Paul took his first official outing from Pate on Sunday and it went great. My sister, Mary, Willie Baronet, Pete Lacker, and I all accompanied Paul to a Mexican food restaurant in "downtown" Anna. We were able to go as Paul now has daily two-hour passes that allow him to leave the Pate compound. I was a little nervous because I wasn't sure how Paul would react (prior to this we had driven around and gone to Sonic but never actually taken him out of the car). He is getting stronger every day so transferring him from the wheelchair to the car was very easy. I think he was a little nervous but we got to the restaurant early so we were the only customers, the service was quick, and the food was good. He was in a great mood and laughing as we talked. I think he was sad to have to go back to Pate but, eventually, the passes will be for longer and, when he is ready, we can bring him home for visits. I hesitate to do that now because I think going back to rehab would be really hard for him. In time, I expect that he'll have a better understanding of why it is important that he stays there and continues to work hard.
Although his ability to speak is slow in coming, Paul has gotten better about spelling out words on a laminated letter board and by writing on a dry erase board, both of which we keep with us at all times. He doesn't always spell correctly but so far has communicated with the board both by spelling out one word or whole sentences. On Thursday, Beth was visiting with him, they were sitting outside, and he spelled out "jacket" to let her know that he was cold. On Friday, he spelled out, "How long will you be..." and before he could finish, I guessed the last word was "staying." I was so happy (for both of us) that he was able to communicate because I can't imagine how trapped and scared he must feel. In fact, he has spelled out "fear" when we've asked how he is feeling. He still is sad a lot though he also, more and more, gets that determined look on his face, makes a fist, and seems ready to take on the world. In addition to walking in his daily physical therapy sessions, the staff at the house helps him practice walking every night. This seems to ease his agitation, calm him down, and boost his confidence. Each time, after he walks, he insists on giving everyone involved a big hug and seems very proud.
We also constantly give Paul pep talks to keep him focused on what he can do and on what he will do, instead of what he can't do. Please keep praying for him and thank you all for your support.