Thursday, September 23, 2010

From Shannon

Well it’s me once again. I’m just here to say WOW and thank you all so much for everyone who prayed for me and my sweet family. I honestly cannot believe that I was in a medically-induced coma for 2 and ½ weeks and that I was on the very brink of death. I mean hey, without God’s help, it’s the only way I could have possibly survived that. But here I am, doing just fine. I mean hey I have almost straight As (with the exception of one A-) and I seem to be doing fine elsewhere too. The thing I still really struggle with is my memory; it does not seem to want to let me remember much from seconds ago, and vision. In fact, I’ve even been looking down instead of straight ahead when I walk most of the time. So that much kind of sucks. That reminds me of my “that much is good” saying I said in the hospital almost every day. But yeah, so there’s all of that, and one of my friends got in a car accident the other day, for more information you can visit her blog which is And I’ve been rollerblading a little bit. Still have not fallen since the time I went to my friend’s and back. But it’s not nearly as great when you have to have someone with you all the time and you can’t just go! But yeah, so anywho, I don’t think there really is anything more to report....

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sept. 19

Last week we had 3 doctors' appointments which is not out of the ordinary. But this week we only had ONE! Each time a doctor stretches out the time between appointments it helps us realize that Shannon is continuing to heal and is well on her way!
Here's a few updates: Rollerblading: Every chance Shannon gets, she wants to go rollerblading! So much so, that this "old mother" of hers, decided the old blades that she had been using to skate with Shannon were not going to cut it! So I bought me a new pair in hopes that I can get MY BALANCE back and keep up with Shannon for a while. She is doing marvelously well! Last night she rode her blades down to a friends' house (about 2 blocks) and all the way back with out any problems. It is a slight hill which she hadn't really been on since the accident. She really is doing great on them and it has also helped a lot with her balance.

The miracles don't seem to stop. Shannon is doing very well in school, even in her AP classes. We found that her ability to stay focused for a long time is difficult especially when she would take a test. So with the help of the 504 plan, it was decided that she would do every other question on a long test. That has helped immensely. Some things can't be done that way, like the group section of the test. But she did ok there. Her test scores may not be as high as they used to be but so far she is still pulling "A"s in all of her classes. She definitely studies more than she used to--or at least it seems to us that she does. She is still tired at the end of the day but it seems to me that it is not as extreme as before. It is very difficult for her to stand in one place for any amount of time so she says she just has to keep moving some how or another. That issue was one of the main factors that she decided not to go to the "Sadie Hawkins" dance. She didn't know if the boy she was thinking of asking would know enough about a TBI to understand.

Challenges still continue in several areas. I think when you first hit a hard trial as we did, it was easy to be spiritually in tune. When we "lived" at the hospital, our thoughts were focused on the Lord and His amazing grace, power and support. As I type this it reminds me of how it was in the missionfield. Without distractions of normal life, one truly can draw nearer to God. It's when things are somewhat back to normal and the demands of life take time away from that intense concentration that we seem to lose our intense focus on the Lord. And that then becomes our trial...staying spiritual in tune with the Lord with the distractions of life. I think as far as a trial goes, as far as spiritual growth goes, that is the bigger trial.

Another challenge that Shannon faces is that as she continues to improve, I have a tendency to assume and expect things to be back to normal. It is hard in the challenges that are faced with teenagers, to remember that Shannon is a teenager and the emotions and desires are intensified because of the TBI. So when our relationship gets rocky, I want to handle things as I have in the past with teenagers. But I can't do that. It is a very fine line to know where the issue is a typical teenager maturing issue and where the TBI takes over. Typical disagreements that most all parents have with their teenagers seem harder to deal with because of the TBI. Fortunately, Shannon's goodness and desire to do what is right prevails.

The last challenge is a delicate topic for I don't know who all reads the blog. But one day, Shannon will want to remember how it was so she can be more understanding of others. Because Shannon is at school and involved with friends at school, there is often expectations of her friends that she should be the old Shannon. Depression is a major obstacle as those with TBI attest. It is difficult to accept a new life when the old life was going great!! Shannon has been negative about her situation--who wouldn't be? Depression is not something that you get over in a day or two or with a pill or two. There are many components to it and a TBI brings added components as the brain is healing the emotional connections. It seems that many of Shannon's friends are not able to accept, deal with, remember, support, etc as Shannon continues to heal. The visits, calls, texts, invites, etc from friends has almost become non-existent unless Shannon initiates them. She is amazing how she continues to reach out to them. They certainly interact with her at school and support her there which is good. I have heard from some friends that they don't know if Shannon is allowed to go do things. Could that be the excuse?? That surprises me because she had been going and doing lots of things including going to other people's houses, YWs, and now even school, etc. And I have told many of them that she can go. It has been a hard thing to watch especially with some that I thought for sure would always be there. Maybe there are other reasons but the ones I mentioned are the ones that I have been told about.

Now rather than end this on a downer note, let me tell you about Shannon's volunteer position. Shannon has signed up to be a volunteer at the American Fork Hospital in pediatrics. My goodness there is a lot of paperwork and training that has to happen before a person can volunteer!! She had to show that all her immunizations were current. They had asked us in the hospital when Shannon had had her last tetanus shot and she was due for one. We just assumed that they gave it to her. So when we went through the hundreds of pages of hospital records, no mention of a tetanus shot was found. So we had to get that shot taken care of. The hospital supplied the TB tests which took 2 shots a week apart and a follow up check to be sure all was clear! She took all the trainings needed and did all the paperwork. She picked up her uniform shirt and her badge and she starts next week!! She is excited to be able to serve and especially serve where there are children. This by the way was Shannon's idea.

In the past, we wouldn't have known about all the details of things like school or volunteering. But because we get to be Shannon's chauffeurs and help her with such things, we have the opportunity to be more involved in the details of her life. It is a great blessing and a joy to us to spend more time with Shannon than we would have if she had not been in the accident. If we could change whether Shannon had her accident or not, as hard as it has been, as her parents I don't think we would want it changed. We have seen too many miracles, felt the love and the support of family, friends, ward members and people we don't even know, watched the great qualities of our daughter grow even stronger, and have felt God's presence in the details of our lives to want to give that up. That's easier to say now because we know we will have that full recovery!! But we have seen tremendous blessings in our lives and many others due to this trial in our lives. The trial isn't over yet and there are still tough aspects to deal with but knowing that God loves us and is there for us makes it do-able. We know God will bless us and help us to see things a little better. Oh, if we could only always "look through the lens of eternity".

(Oh and by the way, we have passed the 4 month mark since the accident.)


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Roller Blades!!??!!

I don't know if we have mentioned this before but Shannon has really had a hard time about not being "allowed" to rollerblade. It has been a very big issue and in fact, we heard about it several times a day until she had seen all the doctors who could possibly give her permission and they had all said no! But at each doctor, she would ask, with her goal oriented determination, "what exactly do I have to do to be able to rollerblade?" She wouldn't take a simple "wait and we'll see" answer but had to have some specifics. One of the specifics was to work on her balance by walking a straight line heel to toe without losing her balance. Well, she has worked hard on that but we all know there would be more to the approval of rollerblading than just that--or so we thought! Once again, Shannon's sheer determination has proven us wrong. Read to the end...

Today we had an appointment with Dr. SuchNeibar, the Rehab doc. She last saw Shannon a month ago. Just 4 weeks ago, Shannon was mad and upset the whole time at the doctor's office. There was no way Dr. SuchNeibar would think for a second that Shannon liked her at all. It was not a good experience for any of us! However, Shannon has made some drastic improvements in 4 weeks. Today, she didn't show any hostilities, sat rather quiet, responded well to questioning, etc. Dr. SuchNiebar was amazed! Then it was my turn to be amazed as well. When the doctor did an exam on Shannon, it was truly amazing to see how much she had improved!! It was easy to recall how she had performed at the last appointment even with the muscle strength testing. Wow! Shan has made a lot of great progress! Dr. SuchNeibar kept saying “wow” as she would test her strength in different areas. She then, had her do the heel toe walk. Well, since Shannon has practiced that so much, she did very well. She didn’t do as well standing on one leg but kept telling SuchNeibar that she could do it better. It was pretty normal….6-10 seconds with minimal wobbling. After the exam, Dr. SuchNeibar said, “Shannon I think it is time that we get you doing some other activities. What would you like to do?” Shannon looked at her funny, wondering what she was talking about and said, “What do you mean?” Dr said, “Well, like biking…” before she could say another word, Shannon, with great hopeful anticipation, spat out, “rollerblading?” ! I don’t know how the Dr could have said no! So we talked about it for a while and Dr SuchNeibar said that the purpose was to help her work more on balance with a different kind of activity and so she would allow rollerblading with certain limitations. The limitations included using all safety equipment (Shannon said, "well, ya, DUH!"), no hills, tricks, jumps, etc. until approved by parents and it must be done under supervision! Shannon was elated! We finally saw a smile out of her!!
I think the only thing that could compare to her excitement was her call from Brian Regan!! As soon as we got in the car, she started calling people to tell them the great news! It was fun to listen to her but I still had my apprehensions. And it sounded like most of those she called did too as they would make comments showing concern for her safety!
We weren't in the door at home 5 minutes before she had her blades on and was ready to go. She had another appointment at 4:00 o'clock and so really only had 15 minutes. We went out on to the flat area of our driveway. I was right there as well as another friend. I didn't quite know what to expect. Although she was a bit off, she said that it felt like it always did. She had always played basketball on her rollerblades so after a few minutes had to have the ball. Again, I kept myself within arms reach as best I could! She made several baskets and I would retrieve the ball for her. After about 6 minutes or so, she began to tire a little. She went after the ball once, hit the grass, and promptly landed on her bum! I told her she could land on her bum all she wanted just no place else!! A few minutes later she was by the grass again and fell again. Within the next couple of minutes she had lost her balance twice more. But she always landed on her bum. This is really going to be a great exercise for her balance but scary for her mom!! We definitely will take it VERY SLOWLY! She isn't as in control as she needs to be but if we take it slow and work on it frequently, it will come. It was great to have her be able to do something that she has wanted to do so badly since the accident. Oh those sweet tender mercies.... Of all the things that I am learning through this whole ordeal, I think recognizing how much God is in the details of our lives is the most important for we have experienced those tender mercies so often. And so we have hit another milestone...back on rollerblades!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

1st full week of school

It's so great when Udell writes because he is so concise, gives great updates and is much more eloquent in his writing skills than I. Oh well...
It is true, I did take a significant break last week (more than just a couple hours)for the first time since the accident. I didn't realize how much I needed it until I was headed home. Our grandson was born this week 5 days after I left. We are anxious to get to a point that Shannon feels that she can travel that far so we can go see the cute little tyke!
This being Labor Day weekend, we kept trying to find some place that we could go for a family getaway. It's too short of a break to go where Shannon wants to go (a beach or her nieces' and nephews) and even if it weren't, any time we talk about driving anywhere more than an hour away, she just doesn't want to. I am not sure but I think it could be one or more of the following reasons: 1) riding in a car still just wears her out, 2) attention span creates frustration when staying in the same place for very long, 3) its a confined space and she can't really stretch her body out 4) she is reminded that she still isn't well enough to drive. It's a good thing that we like home because that's where we will be for a while.
It has been an interesting week for me to watch. I say watch because Udell, being the intellect that he is and was here to get Shannon started in school, has become Shannon's tutor. How grateful I am for the wonderful father and husband that he is! He has spent many hours at the school this week. As Shannon became more aware of the challenges she faces in school, she repeatedly changed her mind on what classes to take. We think we are finally where she is going to be. She dropped AP Literature because the work and reading seemed overwhelming. And then she picked up the second round of AP Calculus (BC) and a regular English class making her have 8 classes. Then she found out that universities do not give you more credit for taking the 2nd calculus class; she said "what's the point?" and dropped it. Each time there was a class change, it was a domino effect on her schedule and it took a while to get things in place. It also added different teachers that needed to be informed of Shannon's situation. Even though they did the 504 accommodation plan last week, the assistant principal hadn't sent it to the teachers! So we had and have more items to be sure the teachers are informed about.
Shannon has done very well in school. It was not successful in trying to get someone to help her navigate the halls of this 2500 student high school but she says she is doing fine getting from one class to another. Shannon also frequently says that some of her classes are so boring. That's not typical of Shannon and we are wondering if maybe the short attention span and the lack of moving around is more the cause of the boredom. Or maybe there just are some teachers that are boring.
Shannon is so dedicated to her schoolwork. Reading is still very taxing on her and again, her dad has been the one she has asked for. So Udell feels like he is taking a biology, a stats and a psych class! :) He'll sit and read to her and she takes notes on her computer. She truly is amazing at finding ways to compensate for the challenges.
One very big challenge is that she does get extremely tired. It is important to her not to be singled out for any reason and so she doesn't want to get up and leave a class. From what she says, she does put her head down and rests. By the end of this first week, she was really tired! She isn't sleepy tired, it's the cognitive tired and that then affects her physically. It is hard to stand for a long time so I guess there is a physical aspect to it as well. All the professionals just keep telling us, it takes time! We never have had a lot of patience in this house!
We saw a pretty good example of dealing with the cognitive fatigue last night. She was so tired and didn't want to do anything or to really even talk much. She was also feeling down for she doesn't feel she is surrounded by friends like she used to be. But, much as before the accident, she started texting a few people and soon she had 3 friends over. They played some cards and then went outside and kicked some balls around for a while and then watched a movie. She seemed to have a good time and perked up substantially. She wasn't needing to focus or concentrate mentally on what she was doing and so not only were her spirits lifted but she had more energy. There is such a stark difference between being cognitive fatigued and physically fatigued.

Today Shannon was asked to give a talk on the Holy Ghost at the Stake Baptism. (Thanks Primary President for giving her the opportunity!!) We had only been sitting there a few minutes when the mom of the twin boys being baptized came over. She was a bit emotional when she told Shannon how awesome it was that she was giving the talk because the twins had and still do pray for her every time it is their turn to say the family prayer. It meant a lot to her and I am sure she will take the time to remind her boys of Shannon's miracle and the power of prayer in their lives. For me, it was, first, good to know that we still have people actively praying for Shannon and second, to again be touched by the amazing teaching opportunities that have come due to the accident and it made me aware, again, that Father in Heaven is mindful of us. I think more than ever, I have had simple little experiences like this one that is constantly reminding me that Father is very aware of us. As He uses Shannon's miracle to touch so many of His children and as we struggle along, He allows us to know some of the blessings that have come to others because of all this. As Shannon's family, we have been made aware of many miracles that have come about as people have witnessed the ongoing miraculous recovery that she is experiencing. I don't think that Shannon appreciates that yet and may not for a very long time. It is not an easy thing to live through.
For now, her miracle is this; just a short (or in our minds-long) 17 weeks ago, Shannon was nearly killed suffering a very severe brain injury and for at least 3 weeks after, we didn't know if she would live or die and yet, today she is back at school, taking some pretty challenging classes and volunteering at the hospital. She still has a long road ahead of her, but from where she was and has been a long the way, she is a living walking miracle! She doesn't like any attention being drawn to that fact, but the reality is, that it is true!