Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Update: Tuesday, 10/4/11

Intro for tonight's blog: Forrest has had a good few days, Mom has been his champion and protector as always while I've been sick. She wanted to fill you all in on his progress in her own update soon. Tonight's blog is by one of Forrest's past teachers, Tom Sweitzer, who taught Forrest acting and music at Hill School. He's been an amazing mentor and friend to Forrest for many years. He's been working with Forrest providing Music Therapy and his recollection below is powerful and speaks to the valiant strides Forrest is making every day.


From Tom:

When you have taught a person throughout their whole childhood you look into the eyes of this now adult and still can see that little child. This last Sunday in the eyes of Forrest I saw the boy I taught many years ago and the man emerging through this tragic scenario.

As a Music Therapist we clinically look into how music can help a person with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. This last Sunday we worked on helping Forrest find his breath by using a recorder, an instrument he handled at least a couple hundred times at Hill School. With limited ability to move his hands, and arms I assisted him by holding the instrument, talking him through his breath and then with permission from Rae to actually assert pressure on his chin to help him unclench his jaw allowing space for the recorder to sit between his lips. For at least 10 minutes we tried to get a sound from the recorder, and then toward the end of the session there was this moment.

This moment where the MAN came to the surface and that athlete, that actor, that lady’s man said to me without words, “Enough! I got it.” I rolled myself away from the wheelchair and allowed him to take over. Together Rae, Kent and myself witnessed a slow shaking hand taking the recorder lifting it up to his own lips, lowering his lower lip just enough to put the instrument in his mouth and then a breath through his nose was heard and then 1…2…3…4..Small, faint musical pitches were heard, then one more. He slowly put the recorder down and we all cheered.

What is hard to see sometimes with TBI is there is a full person in there. Music is not only the Universal language, but also a form of communication that reaches into places that words cannot. This little triumph is as big as a planet. It reminds us that Forrest is running and playing inside. He is climbing a mountain that is very big, but through the most loving family and friends and now perhaps a little music he’s getting closer to the summit – HOME.

This November A Place To BE Music Therapy in Middleburg will honor Forrest’s fight for life. We will be selling Team Forrest Hats and will have special displays at our center reminding us that he’s still out there preparing for the next part of his life. More information to come.

I am honored to be a part of this child’s life and to witness a Mother, Father and Brother who exemplify compassion, patience, love and FAMILY.

Tom Sweitzer

Forrest taking the recorder to use by himself

Forrest playing the xylophone with Tom


  1. As frequently happens, I find my eyes filling with tears as I read the latest update. The hearts of so many people soar along side you, Forrest, as you make your way back, one step, one breath at a time. Love you, bud, as always, and you make me proud, every single day. xx

  2. Kent...that was a wonderful post from yesterday. Thanks. Forrest, I love the picture of you and Sundance with you looking super in that Redskins shirt. Good that you and Dad got to see a winning game together. When you get home you will have your Redskins throw to use also.

    I am so proud of how you are working hard and accomplishing so many tasks. You, with Austin and mom and dad and all of Team 44 helping are making great strides. We love reading about that. Keep it up Forrest. Love you.

  3. What an amazing post! It is so neat how music is a universal language! What a special moment with your teacher Forrest! Keep up that fighting spirit!!

    Hope you feel better soon Austin!

    Kelly and Family

  4. Very moving. Thank you, Tom.

  5. What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. Forrest, your determination and the love & support of your family continues to amaze and inspire me. Love & Hugs,
    Viki and family

  6. Tom, it is clear to me that this was your calling. Music, for everyone, particularly folks Forrest's age, is everything. What a welcomed diversion from the daily routine Forrest endures. I can't imagine what it meant to Forrest, and Team 44, to hear that first note. Continue to mentor Forrest on his journey home to all of us. I will be sporting one of those hats! Love and hugs to Rae, Kent, Austin and all of Team 44 from Barbara Riddleberger and the gang from Rabbit Hill xxoo

  7. What an amazing gift - the gift of music - and the gift of an inspiring teacher who believes! Tom, thank you for sharing your gift with Forrest and for bringing him music to awaken his soul and kindle his spirit. This was a very moving message and it leaves us all humming a hymn of healing. Keep it up Forrest and you'll be singing along soon!
    The Raffertys