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,

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,

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. 


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.


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  The invitation to the CCI reception follows Colleen's message to Forrest:

With boundless gratitude to Colleen, CCI, and Toliver,


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.