CaringBridge entries, rather hastily copy-and-pasted over:
SATURDAY, AUGUST 13, 2011 10:02 AM, CDT
Dog days of summer.
Good morning, all. Here we are, having made it into August, heading toward the fall. I think we are slowly beginning the transition out of to the "Winter's coming" season and into the "Winter's here" season, as per Julie and Erik's framed cartoon explaining Minnesota's two seasons.
July was really nice. I traveled to Colorado, and had the wonderful opportunity to visit with Jamey and Kim, two great friends who are soon making a rather large life-trajectory change and moving to Alaska. I visited many of my favorite gear shops, coffee shops, and restaurants in Colorado. Some of those favorites I was able to share with my parents, who flew out to Durango to help me drive back to Minnesota at the end of July. It was beyond nice of them, as my July journey would have been impossible without the help.
On the way from Colorado to Minnesota we decided to, as I have done many times in the past, drive through Omaha. However, as I had neverstopped, we spent a few days in Omaha visited Kali's alma mater and college town. I had the great fortune of meeeting some of her mentors in the WGS and History departments, as well as one of her friends, Kitzi, who took part in the healing process by sharing music and stories with me.
I am continuing cognitive therapy throughout this fall with the Sister Kinney Rehabilitation Institute, more specifically their Brain Injury Clinic, to work on any potential roadblocks when I return to U.T. next spring. I don't yet know what these roadblocks might be, and I certainly hope they will be either minimal or nonexistent. I will update you all as therapy continues, if nothing else just to let you all know that I am still here, not giving up on anything, healing, and making the return to being "Donnie." Any of you that know me well, or even just as an acquaintance, likely know what "being Donnie" means, for better or worse!
Numerous recent conversations and a serendipidous encounter with Victor tonight prompted me to update this journal with some TBI-related information.
Today I got back to Minnesota with my mom and dad after two long days of driving from Tennessee. I spent a week visiting friends, dismantling the remains of Kali and my home there, and packing up materials from my office. I had many conversations with members of my "Knoxville support crew", played music on a few occasions, and furthered my understanding of the interconnectivity of all humankind (Liz, that sentence was for you). It was an exceptionally difficult week to say the least.
I decided I am comfortable sharing a couple of details regarding the TBI. Not knowing what format to do this in, I'll just spew some stream-of-conciousness without bothering to organize my thoughts/writing. I can no longer smell from my right nostril, and I probably never will. One of the areas of my brain which hemorrhaged was near an olfactory bulb and probably severed the nerve. Hopefully this doesn't affect my palate for beer once I am able to drink again (late 2011, perhaps). I apparently lost some dexterity, particularly in my left hand. This is not something I have noticed in everyday life, and has not affected my ability to play guitar. I have a slight "right-preference" with interpreting spatial information, although it's unclear to me how this might manifest itself in day-to-day life. I have slight issues seeing the Gestahlt, or the "big picture" with various tasks, but again this is unclear how it might affect me.
My understanding of all this (a.k.a. "conclusions") is that whereas previously, I could solve problems by just throwing myself and/or my brainpower haphazardly until a solution was reached, I need to slow down and be methodical. This would arguably be a wise change to anyone, in any case. I am sure that some of these so-called problems are due to the serious grief. I am lucky to be here typing this, let alone have so few neurological deficits. I am overwhelmingly grateful to my family and friends, Dr. Meadows of UW's ICU for having "tricks up his sleeve", essential oils, and of course to Kali for unconditionally loving me and being in my life.
I just now remembered one of the neuropsychology exam's activities and thought I would share. I spent about 20 minutes describing how two words are similar. They started out easy, with pairs of words such as "ocean" and "water", etc. As the activity progressed the word pairs trended towards antonyms, thereby increasing the difficulty of coming up with a "how are they similar" explanation. One word pair that I spent a while thinking about was "tides" and "music". I was beginning to lose focus on the exam in general and this one was particularly difficult for me. After some time spent with my head resting in my heads, I came up with...
"They are both five letter words in the English language".
Not a joker like myself, my neuropsychologist gave me a long stare and said "Say a little more about that."
I tried to cover, saying "Yeah, I was just joking, that was my smartass answer."
I don't honestly remember what I ended up saying that allowed us to move on. Something about them both being natural phenomenon which can be explained by laws of physics; thus I successfully (in my opinion) segwayed from a "smartass" response to a cop-out answer.
I got to go to Roger's Edina Chorale concert yesterday. It was a wonderful and beautiful collection of Bach and Mozart movements and I could definetely feel that Kali was with us. I also got to visit with other family, including a baby Leo who is a lot different than when I saw him with Kali last July. I'm hopeful for a timely snow melt (much to the dismay of dog sledders) to make it up to the family cabin and to Bemidji for more healing and possibly an all-grain brewing session.
Yoga starts this week to work on certain "balance deficienies" that I still have. Basically, I can't stand on one foot with my eyes closed as long as most people my age. As Eric said, I would not pass a drunk test. Two weeks from today I fly to Knoxville. I am arriving four days before my parents arrive to pack, so I will be sure to do some people-visiting. I'd like to thank everyone that has offered to help pack and move things, but honestly, Kali and I did not own much stuff. Books, clothes, and her handmade artwork. I'm excited to move our headboard made of paint swatches back to Minnesota. Kali, the "shrine" that I had in our Knoxville apartment is kind of reassembled in my room here in Minnesota. (meant to be a "haha" sentence)
I'll keep you updated on TBI related issues. That's my slick new abbreviation for traumatic brain injury.
I went to Knoxville with Kali's parents to move some of her things out and back to Minnesota. It was very difficult but it was so nice to feel close to her, and "leaving her" when I left for the airport was perhaps the most difficult part. Further elaboration on my emotions are hereby censored due to the public nature of...the internet.
I will be coming back to Knoxville to move the rest of the things ('our stuff') as well as the Jeep, which had a flat tire which was graciously fixed by my landlords and maintainance crew sometime in February. Not sure yet when I'll be coming, but I may be able to see some friends: I'll let y'all know.
I took the neuropsychology test at the Courage Center yesterday, which was more draining than I initially thought upon leaving the examination room. I fell asleep early last night and slept in; sleeping is the key to one's brain healing after being damaged. I took my buckeye which was given to me by Liz for good luck. For those that are curious, here are some of the activities that the exam consisted of:
General background questions about me, my personality, and my academic pursuits
Reading an 8.5x"11" sheet of paper with double spaced words printed in pt. 12 font out loud. The words were a sequence of randomly ordered colors, such as "blue red green blue blue blue red blue orange". I was to do this as quickly as possible.
Reading a sheet of paper out loud again, but this time the words (e.g. "blue, red, etc.") were not what I was supposed to say. I was to read the color which each word was printed in. For example, the word "blue" would be in orange ink, etc.
She would read a list of ~20 words and I was to repeat back as many as I could. We did this for a long time, alternating between lists of words, numbers, both, etc.
She tested my sense of smell with smelly markers, which she had several of. The smells were licorice, grape, melon, lemon, cinnamon, etc.
I walked quite a few miles this weekend... I had the great fortune of having three of my closest friends fly up to Minneapolis to visit, as well as meeting up with a few other good friends in town. On Saturday we did a lot of things that Kali and I liked to do in Minneapolis. We walked around the Walker Sculpture Gardens, crossing the Loring Park bridge. One of their greenhouses were open so we went in and smelled the "southeast"; Liz thought it smelled like east Tennessee. We went to the Guthrie and walked out on the Endless Bridge. Finally, we walked across the Stone Arch Bridge and gazed out at the river. Add in coffee, food, and a gorgeous 45 degree day and you have...well, I'll leave that sentence open-ended and up to your interpretation. I'll leave you one: "A day Kali would be proud of."
I want to publically thank Erik, Jacob, and Liz for flying up. It really meant a lot. Also Scott, Ben, and even Adam made nice appearances. Kali would be proud. Hopefully you can be venture back up in the summer.
I have to go to Knoxville very soon to move some things out, and so I am just resting up this week. Not sure how many more times I will update this...We will see
First, some news about Rose. We (my mom and I) went to the vet two days ago for a follow-up visit regarding her injuries. She got an xray and the vet asked me a bunch of questions about her. The conclusion was that her hips were indeed fusing the way there are supposed to, and that she will return to her old self. I can start to walk her on the leash, and in eight weeks she will [hopefully] be able to do anything that she could do before. She is acting more and more like herself, although I need to retrain certain aspects of her because of the giant switch in lifestyle for her: getting used to the new house, cats, etc. I want to thank Karen and Tim again for watching her and loving her while I was in the hospital. Without that exceptional care (haha?) she likely would not be in the position she is now.
I also saw a physiatrist yesterday at the Courage Center to discuss the status of therapy. She (the doctor) was very good, speaking from my limited experiences with doctors. She wants to do the neuropsychology test next week. While my phychiatrist at Madison suggested I wait for a couple of months, I think it is a good idea to take it soon. Dr. Sherman at Madison (also very good) suggested I wait because my brain would continue to heal at a relatively rapid pace and it may be more satisfying to take the test after more healing has taken place. However, I think it is important to take the test soon. So far none of the therapists (to my knowledge) have identified major deficiencies in my body or mind. That being said, I have lots of general weakness and stiffness from being sedentary, and my "higher balance" is still a bit below average. That refers to such things as standing on one leg and closing my eyes. So, as they have not identified any deficencies, all of the therapy this far has been very easy, and I am becoming bored. If I do need more cognitive or physical therapy, it seems to me that they need to know more specifically what areas I need to work on so that they can challenge me and help me improve.
Bottom line: the physiatrist thought that my body and mind would return to it's pre-accident state, which is of course good news. It may take anywhere from 6 months to several years, but she was confident that it would get there.
Right now I'm working on retraining my body and mind. I need to (and I think I'm doing an alright job) stop acting like Donnie (to steal a phrase from a friend, Jamey) and slow down my actions, decision making, etc. I need to take lots of time to do things and just work my way slowly back to where I need to be. As for where I "need to be," I am still unclear. I am certainly living in MN for the spring, and I'm not ready to face the distant future yet. All in time.
Thanks again for being there for me, family and friends. Rose says thanks too.
Donnie here. Yesterday I had a meeting with my three therapists and my parents. We discussed my progress and where to go from here. I need to talk more with my parents (who are making a great home for me in SLP) this weekend about what to do regarding therapy. Basically there is not much more the Courage Center can do with inpatient that is necessary.
My OT said they would like one more week to evaluate me on some more complicated task, such as cooking a very complicated meal. I can't imagine having any issue, however, grabbing a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon.
My physical therapist would like me to keep conditioning either at the Courage Center or another gym just to get back to some pre-sedentary shape. I mentioned that I have really been sedentary for the past 6 months, not just the 6 weeks since the accident. Fall 2010 was a crazy semester at UT.
Arguably most importantly, my speech therapist (who deals with cognitive issues) wanted to discontinue therapy. My brain appears to be working at a surprisingly high level considering the frontal lobe injury. She was surprised. While I have no idea (neither does she) if it is working at a collegiate level, it's certainly working well enough to be a functional member of the community, which is the goal of the Courage Center.
So I'll be taking next week off of therapy to think about what I should do next. My personal opinion is that everything seems to be working well. I do think that I lost some of my memories, as I've explained to a few of my friends and family. But then again, I lost my whole "life" so I suppose that is to be expected.
I wish I could give some idea as to what is to what the future holds for me, but I have been deliberately living life day by day. I think the next step is not really a step at all. Let's just say there is a long grieving process to losing one's "unofficial fiance" and the most genuine person I've ever met.
Thanks a heap to the unbelievable number of family and friends who have supported in one way or another. As I've told some of you, you (y'all) are a huge contributing factor to all of these processes. A more proper "Thank You" is forthcoming.
Donnie again. Working on transerring ownership of the website with Jacob. Had a few more rehabs at this point. Occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. Pardon my interpretation, but OT seems to be mostly practical life skills (i.e. laundry, going grocery shopping, cooking, etc.), PT is getting my balance at endurance back to where it does, and speech is working on cognition. Cognition is mostly perception, memory, and judgement; in speech I do a lot of deductive reasoning tasks, etc. Following directions, being methodical, etc. are also important. So far I've found my brain gets tired doing these things.
I got to walk around the block yesterday and today. It was really nice. I didn't take Rose with because I'm going to wait for her vet appt. in a couple weeks to ask if it is okay.
Thanks to Adam and Rachel for coming and hanging out with me on what would have been Kali's birthday on the 26th. It was nice to see you. I'm going to work on figuring out who all is in SLP.
Hey all. Donnie here. I'll try and keep this short for several reasons...
Back home for now. It's very weird (tough) to be here without Kali. This is not the right venue or medium to go into those emotions. It''s nice to sleep in a real bed and eat real food. Here's a bit regarding my hospital experience:
UW-Wisconsin hospital was great in respect to healing me. Upon leaving I tried to thank one of my doctors but they responded "well...Your body just kind of healed itself. We just sort of watched". It was difficult having a giant team of people standing over me and checking on me, but I understand the need. I was very (what they described as) "impulsive" in that I tried to get out of my bed, room, etc. It's difficult not being independent. A month of therapy really was what I needed though, and things really started to come together in the last week and a half. I don't remember anything up until the last week and a half or so and my balance and general stability have improved greatly in that time. Therapy was fine, but very boring sometimes. They had me using the Wii a lot, and doing things like counting backwards from 100 by 7s.
Back at home now, doing some therapy through the Courage Center. They are coming to the house for a couple weeks to do therapy and then I may switch to outpatient and go there. My balance and mobility and getting closer to 100% every day. My strength, general "keenness," and memory are nowhere near where they used to be but I'll be working towards that.
In terms of future plans, I honestly have no idea yet. I just don't know what I 1. can do, 2. want to do, or 3. will do... I know that Jacob and Erik are coming to visit from Feb. 10-13, and that's about as far into the future as I can think right now.
I want to extend a giant "Thank You" to those who sent cards, flowers, visited, and kept me and my family in your thoughts. It would truly be different without that. Special thanks to Rachel L. for visiting in the hospital several times; despite not really knowing her, it was really great of her. Also Jacob for creating, updating, and maintaining this website. Also a special thanks to all my awesome therapists and doctors (esp. Jack). Rose the dog is on on the mend, and I want to thank everyone who contributed to her recovery, because the healing process would be more difficult without her.
Looking forwards to many months of physical and mental healing.
Donnie has made it home! Yay! He will be staying at home for the rest of the rehab so that is good. The courage center people will come to the house and help him recover. He is still doing well. Glad to be back home. He still has some memory issues but hopefully those will be fixed with the rehab. He told me that he had chicken and potatoes for dinner and was confused as to why there was chicken. I thought that maybe the food service didn't know he was vegetarian. He told me that he orders his own meals and must have forgotten that he ordered chicken. It's little stuff like this that he is having trouble remembering. It can be quite comical talking to him. He said he will try to update as well so look forward to that. Thanks.
Just got off the phone with Donnie. He is doing remarkably well. The doctors and therapists are going to have a meeting tomorrow with him to see when they will discharge him. It may be earlier than the 26th. He is starting to be able to connect things and remember things better. Rose is doing well too. Donnie said she is staying at aunt KK's house, I think he said that was Aunt Karen (if I am wrong please let me know.) She is still on pain meds but is making progress and should make a good recovery. I guess the doctors say that recovery is rapid in the first couple of months and then it plateaus for the rest of the year. Hopefully that won't happen and knowing donnie I am sure that he will continue to push towards a full recovery. I apologize at the scarcity of the updates. It will be easier now that I can talk directly to donnie. He'll let me know about the meeting and i will post either tomorrow or the next day.
This photo is from Sunday. Donnie is still in Madison doing the initial rehab. He is doing quite well and they are optimistic that he may be able to move to Minneapolis on the 26th of January. When in Minnepolis he will continue doing rehab and working towards getting back to the same donnie we all know and love.
Donnie is in rehab now and is progressing quite well. He no longer has any tubes in him. His short term memory is still a little fuzzy but he is making progress toward a good recovery. They are working on getting him up and moving around and connecting the dots in his brain.
Donnie is doing better. The doctors are optimistic as to the progress he is making. The breathing tube has been removed and he is now talking. The swelling of his brain has almost returned to normal. Monday they will do a test to see if they can remove the feeding tube. He is now able to communicate but is not up to date as to recent events. He is resting a lot.