Saturday, August 27, 2011

Update: 11:45pm on 8/27

Thursday afternoon we made the move from WHC back to NRH. It was an emotional departure from an amazing group of talented and caring nurses, doctors, therapists and PAs. They saw Team 44 through a challenging month, two major surgeries and many difficult days and nights with care and compassion. The bandages came off and he was cleared for transfer. Posters, pictures, letters and gear were packed up as we prepared to “break camp” once again. With his entourage in tow, Forrest’s gurney rolled over the sky bridge connecting the two hospitals and through the doors at NRH to a celebratory air of reunion with our prior NRH team. We were escorted into his original room with a sense that we were meant to return to this space to finish what we had attempted before… a pivotal phase of Forrest’s recovery.

And so we begin again with a renewed faith, a team re-energized by the love and devotion of family and friends and… Forrest’s New Lid! Everyone came in to admire his new profile and his bright new expression. Friday was filled with doctor’s examinations, meetings, along with in-depth evaluations by his physical, occupational and speech therapists. Without exception, everyone was pleased with his progress. His neurosurgeon, Dr. Armonda was particularly happy to see him, only a week post–op looking so alert, propped up in bed and intently watching a movie.

Dad spent the morning with Forrest and then headed back with Sundance to secure BrightWood for possible power outages from Hurricane Irene. Austin and I took advantage of the lull in therapy this afternoon and bundled Forrest up in his wheelchair for his first trip out of his hospital room, that didn’t involve a CT, MRI or surgery, in over two months! We decided Forrest needed to smell the rain, breathe in the energy of the approaching storm, and feel the wind on his face. So we wheeled him through the hospital, down the elevator and out to the doors leading to the gardens. We propped open the doors and welcomed in the warm wet garden smells, and a bit of rain…. We didn’t think we should take him outside just yet. So Austin ever the Brother Extraordinaire, charges out into the rain for him, climbs up onto the wall and heralds the approaching storm with a vigor that embraces our crusade. Forrest drank it all in and quietly accepted our enthusiasm for this important milestone.

Austin & I are sleeping over with Forrest in case there are power outages or flooding issues. The power actually went out at the hospital tonight while Austin was in the elevator! Fortunately he remembered how his Aunt Tricia (retired captain from the San Diego Fire Dept) told him to escape a stalled elevator and he quickly liberated himself! It’s late now. The wind and rain are pelting the windows. Forrest is tucked in for the night and is sleeping peacefully. Austin and I are keeping vigil together. The mood is cozy and safe. We are feeling blessed tonight. We are warm and dry. Forrest is safe. Our collective prayers have been answered. Forrest’s spirit is strong and we are grateful that we have been graced with this time together. We hope all our friends and family stay safe tonight and help watch over each other.


Blessed to be Forrest and Austin’s Mom

Forrest breathing in fresh air

Mom watching over her boy

Laughing watching a movie, see his new lid!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Update: 10:45pm on 8/24

Forrest has had a few great days. He's more alert and focused since the cranioplasty. It has definitely been great to see doctors and nurses who haven't seen him since the surgery come in and say how great he looks. We're actually transferring across the street back to the National Rehab Hospital tomorrow, if everything goes as planned. Today, while sitting up on the side of the bed with assistance, he held his head up high for several minutes, which is monumental in the world of progress measured in infinitesimally small steps! He's doing great and while his care, his nurses, doctors, and therapists, have been extraordinary at WHC, we're excited to get back to NRH where he can get back to work and his journey home.

All the best,
Austin and Team 44

Forrest and I watching the new Star Trek movie

Monday, August 22, 2011

Update: 11:45am on 8/22

Forrest Stone Allen is still in ICU but seems to be making progress. He was assessed today by his neurosurgeon and both of the head drains were pulled and the surgery sites were examined and the bandage changed. Everyone was pleased except for 44 who thought drain removal was not as much fun as advertised.

His blood count was a little low yesterday and so he received a blood transfusion. Hopefully this won’t be a problem and will be watched closely over the next few days. The plan will be to move out of ICU soon and he may be in the intermediate floor and able to take visitors as early as Tuesday. Certainly his great group of visitors have buoyed his and Team 44’s spirits this last week. Dr. Armonda, our neurosurgeon stressed to us that in the next 4 to 12 weeks triggering memories by associating friends with memories will be very important to his next step in the recovery process. He stated that he has seen this before in his young military TBI patients.

We hope to be back to NRH in a week or so and let him get started on his rehab. We will have to continue to watch his prosthesis and ventricular fluid drainage equilibration but that was the plan from the beginning of this surgery schedule. So far, so good.

Mom is working so hard at keeping track of everything and I tried to give her a little break this weekend. Austin is the perfect brother and took two all night shifts this weekend. He organizes things for Forrest and set up the Netflix on the IPad, so Forrest and I could watch Spy Kids all the way through. These two continue to be the heart of Forrest’s support team. I am happy to come in on the weekends and support these two and spend precious moments with Forrest.

A journey of 10,000 miles begins with a single step. Forrest has taken that step and we hope we can help him go forward and frankly we could use a break here. We certainly have all the medical talent and all the prayers and good wishes and all the try of Forrest and Team 44. So upward and onward.

Dad and Team 44

Forrest listens to Dad's voice Sunday night

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Update: 8:45pm on 8/20

Forrest had a good day,
He's still drowsy and he's sleeping a lot. But resting is healing so it's a good thing. Right now he and I are watching "X-men First Class" in 10min segments because he keeps getting tired, haha. He's still in ICU and is expected to be in ICU till Monday. His neurosurgery team saw him this morning and are pleased with the CT's and how he is clinically. Keep him in your thoughts, he's hanging in there.

Austin and Team 44

Friday, August 19, 2011

Update: 11:00pm on 8/19

Forrest is in ICU, sleeping quietly. I'm watching him tonight, and I must say, he's quite a trooper. Dad accompanied him to CT a few hours ago and said he was alert and looking around. He has some sleep meds on board now so he's sleeping soundly. He hasn't needed any pain medication so far, though once the anesthesia fully wears off overnight he will likely need some relief in the AM. Forrest and I are holding down the fort tonight till mama bear gets here in the early morning. Thanks for all the prayers and positive energy. The coming weeks and months will hopefully prove today to be the turning point we've been looking for.

Austin and Team 44

Update: 12:30pm on 8/19

Forrest is out of surgery! He's extubated(meaning the breathing tube for surgery has been taken out). He's with the best Mom ever in recovery right now, and should be moved up to ICU shortly. The neurosurgery team says they think it went well! We will update again later tonight. Thanks for all the support, thoughts, and prayers, they paid off!!

Love from Team 44,

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Update: 10:00pm on 8/17 SURGERY

Hey Forrest, its your Mum. Its been a busy week at WHC. We've had such great visitors this week. Even though most of your friends are busy getting ready to blast off to college, many of them have carved out time to come visit with you. And more are adding their personal video messages sharing favorite memories and words of encouragement on your group face book site. They bring such enthusiasm and positive energy into your world. These individual gifts of time & love have already had a major impact on your recovery & have re-energized your team when we need it most! Today you were able to sit up in a wheelchair for 1.5 hrs & then your therapists helped you get up on your size 12 feet. Austin monitored your heart rate & blood pressure & I supported your head. It was exhausting for you, but you gave it your all and it was so exciting to see you stretching up to your full height once again.

Its been a long long haul, but you can do this Forrest. You are young, strong, resilient. As your Uncle John says, you are a warrior. You never quit. Your brother Austin is by your side, ever your champion, your protector, your greatest ally. You are surrounded by love, a palpable white light of positive energy, a community overflowing with prayer and envisioning your return. We will come home soon Forrest... joyful, healthy, happy, and whole.

This Friday at 7:30 AM, Forrest will undergo his fifth and hopefully last surgery. One of the country's finest neurosurgical teams is going to implant a new prosthetic skull flap and a number of temporary drains, which along with his shunt, will create a healthy safe environment in which his brain can thrive. He is as strong as he has been in a long while and he is buoyed up by the powerful energy of his great friends & his whole community. Please join his family in prayer and send your most positive healing energy his way Friday morning and through the week-end as he fights to regain his life and his future. We will update this blog Friday afternoon after surgery.

Blessed to be Forrest & Austin's Mum,


Forrest sitting up

Robyn and Sundance

Marcial and Forrest

Peter catching up with Forrest

Matt and Chris

Caitlin and Cassie, showing Corina's video to Forrest


Bailey and Camille

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Update: 10:45am on 8/13

From Austin-
Forrest has had an OK week. He is turning his head more often and laughing at a few movies! He's still not speaking or moving his extremities purposefully, but the implanted shunt seems to be working so we are expecting improvements in the next few weeks. It is likely he will have the cranioplasty to put on his "lid" either Friday or the following Friday. Forrest is also able to sit up at higher angles in the bed, that has greatly improved over the last week. He even sat up for 12 minutes on the side of the bed with help yesterday!!

We've had a lot of great visitors this week! Thank you so much to those who were able to come, and we're looking forward to more uplifting visitors! Maddy Sacripanti and Corina Benitz did a terrific job writing the blog today, thank you!

From Maddy and Corina-

On Thursday we visited Forrest, Austin and Mum. It was great to see everyone. We arrived to Forrest and company watching Jackass. Forrest had just received a dose of meds so he was pretty sleepy. Once he woke up we read him posts from the Facebook group and showed him Nick's great video which he responded very well to. For those of you who haven't- if you get the chance, please post! It really helps Forrest and reminds him of what he's fighting to get back to. After reading to him we watched some more Jackass and were lucky enough to see him smile and laugh! It was great to see that the old Forrest is still with us! After goodbyes we were back off to Middleburg.

It was great seeing Forrest and how much progress he is making; however, we feel that the dedication of the blog today should go to the Allens that we don't hear about as often. Rae, Kent and Austin have done such a wonderful job. They constantly have smiles on their faces and have stayed so strong for Forrest throughout his journey. Their dedication to getting Forrest well and home is a tribute to their incredible love and devotion. Watching the Allens run through the daily routines such as turning Forrest in bed and making sure things are running smoothly with the nurses, is incredible. This amazing family has morphed to Forrest's schedule and functions so well! No one would have expected that this would be their daily life style before the accident and yet every day they get up looking forward to the next step. For the Allens, its never about 'what if'. This family lives in the present and is constantly looking ahead to Forrest's bright future.

To the Allen the family- we are all here behind you! Keep your spirits high and we promise that Forrest will make a fantastic recovery!
We are here for you 44/7!

All our love, Maddy and Corina

Rebekah visiting Forrest

Maddy and Corina with Forrest

Maddi and Forrest watching videos

Mike and Georgia showing pictures

We had to say goodbye to Whitney and her terrific help

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Update: 11:00pm on 8/7

Forrest is in the intermediate care ward at the Washington Hospital Center. We wait to see if his fluid in his brain equilibrates with the fluid shunt placed between his lateral ventricles in his brain and his abdomen. When he can sit upright and participate in 3 hours of therapy we can return to National Rehabilitation Center. The plan is to do the cranioplasty (replace the lid) in 2 or 3 weeks if the equilibration is working. We hope at that point a number of the pressure variables that have been negatively affecting his brain will be resolved and he can make further progress with his rehabilitation.

He is very definitely in there and continues to communicate in a limited way such as blinks. He listens intently when friends like Nick Weeden (yesterday) and family like Cousin Lisa come by and visit and talk with him. Last night Austin was watching the movie Rush Hour with him on computer and a scene came up where Chris Rock says bring it on and the villain promptly kicks him. Forrest laughed and smiled and Austin being the great son he is captured the moment with his cell phone camera. We have included the picture below and hope it cheers the rest of you up the way it did us. If Forrest can suffer through six plus months of surgeries, heartbreaking setbacks and major complications and still find humor in Jackie Chan movies, the rest of us can  make sure we continue to support him every way we can. That includes some of his friends who haven’t made into D.C. yet,  please come visit before you go off  to school and he goes for his fifth surgery. He’s still there and trying, let him know you support and miss him. 

Mom and brother continue to be amazing in their care and caring. The Neurosurgeon and the Neurology P.A.’s and nursing staff continue to be amazing in looking out for Forrest on the Neuroscience floor. Whitney Weeden has been great in helping us stay organized and focused on 44, we are sorry to lose her but wish her luck in school. Hopefully we will find someone as good to replace her. Having her help has allowed me to work during the week and come in on Friday and give Austin and Rae some breaks on the weekend. Being on Team 44 is incredibly rewarding and has phenomenal ups and disappointing downs. You cry sometimes just listening to a song but if you just get a glimpse of his smile it makes it all worthwhile. You learn to take one day at time and keep looking forward and keep believing!     

Example a song by Jimmy Cliff
Sitting here in Limbo
 Waiting for the tide to turn.
 Yeah, now, sitting here in Limbo,
 So many things I've got to learn.
 Meanwhile, they're putting up a resistance,
 But I know that my faith will lead me on.

Sitting here in Limbo
 Waiting for the dice to roll.
 Yeah, now, sitting here in Limbo,
 Still got some time to search my soul.
 Meanwhile, they're putting up a resistance,
 But I know that my faith will lead me on.

I don't know where life will take me,
 But I know where I have been.
 I don't know what life will show me,
 But I know what I have seen.

Sitting here in Limbo
 Like a bird ain't got a song.
 Yeah, I'm sitting here in Limbo
 And I know it won't be long
 'Til I make my getaway, now.
 Meanwhile, they're putting up a resistance,
 But I know that my faith will lead me on.

I don't know where life will take me,
 But I know where I have been.
 I don't know what life will show me,
 But I know what I have seen.

Gonna lead me on now.
 Meanwhile, they're putting up resistance,
 But I know that my faith will lead me on.
 Sitting in Limbo, Limbo, Limbo.
  Meanwhile, they're putting up a resistance,
 But I know that my faith will lead me on.

Dad and Team 44

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Update: 11:00pm on 8/3

Forrest is out of ICU and is now in the intermediate care unit at WHC. We had hoped to be transferred back to NRH to re-enter his intensive rehabilitation program there today or tomorrow. Sadly, his difficulties adjusting to the surgically implanted shunt have delayed our return. We will continue meeting with his specialists this week and are doubling our efforts again to help him regain his mobility and strength. Throughout the day Austin and I work together side by side to stretch his arms and legs, encourage him to shape his thoughts into words, entertain his mind and bolster his outlook. For the time being he is restricted to his hospital bed and can tolerate only miniscule changes in elevating the head of his bed. Each morning Forrest and I still count our blessings, that he is alive and his fighting spirit is strong, we are both blessed every day with Austin’s love energy and dedication, the unconditional love & support of our family, friends and community and some of the best doctors and therapists in the country.

Living as we are hour to hour, the smallest gestures take on a clarity and beauty too often missed. Debbie Sharples, one of Forrest’s favorite teachers visited with him yesterday. She was a life changer for a young Forrest who struggled to learn to read the first time. Yesterday she read to him again, and the familiar voice and assurance of a trusted teacher had him captivated. Our world was brightened tonight when Forrest turned his head to listen to a conversation. Such a simple thing, unless it goes missing. As Austin just reminded me, “one blessing is that we have all those amazing firsts to look forward to again.”

Visitors brighten Forrest's and our days as well. Thank you so much to those who have visited and shared your warmth, and we hope to have some visitors this weekend and in the coming week. Forrest is just across the street from NRH and is still able to have visitors. He really seems to enjoy new though familiar faces.

Love, Mom and Austin

Quote of the day: “In a crises, we start where we stand.” Aunt Tricia, Captain San Diego Fire Department

Austin & Mom working on upper body range of motion

Debbie Sharples reading to Forrest