Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Update #121 on Kevin

I was planning on writing an update that told you it felt like we were moving into the next level of recovery for Kevin. Then something happened this afternoon that cemented this into our hearts and bolstered our faith.

Last Friday, we took Kevin to St. John’s outpatient rehab for some evaluations. We were requesting evaluations for physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT) and speech therapy. We had appointments for the PT and OT evals and a doctor’s order for the speech evaluation. We didn’t know what to expect. We have been blessed to have some pretty good therapists for Kevin so far, and you never know if you might get a bad egg! Also, we have yet to have a speech therapist get excited about working with Kevin. Most therapists don’t have the experience with someone in Kevin’s condition, their experience usually comes from stroke victims or something similar.

Friday we went in with the hope of getting into regular therapy again (remember our in home therapists discharged Kevin a month or so ago), but the main thing we were there for was the evaluation. We wanted an outside look to see if he was ready for the next level, as well as determine if he needs any preventative splints. The team we ended up with was nothing short of amazing. Great optimistic, hopefully spirits and genuinely excited to work with Kevin. PT & OT were both great (one of them even worked in two brain rehabilitation centers), and the Speech therapist seemed not only knowledgeable, but full of ideas to work with Kevin. They want to see Kevin three times per week, three hours each visit, starting in May. Until then we have a few office visits in April (each Wednesday) and today marked the first.

Kevin remained alert the entire time we were at the rehab center. They saw Kevin trying to follow their commands and being successful some of those times. When we left, Angie and I drove Kevin downtown and took him on a field trip to see the new Driller’s Baseball Stadium, OneOK field. We parked and took him over to the fence to see the new field and the Drillers warming up for that night’s second game in the stadium so far. After that, we went over to the Coney Island, a downtown Tulsa institution and a favorite in our family. We got Coneys to go and let Kevin smell them, providing some brain stimulation.

After leaving the rehab center on Friday, we were excited, optimistic and recharged about Kevin’s recovery. However, we tempered it with the fact that was our first impression and we didn’t know how the actual therapy sessions would go. Today, was the first session. Kevin, while worn out towards the end, stayed alert the entire time we were there. They lifted Kevin out of his chair and placed him on a large bed/table where they could try different things. They noticed him holding up his head. They felt him squeezing their hand when they asked him. They saw him moving his eyes to look at them in response to them asking him to look at them. Then after his eyes made the journey, his head would follow. He did all these things much more consistently then he was doing them a month ago. His muscles got a workout when they had him sit on the edge of the bed/table, his feet off the side on the floor, with limited support. They did the same things we have been doing, providing some support, leaning him from side to side for weight shifting, but they added something to the mix. They were leaning him forward and back, like he was rowing a boat. At one point, the therapist supporting his back, said I am just giving him a little support to his head, I’m not even supporting his back right now, he’s doing that!

After PT and OT did their thing, it was the Speech therapists turn. They put a one-way valve on Kevin to start. If you’ll remember from our days at Meadowbrook, the respiratory therapists used to put this on to listen for sounds and determine if he could tolerate wearing it. It allows air to be breathed in, but he has to breathe out through his nose and mouth. This allows air to travel through his throat creating sounds. The Speech therapist was great. She did several things, such as trying to get Kevin to open an close his mouth. She asked him a few times to squeeze her hand, to which he did a couple times in response. Then she used a lemon flavored swab to see if he would have a reaction to the sour flavor. He did. He didn’t like it too much, moving his head away and making a face. Then came the really cool part. She was trying to get Kevin to make some sounds. She tried several times to get him to say something, to her, to Angie and to me. Nothing. Then she tried again and asked him to make an “ahhh” sound. She encouraged him to open his mouth by touching his bottom lip and to our great surprise he let out a soft “ahhhhhhh”. We were blown away. She asked him again and Kevin responded a second time with “ahhhhhh” softly. The PT that was working with Kevin before was about twenty feet away and working with another patient. She heard Kevin and our response and she told the Speech therapist that she wants to start videoing these sessions with Kevin. I had been taking pictures and decided to turn on the video recording mode of the camera. If he did it again, I would be ready. She proceeded to ask Kevin two more times to make a sound, this time saying she didn’t care if he groaned, said “ahhh” or whatever. Kevin was getting worn out, but he responded both those times too, although it started to be quieter and softer than the first two times. We left the center rejoicing and looking forward to the next time. On the way out, a mother introduced herself to us. We had heard of her and her son. Four years ago, her son had been in a car accident leaving him with brain injuries and in a coma state. The medical community didn’t leave their family with much hope. Their son didn’t making any vocal sounds for several months. And now, he is walking and talking and dressing himself. He is still in rehab, continuing to learn how to walk without a cane and maybe more, but he doesn’t have any memory loss and has come so far. She credits God with how far her son has come. Her message to us….don’t give up! Don’t give up. There will be days and times of discouragement, but don’t give up. There will be moments when no one else understands what you are going through, but don’t give up.

So, refreshed, recharged and optimistic we go to bed tonight. Thankful for how far Kevin has come so far and excited to see what God will do through him as we go on this journey. Thanks for reading and caring. It means so much to our family.

Matt, Angie and family
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