A Mixed Bag

August 23, 2011

A little good news and a little not-so-good news.

The good news is Meg went to see Dr. Gurtner last week and she was extremely pleased with Meg’s progress, and, if I might say, seemed downright giddy.  Talk about having life and death in her hands, not ultimately of course, but to think she could have decided Meg was too far gone to warrant surgery (which almost happened), and, now, to have Meg sitting in front of her smiling and talking has to be a thrill.  She showed us the CAT scan of Meg’s brain and said she was “very pleased” at what she was looking at (not that I could tell anything beyond the fact that it looked like a picture of a brain).  She assured us that all her gray and white matter along with her “ventricles” feeding the brain all looked “excellent.”  Meg also doesn’t have to wear her helmet except when she’s in a situation where she risks getting pushed into something or getting hit in the head.

Dr. Gurtner explained that it would take Meg up to two years to fully recover from her TBI.  The good news is that a full recovery is certainly possible, but a lot of that at this point depends on Meg.

Also on the plus side, Dr. Gurtner wants Meg to start hanging out with her friends more, which is something she has been doing anyway even to include limited sleepovers with friends that Tracy and I feel comfortable with.  Dr. Gurtner stressed to Meg that her friends must be “squeaky clean” and that any alcohol, drugs or even cigarettes at this point, not that any 16 year old would every want to experiment with such things, could hurt her recovery.  She said, “We don’t want you to end up with an IQ of 70, but with an IQ of 120” (I had to explain to Meg that was the difference between a bright future with a good career or one not so bright with a lot of burger flipping along the way).

On the downside, I guess we were all hoping for an early date so Meg could have her bone flap replaced and her skull repaired.  At first it seemed as if Gurtner might be able to squeeze in the surgery before the end of August, but she explained her schedule over the next few weeks made that impossible.  Next, she thought doing it over Christmas break might work (which could make for an interesting variation on “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth”).  Then she said next June would be best as Meg’s brain would have had a full year to heal before being put under the stress of another surgery.  I’m quite sure Meg thought that she would have her skull slapped back together in short order and she would, in her words, “get her life back.”  I certainly wasn’t thinking in terms of next June, but Tracy and I think we will push for Christmas break instead.  For myself, I don’t think I can take the thought of Meg walking around with a hole in her head (besides the one she had before the accident) until next June.  Besides, that way, God willing, Meg’s skull can heal with plenty of time to get back into softball, even if at first it’s something a little lower key than she’s used to.

Also on the downside, Meg does have some anger issues lately that we’re the brunt of (Tracy in particular).  Some of her anger stems from the frustration of being restricted in what she can do, who she can see, and where she can go. That much is understandable. The rest of it, not so much.  She also seems to have only a vague appreciation of how her accident has impacted all of us. I admit, that is a lot to process for any 16 year old under the best of circumstances.  Besides, since she was asleep through most of it, certainly the worst of it, I guess it makes sense since she really has no reference point to begin to understand what this has meant to us other than from pictures and stories and who wants to dwell on that.

Now, some of it, at least according to the literature, is related to her injury.  Right side frontal lobe injuries (where Meg’s brain took the brunt of the impact) can cause problems in judgment (which makes me wonder if she will wear her helmet even when she’s in a risky environment), impulsiveness, difficulty in controlling emotions, a diminished recognition of deficiencies (Meg at times seems to think she’s already back to normal), and other things like decreased “big picture” or “gestalt” thinking (if you don’t know what gestalt thinking is don’t feel bad, I didn’t either. Basically it is “Learning to see and record the world in terms of wholes, whose properties are so unified that they cannot be derived from their parts”).

Before we left Dr. Gurtner’s office I asked if I could take a quick picture of her and Meaghan.  She graciously obliged, but said she usually doesn’t like to have her picture taken.  Unfortunately at that point Meg said, “Yeah, so my Dad can use it on his blog.”  To which Dr. Gurtner replied; “Oh, no, not on the Internet.”  Thanks Meg.  But, at least I now have a picture of Meg with the woman who saved her life.

“Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’  For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

The Road to Normal

August 12, 2011

I realize it’s been a while since an update, but there is, thankfully, not much to report.  Meg continues to improve but at a slower pace (something her neurosurgeon, Dr. Gurtner, told us would happen). The hole left from her tracheotomy has completely healed and a spot at CHKD for outpatient therapy did finally open up.  Meg has PT once and speech twice a week. At this point the PT is really just to help her continue to strengthen her left side and improve her balance (I guess she needs more than just walking heal/toe on a masking tape line in our garage and seeing how long she can stand posing like the Karate Kid). They’ll also give her strategies to help her deal with going back to school and maneuvering through the crowded hallways (some lessons with Kesuke Miyagi to go along with those Karate Kid poses might help). Along those lines, Tracy and Meg met with specialists at school and it looks like, at least initially, Meg will have a less demanding work load to begin with, which makes sense. Meg thinks it’s going to be boring. Of course, if she demonstrates she can handle the class work they’ll move her into more advanced classes.

Next week there is a lot is planned, and, for whoever is left reading this blog, that is when we’ll need your prayers. First, Meg goes for a CAT scan on Tuesday.  Immediately after the CAT scan they head up to the Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Charlottesville for a complete 5 hour follow up evaluation on Wednesday.   On the way up they’re going to spend the night with my oldest daughter Erin at her new apartment in Richmond.  Initially we were going to cancel the Kluge follow up since it seemed a long way to go for them to tell us what we already know.  But, Meg’s primary care physician strongly encouraged us to keep the appointment as they are TBI experts and can give us a much better picture of Meg’s progress and specific areas that need work. Then on Thursday Meg meets Dr. Gurtner for the first time (that is, the first time Meg will actually remember meeting her) to discuss the CAT scan and to determine whether or not she will need reconstructive surgery on her skull (I fear she will). There is always the possibility that the hole in Meg’s head (besides the one she had before the accident) has regenerated on its own, but I don’t think it has. Hopefully, Dr. Gurtner will also reduce some of Meg’s helmet restrictions as the helmet has given her, believe it or not, a case of cradle cap (and, yes, we’re going to try treating it with baby oil as “Head and Shoulders” isn’t cutting it). Since we’ll be meeting with Dr. Gurtner next week, hopefully we will be able to arrange for Meg to meet some of her NICU nurses (we’ll have to make sure at least a Terry or two are around).

We have taken Meg to the beach on a couple of occasions (she and Tracy are there right now as I write).  Meg even called me to let me know she finally got in the water and was diving under the waves.  Previously she was worried that water might go down her trach hole, even though it looked to me at the time that the skin had sufficiently covered it.  Today she had no excuse.  I told her maybe the “healing waters” of the Atlantic will help her cradle cap.  Meg really wants to go to the East Coast Surfing Competition in a couple of weeks, but I don’t think we’re ready for that as it is usually a mad house.  Of course, part of her desire to go is to hangout with her friends without one of us tagging along, but, sorry Meg, that is not going to happen this year.  On a sad note, one of Meg’s closest friends, and a central part of her support system, Keila (pictured above), ended up moving to D.C. last week as her father, who is in the Coast Guard, was transferred (one of the drawbacks of living in a military town).  Admittedly, I have no idea what the Coast Guard is doing in D.C. since they don’t have a coast, but we’ll miss you Keila.

I do pray for the day when things finally get back to normal.  There have been a number of things that I haven’t been able to share and the stress of the accident and issues surrounding Meg’s ongoing recovery have taken a toll.  But, I continue to thank the Lord for the work He continues to do our lives as He uses difficulties and trials to shape us more and more into His likeness (and, in my case, He has a lot of work to do).

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.