Sunday, June 17, 2018

Trip to Hawaii

             Hi, it's Forrest.  Recently I was able to go to Hawaii with my family on a working vacation. I went along with my family, Mum, Pops, Austin and his girlfriend Jeanne.  We were on the Big Island at Dolphin Quest (DQ) and we spent time there with the crew. I also hiked the Volcano of which I had fallen down the slope of on our previous trip sustaining minor injuries.  It felt great to conquer it this time without the tumble down towards the lava rocks.
            One of the dolphins at DQ is named Nahele, which means “forest” in Hawaiian - after me. I thought this was an amazing thing to do, for someone to give me such a large shout out in the islands language.  I first met him two years ago in person and it was wonderful to see him again on this trip.  One of my favorite activities was spending time on the docks with the dolphins and helping with Dolphin Quest group activities. I held dolphins during group programs, I also was a photographer for some of the dolphin encounters, and I helped behind the desk.
 My service dog Toliver and I got to do a recreation of one of the Baywatch scenes where they run down the beach, but we had a Dolphin, Pele, following along with us, making it even better than Baywatch.
One of the most special parts of this trip is that I was finally able to go under the water and scuba dive again – twice! We got to go in with the dolphins in the lagoon.  It was cool to see what they do while under water and I got to send them some signals, which made me feel like I was a dolphin myself, communicating among them. We also went diving in the open water off of a boat.  When I was first injured, my mum used to sit beside my bed for hours and talk about scuba diving, breathing, the fish and other ocean life that you see when diving.  She would promise me over and over that I would get to do it again someday.  And, on this trip she was finally able to fulfill that promise to me.  I had dreamt about getting back under the water for so long and it felt phenomenal to be able to do it.  Now I have to decide what dream I’m looking forward to after this experience.

I want to give a special shout out to all of the individuals that helped me along the way during my Hawaii trip, especially Blue Wilderness Adventures Diving and the owner/master diver Denise.  Also, thank you to Dave Prutow for the underwater photographs!
  
Please enjoy the below photos and video of Toliver, myself and the dolphins!




Mum and Pops doing dolphin ultrasound exam
First snorkeling adventure
Off to hike volcano Puu Huluhulu
At the summit of the volcano
Coming down from the peak - we did not take the easy path!

Two tank dive with Blue Wilderness Adventures
Mum and Pops
White tip reef shark in a cavern
Scuba diving again - finally!  With a spotted eagle ray.
Green sea turtle cleaning station - with yellow and black Tangs
Mum, Austin, Me, Jeanne and Pops 
Shadowing the photographer during a dolphin encounter at DQ
Dive, dive, dive!!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A note from.Tami

Six years ago on May 14th, I started my job as Forrest’s caregiver.  As I headed into work that first day, a bundle of nerves and excitement, I never anticipated the journey I was about to embark on.  Although I was full of hopes and dreams for Forrest’s recovery, there were so many things I never could have imagined.  I never imagined hearing his first words after over a year of silence.  I never imagined seeing his first unassisted steps.  I never imagined seeing him graduate high school with a standard diploma.  I never imagined having my heart stolen by a service dog, the brother I would find in Austin, the deep connection that would grow with the family, falling in love with a community, and the bond I would form with Forrest.  I have always told Forrest that I would know I did my job when he didn’t need me anymore.  Well, 44, as we prepare for you to head off to college this fall, we are almost to that point.  You have soared beyond my wildest hopes and expectations.  So today, on what is most likely my last anniversary of this amazing job, I say to Forrest, Kent, Rae and Austin (and Tom, who led me here), thank you.  Thank you for changing my life.

- Tami











 


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Forrest's April Surgery

Hello friends.  Earlier this week, Team Forrest made the journey to Cleveland to see Dr. Kumar for another surgery.  We believe this was surgery #31 overall and the 7th with Dr. Kumar.  The goal of this one was to revise the previous surgical incisions, cover some areas of the graft where there wasn't hair and add dermal matrix and bone allograft to reinforce some areas of Forrest's noggin.  Surgery was yesterday and Dr. Kumar was extremely pleased with how everything came together.  Forrest has already been discharged from the hospital, but the team is staying one more night so that Dr. Kumar can check everything over tomorrow.  Thank you all for the continued support and prayers!

Here are a couple of pics and videos from the week!  

Pre-surgery with Dr. Kumar - https://youtu.be/5Jqf3rubsbg

You will notice that some exciting news was revealed!  Forrest was accepted into the George Mason University Mason Life program for the coming fall!  We will share more about this soon!  

Post-op with Toliver - https://youtu.be/Egpi-Rf2DxI

Mum and Forrest took a hot yoga class in Cleveland!

Fun with Toliver

Pre-Op with Dr. Kumar

Reunited with Toliver and Mum after surgery

Leaving the hospital!


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Middleburg Healthy Eating Active Living Expo

Hey guys, it's Forrest. I just wanted everyone to know about this talk I'm giving Saturday, March 24th at 12:30 at the Middleburg Community Center. I am going to be speaking with my Physical Therapist Del, about how we stay pumped up as he helps me with my recovery. This is part of an event called the Middleburg Healthy Eating Active Living Expo.
Heres the link if you would like to know more.
https://heal.middleburg.com

Hope to see you all there,
Forrest

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"Music Got Me Here" at the Kennedy Center

Reflections from Forrest’s Aunt Lynn: 

I am honored to share my perspective on the recent Kennedy Center premiere of Music Got Me Here.  This documentary film is a beautiful compilation of how two people crossed paths and because of it, so many lives have been touched. 

There are times in life when difficult things happen. Sometimes these challenges cause a ripple of determination, goodness, heartache and tears, as well as joy and hope, to circle a family, a community – even a world – and make it better and stronger, filled with the best that the human spirit has to offer. We can see God’s love in action, working its way into hearts and providing comfort and strength. 

The screening of Music Got Me Here at the Kennedy Center on January 10th brought seven challenging years to light. It showed the power of music as an instrument to connect two lives—Tom Sweitzer, who turned to music to heal his childhood, and Forrest, whose family sought help in the power of music therapy to bring back Forrest’s voice after his traumatic brain injury. The film powerfully documents how both people’s lives were changed by this connection. 

In attendance that evening were so many of Forrest’s doctors. I am in awe of their talents to help heal people. Additionally, I was blessed to be a part of the journey and watch the village it took to bring about this miracle... so many contributors, so much love. The aides, the nurses, the amazing family support (Kent, Rae, and Austin, aunts, uncles, cousins), the therapists, the friends, the faithful groups of prayer partners all over the world, along with Tom’s talents and Forrest’s determination, were all key in piecing a beautiful puzzle back together. The movie is a inspiration that will keep bringing hope to others as it is shared. 

And yet, the most inspiring part to me is the desire to give back and pay it forwardForrest knows that his role in life now is to keep on helping others, and Tom continues to change lives as he works with more people facing struggles and guides others entering the field of music therapy. I can only hope that many more will be able to experience the power of hope in a world that often doesn’t feel hopeful. It’s a beautiful message.

I remember the standing ovations seemingly went on forever. People were moved by seeing this journey, a long one, a roller coaster ride filled with ups and downs. We walked in worn down by a world, and walked out inspired to live with hope and help be a part of making good happen. It was incredible to share in the joy of this moment of celebration.

There was an energy in the room that night that was powerful, like an electric current. Love is powerful. Hope is powerful. Music is powerful. Each of us has a chance to be a part of a “pay it forward” story every day in some big or small way.  I know TomKent, Rae, and Austin will be doing that. And especially Forrest, with his gratitude for what was done for him, his big heart and with Toliver by his side, always looking for ways to make the world around them betterMay that be a message that resonates with all of us.  


           Aunt Lynn spent many months helping all of us us when I was hospitalized.                               

                      On stage at the Kennedy Center with Dr Francis Collins,
                       Renee Flemming, Susan Koch and Tom was Awesome!


Dr Kumar was on a mission in Peru, but it was great that Dr Armonda, one of the neurosurgeons who believed in me when I needed it most, was there!


It was really special having Granma Norma, Aunt Lynn and Aunt in Law Amy there!


               Some of Austin's and my friends.  Couldn't have made it without them.


                      Doesn't Granma Norma look wonderful. She just turned 90!!!


Amy Stone is one of my great friends and a Co-Star in the film.


Renee Flemming graciously welcomed us all to the Kennedy Center.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Trip to St. Louis

Last weekend, I went with Mum to St. Louis to go to the American Music Therapy Conference.  At the opening of the conference, we showed a 10 minute clip from "Music Got Me Here" to over 1800 music therapists and then we showed the whole movie 2 times during the conference.  Tom and other friends from A Place to Be were there as well.  A Place to Be, specifically Tom, received the Professional Practice Award for this year.  It was incredible to be there to see A Place to Be get this recognition.  Here are some pictures from the trip.

Toliver and I on the plane
BAT-DOG!

We stayed at a cool hotel that used to be a train station. 
They did an incredible light show every hour!
With Music Therapists from A Place to Be - Ray and Tom

Having fun with Tom and Toliver at a park in St. Louis

2 cool dudes and our new friend the bunny
I met so many cool people like Dr Kwan!
One extra special thing was that I got to go for a hike with my
Uncle Brad, Jackson, cousin Jennifer, and her adorable kids