Friday, December 25, 2015

Wishing you a Joyous Christmas Day

We are grateful this Christmas day to be home at BrightWood together. We are sending prayers and love to Nat, Joshua and other families celebrating Christmas in hospital today.  

We have been blessed with a Wonderful month at home.   Here are a few  of the highlights:  Some of Forrest friends were able to join him to see Spectre on his 23rd birthday. A real joy after spending two of the last five birthdays in hospital.  

A little unconventional chainsaw PT helped bring in our BrightWood Christmas tree!

Christmas shopping with Austin and Forrest is always entertaining!

At Forrests check up at Johns Hopkins with one of his doctors on 12/23, Dr. Liptoncott exclaimed,  "Forrest you look like a million bucks!"  All of Forrest's blood work looked just as good and we got Forrest's early Christmas wish.  No more continuous IV antibiotic's and the Hickman central IV line came out!!!

While it was great to see familiar nurses who adore Forrest & Toliver, Toliver was clearly a little concerned about our visit to the hospital and was eager to get Forrest out of there!

The unseasonably warm weather in Virginia allowed us to have a day hike on Christmas Eve. 

Sending love and gratitude to all our family, friends, prayer warriors, doctors, therapists, and nurses who have made this chapter in Forrest's journey possible. Next up; Pop's legendary herbs de Provence brined beer can turkey! 

God Bless & Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

I Feel Good

"Nana Nana Nana I knew that I would!"   You sang James Brown out loud for Dr. Kumar when he asked you, "how are you feeling?"  

Dr. Kumar admired your "guns", gave you all gold stars for your post op check up at Hopkins Friday, AND he said you are doing so well,  we do not need to plan for another surgery in February!  

Saturday, lunch outside on the deck at The Red Horse in Middleburg with Shayna Gio Toliver & Yeager, was an impossible vision come to life.  You; Home, Healthy, Whole and Happy hanging out with your friends!  Another proof that miracles do still happen! 

Sunday, you and I had a walk around BrightWood soaking up the unseasonably warm December sunshine.  You and your horse, O' Riley, had a little discussion about how delicious over ripe pears might be.  

O'Riley convinced you to let him do the taste test! Yum Yum! 

Counting our blessings every day and sending our love and prayers to those still in hospital tonight.  

Mum & Team 44

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Home for Christmas!

Where to start? Last Friday, 10 days after being released from the hospital and a little more than three weeks from major surgery, you enthusiastically climbed up on stage at Salamander Resort and sang your heart out for Tom, APTB and Middleburg.  Your OWN rendition of course, "I AM home for Christmas!"

Where would we be without A Place to Be in your life.... Your incredible cadre of brilliant surgeons, doctors, and nurses have saved your life... again and again. But it is A Place to Be, accompanied by your faithful friends, that have saved your remarkable spirit....again and again.   I went back just now and watched on YouTube your rehearsal of "Carol of the Bells" with Tom for the Holiday Recital 2012.

You were not able to perform that year because you were back in the hospital again on the day of the recital.  Sometimes I think I  have blocked out the darkest days from my memory.  So I think occasionally, but not too often, it is good to look behind us, just to remember how far you have come Darlin' and how hard it has been for you.  Though my memory is becoming more selective, we never forget how blessed we are and how grateful we are for all those who have helped us along the way.  

Saturday we celebrated Christmas in Middleburg in the parade with our amazing friends at Canine Companions for Independence. 

Toliver reverted to a 12 week old puppy when he saw his puppy raiser Colleen in person!!! What a gift of love Colleen has given you! And now she is raising her 10th puppy, Lady, for CCI! Paws up for Colleen and all the big hearted CCI puppy raisers! 

After the parade Toliver invited a few of his CCI friends home for a little after party!  What amazing life changing animals!!!

Sometimes in the quiet moments I wonder, is their a larger purpose to this journey?  What am I supposed to be learning that has us seemingly going backwards to relive setbacks and dark days, until I get it.... Then I see you back on stage grinning, singing, still shining brightly and I think maybe the lesson is simply to embrace each moment with grace and gratitude. To face each day we are given with joy and to offer someone else who might be in need, the song in our hearts.  

Shine on. Forrest. 

With gratitude and love,

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

You Are Invited...

Forrest is continuing to enjoy being at home.  He says he is feeling "happy and good" and has been easing his way back into therapies and activities.  One of those activities is Music Therapy and preparing for a special event this week.  This Friday night is the A Place to Be Holiday Recital at 6:30pm at the Salamander Resort in Middleburg.  Forrest and friends from A Place to Be will be performing a variety of songs sure to get you in the holiday spirit.  It is an inspiring and beautiful evening and you don't want to miss it!

Hope to see you there!
- Team 44

A group of friends visited last week to welcome Forrest home from Hopkins.
Thumbs up for being back at BrightWood!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks

So many blessings to be thankful for!  Home, incredible family, loyal friends, faithful prayer warriors, skilled doctors & sugeons, caring nurses, talented therapists & aides, Saint Toliver... Team 44!  After a month in the hospital, Forrest's pain, all that uncertainty, ups and downs, worry, sleepless be suddenly HOME is in a way unnerving.  We've been surviving hour to hour on worry, adrenaline and coffee, now suddenly... All this space, quiet, we can breathe. It's a huge wonderful transition.  Even this transition was blessed by great friends!  We hadn't really believed we would make it home for Thanksgiving and hadn't a moment to shop or plan. 

Our Elgin Angels, Carina and Kaki delivered all the delicious side dishes, and Martinelli's sparkling apple cider (which Forrest drank four glasses of!) for our Thanksgiving feast! Maley baked us a homemade apple pie and Pops roasted a beer can turkey on his grill. We had a feast for sure!  

Nothing like a long hospital stay to help you cherish life's simple pleasures! A hot cup of tea, the remote, and an afternoon of football games! Only thing missing was Austin!  He'll be home in a couple weeks for Christmas and our little family will be complete again. God bless all our earthly angels who have watched so carefully over Forrest and our family throughout this journey.  

Our plan now is to get back to living and healing. As long as things are quiet we will update weekly. Forrest is planning on singing in the APTB Holiday Recital, so if you're local we hope to see you next Friday evening December 4th at Salamander Resort. Happy Happy Thanksgiving!

Team 44

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

We are HOME!!!

Prayers ARE answered and miracles DO still happen!!  

As Forrest exclaimed when he emerged from the hospital into the sunshine for the first time in 29 days:

"I'm Free!  I'm Alive! I'm Happy! And I am going home!!! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!!

Forrest took this selfie in our great room at BrightWood today at 4:44!  We are extraordinarily thankful for the amazing surgical and medical care Forrest received at Johns Hopkins, for Tami's round the clock support, and for your love, faith, and prayers throughout Forrests stay at Hopkins. 

Forest telling one of his many fantastic nurses, Dylan, goodbye today. 

Our prayers go out tonight for Joshua, his beautiful family and all the other families still in hospital on this Thanksgiving Holiday. 

With love and gratitude overflowing,

Team 44


Forrest is homeward bound!  BrightWood here we come!  Thanks for all of the prayers!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

First Post-Op Lap & Last Day at Hopkins?

You made it Champ through a challenging Post-Op Day 8, without even one dose of oxycodone!  

And when PT didn't make it to your room this afternoon, we took matters into our own hands!  Ben and Toliver did a great job of spotting you for your very first lap around the unit since your big surgery last Monday. 

The lap understandably tired you out a bit, but you made it back to Room 48 in good shape! And with enough energy to send a message from you and Toliver to your friends, family, prayer warriors, and Johns Hopkins medical team: 

A rousing game of chess leaves you and Ben in stalemate,  each with only your Kings remaining! 

And you and Tom had a blast using Face Time to practice your song for the Holiday Recital on December 4th at Salamander.  

Only ONE more hurdle before we break out:  Dr Kumar wants to lay his own eyes on your Noggin one more time, tomorrow morning, Day 29.  If he gives you and your Noggin his blessing...we are BrightWood Bound!!!  Stay Tuned...

With love and gratitude for your prayers, visits, encouraging messages, blog comments, videos, Face Times, pumpkin bread, coffees, friendship, and most of all...your unconditional faith in Forrest,


Monday, November 23, 2015

Two More Hurdles Cleared

Bolstered by Pops, Tami, all the amazing week-end visitors, and countless prayer warriors you attacked this day with renewed energy. 

Toliver trots alongside your gurney early this morning and impresses the transport team by pushing the remote door openers. The technician at interventional radiology is visibly disappointed that Toliver is not allowed into her operating suite.  Surgically placing the central "Hickman" IV line will allow us to safely administer the intravenous antibiotics at home for the next six weeks. Although this is the third time we have tried this approach, now that most of the hardware is removed from your skull, the antibiotics should be able to clear your bone grafts of any lingering infection.  Hickman  Central IV Line in = First Hurdle cleared! 

After the Hickman is placed Dr Kumar arrives to remove both of your surgical drains. A painful procedure for sure so a little extra pain medicine is ordered.

"That wasn't so bad," you reassure Dr Kumar!  Then Dr K shows us today's post op 3D CT scan of your new Noggin. 

On the left is the top of your skull before last Monday's surgery showing your bone grafts from March and multiple titanium plates "knitting" all the pieces together.  The gaps between the bone provided opportunities for the skin to break down.   In today's image on the right, sections of your ribs have been used to fill-in most of the open spaces so that the vast majority of the hardware could be removed. While it does still look a little bit like a patchwork quilt, it is a nearly solid and complete cranium constructed almost entirely of your own bone! With your skull 90% complete and with the shunt totally clamped off, our hope and prayer is that your body and CSF will establish its own new equilibrium.  Dr. Kumar knew this was going to take multiple surgeries and that it would be difficult, but he is clearly pleased today with the CT and with your appearance. CT and clinical progress approved = Second Hurdle cleared! 

Dr. Kumar and you have an interesting conversation reminiscing about the first time you met. Dr. Kumar remembered that you seemed to have trouble processing language fast enough to keep up with the conversation. You agree that it was hard to figure out what people were saying fast enough to respond in time. But now you exclaim, " I get what you are saying, quick as a snap! " Dr Kumar laughs out loud and agrees. He wants to lay his eyes on you Wednesday morning and if all your incisions look good and you are still "quick as that snap", we are BrightWood bound on Thanksgiving Eve!!!

Saint Toliver has been so patient. Wednesday will mark 30 days in 12E Room 48 for you and Tollie.   His eyes say it all, "When Champ can I take you home, already"? 

Soon Toliver Soon.  

God Bless,


Sunday, November 22, 2015

"Thumbs Up" for Weekend Visitors!

Forrest had great visits from Kim Tapper and APTB friends Megan and Abby on Saturday.  He was able to get out of bed and sit in the chair for an hour and a half during the visit!  The pain in his ribs was quite bad at times and the pain medicine makes him drowsy, so he napped occasionally throughout the day.  He and I watched some football together, but some intensely painful episodes made it hard to position him where he could be comfortable.  Finally last night, we got the position and the pain medicine working together and he had a quiet night. 

As we often do, we got a hospital sitter to watch over Forrest last night so Tami (Caregiver Extraordinaire) was able to get some rest. SuperMom got a short but well deserved break to go home to BrightWood to visit with sister Lobie and her husband Clarence.

Forrest's Sunday morning and afternoon visitors were from long time chums, Nick Weeden, Whitney Weeden and Alix Morgan.  Nate Chambers and Maley Coombs came up tonight and had dinner with Forrest.  Maley keeps the farm and the horses organized, and has been helping out extra with Martin and the ManCave fish during Forrest's hospital stay.  It was great to have all of these visitors this weekend and are so thankful for the extra smiles and laughs that they brought to Forrest!  

Tomorrow brings a procedure to surgically place a central line for another 6 to 8 weeks of continuously  administered antibiotics as well as a CT scan to see how the new noggin' is doing.  We are hoping to have Forrest try some walking tomorrow and we will continue adjusting the pain meds as well.  But everyday is another day closer to going home!

Pops of Team 44
Lunch with Abby, Megan and Kim, followed by making turkeys out of hospital gloves to go with the stack of
awesome Thanksgiving pictures created by Forrest's Immersion friends at APTB and delivered by Kim to brighten up the hospital room!
Whitney and Nick
Thumbs up with Alix
Maley and Nate
Enjoying a Skype session with Austin while sitting upright in the chair!

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Good Day

Hey everybody, it's Forrest.  Today I've been chillin' here at the hospital.  The pain has been a whole bunch better today and I was able to get out of bed to sit in a chair for an hour and a half.  Here are a few pictures from my day.
I let Mum win this hand of Blackjack, but I won the rest!

My real cool nurse from today, Christine. 

FaceTime with Austin, practicing our eyebrow raises!  We are planning xbox games and Bagel Bites for Christmas break!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Ups and Downs

Day Three has been full of ups and downs and some pretty awfully painful episodes. We're about out of steam so we'll just share a few of our Ups:

Forrest has loved hearing all of your blog and Facebook messages and each picture and fun message on the new FB Community page Paws Up For Forrest! Thank you Thank you! I wish we could respond to each and every one!  Aren't we blessed to have so many wonderful animals in our lives!

Big accomplishment for the day Forrest clawed his way out of bed and stood for the first time since surgery with beautiful and cheerful PT Brianna.  The first thing he did was pat her on the shoulder.  Dr. Kumar was there in person for the momentous occasion and remarked, "Forrest, I beat you up pretty bad, but couldn't that keep you down for long!"  While there are still huge hurdles to overcome, it was great to hear Kumar observe that he has never seen your Noggin look this good before!

She sure was pretty but how could she compete with this face? 

Del sent you his funny sad "I miss working out with Forrest face".  So you returned the favor:

This is your funniest thumbs down , "This sucks I want to go home face" which we rarely see and has never before made the blog... for obvious reasons! 
We miss you, Del!!!

The best part of the day might have been  Face Time with Ben Tom & Kim at APTB today, which put your smile , perhaps still a little strained, right back on your charming face:

So as we sign off tonight we have a special request for our many loyal prayer warriors. Please keep Forrest in your prayers and if you could please add a prayer for Joshua and his family. Their journey with TBI began last May. Like Forrest he's had many complications and setbacks and he began another series of major surgeries with Dr. Kumar just last week.  And like Forrest, he's a fighter too. Sadly, he and his family spent his18th birthday today back in ICU with more complications. So please include Joshua in your prayers tonight.  

God bless. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"I'll be back soon," whispers Forrest

There's no doubt in my mind you will be back Darlin'... and soon.

Your reconstructed Noggin suits your handsome profile beautifully. And while its early, there's no evidence of CSF overdrainage so far.   In this photo the determination is clearly visible in your eyes. Your underlying unsinkable sense of humor is reflected in your smile snd your trade mark thumbs up speaks volumes of your enduring optimism.  

What goes unseen in this photograph is the stabbing pain emanating from your chest wall with each breath or your inability to swallow without an excruciating coughing spasm or your nausea and difficulty breathing when the physical therapist attempted to sit you up.  You are trying so hard to hide the emotional and physical exhaustion that plagues you.  With every labored breath you take my heart aches for you Darlin'. 

I remember an interview you did over two years ago when the journalist asked you what was your secret to staying so upbeat.  You smiled at her and replied, "What I've learned is, that in life there are some way Highs and then there are some real Lows...and sometimes you just gotta wait out the Lows to get to the next High!"  So Forrest that's what we will do.  We will wait out this really painful Low and be back on top again soon.   In the meantime counting our blessings helps.

Blessings like Tami, who is always there for you, and for us, with a cheerful helping hand, a book to divert your attention from discomfort and an all night bedside vigil when needed. Like probably again tonight! 

Pops has lightened our load immeasurably. Driving back and forth for surgeries from his clinic in Middleburg to take the early week end shifts, negotiate with doctors and deliver much needed food and coffee for your team. 

And of course Toliver who rushes to your bedside when your breathing quickens from the pain bringing you his favorite toy. You were even able to throw it for him tonight! 


Messages, videos, Paws Up For Forrest pet pictures on FB , and FT with Austin and your pals break up the day and make anything seem possible. Tomorrow will be better, Champ. 

 With love and gratitude for your prayers, encouragement and devotion to Forrest,