For Christmas the American Legion adopted us. They raised enough money to fly me and the children to Virgina to see Jared. I was so excited a nervous. At first Catlin refused to go, she's afraid to fly. That little girl made a huge decision to swallow her fear and fly to see her daddy for Christmas. I was so proud of her. I had to swallow my fear as well and board a plane with to children who had never flown before. Catlin was afraid and Tyson is comparable to an orangutan. The flight was smoother that what I could have ever dreamed, God was with me LOL.
The American Legion arranged transportation, car seat, food, Christmas gifts ......... absolutely everything.
Jared's mother had asked me several times what I planned to do about Christmas. I didn't have the money to fly us all there and I didn't want Jared or the children to be alone on Christmas, I simply told her "It will all work out, God will help us be together.". He certainly did didn't he?
When we arrived Jared was eating dinner. Jared immediately knew we were his family. He hugged and kissed me and the kids and nodded his head yes when I asked him if he was happy to see us. After a few minutes I took the children down to the hall to eat dinner so the nurse could finish feeding Jared. We weren't able to visit long because we had to check into the Fisher House, we were all tired from traveling and went to bed early.
The following morning the social worker called me and told me I had to take Jared to the Fisher House on a four hour pass. It was somewhat of a trial run to see if I could manage Jared and the children all at the same time. I'll admit I was scared, the Fisher house is a good walk from the hospital. Maybe a few blocks? It isn't bad when your alone, but with two kids and a dependant husband? I thought to myself "It's now or never..." and got dressed.
The four hour pass wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. Catlin pushed her brother in the stroller and I pushed Jared in his wheelchair. Everything was smooth until dinner time. Christmas dinner was being served at the Fisher House, I had to call and ask for an extension on the pass so Jared could eat with us. With some hesitation the doctor agreed.
Dinner was insane. The whole visit had gone so well, I didn't think twice about sharing a meal with my family... I should have.
Our first problem was getting food to everyone. I'm very afraid to leave Jared for any amount of time, leaving Tyson unattended is wreck less, leaving the two together is completely insane. Catlin came to the rescue, she sat with Jared and Tyson (strapped tightly in the high chair) while I attempted to make four plates of food as fast as I possibly could. I could hear Tyson screaming for food and Catlin scolding Jared for grabbing a fork, in my head I was praying for God's help and wondering what people were thinking of me.
I dropped the plates off at the table, this made Tyson scream louder and Jared was scolded even more by Catlin for grabbing at the food. I quickly made our drinks and settled in to eat.
Only I wasn't able to eat. Tyson has a terrible habit of throwing unwanted food on the floor and Jared has a hard time getting the food on his fork. I took turns feeding Tyson, Jared, and shoveling rejected bites of food into my own mouth.
Catlin needed another drink, Jared and Tyson were wiggling around in their chairs, in the chaos of our dinner a sweet lady sat down beside us and offered to feed Tyson. This was helpful but caused another disaster, Tyson finished eating before anyone else.
The lady excused herself when Tyson was finished and he pooped. The poor kid started screaming to be free and Jared wasn't even half way into his meal. At this point everyone is starring at us, and I was ready to pull my hair out. I tried everything to pacify Tyson as I continued to feed Jared, huge fail! Catlin saved me again, she finished her meal and I set Tyson free. He stunk but he was happy running around, Catlin followed him to make sure he stayed out of trouble.
Jared decided to sit up and feed himself allowing me to shovel much needed food into my face. As Jared finished his meal I could hear Catlin repeatedly telling Tyson "no". I peeked down the hall to see Tyson trying his best to climb the stairs, still stinking. He started to scream at Catlin so I dashed over and snatched him up. I dug around for my room key and asked Catlin to take him to our room to play while I cleaned up.
Again the eight year old saves the day.
I started to clean up our dinner mess only to find Jared digging in his pants when I returned from the kitchen. I tried not to make a scene as I removed the hand that he was scratching his junk with. I reminded Jared that there were other people that could see him digging in his pants. Apparently Jared didn't understand the problem with scratching his business in public and began to inspect his hand for poop.
At this point things are so crazy I'm laughing out loud.
I cleaned the high chair and wheeled Jared to our room, the phone rings, it's my mother. Immediately she tells me she just got off the phone with Catlin, Tyson was screaming in the back ground. Catlin had told her that she was in our room with watching Tyson and that I was with Jared.
My mother misunderstood and thought we were staying in a hotel. She thought I had left my children at the hotel ALONE while I went to the hospital.
She was hysterical and ripping me a new one.
I'm laughing even harder as explain the real situation.
When I finally returned to the room the kids are laughing and playing, I guess my mother had called when Tyson was still upset about the stairs. I finally changed Tyson and we walked to the hospital.
I gave a brief report to the nurse, I was told to be back at the hospital at nine in the morning for training. I had to be approved to lift Jared before he was allowed to stay over night at the Fisher House. We hugged and kissed Jared goodnight and walked back to the Fisher House.
I collapsed into the bed and cried a little.
This was day ONE. How in the world was I supposed to survive an overnight visit much less the rest of our lives? Can I really do this? At this point I'm thinking having Jared at home would be putting a life in danger, I just wasn't sure whose.
Day two. I reported fifteen minutes late for training with a man who could be Will Ferrell's long lost cousin. This is the same therapist I talked Jared into tickling a while back. Will's cousin has a great sense of humor and excused me for being late. He explained how to properly lift Jared and then asked me to try. Because Jared is so much taller than I am I have to force his knees apart and stand between his legs to begin my lift. As soon as I was in position Jared gripped me with his legs. Will's cousin was trying to correct me on something and asked me to move. I couldn't, Jared had his legs locked around me and he refused (or couldn't) let me go. I wiggled around trying to free myself as Will's cousin laughed. Will's cousin then cracked a joke by asking if we needed a minute, then helped me escape. He explained to Jared that he needed to wait at least until he got his pass to try any of that stuff. I completed my lift training all though I don't think Will's cousin was very confident in my ability.
I packed the things Jared needed and we went to locate the children. Catlin had been pushing Tyson in circles in the hallway with the stroller. We ate lunch (repeat of previous dinner) and paraded back to the Fisher House to start our over night visit.
I rearranged our room and put Tyson's pack and play in the handicapped shower and wheeled Catlin's roll away bed into the bathroom in front of the sink. I wasn't sure what was going to happen during the night and I didn't want to disturb the children if Jared needed to be cleaned up or something.
Tyson took a nap and Catlin watched cartoons while Jared and I cooked dinner. Jared was there for moral support mostly. He sat there drinking a Pepsi and watched me cook. Another family had given me a bag of chicken strips and I scraped up enough food for sides from the house pantry. We had baked chicken strips, left over green bean casserole, and macaroni and cheese.
It wasn't the best meal in the world, I had to make the macaroni with sliced cheese and stolen milk/butter but it was the first time I was able to cook a meal for my family since June.
Catlin called to tell me Tyson was awake just as I put the food on the table.
This meal was enjoyable. We didn't have a ton of people starring at us and I allowed Tyson to make his normal huge mess by allowing him to feed himself. Jared sat up and fed himself for the most part and I was free to feed myself. Again Catlin returned to the room with Tyson as I cleaned our mess. I giggled at Jared as he snatched one of Catlin's uneaten chicken strips while I cleaned the high chair.
I stuffed everyone into their jackets and we walked to the hospital for Jared's evening meds and bowel management. Jared had gone Christmas shopping for the family so we gathered his presents and walked back.
Catlin left milk and cookies for Santa with a note. She also left a apple for the reindeer, everything had to have a label on it because everything at the Fisher House must have a label. Catlin went off to play with another little girl and I put Tyson down for the night. Jared and I snuggled up in bed and called a few family members.
When we finished the calls I searched around for the remote, I found it wrapped in the blanket at the foot of the bed. When I leaned forward to get it Jared smacked me on the rear. I smiled as I backed up trying to position myself next to Jared, then I felt someone biting my butt! I looked back to see Jared propped up on one arm, mouth open biting me, with a completely innocent look on his face.
Day three (Christmas Day) began with Jared poking me repeatedly until I woke up. I woke up a few hours before to give Jared his morning meds and went back to sleep. It was absolutely amazing to wake up with Jared beside me in bed. I laid there for a while starring at him.
Before Jared was injured he jumped out of bed just seconds after waking up, now I could lay there and enjoy him for a while before we started our day.
Soon the kids were up, Catlin was anxious to see if Santa and the reindeer had eaten their treats. I dressed everyone and we investigated the kitchen. The kitchen was packed with little old ladies baking stuff, they volunteer to bake goodies for the Fisher house every week. Catlin found her dishes empty with a thank you note form Santa. (I didn't leave the thank you note or eat the cookies.)
We scarfed down a small breakfast and took Jared's gifts to the family room with the Christmas tree. There were presents under the tree for all of us and the note directing Santa to the kitchen was gone.
We opened our gifts, Jared gave me a digital picture frame, Catlin got a fashion doll that you make clothes for and some gadget you take a picture with and it turns it into a little animated cartoon, Tyson received a toy phone. I'm not sure who left the other gifts under the tree, I thought they were from the American Legion but when we returned to our room the house manager brought in several large boxes of gifts from the American Legion. The gifts under the tree are still somewhat of a mystery.
At noon I had to take Jared back to the hospital for more medication. I couldn't give Jared the meds at the Fisher House because he needed an injection and I hadn't been trained to give it to him. Catlin pushed Tyson around in circles as I learned how to inject the blood thinner into Jared's stomach.
The rest of the visit is a blur. A few more stressful dinner events, Tyson's first hair cut, and several conversations with Jared's doctors and therapists.
Our biggest problem was not being home. It's hard to control a toddler in public under normal circumstances, this visit was almost the end of my rope. I enjoyed our visit with Jared but I was ready to go home.
I left Virginia with more confidence than I came with, I know I can do this. At home it will be easier, less stressful, and more organised. I felt confident seeing Jared interact with the children, he wasn't just some brain damaged guy sitting in a wheelchair with kids running around him. He was a father, a parent, he remembered our children and he loved them. He gave them hugs and kisses, he helped me as much as he could. When Tyson cried he looked concerned, he held onto our son and kept him from falling when Tyson sat in his lap. He snuggled with Catlin and made funny faces to make her laugh. He even held Tyson on the bed so I could change him. I felt like we were a team again. I realize now how amazing our little family is.
Since our visit during Christmas Jared has made some incredible improvements. Jared can stand, with assistance in the parallel bars. He was also able to ride in a regular car and he's helping with all of his transfers using a sliding board. A few days ago Jared's speech therapist called me, she had Jared hooked to a voice amplifier. She said he was chatting people up in the hallway and singing, he seemed to be excited about the whole thing.
During my visit I talked with Dr. Mac, he feels Jared is to the point he can return home to continue his recovery. February 3, 2010 Jared will return to Arkansas. He will fly to Little Rock on a commercial airline with me. Jared will have to stay at the VA hospital in Little Rock for two or three weeks before making the transition home. I hope they allow him to come home on the weekends with me during his stay.
Jared is having some pain in his right knee. When he arrives in Little Rock they will do a MRI to see what's going on. Jared's right knee was damaged during the accident, because there were no major breaks it was left untreated. The brain injury took priority and when they finally decided to do something about it he was so contracted he wouldn't fit into an MRI machine. Now with the Baclofen pump he is relaxed enough for the MRI. I hope this won't require another surgery.
I've been buzzing around trying to get things done before Jared comes home. I've completely renovated our bedroom and I've been cleaning and reorganising everything else. Our next project is the bathroom, but funds are low so it will have to wait a little longer.
Thank you for reading and supporting our family, thoughts and prayers mean so much to us.