Formerly "Neil Stone Updates"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fairview Farm

A lovely spring day should be spent outside. In order to comply with what yesterday's weather dictated, we took off for Fairview Farm, the nature preserve where Neil did his Eagle Scout project. We walked the children's trail that he prepared and found almost all in order. (We need to replace a couple of trail activity booklets that he'd made for the backpacks.)
I would highly recommend a visit. The children's trail is just a small part of the preserve. We loved the bird and butterfly garden. The lilacs are in bloom right now, and the smell is heavenly. When Neil was in the planning stages of this project last spring there was a beaver in the pond. Not sure what his status is right now, but we saw deer and heard lots of birds during our short stay yesterday.
One note of warning: Take a close look at the picture at the top of this post. Yup, that's poison ivy at the base of the tree--beautiful, but don't get too close!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Finding Neil--Part Two

Jemima finally forgives Neil for abandoning her for three months
Neil is on a journey of discovery. He's trying to figure out who he is--or was. As he regains memories and cognitive abilities, he's trying to make the pieces of his life fit back together again. He understands about his accident and the fact that he is recovering from a brain injury, but it's still hard for him to grasp just what he needs to recover. He is well aware of the loss of his hand because it affects his daily routine (and of course, his ability to play video games!) But he has asked me many times why he has speech therapy as he can already talk. He can't seem to hear his lack of intonation. He also wants to understand why he isn't back in school with his friends.
As parents, we try to build him up and let him know how proud we are of him and how hard he works. We want him to feel good about the Neil he is right now. At the same time, we have the responsibility of teaching him how to deal with his deficits--and that means helping him realize he has some. Hard lessons for us all.
He sure is getting confident at texting, though. So much so, in fact, that he doesn't want our help. That's fine with me. I'd rather not be involved in all his conversations with his friends, but social skills are another area where he needs to relearn some things. Many thanks to patient, kind friends who answer his messages and engage him in conversations. You are so important to him as he tries to fit back into a world that isn't so familiar as it was.
Neil continues to progress every day. I am constantly amazed at each new thing he can do. In therapy yesterday he played a computer game with his left hand! Instead of using a mouse or keyboard, he gripped a handle that he rotated with some wrist action to catch dropping balls into a virtual basket. He improved with every game. The more he walks, the smoother and more natural his gait becomes. We played scrabble as a family the other day, and he came up with many words on his own. All these things he couldn't do even a couple of weeks ago.
I guess the most practical of skills he is acquiring though, is how to compensate for what he lacks. He's learning to rely on a written schedule to get through his days. He has figured out how to see what's on his computer by enlarging the screen images and moving a chair closer to the monitor. He has gained some independence in a lot of areas, but is learning to acknowledge when he needs to ask for help and advice. That doesn't mean he'll always follow it though!
We're still waiting for Neil to feel happy...or even sad. I'm pretty sure he feels loved, but I want him to be able to experience emotion again. We've been warned that can be one of the last things to come back after a brain injury. Hope it's on it's way.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Making My Day

My favorite Mothers Day gift this year was a joke. We've been waiting and hoping for Neil's sense of humor to return, and on Sunday he actually cracked a joke. No smile to go with it yet, but just being able to recognize and create something funny represents some sophisticated cognitive ability. So here's what happened: Because he'd been snacking earlier, Neil was taking his time over dinner, delicious though it was (thank you, Scott!) In an effort to encourage him to eat, Scott told him to dive in--whereupon, Neil put his good right hand over his head with his fingers pointing upward and bent over his plate. In his monotone voice he said, "just kidding." It was wonderful! I laughed from surprise and for joy more than for humor, but it was pretty clever.

Handy Work

Here is Neil helping Eric with his Saturday jobs so Eric could be freed up quicker to play video games. Though Eric certainly appreciated the help, Neil's real motivation was that he wanted to watch his brother play. Since he's not able to work the PS3 controller with his left hand yet, he has to get his video game fix vicariously. It's been interesting to note that as Neil's ability to focus on the screen has increased, he has begun to get some movement from his fingers. He is just itchin' to play! It's going to take some time to get control, but we've no doubt he will have the use of that hand again.

Therapy Work
Therapy began again yesterday. It's been two weeks since his surgery, and we finally got the clearance from his doctor. His therapists were amazed at the progress that took place during that time. He is much steadier and aware than he was at this last session. He continues to inspire and impress us all.

School Work
We took a trip to Neil's school today to check out the contents of his locker and to say hello to a few teachers. Neil was happy to see them and I wish we'd had time to get around to see more. We are currently in communication with the school district to find out what needs to be done to help Neil graduate. It's going to happen eventually, but he is not ready to reenter the classroom situation just yet. All in good time and first things first.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

53 Pick-Up

The Frankenstein look is out. No more staples for Neil. All fifty-three were removed from his head and Neil insisted it was painless. We now have the go-ahead for therapy, so it's back to work on Monday.

Neil continues to get stronger and more independent each day. He doesn't need someone walking by his side at all times anymore. His balance is better and he is obviously less fragile. His memory is improving, but he still repeats his questions several times as he tries to remember what we already answered.

Saw a little bit of movement in his left thumb. It wasn't consistent, but Neil definitely had some control. He's very anxious for the use of that hand, so this is good news indeed!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Another Reunion

The view from room 3024

Neil had an appointment with his rehab doctor so we took the trip out to West Orange again to visit Kessler #1. Dr. G. was pleased to see Neil walking so well and looking so good with an intact skull. After examining him and talking to us about medication adjustments and future therapy, he wanted to show Neil off to his former therapists. Up the familiar elevators we went to visit Erin, Rich, Kirk, Theresa, Alana, Jodi, Fred, and of course, Sherman. Neil looked quite dapper in his hat and jeans instead of his crazy pajama pants. Every one gathered around and seemed so pleased to see him. Poor Neil was a little overwhelmed and had some trouble remembering who these people were, though he did admit things looked kind of familiar.

When we left, we were feeling like a little celebration was in order, so we went to Chipotle for Neil's favorite burrito. I haven't seen him eat like that for a long time! Must have been just what he was craving.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Derby Day

It's nice to be able to entertain visitors in our home instead of Kessler. We're glad for the chance for Neil to socialize with people besides our family members. He doesn't have doctor approval yet to return to therapy since his surgery, and because he's not going to school right now, he appreciates the chance to hang out with friends and do something. He may get tired easily, but it's good for him to be active. Thanks to friends who came by today.
Here we are with some friends getting ready to watch the Kentucky Derby. First we chose our favored horses, then we each picked a hat to wear because everyone knows you must wear a hat when you attend the Derby. Nobody picked the winning horse, but we had fun anyway.
Tomorrow we have to say goodbye to Aunt Shelly. She's been an amazing help to us this week and we will miss her greatly. She is truly one of a kind. Shelly, we love you!
Announcement: The time has come to end the daily updates. Neil still has a lot of work ahead of him, and he continues to progress, but his leaps and bounds are a little farther in between right now. I will certainly keep you up to date with how he's doing. I just won't be posting as often. Thank you so much for caring enough to read about Neil and how far he has come. We appreciate your love and support more than we can say. Please check back occasionally to see what's new!

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Close Shave

Had a nice little family outing tonight to get Neil an electric razor. He was a little tired of Mom of Dad doing it for him each day, and his right hand just isn't as steady as his left was, so doing if for himself the old-fashioned way is out. Before we left he tried on his different hats to see which was most comfortable. This one did the trick.
Did you notice his hair peeking out from under the hat? That's right, they didn't shave his head for the surgery--just an inch-wide swath where the incision is. Should make it a little easier to deal with as it grows out.