale.  I stopped and asked him, "What did you say?"  He said (with short seconds-long pauses in between sentences), "Nothing.  I'm not talking to you.  I'm talking to the dog."  These are just a couple of examples of how well he is speaking now.  Oh, thank You, Lord, for Your wonderful blessings and for implementing Your perfect plan in Dale, both in the past and in these last few months!

Our school secretary just came in and asked if we wanted Dale to take the Stanford Achievement Test in February.  She has to order them in the next week or so.  PRAISE GOD!!!  My first thought was, "February is still two months away.  We have no idea how progressed Dale will be by then."  And, to think that four months ago, we were standing by Dale's bedside in the hospital, weeping and asking God to spare Dale's life if it be His perfect will.  Just three months ago, the SP therapist in the hospital was telling me that, once Dale began speaking and pulling words out his mind, his world would change.  Just two months ago, Chad and I were concerned that Dale was regressing because of the lack of therapy.  Just one month ago, I had to stand in the bathroom with Dale to ensure proper steps were taken, including cleaning him up afterward.  And, today, I'm watching my son work a computer, speak naturally, attend classes, play video games.  The English language does not contain words descriptive enough to express my feelings, my joy, my thankfulness to our God, my contenment.  Not that I don't want more, but I'm so very thankful for my son and God's goodness.

Isaiah 43:10 - 11  "Ye are My witnesses, saith the LORD, and My servant whom I have chosen:  that ye may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He:  before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after Me.  I, even I, am the LORD; and beside Me there is no Saviour."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Update Saturday afternoon 12/3

Whoo-hoo!  We are floating on cloud nine here in the Ostrander household!  Friday was SUCH a good day for Dale.  The day began as usual---dragging our eyelids open to face another school day (thankfully the last one of the week), rushing to get out the door on time (we managed), sending each child their separate way to their classroom (which means Dale went to Jr. High/High School boys homeroom), and then "tutoring" Dale in my classroom during 1st hour.  Dale worked through a couple of different types of worksheets:  reading comprehension---improving well, identifying true/false statements and correcting the false ones, listening to and following instructions.  We finished up a stack of "instructions" worksheets with Dale whipping through the last three sets of ten questions each with ease.  What a difference a month makes!  (Yeah, I know I butchered the song title!)  When we first began those worksheets, Dale could only listen to and complete three instructions before "breaking down":  crying, bending forward in his chair, standing up/sitting down repeatedly, closing his eyes.  Now, for him to breeze through thirty (plus) questions accurately is, well, nothing short of---you guessed it---a miracle!  I cannot express our delight in Dale's progress, his improved speech capabilites, and his general health.  God's name be praised!!!

At Dale's SP appointment Friday morning, the therapist took Dale through a series of tests to determine how much he can do.  These were the exact same tests she gave him the first day we saw her four to six weeks ago.  The first part of the test was "listen and follow instructions."  Alot of the questions seemed repetetive, changing only one or two words, and I was concerned that Dale would protest or get bored, but Dale did great.  He worked steadily through FORTY-FIVE instruction questions before the therapist asked him if he needed a break; at that point, he gratefully nodded his head!  Usually, when she asks him if he's ready for a break, she will pull out a game or something for Dale to mess around with---something that doesn't require him to think too hard and gives his brain a rest.  This time, she simply flipped the test booklet to the next section and kept going.  Again, I thought Dale would protest, but he didn't seem to mind.  For the next part of the test, the therapist had Dale look at a picture and give a sentence about it that included a certain word.  For instance:  the picture showed a person eating an ice cream cone and Dale needed to use the word "creamy" in the sentence.  Get the idea?  Again, he did great!  She has been helping Dale to use more words, more details in his sentences, and he proved he could do this during the test.  He averaged using eight or nine words each sentence; one sentence was fourteen words long!  And, up until the last three pictures, his sentences made sense, both realistically and grammatically.  He continued working steadily for thirty-five minutes!  Dale has gone as long as an hour before with SP but only by interspersing work with play.  This time, he endured thirty-five minutes of testing without a single game break.  This shows Dale's increased endurance and ability to concentrate.  What an improvement!

One more thing I want to share, and this is the best of all.  On the way home from SP, we were listening to Christmas music and occasionally talking.  At this moment, however, we had both been silent for some time.  Dale spoke up from the middle seat of our van.  I expected him to ask if we could go to the library or watch something on TV.  Instead, the sweetest words came to my ears.  Dale asked, "What did the orange say to the mushroom?"  It took me a split second to realize my son was TELLING ME A JOKE!!!  Of his own accord!  I quickly replied, "I don't know---what?"  He responded, "You look like a fungi (fun guy)!"  Oh, the joy that flooded my heart.  It was a good thing I was firmly strapped into my seat while driving because I wanted to get up and dance!  What music to my ears!  God has been flooding our family with blessing after blessing lately, and this is just the latest example of wondrous blessing we have received.  How many times before Dale's accident have I, in exasperation, said, "Dale, please---not everything has to be a joke."  And now, I am thrilled to hear a simple joke told by my son.  Thank God for second chances.  And third chances and fourth and............

Psalm 115:1 - 3, 9 - 11  "Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth's sake.  Wherefore should the heathen say,  Where is now their God?  But our God is in the heavens:  He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased.  O Israel, trust thou in the LORD:  He is their help and their shield.  O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD:  He is their help and their shield.  Ye that fear the LORD, trust in the LORD:  He is their help and their shield."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Update Thursday evening 12/1

Just a quick note:  I talked today to the young man who was injured playing basketball.  His surgery, as far as they can tell, was a success.  His arm is in a cast of sorts (I'm used to seeing the big plaster things so anything different looks strange) and will remain so for a month, I believe.  He has to keep his arm at a certain angle as well, which makes life in general---and sleeping in particular---challenging.  He told me he will have to go through physical therapy after the cast comes off, but that he should heal up fine.  Praise God!

Psalm 107:43  "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD."