Sunday, August 22, 2010

What Paul Did This Summer

Paul's therapy has continued throughout the summer with walking on both the treadmill and with his Rifton Pacer Gait Trainer; speech three times a week, physical therapy, and now even a personal trainer to help work on his strength and balance. In addition to walking in therapy, he walks several times a week with the walker on an indoor track. Some days Paul does great, and other days are really hard but he never gives up and never wants to stop until it is the point where I have to encourage him to rest or, I am afraid, he will pass out. Our real challenge now is finding a facility that has a treadmill with a harness (which helps him balance) that he can use as much as possible. I feel like this is a key to his walking; that he walk as much as possible as often as possible. If anyone has any information on a place that has this type of equipment and would be open to Paul walking there, please let me know.

We also tried to incorporate some leisure activities into the mix to keep things interesting for all of us but mostly because everything that Paul does new and different is going to "work out" his brain and help him heal. Through the RISE Adventures program (the non-profit that offers golf), we were able to enjoy a couple of picnics at Grapevine Lake that included some water sports.

As soon as we got to the first picnic, the volunteers were quick to get Paul in the water and on a waterski tube. He said it was fun but didn't push to do it again when the opportunity arose. (I don't think he is a lake person. I know that I am not.)

Buzz, on the other hand, had a ball. He also rode on the waterski tube, swam in the water, and kayaked. The above photo is on the sailboat. Paul and I were there too, although getting Paul in and out of the boat was quite a challenge and almost comical at times. I was too busy holding on and worrying the boat would overturn to take more photos. Again, not a lake person. The good things about the lake excursions are that Buzz had a great time and it was something that we could do as a family and laugh and talk about afterward.

We also spent an afternoon at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History where we saw an interesting exhibit on Leonardo da Vinci.

Paul practiced some golf this summer (although the heat kept us from going as much as Paul would have liked), went swimming quite a bit, and worked on a little bit of design on the computer. He also is really into working the daily crossword puzzle.

As his physical therapist keeps saying, "His brain is only going to learn things through repetition, repetition, repetition." So, the key is discipline and focus right now. I have to keep Paul from getting sidetracked. Back in the old days, I was the one who was easily sidetracked so it is my turn to keep Paul in line and working on those things that will help him as he continues his road to recovery, which is a very, very long road but there is a destination and each day he gets closer to it.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jordan 63, Jerde 62!

Remember when Michael Jordan scored 63 against Bird and the Celtics? This past Saturday Paul Jerde scored a record 62 baskets in one stretch of shooting. Without resting or taking a break, Paul broke his own record of 56 (which he made taking some breaks in between). Several times he made at least 5 in a row, and at one point he made 9 in a row, till someone (who shall remain nameless) jinxed him by mentioning the streak. Paul's balance was also much better this last week, and was almost standing on his own for a few shots. Great job Pablo!!

Air Jerde, anyone?? :-)


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I can't believe it is April already. Things have moved pretty fast in the past few months. Paul left Baylor in February and no longer is in an all-day neuro program. However, he does have therapy every day and continues to work very hard on his recovery.

Since leaving Baylor, he began working with Karen McCain, a physical therapist at UT Southwestern. She is a big believer in using a body-weight supported treadmill to regain walking and that repetition is the key. The treadmill Paul is using has an overhead harness system that provides partial body-weight support, which gives Karen the freedom to help guide his feet to ensure that he is walking correctly. Prior to this, Paul was practicing walking with a quad cane and assistance from a therapist, which I believe only made him overcompensate in ways that weren't beneficial to him and never really triggered his brain to figure out what it needed to be doing in order for him to walk without assistance.

One thing that I have learned since Paul's accident, as I am sure anyone has that has dealt with a serious health issue, is that medicine is an art as much as a science. And, that brain injuries are like snowflakes and each one is different. There are so many solutions and routes for us take and we have to constantly research our options, look at other cases, and read the latest news on traumatic brain injuries and to always be monitoring whether what he is doing is working for him. It is much like networking when your are looking for a job. You just keep your eyes open and talk to everyone that you can. (Not that I was ever great at networking. That was always Paul's forte but I am learning and much more passionate about Paul's recovery than I have ever been about working.) I am, however, a big believer in the power of forward momentum so as long as Paul is showing any improvement at all, no matter how small, we will keep moving forward, even when it takes us to a few deadends, we always seem to learn something new.

In fact, we came about working with Karen McCain because a friend of Paul's sent a YouTube video of another brain injury patient working with her and, in the video, she was talking about the very same walking techniques that Lisa Ann (our other PT therapist) had been pushing and that I have read about a lot but we didn't have access to the equipment. I contacted Karen after watching the video and she was great, talked with me about Paul for quite some time, and now is doing everything she can to help Paul walk again.

In addition to Paul's physical therapy, he is involved in a speech program through the University of Texas Dallas called the Callier Center. Three times a week, he participates in group therapy and also has one-on-one therapy with speech therapy students who are working toward their masters and certification. It has been a good social outlet for Paul and, his speech also continues to improve little by little. He isn't speaking in full sentences but has gotten much better at getting out one or two words that help him communicate without always having to rely on the Dynavox. This has been a great because he can interact more with Buzz, even if he is simply telling Buzz to "move back" when Buzz is too close to the TV. It is the small milestones that make me grateful these days.

Paul also is back on the golf course, sort of. Each Saturday, there is a clinic, through an organization called RISE Adventures, at Dallas Golf Center off Walnut Hill and 35. It is very secluded and off the beaten path. The first day that we went, I felt sure that we would either find the golf course or were being set up to be killed. Fortunately, we found the golf course and Paul has been working with a golf pro, Gary Pickle. Right now, he primarilly is on the driving range sometimes just hitting while he is sitting in the wheelchair but sometimes standing with assistance. Gary makes custom golf equipment for people who have physical challenges and has made a club, with a special grip, that Paul can use just using his left hand (as he still cannot use his right hand). Gary also has a special golf cart that Paul can drive right onto the course and turn the seat and putt or hit while still sitting. Of course, it is not the ideal situation and the goal is for Paul to get his game back as close to normal as it was but we have to take it slowly and, again, figure out the best way to get there. It is still nice to see him back on the driving range, especially when he is alongside Buzz, who, I have to say, has a pretty good swing for a 7-year-old.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Back at Baylor - But Not For Long

Paul is back at Baylor Rehab where he was about six weeks after his accident. He had been at Pate for more than a year and we decided a change of venue and environment would be a good thing for Paul at this time. (In addition, the decision had to do with insurance and some assistance we are receiving from DARS, the Texas Dept. of Rehabilitative Services, which is a godsend for people who have received brain injuries and, from what I hear, is unique to Texas).

Leaving Pate wasn't easy for Paul but it was ulimately his decision and he knew it would be a good thing for him. He had become very close with many of the therapists and members of the staff (pictured in the above photo) and felt comfortable, although sometimes bored, being there everyday for so many months. His last day there
was Dec. 23 and, as his family was in town for Christmas, the transition turned out to be fairly easy. He started at Baylor on Dec. 28 and it was quickly apparent that Paul thrives when he faces new challenges and wants to impress new people (some things never change). That said, he will only be at Baylor Rehab full-time for a short time, through February maybe. So, right now, we are looking into some options as to what Paul can benefit from next. Most likely, he will continue with physical and occupational therapy sessions there a few times a week and we'll get additiona therapy for him elsewhere.

In addition to basketball, Paul has been playing table tennis. We upgraded from ping pong when Paul began weekly visits to the Dallas Fort Worth Table Tennis Association's practices so he can use their Robo-Pong. It's kind of like going to the batting cages. The machine just shoots out balls for Paul to hit, holding the paddle in his right hand. The group has been wonderful in working with Paul to try to help him as much as possible. They even took photos of him and featured him on their Web site with a story about him. Pete Lacker came with us to one session and took above photo of Paul hitting the ball while standing, with some assistance. For us, going to table tennis has been a family affair. While Paul practices, Buzz takes a lesson, and I get some exercise by running around picking up all the runaway balls. It actually is quite an experience and, for anyone that likes playing the game, I recommend you come one evening as there are probably 9 or 10 tables set up with people at all skill levels challenging one another for play.

Paul currently cannot walk on his own, although we still see improvements and recently came across a new type of walker that, hopefully, will help him regain that very, very important function. We are looking into purchasing the equipment for him as soon as possible and working with new therapist who has seen positive results with other patients. Although the baclofen pump has helped somewhat with his spasticity and tone, he still fights his muscles contracting and tightening when he exerts himself (walking, standing). Paul is at a high dose of baclofen right now and the doctor increased it last Friday, which ended up being too much for Paul. Throughout the weekend, he was confused, emotional, had trouble verbalizing at all, and was very weak when it came to walking and standing. Monday morning, we were back at the doctor's so that he could decrease the dose in the pump back to what it had been the previous Friday. It has really taken all week for Paul to get that extra medicine out of his system and now seems to be back where he was. Sigh of relief. That experience served as a reminder to how far Paul has come.

In addition, Paul's talking continues to improve too, although still very slowly. It is always baby steps but if he continues stepping, eventually he will get to where he wants to go. He also is getting better at using the Dynavox to spell out what he can't say so, overall, he is communicating better and better each day.

Paul has improved so much cognitively and is becoming more interested in doing the things that he did pre-accident. As you can see from Willie's post below, he has been going to the basketball court and practicing his shooting. He also has been reading more, something that took a long time for him to get back into. The first full book he read was Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," which is kind of a downer as it is about the apocalypse but what he chose to read. I probably would have picked something a little bit more uplifting but to each his own. Other activities he does more and more are painting (he and Buzz have their canvases side-by-side on the wall); working a little bit designing on the computer, listening to music, watching "The Office" (Willie lent us seasons 1-4 so we went on a binge a couple of weeks ago), and playing table tennis. He also still has his sense of humor.

As I said, I am excited about the prospect of this new walker for Paul so I will keep everyone posted on that and as to what Paul's next steps (both literally and figuratively) are after he leaves Baylor. It will be a change for us as Paul has spent the last 19 months in rehab full time but there are many opportunities out there for him to continue working and healing so I am optimistic about what the future holds.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

He shoots, he scores! :-)

Happy new year!

For the past several months Paul has been going to visit his old basketball gang on Saturday mornings. Although he's still not able to stand on his own, he is able to stand with support and use his left arm to shoot baskets. The first time he went back he shot over a hundred shots and made one. The next week he made two, then four, then eleven. This past Saturday he made 38, and his best week ever was 44! The guys have been giving him lots of encouragement, which of course includes some good natured ribbing. Paul claims next week he'll make 50. :-)

Paul consistently inspires me. Onward and upward!