May 19, 2006

Return to NRH

The hair is falling out in droves now. Holly bought me some more gentle shampoo, but I'm not sure it's going to help. I'm just going to need to go with the flow. Sometimes I just want to make it all fall out now to avoid having to watch where it goes during the day. Or maybe I should leave it alone and be gentle with it and maybe the ones left will stay put and keep growing -- or will they? Maybe all the follicles that are affected are going to lose their hairs eventually anyway so it won't matter. I don't know. I was pretty pooped today and didn't go to work. And at times, when I am laying or sitting with my left leg extended, I feel like there's something going on with my leg. I think that I might be having very small mild seizures in my leg due to the radiation, but I have no idea. The doctor told me to be careful and keep an eye on it. I don't think its a big deal and I also think it might just be my mind messing with me. I'll keep you posted. Holly left a post yesterday about the hair loss. Click here for a more detailed shot with notes.

As I said a few days ago, I made a return visit to NRH to thank all the staff for their hard work getting me back to where I am. A lot of these pictures are actually from my visit a month ago, but the stories of each person still hold true. You can click each picture for a larger version, or click here to go to the photo set in Flickr.

Kate (left) was my Physical Therapist. She concentrated on my leg and getting me to walk again. When I got to NRH, I was only able to barely lift my leg. By the time I left, Kate had me walking with a cane. She was absolutely awesome. She was very observant and was able to tailor my therapy on the fly. Some days, we would try something and it wouldn't work like she thought it would. I could tell she was in deep thought and immediately she would say, "let’s try this instead." We would try the alternative and everything would flow better. She was just amazing, thoughtful and caring and I credit her with getting me back on my feet.

Missy (right) was my Occupational Therapist. She worked to get my arm and hand working again. Missy was great at giving me a hard time – and I needed it! My fingers were moving a little bit when I got to NRH and Missy worked with me everyday to get my whole arm down to my fingers working very well! We did range of motion exercises, stretching and when I got enough movement back we worked on improving my hand and finger motor skills. She did a great job of making sure that I was setup at home to be able to function – getting in and out of the tub; using the restroom; working in the kitchen; doing domestic tasks; stuff like that. She was instrumental in making me confident that I could function at home like I did before the surgery. And no, she's not taller than me, I'm standing and she's standing on a table.

Carol (left) was my case manager. She took care of all my insurance and paperwork requirements. She quickly worked to resolve issues that arose with insurance and was genuinely interested in the progress of her patients. It was nice to know that she was looking out for my interests – it was a burden off of my back. I also enjoyed talking with her about her family, food, television or whatever subject came up when I saw her.

When I stopped by to visit, I had a chance to talk with Kate, Carol and Alison (right.) On the days that Kate was out, Alison stepped in to treat me. She was great at stepping in where Kate left off. She always provided positive reinforcement and pushed me to try new things.

Dr. Milani (left) was my doctor during my stay. She was one of the first people I would see in the morning. She checked in on me everyday to see how I was doing and to make sure I was healthy and recovering well. She was very thorough and cautious – making sure to rule out anything that may be an issue when a problem was presented to her. Once, I was pretty sure that I pulled a muscle in my leg. I told her and she sent me off for an ultrasound just to make sure that a clot hadn’t formed. There was no clot, but it goes to show that her diligence assures that her patients are safe.

Kristen (right) was my Speech Therapist. Speech Therapy encompassed not only speaking, but the cognitive aspect of my recovery. She was so patient with me when I first got to NRH. She had to perform some tests and I scored very poorly. I was disappointed and wondered if I was going to be slow forever. She assured me that I needed to be patient and let time and rest work their magic. The tests seemed to go for days and I was getting very frustrated. But after the first week, after I had caught up on my sleep, I was doing much better in our sessions. In fact, by the end of the second week, I was doing so much better that she was considering stopping our sessions. I think I was insistent that we continue so that I could work my brain. She gave me some of the most complex tasks that I had and I breezed through them. I also helped lead some other cognitive group sessions. It was nice to have someone like her understand what I was going through and assure me that I was back to normal. She was awesome!

Here are some of my favorite nurse techs (left.) They were very friendly and did their best to make sure we were taken care of and comfortable.

I was admitted to the Brain Injury & Stroke Recovery Program ward (right.) This is the nurses’ station. I’m talking to one of the other speech therapists – I can’t remember her name! Help, anyone?

Here’s my buddy Matt (left.) He’s 19 and was involved in a construction accident to his right head and brain while working near GWU. Matt is a great guy! He has great spirit and faith. I’m trying to get in touch with him so that I can keep up with his progress. I made sure to stop by to say hello during my visit. It sure was good to see him again – and his progress is astounding! He called me yesterday and he tells me he is walking with a cane. He said that his "wheelchair is collecting dust in the corner." That is awesome! I can't wait to see Matt in person again.

Lynette (right) was my favorite nurse. She was very understanding and caring of all her patients. We often talked about her son and family. We laughed a lot and I grew to respect her quickly. She always took good care of me when she was on duty.

Godwin (left) was another very good nurse. He was always laughing and smiling. He was also very professional and took great care of his patients. I was happy to have him when Lynette was off.

Max (right) was another of my Occupational Therapists. A few times a week I would go down to the second floor for upper extremity group. We would play games like Connect Four, screw nuts on to bolts, pick beads out of a bowl of rice and manipulate items located high too build arm strength. Max was aggressive with me near the end of my stay and he would delightfully challenge me more and more. My favorite thing to do was to stand in front of a soft table and toss a ten pound medicine ball back and forth. We would toss it high, low, far left and right to help strengthen my right arm and my leg. It was fun and I thank him for listening to me ask for more!!

Lindsey and Neepa (left) are also Occupational Therapists. Lindsey also worked with me in upper extremity group. She always found things for me to do that would challenge me based on my new found strength. I never worked directly with Neepa, but she always had a smile on her face and her laugh was contagious. One day I overheard her talking about the fact that she just had her hair done. I made a point to tell her that it looked nice and she greatly appreciated the compliment. I then made it a point to tell her how fabulous her hair looked whenever I saw her. She told me to never stop telling her that, so I didn’t. See? I’m saying it again in this picture... "Neepa – your hair looks fabulous!"

There are so many other people that deserve to be mentioned, but these folks here are the ones I worked with and saw the most. I know that most jobs can be thankless, I just want these folks to know that the jobs they do are making people's lives, like mine, better. Thank you again for everything you do and did for me. I will never forget you.
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