Carly has had a lot happen in the past two weeks since the last update. First, let me apologize for the long delay in getting an update posted. Since leaving the hospital time management has been an issue for us.
Carly began to speak October 1st, which was her 23rd birthday. In speech therapy, she softly but clearly said ten words multiple times during the session. We have been so blessed with the Speech Therapy that she is receiving at the University of Utah. Her Speech Therapist is Hadley Bowers (see photo) and the overseeing Speech-Language Pathologist / Clinical Faculty is Mary Foye. Hadley will be graduating this year and has already become a wonderful therapist. She not only has the knowledge skills but is blessed with a wonderful heart. She has really connected with Carly, investing a lot of time and most importantly heart into the sessions. The hard work of the U of U and Carly has begun to pay off big.
Carly’s former roommates from Tampa came to visit for her birthday. Kelly Stanton and Abby Nelson flew from Tampa to Salt Lake. It was a weekend full of happiness and joy for Carly and the entire family. Seeing Carly’s face and reaction to the girls was better than the most amazing day at Disney World. Katie flew from Los Angeles via a buddy pass courtesy of our good friends Steve and Laura Lerum. Steve is a captain for United Air. Tripp and Thy drove up from Cedar City. As you can imagine it was a big celebration that took several days. We opened presents and did the traditional Bday cake Friday evening. Went shopping on Saturday and then to The Melting Pot Saturday night for Chocolate Fondue desert. Sunday was a drive up to Park City to enjoy the mountains.
This past week, Carly not only spoke words but put together complete sentences. While we have always known from other reactions Carly was very cognitive, the addition of speech is giving some insight into additional issues she is experiencing. Carly seems to be very challenged with short term memory loss and can recall nothing from the prior day and even things within the past hour are very jumbled. Her long term memory is also confused and out of order. Yet, she is extremely happy and you would quickly say her personality is in tact. The personality side was so present when the girls visited, with lots of giggling and laughter. While shopping, Carly found a sweater that she liked. She then found the mannequin that had the same sweater and posed next to it. Typical Carly crackup. Carly’s joy for life and love of people really shines.
Katie has been having hip issues from being on her feet for very long days at work. She had an MRI about two weeks ago which shows a bone tumor in her femur. She is going to a hip specialists for a second opinion on Tuesday and will likely have surgery in the coming weeks. There is little concerned that it is cancerous, it is more of an irritant that is causing her pain and discomfort.
Please pray for Carly’s speech to return, continued improvement in swallowing, her memory to be restored and continued recovery. Pray for Katie’s hip and for all of the details Lewis Wood (Janie’s father) has to deal with the loss of Jane, his wife of 46 years.
Carly continues to progress in every area. She is speaking more in a very short burst, mostly a couple of words or a short phrase. The real exciting thing is she is now initiating speech more on her own and interacting better. Her personality has always been there, that is one thing that never has been missing. Now with increased speech, it is really coming out. We were blessed this week to have Rachel and Joe visit on their way to Portland Oregon where they are moving. Rachel is famous for her cooking and she cooked dinner for the Mimstribe and the Blalocks.
All of her therapists are so impressed with her progress. Carly has been an interesting case for all of them. In Speech Therapy she did not fit into any particular diagnosis box. The damaged areas of the brain did not match what she was presenting. They never had any doubt that she would speak, it was a matter of when. The explanation, another portion of the God Story of this journey. We often pray for God to go before us and make a path. Well, he does. How is it when we left the hospital, Carly was on waiting list for therapy and speech, in particular, could be as long as a couple of months before she was to get in. Yet, she started in speech therapy just a little over a week after leaving the hospital. Then, how is it that Mary Foye a Speech-Language Pathologist with years of field experience and faculty member at the University of Utah happens to be at the front desk to receive Carly’s application when I dropped it off. So instead of getting process through a pile of papers, Mary instantly begins to read Carly’s medical history with great interest. Next step, Mary just happens to have the perfect student for Carly to work with. Not only a perfect fit but someone with a heart that was willing to add Carly to her busy schedule without any credit, not meeting any educational requirement, just willing to give time to gain experience. That is Hadley Bowers. What a team that God put together to assist Carly.
Things are a little different in Utah. For example, there is a school holiday in the fall that coincides with the opening of Deer Hunting Season. So, as a result, Carly did not have Speech therapy scheduled for this week. To give you an idea of Hadley’s dedication she met us on Wednesday during our normal scheduled therapy time, to visit the UCAT-Utah Center for Assistive Technology UCAT provides assistance in demonstrating and selecting technology that can assist challenged people in a number of areas. We looked at software for Carly’s iPad that can help her both progress and communicate. The main tool we were considering was great and would have been a major help a month ago. We had held off due to the expense and not having seen the system work and now with the progress, Carly has made it is not necessary. There were other tools that we discovered that will be of great benefit. Hadley took time from her vacation break to drive across town just to meet us and help us with the decisions.
During the first week of Carly’s recovery, Yvonne Sullivan a close long-term friend called and said you really need to read this book, “The Brain That Changes Itself”. She was totally right. This is the most encouraging book about the brain with many stories of how the brain changes itself. The brain is so amazing and complete. Many things are known, many old theories have been dispelled regarding localism with the brain and that when a particular area is damaged that function typically controlled in that area would be forever lost. The book speaks to so many facets of the brain and how people recover and expand their function. This is a book well worth reading regardless of your situation.
Many may already know through Facebook sources that it is now official. Tripp is engaged to Thy. They came to Salt Lake two weeks ago for Carly’s birthday and Tripp had the opportunity to ask Thy’s dad for permission. He had already purchased the ring and the next day asked Thy to make it official. They don’t have a firm date yet but are planning for the next June-July time frame. We are certainly excited. Thy graduated from SUU last year and is now working on her Master’s degree.
Wednesdays are always a very “up” day for Carly. Wednesday morning starts off with Speech Therapy, where Carly is doing very well. The Speech Therapists, Mary and Hadley, have really taken a special interest in Carly. Mary has talked to a number of colleagues about the very unusual issues in Carly’s case. Her situation is one that they don’t often get to work within their careers. Hadley has encouraged close school friends to come to observe her sessions with Carly, which has been exciting for her. We continue to be blown away by how all of this worked out for Carly and can‘t imagine a more perfect situation for Carly’s therapy.
Wednesday afternoon is Horseback Riding Therapy. This has been by far the one thing that has always put smiles on Abi, Noah and Carly’s faces. There has been a lot of research on the effects that horseback riding has on a person with brain injury. It obviously sharpens balance skills just to stay on the horse. We take for granted the little things our brain commands our body to do automatically and at such a fast pace. Balance adjustments really work the brain hard and are very beneficial to a brain injury patient. Also, just being around a horse has a very positive effect, with a special relationship between the horse and rider. There are a number of interesting articles on the internet that are fascinating to read.
When Carly was first injured, we had several close friends call and suggest we get Carly involved in horse therapy as soon as possible. The National Ability Center is one of the most well-known Horse Therapy facilities in the country. NAC has been highlighted on the Today Show. Located in Park City Utah, just 25 minutes from where we are currently living, they offer a number of outdoor sports and recreational programs in addition to the therapeutic riding program, all designed to encourage those with physical and developmental disabilities. They also include the whole family, with programs for those without disabilities too.
Wednesday is the day Carly, Abi and Noah all take a riding lesson. The NAC encourages siblings to participate in the program. It is the highlight of the week. Carly gets extremely excited just knowing we are going to the NAC. The lesson starts with grooming and care for the horse. Next, they tack up by getting their saddles out and putting them on the horses. The entire program is geared to teaching proper horsemanship as well as riding. We have seen many benefits for Carly. In addition, riding has always been a dream of Abi’s. Abi has excelled and looks natural on the horse. Noah is riding and enjoying it as well. For mom and dad, it is tremendously enjoyable to watch them learn, excel and have so much fun.
Carly has had a great week! It ended with Nick Lyon coming from Colorado to visit for the weekend. Nick and his family have been part of our family since we moved to Florida, and Nick is attending college nearby at Colorado State University. CSU played the University of Utah in Salt Lake on Saturday. Nick travels with the team doing sports photography and he came to Salt Lake with his friends Chris and Matt, who are sports writers for the CSU newspaper. Naturally, Tripp and Thy came up from Cedar City for the weekend since Tripp and Nick have been almost inseparable most of their lives. Carly was so excited to see Nick, Tripp and Thy! She had the best time hanging with them for the weekend. It’s hard to describe the wonderful warm feeling you get when you see your children having such a good time. With Tripp and Thy home, plus Nick’s visit, it was a great weekend to cap off a really good week for Carly.
Katie, Carly’s older sister, has been having pain in her hip for about the past seven months. She originally thought it was just stress and strain from being on her feet so much, because her work at Nickelodeon Studios had her on her feet running around 90% of the time. It was not uncommon for her to work 14 hour days, and occasionally she would work even longer. The pain continued to worsen, so she went to see an orthopedic specialist. A month ago she had an MRI and X-rays. That orthopedist explained that the MRI and X-rays had revealed that Katie’s hip was actually fine, but that she had a bone cyst in her femur, and it would likely require non-invasive surgery to remove. He told her that she needed to see another specialist. She was then referred to an orthopedic hip specialist who immediately put her on crutches once he saw her MRI and X-rays. His detailed review of the MRI revealed that what we thought was a bone cyst was actually very large, and has weakened her femur substantially, loosing over 2/3 of the bone mass just below the hip ball joint. She was then referred to an orthopedic oncologist.
At first, she was unable to get an appointment with the first doctor that was recommended, who is one of the top orthopedic oncologists in LA and works at USC, so she got another referral with a doctor who practices at City of Hope Hospital. This is one of the leading research hospitals in Southern California. He spent a long time explaining the MRI and explaining the fact that what the other doctors had thought was just a cyst is actually a very large tumor. He showed her on the MRI exactly where the problems were and described the surgery and recuperation process. The surgery removes the tumor, freezes the cavity to kill any remaining tumor cells and then reconstructs the bone using a bone graph to fill the void. They then and a steel plate along the outside of the femur and a screw going up into the hip to add strength. Needless to say, this is a very invasive and extensive surgery. He has scheduled surgery for this coming Friday, October 29th. In the meantime, Katie did get an appointment with the original orthopedic oncologist at USC for this coming Tuesday and will get his second opinion.
Janie is flying to LA on Monday evening to be there for the appointment and Katie’s upcoming surgery. Pray for decisions regarding Katie’s surgery, for the surgery itself, and for a quick and painless recovery. Please pray that everything at the house will run smoothly while Janie is away. Pray for Carly’s continued success and therapy sessions to go well and for the entire Mimstribe as we change modes once again.
Carly just got back from today’s speech therapy session. Her therapists are very encouraged by her progress. They not only work on speech but also deal with cognitive and memory issues. The big news for today was a tremendous improvement in handwriting. When Carly was in the hospital rehab unit she was signing her name very well at the end of her stay. One of the first things we noticed when she came home was almost overnight her handwriting went totally away. It became just simple scratches on the page, almost as though you were trying to get a bad pen to write. It was one of those wow hmmm things. Well, today she walked in and signed the check-in sheet as she always does. I noticed that the first two letters were actually very good. I told Hadley (her therapist) and with her encouragement, she developed the ability to totally write her first name. Carly is probably back to about 60% of what she was doing in the hospital, but it came back all of a sudden. Very encouraging.
We woke up to 5” of snow in the Salt Lake City area. Yesterday it had snowed and covered the mountains behind the home we are living in. Last night we went grocery shopping and it started to snow when we were driving home. Started coming down real hard later in the evening. With the first snow of the season, it is nice to see the white fluffy stuff back.
We have had many questions about Katie’s surgery. First, it has been rescheduled for Friday morning. On Monday evening they called and rescheduled for Friday, saying that the doctor had an emergency pediatric case that needed attention. When Katie explained that Janie was already in town, they moved it up to Thursday. The doctor then realized he would feel pressured for time on Thursday, so it was moved back to Friday so that he could have a fresh start in the morning and not feel rushed.
When people hear that Katie has been seeing an Orthopedic Oncologist, the first thing they ask is, “Is it cancer?”. The answer is, we really don’t know. There are no blood tests for these types of cancer, but statistically, it is unlikely that the tumor is cancerous. The first thing the doctors will do is make a small incision and take a sample of the tumor to pathology, and they will wait for the results before they continue the surgery.
Thank the Lord for Carly’s amazing miracle and continued progress. Thanks for the unbelievable support of all of her therapy providers. Pray for her handwriting to continue progressing, speech to improve and for a breakthrough in her memory. Pray for Katie’s upcoming surgery, control of her pain and a speedy recovery.
Katie is out of surgery. Good news is that the incision is very small and she will be coming home this afternoon. The bad news is the surgery was not completed. The quick biopsy could not confirm that it was benign. They did a more extensive biopsy and the results will not be back until late next week. Until then is simply a waiting time for the answer to determine a course of treatment. Pray for peace during the coming week. Also, pray for the Bowers family. Hadley Bowers is Carly’s Speech Therapist and her Grandfather passed away early this morning. Hadley has really touched our hearts and is such a wonderful person.