Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Creating a New Life 5/28/13

Forrest, it's your Mum.

We yearned to hear your voice for over a year and half. A voice that began with the faintest whisper and today you hollered your pent up frustrations out loud, "I AM SICK OF WAITING!" Oh Forrest, It must feel like that to you, but you have not been waiting. You have been charging ahead full steam rebuilding your life, one hour at a time. Always giving more than is asked of you.

I wish you could see all the things that you have accomplished. You have kept a core group of friends closely connected through really hard times. And with the help of those friends and your community you have helped raise tens of thousands of dollars just this month to provide music therapy to other children. After eight months of homebound instruction, you visited the classroom again this month and were warmly received by the whole KRHS third block US Government class. After two years of hard work you passed the Barium Swallow radiographic test and, under your nurse's vigilant supervision, began eating small amounts of soft but solid food. From barely being able to wiggle your toes, you are passing the lacrosse ball now and teaching your Pops to catch it! From struggling to track a moving object with your eyes, you are reading and texting your friends. No you aren't always on topic, but you are always witty!

Forrest, there will be dangers and obstacles ahead and lots more hard work, but we are here to keep you safe and to celebrate each accomplishment. There are many other things you would like to be doing, but you are NOT waiting. You are moving ahead at an incredible pace, creating a new life, one that will be filled to the brim with love, adventure, and rewarding challenges. This is not the journey we would have chosen, but we are blessed to share this path with you and grateful for the many generous family members, friends, and medical experts who continue to light our path with faith, hope, and love.

Sweet dreams Forrest,

Forrest and lifelong friends Sarah and Madison

Enjoying a visit from childhood nanny and friend, Mita and her son Micah.  Forrest bought a sock monkey just like his to give to Micah!
With close attention from Nurse Gayle, Tami and new friend Tori, Forrest walks into school for the first time in over 2 years. (It was actually more of a saunter than a walk....hands in the pockets and a huge, proud smile on his face)
Mr. Wright's 3rd block Government class welcomes Forrest to Kettle Run to accent his Home-Bound education lessons
Extraordinary Speech Therapist, Preston, helps Forrest pass his modified Barium Swallow test in Richmond

Monday, May 20, 2013

Garden Party!

Yesterday, Team Forrest had an amazing opportunity to host a fundraiser/garden party at BrightWood to benefit "A Place to Be" (APTB).  Formed by Tom Sweitzer, Music Therapist, and Kim Tapper, Life Coach, APTB's mission statement is:  Helping people face, navigate, and overcome life's challenges using the therapeutic arts.  That is definitely what they have done with Forrest!  Tom and APTB have been a huge part of Forrest's journey to recovery - specifically in finding his voice, and we were excited to  give back to an organization that has done so much not only for Forrest, but for countless individuals. 

The rain that had loomed in the forecast all week, suddenly ceased midday, allowing us to have the event outside...and it was a perfect afternoon!  On paper, it was a gathering of teachers, Forrest's friends and their families, community members, and people that have helped Forrest since his accident.  In reality, it was a gathering of friends - all joined together by one common factor...Forrest.  As one of his friends said yesterday, Forrest has always brought people together, and yesterday was no exception. 

In the middle of the food, drinks, and live music, Forrest and his INCREDIBLE group of friends surprised the guests with a Macarena "flash mob".  Forrest has been practicing with his friends leading up to this event and we were excited to pull it off successfully.  In addition to being thrown into the Macarena, those same incredible friends helped in all areas of the event - planning, set up, food preparation, greeting, playing live music, serving food, clean up and most importantly...being there for Forrest.  Since the first day of the accident, his group of friends has formed a tight circle of encouragement, support and love around Forrest, during the good and the bad - brightening the darkest of days through visits, phone calls, messages and Skype.  Yesterday, a few of his friends shared with the guests the blessing that Forrest is to them, but we know that Forrest is also blessed to have the group of friends that he has!  

Tom spoke to the crowd about Music Therapy and APTB and shared a video of individuals from APTB as well as video clips of Forrests' progress over the past year of sessions.  The garden party also gave Forrest a chance to show off some of the hard work he has been doing in Music Therapy with Tom.  He sang four songs, including leading the guests in the choruses of "Lean on Me" and "Let it Be".  Always the performer, he smiled the whole time and soaked up the applause and cheers.  

At the end of party, Forrest was asked what his favorite part of the day was.  His reply?  "Seeing all the people here."  We could not have said it better.  We want to thank those of you that donated to "A Place to Be" as they strive to continue helping individuals with the challenges that life brings.  Thank you also to all that came yesterday and helped to make it a day that none of us will ever forget.

Please read the message from Tom below and for pictures from the Garden party, please click on this link 
You can also learn more about "A Place to Be" at

With Love and Gratitude on behalf of Rae, Kent, Forrest and Austin
 - Tami  

From Tom:

Yesterday I got to spend the afternoon with a Hero of mine, Forrest Allen. Through months and months of patience, trials, tribulations and MUSIC we found his voice!  The day was full of beautiful friends and families that watched this young man triumph beyond any of our dreams or prayers.  People watched him sing from his porch. They watched in awe. As I looked down at many people I knew, and some I didn't, I saw tears falling on faces that were smiling.

HOW LUCKY ARE WE to be witness to a miracle? I was honest in my comments yesterday about thinking that perhaps his parents had too much hope in the beginning. WHO AM I to even think such a thing?  People know me as a patient and driven person who works through hope everyday, but I have never had as much hope, patience, and unwavering dedication as Kent, Rae and Austin. I admire and want to be like them.

Forrest has a mission now - To HELP others learn that there is always tomorrow, there is always a way and there is always MUSIC!

All My Love and Thankfulness

 - Tom Sweitzer (Forrest's personal Music therapist and FRIEND)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mother's Day Weekend

Mother's Day weekend...Forrests' firsts continue....

We were blessed with visits from Austin and Grandma Norma for Mother's Day weekend.  So of course we tried to cram as much living into every moment we had together.  Friday was an all day family trip to Johns Hopkins for a thorough neurological follow up evaluation.  Nurse Karen was along to ensure Forrest's safe transport. The specialist, Dr. Rigamonti,  had not seen Forrest since last August.  At that time Forrest could not speak or walk.  He said "Forrest, your progress is miraculous, a testament to your hard work, the support of family and friends, and exceptional nursing care."   He wants Forrest to have further tests later in the month but told him, "It's going to be hard, but your trajectory is incredible.  You can keep making progress for a long time to come!" 

On Saturday, with his nurse spotting him, Forrest was able to pass and shoot lacrosse with Austin.  Grandma Norma was tickled and everyone was impressed with his aim.  He also got to watch some of the National Lacrosse championships this weekend. 

Saturday was a busy day, and for the first time since his injury, Forrest rode a horse!  His surgeons said we had to wait at least a year from his last cranioplasty surgery.  That was in March, so Forrest visited Sprout Therapeutic Riding where Brooke and her amazing team, including brother Austin, assisted 44 on his first ride in two plus years.  Like lacrosse, Forrest's brain and muscles remember much of what he used to do, so he quickly picked up the reins and found his rhythm with the horse.  He had his Mom, Dad, nurse, and PT assistant holding their collective breath while Brooke and team did their magic.  He worked hard on balance, strengthening and coordination exercises for an hour,  but had his characteristic huge grin or a look of fierce determination on his face the entire time.  Thanks Sprout and wonder horse, "David"!

The next first since his injury was Forrest going fly fishing!!  Our great friend Marcia Woolman has been coaching Forrest this winter on casting techniques, which is a excellent way to improve coordination and increase his shoulder and arm movement.  She is a super fly fisher and felt he was ready to cast on the water. We met her at a local pond on Mother's Day. With Austin and Nurse Alpha spotting and Marcia's instruction he caught and released 5 fish!  He had a fantastic time and cast with great determination.  Grandmom, Mum, Pops, cousin Lisa, Lee and baby Brooks soaked in the sunshine and positive energy.

With great reluctance, Forrest sent Austin on his way back to work in Hawaii yesterday and Grandmom home to Missouri today, each with big hugs. You both brightened up our days and we will all miss you is already too quiet around here!
Forrest is a long way from out of the woods and his medical management is still complicated and consumes a large part of his day.  He may get frustrated, but he never lets it get him down and he never stops trying.  His lists of firsts after his injury are never ending and he intends to check all the boxes, as quitting is clearly not an option.  So the next time we get frustrated with our day, we stop and think.....what would Forrest do?

From Mum and Pops at Brightwood.

Mum surrounded by all her boys, after Forrest rocked his appointment at Johns Hopkins.

Austin and Forrest share another milestone

Austin, Forrest and Marcia fly fishing on Mother's Day!

Forrest playing Extreme Jenga with Angel, Pops, Austin and Grandmom

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

From Forrest

Hello everyone.  this is Forrest Allen writing my first blog post that i have written by myself with help from tami.  i am typing this all by myself.  I would like to tell you all about my weekend. this past friday, my brother Austin arrived from Hawaii for a visit.  i got to ride in our van and surprised him at the airport.  it was enjoyable to see him again at such a public place and i got out of our van and gave him a big hug.  Austin has not been home since January, so it is good to have him here for a visit. that saturday was goldcup races i went and they were enjoyable and fun races. i saw lots of people i knew from other places it was fun to be there with austin and the rest of my family. my weekend nurse Alpha was there to help me with my memory stuff.  he helps to keep me safe as well.  
that sunday i went to my voice recital and did a show there it was lots of fun. I was one of the 28 performers for the show and i sang "go the distance" with my music therapist Tom.  this song is a favorite to Austin it was very special that he was there to see me perform that song. here is a youtube link to a video of my performance of that song.

i am looking forward to spending another few days with Austin before he leaves and goes to hawaii again. thanks to the people who are supporting me with my challenges and difficult tasks that i am facing and overcoming.  

With Austin at Arby's, getting a sandwich to puree for me for dinner
With Tom at my recital

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Successful Visit to School 5/1/13

Thanks to the teachers, special education department, therapists, and students at Kettle Run High School, today was a huge milestone for you, Forrest. Not just in your academic career, but in the rebuilding of your life. After months of planning and preparation, including gradually lengthening your travel time in a car and increasingly challenging work with your homebound teacher, today you visited Kettle Run High School.

Today was the first time you have entered a classroom since December 2010. I held my breath as you departed for class with two students, your nurse, and homebound teacher. You didn't need your Mum hovering and so I waited in the front office. I wanted so desperately for this visit to go well for you. I shouldn't have worried knowing you and your open optimistic heart. The students in Mr Wright's third block US Government class were well prepared by Mr Wright for your visit and were exceptional in every way. Their warm welcome, quick smiles, and genuine interest in you and your journey made this day, which could have been filled with trepidation, an empowering experience. Their grace and compassion opened new doors for you today, beginning the next chapter of rebuilding your world. You emerged two hours later all smiles with a classmate, and maybe a new friend.

While you clearly enjoyed your visit and the camaraderie, you were exhausted by the time we returned home. It will take time, but as you heal and grow stronger you will master this next chapter too. Our hope and plan is that you will be able to return to Kettle Run in the fall to complete your high school degree. As you yourself have said, "Everything is possible". Sweet Dreams, Champ.

With a grateful heart for all of the generous souls who touched our lives today, Mum

Below principal Warner congratulates Forrest on his important day and a tired but happy Forrest heads home with Tami and Nurse Gayle.