Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Final Post

Well, here it is. This is going to be my first and last entry on this blog. Actually, I am writing this probably around 30 thousand feet in the air! Matt is passed out beside me (I am sure that won't surprise any of you who know him!). We were bumped up to first class so that it would be more convenient for me (oh the hardships of being in a wheelchair! Ha!). Steve and Lori's church flew me and Matt down to surprise the two of them for Christmas and it couldn't have worked out better! The two of them were definitely surprised! (Watch the video) We had an amazing time. We left Mom and Dad home alone for Christmas, but they claim that they behaved themselves the whole time. Somehow I find that hard to believe...

One of the best parts of Detroit was the total lack of snow! It rained once or twice while we were there but I didn't mind because I will take anything over snow! I might just have to take another vacation to get a break from this weather before winter is over...

I really wanted to take Kilian (Steve and Lori's dog) home with me but I wasn't up to attempting to fit a dog that weighs more than I do in my bag! I was starting to get used to having a dog who can just lay his head on my lap though! Maybe that will be something for me to take a look at when I get back...

Anyways, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who wrote comments and well wishes on this here. I still can't believe how many people showed their support through this blog. I can still remember having my Mom sitting beside my bed reading everything people wrote, while I laid there in traction. That seems like it was ages ago! Luckily life is now basically back to normal. Thank you again for all of your prayers and support you gave throughout my recovery. I wish you all the best in 2007!

-Mike

P.S. A special thanks to my brothers who came up with this blog (I would have never thought of that!) and for all of the entries them and my Mom threw on there!

P.P.S (From Mom)
Yes, that was Mike's final post to the blog but I thought I might add a
postscript to update you on what was happening in the Barker household.
January, we moved into our house in Sherwood Park amidst the flurry of construction and ongoing unpacking. In spite of the fact that Mike had only a shower and toilet in his bathroom at first, he patiently waited for us to continue tiling, painting, and, thanks to Grandpa Dickau, install a custom-made cabinet. We needed a vanity that was high and wide enough for Mike to get his chair under, yet still have drawers on either side for storage. Thankfully Grandpa and Grandma came to our rescue because we had very specific needs! Not only did Grandpa build the bathroom vanity, he also built Mike a night stand, complete with drawers made to measure for his supplies, a slide out board to extend the surface area when needed and even a shelf which sits above the night stand but will swing out over his bed. Grandpa builds the furniture and Grandma stains and paints. Needless to say their "workshop" was busy!
The elevator has worked wonderfully although we still have some cosmetic things to finish i.e. trim and thresholds. Mike enters through the garage and can either come up a few feet to the main floor or go down to the basement to his bedroom, bathroom and rumpus room. The whole basement is laminate flooring which makes wheeling easy. I'd like to say that Mike's room is kept clean but he promises to do it….tomorrow!
Mike got his van, a Buick Terazza, a few weeks ago and takes full advantage of his independence. He drives up the ramp out the side door, "ties" in his wheelchair, transfers to a 6-way power chair which swings around and then forward to the steering wheel. He is making up for months of not going shopping by going to West Edmonton Mall numerous times on his own. Nice to see he hasn't lost his shopping skills! He still drives to the Steadward Centre at the University three times a week to work out and use the FES rowing machine. There is talk of a summer job and Mike plans to go back to university in the fall.
Neil and I went to Detroit in February. Neil was able to stay for one week but Steve and Lori managed to put up with me for three weeks. Von (the most beautiful, contented grandchild in the world…unbiased opinion) and I had lots of time to bond! Mike stayed home alone and managed just fine.
Life has returned to 'normal' and we are enjoying being settled. Steve, Lori and Von came for a short visit and, due to the fact that Matt moved home, we were all under one roof again. Could it get any better?

Mike and I were talking this morning. One of the guys staying at the Glenrose while Mike was here became a paraplegic while doing a "jump" on his quad. I commented on the fact that this fellow had such a positive attitude saying he'd had his accident while doing something that he loved. Mike replied, "Me, too! I had my accident doing something I love and am good at….sleeping!" Yep, some things never change!!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Going with the flow...

The house – Neil has been spending every spare moment at the house trying to get things ready for the elevator installation.  Framing the shaft is complicated by the fact that vacuum pipes, water lines and electrical wires need to be moved.  Though it seems like a long, arduous process, we heard the other day of a man who has been waiting a year to modify his house for his elevator installation!  A few months seems high-speed in comparison!  Ideally we would be able to work on the renovations full time but somehow Neil’s full time job keeps getting in the way!  These are good days to “go with the flow”…

The rowing machine – Mike’s assessment went well.  We assumed that he would be doing the actual assessment on the rowing machine but all they did was attach the electrodes to his legs to see how much movement they could get.  Apparently you work your way slowly up to the using the machine.  They seemed positive about getting Mike into the program but we haven’t heard any more details since then.

The power chair – right now Mike is trialing a power chair here at the apartment.  A couple of chairs were brought to our house and Mike narrowed the search to one which was brought here to try downtown and at the university.  Once the chair is ordered, we will sit down to talk about vehicles. Though Mike’s primary chair will be his manual chair, having a power chair will be a necessary back up, especially for school.  One down side is transporting it.  A manual chair can be taken apart and put into most vehicles.  A power chair cannot be taken apart, therefore, the need for a vehicle becomes critical.

School – Mike has decided to wait until September to take more classes at the university.  A number of factors have influenced his decision i.e. no vehicle, he is learning how to maneuver in snow, we don’t know when we’ll actually be moved into the house, etc.  It’s one thing to get to classes on time but there will be note taking, assignments, research, etc. and Mike faces a new and often slower way of doing things.  Most people with his type of injury will take a year for “transitions”.  By September, some of this will be old hat!

Other than these highlights, we keep pluggin’ along!  Mike continues to charm others with his smile and generous nature.  Now if only he was better at cleaning up the kitchen….

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Rowing Machine

Michael has been on the waiting list for the FES machine at the Steadward Centre at the University of Alberta. The FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation) is a specially adapted rowing machine which uses electric current to stimulate the legs of those with spinal-cord injuries allowing them to get a good cardiovascular workout. Mike can exercise the upper part of his body but this would allow him to work out his lower limbs. Because the waiting list is long, we were excited when Mike’s name came up. On Friday he will go to the University to have an assessment and we will see if he qualifies and if so, what his schedule will be.

Winter weather has taken on a new meaning for us this year. Wet, slushy snow means wet, dirty wheelchair tires which means a wet, dirty car and trunk, not to mention wet, dirty gloves and pants! Even plowed roads and shoveled sidewalks can leave deep ruts and inches of snow to maneuver. If Mike doesn’t use his “road” tires, the smooth tires of his wheelchair give no traction. However, the road tires soon balloon up collecting snow in all the nooks and crannies. Thankfully we have a lot of tile at the house because a carpet would soon carry a wheelchair tire design (much like Matt’s house is getting when Mike goes to visit!).

Friday, November 03, 2006

Finally a report!

My apologies to those of you who still faithfully follow this blog! It has been awhile since I have written.  The last few weeks have been somewhat hectic and action packed to say the least!  For us as a family, we have sold our house in Lac La Biche and had the movers come to load up our “stuff” (after 27 years we certainly have accumulated lots of “stuff”!) which they deliver at our house in Sherwood Park today.  Neil has been hammering out concrete in order to put a new foundation down for the elevator.  He still has to cut out the cement in the wall of the garage for the elevator door and build the shaft before they can come and install the elevator.  Meanwhile, he is also hammering out the cement in the bathroom so he can re-pour the floor with a slope for the wheel-in shower.  We will enlarge the bathroom, re-do the plumbing and tile the whole room.  This seems like a daunting task and it is!  Contractors are hard to find because the construction business here is booming but if anyone knows Neil, they know he is made of “why pay someone else to do the job when you can do it yourself”!  I’m hopeful that we will be living in the house by Christmas…

Mike finally had his drivers test and passed!! Now he starts the next leg of the journey which will be to get a vehicle.  We are certainly more conscious of the weather and the fact that it’s been cold and the snow is staying on the ground means wheeling outside isn’t always easy.  Hats off to those who faithfully shovel their sidewalks!  Mike continues to have “firsts” - the most recent being a fall from his wheelchair.  He was meeting someone at the university and took the LRT.  While getting off the train, he misjudged the gap, jammed his front tires and fell forward.  A couple immediately came to his aid and he was up and wheeling within minutes but it was a humbling experience.  Mike took it all in stride and his comment was “Well, I’ve gotten that out of the way and it wasn’t so bad!”  Having the ability to laugh at yourself and take life in stride is one of his greatest strengths.

One thing I have noticed throughout this experience is the strength of the bond between the brothers.  Steve and Mike talk regularly on the phone (sometimes for hours!) and Matt will often come to hang out with Mike when he is not in touch by phone.  They look forward to living together again once we are all settled at the house in Sherwood Park.  It feels good to know there is strong “cement” holding this family together!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Update

Thank you again to those who continue to write in.  Your comments are encouraging and a reminder that Mike is being prayed for and thought of often.  

Mike has his own wheelchair!  Though its arrival was much anticipated, Mike had gotten used to his loaner chair and had to adjust to a “new” chair all over again.  This chair has two sets of wheels.  One set has a smoother tread and is great for smooth surfaces and the other wheels are more like bicycle tires and great for outdoors.  Imagine my surprise the other day when Mike changed his wheels while still in his wheelchair! He held on to the couch and balanced the wheelchair while changing the wheel…takes guts and a good sense of balance!

Next on the agenda is taking his driver’s test.  Somehow we thought this was going to be a quick and easy process but the delays continue.  Sometime next week, Mike hopes to test drive an Uplander.  Because Mike will also have a power chair, the vehicle will have to have a ramp so he can wheel into the vehicle.  He will lock his wheelchair in and then transfer to a swivel driver’s seat.  One observation – I’ve mentioned before that we now pay much more attention to wheelchair parking!  When you have a vehicle that has a side ramp, you need at least 10 feet beside your vehicle.  Most handicapped parking stalls are not wide enough and if someone parks too close to your vehicle, you are stuck waiting for that person to leave before you can get into your van!  

We have been trying to speed up Mike’s morning routine.  Some things can’t be rushed but others will get easier over time.  Once we get possession of the new house, we will be renovating his bathroom.  We plan to put in a wheel-in shower so that he will not have to transfer to a tub bench.  It will be a “major” reno but worth it!

Things are settling into a comfortable routine.  Though the days are relatively quiet, most evenings and weekends are spent getting Matthew’s house ready for the market and once we get possession of the new house, we will be madly getting that house ready for Mike.  I’m starting to wonder if there is life beyond house renovations!!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bringing you up to speed...

More transitions for us as we moved from one apartment suite to another.  We were quite spoiled by an accommodating staff and found things to be somewhat different at the new apartment.  Not only were we given a different suite than was promised, Neil ended up changing the shower head to a hand held shower by himself since no one seemed to have the proper tools to do the job!  We also had to have Mike’s adjustable bed moved from one apartment to the other and the crew moving the bed broke a wire so the bed would not work!  Naturally this happened at 4:30 on Friday afternoon so nothing could be done until Monday morning.  Fortunately Neil is also an “electrician” as well as a “plumber” so he was able to remedy the problem before Mike went to bed.  Mike still hasn’t received some of his equipment including his custom wheelchair so we “patiently” await their arrival.  Emotions seem to run close to the surface and it’s sometimes difficult not to let them overwhelm us at times.

Mike is still unable to wear a shoe on the foot with skin grafting.  The pressure sore on his heel has healed(!) but there is one spot on the top of his foot that remains open.  It is small but simply refuses to close up which means we have to be so careful with transfers, showers, etc.  There is always the risk of infection and it is difficult to keep the foot protected.  This is one part of his recovery that has been frustratingly slow.

Having shared some of our struggles, I must also add some of the highlights.  Last week Grandpa took Mike out to explore the world of vehicle modifications! For the first time Mike seemed excited about getting a retrofit van and was eager to get started on the process.  Because of the wrong fax number, the motor vehicle branch had not received Mike’s medical report until today (even though it had been sent 3 times!) so we should be able to set up his road test very quickly.  Once Mike has passed the test, we’ll be on our way!  It could still take months for everything to come together but it will mean much more independence for Mike.

Last night I was reading in bed before going to sleep.  Mike came into the room, “hopped” onto the bed and we lay there talking just like we used to in the “olden” days.  And just like we used to, we eventually had to kick Mike out because our mornings start much earlier than his!  These are golden moments and I wouldn’t trade them for anything!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Things are becoming normal

Life is actually starting to feel normal again. We have more of a routine and have been adventuring out to do more things. Some of the highlights over the last week…

  • Mike went out on Friday night with a friend. Though getting around is a little more complicated, some things never change. I’m sure it wouldn’t take you long to figure out which movie they went to see…
  • We had a mini reunion on the weekend while my brother and family were here from Vancouver. More people to witness Mike beating Grandpa at arm wrestling!
  • We went for retail therapy yesterday at West Edmonton Mall. Not only did Mike find some hoodies, I think I discovered how to get him to sleep at night instead of during the day – shop ‘til we drop!

Mike and I are definitely finding our way through the transition. Though it is hard for a morning person to be patient when the days seem to begin painfully slow, I am learning to let go of my schedule. It is obvious how much Mike is trying and how difficult it is to make his new “body” cooperate. He does this without complaint and without resentment. I was amazed at his character as I watched him recover in ICU, make progress in the University Hospital and then grow stronger and more confident at the Glenrose but seeing his attitude as he struggles through his daily tasks humbles me and makes me proud. Now if only I could get him to clean up his room…

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Digging Deep

Sorry for the delay in writing but we don’t have the computer set up at the apartment so it is difficult for me to keep you updated regularly.  Hopefully that will be remedied soon!

Mike’s out for good!!!  What a treat to know that we are finished this leg of the journey.  The long anticipated day did not go as smoothly as planned...

…I had to wait for Mike’s commode and tub bench before coming to the hospital.
…Mike’s wheelchair has not arrived so we had to make adjustments to a “loaner” before we left.
…I couldn’t fill Mike’s prescription at the drug store because they didn’t have WCB approval so I had to go back the hospital for enough meds for the day.
…Meanwhile, the drugstore got approval so I had to return to the store to pick up Mike’s meds for the month.
…We had to coordinate sticking around the apartment because the adjustable bed was to arrive in the afternoon.

But, in spite of the hurdles, it was rewarding to know that we didn’t have to go back to the Glenrose.  That’s not to say we won’t miss the staff and other patients there.  We made many friends and it was hard to say goodbye.  We were excited to find out that one person we’ve come to love and appreciate will be our neighbour!  What a blessing to have someone living so close who understands intimately the struggles our families face.

Today Mike and I shed a few tears.  Some of the equipment that Mike planned on using isn’t going to work or will need some adjustments.  Nothing seemed to go smoothly and it appeared that everything had a glitch or hiccup.  Maybe it was just pent up emotions over the last few days but it was good to talk things through. As positive and optimist as Mike is, it is hard to face the fact that nothing is easy, everything takes longer and it’s hard to find the balance between doing it yourself and asking for help.  There are days when you really have to “dig deep”!

(Thank you so much for your encouraging words.  They definitely lighten the load!)

P.S.  Mike wasn’t able to do his driver’s test because they couldn’t fit him in but we’re hoping to do it soon.  I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Challenges

As Mike’s discharge nears, I know we will enter a new phase.  Until now, weekends have been a welcomed retreat from hospital life.  We lounge around and though we often have a few items on the agenda, we do not have a demanding schedule.  However, being at home “for good” will probably bring up issues for us to wade through.

Before the accident, Mike was living on his own but will now be living at home.  That alone can bring up challenges in relationships.  When you’ve been independent but now have to rely on others for some of your basic needs, it can be difficult and depressing.  What should be my role as a mom?  My natural tendency in the past few months has been to look after Mike but I have to be careful not to create a dependency.  I have to find that balance of helping to provide a safe comfort zone and yet still continue to prod and push one out of the nest.  Many of these things we have talked about, trying to anticipate those hurdles but we will learn as we go!  One positive thing about this experience is that we, as a family, have always been able to talk openly about our feelings.  (Hmm…I’m even talking about it online!)

Just one more of the challenges to come!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Keeping You Posted

Thank you for your encouraging comments.  I even received some supportive phone calls (though getting ahold of me can be a challenge!).  Matt showed me this morning how many people view the site each week and I was humbled and amazed.  We feel blessed!

Only 8 more days to go!  Today Mike is having another session with the driving instructor and hopes to do his driver’s test at the end of this week.  He had no problems adjusting to the hand controls but part of it is being comfortable with the whole practice of driving after being in the hospital for so long.  It will still take months to get a vehicle but we should be able to start the process soon.  It will certainly bring much more independence to Mike because, at this point, he can only transfer to our car and must depend on us to be driven anywhere.  Once Mike builds up more upper body strength, he may be able to transfer to the van (the height of the seat makes it difficult for Mike to transfer) and that would mean we wouldn’t have to take apart his wheelchair each time.  We haven’t tried public transportation yet but we’ll attempt that adventure once Mike is discharged! Mike will still be getting a power chair and at that point it will be important that he has a vehicle that will accommodate both chairs.

Last week Mike and I watched the wheelchair rugby team practice at the Glenrose.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Murderball, you’ll know what I’m talking about. This is not a sport for the weak of heart!  Only quadriplegics are allowed to play and you are assigned a point depending on your hand function.  Only so many “points” are allowed on the court at one time so it becomes very strategic.  During a break in the game, the players came to meet Mike.  As soon as they found out that he was a quad, they no longer looked at his face but eagerly examined his hands and his hand function.  It was hilarious!  I was ignored and they enthusiastically tried to recruit him, although they did say that he should wait until a year after his injury to make sure that he was “stable” and they did mention that his doctor would probably not be happy about him playing at all.  Small matters when you love to play competitive sports and it was evident that these guys loved what they were doing!  

We went bed shopping on the weekend.  Mike will be getting an adjustable bed.  This will make night-time “caths” so much easier when he can raise the top of his bed. Though the bed was for Mike, Neil and I, as responsible parents, made sure we also tried out each one.  Needless to say, they were starting to look more and more attractive as the afternoon wore on and we may be fighting for the use of the bed once it’s delivered!

Thanks again for following this site.  I’ll keep you posted…

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Thank You

I want to say a special thank you to those who comment on the blog because it is certainly an encouragement to me and to our family.  I often wonder what to write on the blog and I also question whether people are really interested in those minor details with Mike’s progress.  There is a part of me that wonders what makes us so special and do  people really care about what we did on the weekend!?

I also want to thank you for your prayers, cards, financial support and especially the outpouring of love which has been so evident.  We feel so blessed.

People have asked me if I tend to leave out the negative or difficult issues that Mike encounters but we truly do face each day with humor and optimism.  Never a day goes by that Mike and I don’t laugh ourselves silly over something ridiculous.  That is not to say that we don’t delve into the difficult issues and talk them through and there is no doubt that we are on a steep learning curve but we have many things in our favor: the strong bond we have as a family, our faith and our desire to see the cup as half full but most certainly, the love and support that we have from you, our friends both new and old.

Thank you.
Brenda

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Weekend

We had a wonderfully relaxing weekend at the apartment.  Mike does more and more things unassisted and is certainly gaining some independence.  A friend of Mike’s lives close by and Mike wheeled over to his condo on Saturday night.  This entry into the “real world” makes it difficult to be patient for discharge!  However, we did discover some basic issues that will constantly creep up for wheelchair users.  

Doors – the doors to the apartment do not open automatically nor do they have a wheelchair button.  They are heavy doors and Mike can not open them unassisted.  Though we checked to make sure the room would work before moving in, we didn’t realize the importance of being able to enter the building easily!

Flooring – though the carpet is not plush, it is still difficult to wheel on.  Thankfully we have little carpet on the main floor and none in the basement at the new house!

Heights – the height of the bed or couch can make it more difficult for transfers.  The height of the table can mean his legs won’t fit under!  These are things we took for granted before the accident.

Some of these things are workable but things like doors become a huge barrier to independence.  We actually looked at a different suite on the weekend and found one that is much more wheelchair friendly and will move into it before Mike’s discharge.  It seems we have much to learn…

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Good News

Looks like it’s possible to put an elevator in the house where Mike will come in at ground level in the garage and will be able to go up to the main floor or down to the basement where his room will be.  This is more expensive but will eliminate the necessity of a porch lift in the garage.  We can modify the bathroom downstairs so that it will have a wheel-in shower and other wheelchair friendly adaptations.  This is good news!

Mike had his driver’s evaluation yesterday.  It consisted of an hour or so of written work and then he went out driving.  It didn’t take him long to figure out the hand controls so with a few more times driving, he should be able to take his driver’s test.  Because the goal is independence, he will probably need a van that will allow him to wheel or lift into the vehicle.  He can transfer to a car but he needs assistance and for going to school, he will want to be able to drive himself.  The vehicle must be custom fit to his wheelchair so, although he has already chosen his manual chair, Mike will have to decide on his power-chair.  It was gratifying to see Mike conquer another “first” – more good news!

This weekend we plan to move into the apartment.  It is a furnished suite so we don’t have to worry about furniture but since Matt is still living at the house in Edmonton for now, we will probably be back and forth for some time. There will be many transitions for the next while but for now we’re concentrating on the long weekend coming up.  Mike considers that excellent news!

Only 20 more days until discharge – best news of all!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Updates

Accommodations…looks like we will be staying in an apartment for the next few months because the house that the boys were living in will not be suitable for Mike in the long term.  The good news is that we think we have found a house in Sherwood Park but we still have to make sure that an elevator can be installed.  We won’t have possession until October and then renos will have to be done but we are used to renos!  We still haven’t sold our house in LLB.  Having Mike home on the weekends has given us a taste of life on the “outside” and though there are obstacles, we are up for the challenge.

Steve…and Lori are expecting!  Another bright spot in our lives and though we are cautiously optimistic (they have had a number of miscarriages), we can hardly wait for our little “miracle” to arrive in February!  

Matt…has been building muscles while framing with Cal (my brother-in-law) but will be starting school next week.  Even though he’ll have a bit of a drive when we move to Sherwood Park, he plans to live at home while he finishes university.  I’m glad because with how busy he is, unless he lives at home, we probably wouldn’t see him much!

Mike…can hardly wait until his discharge.  Each weekend at home gives us more opportunities to try out new things.  This weekend we explored Sherwood Park and went to a movie.  Next weekend…can’t wait!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Some Snapshots...

These should have been up a while ago, but I had some technical difficulties and posted them to the wrong site. (Sorry Mom)

Absolutely, positively no pictures permitted!
Okay, one picture but I refuse to be happy.
No matter how hard he tries, the smile sneaks out...
Mike and Matt at their house - "vegging" is always sweeter at home!

Monday, August 21, 2006

What We Learned...

It was wonderful to have Mike home again and in spite of the challenges, it was not easy for Mike to go back to the hospital Sunday night.  Things we learned:
  • This carpet is extremely difficult to wheel on.

  • Couches are cozy and comfortable to sleep on whether you are paralyzed or not!

  • Unless you have a pedestal sink, you can never face a sink straight on while in a wheelchair.  Instead, you wheel up to the sink sideways and twist your body.

  • The “high” table we were worried about was not so high after all.  We made do just fine for the weekend and with a small platform, he could use the table all the time.  

  • I have a much greater understanding as to why Mike catches little naps during the day when I realize how much he has to be up during the night doing turns and catheterizing!

  • Hospital beds that can raise and lower have definite advantages.

  • It’s not that hard to “bump” someone up or down the stairs but having to do it multiple times during the day could get tiring.

  • When it rains outside, your wheelchair leaves little black marks on light carpet when you don’t wipe down the tires.

  • You can take the door right off if you need that extra inch.  

  • Cooking simply tastes better at home, even when it’s just a bun and salad.

  • We can hardly wait until Mike is home for good!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Weekend Pass

Mike is coming to the house in Edmonton for a weekend pass.  Because this is not the house we will be living in when Mike comes home, we do not plan on making any modifications to the home.  Therefore, we do have some barriers!  

Stairs – This home is a bi-level and we come in the front door to a small landing with six stairs going up to the main floor or six stairs going down to the basement!  We will use the back door which has three steps outside the house into a small landing but only three steps up to the main floor once you get in.  This will be easier than the front door provided his wheelchair will fit through the gate to the back yard.  Needless to say he’ll get “bumped” up and down the stairs a few times during the weekend.

Bathroom – Mike will not be able to get his wheelchair into the bathroom on the main floor.  He should be able to use the bathroom downstairs but the shower may be too small for a shower bench so he will have to forego the shower!

Bed – Mike usually slept in a twin bed at home but if he sleeps in that bed for the weekend, he’ll have to have help turning during the night.  He has to turn every four hours so rather than have someone come in to help, if he sleeps in Matt’s bed (a double), he’ll be able to turn himself.  That suits me just fine since the “person” helping him would probably be me! Matt’s bedroom is on the main floor…only bathroom Mike can use is in the basement. More bumping up and down the stairs!

Table – The table at the house here is a high table.  It might have been in style but it is no longer practical for someone in a wheelchair!  We figure he could scoop the food into his mouth while sitting up to the edge but that could get messy.

BUT other than those few barriers, Mike can hardly wait to get out of the hospital for a few days.  He’s already been thinking about what he wants me to cook (Cook?  I haven’t hardly cooked since the accident!) and what kind of things he wants to do.  I think it won’t really matter what we do, it will be simply be nice to be together as a family outside of the hospital.  Now if only Steve and Lori were here, things would be perfect!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Wheelchair Skills

One class that Mike looks forward to is wheelchair skills every Thursday.  Yesterday he practiced doing “wheelies” and wheeling around pylons with one hand turns.  One of the exercises involved transferring a bean bag from a chair on one side to his lap and then from his lap to a chair on the other side.  The trick was keeping his wheelchair in a “wheelie” position (on the back two wheels only) the whole time he transferred the bean bags.  He had to keep one hand on his wheel at all times balancing his body and chair so the front two tires stayed suspended in the air.  Trust me, this is not easy!  

He also practiced falling out of his chair (they were nice enough to do this exercise on a mat!) and though he doesn’t have enough strength at this point to get himself back in the chair, he learned how to direct someone else to assist him.  He also learned that if you have cute girls helping you, you can ask for their phone numbers at the same time.  Mike felt this was valuable information indeed!  

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Drive

Yesterday we went for a drive!  That meant transferring to a car which we have done in class but not on our own. It made for some interesting moments.  Mike did well but let’s say that I was obviously not the best student when it came to remembering how to take the wheelchair apart!  Of course, once I’d figured out how to disassemble everything…wheels off, arms off, anti-tippers off, seat cushion and back off, seat frame folded back…I had to maneuver the frame into the trunk (rigid frames do not fold up).  I found out that it won’t fit in the trunk but if you breathe just right, it goes in the back seat.  

We stopped at the house where the boys have been living but didn’t go into the house.  It was a treat to have our neighbours drive up and say hi.  (Thank you, Huts, for being the perfect neighbours!)  Would it be any surprise to know that we then stopped at the mall!  Needless to say we parked far away from the door so that we could have plenty of room to “stumble” through our transfer!  Getting the wheelchair back together again seemed much easier.  

Getting into the mall was no problem but did you ever notice how close some stores place their racks? Trying to wheel between narrow spaces becomes a challenge.  Did you know how easy it is to lose someone when you’re used to searching for a 6’1” person exploring the aisles? Some things are easier.  For example, before the accident, Mike might try on 20 pairs of pants and not find a good “fit”.  He claims that because he doesn’t feel the “fit” now, he’s not so concerned.  Bonus!  However, stiff or hard seams can cause a pressure sore.  Snaps, buttons or extra flaps can pose a problem.  Just another perspective!

Mike thoroughly enjoyed driving in the car.  He said the thing he will miss the most about driving himself is that he won’t be able to hang his elbow out the window because he’ll need both arms for the hand controls.  So he made good use of being a passenger and worked on the right arm tan yesterday!  You know that we will have conquered the car transfer when we actually park in handicapped parking and don’t look like amateurs dismantling the wheelchair!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What Mike does during the day...

  • Mike has to be up, have had breakfast, finished his personal care and in his chair ready for PT at 10 am.  Today he was on time!!!  Never the morning person, he isn’t always his cheerful self when I arrive in the morning.  I think he misses his Dad singing “Good morning to you…”

  • He’s been doing stretching, arm strengthening and transfers in PT.  Today he took the wheelchair outside and practiced doing curbs.  Once a week he works specifically on wheelchair skills.

  • Twice a week there are teaching classes about pressures sores, bladder and bowel routine, etc.  I wouldn’t be surprised if 15 years ago, people at Glenrose with SCI (spinal cord injury) saw exactly the same video that we saw today! Could be time to update the presentation.  Hmmm…

  • Nurses still change the dressings on his burns every day.  If they haven’t had time to do that first thing in the morning, it is usually done as soon as he gets back from PT.  If possible, he still tries to squeeze in a nap!

  • First thing in the afternoon is Mike’s hand class where he works on strengthening and exercising his hands.  Though they don’t work the way they used to, his hands are definitely getting stronger. (Helena, Mary and Kerstin – you would be impressed!)

  • Once a week, Michael meets with a psychologist, a social worker and a recreational director.

  • Finally, Mike goes to OT where he has been working on dressing himself and transferring to different surfaces i.e. various beds, cars, shower benches, etc.

  • In true Mike fashion, he seems to build a unique connection with many of his therapists and nurses.  Today the “cleaning lady” came in and gave him a back rub!  How he manages this, I’m not quite sure but I love to watch it!  This week, during our session with the psychologist, she talked about his positive attitude and his willingness to accept this next “page” in his life.  He is going to have quite the “story” when he’s done!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Thankful

Thanks for all the comments about Max.  He was definitely “one-of-a-kind” and though Mike will miss him, he hasn’t let it get him down.  We’ve laughed lots about Max’s antics.  Even though he was small in size, I’m sure he thought of himself as big, strong and invincible.   He’s had a leg amputated, been hit by a truck, gotten lost a few times, tried to make friends with a porcupine and even been attacked by a Rottweiler.  Mind you, that doesn’t scratch the surface of the things Michael has tried or encountered in his life so the two had much in common!  

Mike continues to progress.  He has a new roommate and though Ron’s injury level is similar to Mike’s, it is much earlier in his rehab.  It’s easy to forget how far along Mike has come.  Some mornings have still been a bit “slow” but his afternoons and evenings show steady improvement.  Mike has never been a morning person so it’s not surprising that he struggles with the rush to go through his morning routine.  It’s just another reminder that Mike is still Mike and some things never change.  Thankfully!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Some Sad News

We had some sad news today – Max, Mike’s little three-legged dog, died today.  We were so glad that Max had come for a visit last week and we were able to soak up a little of his energy and joy of life.  How quickly pets become part of our lives.  Max and Mike certainly had a unique connection and especially of late, had many things in common! He was a wonderful companion and we will miss him dearly.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Up and About

Mike and I “walked” to the mall this weekend for some retail therapy. Being careful not to let his shopping skills slip while going through rehab, Mike tried on a few items and settled on a hoodie for his purchase. Clearly no decline in his shopping expertise!

It was great to see Mike feeling better. He spent most of Sunday afternoon and evening in his chair without feeling nauseous. Up to now, Mike has spent most of his free time in his room, usually in bed but yesterday Mike spent time visiting with other patients and their families in the atrium. It’s so encouraging to see him “up and about”. This could be attributed to the increased medication or that his body is finally starting to adjust or even that he has a chance to sleep in on the weekends. But I think it’s quite possible that getting a hair cut made all the difference.

  Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Good Things About Today

Good things about today:
  1. The higher dose of medication seems to be helping and Mike felt much better.  He hasn’t thrown up for a number of days.  It seemed that we’d have a few steps forward and then a step back but this has been the longest stretch where Mike has tolerated longer times in the wheelchair.  

  2. Mike ate tons of food!  Though he hasn’t seemed to add much weight, he looks like he’s getting stronger.

  3. Mike’s getting faster at doing transfers.  He’s learned how to transfer to a number of different areas i.e. cars, hospital bed, regular bed, tub, etc. so now he’ll just perfect his skills!

  4. Mike mastered the power chair in 30 seconds (I guess video games do have a purpose!) but once he was out of my sight, he felt the need to verify the top speed.  Some things never change…

  5. Through Mike’s accidents we have recognized the strength of family, the support of friends and made some amazing new friends.  Thank you.

  6. Max (Mike’s dog) came for a visit.  One thing you have to say about Max and Mike – they are both resilient!  They may not look or do things the same as when they were “able-bodied” but they’re still both irresistible!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tuesday

Mike got a new wheelchair to try out and this one seems to fit him better than the last one.  The hand grip on the wheel is easier to grasp which makes it easier to wheel.  He also has a power wheelchair waiting for him to try.  Who knew there were so many options!

OT was spent transferring to a regular bed instead of a hospital bed.  Tomorrow he practices transferring to a shower bench.  Things we take so for granted are hard work!

However, dialing for pizza take-out was not impaired in the accident and that has been exercised a number of times (including tonight!).

"Firsts"

Today Mike did his first car transfer which means he can go out for short trips in the car. And he did it without throwing up! I learned how to take apart his wheelchair and I’m sure with practice I will be able to do it in lightening speed. Of course, just when I master this wheelchair, he will try out another, although I’m sure if I keep pushing levers and buttons, I’ll get it apart. Sometime next week Mike is hoping to try out a motorized wheelchair. Guess I shouldn’t attempt taking that one apart…

The doctor removed some of the dead tissue around Mike’s graft site this morning. Hopefully this will help to speed up the healing process. This procedure resulted in Mike missing his physio appointment but not surprisingly, he didn’t seem all that disappointed! Mike was able to shower both Saturday and Sunday in order to wash off his graft sites. This was a treat considering that patients are only scheduled for two showers a week until they can shower themselves. (Little do they know that Mike would have extremely long showers at home until all the hot water was gone. Leaving him to shower on his own could be problematic for the hospital!) Mike has an appointment with his plastic surgeon at the University Hospital on Wednesday so we’ll see what they have to say.

Mike was able to go onto the computer today. Though he can go on the internet on his phone, this was the first time he sat down at a computer since the accident. Needless to say, his fingers don’t work the way they used to and it will be an adjustment for him but it was good to see Mike at the computer keyboard.

Though Mike takes these “firsts” in stride, it never ceases to amaze me how positive he remains in spite of the fact that everything he does takes enormous effort. It really is inspiring!

Mom

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Slow Start

The day did not start off so well. Mike was feeling rather ill and did not make it to PT or to an information class that he was scheduled to attend. Because he took Gravol with his other nausea medication, he ended up sleeping most of the morning. By lunch time he was feeling better and was able to attend his hand strengthening class and worked again on transferring from his wheelchair to his bed in OT. He is going to work on transferring to a car tomorrow.

Neil and I did some house hunting this evening. There are so many things to consider:
• The entryway – how will Mike be able to get in into the house. Can we build a ramp? Put a lift in the garage (if it is an attached garage)? Is the entry way big enough to maneuver a wheelchair?
• Flooring – is there carpet that will make it difficult for a wheelchair? We may not notice the transitions between carpet, tile, hardwood, etc. but a wheelchair might!
• Stairs – is everything on one level or will we need a lift? Are the landings big enough to accommodate a lift? Do the stairs go straight up and down or do they curve or take a turn? Are they wide enough to use a lift?
• Doorways and hallways – are they wide enough for a wheelchair? Do the hallways take a turn which might make it hard for a wheelchair?
• Bathrooms – a wheel in shower is ideal but not always possible to modify. If not, can you make other modifications? Is the bathroom wide enough? Is there enough room by the toilet? Can you change the vanity so that a wheelchair could go under the sink?
• Deck or patio – will you have to build a ramp to go out the back door?

These only cover the basic items and don’t even touch things that would matter to Mike if he lived alone i.e. modifying a kitchen to put things at his level and at his reach. There are many challenges and it is extremely difficult in this “seller’s” market. But we’ve assured Mike that if all else fails, the garage here is heated and he can set up camp there. If he’s lucky, I may even bring him food!

Mom

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Clarification

I wanted to clarify some comments I made on yesterday’s blog about money. Please understand that in no way are we asking for money. I meant only to express gratitude for those funds which have already been received. When we were approached about setting up a trust fund for Michael, we were already aware of various fund-raising activities that Mike’s friends had initiated. Having a trust fund seemed a logical decision. I was asked to put the information on the blog to make people aware since there had been inquiries about what to do with donations. I meant only to pass on that information.

Mike’s medical needs will be provided for and we are confident of his bright future. Yes, he will have costs over and above what WCB will cover and as parents we want Mike to be able to be independent. We also have the desire to be independent ourselves and not accept help so the subject of money is difficult. Most importantly, we want you to know that we are overwhelmed by your generosity and are deeply grateful. God has been teaching us much about giving and receiving through your kindness.

After talking to Mike’s social worker today, we are hoping that Mike will be able to leave Glenrose early in October. The biggest thing holding him back right now is his feeling nauseous but the new medication seems to be helping. We couldn’t find his “kidney bowl” to bring to PT this morning but fortunately he didn’t need it then, nor did he need it for the rest of the day! The staff is confident that as soon as this “stage” is over, Mike will progress by leaps and bounds. He can already transfer by himself and no longer has to use the lift to get himself into bed. Still haven’t managed that hair cut though….


Mom

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Steve Goes Home

It was wonderful to have all three boys back together. Between “retail therapy”, watching movies, playing pool and simply hanging out, it was rewarding for me to see the boys be together again. We took Steve to the airport this morning, grateful for the chance to see him again and appreciative of the kind gesture of the person who paid for his ticket. As much as I loved having him home, I know that it meant the world to Mike.

The days certainly have their ups and downs. We are trying a new drug to combat the nausea and it seemed to make a huge difference for the first few days. Yesterday Mike threw up in both PT and OT again so the dosage may need to be increased. This seems to be his biggest hurdle but in spite of the set back, he remains positive.

Mike’s days are filling up with classes, therapy and appointments, gradually eating away at the nap times! How exhilarating it is to anticipate 4 pm and know that his “work” is over for the day. Mike continues to practice his transfers and today will start his hand class and arm strengthening. He needs more muscle mass but you need exercise and calories, something that isn’t helped by “losing” his meals or feeling sick while sitting in the chair.

People have generously set up a trust account for Mike at ATB Financial in Lac La Biche (The Mike Barker Trust Account). Anyone can donate to the account and if they wish to leave their name, they will be issued a receipt. People have already donated funds to Mike and they have been deposited to the account. Your generosity overwhelms us and I know that each dollar that is donated will go to making life’s tasks simpler and more enriching for Mike.

Thank you again for how you have shown your love and support in such tangible ways.

Mom

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Having Too Much Fun

We must appologize for leaving such a break between entries but we have been having too much fun this weekend. Mike started a new nausia drug on Friday and it is working very well. In fact it worked so well that we had a chance to roll over to the mall a block away. Matt, Mike and I roled around them mall, had lunch and bought Mike some shoes. It was good! Today we finally got the correct adaptors to get his DVD player up and running again, so we basically chilled for the majority of day.

I must say it has been good. I have missed him! I can't wait till he can come visit me (and meet all of his Detroit family!).

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Survival!

Mike survived the first two days of “work”! Sadly, he threw up at each therapy session except today’s OT. He carries on with a smile and simply tells the girls that he’s “breaking them in” but I know how tired he is of feeling nauseous. He was doing so well. The good news is that he isn’t feeling as light-headed when he gets in the chair so we’re hopeful that this is a good sign.

Other highlights:
- Mike is getting better at doing transfers.
- We hope to try out a new wheelchair tomorrow.
- Mike is thrilled that he hasn’t had to eat many hospital meals since I bring in sandwiches, veggies and dip, fruit and something to heat up for supper. I’ve almost exhausted my supply of “meals” so I’ll have to start being more organized and creative!
- Mike was able to do some things in OT today that he was unable to do at the University Hospital. (Mary and Kerstin, you must tell Helena that Mike was able to put the little metal rods into the board, while he was being timed, no less! No doubt she’ll be as excited as I was!)
- Steve is coming tomorrow to spend the weekend. We can hardly wait. The last time Steve was here was just after the accident while Mike was in ICU. Mike is a little more alert these days and the boys will be able to spend lots of time together on the weekend.
- Mike’s “hand” sessions have been postponed so he’s been able to get a little snooze in the afternoon. Who knew that sleeping would be such a highlight!

Mom

Monday, July 03, 2006

Calm Before the Storm

Tomorrow is the big day, the day Mike starts his gruelling schedule! He took it relatively easy during the long weekend, taking naps during the day and though he got up in the chair a couple of times each day, he still spent a great deal of time lounging in bed. BUT Tuesday is a whole other story:

8-10 am – breakfast and personal care routine
10-11 am – physical therapy
11-12 am – dressing changes on his burns (and if he’s lucky, a little snooze!)
lunch
1-2 pm – working on hands
3-4 pm – occupational therapy

And then finally he has supper and free time. No doubt it will take him a few days (weeks!) to get used to the activity but perhaps now he will start sleeping during the night instead of during the day! Mike and I talked about the impending “gloom” of rehab but he is trying to look at it as simply being a work day. It wasn’t any fun getting up for a 10 hour shift but he did it. This won’t be “fun” but the payoffs will be rewarding.

Mike looks forward to getting a better fitting wheelchair (hopefully early this week) which might make sitting in the chair more comfortable. His tolerance is improving although his blood pressure still fluctuates but the good news is that he hasn’t thrown up for the last couple of days. (Except for when he threw up in bed last night but we won’t count that!)

The nurses are already warming up to him (are you surprised?) and a few times they have asked, “Is he always this nice?” They keep waiting to see his “dark side” but they’ll probably have to look for a long time! However, we haven’t seen Tuesday yet...

Friday, June 30, 2006

At the Glenrose

It's our second day at the Glenrose and it's been an adjustment! It was hard to leave such a wonderful "“comfort zone" but I'’m sure it will only be a matter of time before we feel "secure" again. We have a few hurdles:

- Mike is still suffering from nausea and was unable to keep his breakfast down again (guess it's time for Fruit Loops!). He tried to get up in the chair again this afternoon but almost passed out so they put him back to bed. Hopefully this will ease up soon.
- They were unable to get a wheelchair with a good fit. Mike is used to having a chair with a lot of support so now having one that he cannot even {“feel"” (the only part of his body that he can feel is above the chair!) causes a lot of strain on his neck. Combine that with feeling sick and he dreads getting up in the chair. Because of the long weekend, we won't be able to try out any new chairs until sometime next week. Mike never complains but I know it is difficult for him.
- Mike'’s roommate, Matt, is the same age, outgoing, and you might even say out-spoken! Though his injury is similar to Mike's, it is an incomplete and Matt has full use of his hands and continues to regain feeling. Mike seems quite comfortable but I get those little pangs of sadness for him when Matt is bombing around the unit. Mike'’s doctor was quite clear on the fact that Mike should not expect more feeling or movement but he will definitely gain more strength.
- The staff here seem very nice but we miss our friends at the University Hospital.

But even with the "“hurdles", we know that we are one step closer to having Mike come home. Now if only we could find a house!!!

Mom

From Matt: Make sure you all sign the "map". It is a great idea from Steve and I too want to see where all this prayer and support is coming from (I'm sure Mike would find it interesting too). From talking to Mike today, it seems like he is a little worried about his schedule and he doesn't seem that confident that he will be able to handle it all right away, so pray for strength for him as he starts his full routine on tuesday. And also pray for wisdom for the doctors and nurses as they guide his rehabilitation.

Friends of Mike

I thought it might be cool to virtually be able to see where you all are from. There have been a number of comments that said that Mike has friends praying all over the world. Just click "add" and sign up to become a dot on the page.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Tomorrow is Moving Day!

We got the word today! Looks like Mike will be moving to the Glenrose tomorrow morning. No more snoozing after physio - hard work, here we come. As much as we are looking forward to the next phase, we will be sad to leave the hospital.

We will miss the PT/OT team. No doubt, Mary and Kerstin will miss the daily drama of wondering whether Michael will be able to keep down his breakfast! And I’m sure Helena will miss being distracted in order for Mike to “cheat” on his finger exercises! I think Mike has considered kidnapping them and bringing them to the Glenrose – it’s hard to leave such great people.

We will miss the unit nurses and staff. Mike happened to mention that he’d heard rumors about the possibility of having ice cream as a snack. Not only did he get ice cream but today there was a box of popsicles just for him! I doubt whether he’ll be so spoiled at the Glenrose.

And last but not least, I highly doubt that I will be able to assist the nurses when doing Michael’s dressing changes. After all the joking and teasing about wearing gloves, I was presented with “sterile” gloves today! Now if only I could get a pair of scrubs….

It’s been 6 weeks since the accident. Much has changed but we have much to be thankful for. I thank God everyday for Michael. I still can’t quite believe how I ended up being the mom of such terrific boys. Neil and I feel truly blessed.

Mom





Picture Update

 
  Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 26, 2006

Updates

Mike’s burns – The spots we were concerned about seen to be healing although Mike has developed a pressure sore on his heel. He has a gel pad under his foot and it is being elevated so we’re hopeful this will clear up quickly.

Mike’s appetite – Though he still feels nauseous during the day, he managed to eat yogurt, a bran muffin, chicken caesar salad, chips, some hospital food, pizza and ice cream today! (It’s obvious that we need to get out more when we start reporting food intake!)

Mike’s physio – Transferred to chair and then to mat, didn’t throw up, did range of motion on legs, didn’t throw up, transferred back to chair, didn’t throw up, worked on arms and hands, DID NOT THROW UP! I am beginning to wonder whether progress is Mike gaining strength and mobility or his ability to keep his food down.

Mike’s rehab – Still no word on the Glenrose. Hopefully this week! As much as Mike is anxious to go, he loves the laid back schedule at the hospital. He’ll miss that afternoon nap time for sure.

Mike’s hair – It keeps getting longer and longer and longer… (I wonder what Mike would look like with his head shaved???)

Mom

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Cream of the Crop

I think one of the reasons why Michael is doing so well is that he has the best physio and occupational therapists. Oh, I know there are many wonderful staff at the UofA hospital but somehow we seem to have the cream of the crop assigned to Mike. Mary (I promised I wouldn’t quote her again!), Kerstin and Helena work with Mike every week day helping him to transfer, balance and strengthen his muscles. Having seen Michael struggle to sit up 2 weeks after the accident, it is exciting to see him able to transfer himself to the wheelchair (still with help but it won’t be long before he will be able to do it alone). Certainly, his determination and hard work is paying off but it’s obvious that these ladies have a genuine fondness for Mike and want the best for him. They even put up with me every day and occasionally let me sit in the “rolling chair” if I’m not too annoying.

The same goes for Mike’s nurses. From those emotionally intense days in ICU to the now comfortable days on the ward, we have had incredible nurses. We have been encouraged, supported and tolerated (our family can be quite loopy at times) and we feel well cared for. They laugh at Mike’s jokes and put up with his teasing. The nurses generously allow me to help with Michael’s burn dressing changes knowing that it’s less about me being an assistant and much more about being able to wear the gloves! I’m sure they are all counting the days until we go to Glenrose…

Lest you think it’s all “fun and games”, there are many moments when the realities of dealing with SCI (spinal chord injury) hit hard. Imagine lying in bed, struggling to get comfortable and you can’t move your body. You feel claustrophobic and you can do nothing. Or imagine having something caught in your throat and you can’t cough more than a weak clearing of your throat. Imagine trying to sit up straight when you can’t feel your torso and your center of gravity is not where you think it should be. Try to imagine what it would be like to think about getting dressed by yourself, knowing that the task seems impossible. It’s not easy. It won’t be easy. But it’s not impossible. That much we can say with certainty!

Mom

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Highs and Lows

Today’s highs and lows:

The “high” was that Mike was actually hungry today! The idea of lasagne seemed to strike a chord and I agreed to go to the cafeteria to get him some. The “low” was that they were out and the “15–20 minute” wait turned into 50 minutes but it finally came and he ate every bit!

Another “high” was when Mike was able to take off his sock in physio. Sadly, the “low” was when he threw up! He continues to feel nauseous when moving around lots but he’s been able to keep things down (except for today) for the last number of days. We’ve tried a couple of different medications but we’ll keep trying to find something that works.

It’s a “high” to hear how much they love Michael on the unit but it was a “low” today when we found out that there will be no bed available at the Glenrose for at least a week or more. Mike is so anxious to get on with the next step of his rehab except that he does rather enjoy napping during the day, something he probably won’t get a chance to do when he moves!

It’s always a “high” when Mike finds another spot that he can “feel”. The last couple of days he’s been able to feel a spot below his ribs and also a spot behind his right knee. The “low” today was finding more spots on his grafts that are not healing. We will be so glad when his burns have completely healed.

It was a month on Saturday since the accident. The biggest “high” is knowing that Mike is still around and he’s still Mike. There are no “lows” about that!

Mom

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Mmmmm....cereal!

Mike has been doing better with physio (I think I'll try to spell it different every time) for the last couple of days. His therapist said she has felt bad working Mike so hard because he usually will go till he can't hold down his lunch. I'm actually impressed though. I'm glad he works as hard as he does because he so often talks his way out of pysio.

He has been eating more and actually ate sitting up for the first time ever. Chicken Cesar salad never tasted so good...right side up that is. Mike has also been dealing with nausea for the last number of weeks but we think we have found the solution! Yesterday he had a major craving for Fruit Loops. It took a while for Mom to find them but they did the trick. No more nausea! So if anyone knows Toucan Sam see if you can hook us up with a lifetime supply!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Mike continues to entertain the nurses, impress the staff and still has not lost the ability to push Matthew’s buttons. By saying in a whiny voice that his legs don’t work, he needs water, sympathy, etc., he somehow manages to tug at Matt’s heart strings! This won’t last long but in true Michael fashion, he will stretch it to the limit!

On the flip side, Mike continues to struggle with feeling nauseous while transferring and when doing physio. Today the physio-therapist said that this is the first time in 20 years that she has felt guilty about how hard a patient was working. (Mike threw up again during his work out.) Of course that brought a smile to Michael’s face – perhaps another button he could push….

The grafts seem to be healing nicely except for a few areas on the foot and between the toes. He will still have to keep his foot elevated until Sunday but even that should not delay his moving to Glenrose once there is a bed available.

In spite of the struggle to do even the most basic of things, Mike somehow manages to turn it into “fun”. When he was young, before he would go to bed, Neil would pray with him. Michael would ask God to give him a fun, fun, fun, fun, fun (you get the idea) day the next day. Though I don’t doubt his sincerity, it was also a delay tactic! One day, Neil’s Dad said that God sure answers Michael’s prayer because he always seems to have a “fun” day! We may not be having fun days every day but there never ceases to be fun moments.

Even on the lowest days, Michael knows how to melt my heart. One day, when Mike was still in ICU in traction, I was rubbing his arm. He told me how much he loved me. I told him that I loved him, too. He said, “No, Mom. You don’t understand. The words ‘I love you’ don’t come close to capturing how I really feel. There are no words big enough. If I knew the words, I could make a scads of money at Hallmark.”

I think I do understand what you mean, Mike. Any Mom understands when they look at their kids. I don’t think there are words “big” enough to describe how much we love our kids, all of them!

Mike and his dog Max

Monday, June 12, 2006

One Happy Birthday (from Mom)

NINETEEN YEARS OLD!

I can’t wait to read Mike all of his birthday messages! If he didn’t feel appreciated before, he most certainly will after hearing your good wishes. (At the moment, I am printing out the 18 pages of comments….)

Here are a few of the highlights from the last 2 days:
>> 95% of Mike’s grafts look good. From 90% yesterday to 95% today – his marks improved just by sleeping! (Apparently sleeping was a method he used frequently at school…so I’ve heard!)
>> They removed the 115 staples from his grafts yesterday (10 more today) which bring his grand total of staples to 167! Mike is very proud of this but then again, he was much more proud of showing off his neck scar when it had the “Frankenstein” staples!
>> Michael has had some sensations in his left foot and ankle. Though we understood that both motor and sensory nerves were damaged, he may still have some sensory nerves. If feeling in his right leg returns, we hope it is AFTER the burns heal!
>> Mike seems to be eating a bit better but still finds sitting in the chair hard on his stomach. Because he no longer feels his torso, he doesn’t seem to feel hungry. Rather, he often feels full, even when he hasn’t eaten for hours. (Thanks, Damien, for the treats you keep stocked in the fridge!)
>> Michael had a family birthday celebration on Sunday afternoon. (Thanks, Julene and Cal for all the food!). Today, the staff spoiled him with balloons and cookies. (Okay, one of the balloons was fairly deflated which Mike quickly made note of but it was the best they could do at 4:00 am! Later in the day, a new one was delivered!!)
>> I am so proud of Michael’s determination and desire to do things on his own. Mike said today how difficult it will be if he can’t type normally (his motor skills are so diminished) but then in his next breath, he simply said he’ll have to find a new way of doing things. We keep saying that it is all just a new “normal”. This year will be spent discovering all of those new things which will now be our “normal”! We have much to learn…

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Mom's Update

Today was a relaxing day (although the hockey game was tense!). Though we had assumed that the plastic surgeon had only grafted Michael’s heel, it turns out he grafted all the areas that were burned. They took a huge “slice” from Mike’s thigh and grafted his shin, 40% of his foot and even between some of his toes! Most of the grafts are healing nicely but they are watching the 10% that is still “ify”.

Mike continues to feel nauseous while sitting up in the chair but we’re hoping this is a temporary thing. Because Mike rarely feels hungry, it is often a chore to get him to eat and it doesn’t help when he feels sick while sitting in the chair. He has lost a fair bit of weight so as any good mother, I nag him often about eating! Sadly, I think I’m doing a lot of sympathy eating right now. Not sure if that will help him put on the pounds or not!

It’s hard to believe Mike will be 19 on Monday! In spite of the fact that he will have many challenges ahead this year, I know he will come out on top.

Matt: On a side note, I know many people might like to wish Mike a Happy Birthday, but it is difficult for Mike to have a lot of visitors. It takes a lot out of him, and there is also limits with people coming in Mike's room. A card or comment on this blog is a great way to say Hi to Mike, and thank you to everyone who has done this so far. The encouragement has been phenomonal and we will let you know when Mike will be more able to receive lots of vistors. Thank you all for your prayers and support. God is doing some amazing things through and in Mike's life.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Another One from Mom

Michael continues to show amazing courage and determination. Though he missed a few days of physio because of the skin grafts, he’s been back at it for the last couple of days. He continues to practise transferring from bed to wheel chair and he’s also been working on strengthening his arms. On Friday, “plastics” will look at his skin grafts and if all is well, as soon as there is a bed available at the Glenrose, he will be transferred. Not a day has gone by that the hospital staff hasn’t commented on Mike’s positive attitude and sense of humour. Not that he hasn’t had down times, even tears, but his ability to bounce back is inspiring. In spite of the fact that he hasn’t washed his hair in 5 days (we attempted the “no wash shower cap” today!), he still has the “coolness” factor!

It was wonderful to have Lori (Steve’s wife) and her Mom, BJ, with us for a few days. Lori was visiting her family in Oregon and made the 18 hour drive to come see Mike and spend a few days with us before flying back to Detroit.. It was a wonderful gift! Not only did Neil, Matt and I have a full breakfast served to us every morning, we took a hearty lunch each day and enjoyed a hot, home-cooked meal brought to us every night at the hospital. Magically, our laundry was done and the house stayed cleaned! Mike and Lori got to spend some time together although Mike did managed to doze off quit a few times just as Lori arrived. Truly we are blessed to have such a treasure as Lori and her family in our lives.

We can’t begin to thank all the people who have shown their love in such tangible ways. From mowing our lawn (thank you, neighbours!) to bringing us food, treats and gifts, we feel overwhelmed with gratitude. People have asked us what they can do to help and I don’t even know what to say! Does anyone else in the world have such a great family, wonderful friends and gracious neighbours? I doubt it!

I think the last few days have been the lowest emotionally for our family but Mike’s spirit is what keeps us going. Thank you for your prayers, your support and your kind words. We appreciate your encouraging comments on this blog – each one is precious! Earlier in this process when there were only 700 “hits,” Mike said, “I don’t even know 700 people.” Well, more than 700 people now know Mike and I hope are touched by his strong character and his love of life! On to the next day….

Monday, June 05, 2006

Last Surgery...

Mike completed, what we hope to be, his last surgery. Skin was taken from his thigh on his right leg and moved do to cover his burns in his heel. The doctors said everything looks good and it should be about a week to 10 days for the skin to take and to heal. He was up having lunch when I got the news so it sounds like he is doing pretty good.

PS. His voice is sounding a lot better as well!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

3rd Degree Burns

Just a quick note. Mike is doing well with his work outs. The nights are still pretty painful though. His skin grafting (for the 3rd degree burn on his heel) is scheduled for monday, so keep him in your prayers. Once the skin grafts are healed he will be on the waiting list for Glen Rose Hospital to start his rehab.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Day by Day

Another day, and a step closer to recovery. Mike is working very hard at his own recovery. He has been working to absolute exhaustion during his physio, but the therapist have been very impressed with his abilities and his strength. He has said that it is difficult to learn to use new muscles to do what the rest of his body used to be able to do (like balance him as he sits...he now has to learn to only use his arms to keep him from tipping over). So please pray for his strength. This is all very tiring for him and difficult some days to look forward to.

While I was on the phone with him last night (he has transferred to a different ward and now has a phone) his voice was pretty scratchy. This is for two reasons: one being that he had a tube shoved down his throat during surgery that has scratched him up inside; two is because during his surgery they entered through the front of his neck, meaning they had to move his throat aside to get in. It is taking longer than we expected for his voice to return to normal. So please pray that that would return.

Mike has also had some change in his hearing. He had a base skull fracture from the accident which had caused some bleeding in his head. Most of that blood drained out of his right hear and mixed with the wax caused some major blockage. Last night something popped! He said it was pretty weird, but he had his hearing back (which had been completely lost in the last two weeks).

So there are lots of items to be praying about...and we will continue to take this a day at a time.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Thank You

Thank you to everyone who has been checking this blog. There has been an average of 530 individuals per day checking the blog; with peaks as high 950! While not everyone chooses to leave a comment the fact that you care enough to check everyday (and for some of you more than once) means a great deal to us. We feel your prayers and feel completely loved. You all are important to us...even those who we have not yet met. Thank you for walking with us through this. You are appreciated.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mellow and Jello

Mike has had his share of ups and downs in the last couple days, and today felt like more of the same. He is in a different bed, one with a window that looks into the side of another building, and still in the same ward. While Mike is scheduled to move out of the ICU as soon as there is a bed available, he is receiving good care right now and is in no rush to leave the ICU. We also heard from another family going through a similar situation that the care in the other ward is not very good because the nurses are overworked. Mike is also on a waiting list for the Glenrose, but there is some concern that his burns have not healed enough for him to leave the UofA hospital. This may not be a factor as there is no room in the Glenrose right now, but pray that his burns would heal fast and that they would not keep him from moving to the Glenrose.

Mike was doing some physiotherapy today. They helped him exercise his legs and arms and were helped him as he began learning how to support himself as he does not have control of the muscles in his torso. They are pleased with what he can do now and are optomistic about the strength that Mike will be able to regain. It's still hard for MIke though as he tries to grasp his limitations. In the midst of these struggles, Mike's humour still shines through. Mom and him were laughing, to the point of tears, over JELLO. I wasn't there, and I really don't understand it either, but it is good to hear about moments of hysterical laughter. We all need those.

Rollercoaster

Mike has been on a rollercoaster for the last couple of days. He is healing well which is an answer to prayer. He has also started to do some physical therapy. This has been really hard psychologically. He is beginning to deal with the reality of his lack of function. This has made for some tearful days. Up until now he has not really had to think about his trunk and legs not working but as he is recovering he can now see and touch them. I can't imagine what is going on in his head.

Please continue to pray for Mike:
  1. Hard moments he will face as he thinks about his reality and his future.
  2. He gets into rehab as fast as he can, as the care in the next ward he will be in is overworked. (4-6 patients per nurse)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

(Painful) Progress

Just a quick update of Mike's day:

Mike's fever seems to be under control and the doctor's don't think his burns are showing any signs of infection. They will still watch closely, but have reassured us that Mike's temp now is normal for him.

He was sitting up in the afternoon today and got to go out and see some of the people that aren't allowed in the ICU. It was good for him, but at times it can also be draining. The doctors really want him to start sitting up more and getting used to that again. He does not need to wear the neck brace at all times now because there is no fear of him re-injuring his spinal cord. His neck is very sore and most neck movement results in pain, but he does need to exercise and stretch those muscles. Pray that he can do this with less pain than he was feeling today.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

From Mom

I always knew I had much to be proud of in my three boys but the past week has proven that they are beyond what even I could have imagined. To see their strength of character, their solid faith and their unwavering love for each other humbles me and I feel privileged to be their mom.

The difficult things about today:
->Mike had a fever and was not feeling well. They were able to bring his temperature down but doctors looked at possible sources of infection.
->Doctors are still concerned about his burns. They are changing the dressings twice a day and watching them carefully.
->I ache inside when Mike seems discouraged. With all he has gone through, having a set back, even a minor one, it can be heart wrenching.

The good things about today:
->Mike had a tremendous, deep sleep this afternoon. (Things always seem better after a good sleep!)
->He ate well today and swallowing is getting easier.
->They had Mike sitting in a chair for a couple of hours this evening.
->He still has the most gorgeous, melt-your-heart smile.

Thank you so much for your comments on this site. The words of encouragement and love surround us daily. Michael is overwhelmed by your support! Thank you also for all the cards, gifts and food. They are like little treasures when the day seems dark and your love cushions us when we feel like falling. It is wonderful to have such great family and friends. Thank you.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Burns.... and a Friday Update

We haven't talked much about Mike's burns as they have kind of flown under the radar. While he was trapped in the truck he had anti-freeze dripping on his leg and pooling in his shoe. That has left him with burns on his leg and foot; the worst being on his heel (3rd degree). They have not been concerned up to this point but decided to open the blisters this week. Most of the burns seem to be healing well except for the heel. Please keep this in your prayers as we would rather not have to go down the skin-graft road.

***Update*** (from Matt)

I know how much people seem to check this blog looking for updates, so I will do my best to appease the masses. I had to chuckle at the pun on "heel" in your post Steve. Sorry if I seem too happy, but I had a great night with Mike. We got to watch Lost and I had a great time listening to him talk while he slept. The Codeine gives him really vivid dreams that he usually acts out. Luckily for him, they seem to be quite harmless endeavors. For instance, while he was sleeping, he lifted up his right arm and reached across the bed. While he did this, he talked about how he needed to "pass" something. He then moved his arm back and promptly woke up with a smile. When we asked him what he was doing he replied that he was taking a cigar from Dad and passing it to a girl who was complaining about him getting ashes on her bed. I realize that makes no sense at all, and so does Mike, but you can't help but laugh at the absurdity of his dreams. I've listened to Mike get shutdown by a girl he was trying to pick up, try to sell the game MindBender door to door, and explain that "Stook was not a video game, it's a card game." He sure gets around in his dreams. I figure that it is important to share the fun times along with the not-so-good ones.

So that brings me to the not-so-good. Mike didn't feel great today. He did eat lots, but he was really tired out and in pain today. It didn't help that he started to run a temperature later in the day. By the time I left tonight his temperature was back to normal levels though. Recovering from surgery isn't going to be a piece of cake for Mike. These last couple days have been really tiring for him so pray that he gets a great sleep tonight and during the nights following.

And to update on the burns:

After talking to the plastic surgeons, it seems like Mike probably won't need skin grafts. They don't want to create another area that needs to heal by doing the skin graft. A skin graft does not look any better than a normal scar, it just provides the skin cells to an area where there were none to grow. Mike does have enough healthy skin around the burns to fully heal without skin grafts. Mike's burns (mostly his heel) won't fully heal for 4-6 weeks. Until they heal, this requires the nurses to change his dressings every day. Normally, this would be painful and not being able to walk on your foot for that long would be hard. But Mike's condition makes that news somewhat bittersweet. I would rather Mike be walking, but the lack of more pain is still a positive.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

My Rant

I understand that God has purpose, but could it have been fullfilled any other way? Why does it have to happen to Mike? Why does such a loving God heal so many people in scripture, as well as today, and still not improve Mike's situation in any way? In fact he lets it get worse. Don't get me wrong, I still trust that God is above all and that he knows better, but I still don't agree.

------------------------------------

God, if you wanted the glory couldn't we think of another way? If you wanted him to learn something or for me to trust you more, couldn't we have come up with something that didn't involve so much being taken away from Mike? I know that to you the heart is more important than any physical body but that is so hard to understand when it is Mike we are talking about.

-------------------------------------

Is there a chance though, that God didn't choose for this to happen? Maybe this is nothing more than a fallen world where bad stuff happens. There doesn't seem like there could be anything that could happen in Mike's future that would make any of the pain "worth it". So maybe it didn't happen on purpose. Maybe it just happen because bad stuff happens. God doesn't stop every bad thing from happening but in the midst of it all he still loves us and stands next to us.

I trust God with all my heart. I know he hasn't left Mike or me or my family but I can't agree with how everything currently stands. It isn't fair; Mike doesn't deserve it. But when it comes down to it, that is an issue between God and I. The only real way to get over that is to take it up with Him. No one else can really answer my questions or my frustration.

Post Op

Mike just got out of surgery although we haven't talked to him yet. Everything seems OK and hopefully we will be able to talk to the doctors and Mike soon (it sounded like it would be about 30-40 mins). There is not much to update with at this point, but everything looks like it went as planned.

***Update***

OK. We've seen MIke and he is doing very good considering he just had surgery on his neck. They did not have to keep Mike intabated (assisted breathing with a tube) so that is an answer to prayer. Mike is talking and can have ice chips at this point, but no food or water until the anasthetic wears off. He has no pain in his neck right now because he is no longer in traction. That may change as some of the drugs wear off from surgery, but right now Mike is doind great pain wise. He is in a collar that does keep his jaw fairly shut, but he can still talk. He is on a 30 degree incline right now and they will be taking an x-ray to make sure nothing has shifted. They will continue to angle him up and take x-rays for the next couple days. Then hopefully Mike will be able to sit up and see everyone. Everything went very well, thank you all for your prayers.

I will try to update this again tonight if we get a chance to talk to the doctors and get any more information.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Surgery Tomorrow

Tomorrow's the day. Mike is going in for neck surgery at 7:20 (9:20 Eastern) tomorrow (Thursday) morning. The doctor's have reassured us that this surgery is not incredibly invasive, but they are reconstructing the bones in his neck. He should be out of surgery some time around Noon and hopefully we will be able to update people soon after this. This should be great for Mike as it will remove him from traction and allow him to sit up. Even allowing him to sit up will help his ability to eat, drink, and it should really help his morale. The stability in his neck that this surgery will provide should allow Mike to more freely move his arms and neck without fear of re-injury. To clarify: This surgery should not affect his nerves or provide any more feeling to his body, it is being done to stabilize his neck. As well, the doctors have told us that there is nothing they can do, by surgery or other means, to repair the damage done to his spinal cord. That ball is in God's court now.

Please pray that the doctor's will have wisdom and do an amazing job tomorrow with the surgery. Also, pray that Mike has a speedy recovery and that he does not have to be on a respirator for very long after the surgery. This is going to be a big day for Mike and a big step on the road to recovery.

Mike: The Early Years

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Hands

Please pray! Mike had a bad night last night and lost feeling in his hands. They are unsure if this is due to swelling or if it is permanent damage. Please pray that this is not permanent as Mike already has so little and doesn't need to loose more. The doctors are doing xrays to find out more.

Please Lord, let him keep his hands.

***Update***

We talked to the doctor today about Mike's new loss of feeling. Mike has reduced function in his hands and some loss of sensation in his upper chest. His hand movement is slow compared to what it used to be and he has lost much of his strength in his hands. After the x-rays, the doctor's told us that there is no new damage to the spinal cord and the reduced function is probably due to swelling. This makes them hopefull that what Mike lost today he will regain some time in the future. However, the doctor's did not seem to have a great idea of what actually happened to make Mike loose this sensation. Because there was no movement of the bones and no new damage, the surgury will almost certainly happen on Thursday.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Sodium? Who needs it!

Mike was doing well today. There was a little scare with some of the nurses last night. Apparently they were worried about Mike's Sodium levels (and the complications of low sodium). They wouldn't let Mike have much for water or ice after that which was hard for him, but the doctor this morning said that everything is fine with his levels and he can have as much water or fluids or any other food as he wants. It's too bad his doctor isn't there 24/7! His skin has dried out some, and this has made him rather itchy, but I think the Vasiline that my Mom covered him in should help. Aparently it does the best job of holding the moisture in, and that's exactly what we need.

They are still trying to manage his pain; his mood cycles along with his pain medication. Hopefully tomorrow will be much better for pain. Mike was eating more food today. It is good to see him improving each day. I don't think it was mentioned previously in this blog, but Mike did sustain some burns to his leg from anti-freeze. While they look serious, the doctor's say that most, if not all of them, will heal and not require skin grafts. Mike can't feel any of them, and right now, it is a blessing.

It is amazing to hear and read the stories connecting Mike to others (keep 'em coming!). Thank you all for being a part of Mike's life.

I like posting pictures of Mike for those who don't know him personally. But, they can't all be smiles for you to get the whole picture of who Mike is...