Jerry went out to visit Brad Tuesday afternoon at the V.A. hospital, arriving about 5pm. To his surprise, Brad was already in bed for the evening and sound asleep. We've been working hard over the past several months to increase Brad's ability to stay awake, so it was a surprise to see him conked out for the evening so soon. Jerry left, disappointed, and later stopped by to see Nina. Nina mentioned that Brad had experienced a very busy day: He'd been seen and assessed by 4 (count 'em, FOUR) different therapists, all of whom were evaluating him for possible transfer to the V.A. hospital in Denver. This, of course, would be a dream-come-true step for Brad, as we would be able to spend several months being rehabbed in one of the nation's best rehab facilities. The nursing home where he's been staying has given him excellent care, but they have very little in the way of professional rehab to offer ("Let's practice standing. Ok, now let's practice sitting") and he's pretty much exhausted the limit of what they have available, long ago having grown bored with their program. New challenges and new faces in a new location would be a most excellent development for him, and he may be ready for that step now. When he first returned to Helena from Miami, he did not meet the qualifications for Denver. They need patients who are alert, responsive, able to sit in a wheelchair for several hours at a stretch, and willing to undergo some grueling therapies. Brad could not do any of that back then, and it's taken this long to get him to the point where he can. His attention span has grown, his ability to respond appropriately to questions is good, he can stay awake far longer, sitting in the wheelchair for long periods is easy for him, he has gained 20 pounds, his stamina is good, and he's "with it" enough now to understand that if therapy hurts -- that's a GOOD thing, and not something to be avoided. We're excited about the possibility of getting him to Denver, and we're all boggled by the fact that the seizure last week - which seems to have done little damage - may have been the catalyst that gets him where he needs to go. So, if Brad wants to go to bed at five o'clock, I guess he's allowed to do so!
Thursday morning, Brad suffered a seizure while the nurse was preparing to get him out of bed in the morning. The seizure lasted several minutes, and he was transported to St Peter's hospital where he had a CT scan before being transferred to the V.A. hospital, where he spent the night in the intensive care unit. This morning he had an MRI and this afternoon the doctor told us that as far as she can tell, the two tests show that the seizure was NOT caused by Brad having another stroke, and there is no new damage to his brain. (Insert huge sign of relief here.) She said, "These things happen" and the fact that it's been nearly seven months since his stroke and this is the first seizure he's had should be considered good news. When we visited him this afternoon, he was waking up from the sedative given prior to the MRI, and he came around nicely. He sat up, responded to our questions, tenderly stroked Nina's cheek, and smiled when Nina told him that most of the people who were caring for him at the V.A. were people he had trained. He was feeling frisky enough to pull out all the leads to his monitoring machines, and even tried to get out of bed. When he was transferred out of ICU and into a regular room, we were told he could go ahead and start eating so we served him a nice platter of chicken, and he was able to feed himself fairly adeptly and had a huge appetite as usual. The last time he had anything to eat was when I visited him Wednesday evening, bringing him his favorite rotisserie chicken and a big bowl full of grapes, which he ate with gusto. (As a side note, Brad weighed a mere 150 lbs when he returned from Miami, down from his normal 190, and when they weighed him at the V.A., he weighed 169 pounds, which is cause for celebration.) We are very pleased to see him eating so enthusiastically after such a traumatic seizure. His coordination seemed a bit off, and his depth perception was fuzzy, so when the nurse came in to give him a dose of his anti-seizure meds, we asked her to read us the list of side effects. Sure enough, side effects include problems with coordination and vision. This reassured us that Brad is still just as much "there" as he was before the seizure. We expect he'll remain at the V.A. for a few days, and this is a good thing for several reasons. First of all, it cements his place in the V.A.'s tangle of red tape, which may hasten the arrival of various benefits he's entitled to. It's easier for them to ignore him when he's miles away at another facility than it is when he's ensconced right in their lap. Second, the V.A.'s bevy of rehab therapists will be evaluating him before he returns to the Elkhorn, which may prompt his acceptance into their rehab program, which would be very good for him. Third, this may grease the wheels that need to roll in order to get him into the top-notch rehab facility in Denver. The doctor assured us she would do everything she can to try to get him accepted there, and that would definitely hasten his recovery. So, it may well be that this seizure is a stroke of luck (so to speak) and just exactly what needed to happen.
On Friday morning, Brad suffered a seizure while in his room at the Elkhorn. The seizure lasted a few minutes, and the staff had him transported to the hospital for tests. He had a CAT scan at St. Pete's before being transported to the V.A. hospital, where he is currently in ICU. We are not sure if the seizure was caused by another stroke, bad interactions with meds, a bump to his unprotected head, or something else. We are awaiting the expert opinion of a neurosurgeon. In the meantime, Brad is conscious but very sleepy, resting but restless, and not particularly interactive at this point. We are hoping that the fact that he has been admitted to the V.A. hospital - instead of being treated as an out-patient - will hurry the process of making it through the V.A.'s prodigious tangle of red tape which we are required to negotiate before being allowed to partake of their rehab program. The wheels of bureaucracy move exceedingly slow, and we are anxious to see if this turn of events will help cut through the layers. It would be advantageous for him to remain at the V.A. as long as possible so we are in no hurry to have him released. Nina in the meantime will be button-holing various V.A. personnel to see what further resources we can connect with to assist in his care. Stand by for updates.
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We put out an invite for friends of Brad to join us for a Mother's Day afternoon gathering at the nursing home, and about ten people showed up bearing potato salad and steaks for a barbecue with Brad. Brad was in good form and pleased with the company. He was talkative - using many good words and appropriate responses - and he smiled a lot. He even enjoyed his very first post-stroke beer! It was a perfect day for a parking lot picnic, and Brad was still energized from having talked with his parents and brother in Ohio via Skype.
An interview on the local TV station about the "Win a Van" contest for Brad:
It's always heartening to see Brad doing "normal" things. Today yeilded several normal moments. First was when I sat down to share a meal with him, and offered him a bite of his favorite rotisserie chicken. He ate the morsel enthusiastically and asked for more. I began to cut the chicken from the bone in order to make it easier for him to eat, when he impatiently grabbed the chicken leg from my hand and ate it, caveman-style, just like any normal person would eat a chicken leg. After finishing two drumsticks and a thigh, he then grabbed my lunch box and rummaged around in it, seeing what else I had brought and if there was more chicken in there. Another normal moment was when we sat down to some after-dinner entertainment. We've been using simple video games to teach him how to use a tablet, and this evening I launched the game Angry Birds. Yesterday we played Angry Birds for the first time, so this was our second attempt at conquering the game. I'm pleased to say that Brad got it down pat today; not only the finger motion finesse, but also the sliding of the screen. This will be important as he begins to re-learn computer skills. He played the game for the better part of an hour, stretching his attention span, and it was good to see him enjoying the normality of a video game. When he tired of Angry Birds, I pulled up a bubble-popping game he used to enjoy, but as soon as he recognized it, he said, "BORING!" So, a game that entertained him last week is too simple for him this week. Next we tried the game Pac Man, but that remains beyond his ability level at this time. I am certain one day soon I will be reporting that Brad set a new high score for Pac Man. The final moment of normality was when we were getting ready for bed, and Brad asked for a bedtime snack. This marks the first occasion he's done so, and I was happy to fetch a bowl of strawberries and a plate full of crackers for him. When he was in bed, he looked up at me and said perfectly clearly, "I need more tools" and I assured him the sear