Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Update: 9:00pm on 6/29

Forrest has been working hard and striving to succeed, as he has done so every day. For over a month Forrest has been unable to communicate with us. Yesterday brought about some exciting progress. He had a great Speech Therapy session yesterday, when he pointed to the “no” card when his therapist asked if he was 37 years old and pointed to the “yes” card when asked if he lived in Virginia. After those two successes he was exhausted and unable to answer anything else, but it was a great start. He’s also started tentatively fist bumping and high fiving again, which are great signs. He overall looks more alert and aware, after a difficult month. He’s been having some gastro-intestinal problems, which the doctors are working up. He’s still posturing and hyper-extending for many hours each day, we are working with the doctors on changing his pain, anxiety, and muscle relaxing meds to counter these “posturing” episodes.

Transferring from his bed to his wheelchair he stood up with me several times yesterday and it was a heartwarming sight to see him looming above looking down at me, which is how he usually looks at people, especially me. The active duty Team 44 has moved into our new apartment, much more spacious and just a 10 min walk from the hospital. Yeah Aunt Lobie for finding rental furniture, supervising the movers, organizing our new abode, and shopping for and stocking the new Team 44 command post!

We also had a great number of Mercersburg (Forrest’s high-school for several years) visitors over the weekend and yesterday. It was great to see Nikki and Christina Hyrkas, their Mother, Mikk Nuth, Peter Flanagan, Gio DeSantis, and Shayna Rice. Forrest seemed to love seeing them, even when he dozed off we know hearing them tell stories of times with Forrest gave him positive energy & material for happy dreams.

Austin and Team 44

Forrest standing!

Christina and Nikki


Gio and Pete (Shayna not in pic!)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Update: 12:15pm on 6/23

Tuesday, I unexpectedly got the chance to go to DC and see Forrest, Austin and Rae. I hadn’t seen Forrest since about 48 hours after the accident, so I was very excited to finally get to see him again. Truth be told, my excitement turned to nervousness as I got to National Rehab around 2:30; as Rae and Kent’s assistant for the last 3 and a half years, I have had an intimate perspective on the last 5 months, and I just didn’t know what to expect, and worried about whether I would burst into tears when I saw him, what to say….I don’t even really know what, just the unknown of the whole situation. 

Forrest was in the hallway in his chair when we got up to the floor, and Rae told him that I had come to see him. I can’t find the words to express how great it was to see Forrest, to hold his hand and talk to him about what was going on at the farm, about how proud I was of him and how happy I was to see him. While he was pretty quiet and tired yesterday, more than once, he made direct eye contact with me and held my gaze for a while, letting me know that he knew that I was there. After we talked for a bit, he dozed off for a quick snooze before his physical therapist came to take him to do his walking for the day.

My first experience with the word humbled on this day was watching Forrest work in his PT session. His therapist and Austin got him up on those impossibly long legs, and for those minutes, you just  have never seen anybody work harder than Forrest did. His concentration was evident on his face as he fought to connect thought to movement, and we were overjoyed to see him take a purposeful step; the joy that radiated from Rae when he did was palpable.

I left to run to National to go pick up Aunt Lobie, returning for another session of frontline Team 44. After dropping her off with Rae, I intended to back up to the floor to say goodbye to the boys quickly before fighting through the rush hour traffic to get home. I ended up staying with them for almost another 2 hours, during which I had opportunity for more encounters with the word “humbled”. In Forrest’s room, for the most part, it was just the boys and me; nurses came and went, but mostly, just us. To have the opportunity to just hang out with them was nothing short of amazing. Austin moves with a quiet purpose, constantly monitoring Forrest’s movements and expressions, his breathing rate and his lines. Much of the time, Austin worked on flexing Forrest’s legs, easing the tension in his hamstrings, and I knelt on the floor next to Forrest’s bed, holding one of his hands and using the other hand to help soothe him when he would seem to become distressed. Austin’s dedication to caring for Forrest has been apparent to anyone who reads the blog, but to see it in action was incredible. I am awed by his devotion to his little brother and to his family. With the exception of greatly missing Forrest’s witty conversation and snappy comebacks, it felt like old times to be with them and joke around and just hang out. Again Forrest made direct eye contact with me on more than one occasion, making sure I knew he was with us and a part of the conversation, even though he couldn’t verbally respond.

Finally, it came time for me to go home, though honestly, I hated to leave. Whatever nervousness I felt at first was so quickly replaced by the ease of old friends, and my tremendous love for the two boys I spent the evening with. Rae, Kent, Austin and Forrest have become my extended family in the time I’ve been with them, and I am honored to be a part of theirs. I told Forrest that I had to go, promising that it wouldn’t be so long before I saw him again. I kissed his hand and stood up, turning to give Austin a hug when Forrest raised up his right arm towards me; Austin said, “He’s trying to give you a hug!!” which after some maneuvering, he was able to do. He rested his arm across my shoulder and very purposefully patted my back several times, while Austin said that that was the first time he’d done that in some time. I blew them a kiss goodbye, and I am not ashamed to say that I walked out into the hallway and burst into tears by the elevators, totally overcome with pride for how hard Forrest is working and what an amazing man Austin has become, awe for how Rae and Kent have held everything together for their family and work’s sake alike. Humbled doesn’t begin to describe it.


Forrest hard at work as Austin looks on.

Rebekah glad to be reunited with Forrest for the first time since January.

Rebekah and Forrest

Thank you

Thanks to everyone who made housing suggestions. We have found an apartment close to the hospital and will be moving in soon. Thank you for all your help!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Update: 3:00pm on 6/22

Forrest, I've enjoyed being with you last week. As usual, we faced a variety of things but you are still giving them all your best. You have faced the challenge of being transported, which must be quite an unusual thing for you with the being strapped in safely with all sorts of new noises and people happening around you. Frankly, as I was negotiating the DC traffic on my own, loaded with all of our "stuff", I felt I wanted to be strapped in a little more safely also. I do love the GPS and I learned that Dupont Circle is not where you want to be at 4:00 in the afternoon when the traffic signals go out. But we made it and you are in a good place and the team is here with you. 

Your new therapists seem great. We are all learning about a new place but we just feel you will make some good progress here. Some of the good things that have happened over the weekend were the visits of two high school friends, Liza and Sabina and cousin Lisa and Lee stopping by. The weekend was just some relaxing time so you could be ready to go for this week.  

Don't forget Forrest, we are all cheering you on and know you are working hard.  Hang in there champ. 
Much love, 
Aunt Lynn

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Housing in DC

If anyone knows of a two bedroom place to rent/borrow/trade for/etc. in northwest DC (Adams Morgan or Dupont/Logan type areas), please contact us. The Washington Hospital/National Rehab Hospital area is a couple miles north of the capitol/White House area and east of the National Zoo. Options seem to be slim around here. We are in temporary housing that is closing its doors July 1. We are thinking we might need this housing for 2 months while Forrest in in rehab here. Thanks everyone!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Update:12:30pm on 6/16

On the road again...and working our way back closer to home.  Forrest is being transported by a medical ambulance to the National Rehab Hospital in Washington, DC as I write this; Austin and I aren't far behind in the vehicles.  Forrest seemed ready this morning as we explained the next great step on the journey.  He has such a good attitude and sure is trying each day to respond more and more to our requests.  It is nice to see he is feeling better too!!  Recouping from pneumonia is something that makes us all happy.  The new rehab place will get to work again on loosening muscles in his arms, legs, and practicing swallowing, and vocalizing.  We look forward to reporting his progress and meeting our next friends along the way.

And speaking of that, many of the staff at UVA remembered Forrest from his first stay in the trauma unit right after the accident.  A therapist I met even said she requested his case again when she heard he was coming back and many other Drs. and nurses from the past stopped by.  What an encouragement to us all to see how proud they are of Forrest and team 44 for keeping their eyes on a goal up ahead.

And speaking of friends, we know we are going to be closer to so many of you (Austin and I mapquested the distance from Middleburg to NRH--1 hours and 15 minutes!!  But not during traffic, I'm sure!)  Getting nearer to friends is some of the best therapy ever!  Give us some time to settle in and get our bearings in this new place and we will work out times for some visits.

In the meantime, we still read blog comments, Facebook, and mail to Forrest remind him how much everyone is cheering him on.   Keep them coming!
Aunt Lynn and Team 44

P.S.  I just must brag on the comments I hear from the staff regarding the superb care by one very famous brother and a dedicated Mom and Dad.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Update: 11:45pm on 6/14

Hi all,

I'm watching Forrest during the nights, so I'm trying to be productive and do the blog while I'm up anyway. He's sleeping soundly right now. He and I just watched The Matrix (Forrest only likes the first one, which is the best, so we stopped after that). We're waiting to see if we can transfer to National Rehab Center in DC this week, if not then next week. Forrest had some great visitors the last few days. Two friends from Mercersburg, Giovanni DeSantis (Gio) and Shayna Rice, came to visit over the weekend. In addition, Nick Weeden, a close friend of Forrest since kindergarten, visited him Monday and Tuesday. It was great to hang out with all of them and hear about their College plans. It was a morale boost for us as well as Forrest. We're working on a plan for more people to visit, it should be sorted out in a couple days, stay tuned.

Aunt Lynn returned again to the front lines late Monday night, and already she has jumped back into the fray with enthusiasm. It's great to have her back!

All the best,
Austin and Team 44

Here's a guest post from Gio:

A journey that began in Mercersburg brought Shayna and I to UVA medical center only to be greeted by the warming presents of Forrest. Anyone who knows Forrest can attest to the immediate presence he has when in the room. That very presence which gives everyone assurance that Forrest will soon be back to his same goofy and always smiling self. The determination and strength he has surpasses that of anyone I know and should be a model for us all.

As I walked in, the love and support of his friends, family, and fellow classmates seemed to wallpaper the room. Signs of encouragement are all around Forrest and it is this very form of medicine that will aid him to a quick recover. I left Forrest with some new music both on Cds and playlists on his ipad, a Mercersburg class of 2011 hat and an air freshener, Mercersburg lacrosse gloves. Forrest’s great taste in music, I have come to find out is the best on the floor according to staff.

I was overwhelmed to be with Forrest this weekend. He greeted me personally with several high fives and fist bumbs and even held up a 1 with his finger to tell me he was feeling great. We enjoyed our time together looking at recent photos from prom, graduation and bachelorette, followed by some old pictures of him and all his friends. I talked to Forrest and caught him up on what’s been going on, even Austin gave Forrest some good news, letting him know “ We got Osama”. I also enjoyed learning some of the therapy side of things, helping Forrest to put on his “moon boots” and even working out his legs and putting him to sleep while enjoying “Wagon Wheel”.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Dr. Stone, Dr. Allen, Austin, and even now Sundance. Shayna and I learned just what it takes to make it on team Forrest, learning quickly that each and everyday is a battle. Regardless, The strength and spirit of his family is truly the greatest gift Forrest has right now.

Forrest has definitely been an incredible friend, not just to me but to all of us, now it is our turn to return the favor and continue to stand by his side in his time of need.

Your Friend Always,
Giovanni DeSantis (Gio)

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.~

Gio and Shayna

Gio and Forrest

Nick Weeden and Tired Forrest

Catching up

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Update: 10:00pm on 6/12

Forrest is back on Virginia soil and happy to be back among his friends. His great friends Giovanni and Shayna from Mercersburg came and visited him this weekend. Although he was tired, he clearly responded to their company and was happy to see them. When we sat Forrest up on the side of the bed there were a couple fist bumps for Gio who was a super stand in therapy aide. Gio will be coordinating with Nick Weeden and Austin to develop visitation guidelines & schedule for Forrest’s friends. Shayna helped Mom pack out of the most recent hotel and we have moved into our ninth housing change since Forrest’s injury. Geo, Shayna, Austin and Mom moved our Command post while Dad sat watch with Forrest. Forrest and I watched the Belmont together since Grandmom Norma gave us a heads up. We both picked a horse, Forrest picked “Animal Kingdom” and I picked “Shackelford”. We both did badly, oh well, that’s why I’m a horse vet not a handicapper.

Aunt Tricia has returned to Oregon after a month of “44”duty. Thanks for all your tireless help Tricia! Aunt Lynn returns tomorrow to help us for a week. Dad has been coming down and trying to help the team on weekends and Mom and Austin continue to be the stalwart constants in Forrest’s battle. It is likely we will move to Washington DC once he is stabilized medically (hopefully in the next week or so) and try to progress with rehab at National Rehab Hospital. We will likely repeat the process of finding a hotel and then try to find some nearby apartments that can house his support team.

On the medical front the biggest issues currently are a clotting problem called Heparin Induced Thrombocytopenia and Thrombus (HIT or HITT). It is essentially a problem with him being administered heparin for long periods of time and his body developing antibodies to them. This requires a change in his anticoagulant therapy and although it has not developed into a significant problem at the moment it has the potential to be a very serious problem. It can cause significant clotting disorders or stop the blood from clotting. It takes months for the antibodies to slowly fade away. This means all non-emergency surgery will have to be postponed for several months.

On the other medical fronts he is slowly recovering from both his lung and his Antibiotic induced intestinal infection. They have both sapped his energy and he struggles to participate in his therapy sessions. He continues to try and has never given up. His other significant issue is thought to be centrally induced extensor muscular contractions that cause significant charley-horse like pain that is almost body wide. All of us spend countless hours gently massaging his cramping muscles with Mom and Austin being the most effective. Various teams here at UVA are consulting on these problems and trying to devise therapeutic and medical strategies to improve his situation.

Sundance has returned to the 44 team this weekend and wears his Certified Therapy Dog bandanna proudly and gives Forrest and his team a much needed morale boost.

There are a lot of Super Heroes in this story. Many family members and friends who play countless needed support roles. There are his peers who remain devoted supporters and believers in Forrest. Good friends and complete strangers who step forward to rally around Forrest with offers of housing and help. The biggest Hero is Forrest who refuses to quit and Mom and Austin who have become 24/7 expert and loving medical aides to give him every chance to recover and come back to us all.

Dad and Team 44
The whole family together, Sundance even has his own isolation gown.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Update: 9:30am on 6/8

The Forrest has landed. Forrest’s medical jet touched down at Charlottesville Airport at exactly 12:30 midday. It was on time and I was there waiting for 44, Rae and Austin. It was nice of Forrest to let his Mom and Brother come along on his private jet. A waiting ambulance gathered up Forrest and Mom and we all headed to UVA Medical Center. Austin rode with me and told me that they had thumb wrestled during part of the trip. Aunt Tricia loaded up the remains of the Atlanta apartment and spent the day doing the long drive from Atlanta to VA. He was sleepy and tired from his trip and wasn’t very responsive for most of the day. He indicated through finger raising to Austin at one point he was bored and I’m sure he misses his team from Shepherd that he knew so well and always kept him entertained. Austin and Mom went out and bought him some games and Mom worked on securing housing.

It was nice to see some familiar faces from UVA and he was ushered to his nice spacious room, his 21st different room since this odyssey began, his first room being three floors down from where he is now. He is still struggling with the remains of the nasty respiratory condition and still dangerously low on reserves and energy. He is still struggling with the stiffness in his muscle that has plagued him for the last several weeks. He has had some intestinal difficulties in the last several days which at one point threatened to stop the transport but seems to be doing better currently. He has some clot abnormalities in his arms but so far no major complications. We spent part of the early morning meeting with the UVA neurosurgery team and talking options and timing of cranioplasty (putting the lid back on). Everyone is agreed that he needs to be adequately over his last infection before we proceed on to the next step.

It bears noting that our modern medical system that has supported Forrest and his “won’t quit” attitude thru a dozen major complications. All of these treatments and medication have side effects and consequences not easily foreseen. So we approach each step with caution but never the less we must continue to move forward to progress.

So Forrest has made it back to Virginia and we hope the next few steps will go more smoothly than the last couple months. We look forward to getting 44 going again but acknowledge that it is a long road.

I repeat my quote from an earlier blog.

"No sense wishing for what we had, the past is already gone. Let us instead hope for what may be, for tomorrow anything is possible." Forrest’s Dad 2011

Thanks to all the help from Shepherd Center and all of Forrest’s friends and family. We continue to welcome your thoughts, prayers, posts and support.

Dad and Team 44

Saying good bye to part of the awesome Shepherd team

Distracting Forrest playing "Angry Birds" on the jet ride

Transferring from jet to ambulance in Charlottesville, VA

Monday, June 6, 2011

Update: 10:45pm on 6/6

I have some exciting news, but first I want to thank everyone for sharing your positive images of Forrest healthy and home. We love hearing your dreams and warm thoughts of Forrest, especially when told in such vivid detail. Forrest must have picked up on all the good vibes, because he's made good strides the last few days. He's been much more responsive for the first time in weeks. He's definitely in there. He played thumb war with me, gave me an "ok" and a thumbs up when I asked. He's answering some questions by holding up one finger for "yes" and two fingers for "no." He sat up on his bedside today with Mom and I, even though it was tough, he fought through it.

But not only is he making some cognitive progress again, we also got the green light today and are transporting by medical jet to UVA hospital tomorrow. We will post an update tomorrow when he's settled in to his new accommodations.

It's great that he's leaving Shepherd Center, where he made such amazing progress the first time around, on a positive note. His therapists, doctors, day nurses, night nurses, and techs at Shepherd have kept not only a vigilant, but also a loving eye on him during the months he's been here. Their positive and "can do" attitude has been instrumental to his recovery and his spirit. Just as they adore Forrest, we've come to think of them as family. We're looking forward to and envisioning the day Forrest and Team 44 walks back through Shepherd's door to say hello.

We will also miss our new friends in Atlanta who've been so great to us the last few months. They've made us feel like family and have been there to welcome us into their homes and their lives, lend a hand, offer encouragement, and let us recharge over dinner and conversation.

Austin and Team 44

Sitting up

Friday, June 3, 2011

Update: 3:30pm on 6/3

Forrest Stone Allen has made some progress since the last post. Two days ago his antibiotics were changed based on a more effective diagnosis. Yesterday morning he started becoming a little more alert. His eyes are a bit more open and tracking more, and he is moving his arms to scratch his nose or scratch his back. Those are termed "purposeful" movements and are a good sign. He's starting to sleep a bit better at night. He's undergoing more lab tests to determine the cause of his underlying condition and his problems with his clotting ability in his bloodstream.

I was back home yesterday for a very special occasion. Highland school, Forrest's highschool and my highschool as well, dedicated the yearbook to Forrest at the all-school assembly. While we hoped Forrest would be able to accept it, I was glad that I could be there in person to accept it for him. Tori Selfe gave a very thoughtful speech announcing the dedication and mentioned the many times her family and ours have gone exploring. She rightfully said that Forrest "wasn't a good person to follow while diving because he tends to swim toward sharks." It's a true statement and it's that kind of attitude that is going to allow him to prevail through this journey.

When I got up to say a few words, I could really sense and see in their faces the collective power of positive thoughts arising from the students, he is very much in their hearts, thoughts, and prayers. I did get a little nervous as Forrest and I received a standing ovation, it was an honor to be there for him and see once again just how loved he is.

My Dad wanted me to put yesterday’s address on the blog, so to keep him happy, here it is:

While we all wish Forrest was here today to accept this dedication, it’s an honor to be able to accept this for him and get to speak to you all today.

My name is Austin Allen. I’m a Highland Alum from the class of 2006. I graduated from William and Mary this past December, so I’ve been able to be by Forrest’s side almost every day over the last four and a half months.

Someone else has been by his side a lot recently, and I wanted to bring him along today to give him some recognition. Over there is our dog Sundance with my friend Nate. Sundance went back to school to become a certified Therapy Dog so he could visit Forrest in the hospital. He’s been living with us in Atlanta and visiting Forrest every day the last couple of months. He really cheers up Forrest, the rest of the family, the nurses and therapists as well.

Annually, in the United States, over 1.7 million people suffer some type of Traumatic Brain Injury. But it doesn’t really hit home until it’s a friend, brother, or classmate. Since his snowboarding accident on January 14, during which Forrest suffered a severe traumatic brain injury Forrest’s recovery has been a frightful rollercoaster of ups and downs. He has made remarkable progress, but has also suffered a number of setbacks that have eroded much of his progress. His case is very complicated and we are still unable to understand the causes behind his setbacks. We are optimistic that this trend will change for the better soon.

The reason behind our optimism, apart from our unwavering and justified faith in Forrest's strength and resiliency, is that next week, Forrest will return to UVA hospital, and to the same Neuro Intensive Care Unit that saved his life on January 14th. Our hope is that with the neurological and neuro-surgery expertise at UVA, he will be able to make substantial progress and return home to his friends and community.

Community, there's a word that deserves recognition. The support of the Highland Community has been monumental in buoying Forrest's and the rest of Team Forrest's spirits. Your outpouring of compassion during this difficult journey has truly made each day easier to take head on. Everything you've given Forrest, from the thoughtful cards, pictures and words of encouragement, to the amazing banner, jersey, and videos wishing Forrest well, have made us feel loved, and has even brought a couple of Forrest’s characteristic grins to his face that we all know so well. The greatest gift of all is your belief in him and his recovery. Forrest needs people to believe that he will make a full recovery and that he will continue to grow, learn, and heal every day.

We hope Forrest will return to Highland in the fall, but whenever he comes home, his friends and all of you will be more important than ever. I urge you all to stay committed to Forrest and continue to reach out as he gets better, as I know you will. Brain Injury recovery is a long, challenging road and takes time. Forrest still has time to make tons of progress, and with his friends and community by his side, he will not fail. We all want to see him back. He is coming. He's just taking his own unique path, as we know only Forrest would….

The Highland School Yearbook Dedication

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Update: 7:15pm on 6/1

Hey Darlin,

It's your Mum. It's been another rough week, but today was a better day. You and I sort of hit bottom together. You've been battling for your life for months now and it just seems like every time you get ahead an inch another landslide knocks you down. I've been worrying and chasing medical complications for weeks and my faith was faltering. The more I worry, the harder it is to support you. So yesterday I down-loaded the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and started reading it out loud to you. When I told your Aunt Tricia, she said, "Yeah Rae, you sent me The Secret a couple of years ago. You always lived your life that way, you just didn't know it was called The Secret." I think Tricia's right. I have always believed that we create our own reality. That our thoughts and expectations have a way of becoming self fulfilling. Forrest, I know you would laugh out loud and tease me for reading The Secret to you. But today as I read the words out loud I began to renew my Faith, my utter unconditional belief that you are resting and healing. I am visualizing you up and working at National Rehabilitation Hospital in DC. Your friends are coming to visit you and we are heading to the Farm for the week-end. You are smiling and laughing with your therapist. Your eyes sparkle, your arm reaches out to give me one of your enveloping hugs. We are both so excited about our week-end at home. I can hardly wait.

Today, Forrest was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bronchopneumonia. The lab was able to culture the bacteria and his antibiotics were changed. They are treating him with nebulizers to open the airways and a percussion vest to break up the secretions. His fever is down and he is resting more comfortably today with less tremors. He isn't able to respond to us verbally yet, but he does relax when we gently massage his contracted tendons and muscles. And just between you and me, he does enjoy the book. I feel the positive energy growing again. I do believe in the "Law of Attraction". That through our positive thoughts, expectations, visualization and our Faith, we attract joy, health and happiness. Please keep visualizing Forrest healthy, whole, happy and home. I am certain that through the power of our collective visualization and our collective prayer we will bring him home to BrightWood.

With love and gratitude,


Visualizing Mom and her boys back on the farm