Team Melissa: Mom Slowly Improving
Dear followers of Support Melissa Carleton,
It is with enormous gratitude that I write my last post on Support Mellissa Carleton (SMC). Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, and the many good deeds you have done for my family. All of you have showed me that compassion and the spirit of service are still alive and well. Personally, your gestures, mostly private, have meant a great deal to me. Thank you.
For the past 8 months you may have noticed my absence from SMC and felt like inquiring as to how I am doing. Thank you for your concern and doing your best to look after me. I know that some have worried that I have been pushed out of West’s and Melissa’s life, but that simply is not the case. I have merely stepped off the public stage. In the past I have tried to share my journey with all of you. I am not, by nature, a man who enjoys living in public view. I decided I needed a break, some time to retreat to a quieter life where I could focus on what I have neglected.
I had failed to take care of myself. I had reached a point where, in trying to care for all, I would soon be unable to care for anyone. Melissa’s friends and family had to remind me of what she had instructed me herself: I need to have a future full of promise and love. With John and Lawanna’s support I have been focused on West, getting established at work, and trying to find a permanent home. I decided to find a home closer to work and am settling down soon. This also means settling down to be West’s father and provide him with a stable home surrounded with love, in addition to the tremendous care already provided by John and Lawanna thus far and in the future.
These decisions, over the past eight months or so, and my experiences over the recent years also made space for something unexpected and remarkable to occur. Late last year I met, quite by accident, Deborah, with whom I have had the privilege to fall in love. Deborah is fierce, full of grit, a strong advocate, a tender and caring partner, someone with the strength to listen, infinitely patient, and a steady rock of support in a time that had been so turbulent for me. No surprise, she dedicates her work to serving the community as I do. Most importantly, I am happy in a way I have not been in years and finally have a sense of what my future can be and what kind of future Deborah and I can provide for West.
I have enormous gratitude to John, Lawanna, Melba, and Sarah for all the extraordinary care and love they have provided to me, Melissa, and West over the past couple of years. They have stretched themselves individually and as a family, through so many selfless acts, to make sure that we all thrive as best as possible. We all love one another and the family will continue to work together for the same goals – assuring the best present and future for Melissa and West, in spite of this unimaginable tragedy. While I won’t be involved in Melissa’s care, we have diligently transitioned responsibility for Melissa’s care to John and Lawanna. Melissa has been and will continue to receive excellent care from her parents, as well as with the help of Melissa’s sister Sarah, Melba (or Gigi) and all of her friends, including all of you. And SMC will not go away. John, and now others, will continue to share Melissa’s journey but it’s time for me to finally move out, at least, of that public part of this family and work to build my family with Deborah and West.
I know that this development may be hard for many to hear. Some may judge me harshly. I would understand. I have endured a great deal and ask that you allow us the gift of privacy and peace as Deborah and I forge a future.
July ended very nicely. Melissa continues to enjoy a certain calm. As always, her tone is an issue, but she seems to have been suffering less from it recently. Some of that is her caregivers, who diligently stretch her and keep her busy in her chair and on the mat. She continues to get her massages from Shanah on Monday and Thursday, her regular PT on Tuesdays with Christa, other PT from her caregivers, and rest. She is awake a lot of the time, and even with her eyes closed, sometimes she is still awake. As I have noted in the past, she has largely lost her ability to "make faces," whether happy or unhappy, but she is opening her mouth occasionally, doing a chewing motion, and rarely she tries to mouth a word or two, as the other day when she said, "OK." She also got to visit with her sister, Sarah, and her niece, Grace, for five days last week and that was really great for all.
Personally, I'm feeling thankfulness and happiness this morning, knowing all the love that has penetrated our lives and Melissa's as a result of this. I'm sure she would prefer things were different, as would we, but she and we are surrounded by really great people. And, of course, what a blessing she is to us. You'd think a person suffering from what is essentially quadraplegia would not contribute anything, but she does. And then there is the little (HUGE) blessing of West, our little rug rat, our swimmer, our Otter Pop eater, our chatter box, our cuddle bug. What a treat. It's good to be loved by him.
School will start up soon, so my "vacation" will be over for a while. But we made sure to take our grand daughter, Grace, to Six Flags Magic Mountain, along with Zack. I was able to go on a few roller coasters, which I love, and Grace and I did the 150 foot swing and death drop. "Exhilarating" is to weak a word to describe it. It's so good to spend time with grand kids, and kids, and loved ones. Lawanna was a good sport on the trip, though no roller coasters for her. I'm headed to a Dodgers/Red Sox game in LA Friday and then to the City (San Francisco) to lunch with a friend on Sunday, and then it will be back to the grind.
Lawanna has been studying for some important certification exams, which she will take in mid-August. She has been awesome with West and his swimming. Because my wound from my hip replacement opened up a couple weeks after the surgery and has yet to fully heal, she has been the one who has been swimming with West. Every day he asks us to go "shummin a cub" -- swimming at the club -- and every day we shlep him down there. He loves it. We do too. Oh, and he sleeps really well after, a real plus. Brian continues his job in the Bay Area and is with West as much as possible. Nothing's ever perfect, but we make things work, all of us.
Grace, Peace, and Love
Papochka (Melissa's dad)
July has been – note the past tense – a busy month, so much so that I realize I haven’t posted in a while. Sorry about that….
Melissa continues to surprise us with her resilience. March, of course, was a bad month, but she is much better than we then imagined she would be after 4 months. For the most part, she is healthy and well. We continue to have difficulty managing her tone, meaning that her muscles on her right side are frequently contracted. It’s a result of her brain injury, and management of the problem is difficult. With a combination of stretching, movement in physical therapy, and medication, we do our best to keep it at bay. Imagine, if you will, contracting your right arm, bending it at the elbow, flexing your bicep as hard as you can, and bending your wrist inward as hard as you can, for as long as you can. That’s what it’s like for her a lot of the time. She also experiences it in her right shoulder, quadriceps, and ankle. We continue to stimulate her as much as possible, including the PT and stretching, but also just getting her up out of bed at least twice a day for anywhere from 6-8 hours. We continue to be thankful for all of our caregivers.
This week is a real treat because her sister, Sarah, and our grand daughter, Grace, are out from Missouri. They are amazed at how much West has matured since they last saw him, and they are very happy to expand, if just for a week, West’s circle of love and affection. He continues to amaze us. His swimming lessons are going well, as you can see from the pictures. But he also pretty much cries the whole time while he’s there. On the other hand, when he’s swimming with us, away from lessons, he’s very happy. His vocabulary continues to grow. He is absolutely in love with trucks of any kind. He likes making bubbles. And he seems to never get – or give – enough hugs and kisses.
We also continue to feel so sad for how much both he and Melissa are missing, and will forever miss, because of this tragedy. But we also forge ahead, knowing that we are blessed with great joy and goodness, even in our sorrow. Every day is a good day.
Grace, Peace, and Love
Papochka (Melissa’s dad)
Melissa has had a big day today, and it's only 1:07 pm. Mimi took her daughter with her to her morning masters swim workout. Melissa was able to see several old friends with whom she used to swim, and her old coach, Jay Christensen. It was a beautiful morning. Amanda Temple, our "senior" caregiver helped Lawanna out with the travel. But that wasn't all. Melissa returned home after that, so we could change her clothes and such, and then we were right back in the van on the way to West's 2nd swim lesson.
Melissa seemed to enjoy most of it. Lawanna said she did some eye-blinking when her old friends were chatting with her, probably meaning that she was taking it in. She looked calm during the practice. Jay, who has known Melissa for a long time and coached her too, held her hand, and Melissa must have gotten a kick out of all Jay's barking from the deck. The definitely felt calm while at the swimming lesson, looking around at all the kids and parents and grandparents, and listening to all the noise, some of which was West crying out at the beginning of the lesson for Papa or Mimi to save him. By the end, he was crying much less, and as you can see, doing really well for just his second lesson. In a bit, Shanah, Melissa's masseuse will come by and work with Melissa for an hour or so. Today will have been a full day for her.
Dr. Theo, her surgeon, continues to encourage us to keep her stimulated. Lawanna is really great about such things. We may be seeing evidence of Melissa trying to mouth a few words, shich would be remarkable. Her tone seems to be diminishing somewhat, though it remains a constant problem. It's very hot these days in Fresno, so afternoons are out for going anywhere with her, but the mornings are conducive to the kinds of things we did today.
We'll keep doing what we can for her and hoping for continued good health for her. So far, so good.
Grace, Peace, and Love
Papochka (Melissa's dad)
Seeing a dream dramatically alter and then fighting with all your might to regain what was hoped for requires courage beyond my understanding. And now the courage to let go of what was hoped for because of the reality of what is also is extraordinary. I wish you nothing but the best Brian, and for West as well... and may your new family flourish and contribute to your healing.
bryan, you have my respect and support. it is vital for all that you go forward with your life. your message is moving and rings true. go forward with strength and love.
Best to all of you! Brian we miss you.
Thanks for the update John. Excited for you guys about the sale of your house (my mom updated me too) and your new place. So thrilled to see West growing and thriving!! We continue to keep you all in our thoughts and prayers.
that is great news. she been in my prayers. i know god is with her and her family
Thank you for letting us be with you. I'm so inspired by your love, perseverance and mutual kindness. Melissa, John and Brian you definitely deserve the label of "team." And the team has a deep bench. Gratefully, Gail
Thank you for your update. Good to hear Melissa is making progress. It touches our hearts to watch West grow and be so attentive to Melissa, Prayers continue for complete restoration of body, mind and spirit. Prayers for all the family as you travel onward on your journey. Hugs to you all.
Been keeping up with the updates. Thank you John. I don't know anyone of you but I feel close to you and your family through your updates. I pray for Melissa ' s full recovery. God bless you all.
Hello John and Family. Your latest post seems a little down. Anniversaries are meant to be a celebration so allow me to celebrate Melissa. #1 Melissa is alive, home and sharing MEANINGFUL time with her son and loved ones. #2 Melissa cares about other people. Even after suffering such a traumatic brain injury, the core of who she is and what has drawn so many people close to her remains - a person who cares for others. #3 Melissa inspires you to find hope and meaning in the big, medium, small and tiny things in life. Every scoop of peanut butter, kiss on the cheek, nod of acknowledgement, walk in the park, day without a mishap, physical and cognitive gain (big, medium, small and tiny) is worthy of notation because it is more than we had yesterday! #4 Melissa fights every day to improve. #5 Melissa appreciates you. Please keep your motivation to inform us and tell Melissa's story. As for the "long haul", some say that God takes care of babies and idiots, and the rest of us are on our own. Of course I don't believe the second part of that saying. God is hanging out with you all the way through this long haul. He just knows you are strong enough and have the support to carry on. When in doubt, look around. We are in your periphery. Grace, peace and love -- Dawn
What is the status of the tumor? Was it ever removed? is it malignant?
Sorry I wasn't able to leave much but I just wanted you to know how much this story has touched my heart ❤️ I pray everyday that she fully wakes up and makes a full recovery so that she can watch your beautiful son grow up! I don't know u personally but I know Cynthia Karraker who' leads a support group I attend and I know lawanna spoke at her moms service ! Lots of prayers coming from Fresno ca
May Peace, strength and courage continue for all of you. What a battle!
So happy to see the amazing generosity of others to help Melissa and her family!!
Daily thoughts and prayers for Melissa and family!!!!!!
This story really touches my heart, I am praying for yor family that you can be soon reunited and start raising your family you have always dreamed of. Stay strong.
Praying, praying, praying for each of you!
Keep fighting! Your husband, baby boy and family need you!! I will be praying EVERYDAY. YOU can do this!!!
a parents love is so deep...praying for you all...