Monday, January 30, 2012

Update Monday evening 1/30

I have this really bad habit.  I look ahead at planned events---anything, ranging from family vacations to Christmas programs to doctor appointments, imagine the worst possible scenario, and then proceed to believe it will come true.  I worry and fret myself into bad moods, tummy aches, headaches, and general misery.......only to find that it's never as bad as I feared.  Usually, at the end of the day, I wind up admitting that I, once again, over-dramatized the situation, blowing everything out of proportion.  I spend a goodly portion of my time apologizing to my friends, family, husband, children, God, neighbor, grocery clerk, stranger on the street get the idea!  And for what?  Not trusting God to be big enough to handle my life with its extremely difficult, mountainous challenges (my thinking) which are actually small hills of testing (His thinking).  Here we go again.......!

Today, Dale had PT in the morning.  He excelled at this!  Considering the struggles we all had trying to get Dale to walk, I expected Dale to stumble around and complain the whole hour.  Instead, he had a really good day.  The therapist took Dale outside the PT gym to the sky bridge and had him use a cane for support.  Initially, she held his hand while he held the cane in the other.  Gradually, she transferred to a finger-hold, then gripping the back of his jacket, then walking backwards in front of him with me walking behind.  When she walked in front of Dale, she again used the gradual release method.  She started Dale out using both hands to grip the cane like a balancing pole in front of him; then she held the stick end while he held the curved handle; then she had Dale hold the stick end.  We made several trips back and forth across the sky bridge and, each time, Dale's balance and steadiness increased.  He began to take longer, more natural strides and stopped pausing every two or three steps.  The therapist was very good about praising Dale for his wonderful walking and pointing out the improvements he was making.  She made sure he realized that, by walking with a longer and more natural stride, he needed less support---and felt good about it, to boot!

Then came the real challenge.  When we re-entered the PT gym, she let Dale rest a bit with a cup of water while she set up a balance obstacle course.  She found two half-sphere rubber shapes (they looked like rubber balls cut in half with little nubs around the outside!); these she laid on the floor for him to step on first.  Next, she laid out a flat rubber balance beam, followed by a taller, wooden balance beam.  She reversed the order after the wooden balance beam, putting down another flat rubber balance beam and finishing up with two more half-sphere rubber shapes.  She assured Dale that she would not let him fall and that she would be holding both of his hands the whole way across.  Dale then stepped on the first half-ball---that was hard.  He then had to step from the first to the second half-ball---that was very hard!  He did pretty well on the flat balance beam, although he found it difficult to put one foot in front of the other and even "fell" once (since she was holding both of his hands, she was able to lower him to the floor).  She was very smart, giving Dale space to get his knees under him, get up on one knee, and stand up on his own.  Dale "fell" about three more times because his legs kept buckling, but, each time, he found his own balance and got himself up.  Each time, as well, she had Dale remount the balance beam where he left off, not allowing him to cheat at all but finish the course.  The taller, wooden balance beam gave him serious trouble; Dale really had a hard time keeping his balance on it because it required his ankles to be even more supportive than normal.  (This was where he "fell" three more times, twice in just trying to get his feet to obey him and step down off the tall balance beam onto the flat one.  But, eventually, Dale succeeded!!!  He made it all the way across the obstacle course, gratefully stepping onto the silly half-spheres at the end to be done!  As his therapist put it, "Both he and I were sweaty by the end!"  I was so pleased with the way Dale worked hard.

We went home for lunch; then, about 2:00 p.m., we headed for his MRI appointment.  Yes, this is the one I was so worked up about.  I was concerned that Dale would not be able to lie still that long, that he would fidget and shift and mess up the scan, and that he would get claustrophobic inside the machine.  In reality, none of this happened.  Dale did great, even going so far as to fall asleep during the scan!  The technician and I helped Dale onto the narrow table.  He shook a good bit but was able to get situated.  She strapped a "seat belt" across his waist; I think this helped him feel secure.  She placed a set of headphones on him and laid a washcloth over his eyes before fastening the front mask-like part of the machine over his face.  He was already holding very still.  She then pressed the button to roll the table into the scanner; having done so, she waited beside him until she could tell he had calmed down.  I was able to stand right next to him with my hand on his leg to give him extra comfort.  The technician turned on a classical music station for him to listen to (my request), and, before long, Dale had drifted off to sleep!  She was able to run the entire test with Dale moving only once---and that was unconsciously.  While he was sleeping, his nose began to he reached up to scratch it!  Once the test was completed, I asked the tech if the nose scratching had been a problem; she said, "Yes, but I just reran the scan."  Dale and I both were glad the test was over---that thing is incredibly LOUD!  And, I must admit, my headache was unwarranted because Dale did fine.  The technician assured Dale that he would do great on "the next one" because he had held so still for this one.  My immediate reaction was to think, "No!  I don't want another one run."  But, truth be told, Dale probably will need to undergo at least one more MRI so the neurologist can see how much his brain is healing.  Thank You, Lord, for hearing my constant prayer during the MRI to help Dale hold still.  Now we get to wait for the results!

I have to sign off now but not before I thank all of you again for your prayers and support.  We have felt loved and encouraged every day since Dale's injury.  God bless you greatly.

John 4: 14  "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Update Saturday afternoon 1/28

Why does it seem that we get less done when we have "days off" than when we are madly scurrying about following our usual busy schedule?  Does that happen to anyone else, or am I just incredibly lazy when I don't have to get something done?  On the heels of our snow days off school, we had a planned two-day school week, giving us Wednesday through Friday off.  Unfortunately, Dale had PT scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, so neither he nor I got to take advantage of the opportunity to sleep in.  PT went well; Dale performed his usual exercises and even got some practice in falling.  The therapist laid out a padded mat and proceeded to show Dale how much fun falling can be.  She pretended to trip a few times, causing herself to sprawl on the mat, which, of course, set Dale laughing.  Then, it was his turn.  He willingly rolled off the Total Gym machine onto the mat.  It took him a few seconds to stop shaking, realizing that, once he was down, there was nowhere else to go but up.  She then had Dale stand and repeat the falling procedure several times, just letting him flop prostrate and then steady himself before getting to his knees.  By the time he was done with that exercise, Dale didn't fear falling quite so much---although we've noticed that the fear still shadows his every movement.

We got home Wednesday in time for an early lunch (I keep typing the word "munch" by accident!).  The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing about, then taking the girls up to church for teen soulwinning.  We, of course, headed for church later that evening for the service.  By the way, last week's service had to be held in one of the portables behind our main auditorium building because of the power outage.  We were homebound due to ice and snow, but there were a select few who managed to get there.  I imagine that time together will be a precious bonding memory for those who were present.

By Thursday, Dale had forgotten the therapist's instructions about not needing help around the house.  He was back to whining and crying if he had to take any steps without holding on desperately to someone or something.  By the time Chad got home from work that afternoon, I had had enough.  I felt like Dale was no longer listening to me---I could talk until I was blue in the face, but his mind was made up; I felt like Dale had given up, was not willing to even try to walk any on his own; I felt like Dale had decided that this was as good as it gets and there was no need to try to improve past this point.  Chad took over then, relieving me in many ways!  He took Dale for a walk, giving him assistance for most of the time but making Dale walk on his own from the end of the street back to our driveway.  It was then that Chad saw how Dale acts, hunching over, always reaching out for anything to grab, taking only a couple of steps before halting, constantly thinking he is going to fall.  Chad gave Dale a good pep talk and laid out some guidelines for Dale to remember to follow on future walks.  The rules are:  (1) keep your arms down, not up around your shoulders because this is a sign of fear, and (2) walk foot-over-foot, not scooting crab-like because this is also a sign of fear.  Chad even had Dale write these two rules down ten times each to firmly plant them in his mind.  We are attempting to target the signs of Dale's fear and point them out to him so he can see when he is fearful and what he can physically do to overcome that fear.  Chad further said that Dale needs to take a walk every day whether or not he had PT already.  He's right---this should help Dale recover his ability to walk properly, confidently, and surely.

On Friday, Dale and I went to SP where he proceeded to work hard despite the numerous distractions that the therapist deliberately set in motion.......she turned on a cartoon; she set her computer to beep whenever she got a message; she tapped her pencil frequently.  She is working with Dale to improve his ability to shut out distractions, keep his mind focused on the task at hand, and increase his endurance.  Dale can usually work steadily for about 35 minutes before his brain begins to tire.  She explained it like this:  When someone first starts to run, they tire easily because they are out of shape.  They must run for a short time at first, then gradually increase the time until they are able to run steadily for an hour or so.  This does not come easily; they must work hard and endure being worn out to accomplish their goal.  So it is with Dale's brain because of the injury.  His brain is "out of shape" and must be exercised in order to get it back in shape.  This takes a lot of hard work and leaves Dale tired mentally (and physically!), but the results will be worth it.  It's interesting to watch Dale in SP.  He starts out so well, listening and answering questions with minimal interruptions.  When he hits that 35 - 40 minute mark, you can almost see the energy drain out of him.  He slumps more in his chair; his eyes take on a slightly glazed look; he blinks more slowly.  He'll listen to a question but take longer to respond.  It's almost as if he has to catch himself, take a deep breath, and deliberately make his brain form the answer.  But this is all good for him; he needs this mental exercise to get his brain back in shape.  Even though he is responding well in SP and, in fact, is doing so well that the therapist is dropping him down to one session a week now, Dale still has a long way to go to be "back to normal."

I was really proud of him for keeping on with his routine even though, Friday morning, he woke up super shaky.  His legs gave out twice just getting into the bathroom.  Considering the bathroom is not that big an area, he had quite a workout getting off the floor!  It was indeed a challenge for him to get dressed and groom himself.  Then he had to face the dreaded stairs.  We took our time and let him step down carefully one step at a time (as usual), but I think we were all relieved when he reached the bottom.  Once we were in the van headed for SP, Dale was able to just sit for 40 minutes, and this helped steady him some.  Maybe the medication is doing some good after all because, even though he was very shaky and had to deal with jerking limbs, Dale did not have a seizure.  He hasn't had one in a week and a half.  Yea!!!

***PRAISE POINT****Dale walked down the first flight of stairs in our house (seven steps) by himself this morning!!!  He did not hold my hand at all; he used the handrail for support and took his time.  On the last step, his leg weakened and he sat down heavily on the step behind him, but, when he was ready, he stood, regained his position on that last stair, and stepped down by himself.  I'm so proud of him!!!

This afternoon, I took Dale for his walk.  I teased him that we needed to put a leash on him since he was "going for a walk."  He rather resented that!  It took Dale about ten minutes to settle down and actually walk without jerking to a stop every three steps.  Chad had said that Dale took about 30 steps without pausing the day before, and I was secretly determined to beat that record!  So I like a little competition---what's wrong with that?  Well........  Anyway, once Dale stopped over-thinking it, he was able to walk naturally, still needing to stop if he felt out of balance or got distracted.  The simplest things distract him like a child riding her bike, a crack in the sidewalk, or litter.  I finally realized that, the less attention I give the distractions when he mentions them, the less important they become, allowing Dale to resume to motion of walking.  And the winner is.......DALE!!!  He took 60 steps in a row without pausing!  I was holding his hand, but he was not gripping my hand tightly or jerking along.  He walked beautifully!  When we reached the end house's driveway, I let go of Dale's hand and told him to walk on his own back home.  I pinched the back of his jacket with two fingers which apparently gave him enough confidence and support to walk carefully back to our driveway.  He was still hesitant, but he did it without complaint.  Sixty small steps for Dale, one giant leap for his excited mama!!!

A couple of prayer requests:  (1) On Monday afternoon, Dale will have an MRI done.  The neurologist ordered the test, desiring to compare the results of this one with the MRI Dale had done back at Doernbecher in August.  (I think he just wants to be sure Dale actually has a brain!  :-} )  (2) On Tuesday afternoon, Dale will see the doctor to begin his neuro evaluation.  The doctor wants to meet with him to get some idea of the tests that should be performed; I have no idea what to expect, so I cannot "prepare" Dale for this appointment.  Please pray, not only for wisdom for the doctors involved, but for Dale's performance during these tests as well.  I'm not sure Dale can hold still for the hour needed to complete the MRI, and I'm already worried that he will not "do well" on these neuro tests and seem less improved than he really is.  I know these tests are not the pass/fail kind and are designed to best demonstrate how much Dale has healed and where he still needs help; I guess I'm just being a mom---I don't want anyone looking at my child and thinking he is slow, you know?  I still cringe a bit in public, waiting for some unkind person or unknowing child to say, "Why do you have to hold his hand?  Isn't he a little big for that?"  This has never happened; in fact, just the opposite is true.  We have gotten nothing but kind, caring glances and smiles from those who realize Dale's condition and see his need.  We have even received offers of help from complete strangers in the elevator, going through a doorway, at the pharmacy.  I know this is just the devil, that old snake, taking my fears and worries and magnifying them beyond proportion.  I talk to God regularly about this, verbally giving Him my worries and then mentally shouldering them as I walk away.  Eventually, when I 'm old and gray---or dead and in Heaven!---I will have learned to trust God implicitly without hesitation.  For now, though, I'm still in the choose-to-trust-Him-every-day (every-hour!) phase.  And, really, that's not a bad place to be, is it?

I Peter 5: 7  "Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Update Tuesday evening 1/24

Whoo-hoo!  Score one for the home team!  Or, at least, Mom and Dad.  Today at PT, I explained to the therapist how shaky and unsteady Dale is and how he has no confidence in walking on his own at all.  I was rather concerned because we used to take walks around the neighborhood (before he started school) or at the store, and it seems he can no longer do that.  The more his legs feel weakened, the more he feels the need to hold on---tightly---to someone for support and the less inclined he is to even try.  He seems to focus so much on falling instead of focusing on succeeding.  The therapist first made sure that this was not something new that the neurologist was unaware of---and it's not; this has been going on for some weeks now---before she decided to test Dale a bit.  She had him demonstrate the "homework" exercises he has been doing for a week or so now.  He gets on all fours, then extends one leg back and the opposite arm forward for three counts before lowering those limbs back to the floor.  This is repeated ten times before switching to the other opposite limbs.  Next, Dale lies on his back with his knees bent and his feet flat on the floor.  He lifts his pelvis for three counts, then lowers himself back to the floor.  Again, this is repeated ten times.  Next, Dale sits up and extends his legs straight out.  After adjusting a long belt around the ball of one foot, he will pull back on the straps of the belt, pulling his foot forward.  This helps gain range of motion in his ankles.  He performs this exercise on each foot ten times, for a count of three each time.  Next, Dale will stand up and lightly hold someone's hands for support.  He will raise up on his tiptoes, hold for three seconds, and then lower his heels back to the floor.  This, too, helps strengthen his ankles.  We also added an exercise in which Dale holds his slingshot and pulls back on the sling past the inside elbow of the arm holding the slingshot.  This, hopefully, will strengthen his arms and hands.

The therapist asked Dale to stretch out on the padded "mat table" to show her these exercises.  She motioned for me to step back and let Dale figure out how to get into position on his own.  (She knows I tend to be over-helpful at times; I seem to have been brainwashed by my loving son into thinking that he cannot do things when, to be honest, he is able to do them just fine!  Case in point:  Dale can stand up, position himself, and play the Kinect whenever he wants; he can walk to the table to pick up his own cup when he's thirsty and no one is around to bring him his drink; he can stand, walk to the X Box, and load a movie or video game when he wants to.  I believe more than half of his lack of confidence and fear of falling is ALL IN HIS HEAD!!!)  She observed Dale grunting a bit but managing to get into position and perform the exercises with astounding ease and decided it was time for some "tough love."  She told Dale that there will be no more hand holding at PT, that he needed to walk around the PT gym on his own, and that he needed to do the same while at home.  He immediately began crying and saying, "No, I can't do it."  We spent nearly the entire time proving to Dale that he could walk on his own.......he just had to be made to do so.  She promised Dale that she would not let him fall.  She told him, "If you fall, what do I owe you?"  He decided he wanted a whole pad of stickers (he usually gets a couple each time he goes; the dresser in his room is where he displays them---it is almost completely covered now!).  Then began the task of forcing Dale to walk on his own.  Truly, we were not trying to be mean or cruel; he needed to be shown that he could do it.  Chad and I have been trying to encourage Dale to do more for himself, but he insisted he couldn't.  You know how, at home, your child cries and says something is too hard---but, when they get to school, the teacher says, "You must do this," and, somehow, they manage to get it done?  That's exactly what happened at PT today.  I stood in front of Dale, walking backwards (something I learned while teaching K4!), and the therapist stood behind Dale, lightly grasping the back of his shirt.  He cried and snivelled---BUT HE WALKED!  Every few steps he would try to grab hold of hand, her hand, the wall.  She explained (and demonstrated) to Dale that reaching for something to hold onto actually puts him more off-balance, increasing the chance of falling.  I've been saying that all along!!!  We had to constantly remind him to stand up straight (he likes to hunch over---she began calling him an old man) and step foot-over-foot instead of shuffling---BUT HE WALKED!  We started in the main PT gym, turned left into and through the children's PT gym, turned left and walked down the hall, turned left and walked down the next hall, then turned left back into the main PT gym.  The whole way I was saying, "Come on, Dale; you can do it.  I believe you can do this!"  By the time we got back to our starting point, he was a reluctant believer!!!  We advanced the length of the PT gym into the small entrance hall where stands a skeleton named Mr. Bones.  Dale enjoyed shaking Mr. Bones' hand.  I tried to have Mr. Bones give Dale a kiss, but Mr. Bones was not so inclined.  Turns out, everyone has their limit.  (Just kidding.....I almost broke the neck in the attempt, though!)  When Dale sat down to rest finally, we were all tired but happy.

The therapist then announced that Dale had more "homework."  He is not allowed to hold anyone's hand inside the house.  He must get his own drinks; he must walk down the hall under his own power to go somewhere; he is not an invalid.  He accepted this news with more groans, but, inside, I believe he feels more confident in his ability to move on his own.  In fact, when we got home, I called Chad and told him the therapist's report.  When Dale heard me tell Dad and could tell that Dad agreed, he groaned again!  :-)  But, when I next went into the living room, Dale had gotten up from the couch, walked to the X Box, loaded a video game, and sat down in the recliner---all by himself.  I was excited to see it and praised him for his efforts.  His reply:  "Well, you said I had to."  I'VE BEEN SAYING THAT ALL ALONG!  It just took the "teacher" repeating what Dad and Mom said to make it official.  After lunch, I was (frankly) napping in the other room when I heard Dale walking down the hall.  He said he needed to go to the bathroom.  I was a good mom; I stayed on the couch until Dale had walked into the bathroom, closed the door, and (judging by the sounds!) sat down on the toilet.  I can't say I was not tied in knots waiting for a thump that never came, but I stayed on the couch.  He has been taking it easy the rest of the day, with the exception of walking on his own to and from the table for meals and drinks.  I am very pleased by his new-found willingness to move.

Well, hopefully the President's State of the Union address is over by now so I can go back downstairs and watch TV.  I know, I know.....I should pay more attention and listen to what he has to say.  It's just hard to hear him speak without snorting in disagreement every other sentence.  What's that Bible verse about "....whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just...."?  All right, fine; I'll head for my prayer closet about it!

An update on the injured basketball player:  He is continuing to heal.  He still wears the big black brace on that arm.  He is going to PT and, from some reports, is getting a bit frustrated because he is not progressing as quickly as he would like to.  It will take time for his arm to get back to the range of motion and ability that he remembers.  I'm sure he would have loved to be able to get back to playing basketball in time for the Presidents' Day Tournament which closes out our season.  Please, if you would, continue to pray for his healing.  I know he and his family would appreciate it greatly.

Thank you again for all the jokes and riddles that are posted.  My whole family is getting a kick out of them!

Isaiah 40:  28 - 31  "Hast thou not known?  hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?  there is no searching of His understanding.  He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:  But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Update Friday afternoon 1/20

Praise be to our God!  Nothing but good news on this front.  Allow me to enumerate:

(1)  We have had almost no school this week!  YES!!!  :-D  Due to the wild and scary weather we've had this week, almost all schools in our area have been closed for most of the week.  We had a 2-hour late start on Tuesday (groan, complain); then, school was cancelled Tuesday night for Wednesday, Wednesday night for Thursday, and Thursday night for Friday.  And there was great rejoicing heard across the region!  Seriously, the roads have been bad or worse since Tuesday night.  Snow, snow, and more snow, followed by ice, ice, and more ice.  We figured they would cancel school for Wednesday due to the weatherman's predictions.  Then, on Wednesday, the roads, which were already slick and snowy, iced over and became layered with ice and more snow.  We couldn't even make it to church because the roads were impassable.  On top of that, around 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, our power went out and stayed out for about 2 1/2 hours.  We had some great family fun time, gathered in the living room, reading Mad Libs and scary stories and answering trivia questions.  When we finally got through to the school hotline (even our cell phones wouldn't work for a while), we discovered that school was cancelled for Thursday.  Finally, the power came back on and we had a snack and went to bed.  Thursday morning about 6:00 a.m., the power went out again and didn't come back on until 10:00 a.m.  I let the kids sleep in a bit, then woke them up and instructed them to dress warmly because there was no heat in the house.  My husband, brave soul, cleared off the driveway, then took his heavy truck to Safeway to get some much-needed groceries so we wouldn't starve.  He got stuff like bagels, fruit, and such that would not need to be cooked---in case the power stayed out for a long time.  When power was restored, we immediately began cooking and doing laundry in the hope that we could beat the next power outage.  Though the lights flickered several times and actually went out completely for a few seconds, we never fully lost power for any length of time, even through the night.  The weather, to our understanding, was supposed to warm up some, raining throughout the day Thursday and causing the ice to melt off.  This never happened.  It actually did rain a bit, but that only froze as soon as it hit the ground.  We knew we could get freezing rain, but I didn't expect it to actually happen.  Sure enough, Thursday afternoon, we called the hotline and found they had cancelled school for Friday.  Again, there was much rejoicing and (figuratively) burning of uniforms.  I couldn't believe they had actually cancelled school again, especially so early on Thursday.  I'm glad they did, however, as the roads are still very icy and driving could be treacherous.  We stood on our back porch and just listened to the tree branches giving way under the weight of the ice and snow with loud gunshot-like cracks.  This morning when we awoke and looked outside, we saw tree branches down everywhere and fresh wood showing on the unfortunate tree trunks.  Our backyard butts up against a wetland preserve.  My wise husband regularly trims the branches that attempt to overhang our fence.  This morning, there are several offenders now lying draped over that same fence; they'll probably lift back up once the ice has melted off of them.  So many trees are bent over from their heavy burden of ice and snow that there appears to be a gaping hole through the wetland.  Again, we are supposed to get more rain and southerly winds to help eradicate the ice and return this area to its normal state.  Here's hoping!

(2)  We have been enjoying this surprise break from school.  The kids and I have gotten some chores done (cooking, cleaning, laundry) but have taken time to play some board games and the Kinect as well.  Dale even gets involved with the Kinect; he likes to play boxing, bowling, table tennis, etc.  Yesterday we sat at the table playing Careers......I have never had a Careers game go that long!  By the time Amanda finally won, tempers were frazzled, certain parts of our anatomy had gone numb, and it was with relief that we congratulated her.  We also, for the first time in family history, had a huge family snowball fight on Wednesday.  The teams consisted of Dad, Mom, and Dale against Ashley, Katie, and Amanda, with Emily randomly attacking whomever she thought she could sneak up on.  There were, of course, a few head shots, though none on purpose, and quite a lot of fun.  When Dad and Dale had had enough, they went inside; the girls and I stayed out and built a snowman (which has now taken on a glazed appearance due to its covering of ice!).  I'm so glad our family plays together and that we have had this extra opportunity to have some fun---without having to spend any money!

(3)  Even though Dale's therapy sessions for the week each got cancelled, he has been having some great PT and OT here at home.  By playing the Kinect, doing the exercises PT gave him, and rolling the game dice, Dale has been using his muscles to good effort.  He even gets down on the floor and crawls when he wants to go somewhere and no one is available to help him walk.  He says he feels more comfortable crawling because he is already on the floor---if he falls, he doesn't have as far to go.  Chad scolds him for this, but I don't mind, really, because of the great exercise that crawling affords.  I mean, Dale is strengthening his arms and legs, right?  No, I know he needs to get up and walk, but he's making an effort to move on his own and I welcome that.

(4)  Dale has been taking the anti-seizure medication since Tuesday, and we haven't noticed any side effects as of yet.  Thank You, Lord!  In fact, Dale has been the one to remind me that it is almost time to take it.  This morning, he was really shaky; he asked me to go downstairs and get the medicine because he believes it makes him less shaky, less unsteady.  I suppose time will tell if the medicine is truly having this effect or if Dale is just hoping/believing it is.  I am already fearful that Dale will mentally depend on the medication so much that he will be resistant to the idea of ever stopping it.  (Yeah, yeah, I know.....worry is a sin.  I'm working on it!)  If Dale's reaction to this medication is to be less shaky and more steady, maybe I will be the one reluctant to take him off of it!  Anyway, so far, so good.

(5)  I spent a good hour on the phone this morning setting up more appointments for Dale.  The neurologist ordered an MRI, so I got that scheduled for Monday afternoon, January 30th.  That appointment will take at least an hour, not including travel time---which will include rush-hour traffic afterwards.  I've already begun preparing Dale for the experience.  He had an MRI done at Doernbecher less than a week after the accident, but they sedated him for that.  This time he'll have to lie perfectly still for the entire hour.  They said they can play music for him; I think I'll request classical music---maybe Dale will just fall asleep!  I also set up an appointment for a big neuro/psych evaluation for Dale.  This will take place on Tuesday, February 28th, at 3:00 in the afternoon (of course!)  and will last at least two hours, probably longer.  I'm not even sure what all the doctors will do or have Dale do, but I'm sure he will be mentally, possibly physically, exhausted once it is complete.  He has PT scheduled for that morning at 10:30, then the neuro/psych evaluation at 3:00; I think we'll come home, eat dinner, and put him straight to bed.  Or maybe I'll do that!  That day is my birthday; according to Mandie, I'll be turning 83 on that day, so I'll probably not be able to do much after such a full day!  =*)  All kidding aside, please pray that Dale will hold still during the MRI and that he'll perform properly during the neuro/psych evaluation.  I know the purpose of the evaluation is to see how he does even if he's having a bad day, but I'm concerned that he might become too tired for them to get a proper reading.  Frankly, I don't even know what I'm talking about......I have no idea what they are expecting from him.  Yet another area to give to God and TRY to let go of.

(6)  In case I haven't mentioned it as much as I should, I really appreciate everyone's posts and comments, as well as the prayers I know are daily being uttered for our son.  Dale is thriving and growing and returning to the sometimes-ornery, sometimes-sweet now-teenager that we know and love.  His progress now is measured in smaller but none-the-less important increments, with each step forward being less and less hindered.  We love sharing the posted jokes and stories with him, his smile and goofy laugh blessing our hearts daily.  (Side note:  yesterday he almost choked on a piece of orange because Mandie kept making him laugh while he was trying to chew!  Once he expelled the offending lump, he was fine, but Mandie got a scolding for that!)  Every day, I check this blog, wondering who may have commented or which new person will remind us that there are prayers for Dale going up all over.  Thank you for being part of this wonderful journey through God's mercy, grace, and healing power.  We are blessed to have Him as our Father.  Dale just asked me yesterday why God even made us.  I reminded him that God made us to have fellowship with Him and to bring glory to His name.  Dale said, "But why?  All we do is sin!"  I responded, "Yes, but God was willing to take that risk.  God made man knowing he would sin, knowing we may choose to turn our backs on Him---but He loves us enough to take that risk."  I love having these small conversations with Dale and encouraging him to remember just how big and wonderful God is.  This morning I reminded Dale to thank God for the doctors who developed the medicine that helps him be steadier but to trust God for the healing results.  He assured me he does.

(7)  I got to talk to Mr. Damian Mullinix recently, the photographer who was on the beach that day and took the pictures that captured the world's attention.  I really enjoyed talking with him and getting his perspective on the day's events.  To relay everything that was said would take another blog posting, so I'll just state what I told him:  I believe God put him there that day on purpose to record His plan in action.  He said that, when the call first went out, the way it was worded made it sound like things were under control, that a parent was with their child in the water, and that the rescue would be over before he could get there.  Then, the tones sounded again, and Mr. Mullinix realized that this could be big.  He grabbed his things and hightailed it to the beach, being lucky enough (!) to swing in behind one of the responding fire trucks for an "escort" out there.  He, of course, used his long lens to scan the waves; he believes he sighted Dale for a split second, even alerting a nearby fireman, but by the time they focused on the spot he pointed out, Dale had already been carried somewhere else.  Mr. Mullinix took many shots of the water and the rescuers in action; when he looked over those frames more recently, he found, blurred and in the background, what he believes to be Dale's head behind one of the rescue skidoos minutes before they spotted him.  Amazing, huh?  Mr. Mullinix took pictures of everything that caught his eye, from the rescuers in the water to the teens praying on the beach to that incredibly graphic and beautiful shot of Dale being carried from the ocean.  He told me that, for a while after that Friday afternoon, he didn't even look at the pictures he had taken, believing Dale to have drowned and not really wanting to view pictures of his death.  When he heard Dale had survived and was improving, he was able to pull out the shots and, together with his editor, decide which ones to post.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  I told Mr. Mullinix that I thank God for him, and I do......I thank God that he was there to record the beginning of a miracle.  What an amazing event of which to be a part!  He told me he would send us copies of the pictures he took.  I can't wait to see them.

I am signing off for now, having exhausted my ability to hunch over a keyboard.  God bless you today and always.  You are each special to us and Him.

Philippians 3: 13 -14  "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:  but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Update Wednesday afternoon 1/18

We have been enjoying some unusual weather here in western Washington.  We're known for being a rainforest, but, for the past few days, it has actually snowed quite a bit!  Hooray!!!  The snow began falling lightly on Saturday, continuing through the night so that we woke up to a white Sunday.  This made driving and walking just tricky enough to keep some folks away from church that day.  (This is not a criticism---I have a good friend who lives just three minutes from church, and she refuses to drive in anything scarier than rain!  ;-D)  My husband was born here with these same weather conditions to deal with.....rain, rain, and more rain.  I grew up in a part of North Carolina with weather very similar to this.  However, we met in Bible college in Indiana, right outside of Chicago, IL, so we learned how to drive in near-blizzard conditions!  So, we made it to church for both services.  The snow continued to fall off and on throughout the night and into Monday, but school was already out on that day due to MLK Day.  We really thought we would get a day off on Tuesday because the weatherman was predicting more snow and icy road conditions; instead, we got a 2-hour late start.  My girls said half the school didn't show up anyway!  I kept Dale home on Tuesday; our school's 2-hour late start schedule calls for classes only 35 minutes long, and I didn't see the need to make him navigate tricky footing to get into the school building, only to leave two hours later.  Emily, our youngest, also stayed home because K5 only goes half a day anyway; she usually stays at school for a nap in the afternoon, but we were home anyway.  The roads were actually quite clear on Tuesday, with the snow melting off the roadways pretty much by the afternoon.

Then came "the big one."  Meteorologists were predicting a huge storm system to move in early Wednesday morning, dumping a good bit of snow in our area and nearly burying some towns.  That is a slight exaggeration.....but close!  We got six inches, I think---nearly unheard-of for us.  The foothills got tons of snow.  I don't want to think what the mountain passes looked like.  I guess this system is supposed to continue moving through all day today, reaching as far as Montana.  By 8:00 p.m. Tuesday, the deciding heads had heard enough dire warnings and cancelled school for Wednesday.  Whoo-hoo!!!  I'm glad they did because this storm turned out to be as bad as they had predicted.  I had to cancel Dale's PT appointment for 8:30 this morning---there was no way we were going to even try to navigate those roads.  About 9:00 this morning, I received a call from Dale's SP therapist with whom we were supposed to meet at 2:00 this afternoon.  She and I decided to cancel that appointment as well so that neither of us would have to be out.  My husband made a short trip this morning to visit some former coworkers; he reported that the roads were still snowy and icy.  They may unfreeze a little over the next couple of hours, but I believe they will freeze back over by late this afternoon/early evening.  Looks like church attendance will be sparse tonight as well!  Our preacher has stated, "We never cancel church for any, holiday, Superbowl, whatever."  But then he hastens to add, "Please use discretion when deciding whether or not you can get here."  He jokes that, if no one else shows up, he'll just preach to his wife!

My kids have been out in the snow for short periods of time.  Emily got to go out yesterday, but she has developed some coughing and wheezing, so we nixed the idea for today.  Dale went out in the snow yesterday as well---for about 30 seconds!  He wanted to---but not really.  I helped him across our small backyard; we then turned around and headed for the back door.  He stopped part-way to throw a snowball at Emily, hitting her plop on the head.  She laughed and returned fire.  Then we went back inside, having gotten our fill of fresh air.  Frankly, it's just too cold out there to warrant spending any more time than absolutely necessary outside.  I'm perfectly content to curl up on the couch with hot cocoa and a good book.  Or a good movie.  Or a good nap!  And popcorn.....except we're out.  (Sniff.)  I thank God for the snow, but I will be thankful when we don't have to worry about sliding everywhere.

Well, praise the Lord, He has made clear that Dale should start taking the anti-seizure medication.  Dale made it through two weeks without a seizure, even with several falls.  Early Tuesday morning, Chad and I were awakened by a loud thump, followed by Dale crying out.  Apparently, Dale had gotten tangled up in his blanket and had fallen out of bed.  At least this was a slowed fall, due to his legs not being able to leave the bed as quickly as his head.  He bumped his cheek but sustained no further injury.  We gave him a minute to orient himself, then helped him get up on his knees before standing.  He was so tired (it was 1:30 a.m.) that he could not get himself scooted onto the bed properly.  We tried to help him, but he had already begun shaking and jerking.  Dale called out to us in some fear; we got him standing, thinking this would help his brain realize he was all right, but we were too late.  While Chad and I were holding him up, Dale screamed and then went into a seizure.  He said he doesn't remember this one, but I think he realized what was happening and couldn't stop it.  His scream may have been his last effort to alert us that the room was "closing in on him."  We eased him to the floor and held him until the seizure passed.  This one didn't seem to last as long, and his limbs seemed to lose their posturing more easily.  When he was finished, we made him comfortable on the floor, putting a pillow under his head and covering him with the problematic blanket.  We figured Dale would finish sleeping through the night, so we left him there on the floor and checked on him periodically.  Around 4:30 a.m., I checked on him and found him in his bed.  His pillow was still on the floor, but he seemed fine.  I assumed my husband had helped Dale get into bed at some point.  In the morning, I asked Chad about it; he denied it, saying he thought I had helped Dale.  I guess Dale woke up, got up, and climbed into bed by himself!  Praise the Lord for small victories!

So we had Dale start taking the medication yesterday.  I explained some of the side effects that we need to watch for, telling Dale that he would be the one to notice them first.  I told him to be on the lookout for vision trouble, rash of any kind, hives or swelling due to allergy, trouble thinking, dizziness, trouble walking, etc.  I was good---I didn't scare him to death, just let him know some people had had these problems and the doctor needed to know if anything like that happened.  Last night while getting ready for bed, Dale's speech was a little slurred; Chad and I both immediately thought, "Oh, no!  He's having a reaction!"  But Dale was probably just tired and not thinking about speaking clearly at that point.  We'll see.  Please pray that this medication either (1) does nothing---so we can take him off of it, (2) produces major side effects---so we can take him off of it, or (3) works beautifully with insignificant or no side effects---so that Dale can be seizure-free, so that Dale's brain can outgrow this seizure-having habit, so that Dale is not shaky or unsteady which will give him confidence and strength.  We know God can do anything; we know He loves Dale even more than we do; we know God is all-wise, able to make all things work together for good.  We trust that He will hold Dale close as he climbs this next mountain and will make Dale into the wonderful young man that He intends him to be.

Thank you for all the jokes, riddles, and silly stories that you all have shared to make Dale laugh.  The one about "pea soup" was a big hit!  Thank you to everyone who continues to pray for our son.  His journey is not over yet, but then, neither is ours.  God has a purpose and a plan for each of His creations, and He is limited only by what we think He cannot do.  May we trust Him more fully and love Him more deeply with each day's breath that He gives us.

Ezekiel 36: 26 - 28  "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you:  and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.  And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.  And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Update Saturday afternoon 1/14

Good morning!  I realize it may appear as though I am falling down on the job as far as updating this blog goes, but in reality we have been running almost non-stop this week with therapy sessions, filling prescriptions, school, JV away games, and, of course, church!  I'm sure I don't need to play the busy-mom-with-five-kids-and-a-husband-who-expect-to-be-fed-frequently-despite-the-long-and-hectic-day-that-won't-end card in order to get sympathy.  LOL!  Truly I'm not complaining, just relating the facts.  :-D

Dale was supposed to have PT on Tuesday, but the therapist called in sick.  This gave us a tiny bit of a break in an otherwise busy schedule.  Dale stayed at school until Bible class got out at 12:20, then had to wait for me to finish up some paperwork, and then we headed home.  I've been helping other teachers in my spare time (!) by grading papers for them, and I wanted to be sure I didn't leave anything undone, so we left school later than I intended.  I was thinking Dale and I could both get a short rest after lunch, but somehow this never happened.  Wednesday followed the same pattern of school, grading papers, and a late lunch, followed by church at 7:00 p.m.  Dale gets to bed at a good time each night, but I tend to stay up late doing "stuff", which makes for some very tired mornings.

Thursday morning, everybody had to get up extra early and get to school early because the JV teams were going to an away tournament.  My second daughter, Katie, is on the JV team (her last year), so she had to be at school in time to get on the bus which was due to leave at 8:00 a.m.  (In actuality, it didn't leave until 8:30 which had me grumbling to myself about the injustice of having to forgo some of my much-needed beauty sleep to wake up still-sleepy kids and drag them to school just to sit and watch the team bus pull out five minutes after school started anyway!  But I'm not complaining, just relating facts....  :-P  Just kidding!)  That morning, Dale got to go to PT at 10:45.  He didn't get to attend much school beforehand since he spends 1st hour in my classroom, working on various speech and math worksheets.  He has certainly come a long way in these last few months.  We have been finishing up some papers that SP gave us that have, frankly, taken forever.....mostly because he couldn't get his brain to work quickly enough or focus strongly enough to answer correctly.  In this last week-and-a-half, Dale has done great with naming relationships between words, correctly answering which word goes with which phrase, and retelling stories.  At PT, the therapist worked Dale pretty hard, showing him some core exercises to do to help strengthen his stomach muscles.  She sent home the explanation sheets so that we can do these same exercises at home---kind of like having a mini-PT session each day, not just twice a week.  (We did these exercises Friday afternoon; Dale whined a bit and struggled a lot, but he got through them.  He realizes the need for these work-outs and is, for the most part, willing, just not always fully able.)  By the time he left PT Thursday, Dale was sweating and flushed!  These are good signs; he is making his body respond.

We stopped by the Group Health pharmacy on our way home to get those prescriptions filled.  Somehow I parked too close to the curb, so Dale got some extra PT trying to negotiate the narrow space between the van and the curb.  He actually stepped up on the curb (with help), balanced there for the brief seconds it took me to close and lock the van, then stepped down and (literally) put one foot in front of the other to get past the van to the street where he could walk normally.  He didn't like this idea, but doing it was good for him; it proved to him that he could do it, and it used those still-weak ankle muscles.  When we got inside, the pharmacy was not too busy; I was able to get to the counter within a few minutes.  The clerk said, "I'm not sure we have the Diastat in stock, but I'll check on them both."  When she returned, she was smiling.  They had the Diastat but not the correct dosage of Trileptal.  We were able to pick up the Diastat but had to wait until the next day to get the other.  It's a good thing the clinic/pharmacy is on our way to and from each therapy!  By the time we got home and had lunch, it was about 1:30.  I have been remembering to bring a small snack to school with me for Dale, so he was not starving---but I was!  There was just enough time to eat, put together Legos with Dale, and take a few deep breaths before I had to head back to school to get the girls.  And the rat race continued.......

On Friday, Dale had SP at 11:00, so, again, he didn't get to attend his other classes (just 1st hour with me).  Plus, with the JV teams gone along with several teachers/coaches, many of the classes were combined or sent to study hall, so Dale didn't miss much teaching time.  At SP, Dale pleased his therapist by relating the same Grimm fairy tale that he had looked up and told to her on Monday as homework.  He got about 3/4 of the way through without much help, then began to get the story muddled.  She then gave him clues to help him finish the story.  Some of the worksheets she gave us for Dale to work on require him to read several words and cross out the one that doesn't fit into the same category as the others.  He used to struggle with this, needing much help and many reminders to stay on task.  Now, he breezes through them with little problem.  The SP therapist used similar lists to read to Dale and have him listen and tell which word did not fit.  He did great, especially since these word lists were on a higher level of difficulty than the ones we have been using.  (I had a hard time telling the difference with some of the groups of words; the compilers were being a bit picky with their definitions of "different.")
Dale, however, listened and performed well.  He still needs to work on sitting still, listening the first time, and blocking distractions.  Lisa said we will work on that on Wednesday.

Again on the way home, we stopped at the pharmacy, this time to pick up the anti-seizure medication.  Dale has been unsteady with consistency until Friday when he seemed to calm somewhat.  We are careful to help steady him when he asks but never give more assistance than is required.  As Chad explained to me (for the umpteenth time---it takes me awhile to get it sometimes), giving Dale assistance when he is shaky is not enabling him to remain unsteady; it is giving him the assurance that we will always help him when he needs it, which will, in turn, help him gain the confidence and desire to try things on his own.  As of today, it has been 1 1/2 weeks since his last seizure.  We have not started any meds yet; we are trying to help Dale find ways to work through shaking and fear when falling first.  If Dale has another seizure, we will probably begin the medication.  Dale has actually experienced several falls this past week when his legs have buckled and he couldn't catch himself or when he catches his toe or heel on something.  None of these falls have incurred injury, not counting the two times he fell out of his chair at home while trying to put on his pants.  Each of those instances resulted in rug burns on his poor face!  We have since changed his pants-putting-on technique.  These falls have occurred at school, home, and therapy, and each time we waited a minute or two for Dale's limbs to steady before helping him to his feet.  On Thursday, coming out of PT, Dale's foot got tripped up on the threshold of the doorway to the parking garage.  I had hold of his hand and was able to kind of swing him down to the ground.  (When he feels himself falling, Dale can't seem to stiffen his legs or put out his arms like we would to prevent or break the fall.  He has said that he can't even hold onto the stair railing; his reaction is to let go and fall!)  A very nice older man was right near us and waited with me while Dale got his breath.  He heard me telling Dale that he was all right and just to breathe, that he wasn't falling now.  The man leaned closer and quietly said, "Seizures?"  I responded, "Yes, not now, but there is the fear of them."  He helped me get Dale on is feet, then did the nicest thing.  He patted Dale on the back a couple of times and said, "I have seizures too, all my life.  You keep going; you'll be okay.  You can do it."  I felt my heart swell with gratitude to this stranger for his encouragement and to our God for His guiding hand.  Dale looked at the man with some wonder; I think he was surprised to see someone with the dreaded "seizures" looking and acting so normal.  The man walked down the other aisle to his vehicle and we proceeded slowly to ours.  Dale's legs were a bit shaky from the PT session, and he was still unsteady from the near-fall, so our progress down the aisle took awhile.  In fact, Dale and I began laughing because he would walk from one giant cement support column to the next, sometimes putting a steadying hand on a car as he would pass by it and pausing at each column to take a mini-rest.  He complained in mock dismay when he realized there were no cars in between the last two columns before our van's parking slot!  The same man who helped us at the door stopped by in his truck to ask if we needed help; I guess he had had time to walk down the aisle to his truck, get in, back out, and swing around to our side of the garage before we had even gotten to the van!!!  I thanked him again but told him we would be fine---and we were.  Please don't think that Dale was about to fall over the entire way.  He just wanted to take things nice and sloooooow.  Eventually we reached the van where Dale got in just fine.  Remember when I would report that Dale was having difficulty climbing into the van?  He has definitely outgrown that particular trouble.  All that to say......we have yet to begin any medication but are prepared to should the need arise.  (Fancy talk for "If we hafta, we will!)

I don't want to close this update for there is so much more that happens each day than I can hope to many little blessings, small discouragements, precious moments, and regular family events (code for so-and-so got in trouble for such-and-such).  I have yet to tell about my conversation with Mr. Damian Mullinix, the photographer who took those amazing photos at the beach that day, but that will have to wait til the next time.

To those who have Monday off work/school, enjoy sleeping in (maybe) and catching up on odd household chores (what?).  To those who have to work anyway I extend my deepest sympathies and will pray for you after I wake up......late!  Sorry---couldn't resist teasing!  Have a wonderful weekend; God bless you all; and go Saints, Broncos, and Giants/Packers (it's a toss-up)!!!

Malachi 3: 16 - 18  "Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another:  and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name.  And they shall be Mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.  Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not."    

Monday, January 9, 2012

Update Monday morning 1/9

What a difference a few days make!  Dale had an extremely unsteady weekend complete with shaking badly, needing quite a bit of assistance walking, and even falling.  Let me start at the beginning......

At the neurologist's office Thursday, he recommended that Dale start taking anti-seizure meds to control his seizures and, hopefully, prevent any more from occurring.  He was concerned that Dale might eventually have a "big" seizure or fall during a regular seizure and injure himself further.  I was (and still am, frankly) resistant to the idea of Dale having to take meds like that; I really want his seizures to just go away on their own.  However, even I have to admit that the cycle of seizures is continuing despite our efforts and that Dale is so unsteady and shaky that his brain is not allowing his body to strengthen on its own.  After a couple of rough days this weekend and a fall on Saturday, Chad is ready to try the doctor's suggestion.  (Saturday's fall:  Dale was seated in the chair in his bedroom while putting on his pants.  He simply lost his balance with one leg entrapped in the pant leg and fell off the chair.  Since Dale has not yet regained the reflex ability to catch himself mid-fall, he hit the floor pretty hard and wound up with a nasty rug burn on his face near the corner of his eye.  He looks like he got in a fight!  :-)  We told him to make up some great story to tell folks so he would sound as fierce as he looks!  Sunday:  Dale had real trouble just walking into the church building and down the aisle to our seats, both going in and coming out.  Chad considered keeping him home Sunday night, but it was Dale's turn to stand up in church because he had had a birthday, so we took him.  He did all right then.)  Chad and I talked more Sunday afternoon about my fears about the medication---I was/am seriously concerned that the side effects will not be worth any hoped-for benefits---and his hopes---he thinks Dale should at least try the medication to see if it might control the seizures and perhaps steady his limbs enough to give them time to strengthen, restoring his confidence and showing his brain that there is no need for any more seizures.  (Does any of that make sense?)  I understand what Chad is saying, but I still don't like it!  The doctor told me that the medicine he prescribed is a low-dose med without some of the worse side effects that other popular meds can produce, but I did some reading online about this medicine (Trileptal/oxcarbazepine) and its own side effects.  It really sounds like the cure is worse than the condition!  I know, I know---not all people experience these side effects, but the fact that they are possible is a source of concern to me.  Here are a few:  drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, nausea, diarrhea, rash, double vision, trouble speaking or walking, trouble with balance.  BUT.......being the meek, submissive wife that I am (yeah, right), I told Chad that I would have the prescription filled and start Dale on it.  This decision came only after a chilly weekend between my dear, long-suffering husband and myself---and a whole lot of prayer!!!  I'm telling husband deserves some kind of medal for putting up with me for eighteen years!  Surely there's some special crown in heaven for that......

Anyway, on to better and brighter things!  Dale's birthday on Friday was a roaring success.  We brought to school a half-sheet cake to cut up into small (but not too small) pieces to share with everybody because we felt that everyone would enjoy celebrating Dale's birthday this year.  Our church and school have been so supportive and loving, praying for Dale and our whole family so much and doing everything they can to help us that we wanted to invite everyone to share in our joy of celebrating a birthday that might not have happened.  Thanks be to God for the blessing of our son and for giving him the (second) chance to turn thirteen!

We invited a few of Dale's friends over after school Friday to come to his birthday party.  Our van was packed with boys Friday afternoon.  Wow, is there ever a difference with four extra young, excited, bouncing-off-the-wall boys in the house!  It made me thankful for my four girls and one boy, even if there are extra emotions running rampant at times.  The guys turned on the Kinect immediately and began taking turns (!) playing against each other with the various sports games.  Our house quickly filled with the shouting, shoving, wild antics, and general hullabaloo that always accompanies boys playing.  We set out snacks and drinks and, after an hour or so, called everyone to the table to enjoy some pizza that our wonderful friend had dropped off, followed by Dale blowing out the candles on his cake and opening his presents while I served the cake and ice cream.  All told, everybody had a great time at the party.  Dale even thanked me that night for his party, stating that it was the best one he's ever had.  (Mind you, he's only had one other official birthday party.  In our house, with five children' birthdays each year, our kids get a big party when they turn 10, 13, 16, and 18.  Every other year we celebrate with just the family.  So Dale did not really have much with which to compare this year's party!  But I'm glad he enjoyed it.)

I have to tell on myself and share a "funny" at the same time.  Wednesday night on the way home from church, Chad and I were having a discussion in the front seat.  Dale, sitting in the middle seat, couldn't help hearing our conversation and wanting to interject his opinion from time to time.  After his first unasked-for tidbit, I answered his question and then told him that I was not talking to him and asked him to be quiet.  Amanda, sitting beside him, had already tried to shush him.  Not two minutes later, he again broke in with a contribution.  At this, I turned around and said in exasperation, "Dale, shut up!"  We all laughed, some of us out of frustration and Dale because he knew he had irked me.  Chad remarked, "Two months ago, I bet you thought you would never say that to him again!"  And he was right---two months ago, we were so excited by every word that Dale managed to speak that we could not imagine telling him to hush.  But now, Dale has progressed to the point that, sometimes, we want him to stop talking.  Either he's getting on his sisters' nerves or pushing into a conversation not meant for him or giving his unvarnished and unwanted opinion!  At any rate, we are very glad Dale has regained his ability to speak and express his needs or desires; we just would rather not listen to his smart mouth at times!!!

To wrap things up, please pray for Dale during these next few days and weeks as he begins taking this new medication.  Pray that there will be no side effects or, if there have to be any, that they will be negligible.  Please pray that I will accept any side effects that may occur without judging or "I-told-you-so-ing" my husband and that I will not be looking so much for side effects that I freak out at the slightest sign of one.  Pray that Dale will adapt very well to the meds and that they will not affect his ability to move, speak, or learn.  I know God created some medicine; I know He created some people with the intelligence to create even more medications; I know He gives us doctors to help treat illnesses and problems.  Dale's neurologist said that he basically developed epilepsy as a result of his traumatic brain injury.  This medication is what the doctor believes will help Dale; my husband believes it is worth a shot; it's my job to trust and obey.  Once again, I thank God for the valuable teaching I received growing up and in Bible college that prepared me and conditioned me to obey when I am supposed to.  Now I just need to work on submitting without all the uproar beforehand!!!

Thank you to everyone who sent Dale birthday greetings.  I have been passing those along to him and sharing the jokes as well.  God bless each of you dear people who every day read these updates and pray for us.  We hold you close in our hearts.

Ecclesiastes 3:14  "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever:  nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it:  and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Update Friday evening 1/6

Happy Birthday to Dale!  Thanks be to God---Dale is turning 13 today!  We are so blessed to have our son here, alive and doing great, to celebrate his birthday.  Imagine, if God had chosen to take Dale home to Heaven back in August, what a different set of emotions would cloud this day.  All of you wonderful folks who have prayed, cried, agonized, and laughed right along with us, you are a part of this birthday celebration; you have reason to rejoice!  Dale is not just 13 today---he is a joke-cracking, fun-loving, sister-teasing, almost-back-to-normal-but-still-healing 13-year-old.  What a flood of thankfulness fills my soul!  I wish I knew more than one language so that I might praise God in more than just simple English.  I need a thesaurus to find more words to express my joy and love to our Father.  He truly "doeth all things well."

Yesterday, Dale and I went to PT again.  Dale continues to work hard each time, whether he feels steady or shaky, tired or rested.  He walked on the treadmill (turning the machine on and off himself, pushing the speed up to 3.2, walking for four minutes), rode the stationary bike (fitting his feet in the pedal straps with minimal assistance, thinking and planning how to get on and off before attempting to do so, even letting go of the handlebars for a few seconds), walked up and down the stairs (not his favorite activity, supported himself with the handrails only, was willing to try moving each leg up to the next step like normal as opposed to stopping fully on each step, practiced these moves two or three times), worked out on the Total Gym (strengthening his legs, balancing himself as he stood up and sat down on it), used the rebounder (played catch with himself, used one hand at a time to throw the ball and both hands to catch, stood sideways so that he had to turn his trunk to throw and catch the ball---very good for him, raised both hands above his head to throw), walked on the balance beam (had two-hands assistance for this, tried to put one foot in front of the other---heel/toe, boasted that he could walk backwards too but couldn't :-{, kept going even though it was tough), and finished up with a game of Cootie (you build the cootie bugs by choosing a head, body, six legs, antennae, eyes, and mouth---great OT for Dale).  Dale was rather tuckered out by the time he was done, but it was a good tired feeling.

Dale also had a neurology appointment yesterday.  I was excited and concerned together about this appointment.  As it turns out, I was in for a lesson (once again) in trusting God with Dale's health and future and not worrying about things over which I have no control.  The neurologist is the same doctor who saw Dale in Good Sam when he had a seizure there.  The smile on his face when he saw how well Dale is doing was wonderful to see.  He did almost a double-take, then looked at me and said, "He's really doing well, isn't he?"  I was happy to answer affirmatively.  The neuro doctor had Dale perform various tasks like standing on one leg, rocking back and forth from heel to toe, tapping out a rhythm with his hands on his knees, closing his eyes and touching his nose, etc.  Each task Dale performed either well or good enough; the doctor realized, I'm sure, that Dale is still in the healing/recovery phase.  Then the neurologist shared with us the results of Dale's EEG from last week.  He said the background, which before had shown obvious signs of damage, was looking very good, in his words, "almost normal."  That was GREAT news!  He further stated that the clusters (I think) of extreme brain activity---seizures---has decreased but that Dale's brain is now showing definite spikes of seizure activity......too many for the neurologist to be comfortable with.  If Dale had been having spells every once in a blue moon, we would not need to be concerned.  However, Dale is experiencing these episodes quite frequently......every one-and-a-half to two weeks.  The neurologist used the comparison of the glass half-empty/half-full.  He was pleased to see parts of Dale's brain showing definite signs of improvement, but he was concerned to see those seizure spikes.  He said it is possible that "seizures beget seizures"---that, having responded to stressful situations (a.k.a. falling, shakiness, etc.) by going into a seizure, Dale's brain might be thinking that having a seizure is the thing to do.  And he warned us that, even though Dale's spells have lasted a minute or less, there is no guarantee that a big seizure won't come and catch us unawares.  In his words, being a neurologist, he recommends treatment:  anti-seizure medications.  I questioned him on this, having been told in the hospital that anti-seizure meds tend to put a damper on brain activity.....and we want Dale's brain to be able to be active!  He agreed, even stating that he realizes that we have to make a choice here.  In his mind, the choice to be made was between treating Dale with anti-seizure meds and take the side effects of drowsiness, possible lesser brain activity, and such or letting him continue to heal, stabilize, strengthen, and possibly outgrow these episodes.  This is the medical viewpoint and a very real decision.  However, the choice in my mind was even harder:  trust God or don't trust Him?  I realized I had to again give my son to God to do with as He sees best.  I don't want Dale to have medication or seizures.  I want Dale to be fully healed.  I want everything to return to normal once and for all.  But that might not be what God sees as the best overall outcome for our family and for Dale.  I want God to heal Dale and remove the seizures......but maybe God can use Dale best by allowing him to have seizures.  I want Dale to be completely healed from all of his injuries......but perhaps he will only be fully submitted to God's will for his life if he has to trust God daily for his health.  I am still afraid that Dale will not recover fully, that he will only be healed to a certain point, that we will be saying years down the road what a miracle he is and isn't he doing well for having such a traumatic brain injury---you know, in a kind of "we have to be thankful for this because God says so in the Bible but I wish I didn't have to deal with this" kind of way.  Do you see?  I wasn't trusting our Lord with everything; I was still holding on to my fear and worry.  I had to have a serious, heart-felt, tears-streaming-down-my-face-as-I-drive-home talk with my Father to apologize for not fully giving my son to His care, for not fully giving our future to Him, for holding back some of my trust in case I judged Him unable to care for my family in the way I thought best.  Chad and I talked and decided again that we do not want Dale on any anti-seizure meds because of the possible side effect of slowing brain activity and impeding the healing process.  We are going to have a prescription filled that the neurologist wrote for a medication to be used in an emergency in case Dale has a seizure that lasts longer than three minutes.  Being prepared is not to be confused with not trusting our Heavenly Father.  But it's good to know that, at least for today, God and I are "on the same page."  Maybe that would be better put that I am on God's page!  I thank God (almost daily) for His long-suffering toward me and my weak human foibles.  The children's song "He's Still Working on Me" is very, very true about me!

I have much, much more to share, but I have to sign off for now.  Hopefully I will be able to post another update soon.  God bless you all!

Micah 6:8  "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Update Wednesday morning 1/4

Yep, it's official.  Dale is just about back to "normal."  This is viewed with mixed emotions in our household.  Saturday, for the first time since his accident, Dale came close to corporal punishment.  He simply wouldn't stop tormenting his sisters.  The kids were all playing the Kinect, and Dale seemed to think it was his job to provide running commentary on the successes and failures during the bowling tournament.  Of course, most of the successes were attributed to him, and all of the failures were his sisters'---which didn't make them very happy with him.  He would not stop mouthing off, even finding it necessary to explain to them in detail what exactly they were doing wrong.  Basically, they were ready to kill him!  Dad and Mom had to intervene, sending the younger girls to their rooms (sending Dale to his would have, indeed, been a punishment as it would have meant climbing the stairs again!) and turning off the game and the TV.  The older girls left the room as well; Dale sat on the couch in lonely silence broken only by his occasional asking if he could turn the TV back on.  I'm sure you know the answer to that question.  It got to the point where Amanda, Katie, and I just looked at each other and wondered aloud, "Did we pray for him to get back to normal?"  Dale has since realized (we hope) that he needs to watch what he says or his mouth will get him in trouble; plus, he's getting in some great apology practice!

PT is getting better each time we go.  Dale is working hard to help his body learn to re-balance, strengthening his muscles, and improving his endurance.  He practiced yesterday getting in and out of the tub.  Our therapist emptied out a giant toy box which is actually shaped much like our tub at home; Dale then climbed in, sat down, stood up, and stepped back out a couple of times.  He had a seizure on Monday morning while trying to stand up in the tub after his bath.  He just couldn't get enough strength in his arms to support himself while getting his legs under him.  We eventually got him standing, but his legs weren't supporting him properly; I lowered him back down to a seated position, but I guess his brain had had enough and decided to shut down for a while.  The poor guy had to stay curled up in the now-empty bathtub with a couple of towels over him until he woke up enough to get out of the tub!  Once he awakened, he had no trouble standing up, stepping out, and walking to his room to get dressed.  I realized while watching him at PT yesterday that (1) he needs to hold onto the side of the tub itself when standing up rather than holding the extra handrail Chad installed (Dale still needs to use the extra handrail while stepping in and out of the tub) and (2) we need to drain the bathtub before having Dale stand.  I believe these steps will help Dale feel more confident when standing up in the tub and prevent further seizures in the bathtub.

I have to share with you a tear-jerking moment.  Yesterday morning in my classroom, Dale and I were talking about his seizure the day before.  He told me he remembers blacking out, but that it happened so fast he couldn't even say, "Mom!" or anything before he was out.  I was telling him that if he could, he should try to say something to let me know that everything was going black and that he didn't have to be scared because these seizures happen and they don't hurt his brain, just help it reset.  He looked so very sad when talking about the episode that I asked him if he was all right.  He said, "The reason I was scared when I blacked out is because I thought I was dying."  I was horrified!  Here I had thought that the seizure was the main problem, and Dale thought he was dying.  He sat there with tears in his eyes and told me, "I thought I was dying, and I didn't want to die because I love you guys so much."  I wrapped my arms around him and held him close, praying that God would give me the words to say to help alleviate his sorrow and fear.  I assured Dale that he would not die from these seizures and comforted him as best I could.  I also apologized for not recognizing before this his fear during these spells.  He was crying as he asked, "Why did God let this happen?"  This was not the first time this question had come up in our family, but it was the first time Dale himself had voiced it.  I could only reply, "Son, I am not God.  I cannot claim to know why He allows bad things to happen to good people.  But I do know that Romans 8:28 is true:  'And we know all things work together for good to them that love God.'  I don't know why God let you drown, but I know He would never have allowed that to happen unless He could use it for good."  Dale nodded his head; he knew this already, but sometimes our human hearts need to voice our confusion and questions so that we can be reminded of God's sovereignty and purpose.  I further reminded Dale that even when he was in the water and couldn't breathe, God was right there with him.  God never left him, nor will He ever.  Dale will have many more times to consider the whys and wherefores of his accident, but I believe, with our guidance and faith, he will ultimately choose to give God the glory for His wondrous work.  I know to some people, our belief that God can and will use anything for good is simply "blind faith."  Isn't that somewhat redundant?  Of course faith is blind; otherwise it wouldn't be called would be fact.  And, yes, God does require us to trust Him no matter what, without knowing all the details, without knowing the outcome, and without any guarantees of a rosy, pain-free life.  But remember:  we aren't supposed to be aiming for an easy, pleasure-filled, pain-free life of luxury.  This world is not our home!  We are supposed to be laying up treasures in Heaven; we are supposed to be working toward building our heavenly mansion; we are supposed to be pleasing God with our faith in Him.  Right???  "But without faith, it is impossible to please Him."  Please, Lord, let Chad and me teach our children to trust You in good times and bad, through dark days and bright, with ease and with pain.  Please let them learn that You are trustworthy and good and right and always there.  That's what we have been taught and have learned through life experience as well.  I feel a bit like Job when he said, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear:  but now mine eye seeth Thee."  All my life I have been taught that God is good, He is in control, and we should trust Him.  These past few months have really brought those truths home to me and, I pray, to my children as well.  My head knew to trust God whether I could see the way or not.  My head knew He was worthy and able to care for me and mine.  My head knew He could work all things for good.  But now mine eye seeth Him working on Dale's behalf.  Mine eye seeth Him caring for my girls through their heartbreak.  Mine eye seeth Him listening to the prayers for Dale and answering those prayers.  Mine eye seeth Him touching people's lives with the power of His healing might.  And my heart is blessed.  My heart now knows our God is real.  My heart now knows I can trust Him no matter what.  My heart now knows that He is good, He is worthy to be praised,  and He is sovereign.  Oh, thank You, my Father, for teaching me about You.  My head knew these things already, but now mine eye seeth Thee.

Psalm 145: 1 - 4  "I will extol Thee, my God, O King; and I will bless Thy name for ever and ever.  Every day will I bless Thee; and I will praise Thy name for ever and ever.  Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable.  One generation shall praise Thy works to another, and shall declare Thy mighty acts."