Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Summer Recap and Surgery Preview

Angel, Gio, Shayna and 44 at King Pinz
Dear family, friends and incredible support team,

It's been a wonderful summer. Knowing Forrest has the first of several major surgeries scheduled August 27 at Johns Hopkins, we crammed as much quality time as we could into the past few months.  Family trips to Bermuda and the Outer Banks reaffirmed our belief that, as Forrest says, "Anything is possible!"

Forrest's friends infused his summer with their love, enthusiastic activities, and invigorating positive energy!  In addition to activities and fun, friends Gio and Nick (and Bro Austin) helped keep Forrest safe during the night through overnight shifts in the ManCave.

Working with Kay and Del, Forrest gained muscle mass, balance, and endurance. Under Tami's guidance and tutoring, Forrest's speech and cognitive abilities continue to expand.

With Pop's terrific cooking, he gained 16 pounds this summer and hit his pre-surgery goal of 165 this week!  And through music therapy with Tom and fabulous camp activities at A Place to Be, Forrest's voice, character, and confidence have all soared to new heights.

As his surgeon at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Kumar, exclaimed at Forrest's recent pre-op examination, "Forrest you look great.  You have come so far and have optimized your condition for surgery!"

That was the plan. Forrest is strong.  He is ready.  So next Tuesday we travel to Johns Hopkins and on Wednesday, Forrest will undergo a groundbreaking 10 hour surgical procedure. The surgery involves the transfer of a full muscle flap from Forrest's back to his "noggin" (as he calls it).  This new tissue will provide some protection for his brain and vital circulation to support his beleaguered scalp.  We are anticipating a 7 to 10 day hospital stay, if there are no complications, and a 10 to 12 week recovery period.  Additional surgeries are anticipated 6 to 12 months later to harvest healthy bone from the back of his skull and implant it within the new muscle flap.  This will finally create a safe environment for his brain and a complete skull, without using any foreign prosthetics.

We are eternally grateful for the family, friends, and support team that have given Forrest such a terrific summer and such a strong start to the next chapter of his recovery.  We will update the blog next week from Johns Hopkins to keep you posted on the Comeback Kid's progress.

Love,
Mum & Team Forrest


44 and Megan doing a mirror activity at APTB Mentor Camp
Pilates with Kay
Arm wrestling with Del

Video of arm wrestling:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGSo-W22vBM
Pool party with Austin, 44, Tori and Nick


Football with Nick and Gio

Monday, August 11, 2014

44

 I wrote a musical with Mr. Sweitzer called "44" to share my story....from swimming with dolphins to adventures with Austin to the challenges I have faced since I hurt my noggin.  The show was written for a cast of nine people to help be my "voice".  The skilled cast members - Kyle, Lauren, Megan, Brendan, Crystal, Cameron, Amy and Nathan have been fun to work with and get to know.  At our most recent rehearsal, we had not seen each other for at least a month.  We were so crazy and loud Mr. Sweitzer said it was like a big family reunion.  In October, we will be performing "44" as part of "The Same Sky Project" for  thousands of school students, to share our message of acceptance, hope and living a big life, despite challenges.  Yesterday we performed a staged reading of my show and there are some pictures below.  Here's the last part of the script.I hope you like it and will come see our show in the fall.

So, I want to tell you all if you ever snowboard or do anything that could be dangerous, 
listen to what they say and be prepared.  Wear your helmet!

But even more importantly, never take anything for granted.

Walking, talking, eating, hanging out with your friends

Your life can change in an instant

And whatever you do, tell your family and friends you love them!

On the morning I left to snowboard, on my way out the door, my mom said 
"Have fun Forrest!  I love you!" And I gave her a big hug.

She has never forgotten to tell me she loves me and I know that is the 
biggest reason I am here in front of you today.

Not everyone has a TEAM 44 beside them, and I am aware of that

But what you do have is your family, friends, teachers and mentors who you can reach out to

Since my accident, I have ridden a horse

Played lacrosse

Swam

Starred in my own show

Spent time with my friends

Graduated from High School

Marched in a parade with Toliver

Raised money for organizations like "A Place to Be"

If I have learned anything, I have learned that if you are a kind person and show others love, 
when you are in need, those people will be right beside you to cheer you on.

Thank you all for cheering me on and thanks to the awesome 44 cast for helping me tell my story!
- Forrest

"Underwater life is fun!  Swimming in the golden sun!"
"My brother, my friend, when it rains...you bring the sun!"


Myself, Kyle, Nathan, Brendan, Crystal, Cameron, Amy, Toliver, Lauren and Megan - the incredible "44" cast!



Sunday, August 3, 2014

Forrest's Story Makes the Washington Post 8/3/14


Dear Forrest,

Today the article about your journey came out in the Metro Section of Washington Post.  We hope that it creates greater awareness about the life changing power of Music Therapy and provides hope and encouragement to others struggling to recover from Traumatic Brain Injuries.


To read Forrest's article, click here: Washington Post


You are spending your summer getting stronger in every way; physically, emotionally, spiritually.  Your humor and wit are keeping pace! As your friends and family challenge you to reach a little further and dig a little deeper, we find more often than not we are struggling to keep up with you!

A week in Emerald Isle, NC allowed us to spend time with Austin and visit him at Duke's Marine Lab in Beaufort.  You created new football passes on the beach with pals Tori and Nick and practiced yoga moves and guitar in the evenings.  You even out "chilled" Cousin Susan in a very competitive beach lounging contest!

Its good to be back at BrightWood now, with just 3 1/2 weeks until your next surgery, we will relish every moment together, inspired by your determination and optimism.  Onward and Upward, Champ!

With Love and Gratitude to your amazing brother, father, friends, extended family, mentors, teachers, doctors, nurses, and many followers who believe in you and sustain us all.

Mum

Cousin Susan came to visit us at the beach and joined us for dinner!
Jamming with Nick (and Tollie)
Cousins Cailin and Eric
Yoga with Aunt Tricia, Tori, Mum and Nick
Tori, Tollie and I buried Nick
Enjoying food made by Pops!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pop Rocks Camp and Concert

This week Forrest has been participating in "Pop Rocks" camp through A Place to Be.  The campers are learning seven songs throughout the week and they get to play various instruments as well as sing and learn dance choreography.  There are also group discussions, art, yoga and other activities that are offered every day.  Along with a group of mentors and staff from APTB, the camp participants will be putting on a concert this Friday afternoon at the Hill School in Middleburg.  The concert is at 2:30 and costs $5 at the door.  Please come if you are able and spread the word! 

Forrest learning cup rhythm and choreography to one of the camp songs
44 and Michael practicing
Forrest helping to teach other campers the chords to "Wild Thing"

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

An Amazing Week

You Danced! On stage at Hill School in the musical production, Best Friend. No wheel chair, No gait belt, No limp, No spotter. You strode onto stage with confidence and joy.  You danced with a new friend, a beautiful ballerina, Liz.  You both literally took my breath away.  Liz told me later that when she did the "dip" leaning backwards with her back arched, that she placed her weight entirely in your arms.  And you held her, balancing your self and your partner with panache and charm.  A feat none of us could have imagined not so long ago. 

With only nine rehearsals, forty A Place To Be campers and their mentors overcame their own individual challenges and came together as a cohesive, creative, and talented troop of performers. Through camaraderie, compassion, and hard work your group demonstrated that truly...Anything is Possible. The two week A Place To Be camp experience provided you with a transformative experience, allowing you to stretch your boundaries in a safe and empowering environment.  But it wasn't just you and the campers who were transformed.  Everyone in the audience was touched, transformed, through the courage and accomplishment of each performer.  

With a grateful heart,
Mum

The other big part of the week was that we reached and surpassed the Kickstarter goal for the documentary!!!  Here is a message from the film producer, Wendy Thompson and director, Susan Koch:  "We are quite grateful for all your support.  We could not have such great success without you.  Our final Kickstarter number is $75,536.  When we launched this campaign, Susan and I were filled with trepidation of reaching our $65,000 goal.  Today we are filled with amazement of what has been accomplished.  Because of your support, encouragement and dedication, we can all now proudly say WE DID IT!!!"

Thank you to all who came to see "Best Friend" and for those that helped support and promote the Kickstarter for "High Notes".

- Team 44

Forrest and his dance partner, Liz

Cast curtain call for "Best Friend"


Monday, June 23, 2014

A Message from Forrest

Hello everyone.  This is Forrest.  I want to thank all of you who have donated to the Kickstarter for the documentary.  We passed our initial goal, however, please continue spreading the word and encouraging donations because they still need funds to complete the project.  The link is on the side of the blog.

I am a part of A Place to Be summer camp and we are preparing a show that Mr. Sweitzer wrote called "Best Friend".  It is about a boy who loses his best friend and finds a new best friend in a dog.  I really like the story because of my relationship with Toliver.  The performances are this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Friday is at 7pm, Sunday is at 3pm and tickets are $10 at the door.  Below is the information from A Place to Be about Saturday's show.

Saturday, June 28th, A Place To Be will host it's second annual Benefit Gala!
This amazing night will include the following: 
Saturday, June 28th 2014
5:30 – Cocktails 
6:00 – 6:45 - Heavy Hor d’Oeuvres 
7:00: A Special One-Night-Only PRE-SHOW! 
7:45 – BEST FRIEND Performance 
9:00 – 9:30 – Dessert Reception
We only have 50 seats left.  Each seat is $150 and includes everything above. A Place To Be is a non-profit so a portion of your ticket price is tax deductible.   
Email Angelle@aplacetobeva.org for tickets
We have been working really hard on this show and I hope you all can see it.  If you can, I recommend the special performance and benefit on Saturday night.  Hope to see you there.
Peace -  44 (aka Forrest)

Friday, June 20, 2014

11 More Days for Kickstarter

Our family trip to Bermuda was incredible in every way. No complications, no doctors, no scalp breakdown, no emergency hospital trips!  Most importantly, we proved to ourselves that there are still lots of amazing adventures ahead for Forrest!

Forrest is already immersed in two more fantastic projects.  First: He is practicing every day for his part (he is playing a star, as in celestial being) in the heartwarming musical production, "Best Friend " written by Tom Sweitzer and featuring A Place To Be actors. Don't miss the magic 6/27, 6/28, 6/29 at The Hill School. Visit aplacetobeva.org for details.



Second: Forrest is fundraising for the documentary film HIGH NOTES. He is donating all of the $775 in cash gifts he received for graduation to the Kickstarter Campaign. There are only 11 days left to make the goal of $65,000. If the film does not reach this amount, they will not receive ANY of the pledges. Please encourage your friends and family to click on the link on the right side bar and support this amazing story of hope, healing, and courage. 

With love,

Team 44

Forrest using Austin's Paypal account to donate his graduation money to "High Notes"!