Thursday, March 31, 2011

Update: 3:45pm on 3/31

Forrest has just been blessed with a reprieve from imminent surgery.  He was on the  surgical schedule today to have his prosthetic skull flap removed and was given one last opportunity to weigh in on this agonizing decision. The doctors lightened his sedation and pain medicine to see if he would show any signs of responsiveness.  With much urging, he was unable to raise one finger or thumb, but he was able to wiggle his toes. This is the first response he has shown since Monday. When he began to "buck" or resist the ventilator,  I was standing by his side and saw a tear course down the side of his face. I leaned in closer, kissed the salty tear away and told him to look at me.  For the briefest moment we made eye contact.  I know with all my mother's heart that he is still there and that he knows we are by his side.

Due to the risk involved of multiple surgeries on his already compromised condition, the doctors don't want to go to surgery as long as he is making even the slightest progress each day. The plan now is to maintain him in neurosurgical ICU at Emory University Hospital, under heavy sedation and on the ventilator, in order to let his brain heal and his condition stabilize. He is connected to a room full of monitors and life support equipment and we have a little alcove connected to his room where at least one of us is always present. Each day they will lighten the sedation enough to evaluate his neurological status and his level of awareness. When he shows signs of waking up and is strong enough to breathe on his own, they will begin to wean him off of the ventilator. If at any point his condition starts to deteriorate again, Emory has the ability to rally the surgical team to take him into surgery quickly. We are hoping and praying that won't be necessary. 

We are so grateful for the gift of your collective prayer and positive visioning. Coupled with Forrest's indomitable spirit and the best medical and nursing care we can provide, we will navigate this detour and get him back on course. He has worked so hard and cleared so many seemingly impossible obstacles with grace and dignity beyond his years. He found his way back to us from his first coma. With the love and support of an ever enlarging community of family and friends, he will do it again. And we will do whatever it takes… for as long as it takes to bring him home.

With love,
Mum and Team Forrest

Quote of the day: "Once you choose hope, anything is possible."  Christopher Reeves

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Update: 11:45pm on 3/30

Update - 1:00am: We wanted to let everyone know that Forrest will be going back into surgery tomorrow to have the new portion of his skull removed. The doctors think this is the best option right now and feel this is the appropriate course of action. We'll update with additional news when we have more details. Thanks for your continued thoughts and prayers. 

A special thanks to all of Forrest’s friends who have written notes of encouragement on the blog… keep them coming!

Forrest has continued to have troubles over the weekend and has become much weaker.  After he endured many tests, including a spinal tap last night, it was agreed upon by the docs at Piedmont and the family that we needed “a fresh set of eyes on this complicated case”. We moved Forrest yesterday afternoon by ambulance from Piedmont Hospital to Emory University Hospital.

We immediately had a team of neurosurgeons, neurologists, and neurointensivists all in the room with Forrest. They examined Forrest and reviewed all the images and agreed upon the best approach. They sedated him and drilled a hole in the top of the resin skull and drained a large pocket of fluid from in front of the brain. He will remain in neurointensive care while they continue to monitor him. The CT scan taken immediately after removal of the fluid was encouraging. Now we will have to wait and see if this stops the pain and tremors.

It's been heartbreaking watching Forrest decline so fast these last days , but Rae & Kent feel that we are finally in the right place. We will update you as we know more… but that may take a few days.  Also…no cell reception in Emory….no phone, text or email on our phones…so bear with us if you don’t hear from us as often.

We’ve had a saying in our family… started by our mother when we were children, “Sisters, sisters”…which morphed into “Who’s gonna love you like your sister?” Rae and I have said this to each other for years and years…. usually followed by giggles and laughter. I have to admit, in these last weeks, sometimes followed by tears. We have all, in our extended family… Stones and Allens, found an even closer bond than we knew we had. I referred to Aunt Lynn ( Kent’s sister) today as my sister-in-law once removed.  She loved it…and we’ve coined a new term!

Forrest has lots of guardian angels watching over him…friends and family. Good night, sweet Forrest…your brother Austin is watching over you in person… but all of us are watching over you in spirit.
Love,  Aunt Lobie and Team 44

Forrest gets a ride to a new location.

Always supported by a rotating cast of "Team Forrest"

Monday, March 28, 2011

Update: 12:30pm on 3/28

First, thank you to so many family and friends who have reached out to us again, sharing our concern, and lifting up prayers on Forrest's behalf -- we can't thank you enough. We want to catch you up on what's been happening over the past few days: Forrest remains in ICU for more tests. He is having another CT scan as I write and they have done more EEGs. They will place a nasal gastric feeding tube in today to help with some nutritional needs since he has eaten very little since Friday morning and has lost weight again. The tremors continue and they are trying to get to the bottom of that issue. Dr. K, his former doctor at Shepherd, came by to assess things and it was great to see him back on the case and helping out. He said indeed this is a hurdle Forrest is making his way over right now, but he is young and strong. The brain sometimes has a tough time readjusting and finding its balance after putting a skull back into place so decisions are being made on how to remedy the increased pressures and fluid. With the determination we know Forrest has, and all the support around him, the Dr. feels this is a hurdle that can be conquered also.

Now, what can you do? Again, the continued messages of hope and prayers are key. But I have a special message for Forrest's high school friends right now. He CAN hear us and is aware of what is happening. He isn't able to respond as much to us right now except for a few thumbs up and hand squeezes, so we need for high school friends to send messages of hope and good cheer to encourage him by one or more of the following ways:  post a message on the blog (we read these to him), post a message on the Friends of Forrest Facebook page (again, we read it to him), or contribute to the VoiceThread (where he can hear your voice) that Aunt Lynn is making for him. To participate, email a picture of yourself (preferably with Forrest at some memorable time) to me ( I will send you back the directions for the next step. High school friends, he especially needs to hear from your right now so please do one, two, or all three of the methods above to connect with him!!

We look forward to summer, being back on the farm, reuniting with family and friends and building new memories. We will tell stories of how everyone joined together to make down a long and winding path back home. But we will make it. And we are looking ahead to that goal. There is such power and strength in love and that is holding us all together now. Thank you friends and family.

It has been my honor to be here by your side, Forrest. You and your family are an inspiration to me. I am leaving today, but my prayers continue always....  Aunt Lynn

Mum reassuring Forrest between tests... telling him tales of diving adventures yet to come.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Update: 8:15pm on 3/26

I hate to be the one to tell you all that Forrest has had a setback that has put him back in the hospital. We had noticed an increase in microtremors (small involuntary movements of the hands and legs) which the last few days have been worsening. Yesterday, he began complaining of pain in his head and the pain was so bad, it was hard to comfort him. As many of you who have followed this blog know, he is a real trooper and never complains about a variety of painful medical procedures. So we knew things were changing for the worse.

We spent most of yesterday trying to get a MRI on a boy that couldn’t hold himself still no matter how hard he tried. In the last 24 hours he has had a battery of tests including a CAT SCAN, contrast MRI and EEG (to measure brain waves). The tremors progressed into seizures last night. He was moved to neuro ICU and started on anti-convulsants.

The most likely problems are fluid accumulation with pressure on the frontal lobes of the brain and seizures from the swelling or the original trauma. We hope and pray he can be managed medically and in a few days will start to improve. The other option is to surgically place a drain in the ventricle in his brain and relieve the pressure that way. This has several potential complicated side effects and assumes the pressure in the front won’t worsen and push the brain backwards. So currently it is a watch, wait and pray situation. The nurses have been great and helpful as well as the Doctors. We have reinstituted all night watches by Team Forrest, with Austin pulling the graveyard shift, so the emotional and physical demands are pressing on all parties. We are grateful for Aunt Lynn's support at all levels and Rae's sisters are scheduled to pick up the baton when she has to return to Colorado.

We are praying that this will turn out to be just another (although big) bump in road and not a major derailment. We are keeping bedside vigil again, watching monitors, tracking numbers and doing our best to will Forrest peaceful dreams of home and friends. The Doctors will continue to assess him neurologically and have warned us that if he doesn't make substantive improvements in the next 24 -36 hours, that could indicate the problem is worsening and we may have to choose one of the more aggressive treatment options.

We have become great believers in the power of collective prayer and the faith and love of all his extended Team Forrest. So we are hoping you will send your prayers and good thoughts his way again. Just when we thought we had cleared the major medical hurdles and this was mostly time and learning, we round the bend in the road and are facing another huge fence we must clear.

It reminds me of the time that Austin was leading the field with Forrest and myself right behind him. We went charging off through a boggy field and jumped a rail fence up into the woods and galloped our horses up this great big hill, weaving through the trees. My old hunt horse Clark Kent was about done in as we approached the top of the seemingly endless hill. Then I saw that at the crest of the hill was a huge stone wall uphill into a open field. I urged Clark on for all he was worth and the three of us made it over that wall, Clark just barely. We then looked back and laughed. Everyone else had looked at where we going and decided there has to be an easier way. They were undoubtedly right. But sometimes you have to go the hard way together and jump that last big fence whether you want to or not. Evidently Forrest has more big fences to jump. We just have to kick on and make sure he knows we are all there riding with him.

Dad and Team Forrest

Quote of the day: "Look to the light. Never look down the dark path. Always look to the light and keep your focus on the future you envision." Forrest's Uncle John Stone

Forrest back in Neuro ICU

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Update: 11:45pm on 3/24

Forrest has made the move to Pathways the outpatient facility. He is now on a different schedule and basically everything has changed. His routine is now waking up in the morning later and getting dressed and eating breakfast. Then he is going to the car for the ½ hour ride to Shepherd Pathways. We have been staying with him for lunch after he does his first hour of orientation. He takes his lunch which we make up for him. He then continues on for another 4 hours after lunch in various types of therapy. We then pick him up and bring him back to the residence apartments at Shepherd. He is generally tired and needs a nap. We try to get a snack in him beforehand (he has lost 40 lbs) and then give him a nap and then wake him up for some activity. Last night it was lacrosse in the park, with mini-sticks and short distances. Tonight it was a friend from Hill School, Montana who came to visit him as she was traveling in the area.

After that it is back to eating dinner and some entertainment, reading or TV or a game. Then a shower and dressed for bed. Night meds and bed are next. Forrest is sleeping in a hospital bed with his brother in a bed pushed up against his so if he needs to get up in the middle of the night he has help. Meals tend to be long drawn out affairs as he eats very slow now and is easily distracted or forgets what he is doing. We commonly remind him to finish eating and encouraging him to take all of his meds can be challenging.

In between times, Austin, Rae and Aunt Lynn (who has been here the last week) and Dad when he is there have to restock, cook, do the washing and cleaning and pick up meds and drive him back and forth (which is a two person job).

He is still wearing the brace for his L-1 fracture which is still healing. His incision for the cranioplasty is healing well but he does seem to have problems with initiating or starting activities since the procedure. We are trying to get the Dr.s to authorize another MRI to make sure his brain is handling the new lid put on it. We hope to have that scheduled tomorrow.

His physical progress continues to be nothing short of amazing with him being one of the most mobile guys in his group. He has troubles with micro-tremors still and they have slightly worsened since the procedure.

So here is where we are. He has made monster progress since this traumatic brain accident almost 10 weeks ago. He has made it from the dire prediction that he might never wake up to walking around an outpatient facility in just 10 weeks. He has made cognitive progress and has his language and his voice, however quiet it is at the moment.

On the reality side he has suffered a major brain injury and has and will continue to have lasting effects from it. As the Doctors and nurses who have worked tirelessly to help him have warned us that the hard part for us is when they turn his care back over to us. They were right, this is much harder and time consuming and you can’t turn your back on him for a second since he is so mobile. So if you have noticed some gaps in the frequency of the blog, you are likely to notice more. Mom, Dad and Austin will have a discussion as what to do about the blog in the future this weekend and decide how we can go forward. In the meantime we will continue on as best we can with our efforts obviously devoted to Forrest’s care.

Some people have commented that we have sugar coated the blog on occasion and they would be correct. Some of the ugliest, scariest and worse and depressing moments and discussions have never made it to the blog. That is because the blog was never meant and is not a clinical medical record. The blog was always meant to keep people informed of Forrest’s struggle for life and then surviving his various medical complications and also his victories and triumphs. He may read this one day and we want to let him know how many people were pulling for him. He will be impaired from his injury we know but he will continue to struggle and get better over time. We don’t know how much help he will need in the future but we will give him whatever help he needs to reach whatever goals he can. We appreciate your reading, support and comments in the blog. Many of you may not know or ever meet Forrest, but know that he is a remarkable young man. Through a lot of struggle and perseverance he will continue to be a remarkable young man, just different than before, but with a lifetime of relearning ahead of him. While it breaks our hearts to see him go through it, it makes us admire him that much more that he continues to try.

Much love to all,

Dad, Mom, Austin and this week, Aunt Lynn.

Montana comes to see Forrest

Forrest and his bro playing lacrosse

Teaching Aunt Lynn some lax

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Update: 10:30pm on 3/22

It's been a busy few days. Forrest had his first full day on his own at Shepherd Pathways, where he is doing a full day of outpatient therapy Monday through Friday. We are all adjusting to the new schedule, new people, and new living situation at the apartment. He is still confused about the new situation, as are we all at times. His cranioplasty scar is healing, we have a checkup with the surgeon tomorrow. We hope to be able to post a longer update soon, we're spending our time with him and figuring out the new schedule and situation. It was great to have Peyton visit over the weekend!!

Austin and Team Forrest

Forrest working with one of his new therapists at Shepherd Pathways

Mom enjoys reading a book to Forrest at bedtime

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Update: 11:30pm on 3/20

From Peyton:
Stepping off the train in Atlanta, Georgia, I honestly had no idea what to expect from the family that has been so close to me for so long, and from my friend who has been through more than anybody I know. I took the train from Union Station, a thirteen-hour ride down to Atlanta, and spent the entire trip thinking about all the times Forrest and I have had together. It is impossible to describe the transformation I have seen from the broken boy who I watched airlifted to the UVA hospital, to the strong, determined individual who pushes every day to improve, to learn, and to remember. Austin and I grabbed breakfast at Starbucks Saturday morning, and then drove over to the Shepherd Hospital to meet Forrest in his room. The minute I walked through the door, I was greeted with a smile that stretched from ear to ear. Forrest and I “dapped it up” like we always would have, and hugged. The room was halfway packed up for the big move of the day. After looking through all the great toys and clothes, balls, and gear that so many people have sent to Forrest, we headed down to the cafeteria where I met Rodney and Jeanne, his nurse and help at Shepherd. After returning to the room, we worked and packed up for the big move, Forrest’s first time living out of the hospital and moving to the family apartment next door. Forrest remarked that the hospital didn’t “look like my room” when everyone’s decorations had been taken down and put away. After a couple trips, we all headed through the double swinging doors of Shepherd, a landmark moment when compared with his first entrance in a gurney.

We spent the first part of the day in the new apartment exploring everything in the building, including the rec room in the basement, complete with carnival basketball hoops, air hockey, foosball, and movies and books. Forrest challenged us to a foosball game – me against Austin and him. I own a foosball table at home, and I have to admit that I’m a pretty great foosball player, some would say champion, but Forrest scored the only three goals of the game, slamming all three shots past my defense. His smile of victory made it worth the loss. After exploring the apartment, getting settled in, and everyone taking a well-needed nap, we decided to head out to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. We spent the next couple hours exploring the Japanese garden and the canopy walks, which Forrest claimed was his favorite. Austin and I remained determined to find the prize of our plant obsessions – the bonsai tree – but despite an hour of searching, could not find one. Afterwards, we took a trip to get Cold Stone Ice Cream but decided the line wasn’t worth the wait and spent the rest of the night watching movies and playing Wii Super Smash Bros.

Sunday, we packed everything up and drove to the Atlanta Zoo, passing the stadium of my favorite baseball team, the Atlanta Braves. We spent the afternoon exploring all the exhibits and watching Forrest as he intently observed each animal. His favorite were the giraffes, but he loved the tiger, rhinoceros, elephant, bears, and gorillas and monkeys. After returning to the apartment, it will soon be time for goodbyes and hugs as I leave to head back on the train to Virginia. It has been an incredible experience to spend the weekend with my good friend, who triumphs through so much. As I remember him walking into my house on the morning of his accident, excited for our trip snowboarding for the day, I can still remember the goofy clothes and excited grin that always defined Forrest, but it is not only a memory, because the smile and the loving, funny, and perseverant personality of my old friend is still apparent today. He has never lost his sense of humor, and the ‘fist-bumps’ and constant thumbs up let us know that he is doing just fine. Forrest is an inspiration to everyone, and I was lucky to share this experience with him.

quote of the day: "The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire."
-Chinese proverb from Brian Selfe

Forrest's smile upon seeing Peyton

Forrest winning at foosball

Walking in the Botanical Gardens

Forrest and his entourage at the zoo

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Update: 10:45pm on 3/19

Forrest had a great graduation ceremony yesterday and had a terrific first day living with us at the apartment! He's officially no longer an in-patient, after 9 weeks of living in hospitals! It's been incredibly busy but it is great having him with us! We went to the botanical gardens today and he walked for periods of time before resting in his wheelchair we have on loan for long outings. Peyton (Forrest's good friend who was with him on the day of the accident) came down for his discharge. We have to keep tonights post brief because we're getting him in bed(behind schedule), but tomorrow will be more in depth! The journey's not over, but this is definitely an amazing next step.

Austin and Team Forrest

Forrest arriving at Shepherd 6 weeks ago

Forrest walking out of Shepherd today

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Update: 11:30pm on 3/17

Today we took Forrest on his second outing outside of Shepherd. His Recreational Therapist, Mom, and I took him in our car to Panera for lunch! He’s been on one other lunch trip with his therapists, but this was the first time Mom and I have been with him outside of Shepherd. Going to a restaurant, even a calm one like Panera, was quite a shock for Forrest, lots of conversations and background noise, but he was a champ about it. We helped him pick out a meal, then he went up with us to the cashier to order. Forrest’s voice is still coming back after the surgery and it’s still very quiet. The young man behind the register was a real saint. He patiently listened to Forrest and nicely asked him to clarify several times. He was so polite and understanding with Forrest, but treated him like a normal adult, which is helpful for his recovery. After that we picked out booth in the middle of the seating area. Forrest ate well, he is still much quieter than pre-surgery but that will improve.

For the last week Mom has been going behind the counter at Panera to add coconut milk and protein powder to the smoothies for Forrest since they are “low-fat” and we’re trying to put calories on Forrest. Today the girl who has been making the smoothies was so excited to see Forrest actually there! She and the kind man behind the register came over to get a picture with us.

Most days start and end and nothing much happens in between that alters the course of life or is very memorable. Today helped show us that every day someone goes out of their way to help a stranger (as in Panera), it’s been an important and meaningful day.

Tomorrow Mom and I start Family Training at 7:30am, and Forrest will graduate from Shepherd in a small ceremony. Then on Saturday we will move him into the apartment at Shepherd where we will be living with him until we find somewhere closer to Pathways near Decatur, Atlanta. Lots of milestones!

Austin and Team Forrest

Panera outing

Happy St. Patrick's day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Update: 11:00pm on 3/16

Today was better than yesterday. Forrest is still recovering from his surgery, but his head wrap was removed, his swelling has subsided slightly, and he’s in less pain than yesterday and far less than Monday. He did say his head hurts all over, but with time he will heal. Tomorrow Mom, one of his therapists, and I will take him to Panera for lunch, his second outing since his accident! Then on Friday, he has a graduation ceremony before he is discharged from Shepherd’s inpatient program on Saturday! He will then start at Shepherd’s Pathways outpatient program on Monday, located a few miles east of the Shepherd Center.

We are also currently looking for housing. We’ve graciously been provided housing through several friends during our stay at Shepherd Center, but we are now looking for housing closer to his outpatient facility for the next 6-10 weeks, starting this Saturday. We are evaluating some local apartments, extended stay hotels, and other options. If anyone has any suggestions please let us know, email me at The criteria we’re looking for in a housing option: Near Emory/Decatur or the Midtown/Buckhead areas of Atlanta, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, elevator/ramp access, walk-in or a safety rail in shower, fully furnished, wi-fi or highspeed cable internet, parking for 2 cars, full kitchen, pet friendly(if possible), in a safe area, and month to month rent.

Thanks for the loving thoughts, we definitely feel it! Forrest’s bionic skull looks great and he will feel better every day.

All the best,
Austin and Team Forrest

Forrest's surgeon takes off the head bandage...

And is pleased with the result!

Forrest gets a visit from therapy dog Rommel

Mom and 44

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Update: 12:00am on 3/16

We knew yesterday was going to be rough. Forrest had a slow hard time coming out of the anesthesia. The doctor had to "sand" the edges of his skull to create a smooth fit for the skull flap. He first woke up with a howl like a wounded grizzly bear. That earned him a morphine push. All the drilling and the changes in pressure around his brain made it tough for him to fight his way out of the fog. Several hours later he woke up again in such excruciating pain that it nearly broke my heart. Another morphine injection and he eased into wakefulness more gently. Hours of ice packs, ice chips and cool wet cloths. Finally in the middle of the night an unsolicited thumbs up told me we had rounded the bend in the road.

No rest for the weary here. Physical therapy today started like every day... early. 7:00 AM out of bed and back to work, one slow step in front of another, even as he struggled to hold his poor battered head up. He did get a break later in the day and reclaimed his wheels when he briefly ran out of steam. Just In the nick of time, a call from a good friend raised his spirits. Chicken soup from Panera beat out hospital food & he finished the first full day under his new custom lid in good form! Tomorrow the pressure turban wrap might come off, so stay tuned!

More than ever we are grateful for our families and friends and Shepherd's incredible doctors, nurses and therapists who have gotten us this far one step at a time...

Quote of the day: "You be safe, for me, okay?" Forrest to me the night before his surgery.

Hug your loved ones, call a friend & sleep tight tonight.

Mum and Team Forrest

Rough day

Nothing like a loving Mom

Taking a call from his friend Gio

Monday, March 14, 2011

Update: 2:30pm on 3/14

Forrest is out of surgery and recovering from the anesthetic, 42 screws and 9 titanium plates later. The cranioplasty, putting in the prosthetic skull piece, according to the Neurosurgeon, went off “perfectly,” so that is great news! Mom is keeping watch while he sleeps off the anesthetic. After a short period in ICU, he is back in his room at Shepherd. Forrest will be glad to get rid of his uncomfortable helmet. Thanks for all the support, we don’t reach major milestones every day, but this is indeed one of those days!!

Austin and Mom

Forrest back in his room with a complete skull!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Update: 10:15pm on 3/13

We have come so very far since Forrest's accident eight long weeks ago. We are forever grateful for everyone's support and for the remarkable progress Forrest has made. In preparation for his surgery tomorrow we have spent a lot of time together this weekend resting, reading, talking, even bicycling for a few moments. Kathleen, his friend from Sea Camp, visited this afternoon and it was delightful to soak up a little sunshine and enjoy Shepherd's Secret Garden with a friend (those photos are on a different camera and will have to wait until another day).

Some of the symptoms of ABI recovery at this stage include; trouble finding words, or sometimes mixing pieces of different memories together, or mixing similar sounding words up. Which is difficult when Forrest wants so badly to talk with his friends. His whole face lights up when he hears a friends voice on the phone. So it's hard to watch him struggle to organize his thoughts, find his words, to ask the right questions, to find the right answers. But through practicing in short conversations, he is slowly untangling his memories and the right words are beginning to return.

Sometimes the words are unexpected, but somehow just right. Yesterday, Forrest seemed unusually quiet, and of course a mother will worry. I asked how he was feeling, if he was feeling sad or tired, or if his back was hurting. He thought for a moment and responded, "I'm feeling sort of dilapidated and my back feels like custard." I'm no expert, but this word choice sounded pretty insightful to me! It's getting late now. Forrest and I are watching the "Oceans" movie again. The images and ocean sounds are reassuring to both of us and his eyes are closing. Sweet dreams, Forrest. Tomorrow's a big day… and we are all going to be thrilled to have it soon behind us. Austin or I will beat the drums when Forrest is out of surgery and back at Shepherd. It may be noonish, so please don't worry.

Love to all our friends and families,

Talking with a close friend on a phone attached to the wall!
A little light reading… Spiderman comics!
Mom and Forrest getting a little exercise together…

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Update: 1:00am on 3/12

Forrest had a decent day. He kept his food down, which is great because the spaghetti and meatballs he had for dinner wasn't half bad. He walked around alot, his balance is getting pretty good. The focus continues to be on the upcoming surgery, scheduled for Monday morning. Forrest correctly answered what day it was and what day his surgery is scheduled, though later he forgot, but lets focus on the improvements! This continues to be a long road, some days are going to show greater improvements than others, but the general trend is upward, and we can work with that. "Stay the course" is the motto I've adopted through this journey, from "The Patriot" with Mel Gibson (which Forrest and I love watching together).

During dinner he had quite a few great, appropriate laughs when we were all talking. Forrest was trying to come up with a word that started with a "p" and he couldn't think of the word so we started offering more and more ridiculous words like "pugnacious" and "persnickety" and he laughed harder and harder. It was a beautiful and heart warming sound.

Big Bro

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Update: 11:00pm on 3/10

Forrest got a surgery reprieve today, he got to do a full day of physical, speech and occupational therapy instead. He was a busy boy walking from one appointment to another after his wheelchair got parked. He wanted out of it so bad, now every once a while he misses it when he gets tired. He was very tired at the end of the day but ate well and had no G.I. Setbacks today, yeah! The Shepherd team did an amazing job of making sure his new prosthetic partial cranium will be be here and able to be implanted under his skin on Monday! So that is the new surgery date.

He went thru everything with his typical attitude and kindness. He and I went to help him get his L-1 fracture radiographed. He was great and insisted on going back and thanking the radiology techs for a job well done, as you can imagine he is very popular here at Shepherd.

Austin was very careful today since he felt like he was getting a cold. Note the mask and gloves. Good biosecurity, Dad approved! Austin is also volunteering at the Georgia Aquarium so he is staying very busy on all fronts and continuing to be superbro.

Dad came back into Atlanta yesterday to help out. My super team back at VEI is hosting our annual ISELP meeting this weekend with our good friend Professor Jean-Marie Denoix and 75 veterinarians from around the world, proving once again they are the best team ever!!! I will show up toward the end but Lisa and Christy, Susan Johns and crew have done all of the work.

Mom and Dad met with multiple Docs at Shepherd today discussing medications, progress, plans for outpatient transfer and the surgery. One of the most interesting discussions was the amazing physical progress he has made but still how far he has to go cognitively. The term as you approach Rancho 6 for what he does on occasion is "fantastic confabulations." It means that sometimes his injured but still healing brain can come up with some amazing stories on what happened to him and what is going on around him. We will pass some on some of them in the future. So progress is being made, the Docs are optimistic but as the Grateful Dead reminded us in their song, "what a long strange trip it's been." it's a long way from over and it may get stranger but we are going to see it to the end and he is going to be great!

Dad and Team Forrest

Quote of the day. "Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a Butterfly."
Ancient Proverb

Bros back together, Austin getting over being sick

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Update: 6:30pm on 3/9

Thanks for the wonderfully encouraging messages.  Unfortunately, due to a snafu at Piedmont Hospital, the order for Forrest's prosthetic skull flap (his "lid") was cancelled 10 days ago and nobody was notified!    We are all upset and disappointed (including his doctors at Shepherd).  Shepherd is doing their best to rectify the situation, but the soonest we might be able to schedule the surgery now is Monday.  Our main concern now is to keep Forrest safe until we can get the surgery rescheduled.  As he gets stronger physically and becomes increasingly aware of his limitations he is feeling more frustrated...and perhaps a little fearful. 

This morning he was asking his nurse for a shower and she tried to explain to him that he had already had a shower.  In an effort to help him remember, she showed him the computer record which includes the times of all his activities.   When he read the chart and saw he had indeed had a shower 2 hours earlier, his eyes filled up with tears and he whispered, "I'm sorry, I don't remember that."   I felt his fear, crawled into bed next to him and tried to reassure him that realizing he doesn't remember is an important step to regaining his short term memory.  That it will come back.  It's still very early in his recovery.  Together, we can do this. One day at a time.  

Proud to be, Forrest's & Austin's Mum

Quote of the day: "If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again." Flavia Weedn

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Update: 10:30pm on 3/8

News Flash: Today Forrest retired his faithful wheelchair and is now determined to get wherever he needs to go within Shepherd Hospital via the power of his own two long legs! This new challenge will help him build up his stamina for the demands associated with the next phase of his recovery. Also, the MRI of Forrest's brain confirms the swelling and hemorrhage have resolved and that he is cleared for surgery Thursday morning. We are all really eager to get this behind us and have his new "lid" put on! It will mean another MAJOR milestone in his recovery is accomplished! The current annoying challenge is the apparent persistent miscommunication between Forrest's injured brain and his stomach. The signals keep getting switched and his brain tells his stomach to throw it all up. The docs are trying some additional medications to resolve this pesky problem since we are working so hard to put some weight back on this bean-pole! Overall, great progress and continued gratitude for our many daily blessings.

Love to all, Mum + Team Forrest

Thumbs up

Monday, March 7, 2011

Update: 4:00pm on 3/7

Intro from Austin: On Saturday one of his best friends since childhood, Nick Weeden, came to visit him. I was actually gone this past weekend and was sad that I wasn't able to see Nick. I asked Forrest today if he remembered seeing Nick and he said he did, though he also named other friends from home that he thought he hung out with. It's important to keep in mind that he is still confused at this stage and that his post traumatic amnesia still comes and goes. That being said, he is making progress and the bits and pieces of his memory are slowly fitting together, it may take awhile before huge improvements occur. It's terrific and inspiring that he has such strong friendships with his amazingly dedicated friends.

Update from Nick:
Where to begin. Twenty-four hours after taking off for Atlanta, I feel like so much has happened. I’ve eaten at four different fast food restaurants, felt like my plane was about to crash, and of course, hung out with my best friend all day. When I walked into Forrest’s room on Saturday night I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The last time I had seen him was at the hospital in Charlottesville; there, I had been able to make eye contact with him but that was about it. But down in Atlanta, I was blown away. It was just like any old break walking down to his basement to hang out; I walk in, a huge grin appears on Forrest’s face, we do our usual handshake/bro hug type thing, and then we catch up about everything from lacrosse, to spring break. To sum it all up, it was great to finally be able to catch up with my best friend after way too long of a time.

Come Sunday, we had an action packed day. We started by building a Star Wars Lego. However, we decided that was not nearly competitive enough for Forrest and I, so we settled on the card game “War”. In all my years playing War, I have never tied someone. Honestly, I just thought it wasn’t possible. But somehow, Forrest and I ended up tying twice. After our cards, we went to get some lunch with everybody and Forrest gave me the tour of the Hospital. Unfortunately most everything was closed on Sundays, but looking in, Forrest seems to have some pretty nice facilities down there, including a huge pool and gym. People complain about hospital food, but I enjoyed my chicken tenders thoroughly and Forrest seemed to like his Mac and Cheese.
After lunch, Forrest and I got to play a little lacrosse in the hallways; we even got Rodney (his one-on-one tech that day) a stick to toss around with too. Anyone who knows Forrest and I will agree when I say that one of our favorite activities is posting up on the couch in Forrest’s basement, watching tv, and playing video games. Knowing my visit couldn’t be complete without these two crucial activities, after lacrosse, we made it back to his room, relaxed, and watched some Werewolf movie. Unfortunately, we did not have an X-box, but I am bringing it next time for sure. After the movie, I had to head on out to catch my plane, but not before a little target practice with the Nerf Gun. Just like when we played paintball, Forrest destroyed me in our accuracy contest.

Forrest is doing very well and recovering every day. It was incredible to see the amount of letters, posters, and cards sent to him. His room is truly unbelievable and I know he appreciates everything you all send him. I am so glad I went down there and can’t wait to go back. Keep doing what you’re doing bro; we are all thinking about you.

After the nerf contest

Lucky treat: lunch in the cafeteria (Rodney, Nick, Mom, Forrest)

Playing "war"

Oh you know, just lax-ing it up in the hallway (lacrosse)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Update: 11:00pm on 3/4

Forrest and Mum rolled over to Piedmont Hospital for his MRI this morning to determine if his brain swelling is completely resolved. The swelling has to be completely gone before he can have his new improved  custom "lid" surgically installed next week.  The MRI required an Intravenous sedation in order to make sure he remained absolutely still and we avoided him bumping his unprotected noggin while in the MRI coil. We probably won't have the results until Monday.  Getting to the hospital for the MRI took most of the morning and then he slept for a couple of hours so he only made Speech Therapy today.  He worked hard on swallowing clear liquids which still have a tendency to run too fast down his throat and make him cough.  Since he had to fast prior to the sedation this morning, last night Lobie made him a marvelous pasta dish which he loved and before bed we treated Forrest and the nursing staff to chocolate sundaes complete with whip cream! 

We started building Legos last night and worked again with them tonight.  He is following the diagrams and picking out the correct pieces.  After a while he tires and his hands start trembling, but it is wonderful being able to build together!  We have received so many thoughtful and caring gifts from family, long time friends, and some from friends we haven't even met yet.  One that recently touched all our hearts was from Olivia a 2nd Grader from Forrest's alma mater, Hill School.  Olivia, who has written some wonderful comments for Forrest's blog, took it upon herself to sew a special pillow for Forrest.  She picked the fabric out herself ( as she wrote  "the color of the forest, because of your awesome name." ) and got her mother to teach her how to use the sewing machine so she could sew it herself.  It arrived yesterday with a  charming letter and we all agree,  the pillow and Olivia are truly amazing!  The pillow is just the right size and shape for snuggling. It is incredibly soft and Forrest has taken it everywhere with him!  Sometimes the generosity and thoughtfulness of children just takes your breath away…Forrest will definitely want to visit Olivia at Hill School when we are able to come home!

Mum and Aunt Lobie

Quote of the Day:  "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference."  Winston Churchill

Aunt Lobie dishes up her home made pasta!

Forrest departs for his MRI with Shepherd staff and Olivia's pillow!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Update: 11:00pm on 3/2

Forrest had a small "hiccup" today medically. He seems a bit congested and his blood pressure has been lower than normal. He lost his appetite for hospital food and we had trouble getting enough fluids in him. So, sounds like a good time to replace hospital food with a picnic, right! Aunt Lobie brought homemade chicken noodle soup and fresh pineapple to perk up his appetite. Along with some antihistamines for the congestion, his blood pressure returned to normal, he rallied and ate pretty well.
They took it a little easier with him in therapy today because of his low blood pressure and increased risk of falling. So they did more stretching and even a little reclining bicycle instead of long walks. His Speech Therapist told us that he is speaking up more in the group sessions and remarked that he seems to respond well to the group "energy". Of course this is no surprise to those of us who know and love the social party animal side of Forrest!
Today, he logged on his Face Book group with one of his cool therapist. He read a few of his friend's posts which was incredible to watch because his whole face lit up when he read your words of encouragement! And he typed a couple of messages back to his friends!
Later in the afternoon, his Physical Therapist said to Forrest that she had seen him on the computer and asked what he was up to, he honestly responded "I'm sorry, I don't remember that." Although it was only an hour before, it's still difficult for him to store current events in his short term memory. We were touched by his honesty and the courage it takes to just say you don't know the answer, when you feel like you should. This is an important step for Forrest in regaining his sense of self awareness. There are going to be many moments like this for Forrest as he struggles to regain his memories, and we hope that with his friends and family he will always feel safe enough to tell it like it is.
With love from Shepherd Center,
Mum and Team Forrest
Quote of the Day: "Wherever you go, go with all your heart!" Confucius

Forrest on his bike

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Update: 10:30pm on 3/1

Pictures to go with this mornings update:

"Confidence... Confidence..." t-shirts designed by 44's good friend Caroline Elgin

Forrest presents Dr. Kailin with Birthday plaque

Thankfully Forrest is able to reassemble Dr. Kailin's brain model!

Forrest + Austin with their Godfather David O'Connor

Update: 4:00am on 3/1

Forrest has had a busy 24 hours.  It started yesterday with a visit from his Godfather, David O’Connor.  David’s comment was he was flabbergasted by his progress.  Forrest can do so many things he could not do just days ago it is amazing.  He joked quietly with David and had some laughs and smiles, some big, some smaller and quieter like he is sharing a private joke.  David shared with us how impressed he was with Forrest’s progress and promised to come back in a few weeks.

He had a running game of Nerf basketball with Dad Sunday afternoon with him in his wheelchair and Dad running around trying to keep up with Forrest’s throws and movement.  That provoked a lot of smiles and laughs on both sides.  The real Wheelchair athletes had just finished their practice and we stayed out of their way slightly in awe of their efforts.

This morning it was up and at for breakfast and he ate the best I had seen him.  Then a cough turned into a gag and it came back up.  He managed the whole process well but was embarrassed that it had happened.  His brain, throat, stomach are all trying to figure out this new system and some failures are expected to offset his notable progress.  The whole nutritional aspect has just changed in the last few days since his stomach tube has been pulled and he must get all of his nutrition and medications orally the same way the rest of us do.  So there is a bit more of a push to get food in him but as I learned it can be overdone and he is still figuring out when to say enough. 

He did much better at lunch and dinner and had a busy schedule on various therapies.  The most impressive was me getting ok to walk with him but he really needs very little balance help anymore and he walked down 4 flights of stairs today with his Physical Therapist.  He is still working on the cognitive part and it is coming together slowly with him remembering some from the previous days and then forgetting things he had worked on earlier in the day.  The brain is learning how to rewire itself and that involves how to lay down memories and make them stay.  It is hard and sometimes frustrating work for him and sometimes it is a lot to do.  He told me in a quiet moment that sometimes it is easier to live in his dreams that the real world is hard.  He hurts and yet hardly ever complains and always wants to reassure whomever is working with him that he appreciates their help and has a smile and a handshake for them.  Austin and Rae are reading Mind Storms a book by Ed Cassidy that I am about to download to my iPad . It goes thru the process that he and many of the other unsung heroes of traumatic brain injury are struggling with here at Shepherd.  Check the blog from yesterday if you want to learn more about Shepherd Center.

He got to give a birthday gift to Dr. Kaelin his head Doctor that was a wooden plaque with a saying from John Wayne. “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway”.  That is the way it is sometimes  here but Forrest’s jumps into to it anyway and enjoyed giving a gift to one of his favorite Doctors.
Other big news is that Forrest got to look at 3-D CT pictures of the prosthetic cranium that will cover the area of his Cranioectomy.  Dr. Simon the plastic surgeon who will do the procedure came by and discussed it with Mom, Dad and Forrest.  He showed us what it will look like and how he will put it on.  It was very cool.  I talked to Forrest about it later and told him I thought it was way cooler than the used sports car I had gotten last year which he is so fond of.  So his response was, “So, do want to trade”?  I told him I didn’t think his Mom would let us do that.  

His Aunt Lobie arrived today and has started giving Rae and Austin a hand already.  She took a great picture of our Green Team Forrest Shirts which we modeled.  You may remember the pink ones from earlier.  Both show our Team 44 spirit!  I had to head back to work tonite and of course my flight got cancelled and I am now rerouting thru National airport so I can be at work and helping my wonderful crew at VEI who is holding down the fort while I shuttle back and forth to Atlanta.  So I send this from my cab to Dulles in the middle of the night to my wonderful niece Lisa who started the blog and has agreed to post it so it will be up for the people who read it over their Wheaties in the morning.  Austin will add the pictures later, so you’ll have to check back for that.

It is very hard to leave 44 and I miss him and Team Forrest terribly already.  He and I talked about it and said it was ok as long as I come back soon!  Count on it little buddy.

Quote of the day: ”Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”.  Neale David Walsch