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