Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

We had a wonderful Christmas! On Christmas Eve, the children and I spent some time at Mom & Dad's (Jack wasn't feeling well). Mom had wrapped some gifts that she had bought earlier in the year, and that she had picked up on two brief shopping excursions we have taken. She was so pleased to have us open them at her house.

We were also able to deliver plates of homemade candy to her neighbors, that have been such a help with snow removal. What a great thing to live in a neighborhood where people truly care!! Mom walked to the houses on both sides, even to an upstairs apartment. It is great to see her getting stronger.

On Christmas Day, Mom & Dad came to the house where we're staying for Christmas dinner with us. That was a blessing as well.

On December 23 we met with a nurse from the home care service, who came to Mom & Dad's house to do an assessment of their situation and determine what assistance is needed. It was decided that someone will come twice a week to do housework and errands. The good news is that they qualify for a reduced rate for the services, which will be a great help.

We are looking forward now to a 40th anniversary party planned for Mom & Dad at West Paris Baptist Church in West Paris, Maine at 1:00 pm on January 17. We plan to mail invitations this week, but if you are reading this blog, please consider yourself invited. It will be a celebration of all God has done throughout their lives, but especially this year as we rejoice that they are still here together.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday, December 19

Sorry it's taken a couple of days to post a report from our meeting with the social worker. I thought she would want to find out Mom & Dad's condition in detail to help us make decisions. But it wasn't like that. She talked pretty much nonstop, giving us information about agencies and programs. I was thankful that she spoke clearly and loudly so Dad could hear. He listened at first, until he dozed off. Mom took a few notes. I did too, but most of it I already knew from my job experience.

The outcome is that the social worker said she would send a referral to an agency. After January, Mom and Dad should no longer need nursing or therapy, but they will continue to need homemaker services to help with housecleaning and running errands. It is possible they will qualify for a reduced rate, which would be a great help. And the social worker reassured us that if and when their savings get below a certain point, Medicaid covers help in the home, to keep people out of nursing homes as long as possible.

When she asked if we had questions, I did express two of my concerns.
1. That Dad would veto the services because of the cost, not realizing how frail Mom is. (Since she has come home, he has asked her to do several things that she has had to refuse because she is not able.) We addressed that directly with him, and he agreed that help is needed.
2. The many falling hazards in the house. Even as we were meeting, the social worker expressed her concern about the humidifier placed in the middle of the floor, directly in front of Mom's chair. She gently told Mom that moving stuff around (such as having to clean off the washing machine every time it is used) adds to the risk of falling. Mom said she is careful. We moved the humidifier in front of a footstool piled two feet high with newspapers. And that was the end of that conversation.

The greatest concern I still have is that Mom and Dad both get confused. The numerous doctors that Mom saw during the first couple weeks she was having the mini seizures changed her medication several times, and she got completely mixed up as to what she should and should not be taking. If I hadn't gone to every appointment with her and written everything down, there would be no one to straighten things out.

Dad is adamant to continue living there, and despite the concerns, that has not yet been clearly shown to be impossible. Therefore, we will continue trying to put help and support in place for them, keep hinting at how warm and sunny Florida is, and trust God to make it abundantly clear TO DAD when they MUST move to a more manageable place. Mom & I simply cannot go against his wishes yet.

Thanks for praying for us!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wednesday, December 17

Mom and Dad and I are meeting with a social worker this afternoon, to plan for the time when I will return to Florida. I am looking forward to this meeting, because it will be a good opportunity to speak frankly about things that have been difficult for me to say on my own.

It still is not an easy situation, so I feel a little apprehension as well. Mom and Dad don't seem to, which is a blessing. :-)

We'll let you know how it turns out! Thank you so much, as always, for your prayers.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saturday, December 13 - An encouraging week!

This has been a very encouraging week, in that Mom seems much stronger now than she was a week ago!

She is able to do more around the house without feeling wobbly and getting so quickly exhausted. And she is starting to transition away from needing so many home health aide services.

Some confusion is still evident, as we had a couple of mix-ups this week about appointments and medications. But we trust that will continue to improve as well.

She and I have had fun this week, making a couple of batches of candy and fudge to give as Christmas gifts. That has been a tradition of hers for many years, and I'm pleased to be able to help her do it again this year. It didn't seem possible a month ago!

We will be getting the help of a social worker to meet with us and discuss plans for when Jack & I return to Florida at the end of January. That is encouraging too, to know that type of support is available.

Thanks for praying for us!! May our eyes stay focused on the One Who came as the greatest Gift of all.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday, December 8 - Doctor visits

Mom & I had a good trip to Dartmouth-Hitchcock today. So thankful for roads that were mostly clear of snow & ice.

We saw her oncologist (cancer doctor) and learned that her recent PET scan was completely CLEAR! Praise the Lord. Six months ago there was a shadow on her liver that he was concerned about, but it has completely disappeared. He said it may have been inflammation.

We also saw the interventional radiologist who inserted the coil in her aneurysm. We discussed the TIA/stroke-like episodes that she's been having. His opinion is that because the symptoms are always the same, involving her speech and her right arm, it is probably not TIA's caused by blood clots in the brain. If it were, the symptoms would probably vary, as the clots would be unlikely to always occur in exactly the same place.

Also, he looked at the CD of the recent ultrasound of her carotid arteries, and reported that they look good! So they are unlikely to be the source of the problem.

He suggested the possibility of slight "electrical disturbances," neurons occasionally misfiring, due to the blood that still remains in the brain from the aneurysm. If this is happening, it is actually a mini seizure.

Both doctors were very caring and attentive as she described her symptoms, and shared their opinions; however, they both admitted that the problem is out of their specialty and recommended that she see a neurologist.

Her left leg has been giving her severe pain, which her primary care doctor thinks may be her longstanding neuropathy acting up. If so, she needs a neurologist for that anyway. (The one she used to see for it has retired). So when we find one, we can give him or her two mysteries to solve. :-)

Our trust continues to be in our Lord who has brought us this far and will never fail. We are looking to Him for clear guidance regarding what arrangements, probably changes, need to be made regarding Mom & Dad's living situation. This is a great burden on our hearts at this time and we really appreciate your prayers!

We are also planning a 40th wedding anniversary party for Mom & Dad on Saturday, January 17 at the West Paris (ME) Baptist Church. Lois & Chris will be here, and so will we, so it seems a good time even though their actual anniversary is May 24. We are praying Mom will be feeling better and stronger than she does now.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday, December 5 - more tests

This past Wednesday, Mom had an ultrasound of her carotid arteries (in her neck) and also an MRA, which is an MRI of the head/neck area. Both were done at AVH in Berlin.

The test results were sent down to Dartmouth Hitchcock, and they immediately called her to set up a vascular study down there.

This coming Monday (12/8), we leave at 6 am to see her interventional radiologist at 9 am, and also her oncologist at 11 am to get the results of her recent PET scan.

The following Wednesday (12/17), we'll go down to Dartmouth again for the vascular study, which is another ultrasound as well as an appointment with a vascular surgeon. We pray that these appointments will result in identifying and remedying whatever is causing her frequent TIA's (mini strokes).

With the help of Pastor Jon Howry and three of his sons, we were able to rearrange some furniture to make Mom and Dad's living area more practical for their current situation. Mom has a dresser downstairs now to keep her clothes in, for which we are grateful.

Thanks so much for continuing to pray for us. We appreciate all the prayers and gifts so very much!! And also, that the price of gas has come down!! :-)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday, November 29 - home again

Praise the Lord that Mom has not had any more TIA's since Wednesday morning. Her doctor gave her the option of coming home Thursday (Thanksgiving) or Friday, and she chose to wait until Friday, saying she felt safer at the hospital in case anything happened.

This gave Jack & I and our children the opportunity to join Jack's family in Derry for Thanksgiving dinner, which was a great blessing and a needed break. Dad seemed very content and happy to have a quiet day at home. Lois and I connected with both of them by phone, which we all enjoyed.

Mom has been placed on another new med, Plavix, which is supposed to help prevent stroke/TIA's. Next week she will have an ultrasound of her carotid arteries to check for plaque buildup, and she will also have an MRA of the head and neck.

Please pray that God would continue to strengthen and heal Mom. We are so grateful for the opportunity to be nearby during these uncertain days.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wednesday, November 26 - Mini-strokes keep happening

We would really appreciate your prayers, as Mom has been taken again to the hospital by ambulance today.

Yesterday, she and I had a great day together as we traveled to Dartmouth-Hitchcock for several appointments. The neurosurgeon was very pleased with yesterday's CT scan, saying it was completely clear.

Yet, she has continued to have TIA's - mini strokes. It seems to be primarily her right arm that is affected. This morning it kept dropping and she couldn't control it enough to put the cap on her pill bottle. Her speech was also slightly slurred.

Those symptoms cleared up, but later when I had taken the children to the library and the home health nurse was here, Mom was having trouble standing so they called an ambulance for her. I arrived just as it was leaving, and the nurse filled me in.

Thanks for praying for all of us. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and we are so thankful that God is here, that Mom is safe in His hands, and that He is faithful to carry us through any circumstance that may arise.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Phone savings

Today we were able to set up something for Mom & Dad that should save them some money. Dad was frustrated by the size of their recent phone bill, so we started brainstorming for possible cost savings, without sacrificing Mom's ability to connect with her faraway daughters and many friends.

We were able to install a program on their computer that enables them to make long-distance calls using their Internet connection. It worked really well when we made a couple of calls today! Unlimited US & Canada calling is $3.00 a month--CONSIDERABLY less than the same service from the phone company!!! And the rates to Ecuador are good also. We did have to buy a computer phone headset for $15.00. Seems like a pretty good investment.

Mom & I are pretty excited about it. Dad wasn't today, because it was unsettling to him to see us working on it. We had to move things and pull the computer out to access the jacks in the back, and any activity or change in the house is distressing to him. But we think he'll be happier when he receives the first reduced phone bill!!

Saturday, November 22 - Home again

Mom came home again yesterday, released from the hospital after one night for observation. She has had no more stroke symptoms, and her CAT scan showed NO bleeding or clot in the brain for which we are extremely thankful.

The hospital wanted to do an MRI as well, but didn't dare because they were unsure of the type of metal in the coil that remains in her brain from the aneurysm. (Coiling is a relatively new procedure.) They tried to reach Dartmouth-Hitchcock but could not, so they put off the MRI.

Mom has appointments this Tuesday, Nov.25 at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, so she and I will need to leave Gorham about 6 am for the 2 1/2 hour trip. She will see the neurosurgeon in charge of her case, and the interventional radiologist who inserted the coil. Also, unrelated to the aneurysm, she will have a PET scan as a cancer checkup, rescheduled from earlier this fall when she was still in Portland. If that includes her brain, it would be even better than the MRI, so the MRI is not needed anyway.

Mom was feeling very well yesterday as we left the hospital, well enough to stop at Community Bible Church/Academy for the Harvest Luncheon! :-) Everyone was thrilled to see her and she thoroughly enjoyed it also.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A small bump in the road

Mom gave us a scare today around noon by displaying classic symptoms of a stroke. Her face twisted sideways, she lost her balance trying to stand, and her speech became slurred.

We called an ambulance. At the ER, thankfully, she was much improved and the symptoms had disappeared.

She was diagnosed with a probable TIA, transient ischemic attack. It is a mini-stroke, temporary, leaving no lasting damage to the brain. Here is a link to the American Heart Association's information page about TIA: It does mean she is at increased risk for a stroke.

The hospital did a CAT scan to rule out other problems. We haven't heard any results, so we hope that no news is good news. They are admitting her overnight for observation.

Thanks for your prayers!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Settling in

Greetings from Gorham NH, where giant snowflakes are gently falling this morning. The ground is covered with a "dusting" of snow . . . preview of more to come. :-)

Mom continues to adjust and settle into living at home. She has home health nurses and therapists coming in several times a week. Senior Meals is bringing lunches five days a week, which is a great help!

Physically Mom is doing well, getting around without her walker some of the time. Her speech is doing great too. Her memory does give her trials at times, but is also doing remarkably well, considering what she has been through.

I have been helping with appointments, shopping, and especially trying to clean and organize the house. Please pray that Mom and I would agree in deciding what to keep and what not to keep. Mom keeps almost everything, and there is much work to do to organize it. Anything that can be disposed of reduces that burden, and we won't have to deal with it again in the future!!

A piano technician is coming this morning to look at the piano that has not been played since my sister Lois went to college in 1991. If it is in decent shape, we have a friend who will put it to good use! Its departure would make room for a dresser downstairs for Mom.

Thanks to all who are praying and caring for our family during this challenging time. We continue to be so grateful for Mom's amazing recovery to this point, and trust it will continue!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday, November 10 - She's HOME!

It's been almost eight weeks since Mom's brain aneurysm on September 18. Today she came home, to 12 School Street.

We stopped at Tim Horton's in S. Paris for lunch, and also stopped briefly to celebrate with her sisters. :-) She is doing so well, walking, speaking, and remembering. Wherever her walker wouldn't fit, she picked it up. I told her she was supposed to be leaning on it, not waving it around. She won't need it for long.

Dad was waiting for her at home, and it was so sweet to watch those two sweethearts. They could hardly take their eyes off each other. :-)

Please continue to pray for all of us, as this will be a time of adjustment, with some difficult aspects along with the joy. We all need strength, wisdom and grace to handle the challenges that will arise.

Thanks so much!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Saturday, November 8

Yesterday morning we (Alice & Jack) took our children to their first day at Community Bible Academy, where they will attend for the next three months, then headed for Maine. (To all you Floridians reading this, Maine is only 10 minutes away . . . states are smaller up here.)

We stopped at Aunt Jane & Uncle Danny's house to pick up a vehicle that they are graciously loaning us, then Jack returned to Gorham and I continued on to Portland!

What a joy to hug my beautiful Mom and be able to spend the day with her!! I would say she is 80% back to her old self. She talks very clearly, with only occasional scrambled or missing words, and remembers things from before the aneurysm very well. Her recent memory is not as strong; for example, she does not recall Lois being with her, and Lois was there until October 18.

Physically, she really impressed me! She gets around great with a walker, and walked up and down eight steps, holding on to the railings. She practiced getting in and out of the car, which was no problem.

The therapist had some recommendations to prepare the house, including installing grab bars for the tub. She also suggested I walk around the house with a walker to see if anything needs to be changed to make it safer/easier to navigate.

We are grateful for friends and relatives who are helping us so much at this time! We have been given or loaned many things to use while we are staying in New England (including a house and a car!), and friends from church are helping to install the grab bars this afternoon. Thank you Lord! And thanks to all who are helping through prayer. God answers!!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thursday, November 6

Wow! Lots has happened in the past few days.

1. Jack and Alice and the children arrived in Gorham NH after a 3-day journey from Florida. Praise God for a safe and uneventful trip. It is good to be close to Mom and Dad again.

2. Mom has continued to make tremendous progress. Her case manager called it a "dramatic turnaround." We call it "God's healing, in answer to prayer!"

3. Mom's care team is now ready to release her to go HOME - as in 12 School Street, Gorham, where her husband is waiting for her!

So here's the current plan, Lord willing:
  • On Friday, Alice will drive to Portland to sit in on Mom's therapy and meet with her care team, to get a better idea exactly where she is along the road to recovery.
  • On Saturday we will work hard to get the house ready for her return, and . . .
  • On Monday, we will bring her home!
Thank you for praying!!!!! Please pray for wisdom and strength as we set the house up to be comfortable and safe for her, and that her transition to home will go smoothly and be joyous for all concerned. Please pray for Alice as primary caregiver, to clearly see Mom's needs and be able to meet them as well as care for her other family.

We are so grateful for your concern and love. Thank you for being with us on this journey.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday, October 31 - Another transition in sight!

Mom's case mgr. at New England Rehab called today to talk about discharge plans!! Woo-hoo!

Mom has made great progress, but she will continue to need full-time care for awhile. After some discussion, we decided that the most logical next step is a transfer to a skilled nursing/rehab facility near home. We will be applying to St. Vincent de Paul Rehab and Nursing Ctr. in Berlin NH, and she could arrive there next week!

The timing is excellent, as our family plans to leave Florida on Monday and will also, God willing, be arriving in Berlin/Gorham next week. :-) We are so thankful for how He is working everything out.

You have been so faithful to pray and care for our family during this ordeal. Thank you . . . and now, as we look toward the future, may we ask that you pray for that as well?

To be very frank, Mom and Dad may never be able to live independently again. My father continues to resist the idea of selling their house and moving to somewhere more manageable. I would love to have them near us, where I could be the assistance in their assisted living! My mom would be willing, but Dad says "never."

So would you please pray that God will work in his heart and help him to see that this would be the best for everyone, including himself? Thank you . . . again.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wednesday, October 29

Jack & I went yesterday morning to vote (Florida has early voting) and when we got home, there was a voice mail message from . . . Mom! It was so awesome to hear her dear familiar voice on the machine!! There was a period of silence while she hunted for words . . . but she was able to give her bedside phone number so we could call her back!

Which we did, and had great conversation. She sounds so like herself now! Some words still get mixed up or can't be located, but she manages to be understood.

Aunt Betty called us yesterday evening also, because she had visited Mom during the day and was delighted. Mom understands what happened to her, where she is, and knew Dad had been to visit, but she wasn't sure where he was yesterday. Aunt Betty told her he is waiting for her at home.

Our friends Pastor John and Rosalie Holliday visited her today. Here is his account:
"As we walked into Mary Jane's room, she was lying on her bed . . .
She rolled over, put her feet over the side of her bed, stood up, with NO difficulty -- and with more agility than I have - PTL . . . gave Rosalie and I both hugs, and then sat down again on her bed.

We chatted for about 20 minutes and then we had a word of prayer and left. I found Mary Jane, in my opinion, GREATLY IMPROVED since I saw her 6 days ago.. Most of her facts were clear -- or clear enough that we could understand what she was saying or meaning to say.

Mom did admit yesterday that she still feels confused. When I told her we are thrilled with how much she is remembering and able to say, she said "Well it's a lot of mixed-up mess to me!" :-) I asked her if she had her Bible, which Lois and I had taken to her near the end of her stay at Dartmouth, and she didn't think so. I don't know if it was left at Dartmouth and mailed back to Gorham, or if it's in her room somewhere. She is reading a little bit now, but that may still be too much for her. She can read her own cards though! :-)

Please keep praying that God would bring her ALL the way back, if that would glorify Him. And thanks for also praying for my dad, as he waits for her to come home.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday, October 25

We called Mom today!!

Mom had called Lois this week, so I've been hoping she might call me too. Then I realized Lois must have left her phone number with the nurses, but they didn't have mine . . . they do now! :-)

Our conversation was lengthy, lucid, laughing . . . wonderful. Mom is expressing herself so much more clearly than she was a week ago! She understands why she is where she is, and remembers who has been to see her. Names and details come hard, but she realizes the reason, and is good-humored about it. She called me "Jack" and we both laughed. I told her I knew who she meant! She said she has to go through everybody's name before she gets the right one.

She talked with Danielle and Evan too. (I think that was enjoyable speech therapy! :-) They understood that her words would get mixed up, and they were very patient, and helped her with words she couldn't think of.

We talked a little bit about how I would be there to help her when she can go home. She is looking forward to that!! She said "That will be great!"

Physically she is doing well also. She ate 100% of her breakfast this morning! And she is walking down the hall and back with a walker now. My dad got down to visit yesterday, with George Melvin . . . thanks George!!

So we continue to be very encouraged by her rapid progress. THANK YOU for praying!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday, October 23

We have more encouraging news about mom's progress! My sister Lois, who is now in Virginia with her family, told me that Mom called her yesterday. :-) Someone helped her dial the numbers. Lois mentioned Mom's walking with a walker, and Mom said "Yes . . . it's a . . . process." She had to think about it, but she found the word she wanted!!

Our friend Pastor John Holliday visited her today. While he was there, Mom also chatted with John's wife Rosalie on the phone, and did very well. Pastor Holliday said Mom did great with her therapy class, keeping up with about 90% of the movements!!

Pastor Holliday took Mom's shoes to her, as well as her elastic sleeves needed for lymphedema in her arm. That was a blessing.

Dad is going to be able to visit her tomorrow, thanks to friends who are taking him. We really appreciate all the help he is receiving!!

Thank you so much for praying. We are so encouraged by Mom's progress, and know it is the Lord answering our prayers!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

October 21 - Mom is retaining information!!

Aunt Jane called this afternoon with great news. She had been in to see Mom, and Mom greeted her clearly, by name. But wait, that's not the best part!!

Aunt Jane mentioned that I (Alice) will be there in a couple of weeks, and Mom told the therapist who was in the room, "That's my daughter. She and her family are coming to stay awhile!"

Not only was that a long, clear sentence . . . but it is our FIRST indication since the accident that Mom is retaining the new information that she is being told!! This is a great sign that her brain is healing well.

Thanks so much for praying for her! Please keep on!!

Dad told me yesterday that he would like to go visit Mom this week. Also, she needs her shoes--I forgot to pack them for her :-( If anyone would be able to give my dad a ride to Portland this week, and bring Mom's shoes, that would be a great help.

Thank you Lord, for Your goodness!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday, October 19

Lois hopped on a plane yesterday and is now reunited with her family in Virginia. I (Alice) am still in Florida, for two more weeks. So our Mom updates have to be gleaned from the nurses, and friends and family who are able to visit in person! If you get to see Mom, we would love a phone call to share how she was doing while you were there.

Her nurse today reported not too much change. She answers some questions appropriately, and other things she doesn't seem to comprehend.

She has become quite attached to an adorable little stuffed dog that Lois got her. She likes to put him on her shoulder, and she told the nurse that his name is "President." Hmm . . . maybe I'll write him in on Election Day!

Mom's vital signs, blood sugar levels, and other physical indicators are all good!! We are thankful for that. She continues to receive supplemental feeding through her tube, at night and also when she eats less than 50% of her meals.

Thank you for your prayers, concern, and support! Our family appreciates it so much!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday, October 17

This morning Lois said Mom wasn't feeling so well, but she seemed to get stronger as the day progressed, and was quite chipper when I (Alice) talked with her on the phone this afternoon!! It was wonderful. She sounds like herself, and she called me "Sweethaht" with that great Maine accent. I told her that our family is planning to drive up there soon, and she replied that the whole group of us is coming! That was a long sentence for her to get out, and I was so excited.

I asked her how the weather was there, and she said it was "falling." That was pretty close, since it is fall! She tried to say some other things that came out garbled. Then she laughed ruefully, and said "Oh dear!" It is so wonderful to hear her laugh.

Physical therapy worked with her today also, having her lean over on each side, then forward and back, and raise herself back upright again. Lois said it was obviously very difficult for her, but she worked hard and did it! We are so proud of her.

Dad likes the Senior Meals he's been receiving, and says he's doing fine. Thanks so much to all who are helping and checking on him!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thursday, October 16 - More progress!

A big step (consisting of several small steps) for Mom today is that she was able to get to the bathroom ON HER OWN, using a walker!! :-)

Her speech therapist tried having her read the days of the week aloud. But instead of staying on task, she tends to drift off, look away and begin speaking of other things. Though much of it is unintelligible, Lois heard the words "Gorham" and "Canadian," so she was probably talking about the 100th anniversary celebration of the former Canadian National Railroad station in Gorham, to which she devoted countless hours last year.

The therapist says this inability to focus is typical of apraxia. According to Wikipedia, "Apraxia of speech may result from stroke or be developmental, and involves inconsistent production of speech sounds and rearranging of sounds in a word ("potato" may become "topato" and next "totapo"). Production of words becomes more difficult with effort, but common phrases may sometimes be spoken spontaneously without effort."

We see this is true, as Mom can say things like "I'm doing well, thank you." Today she was listening to someone on the phone, and responding appropriately with short syllables, and although she wasn't volunteering any information, she sounded quite like herself!

Another encouraging sign is that she seems to recognize when her speech isn't coming out right. (Not all patients do.) This is important, because it gives her motivation to work at improving.

When Lois arrived at the hospital this morning, Mom was participating in a class, with two other patients, involving arm exercises. At first she was just watching, but when Lois started helping her initiate each movement, she continued the rest of the repetitions on her own. Her right arm range of motion is more limited, but therapy will continue to work on that too.

Visitors today were Aunt Becky, Aunt Betty, and our cousins Ginny & Debbie. Thanks for coming!! Lois is planning to fly back to Virginia on Saturday, and it will be 2 1/2 more weeks before Alice is back up there. We are hoping someone will be able to give Dad a ride to visit during the weekend.

Thanks so much for all your prayers, love, concern, and help during this time. God's love is being shown to us through you, and we are very grateful!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wednesday, October 15

Lois reports that Mom had a busy morning of therapy and evaluation on her first day in Room #111-B at NERHP, as the different therapists sought to determine her current abilities in each area. In no particular order, here are a few tidbits:
  • For the first time since the aneurysm 27 days ago, she got dressed in her very own clothes!
  • Mom can read! In fact, at times she seems to process info visually that she cannot process audibly.
  • She was talking quite a bit today. Single words and short sentences are good, but when she attempts a longer sentence, it comes out mixed. . . a few understandable words, and gibberish. We have been assured that her speech will continue to improve as her body reabsorbs the fluid in her brain.
  • Physically, she is standing and supporting about 75% of her own weight, with therapists on each side carrying the other 25%. They were helping her move from bed to chair and vice versa.
  • Occupational therapy had her combing her own hair!
  • It seems that she comprehends some things more than others. She needed a lot of help when asked to "point to the clock." She finally did, after being shown what to do, but Lois wasn't sure whether she was responding to the audible instruction, or just copying what she saw.
  • Aunt Jane & cousin Stephen stopped by today! Thanks!! We know it is a blessing to Mom, and will help her recovery, to see familiar faces and hear familiar voices.
  • Dad is doing OK too, thanks to folks being so kind and willing to check on him and help him in areas where needed. We thank God for you!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A New Chapter - New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland (ME)

Mom's care coordinator at Dartmouth-Hitchcock announced this morning that she was going to Portland today! CMMC (in Lewiston ME) refused her because after reviewing her charts, they do not think she is ready for rehab yet. Her DHMC care team believes strongly that she IS ready, and we find it puzzling that CMMC would disagree . . . how could they, not being with her, know better than those who are?

At any rate, we have been praying fervently that the Lord would direct our steps, and so we must trust Him that Portland is indeed the best place for Mom.

In all honesty, today was stressful, especially for Lois who was alone on the "front line" because Alice is back in Florida at the moment. DHMC informed us that because Medicare would only cover 30 miles of the ambulance transport, it would cost $1,200. (discounted!) And they needed all of that money today, up front. And if Mom stayed at DHMC another night, Medicare wouldn't cover it, which would cost even more than the ambulance.

We opted to use credit cards, not seeing any other means of procuring the money in half an hour. And we told DHMC, as kindly as possible, that advance notice would have been helpful. We are grateful for the discount, and for all the wonderful care Mom has received. And we know the Lord has it all under control.

At least Lois, and her luggage, were able to ride in the ambulance too!

So Mom is now safely at the New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland ( The address is 335 Brighton Avenue, Portland, ME 04102-2374. Phone number is 207-775-4000.

Tonight, Lois is staying at a hostel nearby. She is planning to travel to Virginia, probably via Amtrak, to join her husband and children within the next few days. She is eager to begin their homeschool year!

Jack and Alice and our children are planning to drive back to NH on Nov. 3, and stay three months. God has worked out many details to confirm this decision. We are praying Mom will be able to return home and resume life as before. But even if that will be possible, there is much that needs doing in the meantime.

Dad is set up with Senior Meals, his Medical Alert button, and good friends who are checking on him, doing his laundry, helping him with rides, etc. We are grateful for this support, and are praying that God will keep him safe.

Thank you so much for your prayers!!! God is answering--Mom is steadily improving, and He is guiding our steps and providing all we need. So please, keep on!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Colgate and cups

Well, Mom just finished impressing her occupational therapist. She had been sitting up in bed eating lunch, while chatting with her nurse. Complete thoughts are not there yet, but words are clear. Speech is returning rapidly!

So then Tina, Mom's occupational therapist, came to the door of Mom's room and asked if she could join the party. She first had Mom hold her cup of yogurt with her right hand and take a spoonful with her left, then switch. Mom had more difficulty using the spoon with her right hand, which we knew to expect, but she did it! Tina said that the scientific term for this difficulty is called "apraxia." I looked it up on the Internet:

"Apraxia (called 'dyspraxia' if mild) is a neurological disorder characterized by loss of the ability to execute or carry out skilled movements and gestures, despite having the desire and the physical ability to perform them. Apraxia results from dysfunction of the cerebral hemispheres of the brain, especially the parietal lobe, and can arise from many diseases or damage to the brain."

I am getting quite an education at this hospital!

After Mom finished lunch, Tina got out the toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste. She handed the toothpaste to Mom, who took the cap off with her RIGHT hand. Then Tina and Mom put the toothpaste on the toothbrush together--that's a little more complex action, and one even my six-year-old has problems with occasionally. Then Mom picked up the toothbrush with her RIGHT hand, and proceeded to brush her teeth, very thoroughly, rinsing and spitting and the whole nine yards. It was so different from a week and a half ago, when Tina had offered her the toothbrush, and Mom had just looked at it like it was a creature from Mars! I was doing a little jig of celebration over by the window as Mom finished up. Tina said, "You are SO ready for rehab!" I said, "At this rate, Mom, you'll be back at home in three months!" Tina added, "Or less!" It is amazing and absolutely thrilling to see God's healing hand at work. I wouldn't have missed this part for anything!

Monday October 13

I took a day and a half off to go up to Gorham for church--that's why you didn't hear anything yesterday, because we weren't here with Mom.

When we walked into her room this morning, Mom was awake and smiling at us. She looks great! She's alert, although her eyelids slide shut frequently for little "cat-naps." Her speech is getting a little more clear, too. We see baby steps, but definite improvement over Saturday.

This morning they are removing the tracheostomy tube and also the Foley tube that empties her bladder. So now the only things left are the feeding tube and the PEG-line, which is the semi-permanent IV-line. They want to see her eating more before they take out the feeding tube, through which they are feeding her during the night to ensure that she receives sufficient nutrition. The nurse today told her that although she is lying in bed doing practically nothing, due to the nature of her injury the effect on her body is as though she is running a marathon. So she needs to eat! They are considering removing the PEG-line, but were going to do a little more research to see if she will be needing blood draws in the near future; if so, they will leave it in so they will not have to keep poking Mom with a needle. So thoughtful and considerate!

Mom is getting the best of care here at DHMC. It's not surprising, since this hospital was rated among the top 50 out of a study of over 5,000 hospitals in America for the year 2008. I guess that would put it in the 99th percentile! New Hampshire may be a tiny state, but it certainly doesn't lag behind in excellence.

We still do not have any concrete news about where Mom will be going for rehab. Keep praying about that, please. I know God has it all arranged and just hasn't let us know yet, but He told us to ask, so we are. Thanks so much for standing with us.

Ali is returning to her beloved husband and children this afternoon. They are anxiously awaiting her arrival! She will be there for about three weeks, then they all will drive up to Gorham and live there for three months. Ali wants to get the house on School St. cleaned out and cleaned up more so it will be a healthy environment for my Mom to return to. We are becoming more and more confident that she will be going back there! God is so very good to us.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

October 11 - Quiet Day

Today was rather uneventful. Mom sat up in the chair for awhile, but her caregivers opted for the Vander Lift to move her there. (It seems she didn't do as well as they had hoped yesterday when they assisted her to walk to the chair.)

It was a glorious, golden autumn day today, and Mom has a beautiful view of colorful trees and distant mountains from her chair by the window.

She was delighted to see 9-month-old Joshua Ross, from her nursery Sunday School class, and his parents. The feeling was mutual--big smiles all around!!

Mom said a couple of words, but not too much today.

Dad and Alice came down also, and picked up Lois to go back up to Gorham with us so she can go to church tomorrow. When she told Chris that, he said "Maybe you'll get spiritual one of these days!"

Friday, October 10, 2008

October 10

Three weeks ago today Mom was in the ICU on the ventilator, with who knows how many IV medications going into her, in a coma, and the doctors were saying they did not know when she would wake up, if at all. Today she got out of bed (with two people helping) and moved over to a wheelchair, without the assistance of the VanderLift! She is breathing on her own, and so far has had no complications with it whatsoever. She has no IV's, and the feeding tube is turned off during the day to encourage her to eat "real" food.

Of course Mom is still on the pureed diet, but this hospital food service goes to great lengths to mold the pureed food so that it looks as much like the original form as possible, and the plate actually looks appetizing. She ate about 90% of her supper last night--the nurses were really proud of her. This morning she was not very hungry, but since her tube feed has been off all day long there is hope for tonight.

I spoke with the Physician's Assistant working on the neurology team with Mom, and she said that Mom is doing fabulous. She is following commands much better than at first, and it is clear that she truly understands what is being said to her. The PA said that they are talking about removing the tracheostomy tube on Monday, and Mom would be ready for discharge on Tuesday if she continues to do as well as she is right now! She also said that the removal of the trache tube would expand her options for acute rehab facilities. So keep on praying about that! The one in Concord has been highly recommended to us, and that may be the one God wants her in; but we are just thinking that Lewiston would be much less distance to travel for her family who live in the Oxford Hills, Maine area. We know that the Lord will guide because He has promised to do that over and over in His Word.

We were able to get Mom's glasses replaced, and they have been completely paid for due to the generosity of God's people. Thank you so much!! The oculist who made them for us said that if there is a problem with them, if the bifocal height is off or if her prescription has changed due to the aneurysm, that they will re-make the lenses at no charge within a two-to-three-month period. Isn't God good?! (We had asked if her vision was likely to be affected due to the aneurysm, but the nurses said that the visual center of the brain was not involved at all with the bleeding--so her sight should be unchanged.)

It is so neat to hear everyone say how great Mom is doing, and be able to give the glory to our wonderful Lord. We tell everyone that she has hundreds of people praying for her all over the world. Of course my prayer is that God would choose to glorify Himself by completely restoring Mom to health. It's awesome to see Him answering!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

October 9

Mom is breathing normally now for the first time since the accident three weeks ago! The speech therapist came in today and put a cap on Mom's trache tube, so she would breathe through her mouth and nose only. Not even a flicker of an eyelash to indicate it made any difference to Mom! Her oxygen level remains very good, usually between 95-100%. The speech therapist said that if she continues to do well for 24 hours, they will talk about removing the thacheostomy tube altogether. Yeah! I said to Mom, "Wow, Mom--one more step toward being normal again!" She gave a great big smile.

Mom got a dose of "grandchildren therapy" today, because my (Lois's) husband, Chris, decided to drive through the night last night from Michigan to get to New Hampshire today. The kids and he all arrived just after noon, and Mom gave a great big grin when she saw them all troop in! Of course, I was thrilled to see them too! Chris is sleeping in the hotel right now while I watch the kids. We just left "Nanny's" room to come down here to the computer lab, so that she wouldn't get distracted while the nurse was trying to get her to eat some supper. At this point in time, grandchildren are a whole lot more interesting than pureed green beans!

We received word that the Central Maine Medical Ctr. in Lewiston, ME turned down Mom for admittance for acute rehab, so they are going to re-submit it. "If at first you don't succeed, try and try again!" If it gets blocked again, the next choice would be Portland, ME, followed by Concord, NH. I am praying that God would get her in where HE wants her to be. Thanks for praying with us on this.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

October 8

Mom was a little tired today--understandable I guess after her hectic day yesterday. When the Occupational Therapist and Speech Therapist were trying to get her to brush her teeth and feed herself applesauce, Mom didn't seem to be all that interested. Of course it didn't help that they woke her up out of a sound sleep to work with her! Mom did a little bit, but seemed to lack either strength or motivation--maybe both. I try to remind myself that in a patient with an injury like the one Mom's got, "up" days are bound to be interspersed with "down" days.

They changed Mom's tracheostomy tube today, because the one she did have had metal in it and they could not do an MRI if it was in her. I heard that Interventional Radiology wants to do an MRI, I am not sure what for but I imagine it is a routine follow-up exam. We will keep you posted.

Ali and I are so grateful for the cards, words of encouragement, and the gifts of money you have given. We are especially thankful for your prayers! We can see God's hand at work and it is really special seeing Him do the things that we are incapable of doing. Thank you for being there.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

October 7 #2

Well, Mom continues to astound me. Or rather, God continues to astound me with how He is working in Mom. Today I heard her clearly say, "Good morning!" to the physical therapist, accompanied of course by her trademark smile. Sounds turned into single words, and single words are rapidly being replaced by short phrases. Later Cal Hayes stopped in (Thanks, Cal!) and asked Mom how she was doing, and she responded with, "I'm good, thank you!" So far more complex thoughts are a little too much for her--a couple of times she tried expressing herself to different people, and just couldn't seem to get the words out. Both times she sighed, shrugged a little, and said, "Anyway..." I know it's frustrating for her not to be able to communicate the way she wants to, but at the rate she's progressing, I don't think that day is too far into the future.

They took Mom on her first wheelchair ride this morning, which she seemed to enjoy. She went down to the "gym," or the rehab/physical therapy room. There she actually pulled herself to a standing position, holding onto the walking bars, and stood for about 20 seconds! Of course the physical therapist was holding onto her, but Mom was supporting her own weight with her legs and arms. WOW!! A second attempt a few minutes later didn't quite turn out so well; Mom was all tired out by that time. She couldn't quite make it to her feet. But she tried!

The nurse who is the care coordinator for Mom informed me that she is sending a formal referral to the Central Maine Medical Center today for Mom. She told me that once the ball gets rolling towards moving a patient into a rehab facility, things tend to move quickly. So it may be only two or three more days before Mom leaves Darmouth Hitchcock Med. Ctr. here in Lebanon, NH. When Mom heard that, she gave one of her biggest smiles yet!

We have been able to order new glasses for Mom, as her old ones seem to have been destroyed or at least lost in the car accident. She seemed quite enthusiastic at the thought of being able to see properly again. She has been spending a large amount of time with her eyes closed, possibly because things look all blurry to her and it is disconcerting. Today, though, a lot was going on. Between different therapy sessions (physical, occupational, and speech) and visitors (Dad came down with his friend George Melvin, and as I mentioned Cal Hayes stopped in too), Mom spent the majority of the morning and early afternoon with her eyes open. I think it was good for her!

Mom can hold a cup now and sip out of it, both with and without a straw. She also chewed a bite of cookie--her first piece of solid food since the accident! The therapist said she was going to request that Mom be put on a soft diet--soups, pureed foods, and the like. She said that although Mom can handle the chewing mechanism, her attention span is still not back to normal and she is afraid that Mom might take a bite of something hard and then get distracted, and the food would become a choking hazard.

I can tell that Mom has lost some weight--how much, I have not asked yet. Her hands are looking much thinner than they were. I tell her this is NOT the approved way to lose weight! She just smiles.

Thanks so very much for your continued prayers for us all. It is neat to see God answering! We are so grateful to Him and to you.

October 7

Sorry for the couple of days with no update. As several of you have guessed, no news is indeed good news.

Lois came up to Gorham on Saturday and stayed two nights with Dad and I. It was good to be together in church on Sunday--Lois was going through "church withdrawal." :-) She and I were able to do a little organizing. We tackled a few shelves in the pantry . . . our winner was a 1979 jar of pickles! :-)

This afternoon when we returned to the hospital, Mom was sitting up in her chair. She still nods and smiles, and said TWO words today--"Hi" and "Yeah." Woo-hoo!!

For the last several days she has been very reluctant to open her eyes, and has indicated several times that her head aches. When asked if the light is too bright she shakes her head "No." So we think it is because her glasses are missing. We surmise they were destroyed in the accident, because she was not wearing them when the emergency personnel reached her, and they were not found in her car. So we are going to try to get her a new pair as soon as possible.

She was moved OUT of the Neuro Special Care Unit and into a REGULAR room this evening!! Next stop--rehab center!! Not sure when, but probably in a week or two.

Thanks so much for all your concern, prayers, love, cards, and gifts. They are such an encouragement and give us strength to go on. God bless you.

Friday, October 3, 2008

October 3

Today when I arrived they had Mom sitting up in a chair so she could look out the plate-glass window in her room. They had used a Vander-Lift to hoist and move her. The view out her window is beautiful, and the nurse said she spent several minutes just looking out at the scenery with the changing colors of the leaves.

The occupational therapist came soon after I arrived, and the speech therapist right after, so they were sort of working together which I gathered is a common practice of theirs. They had Mom sucking on some more ice chips, feeding herself applesauce from a spoon (she seemed unsure of how to hold it with her left hand), and holding a toothbrush and brushing her teeth. Mom seemed to be doing a little of the action herself. She is getting a little better at opening her mouth for spoons, thermometers, mouth sponges, etc.

A technician from the neurosurgery department came this afternoon and removed the drain from Mom's head. It had been clamped off for over 24 hours, and Mom was doing just fine, so they have ascertained that the swelling has gone down sufficiently in her head to no longer require the drain. At about the same time they removed all of her IV lines, so the only tubes still connected to her are the feeding tube, the catheter, and the respiratory line. The respiratory line may be going away soon, since they told me that Mom is no longer receiving oxygen, only humidified air. I can conceivably see them removing her tracheostomy within the next week or two, at the rate she is progressing. And if she continues doing well with the ice chips, applesauce, etc., then she could be moving to a soft diet soon and no longer need the feeding tube.

Some physical therapists were in this afternoon and had her sitting on the edge of the bed again. She was able to support herself with her hands on both sides again, and today she lifted her left hand to scratch her throat while still balancing with her right hand--another step forward. Then they "stood" her up, supported by a person on each side, and Mom said her first word--"Ow!" The speech therapist had said that spontaneous words would come first, with premeditated ones taking longer to master.

Right now the course of action they are planning to pursue is moving Mom to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, ME when she is able to leave the hospital here. There is an Acute Rehab Center there where she could get about three hours of personalized rehab/therapy a day. She may not be able to withstand quite that much just at the beginning, but I am sure that it will not take her long to work up to that. It's exciting to see what God is doing! Thanks so much for your continued prayers. And to whomever sent the Visa Gift Card to me, THANK YOU! May God bless you for your thoughtfulness and generosity.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

One more tidbit

Lois asked me to also share that Mom swallowed some purple ice chips today! The color is added so it will be obvious if they don't go down the right way, and appear in the tracheostomy tube.

When the therapist tried feeding them to her, she was not eager to open her mouth. (Probably wondering what on earth those wierd-colored crystals were!) But once they got the spoon in, she closed her lips around it nicely, and did very well swallowing. Another good sign!!!!! Thank the Lord.

October 2

Wow, I don't know where to start today! Should I begin with the fact that Mom is no longer in the ICU? Or that she was sitting up by herself on the edge of the bed for over five minutes? Or that I heard her voice today for the first time in two weeks?

As you can tell, I am really excited at the progress Mom is making. I can tell God is on the verge of showing Himself magnificently mighty on Mom's behalf, and I am just thrilled.

Mom was moved early this morning to the Neuro Special Care Unit, which is right above the Intensive Care Unit. This is a step down from the level of care given in the ICU. Still in the north wing of the hospital, same entrance to go in the hospital, just punch "5" instead of "4" on the elevator. She is in room 523. One must stop at the nurses' station before entering the NSCU ("Niskyew," in 'Nurse-ese') and use the black phone on the desk to call in to the unit to get permission to visit. Scheduled visiting hours are 10 AM - 2 PM, 4 PM - 6:30 PM, and 8 PM - 10 PM. They ask that only two people go in at a time because of the limited space available.

When I arrived in Mom's room today the physical therapist and occupational therapist were there giving Mom a workout. They got Mom sitting up on the edge of her bed, and as I mentioned before, they let go of her (while staying right behind her for safety of course) and let her sit on her own. They were pushing her gently forward, backward, and to each side to see if she could compensate by working her muscles to stay sitting upright, and she did a great job! Then they tried some finer motor skills with a toothbrush, lip balm, and a comb. Still a lot of work to be done there. Mom would not pick things up, but would hold them when they were put into her hand. Then she did not seem to know what to do with them. The therapist would guide her arm and hand with the appropriate action, but Mom could not repeat it on her own.

Later the speech therapist came in to start Mom in the process toward speaking again. The first thing she did was to "sit" Mom up in the bed by raising the head of the bed to a sitting position. Then she deflated the donut-shaped bubble that is inside Mom's windpipe, surrounding the trache tube--its purpose was to make sure that nothing went down the airway that wasn't supposed to be there. Once that was deflated, she put a one-way valve on the outside stub of the trache tube which allows Mom to breathe in through her tracheostomy but forces her to breathe out through her nose and mouth. That went well too. Then the therapist, Claudia, got Mom to make a sound with her vocal chords--the first one in two weeks! Words are still a bit of a challenge for Mom. I could tell that her brain was working and she knew what she wanted to say, but the process of making the words come out through her mouth is still a bit too complex for her. I tried to explain to Mom that the nature of her brain injury is such that things that seemed so simple before are going to take a lot of work to learn how to do again, but that this is normal and that she WILL get it! She nodded as though she understood, and I really think she does. I plan to work with her some as well on my own, which Claudia encouraged me to do.

Mom still has her lovely smile--several people have commented on how sweet she seems. When I told them that Mom has people all over the world praying for her, that she communicates regularly with many missionaries and they have all been notified to be praying for Mary Jane Ames, Mom got a great BIG smile on her face! Her heart still beats for missionaries just as much as it always has.

Thank you so much for your faithful prayers. God is answering, so don't stop! :-) We appreciate you so much, and Mom does too.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Another encouraging sign

Alice here . . . Dad and I drove down to visit Mom today also, and saw something special. Grace (4) said "Hi, Nannie!"--and Mom mouthed the word "Hi" in return! No sound came out because of the tracheostomy, but that is the first time I've seen her attempt to speak. I thought it was exciting. Her precious little ones are great therapy!!

October 1

Mom is tired out today! The nurses had her sitting up on the edge of the bed, and then they actually got her into a standing position! They were supporting most of her weight, of course, but she was upright for a few seconds. They have been doing other therapy as well--especially moving arms and legs.

Chris and the 4 kids came down today, and for the first time we allowed the children to go in and see Nanny. You should have seen the smile beaming from Mom's face when she saw them! The kids were of course filled with questions about all the paraphernalia surrounding Mom's bed and all the tubes and hoses and cords. I told them that when a person has a big bruise inside their head like Nanny does, the rest of one's body does not work quite right, so it needs a lot of help.

The plan is for Mom to move to the step-down unit (which actually is a step-up because it's the next floor up) as soon as a bed becomes available. Mark, Mom's nurse today, said that the neurosurgeon told him that Mom would be moving there about 5:00 this afternoon. But when Mark contacted the nurses in the neuro special care unit about it, they said, "Um, I wonder who he plans to move out to make room??" So it remains to be seen whether Mom will actually be moved today or not. If she stays in the ICU tonight it will be only because they don't have room for her yet in the other unit.

Mom's IV medications have been discontinued, with the exception of an antibiotic every 8 hours which she will continue to receive as long as the drain tube in her head is in place. They have also discontinued the regular testing for vasospasms, as the last several have come back negative. They may do a follow-up test in a few days just to be certain.

Please be in prayer for Chris and the four Tignor children as they travel out to Michigan for a missions conference tomorrow. Pray for me as I miss them terribly! And please pray also for Jack and the three Corbett children as they are really missing Ali, and vice versa. Pray for decisions that need to be made, that we would have the Lord's clear leading in all matters. Thank you so much for holding us all up in your prayers! We really, really appreciate you and all that you are doing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

From the home front

Greetings from Gorham, where Dad and I are keeping house. Wanted to share an encouraging development here today! Cathy, a friend of Mom's from the Historical Society, stopped by this morning. She lives one street over, and wants to help! She offered to check on Dad regularly for us, at no charge--as often as twice a day, if we wanted. She said that because she does not work a regular job, she could give him rides or do errands for him also. She enjoys this type of volunteer work, and has helped in similar ways with several other friends.

We have been praying, and asking you to pray, that God would show us what to do for Dad--he wants to stay home, and we feel he will do best here, at least for now. So this offer touched me deeply and I told Cathy that we had been praying for just such a thing. Besides regular visits, she is someone he could call if a problem arose that he could not handle, and she is close by.

So we are encouraged that the Lord seems to be providing help for Dad! Cathy plans to leave in December for the rest of the winter, but her offer of help buys us a couple of months anyway.

We will continue to trust and wait on the Lord, step by step, down this road He is walking us along. We know His way is best.

September 30

There is not too much change today from yesterday; the doctors had warned us to expect changes in terms of weeks and months as opposed to days. However, her face is looking more and more like "Mom." Her sweet personality shines forth through her trademark smile regularly, and she even accepts the nurses' poking and prodding without a whimper, even when it causes her discomfort.

This morning when I walked into her room I noticed that they had changed her trache tube somewhat. They took her off the old apparatus and now they have just the stub of the tube attached to her throat. They have replaced the breathing tube with one which connects to a bubble-like "mask" which covers the stub and is easily removable. This is in preparation for her removal to the neuro special care unit, which is a step down from the ICU. Rob, Mom's nurse today, told me that she would not be moved today, but possibly it would happen tomorrow or Thursday.

Rob said that Mom's lung secretions have diminished drastically, and now are almost nil. Praise the Lord! He is answering your prayers.

Mom does still have the "brain drain" in (I guess that's as good a term as any), and the amount of fluid draining has not diminished any that I know of. So there is still swelling in her head that does not allow proper circulation of the spinal/cerebral fluid. They have told me that as long as she has that drain in she cannot be moved to a regular room but will have to stay in the special care units. Please continue to pray that God would make the swelling go away.

They have determined that she has not had problems with vasospasms recently, and so are allowing her blood pressure to return down to its normal level. This means that the arteries in her head are done with their protest of the coiling procedure and have decided that they will now stay open as they are supposed to do, and not spasm shut to slow down blood flow to the brain. This is a good thing--it is very bad when the cerebral arteries decide to go on strike!

Mom often nods her head in seeming understanding of what I say to her. She seems to comprehend information given her, but when what is said to her requires some interaction or response on her part, it seems like we are not quite connecting. Ali mentioned this in her blog yesterday. Mom has the sweetest smile on her face, and she nods in agreement to what you say to her, but does not do the action that you request of her. And it is not because she is physically incapable, because we have seen her do what we are asking her to do--but somehow the connection is not being made yet. The resident neurologist on Mom's case told us yesterday that she expects this to improve as the blood pooled in her head is reabsorbed into the tissue surrounding it.

Mom has received numerous get-well cards made and signed with love from lots of people, and I know they are all special to her. Thank you so much for your care and concern! You are a huge part of her recovery, and your prayers are moving God's hand on her behalf. Keep on keeping on!

Monday, September 29, 2008

September 29

Dad & I (Alice) drove 2 1/2 hrs. down to see Mom this afternoon, then waited for 1 1/2 hours before we got in. First she was having a test done, then physical therapy. Poor Dad got a bit frustrated.

However, when we were finally standing beside her bed, it was exciting to see her positioned much more upright. And we were told that the physical therapists previously had her sitting up on the edge of the bed!!

She was also very alert today! She smiles, and nods her head to indicate understanding of what you are saying to her. But there is still some disconnect. The rehab doctor asked her to squeeze with her left hand, which has the most movement. She smiled and nodded--but no squeeze. She did wiggle her toes though, and her right arm large muscles are working now.

Also encouraging is that the secretions in her lungs seem to be clearing out. Thanks for praying!

We continue to seek wisdom for choosing the right rehab facility, and the right means of supporting Dad Ames through this time. There is no clear solution for him yet.

We appreciate your prayers so much!!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

September 28

This is Alice back again for today. Mom continues to be alert off and on, looking at people and smiling some, then quickly closing her eyes to rest. Jack's sister Cindy and her family visited this afternoon, and Marshall & Marion Santy.

The nurses are concerned about fluid that is building up in Mom's lungs, a common problem when someone is lying still for so long. She does cough occasionally, but it is weak.

An encouraging step today--she is moving her right arm!! She had been moving the left one, but until today the right one was lying limp.

I'm staying at Mom & Dad's house in Gorham with Dad this week. He and I will probably drive down to see her tomorrow. I doubt we'll go every day though, maybe every two days or so, as it is a five-hour round trip. I would like to do some housecleaning for them. The house really needs it.

Lois is still staying at the Upper Valley Hostel, close to Mom. She will probably do most of the blog posts this week.

We continue to ask you to please pray for wisdom to choose the right rehab facility when Mom is ready, and to see clearly whether or not Dad can live safely alone. (and if he can't . . . that we would know the right alternative!)

We praise the Lord for his blessings: the good care Mom is receiving, the progress she has made already, the ability for Lois & I to be here, the love and help of our church family, the use of a good (and fuel-efficient!) car, and that Dad is wearing his new Medical Alert button without complaint. God is good, and as John Holliday says, He has yet to make His first mistake! So we trust His plan to unfold in His time, and that He will be glorified in it all.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

September 27 PM

Mom is a lot more alert this afternoon. This morning (actually it was almost 12:00) when Ali and I finally were allowed to see Mom, she was still somewhat sedated from her CAT scan, so we didn't get to see her lovely smile. But it was sure there this afternoon when we went in! It was like night and day compared with how she was a couple of days ago. Her eyes stay open for 10-20 seconds at a time, and her facial expressions look like "Mom." You can tell she WANTS to talk, but she hasn't tried to yet. In all honesty I am not sure whether it is possible for one to talk with a trache tube in place or not. She is able to signal "yes" with a slow blinking of her eyelids--that's how she responded to Debbie Page this afternoon when she walked into Mom's room and asked if she knew who she was. She is also able to nod her head slightly.

Mom's drain is still in place and functioning normally. I quizzed the nurse about it, asking her about the fluid we could see draining from it. The nurse said that everything looks as it should, that every person's brain produces a certain amount of fluid all the time. Because of the swelling in Mom's head, her cerebral fluid is not able to circulate normally, and therefore would build up in the cranium causing a lot of pressure if it were not drained out. As the swelling goes down, the amount of fluid that drains out will decrease. I guess it's not a very lovely subject to talk about, but I found it fascinating. I am glad the nurses here are so approachable and willing to tell you what they know so as to combat uncertainty.

Alice has gone up to Gorham to stay with Dad for now. She will enjoy getting to see friends at Community Bible Church! Mom and I will stay here at the hospital and have our own private service tomorrow morning. I will probably let Charles Spurgeon preach for us, since I have my Morning and Evening devotional book. I am still staying at the Upper Valley Hostel, which provides very affordable accomodations for patients and their families. There are two sisters also staying there, who have offered me transportation to and from the hospital while they are there. Please pray that I can be a blessing and a testimony.

Thank you so much for your continued is exciting to see God answering.

September 27, 2008

We are changing things around a bit--this blog has a new author now. I (Lois) am taking over the updates, for a while at least. Details to follow:

Ali had a message from the Lord last night. :-) In the wee hours of the morning she realized that to better understand our Dad's needs and abilities, one of us needs to spend more time with him. So she plans to go up there this afternoon and spend next week with him, to get a better feel of what needs to be our course of action concerning his care.

So I will stay here with Mom, at least for the present. We haven't seen her this morning yet, because when we arrived at the hospital she had gone for a CAT scan. They thought it would be another half hour, so we came to the computer lab while we wait.

I would like to ask prayer for God's leading for me. My husband Chris and our four children--Elisabeth 8, James 6, Grace 4, and Christina 2--for those of you who aren't familiar with our family--are up in Hudson, ME this weekend for a missions conference. We were planning to spend next week driving out to Michigan where our next missions conference is, scheduled to start Sun. Oct. 5th. We thought of taking the kids by to see Niagara Falls on our way out. But if Ali is going to be spending the week up with Dad, driving down to the hospital every other day or so, then that would mean that most of the time Mom would be here alone unless I stay here and send my family on alone again. Chris has graciously told me that if I want to stay here that is fine with him, although I know it is hard being a single parent to four young children and especially travelling where routines are almost impossible to establish or keep. I feel so torn, because I am a wife and mother as much as I am a daughter; I just need to know the Lord's will on this one. Thanks for praying with me on this.

We made Mom smile last night as we were saying good-night. Ali asked Mom if she could give her a kiss on the cheek, and Mom seemed to purse her lips a bit in response, so she proceeded to lean over and kiss her good-night. I was on the other side of the bed, and since I am a bit vertically challenged, I was having a tough time getting close enough. Ali said, "Uh-oh, Lois is too short!" I finally managed to work my way close enough and gave Mom a kiss, and gave a cry of victory as I did so. I think our antics were amusing to Mom because she smiled quite a bit. It is good to know that although Mom's abilities have changed quite a bit for the present, her personality is the same.

Thanks so much for your prayers and notes of encouragement. We are so grateful for you.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mom is Awake!!!!

This morning, Mom is looking at us and smiling at us. She is not speaking, but she is here!!!!

Julie McLean came by to visit, and Aunt Becky, our cousin Faye, and Dad are here to enjoy this wonderful day also. Mom is resting now, and they are waiting for me to join them for lunch, so will close for now.

Praise God for His mercy and love.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

September 25

After the excitement of Mom's opening her eyes briefly last night, she did not do it at all today. However--drum roll please--she did scratch her nose! :-) It is good that she can control her movements enough to do that. Her left hand is the only one moving though; her right arm lies motionless. The doctors did say that her right side, and her speech, are likely to be affected.

She is still wearing her compression sleeve on her right arm, and her right hand is quite swollen around it. Lois and I have notified the nurses about her lymphedema and they are keeping an eye on it. We are hoping Charlene, her longtime therapist here at DHMC, may be able to do some therapy on it soon.

This afternoon, an angiogram revealed she is still experiencing some "vasospasm" - narrowing of the blood vessels in the brain, caused by irritation from the catheter during the coil insertion procedure last Thursday. So they are keeping her blood pressure slightly high to prevent the vessels from narrowing too much.

Chris and the children are in town tonight so Lois is staying with them at a motel. The hostel moved me to a different room, much more spacious than the tiny room where Lois and I were last night . . . and I have it all to myself! :-)

Evenings at the hostel there is soup or stew available, along with bread and fruit. Tonight the soup was cream of mushroom. :-)

Thank you so much for the comments! It is encouraging to read them and know you are praying. Please continue praying for healing for Mom, comfort and strength for Dad, and wisdom & strength for Lois & I as we seek to make the best decisions about both Mom & Dad's care. And also for our husbands and children. The situation is starting to wear on all of us.

We want God to be glorified through us. So we trust Him to do what is best.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Great News

News Flash -- Mom has opened her eyes, briefly, twice tonight!! Once for the nurse, and once for Lois. I haven't seen it yet but am excited about the possibility of seeing it tomorrow!! Praise God.

September 24

A positive step forward today is that Mom is breathing, through her trach tube, without a ventilator! She has not suffered any respiratory distress either, which is a big plus.

She is not responding to us yet, but a couple of times today I thought I might have seen an eyelid flicker, and she seems to be displaying more facial expressions. She still grabs at her tubes if given the chance, which is a good sign also. A nurse practitioner, who is helping us think about rehab options, suggested that as long as we are by her side, we can remove her wrist restraints. That will allow her a bit more comfort and freedom; we just have to stand ready to catch her so she can't pull anything out.

As long as Mom continues stable, they are talking about moving her to a step-down unit, Neurological Surgical Care, in the next couple of days.

We have ordered a Medical Alert button for Dad Ames to wear that will enable to him to call for help if he falls, which he agreed was a good idea. (Thank you Lord!) He very much wants to continue living in his home. While we are concerned for his physical safety, we know that his well-being also includes his mental and emotional health, and we desire to balance all three. We are concerned that forcing him from his home, on top of the great loss he has already suffered, may trigger a rapid decline in his mental state. We are thankful for the help of our church family, and, fervently praying for God's wisdom, we are researching options for ongoing support for him.

Lois and I are feeling God's strength. We have taken time each day to go for a walk outside in the crisp, clear air, seeing the trees starting to turn colors. Our times of prayer together have been precious as well. We have both been emotional, but so far not at the same time. :-) It is such a blessing that we can be together here. We do miss our families though, and knowing they are missing us is difficult. Yesterday Regan (5) asked me, "Are you on the plane to come back?"

We know our God, Who cares about the sparrow, cares about His servants even more. He will not abandon us, and we trust Him to lead and direct our steps.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

September 23

This morning Mom received a tracheostomy, and a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy. (Pretty good huh?) Her breathing tube now enters below her throat, and her feeding tube enters through her side.

This afternoon she does seem more relaxed and comfortable than yesterday. Aunt Betty, Uncle Ted, cousin Debbie, and my Dad all came down to visit today also. It was very emotional for him and for us, but it was a blessing.

We have talked today with numerous doctors, therapists and a social worker, trying to sketch long-term plans. There is hope that she will improve as the blood in the brain is re-absorbed by the body, but the doctors have no way of knowing what damage has been done. They have told us bluntly that her recovery will probably take months, and that she is likely to have impairments when she does wake up.

So we continue to beg you to pray for God's clear guidance. I reminded God today that Mom had willingly sacrificed her daughters to be missionaries, taking them and her precious grandchildren far away from her. So now He needs to help us know how to care for her.

Our Dad is doing fairly well, thanks to the wonderful care of our church family. But whether he can continue to live alone is a big question mark. He is sort of "on the brink" in our opinion. He wants to stay at home and get another car to drive. He just got his license renewed in July. But we worry about his memory loss causing problems, and also the possibility of his falling. He is very unsteady on his feet at times.

We feel kind of like King Jehoshaphat, who said , ". . . we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee." (2 Chronicles 20:12)

Monday, September 22, 2008

September 22, Part B

More news to report: Today's CAT scan showed the areas of fluid in Mom's brain have not gotten any larger. However, they have re-inserted a drain, primarily to be able to monitor the pressure in her head better.

Tomorrow they plan to perform a tracheostomy so that her breathing tube can be inserted below her vocal chords, which helps prevent damage to the vocal chords and will also be more comfortable for her. In addition, they plan to insert her feeding tube directly through her side into her stomach. Amazingly, both these procedures can be done in the ICU, not in the operating room, and I believe are scheduled for 11 am.

Aunt Betty and Uncle Ted are planning to pick Dad up about 9 am and bring him down for a visit. We will have lunch together and hope Mom's procedures will be finished so that we can see her after that.

When she might wake up is still known only by God. One nurse said that many times she had seen patients like Mom wake up and be just fine. Another told us it is often a long, gradual process, measured in months rather than weeks, as the brain slowly heals. A discharge planner came in to intoduce herself, asking if we had any plans for long-term care. We have some preliminary ideas, that need to be discussed with Dad. Please pray that all three of us would be in agreement on what would be best.

September 22

Mom has spent all day today, as far as I know, without any sedation. Lois and I have stayed on opposite sides of her bed, and when one of us is talking, we noticed that she seems to turn her head toward the person speaking! That is exciting.

Another encouraging sign, although not pleasant, is that she has been gagging on the breathing tube this afternoon. That indicates her reflexes are improving. The breathing tube cannot be removed, however, until she responds to commands. If she does not cough on command, they are concerned about secretions entering her lungs, possibly causing pneumonia.

Her eyes have remained closed, although they fluttered once when the LNA was swabbing out her mouth. And she does squeeze our hands occasionally, although not always when we ask her to.

The nurses found a CD player and classical music, which Mom loves, to play softly in her room. In addition to creating a peaceful atmosphere, music has also been shown to be effective therapy to rebuild neural pathways in the brain. I can't cite a specific study, but that's what I've heard. We figured it couldn't hurt. :-) I brought some family pictures also, for her to see when she wakes up.

We are still working on getting Dad down here. Aunt Betty, Mom's sister, may be coming down from Maine tomorrow and stopping to pick him up. If that does not work out, either Lois or I(probably me, I'm the restless one) will go get him.

Thanks so much for your prayers for Mom and all the rest of us as we walk through this valley. We are encouraged that God is with us and He remains faithful.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

September 21

I (Alice) am at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Ctr. with Mom and Lois now. thanking God for a good trip, and for the use of Jack's parents' car. There are 10 computers available for public use, which is a blessing so I can post this update!!

Mom's neurological condition remains stable. Several times today, they tried stopping the sedative to see if she might become more responsive. Unfortunately that did not happen. She did become more agitated, so they have resumed the sedative for now.

Lois and I are discussing the possibility of at least one of us driving up to Gorham tomorrow to bring Dad down for a visit. When I mentioned it to him, he said "That would be nice!" We've told him she probably won't be awake, but he still wants to come.

Mom's sister, our Aunt Rebecca, and our cousins Faye and Lisa came for a visit today. Lois got to see them, but they left before I arrived about 8 pm.

Thank you so much for your prayers. Please pray that the Lord won't let mom continue long in this coma state, that she would either wake up here (which seems preferable to us :-) or in Heaven. We are still hopeful, and praying that as the swelling in the brain goes down, and the blood there is re-absorbed into the body, that her condition will improve in the next several days.

I was thinking today that although Mom is not with us consciously right now, the love that she has poured into my life so richly has helped to give me strength. And her faithfulness to teach me about the Lord has helped to give me faith. So she is very much with me and will always be.

"Now unto Him Who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Eph. 3:20-21)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

September 20, 3 pm

Today Mom has been running a slight temperature and perspiring, so they have given her a tepid bath and Tylenol. They also sent some cultures for testing to check for infection.

Her neurological condition remains "stable." They removed the shunt from her brain, as it was no longer draining. They don't plan to replace it unless her neurological function takes a turn for the worse.

Her nurse said that her arm movements seem more purposeful today, which is encouraging! We are so thankful for the good care she is receiving. Also for all of your prayers, and the many offers of help!!

As far as we know, they are still planning to allow her to come out of sedation and remove the breathing tube on Monday. Our prayer is that the Lord will allow her to wake up and regain full use of her faculties.

The plan for next week is that Lois and I will be rooming together at the Upper Valley Hostel in Hanover, two miles from the hospital. We will have the use of Jack's parents' car, which is a blessing. We will probably go up to spend some time with Dad also, and maybe bring him down to visit Mom if she is awake and he is feeling up to that. Chris is planning to take their children to the missions conference in Hermon, ME where they were scheduled.

In all of this we trust the Lord's care and direction for our family, and we pray He will use us for His glory.

September 19

Today we found out that it will be several more days before the doctors allow Mom to come out of sedation. So we won't know until early next week what loss of function she may experience. The doctors warned us that it could be significant.

Her neurological function is better than it was yesterday, and has remained stable today.She is moving her arms and legs a lot, which is encouraging. And she is breathing mostly on her own, although the ventilator tube remains in place to ensure her airway remains clear.

Jack and I have decided that I should come up to NH. I'll be flying into Manchester Sunday evening. Not sure how long I'll be up there. Jack has been great, urging me to go and stay until the situation becomes more definite and we can make needed arrangements.Thanks so much to all of you for praying. We have told the nurses that many people are praying for her! Thank you also for all your offers of help. We feel blessed and cared for by the Lord and by all of you, and it is a privilege.

September 18

Just want to ask you to please pray for my Mom & Dad in New Hampshire. My mom, Mary Jane, had a brain aneurysm burst this morning while driving, causing her to have a car accident. She was flown to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center with bleeding on the brain.

An Interventional Radiologist (quite the job title!) inserted a coil in the aneurysm to prevent future bleeding. But he warned us that there was significant bleeding and pressure that built up before they could get a drain inserted. She may experience some dysfunction in speech, and strength on her right side. Lord willing, if this is the case it should be temporary, as the blood will eventually be re-absorbed into the body.

He said we should expect her to remain hospitalized at DHMC for two weeks, with the possibility of a rehab center after that. One miracle for which we praise God is that my sister Lois, a missionary in Ecuador, and her family "happen" to be on furlough and in the area, and could be with her today. My dad, John, at 78 is quite frail and has early-stage Alzheimer's. He is at home, and quite calm, which is an answer to prayer!! Pastor Jon and our church family are being wonderful about making sure he will be OK while she is hospitalized.