Five Months Later

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Hello everyone,

After a recent comment asking for an update, I thought it would be a good idea just to let everyone know how Brendan’s doing as we approach the five month mark, especially those who are living abroad and haven’t heard all the good news.

Last time I wrote, Brendan was awaiting his trip to Chicago, which went very well. He had a great time and from my understanding, had no challenges responding to all the extra stimuli one faces when traveling. Following his trip, he was eager to get back to work, and really didn’t take much of a break at all before diving back into the thick of things. Of course, they tried to somewhat limit his responsibilities at first to avoid giving him too much pressure, but Brendan was motivated to take on his normal workload. Only a mere 4 months since his injury, Brendan’s role was extended to include being the primary Exploitation Engineer for a particular region and minor properties, while also providing Reservoir, Exploitation, and Operational Engineering Support to other regions as required. Now, if you’re like me, all this oil and gas terminology is gibberish. From my understanding though, this means that he has proved himself to be incredibly capable and responsible, and has completely returned and even surpassed his roles and responsibilities from before his injury. What a guy, huh?

From a medical standpoint, Brendan attended his sessions at the Sheldon Chumir clinic and has completed almost all follow up appointments at the hospital. Thankfully, he appears to be in great health and there seems to be no visible after effects. He has to see the neurologist again in the spring as a follow up, but otherwise, he is done on that front. He is overcoming some small changes in mood and personality and I don’t believe they are hindering him socially; he’s very much like his same old self. Since completing the follow up tests and appointments, his driver’s license as also been reinstated, which was very important to him and sort of the last step holding him back to fully returning to “normal” life. He’s hoping to purchase a truck in the near future!

Unfortunately, our questions as to what exactly happened to Brendan and who should be held accountable have not been answered. While I frequently think back to those early days with a sick feeling in my stomach and a knot in my throat, I bring myself back by remembering what could have been and how lucky we are. In the grand scheme of things, we cannot put too much focus on unanswered questions or seeking retribution. What’s important and what we need to emphasize is that my brother not only survived, but also exceeded all expectations in returning to a fulfilling career and overall life. He is a living, walking, breathing miracle who defied the odds and saved us the devastation that many other families have faced. While we all of course hope for justice, we cannot let this desire define our daily lives and must instead be thankful for the cards we have been dealt.

While it seemed like much of the information we were given through the hospital and internet sources had us expecting the worse, even trying to convince us that there’s no such thing as  fully recovering, after a mere five months Brendan seems to be well on his way to doing just that. He still has months, maybe even years, of physical healing to do and I have faith he will continue to surpass the expected and give hope to others who may find themselves in a similar situation. Not a day passes that I don’t feel gratitude for this second chance. Again, I cannot say thank you enough to the ongoing support we received during such difficult times. It will never be forgotten.

All my love,

Jane

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A Great Farewell

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As I walk through the airport with wet eyes, I look over my shoulder and wave at my family. Looking back at me are not just the eyes of my parents, but those of my brother, too. While I arrived at this airport just under 6 weeks ago with tears of concern streaming down my cheeks, today I leave with tears of gratitude, as well as a heart full of hope.

I think back on the first big step in Brendan’s recovery – living through the night. I did not even realize how close he was to not surviving the first night until I arrived in Calgary. Since returning, I have heard a number of stories from family, nurses, police, and paramedics, all concluding how miraculous it was that he was even alive, how he beat the odds. When I remember the early days, I remember the excitement we got with even the smallest sign of improvement. From across the ocean, I stood by my computer, waiting to hear news. When I heard he had responded to pain, I was ecstatic. Shortly after that, it was purposeful movement of his body. All I knew at this point was that there was brain activity. This was followed by him opening his eyes and speaking. The night before I boarded my plane I cried tears of joy, hearing that he had walked. Once I arrived, I was so relieved when he got my name right (sometimes) and seeing him get up to walk on his own. I remember celebrating that he had put on his own deodorant, let alone shaved himself. I remember his first day outside. How we had all hoped he would stretch out his arms and embrace the fresh air, and our disappointment when he hung his head, exhausted from moving. Despite it all, we remained hopeful. I knew he would overcome this, in some form or another. Regardless of how optimistic I tried to be upon my arrival, I did not believe I would see my brother discharged from the hospital. That would be just unrealistic, right? Wrong. Yesterday, after 49 days in the hospital, I got to see Brendan sign his discharge papers. I watched as he gathered his things and walked freely to the elevator – might I add, without setting off the alarm! We dropped him off with his own key to his condo, where he would spend the night, independently. Next week, Brendan is going to Chicago. He has been given the all-clear by doctors and he will be realizing his goal on Tuesday. He will see Bruce Springsteen in concert, and spend five days visiting Chicago on vacation with Sara. This is sure the icing on the cake.

Of course, recovery doesn’t end here. He will continue to attend out-patient therapy at the Sheldon Chumir Clinic downtown. There he will continue with occupational therapy and speech therapy. They will help develop some higher reasoning skills in areas he still has some difficulty with, such as planning, organization, and deductive reasoning. On a practical level, they will also help him ease back into work, where his boss and co-workers eagerly await him and have been very supportive and encouraging. Even once he is finished with therapies, he still has more than a year of physical healing to look forward to. Progress should continue. Many of you may notice only slight, if any, changes in Brendan. For those of you who do, I ask that you be patient, and just try to remember all that he’s been through that may contribute to certain attitudes or responses that you may not have seen before his injury. I truly believe my brother will maintain valuable relationships. That he will return to work and succeed and overcome any impairment that faces him. He has come so far, and I know that he will continue to defy the odds.

I am both sad and glad to say this is likely my last blog entry. When I wrote my first entry, I had no idea how it would be received. I did not know anyone would read it, let alone feel something from it. I merely wanted to keep people updated and try to find those accountable for Brendan’s injuries. I have been humbled by the responses. I am so incredibly grateful for all of the warm words, gestures, praise, and even those of you who just read along and demonstrated how much love surrounds Brendan. Thank you for helping us keep our faith. Thank you for spreading the word and trying to help us find justice. Thank you for not giving up on Brendan, for showering him with prayers from all faiths, even those of you who have never met him or my family. My eyes have been opened to the value of compassion. Lessons have been learned that will stay with me throughout my life. I cannot effectively put my gratitude into words, but hopefully I have at least given you an idea.

Thank you.

Brendan, I hope that you will one day read this, and see that I only wrote out of love for you. I love you so, so, much. Thank you for having the determined will to overcome this.

Love, from the bottom of my heart,

Jane Cathery

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Happy Birthday, Brendan!

On August 13, 2012, Brendan turned 25 years old. We felt so blessed on Sunday, celebrating his quarter-of-a-century birthday, albeit a day early. August 12th also marked exactly one month since Brendan had arrived in the hospital, within an inch of his life. Mere weeks ago, we were celebrating a thumbs up, extending from the hand of a young man whose face was barely recognizable and whose fate was undetermined. On Sunday, my family and I witnessed this same young man, strong and steady on his feet, laughing, telling jokes, walking and talking in a manner not too different than from before his injury. He eagerly helped prepare his favourite kind of cake. As he blew out his candles, I fought to spare Brendan my tears of gratitude, saving him from another embarrassing display of my gushing, “I’m just so happy you’re alive!” which he doesn’t seem to be too fond of.  I just couldn’t stop thinking about how lucky we were to be sitting beside him, watching him make a wish about his fulfilling future, which we all know he’ll have. Overall, despite ending with a return trip to the hospital, it was a pretty remarkable day.

Unfortunately, Brendan’s real birthday, August 13th, was a Monday. He was not impressed with spending his birthday in the hospital, and who would be? He simply seemed to want to get the day over with rather than making a big fuss. He didn’t even want friends or family to take him out for dinner. He had his therapies during the day, which, on the bright side, went very well. All of his therapists have noticed rapid improvements in all areas. He is going to be allowed more and more independence in the upcoming weeks, and will no longer have someone shadowing him 24/7. He’s going to get to start testing his threshold for noise, sound, and other forms of stimulation, to see which, if any, activities and situations he finds overwhelming. He has a specific goal that he’s working towards – a trip with Sara, Sept. 4, to see Bruce Springsteen in Chicago. Some of his therapists have said this isn’t unrealistic, and my fingers are crossed that they’re right. Unfortunately, there are other factors that may come into play, such as insurance, that he’ll have to work out before anything can be finalized. It would certainly be an amazing way to celebrate being discharged from the hospital, though, that’s for sure!

While his discharge date is growing nearer, the brain still has a lot of healing to do. From my understanding, it can take anywhere from six months to a year for the brain to heal. While he is feeling physically able and becoming more and more confident that he can get back to “normal” life, there will still be a recovery period, void of too much stress and stimulation, required. There will be significant changes to his lifestyle, especially in the early days, which will probably take time and patience adjusting to. I am only in town for another couple weeks, and already, Brendan is becoming less and less enthused with my presence in his therapies, largely because I ask the questions he doesn’t want to hear the answers for. I may try and keep everyone posted, particularly once we know exactly what Brendan’s needs will be once he is discharged. However, Brendan would probably prefer to speak for himself these days. If you’re eager to visit before then, it might actually be best to send Brendan a text or email himself, as he is starting to make his own schedule beyond therapies, which I may not always be aware of, and he hasn’t been taking kindly to me trying to help arrange things.

Thank you all again for the support you’ve shown my whole family through everything.

All my love,

Jane Cathery

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Days Go By

Hello, Brendan’s followers,

 I know it’s been a whole week since I last updated, and please excuse me, as I’ve had a busy one. Changes are not nearly as drastic on a day-to-day basis, but even the slight changes are only occurring in a positive direction.

 The remainder of the long weekend was still a bit tumultuous. Sunday worked out okay, in the end. My mom went and picked Brendan up first thing in the morning and brought him to their condo. We had a bit of city sewage issue at my parents’ house (just what we needed!) and Brendan was quite patient. He hung out on the couch and waited for everything to get sorted before expecting to return to his condo. His friend Bobby later stepped in and happily spent some time with him, including overnight, which went smoothly and was greatly appreciated.

Monday also went pretty well for the most part, at least during the day. We did have one pretty extreme blow-up at night, however. Out of nowhere, Brendan just got up and went to leave my parents’ condo. While we blocked the exits, we asked where he was going and he said he was returning to his condo. He said he wanted to be at his own condo to wait for Sara to drive him to the hospital. He would not let us drive him to the hospital. He did not want us coming with him to his condo. He did not want a ride. He wanted to walk, with his big heavy bag, on his own. For many reasons, this was not an option. For one, the bag was incredibly heavy, and the last thing he needs is extra strain on his body. Secondly, it was dark, and as we now know, it’s not exactly safe walking these streets alone at night. Lastly and most importantly, he is not allowed to be on his own. Eventually, my mom did manage to coax him in the car and drive him to his place to wait for Sara, who did end up driving him back to the hospital. In the end, it did work out okay, but those arguments sure have taken a toll on our patience and added a lot of unneeded stress to an already stressful situation.

On a brighter note, Brendan’s week of therapies went very well. It seems he has been steadily improving in all areas. His memory, in particular, has come a long way. There is a set of questions that they ask him every day that he now almost always answers correctly. He is also much better at remembering even simple things like what he ate for breakfast, what he did in his classes, the day of the week, etc., which he had serious difficulty with even just a week ago.

Over the course of the week, he did many different activities and assessments to figure out what areas he’s having the most problems with. In speech, they’re going to concentrate largely on interpreting beyond the literal, and his “perseverating”, which deals with him getting stuck on a word or an idea and not being able to move past it. Also, just learning how to choose the right words and work through finding the best way to express himself when he can’t find a word he is looking for, which they say is common with brain injuries.

In occupational therapy, he was very good with concrete ideas or situations, such as math-related activities like counting money, as well as writing cheques, addressing envelopes, and other skills people need in everyday life. The main area he had troubles with, however, was problem solving. Questions were based around facing every day problems, such as things around the house not working or losing something, and how he would respond to such problems. Also, things like personal safety, and taking certain steps to ensure your safety or lowering risks in certain aspects of your life. His responses varied, but many of them included reactions that were far beyond what someone would “normally” believe to be a measured response. He also had some troubles looking at the “big picture” and instead, focused on small details that maybe weren’t important. These are areas he will be working on over the next few weeks though and I have faith we’ll continue to see improvements like we have in so many other areas. 

Recreational therapy has been going well, too. He has been playing different games to work on his mind and he’s remembering rules and results on a day-to-day basis. It’s really impressive to see this, actually. He also joined a physical coordination and recreation (PC&R) group since he’s been discharged from physio, and he gets to play different sports with a few of the other physically able-bodied patients. I think it’s helpful that he gets to exert some energy and keep himself feeling fit and healthy.

He has been receiving many more visitors these days and keeping himself busy. I know he enjoys having people stop by, and it’s been great getting to meet some of his friends. I still will remind everyone that he does need his rest, however, so keeping the visits nice and short, with not more than 1 or 2 people at a time, is definitely best. The only way the brain heals is by resting, so it is very important he is getting his down time, too. Thanks again to everyone though, you’ve all been wonderful. He will be out of the hospital and needing good friends to support him in the not too distant future, so even if you haven’t had a chance to visit him in the hospital, don’t feel you have to be there in person right now. There will be plenty of time for Brendan to experience and see how many lives he’s touched and how amazing the people around him are. It’s going to be an ongoing, life-changing, experience, and as I continue to say in every entry, having so many people behind him will definitely make it easier.

He is out of the hospital this weekend, and so far things have gone alright. He did start again on his condo rant, and does prefer to be there than at my parents’ house, but it’s not quite as big of an argument as it was last week.  Sara’s wonderful sister Carlye, who is also his good friend, spent the evening with him at his condo last night and at night time, my mom was able to sneak on in and sleep on his couch. It is helpful that now he can actually remember the doctor explaining the terms in which he can go home, and even if he doesn’t completely agree with them, he knows it’s not just my family being mean or controlling. One other issue we have faced is with drinking. The doctors have said he cannot drink for at least one year. This is not just a suggestion. They say alcohol can induce seizures and will greatly hinder recovery. This is one area where he is lucky to have such good friends as I believe they will be very supportive of this and not put him in situations where it’s a tempting risk. Right now, he keeps talking about  going out partying and wanting to go have some drinks. As you can see, he is still not entirely in agreement with this condition, but hopefully, in time, as he realizes the severity of what has happened and the potential outcome of the decision to drink, he will take it seriously. His ability to control impulses, such as going out for a drink, is another reason that for now he needs someone around just to ensure he’s making the right decisions.

Overall, there continues to only be positive changes in his recovery. He is constantly surprising me with how far he has come and gives me a very bright outlook on his future. He is eager to get back to his normal life and work, and with rest and continued support, let’s hope he can do that in the near future.

As usual, I want to thank all of you for following along on his journey, as well as your words of encouragement and support throughout. I will continue to update on at least a weekly basis, at least for the remainder of his stay in the hospital.

Wishing you all a safe weekend.

Love always,

Jane Cathery

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Weekend Passes

If you read my last entry, you know that the doctors have now said that Brendan may leave the hospital during evenings and weekends, if and only if he is under supervision. This “if” has been our biggest challenge of the weekend.

But, before we get to the weekend, let’s talk about how we closed off the week. Thursday was great. He was in pretty good spirits. I think a lot of it came from me not pushing anything on him and letting him be the one to check his schedule and make sure he was doing things on his own, with me just there to watch. He did incredibly well in O.T. She could finally start giving him assessment tests because he had started to come out of PTA. This test was pretty similar to one he wrote the last day in the neuro unit, which had been painful to watch, but this time he did a great job and only had problems in a few areas. His math is already back to being better than mine (not that that’s necessarily saying much, but still!) and many areas that were troubling him before are no longer too difficult. It’s very exciting to see the progress. Unfortunately, though, herein lays the problem.

Brendan is seeing himself improve greatly on these tests and now thinks he no longer requires the assistance of the hospital, or even more so, my family. The reality is that he is still having problems with his concentration, short-term memory, and reasoning. He is also incredibly impulsive and impatient. All of these areas are going to improve over time, I am sure of it. But for the time being, it is doctor’s orders that he not be left unsupervised.

This started the power struggle on Friday. After taking him for a shower at his condo, Sara brought Brendan to our house for his first family dinner. Things went really well. It was almost like things were back to normal, excluding the fact that it has been almost 2 years since we were all at my parents’ house together. Brendan seemed to be enjoying himself and he was cracking jokes, some of which made sense, others which did not, all of which were funny. He really loved cuddling with my dog, Cash, and appeared to even be happy helping my mom with dinner preparation in the kitchen. Dinner went well and we all watched a movie together after, and although Brendan may have fallen asleep for a little bit, this is not irregular. The hard part came when it was time for bed. Brendan absolutely, positively, would NOT be staying at my parents’ condo. And nope, no way, were any one of us going to stay at his condo with him, either. It’s true, he’s a 24 (almost 25), fully independent, grown guy, and I can understand why he doesn’t want to be having his family hang around. But unfortunately, under the circumstances, it’s the only way he’s allowed to spend the night away from the hospital. Even as we were driving him back to the hospital as the only alternative, his girlfriend offered to spend the night, but by this time he wasn’t having any of it. It was very saddening to watch him walk up to his hospital room, hand my mom his condo keys, and say goodnight to all of us. It’s just so heartbreaking because I believe he feels like he is being punished and he hasn’t done anything wrong. I don’t blame him at all for having those feelings. It’s just an unfair situation in general. But once again, it’s only temporary. And I really think in the next few weeks he’ll be able to look at this all rationally – as a few weeks of having his pain-in-the-butt mom, dad, and sister, cramping his style out of concern for his own safety.

Today, Saturday, was better. We knew what we were going to face in terms of the condo situation, but we weren’t going to let him spend this beautiful day in a hospital bed. My mom went to get him first thing in the morning and took him over to his condo. They spent some time there getting a few things organized, and then my dad and I met them for breakfast near his place. Brendan was not interested in waiting for my dad and me to finish breakfast, and was up and out of there, with my mom tagging along behind him, to try and do a few things. Later, I spent a little bit of time with him watching TV at his condo but he made it pretty clear he wanted us out of there. That is when we decided it was time to call on some of his wonderful friends who have wanted to spend time with him all along. Bob came over as my mom and I left, and later, Aleisha joined him and then his girlfriend, Sara, came, too. It sounds like they went for some walks, watched the Olympics, and even got Brendan in for a hair-cut. Talk about a great afternoon!

Later on, Sara dropped him off for dinner. He was much quieter than last night as I think he was getting ready for the big discussion – where was he going to spend the night and with whom. This conversation did end up taking place, right after he tried to book it out the front door to his condo! Fortunately, he doesn’t have his keys, so I’m not sure what he would’ve done, but it was still a bit of a situation. My mom decided she would just accompany him, and they could figure things out from there. At the end of it all, Sara was able to make arrangements to spend the night, while Bob whole-heartedly offered to help, if she couldn’t.  We’ll be picking him up bright and early tomorrow morning and we’ll probably go through the whole ordeal again tomorrow night, but that’s okay. We’re just happy to have him home. Even if he’s not impressed with the circumstances at the moment, I believe in the next few weeks he will be more understanding and this will get easier. I am glad that he believes he is healthy enough to be on his own, even if it’s not true quite yet, as it shows his determination to be independent, which is what we all want for him in the end.

Despite the moments of frustration, I will never stop being thankful for having the opportunity to even face these challenges. Although it sometimes might not feel like it, as it doesn’t yet for Brendan, we are truly fortunate, as we have been given a second chance. I firmly believe that he has an amazing life ahead of him and I look forward to being there with him, whether he wants me there or not.

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Love always,

Jane Cathery

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Family Meeting

Four weeks from now. This is the tentative timeline given for Brendan’s discharge. It doesn’t mean it will be the end of his treatment or hard work, by any means, but it will be time for him to leave the hospital. We were all pleasantly surprised by this date, especially with the way they’d been talking when he was moving over to the unit. This day cannot come soon enough for Brendan, who has been incredibly frustrated and determined yet again, to get to his condo.

Yesterday was a much better day. He was in good spirits, did well in his therapies (yes, he even remembered the card game from rec therapy, name and all!) and chatted happily with visitors. It may have been the Caesar’s Steakhouse take-away lunch from Mr. Soby that really made his day. Overall, he was motivated and cooperative though and I didn’t hear the word “condo” uttered quite as frequently as in previous days.

Today, however, was a different story. Perhaps out of frustration at the lack of control he has in his situation, he was immediately opposed to any suggestion of any task or activity that came from my mouth, and later, my mother and father’s mouths, too. As someone who is usually so motivated, seeing him spend the day on his behind has been a test for our patience. While the family meeting today didn’t quite inform us as well as we had hoped, it did give us a new way of looking at Brendan’s apparent “laziness” and will hopefully encourage us to be more tolerant. I am guilty of forgetting about the physical healing that needs to be done, and have been concentrating much more on thinking about his recovery merely as a matter of hard work and determination. While these are obviously going to be important factors, rest is going to be what aids the recovery of his brain, rather than his mind, which is clearly just as important. I was a bit restless, even irritated, after having been told the move to rehabilitation and attending therapies would be Brendan’s “full-time job”, but in reality, he’d been only actually having about 1.5 hours/day so far.  I now understand that therapies will increase in time, increase in workload, and increase in diversity, once Brendan’s brain is seen to be able to handle it. For now, he needs his rest. He will be joining a new therapy on Tuesdays and Thursdays though, which is a physical activity group, and I think will be great for maintaining his slender build, especially after all the cookies he’s been devouring! While this new understanding does help ease the frustration with Brendan’s refusal to get up and get going, it doesn’t address the ongoing battle regarding his condo. I am hoping, as his brain and mind do improve, he will come to understand the necessity of being in the hospital.

Some more big news divulged in the meeting includes Brendan now being approved for evening and weekend passes! Boy, was that quick! We are definitely going to have to start small – perhaps a meal at home or at a restaurant in the vicinity to keep stimulation minimized. We also have the problem of him not wanting to return to the hospital, which is a very real concern at the moment. It’s still very hard to rationalize with Brendan, but hopefully, in the upcoming week or so, we’ll see a change in this.

When feeling my patience wear thin, I’ve brought myself back by focusing on how far he has come and being thankful that we’re even in a position to be having these issues. One of the EMS crew that was responsible for bringing him to the hospital came to visit him the other day. She helped bring home, once again, the severity of Brendan’s injury, when she said that the paramedics weren’t sure he would even make it to the hospital. With all of his improvements and all that has happened, it is sometimes too easy to take for granted how miraculous his recovery has been so far.

We’re still taking it one day at a time, but it’s refreshing to at least have a tentative date to work towards. As he emerges from post-traumatic amnesia, they will be able to more thoroughly assess him and we’ll have a better understanding of how much damage has been caused and his potential to recover.

Once again, I cannot thank everyone enough for their support.

Wishing you all a safe long weekend.

Love always,

Jane

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…and off he goes!

Well, that was an exciting morning, to say the least!

I was just out the door to visit my brother when I got the call, “Brendan’s missing!” My dad was on the line, having just heard word from the nurse’s station that Brendan had been missing from the unit since 7:15am, approximately half an hour earlier. I decided to still go to the hospital and get the scoop from the nurses myself to figure out the best plan of action. When I got there, they explained that Brendan had been seen getting into an elevator but the nurses hadn’t caught up to him. It seems his little “Wanderer’s bracelet” didn’t quite do the trick in stopping him from taking the elevator. A nurse had seen him shortly after by the Tim Horton’s (just across the street at 16th Avenue) but by the time she turned her car around he was already out of sight. Pretty fast walking on those skinny little legs! Security only really covers the grounds of the hospital so it was up to us to try and find him. Through the help of one of the detectives on his case, my mom notified the police. Many people in my mom’s office, my mom, my dad, Sara, and I were all on the lookout as well, driving, biking, or walking around the hospital area, bike paths, as well as the areas surrounding Brendan and Sara’s condos. Fortunately, almost two hours since he’d last been seen at the hospital, Sara found Brendan at her condo. Thankfully, when someone wants to be buzzed in to her place, it automatically calls her cell phone. Sure enough, Brendan was there, trying to enter. She went to fetch him to return him to the hospital. When they pulled up to the hospital, Brendan was nonchalant in the front seat, waving at my mom and I. Nope, no big deal at all that he’d been missing for 2 hours. What a stinker! Somewhat funny, even impressive, in retrospect. At the time, however, it was certainly unnerving. My main concerns were that he wouldn’t be looking for traffic or might stumble and hit his head, even more so than him getting lost. His long-term memory is clearly pretty solid. To be able to navigate from the Foothills hospital, all the way down to 15th avenue and 8th street, is saying something. I guess he woke up, thought it was Sunday, figured there wasn’t much going on, and that new lack of impulse control led him to decide it would be a good idea to venture to his condo. We’ll never know exactly what his actual intentions were, what route he took, or any details about his little trip, for certain. Neither will he – his story has since changed numerous times as the day has gone on and he’s confused himself, too. The important part is that he made it back to the hospital, safe and sound, and now his “Wanderer’s bracelet” and the elevators are working much better. Nurses are also opting to keep a close eye on him.

Other than that exciting episode, not too much to report. Brendan had his therapy sessions this morning. I attended the first session with him, and he did a good job retelling the morning’s events as well as learning and playing a card game. He managed to follow instructions well and even won the game, but the test will be if he can do it tomorrow. He didn’t remember playing the game when I asked him about it at lunch time, but maybe when the cards are in front of him tomorrow and with some hints, he’ll be able to figure it out. He’s still in post-traumatic amnesia, though, so there is still a long road ahead of him in all his therapies. He seems to be continuing to improve , and I am expecting these to be even more drastic as he emerges from this PTA phase. I am also looking forward to him reaching a point where he really understands the need for him to be in the hospital, accepts it, and starts to really focus on what he has to do to return to normal life. At the moment, he does not quite believe that he really needs to be where he is, and can sometimes be quite obstinate about certain things that my family asks of him. He actually does much better when it’s his own idea to do something, rather than someone asking him to do it. This is an area that I personally am struggling the most with and trying my best to be patient and not take it personally. It seems he does do much better with friends, his girlfriend, and even nurses than myself, though, so the more encouragement he gets from these outside sources, the better.

He doesn’t have therapy sessions on the weekend, so there isn’t too much to report from that respect. He did have quite a few visitors, which was nice because it kept him busy. One or two at a time, he does pretty well, but it’s evident he does need his rest and when there are too many people around he gets more and more distracted and less able to follow conversations. Also, the first few minutes of a visit he seems to do pretty well, and could even fool you that he’s got his memory as he recounts old stories or talks about mutual friends and co-workers. Much of what he says about what happened to him or details about his hospital stay, though, is not accurate, no matter how convincing and confident he might seem. Also, after a certain amount of time, he does become confused, either incorrectly filling in details about information he forgets, or saying the same thing and asking the same questions again. This being said, visits are now welcome, but it’s best to visit in pairs, at the most, and keep them quite short for the time being.

As Brendan does become more and more ‘with-it’, I will probably include less intimate details about his therapy sessions and the funny things he says or does, as I don’t want to invade his privacy by any means. I’ve already seen him starting to log onto facebook and I’m a bit worried as to how he’ll react to my blog. Down the road, I think he will appreciate it, but right now, I’m not so sure. I will still give updates on his overall well being, and won’t be leaving you all completely in the dark, I promise. We will be having our family meeting with his therapists on Wednesday and I’ll be sure to write and let you all know the prospective discharge date, what they’re expecting from him, and if they give us any predictions in terms of long-term effects. I know that reading my blog is out of concern and support for Brendan, and I thank you all again for being there through all of this. Knowing that he has all of you behind him is sure to motivate him once he can really understand what he needs to do to return to normal life. Having such a strong network of willing friends, family, and even strangers, are going to make a huge difference in achieving a return to normalcy and he is so lucky to find that in so many of the people in his life.

Once again, thank you all. I have read your emails and all the comments on my blog, and I appreciate every word, regardless if I have responded or not. Please forgive me if I didn’t get back to you, it’s not because I haven’t read them or not cared, mainly, I just simply haven’t had the time, or sometimes the right words, to write back quite yet. I am passing them onto Brendan though, and I’ll definitely save them all for him to read for himself as he continues on his road to recovery.

All my love,
Jane Cathery

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Adjusting to Rehab

Hello everyone,

Let me first start, once again, by thanking everybody for their continued support, even as days turn to weeks and the novelty, for lack of a better term, of what happened, wears off. Brendan will hopefully soon get to a level of understanding in which he realizes exactly how many people he has behind him. Seeing how many people, near and far, have reached out with a kind word, a prayer, or an offer to help, will undoubtedly lift his spirits and motivate him during his road to recovery. My family can never thank you all enough for all that you have said, offered to do, and done.

Just as a heads-up, I’ll likely be slowing down entries to just one every couple days. As Brendan settles into rehab, there are less significant day-to-day changes to report. This doesn’t mean he isn’t progressing, he certainly is, but just not quite as drastically as before, at least for now.

Brendan certainly is becoming more and more himself everyday. Yesterday morning, when I arrived at the hospital, he was up brushing his teeth, dressed and ready for the day. We went over to the dining hall for breakfast, where he scarfed down a meal, but left enough space to nibble on cookies and muffins back in his room when we returned. He seemed pretty energized, chatty and cooperative, so it was a good start to the day.

We went down to his first class of the day, recreational therapy. This therapy is aimed at helping Brendan return to the kinds of leisure activities and socializing he did before his injury. He impressed us with his ability to remember many sports that interested him and even remembered that he had signed up for a half-marathon in September. Many answers to basic getting-to-know-you questions were still a bit off, but every day he seems to be doing better. I forgot to mention that he was actually discharged from physio-therapy, meaning his co-ordination and balance are no longer at risk, which is excellent news. This doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be running, skiing, or doing water-sports any time soon – the rec therapist made sure we were clear that any activity that puts him in any danger of bumping that head of his is not a risk worth taking in the near future. There are certainly less risky sports that interest him though and may be more wise choices for the time being. He actually had us all laughing with some inappropriate comments about taking up golf with my dad, which he has done recently, but once again, I’ll save those stories for him to share down the road.

Following rec therapy, he had occupational therapy, which he also had today, and will continue to have every weekday while he’s in rehab. To summarize briefly, occupational therapy is intended to return Brendan as closely as possible to day-to-day life, including both at home and at work. They start this therapy off with a set of questions to help them better understand where Brendan stands on the amnesia scale. I peeked over their shoulder to see the questions and noticed this test, http://www.utmb.edu/psychology/Adultrehab/GOAT.htm and although I can’t recall his score, I know that he is still in the post-traumatic amnesia phase. They did say this means he might actually be in rehab a little earlier than most patients, but he seems to already be improving and benefiting from the therapies regardless. Yesterday, he played the card game “War” with the therapist, and had no troubles choosing the higher or lower card. When it came to sorting the cards by suit, however, he became completely confused. He did manage to sort them by color, however. Today, when asked to do the same thing, he was able to sort them by suit without a problem. Already a significant difference! He also played a spelling game today, and although he may have cheated a little bit, he did seem to acknowledge when his words were made up, but cleverly tried to give them definitions anyways. Overall, still a ways to go to be even near the level he would have been prior to the injury, but it is only one of his first days in the therapy and there’s already been a notable improvement.

After OT, he had speech therapy. This therapy, in Brendan’s case, is not focused on pronunciation, grammar, or anything like that, but rather making sense of what is being said to him, as well as trying to get his thoughts into the right words. What he is doing at the moment, and it’s said to be normal, is over-embellishing his answers, as well as getting stuck on one word or thought and having a hard time moving past it. He does seem to be getting better at this, but once again, does have a long way to go. I am sure we will see significant improvements as he does ‘wake-up’ from this PTA phase.

One thing we have noticed, and many friends and family may see as a long-term effect of the injury, is what they call a personality change. When I first heard Brendan had a brain injury, this was my biggest concern. I pictured my generous, kind, compassionate and humorous brother as an entirely different person and this scared me more than anything I had heard so far. This is not what they’re talking about when they say, “personality change”. Instead, it is actually still very much Brendan’s personality, particularly his sense of humor, but just a lot of it – kind of like an exaggerated Brendan. There’s just less inhibition, I’d say. Some of his hilarious jokes that would normally be saved for close family and friends, are being said in front of complete strangers. But this is actually a good sign, as it does mean the brain is healing. Another thing controlled by the front of the brain are basic instincts, for example, hunger, which would explain his increased appetite.

Apart from these therapies, Brendan will likely start to participate in some group therapies as well. Since he’s been all cleared for physio, he may also get to join the sort-of “athletics club” in the not-too-distant future. The only concern would be that he would get confused, or maybe take off, as he is starting to get a little bit less cooperative and willing to be where he is.

While a few days ago his obsession was with food, today it was with his condo and how he could get back there. Unlike with the food, he seemed much more irritated with not being able to get home and less willing to hear us out about why he couldn’t leave. He understands he is in a hospital, that he has had a brain injury, but for some reason, just couldn’t get the idea of getting to his condo out of his mind. Once we got him to therapy, however, he did seem to let this go a bit and hopefully in his free time this afternoon hasn’t returned to focusing on this idea. While it was easier on us when he wasn’t asking questions, I do think it is a good sign that he is getting more restless and not so complacent, as Brendan is the kind of guy that probably thinks he’s best to work things out on his own, even if this time it’s not possible.

Apart from the therapies, Brendan is keeping busy with some of his closest friends and family visiting, eating (constantly!), and going for short walks. He also needs a lot of down time to rest. Fatigue is an understandable symptom of a brain injury – the brain needs rest to heal. Overall, I think the move to rehab will be incredibly beneficial to him. I think that in the upcoming weeks, it will be good for him to have a daily routine and keep himself busy. I look forward to him coming out of this PTA stage and showing us all the determination and perseverance we know he has within him. Once he can truly understand what it is that’s happened and what it is he has to do, I have faith that he will overcome the challenges he faces and pleasantly surprise even his most firm believers with what he accomplishes.

As for visiting, he is becoming clearer by the day, and likely in the upcoming weeks, visitors will be welcomed. Weekends, in particular, will be a good time for visits, as he will not have therapies scheduled at this time. Perhaps the best way to arrange a visit, would be by sending me an email, at janecathery@hotmail.com.

I don’t believe I can thank anyone enough, and every entry will likely start and end with my sincere gratitude towards all of you, family, friends, and strangers, who have and continue to help both Brendan and my family through these trying times.

Love always,

Jane

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Brendan moved to rehab!

Hi there,

My apologies to alarm anyone by not posting yesterday, had a busy day and didn’t come right home after the hospital so thought I’d wait till today to write.

Big news – Brendan was moved to Unit 58 in the Special Services building yesterday. This unit is focused on rehabilitation. Brendan will be taking about 6 hours of therapy classes per day to help get him home and back to as normal a life as possible. The unit itself focuses on giving patients more independence. They no longer eat in bed, they must go to the dining room to eat. They have en-suite rooms, a TV lounge, and are encouraged to interact with other patients. Everyone, both patients and staff alike, have been really kind and welcoming to Brendan. It has been pretty tough in some regards though, as him living in a place like this really does put it home the severity of Brendan’s injuries. He doesn’t seem to mind though. He hasn’t asked where he is, or why he’s there, or seemed confused by it at all, which although might not be a good sign, is much easier on us as his family.

He continued with therapy in the previous building prior to his move yesterday. As far as the physiotherapist could tell, he is physically able bodied and steady as we imagined. She did suggest him be accompanied when he goes walking though, as he gets distracted easily and she worries that could lead to an accident. His speech therapy went alright, he did much better in some areas, worse in others. I watched his occupational therapy class and it was quite painful. The first question was correct, but then he would carry the answer on to the next question, even if it was entirely different. He did this time and time again. Regardless, I have hope that this area will improve with more regular practice now that he’s in the new unit.

He seems to be in pretty good spirits. He’s still sarcastic and making jokes, regardless if they make sense in the moment or not, and does have me laughing frequently. He seems to be more and more himself every day, although still has a very long way to go, especially in terms of memory. He definitely looks himself, minus a few pounds (which as you can imagine, he couldn’t really afford to lose!). His appetite is unbelievable – I’ve watched him scarf down two of every meal, as well as an abundant array of snacks in between. Fortunately, calorie intake is not something we need to worry about at this point. They do say, the brain takes 3 times the calories to heal, so eat up, Brendo.

The past two days haven’t been uncharacteristic of the previous. A roller-coaster of emotions – gratitude that Brendan is still with us or not more severely disabled; anger that he’s in this position in the first place, especially since nobody has been held accountable; hope that he will continue to progress and return to his life; despair when looking at the many obstacles he still faces and how far away that seems, and then returning to gratitude that he even has the chance to overcome such obstacles. I don’t think this constant whirlwind of feelings can be expected to stop anytime soon, but having so many people supporting us does certainly make it easier.

Thank you all again for all of your help, support, and kind words. Stories of perseverance from other brain injury survivors have also helped give us faith.

I will definitely update on Brendan’s progress as his classes begin and will probably be able to start scheduling visits in the next week or so.

Thanks again for everything,

Jane

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2 steps forward, 1 step back

Waiting. Something I’ve never been good at now seems to define my daily life. Although I know it’s impossible, I so badly want my brother just to instantaneously heal, to roll over one morning and surprise us all by having his mind back. I know this isn’t going to happen.

I know that Brendan and those around him have actually been very lucky with how quickly these first critical challenges were overcome.  It was only 10 days ago that we were ecstatically celebrating that he could give a thumbs-up. Very shortly after, he began walking and talking. I have to keep reminding myself of this, and reading my previous posts and emails is helping me not to harp too much on the long road ahead. It’s just hard not knowing how long the road will be, where it will end, if ever, and how to measure steps. But even as I write this, I know there is really nothing I can do but be patient, focus on the good, and have faith in Brendan.

So let’s talk about today. I will do a re-cap at the end of this entry if you’re not interested in reading all the details and just want to know the basics, but for those of you who are interested, here’s the latest.

When I came in this morning, Brendan was awake. He had pulled out his feeding tube three times throughout the night and had apparently been quite restless. However, he seemed pretty awake to me, especially considering he had a very empty stomach (they hadn’t bothered to put the tube back in for a morning feed because he had a swallow test in the afternoon). He must have known who I was, because he asked me where Mom and Dad were. I explained that they had decided to both make a quick stop at work before they’d be heading to the hospital. He was restless, but I felt this was a good thing. He complained of being bored, which I don’t blame him, and was not impressed with the shows on T.V. We chatted a bit, some of his answers to my questions making sense, others, not so much. But while we were talking he definitely seemed way more himself than yesterday, and much more engaged in the conversation. And then he got hungry. Really hungry. He kept asking for his wallet. When I told him I didn’t have it, he said my purse would do the trick. He was desperate to go downstairs to find a snack. While I hated to deny him food, I was pleased with his ability to solve the problem of how to get food – get money, go downstairs, buy something to eat. He shot out of bed, put on his slippers and started steadily heading down the hall, with me tagging along beside him, hoping he wouldn’t make a run for the elevators. Fortunately, I was able to keep him within the unit. We did two laps, his eyes scanning for any sign of food. When we reached our room for the second time, he looked at me, shrugged, and said, “Now what?”. I convinced him he should go back to bed or he’d miss his shower, and thankfully, he complied.

Brendan continued to try and get something to eat throughout the morning. He was in seemingly good spirits, and chatty with visitors, including our grandma, aunt, Sara, and of course my mom and dad. However, every discussion lead to food. He continued asking for debit cards, what we would be eating for dinner, and even offering to buy Sara and I whatever we want at Tim Hortons or the Loonie Store (big spender, I know!) if we would just help him get there. At one point, he pointed to the window and told me to “Look over there! Check that out!” while he quickly ran to the drawers to see if their contents included something to eat. He was desperate, but did not seem upset. He had Sara and I laughing pretty hard when he called the nurse, too.

The discussion went something like this:

“Hello. I was told I’d be able to order some food. Would that be possible?” he said into the intercom.

“I’m afraid you can’t order food until 2pm, sir.” The nurse responded with a giggle.

“Well, then you’ll be hearing from me again at 1:45pm. Thanks.” Brendan said, and he hung up with a big smile.

Unfortunately, however, it seems he wore himself out a bit this morning. He had his speech therapy, as well as barium swallow, at 1pm, which we could barely get him out of bed for, even with the promise of food. By the time we did his test, he was far less cooperative and had a really difficult time focusing. It was my first time watching the tests, and my first real indication of how incredibly fragile the brain is, and how severely Brendan’s thought process had been affected. His inability to concentrate was shocking. He was constantly needing to be reminded of what he was doing, and kept grabbing at pens and everything else on the desk. The opposite test didn’t go so well. She would say a word, and he was expected to say the opposite. He got a couple, but some were completely out there or he would just repeat words he previously used. It was so odd to see. Perhaps the most frustrating test to watch was the categories. He was to list words that fit in a certain category. Some of the things he wrote, just made absolutely no sense at all. How could an engineer, third in all of his program at a renowned university, not list a piece of fruit? Ugh. Fortunately, he did excel at one of the tests. He was to read two words and choose which one matched the picture in front of him. He was able to do this time and time again, which thankfully lifted our spirits a bit. Lastly, when asked to look at an object, say what it is, and describe its use, he started off strong but gradually became more and more confused, getting hung up on previous questions. At one point, he was just reading the serial number, or whatever it was, off the bottom of a flashcard, over and over again, and it felt like I was watching the movie Rainman. It was so incredibly strange and slightly heartbreaking, although I am confident he will do better with more practice and some food in his belly.

Speaking of food, it was not all bad news by any means. Brendan passed the barium swallow test, which means he can actually eat real food, without diet restrictions! We’re obviously going to try not to load him up with junk food or anything too heavy quite yet, but it was still very satisfying to see him slurp down a Peter’s Drive Inn milkshake in the afternoon. I haven’t yet heard how dinner went (I stayed home this evening to give him a little space and get some rest myself) but I believe his spirits should be greatly enhanced now that he can enjoy meals and not have any tubes shoved up his nose.

So, to sum up, Brendan had a good morning and was able to answer some questions correctly, identify people around him, and seemed in pleasant spirits, but was very hungry. He had cognition tests in the afternoon, which he didn’t do so well on, but we’re hoping for better results as the week goes on. He did pass his barium swallow test, which means he gets to eat real food, which we believe will greatly benefit his mood and energy levels. We still do not know how severe the damage is, and might not any time soon. We don’t know how long it’s going to take or how permanent anything will be. We do know that he is getting put on the list to move to rehab, but I am not sure he’ll be able to move if the spot comes up before he has some more of his memory abilities back. So please keep sending the positive vibes his way. We gotta have faith!! As for visits, I hate to still deny those that love him to come see him, but he seems to do better the fewer people he has around him.

Thank you all again for the continued encouragement. It is wonderful to be confident that my brother has a lifelong network of friends and family to support him, and to know that even strangers are rooting for his full recovery.

All my love,

Jane

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