Team Melissa: Mom Slowly Improving
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)
Lawanna walked out on the patio this morning, grin on her face, hand behind her back. What are you up to, I asked. She proceeded to make me cry, re-gifting to me a little book with pictures of my life, either originally given on a Father’s Day past, or on my birthday. Regardless, as I opened the picture book, I was transported back, or transported more deeply into this wonderful relationship I have with all of my children.
Back…. Oh, that I could, oh, that we could go back. I’d do things differently, for sure. I would talk with my children more, and do more things with them, and spend more time with them. I’d know more, or want to know more, about who they are, what they think, what they enjoy, and I’d know more of their friends, or want to. Of course, with Zach and Spenser, I can still do that, and I am. They are still “with” me, and I’m with them. But with Melissa, well, I’m afraid I won’t be able to know her any better. Our opportunities to know one another through conversation, sharing stories, talking about whatever, well, there won’t really be any. As a result, this Father’s Day is more than tinged with sadness – deep, yearning sadness.
I’m working in my book to bring Melissa back to life. I wish those of you who have come to know us all could have known her, before she became a horrible victim. Of course, she wasn’t perfect – but she was as close from this father’s perspective as one can get. As I look back today, contemplating all the meaning of Father’s Day, I’m overwhelmed with what a great daughter she is, and was. She would take me out to dinner today, or she would at least make sure I was somehow honored. She just never missed such things.
As I think back over her life, she seems to have given more than she took, delivered to others more than she received back. She had learned to “be there” for her friends and family. If I were in her shoes now, lying, now for over two years, the recipient of the care of others, she would be here for me, and for her mom and the boys. She would help them through. That’s one of the things that keep us going, that keeps me going. I’d like to think I would do everything I’ve done, regardless. But it’s made easier because of her, because of who she is, and was.
I miss her. I’d give a lot to have her sitting across the patio table from me now, to know nothing of what we have come to know, about life, and death, and everything in between. Alas, life doesn’t work that way, and just as she has had to accept that, I will too, with as much equanimity as I can muster. We are left to talk with her; to touch her; to care for her and see that others care for her; to look at pictures of our life, and hers, that was; to build shrines to her; to love her son and make sure he knows his “mama” in whatever way he can; and, in my case, to try to put in words so others can know how marvelous Melissa is, and how much wonderful, inexhaustible, and palpable beauty and goodness she has brought to our lives.
This is what keeps me going, all of this, as imperfectly as I go. And the memories of our conversations about parents and parenting, in which, in part, we discussed not perfection as a parent – but being good enough. I am lucky to know that I was good enough for her. She always made that clear to me. But she also made me comfortable with not needing to be perfect. Those are gifts she gave me, and on this Father’s Day, I think of her, and so miss her.
For those men out there, those fathers, I wish you the most honoring of Father’s Days. Hug your children, talk to them, make sure that your future will not be filled with regrets, and in so doing, you will take care of your future.
Grace, Peace and Love
Papochka (Melissa’s dad)
Spring has sprung out here in California. Melissa'a view out her west side window allows her to see the blooming rose bushes and trees in our front yard, and the huge pine trees in the median of our street. Right now the sun is coming up over and through them and the sunshine fills her room. Clipped roses in vases and an orchid adorn her bedside as she slumbers.
It's been about 6 weeks since her second major brain surgery, almost 2 years to the day since her original seizure. She is certainly stabilized now, settling into her new routine and capabilities. As we feared, her baseline is different and lower than it was before. She does not move as much, though she moves all of her limbs. She sometimes is awake a lot, for instance, two days ago, she was awake and looking around most of the day. She did not seem uncomfortable at all. Then, yesterday, she slept most of the day. Her subdural hematoma was on her left side, right in the area where her speech center rests, and apparently the part of her brain that would control her mouth and facial expressions, so she is not talking at all, or even attempting to do so. Just as disappointingly, perhaps more so, is that she seems to not be able to smile. Just seeing the curl of her lips and raising of her cheeks meant so much to us for so long. We hope she has not lost that forever.
Interestingly, if her eye-blinking for yes-no questions is reliable -- we think it is -- she sometimes answers basic questions as accurately as she has in the last two years. That makes us think that she continues to understand some, if not much, of what goes on around her. That, of course, is both comforting to us, because we still have the opportunity to share with her how much we love her and for her to understand, and tragic, as she knows what's up with her and perhaps even her relative deterioration. Regardless, it indicates she is aware and cognizant, even if she can't really show much of any reaction. We are happy we still have moments "with" her.
On the (literal) home front, it would appear our dream house has short sold officially. We are quite relieved about that, as the difference between 3 years and 7 years -- the difference between the credit punishment for a short sale and a foreclosure -- would have been significant. I also got to meet the buyers yesterday and talk with them at length. they are wonderful people, and they love the house. It also turns out that we are about 4 degrees of separation from them, as they grew up with some of the kids we went to school with. They are also very caring people, very concerned about us and Melissa, and they pray for us together everyday. That's a blessing. I/we need it.
The new house is awesome. I'm enjoying very much getting the yard in shape. We continue to move this piece and that piece into the house, according to whatever specs Mimi tells us. :) It's her house inside, and mine outside. At least, that's what I tell myself. Actually, it's West's house, and certainly his yard. He beebops in and out all day, The backyard is filled with his vast collection of balls of various sorts, basically anything that's round is a ball at this point. He loves to look for bugs under the rocks in the backyard. Maria, his regular sitter, showed him how to find bugs and now he points at rock and waits for you to turn it over for him. He points a lot, and tries to tell you what he wants, and he's getting better and better at it.
We have hired a couple more caregivers. Two of ours are graduating from Fresno State and will be soon moving on. We're happy for them, and proud of them, but we've gained several beautiful women into our family and it will be hard to let them go. But that's what your children do -- and they're like family to us -- so you have to let them go. The good news is that we have two more now, and as long as Melissa is with us, we'll continue to gain new "girls" into our family. The semester is (mercifully) winding down. I look forward to it being over, and being able to turn all of my energies to the completion of the manuscript of the book chronicling and interpreting the last two years and telling the story of Melissa's wonderful life before all this.
Off to move the water and other things. Just wanted to check in with everybody so you'll know we are all doing well, settled in to our new context, and hoping, as always for the best, and looking, as always, for the blessings of life. There are a lot of them out there, thankfully.
Grace, Peace, and Love
Papochka (Melissa's dad)
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.
We celebrate every positive action and reaction Melissa produces. An assurance her body is being restored. PTL. We walk and pray the family thru this journey.
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...
Wow! I know what your going threw! My fiance had a brain tumor removed as well. I am praying for you!
I am blown away by your strength. I don't know how I would be able cope if I were in the situation you are in. I find it extraordinary that you are giving West the best possible start at life by having him nurse despite the circumstances. Congratulations on your newest miracle, Melissa will be your next! Keep hanging in there Daddy!