Groundhog Day (7 Month Update)

February 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Our Recovery Journal

Most people see Groundhog day as a 50/50 proposition.  There are only two possible outcomes.  At first glance, one would think there is a 50% chance that the Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow and a 50% chance that he won’t.  However, history shows that this is not the case.  One of the outcomes is much more common than the other.

Today’s A.P. story on the country’s most famous groundhog states that he has seen his shadow 98 times and has failed to see it 16 times since the event began in the 1800’s.  Instead of 50/50, the groundhog has declared an end to winter less than once every five years.

Knowing what to expect certainly makes it easier to plan for the future.  When facing long odds, there is little expectation.  There is only hope.  Seven months ago, hope was all we had.  Life hung by such a thin thread that it was impossible to guess how things might turn out.

Our odds were much longer than those of the groundhog ending winter.  There is no exact number when the medical situation is as complicated as Jess’.  The chance she might come out of the coma might be estimated at 1 in 50.  The chance she recovers enough to move home may be 1 in 500.  The chance she recovers to the point that she can hold a can and walk around the house… perhaps 1 in 5,000.

The past seven months have included both progress and setbacks.  During this time, I hoped that there would come a day where we felt comfortable with our current status.  A day where we were secure in our final outcome.  I would have guessed that by now the major details would have worked themselves out.    I figured that by this time in Jessica’s recovery we would have a concrete idea of what our permanent lifestyle might be like.

 

Expectation Meets Hope

It is human nature to expect your loved one to do better than the average.  Statistics are one thing, but statistics deal with averages.  When dealing with your own personal health scare, there is no such thing as average.  Average means removing yourself from the situation and letting the chips fall where they may.  Many people allow that to happen to their loved one… but would you???  I certainly wouldn’t.

Our perception for Jessica’s recovery was positive from day #1.  It was vastly different than a realistic expectation for the recovery.  If the chips had been alone we wouldn’t have spent all that time and effort scheduling visitors.  We wouldn’t have worked her out as hard or made as many attempts to trigger memories.  Subscribing to a realistic expectation of recovery would have been subscribing to failure.  It would have meant giving in to life as it was… not striving for a life worth living.

Jess responded to all that love exactly as we hoped.  The reality of her progress has been close to what we hoped for and far from what the experts had guessed.  They had told us to expect nothing.  They looked at the world as it was and neglected to see what it could become.  We hoped for the sun.  While we may not get all the way there, at least we ended up with the moon.  Life remains a struggle, but it is now a struggle that we own… and ownership of one’s own life means a lot.

 

Jessica’s Ascent to Outpatient Therapy

Upon discharge from a rehab facility, the first step is moving home and having therapists come to the house to work out the patient.  Eventually, improving the ability to travel in the car allows the patient to get to the second and more rigorous rehab step:  outpatient therapy.

Jessica has worked out in home care therapy for the past 2+ months.  She has strengthened to the point that she is ready to make the move to outpatient therapy.  When comparing the two, outpatient therapy is generally considered to be a better option.  The patient does not have the distractions of the home and the therapist has more equipment to work with.

Outpatient therapy also represents a patient who is able to travel.  It represents someone who can walk down stairs, walk into a therapy center, and demonstrate significant control over their bodily functions.  Outpatient therapy is more than a choice… it is an accomplishment.  Despite our excitement, pursuing this change was a tough decision.  Jess was lucky enough to have excellent homecare therapists… so much so that we are nervous that outpatient therapy might not be as productive as homecare has been.

Jessica is now able to walk around the house without a spotter giving her any direct help.  She can stand up from some of our chairs, but still does need assistance with a lot of her daily activities.  The most exciting development is the progress of her right arm.  She has learned to use a spoon, flip on a light, and turn a doorknob with the right hand.  Her left hand manages the cane, so use of the right hand is essential for continued recovery.

Her leg continues to gain feeling, but to this point the increased feeling is mainly a negative.  More feeling equals more pain.  More pain leads to decreased motivation and excuses.  These lead to conversations and arguments that increase our stress and make life a little harder.  We are hopeful that increased

 

The Limitations of Basic Therapy Activities

One of the problems with the therapy activities she is doing is the lack of accomplishment.  It would be great if Jess could work her muscles by loading the dishwasher or bending to pick items off the floor.  She would gain a sense of accomplishment from activities that help her family.  She would be able to carve out her niche in household management.

Unfortunately, Jessica simply cannot perform many activities she might perceive as helpful.  Her main movements include walking around the house, balancing exercises, and alternating between sitting and standing.  Other activities include reaching, grabbing, and extending her arm and hand.  We all see improvements in function, but there is little improvement in psyche.  She just hasn’t developed enough movement to cook, clean, and pick up the house for her family.

Jess is sick of doing activities she perceives as meaningless.  I do my best to encourage and support her, but it is difficult for her to listen to me as well as she listens to her therapists.  After all, who would want to have their husband telling them what to do all day?  She doesn’t want to work out with me much and she has grown tired of the repetition of our therapy activities.  It would be great if she approached therapy with the mindset of a varsity athlete.  Unfortunately, her approach to stretching and activity is more reminiscent of a non-athlete who does not want to participate in gym class.

It takes a lot more work on my part just to keep her doing a minimum adequate amount of additional stretches and exercises.  Acting as another person’s conscience is a draining job, even if the hours are only part time.  Of all the great qualities she has, Jess has never been one to push herself to the limit when exercising.  I hope and pray every day that she cares enough about getting better that she is willing to do a good job during each activity.

 

Thank You Friends & Family

We appreciate all the encouragement and ideas that friends and family have shared with us.  We are grateful to everyone who came over and worked with her.  I am glad that she has been able to experience a variety of activities with a variety of people.  Jess’ schedule includes one or two formal therapy sessions each day.  It also includes several informal therapy sessions.  She is especially happy whenever someone comes to the house to work with her.  She is grateful to work with someone new and have her husband disappear for a while.

If the groundhog can go against the grain and tell us that winter will end, then I am sure Jessica can overcome her frustration and continue to improve.  Each time she has moved to a new placement, the new expectations at that placement have jumpstarted her recovery.  This month, she’ll experience a significant change as her therapy sessions move out of the house and into a therapy center.  With this change, we are hoping for a few more steps toward her independence.

 

 

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