Monday, December 30, 2013

One Day at a Time 12/30/13

Oh Darlin Forrest,  the surgeons had to operate again yesterday to try yet again to repair the incision that seemingly refuses to heal.  Your poor tortured scalp is holding together by the sheer effort of your unfathomunable resilience and thousands of prayers.  We are slipping our power packed protein smoothie into you to fuel your body while we feed your spirit by replaying video messages from your amazing friends. Austin adds his powerful potion of You Tube Comedy and incomparable brotherly love. Your Pops wraps us all in his protective arms while he tirelessly researches the latest developments in craniofacial reconstructive surgery.  And your Warrior Aunt Tricia stands guard at night to keep you safe and help you sleep between endless neuro exams and medications.   We are rereading "The Secret" out loud and refusing to envision any future other than your complete recovery. We are praying for a respite from all these surgeries so that your scalp can heal enough for us to safely get you home and then for a long term plan that restores your health and vitality.  

Through this interminable nightmare you still maintain your characteristic humor and grace under fire, thanking your nurses and doctors even after their efforts made you howl.  You remain entirely completely miraculously the Forrest we love and adore.  This is our greatest blessing of all. 

Mum

Sunday, December 29, 2013

True Friends ~ The Best Medicine 12/29/13

Yesterday Forrest and his Family received an infusion of life giving love, powerful music, and the purest form of positive energy, true friendship!

When we realized Forrest was not going to make his own "Open House Celebration" yesterday, we reached out to of few of his close friends and.....

SHAZAM the party came to Forrest at WHC!  The hospital generously accommodated our crazy request to have a surprise Birthday/ Christmas party and lent us a corner of the cafeteria. Their staff quickly got into the idea, finding poinsettias, rearranging tables and chairs, baking loads of pizzas and even a big birthday cake! 

Nathan, Kyle, & Mike hauled in a keyboard and guitars and friends texted and called each other and carpooled into DC. The neurosurgery team got Forrest cleared to travel down to the cafeteria and Grandmother Norma provided the cover story with an invitation to get Forrest out of his tiny hospital room and go down for lunch.  Of course, Forrest told us later he saw texts on my phone and knew something was up, but he graciously played along!

There was music, laughter, animated tales of shared adventures, joking and merriment, all sorely needed at this particular time. Since Tom Sweitzer couldn't be there with you in person, he sent a recording of himself singing "The Impossible Dream" so that you and he could sing your duet for the gathering.   It was a magical interlude, providing Forrest and his bedraggled team with renewed energy, faith, and hope for a brighter future. 

To Forrest's friends:  Donna Roberts wrote, " A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words." Together, you all have helped Forrest hold on to his song and have given him the courage and motivation to keep singing even when he couldn't find the words.  As you head back to college, know that you are loved and admired.  Thank you for giving Forrest the most precious gift in life, true friendship. 

With a grateful heart,

Mum



Saturday, December 28, 2013

Today We Begin Again 12/28/13

Forrest is strong and he is determined. 
Together we are going to make it. 
Austin shared the following wisdom with us...
 and we believe it. 

Team Forrest 

"People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them."
George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Out of ICU 12/26/13

Yesterday before surgery we all agreed that it couldn't really be Christmas because Forrest wasn't home. So we made a pact and decided we would just have our Christmas on the day we all get back to Brightwood! One more thing we have to look forward to! 

And today we celebrated The Best Brother in the world, Austin's birthday, by getting Forrest out of ICU. We managed balloons and Forrest wrote a very thoughtful note to his big brother. The cake and candles may have to wait, but there should be no doubt that Austin is adored and admired.  

The comeback kid is definitely on his way back again.  Forrest was able to eat a little bit today, keep it down and beat his aunt Tricia at their signature thumb war dual. Not the most gracious way perhaps to thank Tricia for sitting bedside with you all night, but you both seem to enjoy the challenge.  

It's too early to predict how long Forrest will have to stay in the hospital this time around, but we are likely to be here until the middle of next week. We are taking it day by day and are thrilled that Forrest has already improved from yesterday morning. Unfortunately, this means we will have to postpone Saturday's open house victory celebration once again. But we will get there eventually and it will be a wonderful celebration. 

Thank you all for your prayers, messages, blog comments, and support.  We read your messages again and again.  They bring a smile to Forrest's face and lift all of our spirits immeasurably. 

We are counting our blessings again  tonight.  And though we don't know yet how we are going to solve the current medical challenges, we know that we will.  Team Forrest remains unfailingly  committed to Forrest's full recovery and we are optimistic about the future. 2014 is bound to be an amazing year.

With love and gratitude,
Mum



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Day Surgery 12/25/13

Unfortunately the comeback kid is going to have to comeback again.  Due to a series of setbacks and a recent infection Forrest titanium cranial prostheses ( the lid ) had to be removed today.  He will have a PICC line put in his arm again and will get antibiotics for a prolonged period of time and will have a short term drain placed until he is recovered from the infection .
We appreciate both his neurosurgeon and his plastic surgeon coming in and leaving their families on Christmas to operate on Forrest.
Austin and Aunt Tricia doing whatever needs done are here with us at Washington Hospital Center with Grandma Norma standing by with cousin Lee and Lisa in Reston waiting til he can have visitors.
Mum is going thru his medication schedule for the umpteenth time with the ICU nurses to make sure the med charts are correct. Luckily we have a nurse we know and who knows and loves Forrest taking care of him and that makes life easier.  Life is once again measured by shift changes.

Mum writes:

Thank for the messages and love this morning. Forrest is out of surgery. They found infection under the plate when they removed it. His CSF and brain do not appear to be infected so we believe, as hard as it is to part with his plate, it was the right decision. We are back in ICU and he has spoken his name , the hospital name, the correct date and offered his characteristic thumbs up.  He is resting now, on enough pain meds to float a big horse. If he can avoid complications,  we hope to be out of ICU in a day or two and he will be able to enjoy some visitors Much love. Rae

So we would much prefer not to be here again.  It's like being in a loop of the movie "Groundhog Day", again and again.  He is such a trooper and hardly ever complains despite the pain, hardship and struggles he endures.
The Doctors assure us that all these particular problems are related to the number of procedures his poor scalp has endured and the resultant lack of circulation.  There are treatments and procedures to address this but they are increasingly more risky and prone to complications and failure which is why they haven't been attempted yet.
We hope that this cranioplasty removal won't set him back significantly like the last one did.
So this Christmas finds us disappointed and somewhat depressed that we are here again.  But we are hopeful and encouraged that he is alive and in a position to make progress again. So thanks for prayers and words of encouragement and well wishes and messages from friends.  With this current turn of events we will try to update the blog and Facebook frequently.
Kent and Rae and Team 44

While we waited for surgery, the whole family had a magical Christmas morning, with Forrest and Austin reading out our favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoons and singing Christmas songs


Forrest in the ICU after this morning's surgery with Pops watching over him

Familiar nurses are here to take excellent care of Forrest in the ICU, with Mum collaborating closely on treatment plans


Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas detour, back to WHC 12.23.13

For those looking to visit Forrest at home, unfortunately we'll have to postpone, hopefully not for long. He's being re-admitted to Washington Hospital Center tonight for tests. He's running a fever and has a few other symptoms, hopefully it's not a infection from the latest surgery. 

He'll keep reading your messages, and hopefully we can FaceTime/Skype a few of you tomorrow afternoon. He's likely to be there for a few days at the least. Thanks for supporting him!

-Austin 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Come Celebrate With us!

FORREST'S "OPEN HOUSE." Instead of being at the farm, we are hosting this celebration at a very cool restaurant /pool hall named "Carpool" in Herndon, VA:

"Carpool"  
208 Eldon St. 
Herndon Virginia

Saturday, December 28 
3:00pm-  5:30 pm 


We'll have food, drinks, music, play pool , shuffleboard , darts & Foosball!   Please come share laughter, love and holiday cheer.

 Dress is holiday casual. 

We have so much to celebrate and to be grateful for. Most importantly everyone who has believed in Forrest. No need to RSVP. If you know and love Forrest, please come! Carpool is opening early just for Forrest and his friends so let's gather together and celebrate his 21st birthday and three amazing years of recovery!

Forrest hopes to see many of his friends, teachers, doctors, nurses, therapists, prayer warriors, and fans there! 

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year! 

Team Forrest


Friday, December 20, 2013

Made it Home 12/20/13

We were discharged today and made it home to Brightwood! Forrest is very happy to be back home! Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. 

-Austin and Team 44

Forrest walking out of WHC

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Searching for a new Team Forrest Member! 12/18/13

As we approach the third anniversary of Forrest's injury we have many blessings to be grateful for. One of the most significant has been our incredible Medical Team nurses. They've been instrumental in helping Forrest through many challenging medical conditions and we will miss them dearly. But it is our expectation that Forrest will be strong enough in the very near future that he will no longer need 24/7 nursing care. This is a tremendous milestone for Forrest, but he is not quite ready to be entirely on his own yet either.  Therefore, we are looking for a new Team Forrest member.  Tami will continue to work with Forrest primarily on school week days and to help him with his homework assignments. Forrest would like to find a guy pal to hang out evenings, maybe play chess or cards, and stay over five nights a week.  The Man Cave could in essence become the BrightWood dorm. Forrest doesn't need a lot of help overnight but it's important to have someone nearby, like a roommate!  From Austin's perspective, for a responsible college student or young adult, this could be a cool way to earn some money while you chill with Forrest or sleep! So we're looking once again to Forrest's wide circle of friends and followers to put out the word and help us find a terrific,  caring, and kind weeknight roommate for Forrest!  Please send interested inquiries to me at raestonedvm@gmail.com for more details. 

Forrest is in good spirits today, playing a chess game with Toliver & Kaki and anticipating the possibility of going home from the hospital tomorrow! 

Thanks for your help,
Forrest, Austin, Kent & Rae



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Out of ICU: 12/17/13

We're out of ICU! Forrest is holding steadfast and strong. He did great in PT and OT today at the hospital, and Tolliver and visits from friends were great for his spirits. 

No signs of the plate being infected, but there is still too much drainage post surgery to go home. We are hoping to be discharged and head home to Middleburg on Thursday. 

Love, 
Austin

Monday, December 16, 2013

24 Hours Post-Op 12/16/13

Forrest has made it through the hardest part... recovery from the anesthesia and the first 24 hours post operative, without any seizures! Forrest said it hurt "a whole bunch" last night but now he can smile and says the pain is "tolerable". The surgeon decided there were still multiple areas in danger of breaking down and elected to perform a much more extensive surgery than he had anticipated doing. He excised Forrest's entire cranioplasty scar from ear-to-ear creating a new union and hopefully a lasting closure of Forrest's scalp. He was able to examine most of Forrest's titanium lid and saw no obvious signs of infection.  There's still a lot of drainage from the surgical site which is collected into a drainage bag attached to his newest "turban". 

He's been passing the long hours in ICU napping or reading encouraging comments from friends on Facebook and the blog, along with visits from wonderful nurses who have cared for him during his many hospitalizations at WHC. The night was made complete when Austin and Toliver arrived, literally lighting up the faces of nurses and techs as they marched through ICU and into your tiny room.  The joy and healing energy bubbled out of the room as the three boys gleefully embraced one another! 

With a grateful heart
Goodnight and God Bless,
Mum  


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Post Op Recovery 12/15/13

Forrest made it through surgery. Kent made it back from France and Austin made it home from Hawaii.  The four of us reunited  in the post-op recovery unit in time for Birthday wishes. The cake and candles will have to come later but we were all together and we are grateful. 

Love to All,
Forrest, Austin, Kent & Rae

Pre- Op birthday hug 12/15/13

Good morning birthday hug from the Bro! 
Forrest slept reasonably well considering hospital schedules. We are Reading Forrest messages from Facebook and waiting on preop bloodwork and doctors.
No firm schedule for surgery yet. Thank you all for your love prayers and messages.
Mum

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Yet Another Hospital Detour 12/14/13

Darlin' Forrest, 

Your road this last three years has certainly been tumultuous. Full of exhilarating summits and disheartening lows, followed by unexpected hairpin turns. 

Yesterday your wounds started seeping through your head bandages.  So we find ourselves once again at Washington Hospital Center with another scalp incision breakdown. We had so hoped you were done with these surgeries and had planned a surprise 21st birthday lunch with Austin  for you tomorrow. Instead, we will lock arms and hope and pray that tomorrow will be the LAST surgery. 

On a good note, the postage stamp size hospital rooms we are so familiar with were all full so we upgraded to a sweet suite. We are jokingly calling it the Birthday Party Suite. Wish we could order in a bunch of pizzas and beer and have all your friends over!  Next year Darlin' for sure. Meanwhile your faithful sidekick Toliver helps you charm all the nurses and encourages you to get out of bed and do your PT in the hospital hall.  

Wishing and praying for the best 21st birthday gift ever, a smooth recovery from a successful FINAL surgery,

Mum


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas in Middleburg celebration 12/6-12/7/13

What an incredible, miraculous, amazing difference a year can make. This time last year Forrest you had not spoken in a year and a half, you could not stand unassisted, swallow water, or eat solid food. In spite of several minor setbacks and three surgeries this year we have been blessed in so many ways. As we sit by the fire enjoying pizza and our first snow of the year, we are basking in the warm glow of this weekend's celebrations. 

Friday night you participated along with many other courageous and talented individuals from A Place to Be music therapy. The audience was movied to laughter and tears as each performer shared a special piece of their own journey through the power of music. 


Unfortunately,  the room was too crowded for your sidekick, Toliver, to safely join you for this performance. But Saturday he was faithfully by your side as you both greeted visitors and passed out CCI brochures at the Community Center. Then you, Caroline, Amy, Rob, and your CCI companions Toliver, Shelley, Redmond, and Sterling proudly marched together in the Middleburg Christmas parade with other amazing individuals and their CCI companions. This time last year you could not stand up without assistance, but Saturday you walked the entire length of Middleburg, smiling and waving and bending down to introduce Toliver to the children as he graciously offered them his paw to shake. 

We have so much to be thankful for Forrest; your unconquerable spirit, your resilience, your unshakable friends, and all of the nurses, doctors, therapists, teachers, and prayer warriors, who have made this miraculous year possible.  Next week you turn 21 and your brother Austin will be home to celebrate with us. We can hardly wait to see him home again!  With love and gratitude overflowing, Mum


Monday, December 2, 2013

Miracle Reflections 12/2/13

Darlin Forrest, 
We have lost count of exactly how many times you been hospitalized since your injury in January 2011. But this time on our drive home we were able to joke together that "like airplane flights, any hospital visit you can walk away from is a good one!" You were clearly exhausted from neurological exams every two hours around-the-clock during the five days you were hospitalized, but with a couple of good nights sleep at home and a wonderful gathering of your friends on Saturday night, you were back in action again.  Yesterday and again today you practiced with Tom and Toliver for the upcoming Christmas recital this Friday at A Place to Be Music Therapy. Last year, you were still unable to talk but we were looking forward to your Carol of the Bells performance at the 2012 recital, which you missed due to another unscheduled hospitalization. We are not going to let it happen again this year (knock on wood)! We hope your friends and followers will join us at the APTB Christmas recital in Middleburg this Friday at 6:15 PM or 7:45 PM to celebrate our many collective blessings. Below is a picture of your wonderful friends preparing for an animated homecoming billiards tournament last Saturday. 

With some trepidation, we looked back at our UTube video of your practice for last year's recital for the Carol of the Bells:  http://youtu.be/6ssQ73P8Qhc

Your determination practicing the bells last year was heartbreakingly courageous while your practice just yesterday singing with Tom brings tears of joy to my eyes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzW6f4UbG98&feature=youtube_gdata_player 

The Miracle of finding your voice began with Tom on Decemer 12th last
year. Together you and Tom have made our dreams come true.  We will give thanks again at the recital on December 6 as we celebrate the miraculous power of love, faith, and music! 
Sweet dreams in your Man Cave tonight,
Mum




Friday, November 29, 2013

Home again by Forrest Allen 11/29/13

Thanks for all the good wishes and messages. I'm back home from the hospital tonight.   In the first picture below I just finished physical therapy and I'm about to bust out of the hospital.  In the next picture is me and my brother Austin FaceTiming  From the Man Cave. It feels great to finally be home!  Your friend, Forrest Stone Allen

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving! 11/28/13

Dear Family, Friends, and extended Members of Team Forrest, 

We are so blessed by the love, encouragement, support, and companionship that you bring to
our lives. I looked back to read the Thanksgiving entries from 2011 and 2012 tonight. And though Forrest is in the hospital again on this Thanksgiving, we are ourselves amazed and thrilled by his progress. We never could've come this far without your help. 

We were blessed again today by many special virtual and in person visitors to Forrest's tiny room 32 on 2E. And if it looks like he never got out of bed in these pictures it's because he didn't. He was too busy receiving his visitors and there wouldn't have been enough room for him to stand up anyway! The highlight of the morning was an enthusiastic and celebratory visit by Dr. Armonda and the neurosurgical team. This amazing and talented group has helped Forrest triumph through some seemingly impossible challenges. To watch them joke and laugh with Forrest today was pure magic.

 Next the Weeden clan arrived bearing Thanksgiving goodies and boundless holiday cheer. Stories of middle school escapades and more laughter bounced off the walls. 

Next Tami and Kent arrived with an entire Thanksgiving feast from Whole Foods. I'm not sure how it even fit in the room. Fortunately Tori artived to help us with the feast and continue the celebrations. And Austin shared the feast in spirit via FT from work in Hawaii (don't tell his boss!) 

Forrest and I had planned last week to deliver Thanksgiving goodies to children and their families at NRH on Thanksgiving... So instead I walked a box of cookies over and lo and behold two of Forrest's favorite nurses followed me back to visit with Forrest! All of the months they took care of Forrest at NRH, they never heard his voice. So tonight he got to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving! 

And Pops and Forrest topped off what must be the best hospital version of Thanksgiving Day ever, watching football & The Big Bang Theory.  

Thanks to everyone who shared their love, called, sent messages, posted on his blog & FB,  texted & shared FaceTime!  We wish you all a most blessed holiday season. 

Tell me have you ever seen so many joyful thumbs up?

With love and gratitude,
Rae






Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Forrest rallies...again! 11-27-2013

Forrest is truly a superstar!  He has rallied from a scary yesterday with seizures and minimal responses to today with smiles and chatting with us and the nurses. He is still not quite back to his pre - surgery baseline but he is getting there.

As we moved this afternoon from ICU to the step down Intermediate care unit, Forrest walked a tray of cookies to the break area of each ward and offered it to the staff, thanking them for their help.  

We give Thanks tonite to our core Team Forrest group who once again is shifting thru the day covering treatment plans, discussions with doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and all the details of being a patient's advocate and caregiver.  We also thank the dedicated staff of Nurses and Docs at WHC and the daytime and nighttime nurses here and at home from The Medical Team who watch over him and keep him safe.  We especially want to thank his friends and family members who pray for his recovery, post comments, visit, FaceTime and generally keep his spirits up.

So we come to Thanksgiving 2013 with plenty to be thankful for.  We are almost 3 years into this ordeal and would have preferred to have him be a Junior in college worrying about grades and girls.  That wasn't in the cards this year but hopefully it will be in the future.  

Remember the main reason for creating and maintaining this blog is to provide Forrest with a record of what he went through, battling back from a horrific injury and unimaginable complications.  So if you want him to know you read this and cared about him when he is able to go back and read the story of his journey, get on the record, post something and think of it as a time capsule that he is going to look back at. Thanks to all of you for helping us thru another rough patch and thanks most of all to Forrest and Austin for making all we do worthwhile.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Pops


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Counting our Blessings 11/26/13

  Even though it doesn't look like we'll make it home to BrightWood for Thanksgiving this year, we have much to be thankful for.  You're alive and strong. Your lid is intact and in place where we desperately want it to stay.  And tonight you are back with us, resting quietly while Ziggy Marley sings for you and the ICU nurses.  

But you gave us all a huge scare this morning, Forrest.   It must have been terrifying for you, not knowing what was happening or why or if the seizures that took control of your body would  keep coming.  "Stay with me. Find my eyes. Hold on. You are strong. You're safe. We won't let anything happen to you." I try to reassure us both. Between the seizures you drift somewhere far away.  You can't  focus, find my eyes with yours. or squeeze my hand.  Then the monitors scream again as the next seizure overtakes you, your temperature soars to 104.4 and your heart rate hits 195. I feel the wild palpatations with my hand resting on your chest. How fast can the human heart race?  The room fills with doctors, residents, PAs and nurses. Many familiar faces from your prior visits.  We can see the concern on their faces as questions fly between them and orders are given. Ativan IV releases your muscles from the seizures' grasp. And you drift away again. You are transfered to ICU for closer observation where a well meaning nurse, unfamiliar with our Team Forrest culture, tries to gently escort me to a waiting room. Sorry this MaMa Bear is not leaving your side.  Fortunately for both of us, nurses who have shared long nights with your team appear to reassure her that we will help rather than hinder your care. For hours your Pops and I sit by your side watching the monitors, telling you stories, mostly of your escapades with Austin, your amazing recovery, and reading to you dozens of messages from your family and friends. You can't move your arms or legs. Or respond to us or your nurses.  You can't speak.  

That was the most frightening time.  We felt the terror of loosing you again. Thankfully,  CAT scans and blood tests ruled out the worst possibilities. Blood cultures are still pending, but the doctors believe now that your body's reaction to all of the surgical manipulation resultied in high fevers causing the string of seizures. As the Ativan wore off, you began to stir and all of a sudden you stretched , yawned and opened your eyes looking right into mine like "where have you been?"  You squeezed my hand and my heart soared. Your nurse stepped back into the bay and was startled to see you gazing back at her.  We were both thrilled to hear you whisper your name. You are our Come Back Kid.  Sweet Dreams, Champ. Tomorrow we will give thanks again. 

With love and gratitude for the many family members, friends, caring nurses and skilled doctors who collectively got us through this day.  God bless. 

Mum



Monday, November 25, 2013

Back in the hospital 11/25/13

Darlin Forrest, I am sitting by your bed once again in the hauntingly familiar post operative recovery room. The monitors are beeping away , the nurses are bustling in and out, Robin Spielburg's piano music is playing softly on your iPad, and at last the pain medicine is taking affect and your breathing is slow and steady.  

We knew it was a race between the tissue expanders stretching your healthy scalp and the relentless breakdown of the old damaged scar tissue. We couldn't know that this was the day, but the new opening we discovered last night threatened to infect your prosthetic "lid" which would be a catastrophic setback. The surgeons got you in today, conferred and agreed the risk was too great to continue and they rushed you to the OR this evening.  Your family and friends held our collective breath and waited and prayed. And we have been blessed again.  The surgeons believe we caught it just in time and the breakdown had not reached your lid. Dr Armonda said it was a bit like solving a Rubics Cube, moving the expanded scalp and grafts around, but they were able to remove all of the old fragile scar tissue that kept breaking down and threatening your future. 

 I know it's painful now and the lights and beeping hurt your head. The pain medicine comes again now seeping into your veins and bringing welcome relief. Sleep well my Champion.  Know you are deeply loved. With a little more luck we will make it home for Thanksgiving.

Mum

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Toliver and Forrest 11/24/13


Already Toliver and Forrest are becoming fast friends. Tuesday at the CCI reception Forrest stood in front of the crowd at the Middleburg Community Center with Toliver by his side and thanked CCI for his new best friend. He shared a Toliver story with the audience about not wanting to get up for school in the morning, which is an understandable struggle, and how Toliver made the effort all worthwhile by quickly responding to Forrest's request to pick up his socks for him!   Already Toliver is giving Forrest more confidence and we are thrilled to see Forrest's preinjury enthusiasm for life returning.



Caroline has been Forrest's friend since pony club.  This week they got to introduce their new CCI Pals Shelly and Toliver to each other. We are busy now planning their puppies play dates! 

Forrest takes Toliver to his well dog check up at Middleburg Veterinary Hospital where he passes with flying colors of course!

Toliver and Forrest attended their first OCH hunt breakfast together this week-end . It literally took our breath away to see Forrest so relaxed and comfortable in the midst of so many people. The enthusiastic reception Forrest & Toliver received was beyond heartwarming. The only thing missing was big brother Austin!

With love and gratitude,
Mum & Pops

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Colleen's Message to Forrest 11/16/13

Colleen has brightened your journey in many ways, Forrest. And now as a CCI puppy raiser she has given to you the most generous and loving gift possible, your Forever Pal, Toliver.

We hope many of your friends and followers will be able to join us on Tuesday, November 19th for a CCI reception at the Middleburg Community Center to visit with these extraordinary people and dogs and to learn more about this life changing organization. Check out their web site at CCI.org.  The invitation to the CCI reception follows Colleen's message to Forrest:

With boundless gratitude to Colleen, CCI, and Toliver,

Mum



Forrest & Toliver: A Letter from your Puppy Raiser

Dear Forrest,

  What an amazing weekend I have had.  I feel on top of the world and my heart is full to the brim.  This was definitely one of the best weekends of my lifetime.  Throughout the last eight years of raising puppies for CCI, I have often dreamed of standing at that podium and giving the puppy raiser graduation speech and then handing my dog over to a graduate.  NEVER could I have imagined that those feelings of pride would be multiplied by one hundred.  Handing my dog over to a complete stranger is one thing, but handing him over to someone so special, who I have known and watched grow up for the last sixteen years is a memory that will be with me forever.
  As Toliver’s puppy raiser (8 weeks-18 months) it is hard to visualize what the experience will be when you see your dog again after so long; I turned him back in to CCI at eighteen months and he stayed there another six months in Advanced Training.  We wonder after only two weeks how well the dogs will have bonded to their graduate?  What we observed with sweet Tollie and you made us speechless.  Our worries of his happiness, safety, and appropriate placement evaporated after watching the two of you interact.
   I thoroughly enjoyed our day with you.  Probably my most favorite memory of the graduation day was when I gave you the book I had made of Toliver’s puppyhood and you absorbed yourself in it.  You took so much time looking at that book and taking in every single picture…..reading each caption out loud and laughing.  You showed the trainers the book and pointed out your favorite photos.  The time you took pouring over this book meant the world to me…… there is no question that you would love him as we have.
   My other special memory was when you had Toliver bring me the white carnation and place it in my lap.  As mum said and I have always believed “life comes full circle”. When Richard and I had CCI pup in training, Halle, bring your mum flowers when you were in the GA rehab hospital in those first months, it was in our deepest prayers that we hoped we would see you as vibrant and full of health as we witnessed this weekend.  You and Toliver returned that same small act of kindness to us and I reveled at how far you have come!
   I also spoke with the trainers throughout the matching process and was continually amazed at their assessment of you and your needs.  They could not have been more accurate in their match for you and what Toliver could offer you.  I have always had the deepest respect for the CCI trainers and watching you and Tollie together only anchored my faith in this wonderful organization that I love so much.
   Before graduation, you expressed to me that you were worried that you were “taking my dog away from me”.  You are such a sweet and sensitive man; just like the dog you were matched with!   Forrest, I want you to know that Richard and I watched the two of you walk out the hotel lobby…. you had a smile on your face and Toliver walked briskly by your side with his tail happily wagging from side to side as he looked up at you.  I had an incredible peace wash over me.  I felt like a proud parent and knew my little furry man was happy.  No one deserves a special friend more than you do.  I turned to Richard and we both had huge smiles and tears of joy in our eyes.  You two were meant to be together and we wouldn’t have it any other way.  Having the opportunity to be a part of your journey as a team, will fill our hearts each and every day.
All Our Love,
Colleen and Richard

CCI Graduation - after Colleen, Richard and
Co- Puppy Raiser Karen officially handed Forrest Toliver's leash





Thursday, November 14, 2013

Adventures of Forrest and Toliver

Toliver reassures Forrest while waiting for his recheck at Johns Hopkins.  Dr Rigamonti pronounced Forrest's progress "incredible!"

Toliver and Forrest go to Dr Gallegos to have a dental check up (Forrest not Toliver!) 

Forrest introduces Toliver to Mr. and Mrs. Bowers at Hill School's Lions Pride Reception.

We are truly blessed every day by Toliver's joyful companionship!

-Team 44

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Toliver Joins Team 44 11/8/13

Our family and Forrest's journey have been blessed again.

 It was such a thrill to share the last two weeks at CCI training camp with Forrest. This was the longest time Forrest has been away from home in three years, that wasn't in a hospital! The days were jammed full of fascinating lectures, intense training sessions, and challenging practice sessions. The first time Forrest got to work with Toliver was late in the second day. Forrest's commands were muffled and monotone. Toliver melted onto the floor and refused to budge. Somehow the clairvoyant and talented CCI instructors saw something connect between the two of them. They told me later that Toliver is such a smart sensitive dog... he thrives on lots of enthusiasm and encouragement. They knew Forrest's story and saw in Forrest his potential and determination to succeed. 10 days later, Forrest was able to motivate and encourage Toliver through a complex series of behaviors and a challenging  obstacle course, off leash using only verbal commands! Their performance took my breath away.  And thus their incredible relationship.. based on clear communication, trust, and respect was forged. There is still much for them to learn about each other and about life together, but theirs is already a magical, heart warming friendship. 

And speaking of magic, wait until you hear the story of their match from Toliver's CCI puppy raiser....stay tuned. 

With love and gratitude for our fellow graduates and all of the incredible people and dogs that make up the CCI family.  

Mum




Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Continuing Journey - 10/20/13 Update

It has been a while since we have checked in with you and like usual, Team Forrest has been busy!  Forrest is continuing to attend Kettle Run High School for US History and he is doing great in the class.  He is showing signs of improved memory and retention as well as increased initiative in class participation and interactions.  He has been making almost weekly trips to his surgeon in Washington DC for injections into his scalp expanders, which he says, “really sucks and hurts a lot”! His scalp wounds and “noggin” are closely monitored and treated daily by his nurses and parents.  Last weekend, Forrest had the opportunity to participate in a community event during the Middleburg Film Festival.  Forrest and other individuals from “A Place to Be” performed various musical offerings in two locations amidst the activity of a busy Middleburg autumn afternoon.  It was exciting to be a part of this inaugural event!

Forrest and part of his team (Mum, Tami and Nurses Laura and Dawn) are currently in Long Island, New York at Canine Companions for Independence.   For the next two weeks, Rae (Mum) and Forrest will be participating in training for Forrest to receive a skilled companion dog.  If all goes well and Forrest passes the training, at the end of the two weeks here, he will return home to BrightWood with his very own assistance dog!  The training is intensive, 9:00-5:00 every day, listening, learning, interacting, practicing and taking quizzes.  Forrest is attentive, volunteers to demonstrate or practice tasks and is working on improving his voice volume and clarity while giving commands.  If that was not enough, he also spends his evenings doing school work with Tami to stay on top of his class.  We are so thankful for the incredible Fauquier County School staff that helped make this trip a possibility, despite the challenge of keeping up with the rapid pace of the US History course. 

Monday was the first day of training here at CCI, and Forrest has already shown sparks of his growing independence.  He is taking initiative in participation and is making his way around the CCI facility with the confidence of pre-injury Forrest.  He is staying in a dorm hall with his team and has been keeping track of his own room key each day.  We see signs of independence at home, but it is amazing to watch him here, in a place unfamiliar to him.  He got up from the table at dinner last night, scraped his plate, rinsed it and asked me where the dishwasher was.  Then he wandered into the pantry seeking “dessert”.  Despite all of these amazing steps of independence, Forrest continues to require 24/7 care – there is someone with him at all times day and night, just like at home.

Sometimes I think we must seem strange for marveling at and celebrating little things like keeping track of a room key or scraping a plate clean, but then I remember where Forrest was a year ago, and I want to marvel and celebrate even more.  One year ago, Forrest was not talking.  He was not walking independently.  His arms and legs were tight with tone and it took stretching and extreme effort just for him to complete a simple task.  He was 100% fed through a stomach tube.  Travel was a major undertaking – motion sickness was frequent and long trips were made on a gurney.  His smiles and facial expressions were limited and he rarely laughed out loud or made vocal sounds.  Every moment of his day required major assistance of nurses and others, from getting dressed, repositioning himself in bed, to brushing his teeth, communicating and everything in between.  What a difference a year makes!   We are looking forward to see what great things are next for Forrest and are excited at the prospect of a new canine Team Forrest member!
Thank you all for never giving up the faith in Forrest and for supporting him every step of his recovery!

With gratitude,
Tami and Team Forrest  
"Life is Better With a Dog"
Forrest in his dorm room at CCI
Homework time with Tami


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Back to Mercersburg Again 10/20/13

Hey it's Forrest. Yesterday my mom and I visited Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania where I went to school my freshman sophomore and part of my junior year. It was great to see my best friends there again. They all looked happy to see me. It was great to see and talk to some of my teachers and coaches again. It made me feel like I still belonged there. Take a look at some of these photos.  One of your buddies, Forrest Allen