Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion to clarity...
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."
-Melody Beattie.

Here's hoping for a thank-filled, gratitude inducing Thanksgiving

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Superhero Service Dog

One of the things I’m so grateful for is my brilliant and beautiful service dog, Stone. He gets to go everywhere I go, which often adds a whole new dimension to any activity.

Tuesday I had my annual colonoscopy and heck, let’s face it, there are few things that are as fun as spending a day living on Gatorade and cleansing out your colon followed by a day of being drugged while some guy sticks a large tube with a camera on the end up your “nether regions” as our grandparents might have said. :) But, at least I get to bring along my dog, which is a privilege few people can enjoy.

Not only is he great at distracting me from the stress at hand, my nurse is always extra attentive. In fact, every nurse on the floor is attentive, stopping by to see if I need anything and “oh while I’m here could you tell me about your dog.” While I know there is a nursing shortage, I’d never know it by the care I get whenever I’m in a hospital. Thanks Stone.

Just when I think Stone couldn’t amaze me more than he already has, on Tuesday at Christ Hospital, he amazed me yet again. While I was in the recovery room, the nurses brought a woman in to the bed next to mine. Our beds were separated by only a curtain. When her breathing became labored. Stone sat up, looked at me, then looked toward the woman’s bed. Next, he stood up and stuck his snoot under the curtain and then looked back at me, clearly distressed. Next, he looked at the nurses and was motioning his head toward the woman’s bed. He looked back and forth from the nurses to the woman until finally one of the nurses said “Look the dog is trying to tell us there’s something wrong.”

Now here’s the part that was kind of funny and kind of scary. Once the nurses figured out that yes, the woman’s breathing was labored, they tried to arouse her and couldn’t. By now, all of the nurses on the floor were there, but what they were talking about was how beautiful Stone was and how amazing it was that he’d alerted them, as opposed to talking about what to do about the unarrousable woman who’s breathing was labored.

I wonder if Lassie had these problems when Timmy fell down the well.

During my last colonoscopy, Stone provided some great comic relief. He was laying on the floor next to my bed in the recovery room. Apparently his tail was sticking under the curtain. A doctor came by to talk with the patient in the next bed and the patient interrupted him saying “dog’s tail”. The doctor, who clearly thought his patient was confused said “You’ve still got a lot of anesthesia in you, but we’re in the hospital and your procedure’s over.” Again the patient said “dog’s tail”. The Doctor said “I know you’re a vet, but you’re not at work today, you’re in the hospital.” This exchange went on for several moments until finally the doctor called over the nurse and said “he’s still really out of it. Call me when he’s more coherent.” With that, the doctor turned to leave, tripped over Stone’s tail and yelled “SHIT – there IS a dog’s tail.”

So, today I’m grateful that everywhere I go so goes my dog’s tail.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Feeling Thankful

For the last few years, various people have nudged me to start a blog.  For me, this feels like the time to start, especially given that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, the season when no matter how complicated our lives become, we all remember to stop, take a moment and think about all that we are thankful for.

For me, it's a long list.  I have so much to feel thankful about, so many reasons to feel lucky.  For some, it may seem like an oxy-moron - a lucky brain injury survivor???  But the truth is I'm incredibly lucky.  My injury was 14 years ago.  For the first 6  of those years, I fell so often that to be safe, I needed someone at home with me 24/7.  When I wasn't home I was mostly in a wheelchair.  My rehabilitation goals were to consistently be able to speak in full sentences, feed and dress myself and accurately  make change for a $1 bill.

While I still need some support services and still have deficits , my life today is rich and full and more independent than I, my family and my enormously skilled and dedicated rehab. professionals would have dared to imagine.

I wish I could tell you I’ve discovered the secret to improving so much, that there was some formula I could share with other brain injury survivors. While I have, in fact, worked hard on my rehab and just as hard at dealing with the emotions that come with such a significant loss, to a large extent I think my “secret” is luck.

Yes, in the ever-expanding pool of survivors of brain injuries, I am indeed one of the lucky ones. I’m lucky in that the nature of my brain injury allowed for significant improvements and that much, although not all, of my brain damage is in the sub-cortical region of my brain (the part of your brain that’s not in charge of intellectual functioning). I’m lucky, too, that at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital I found a remarkable team of rehab professionals led by Dr. Richard Bonfiglio, an experienced and empathetic physician who never let any of us forget that this is my life and my rehab and continues to this day to remind me that recovery from a brain injury is a lifelong process. I was lucky to have found Dr. Marcia Hochberg, an inspiringly insightful rehab psychologist who, no matter how often I lose faith in myself, never seems to tire of reminding me of my capacity to cope. Luck helped me find a Vocational Rehabilitation counselor who saw me as a person rather than an open case file negatively effecting her success rate and who was able and willing to think outside the box. I’ve had the good fortune to find enormously empowering case managers from Plan of Southwest Ohio who have an unparalleled commitment to individualizing services and an uncanny ability to walk the line between empowering independence and providing help when needed. Thanks to the talented staff and volunteers from Circle Tail. I have a brilliant and beautiful service dog who keeps me from falling down, makes sure I take my medication on time, and cuddles me no matter how irritable I become. And perhaps most of all, I’m lucky to have family and friends who have been unwavering in their love and support.

Yes, I have so very much to be thankful for.

So, there it is, my first blog entry.  If you decide to read it once in awhile or subscribe, I promise to do my best to avoid boring you with the minutia of my daily life.