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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thank You!!!

This is the stuff my wife corrected...

This year I am writing our Christmas newsletter for the first time. My year has been filled with lots of “firsts”. As you all know John and I have had a life changing experience this past year. Despite all the challenges we have both faced we have persevered and continue to overcome any hurdle that is presented to us. We both have been blessed with a new look on life. Now the chores I do like cleaning, laundry and picking up the house aren't as pressing as they once were. Not to say I am slacking but if I'm tired they can wait a bit longer these days.

So this is my year of firsts.....John has always been a man of “change” and I was resistant at first. Having learned to be adaptive has helped me immensely. Without knowing it he had set me up for success. This year I have filled out endless forms for various hospital info, financial aid, and legal stuff. Found facilities for John for his continued recovery. Overcome impossible tasks like getting John to Swedish for an MRI before he was even walking. Our friends met us several times to help with transfers. I have driven more miles this year in horrible fog, snow and torrential rain just so I could spend a few hours with John before work or to spend the day with him, I feel I'm a better driver these days.  Somehow I've juggled all of his doctor’s appointments here in Mount Vernon and in Seattle. I've purchased adaptive equipment for the bathroom to help John with being more independent. Installed a new shower hose, even switched it to a different bathroom. I made sure that anything in the house that needed fixing during our first year was taken care of by Quadrant under our 1st year warranty. Our dining room table needed to be replaced but we purchased a “worry no
more” warranty so after a month of phone calls and pictures I was able to pick out a new one. I am a great “hospital camper” now and have a new appreciation for hairspray. After several attempts I managed to get our wills drawn up, power of attorney, and faxed an amazing amount of documents to our lawyer. Bought 3 tons of topsoil and sod and put in our back lawn with the help pf a few of our neighbors. I have lawn tools...rakes, shovel and garden cutters (thanks Margret) now. My wheelbarrow has a “no flat” tire by recommendation from a coworker. Bought my first lawn mower and mowed not only my lawn but my “first” lawn ever. I've raked out the moss in our front lawn and reseeded it. Fertilized both the front and the back lawn twice now. With the help of friends I found someone to install another handrail for our staircase for John before he came home. His Physical therapist put in a staircase railing for the garage stairs for no charge for the labor. Bryan Streit let me host a wine auction to raise money for John at JJ Mahoney's in February. Stephanie Cuffel (Stewart) helped me with setting everything in place. Recently here I had to install a new light bulb for our recessed lights. They are so new I had to call the company to find out where to buy them from. They have two prongs that you twist into place to secure them. Our over the stove light burned out and the light bulb fussed to the lamp housing and I managed to force the sucker out but ruined the housing. A month and $125.00 later it is all fixed. The bulb doesn't really fit in to well. Its super snug and I still had to unscrew the lamp housing to screw in the bulb. I've had to fix plugged toilets (with the help of John) more than once. Moved our recliner downstairs so John would have a comfortable chair to sit it and put his feet up. Moved our tv a few times plugging and unplugging it several times with the help of labels. I used to say I would never mess with John's computer because it has so many cables...I've now moved it at least 3 times!! Successfully I might add, it worked 1st time out every time! Amazing.

John has also had a year full of “new things”. When he came home from the hospital I had no idea of what to expect. Over the first few months I tried to research what the recovery would look like for his stroke. What I learned is that every stroke is so different there are only vague descriptions of “aphasia” which is his speech. There are several different categories and he doesn't really fit in any particular one. Also I tried to look for paralysis recovery but because everyone is so different there isn't really any useful information. Through his Skilled Nursing at Avemere in Bellingham, Acute Care at Swedish Cherry Hill and his last therapies at Skagit Medical outpatient we now have a lot of helpful exercises to help get back not only the use of his right hand but also balance and strength. John has fast tracked his recovery right from the start. I thought he would come home sometime in April but he was released the end of March. His parents Tom and Margret changed their flight plans and came the end of March for 6 weeks to help out. He's come a long way from the first few weeks back home. I bought a bed for downstairs so he wouldn't have to do stairs that only lasted about a month...maybe. John was determined
to sleep in our bed again. I moved the TV downstairs so he'd have something to watch during the day. Cooking was a bit challenging as his taste buds were affected from his stoke so things he used to like either didn't taste good or the texture was bad. Finally, they are coming back so I'm trying some of his old favorites again. I'm hoping to get back to a more vegetarian diet again this next year. We only went to the Anacortes market once this summer to get some veggies and honey. I painted a chalkboard wall in our living room downstairs so I could post his progress and also my work schedule along with his therapies. Now he is putting my work schedule in his phone as he is upstairs a lot more these days. Before his stroke John was doing a lot of writing for his Ryann series. So to continue his creative outlet he started to draw and put captions to them as well. Now he has created a cartoon of us, our cats and the fish. He finds pictures on the internet and copies and pastes them to create backgrounds or add figures like the dalek from Dr. Who. It's been amazing to watch his progress on the computer, learning his passwords and finding websites he used before the stroke. We had started to get his office decorated in 2013 so I picked up where I left off.  I put up some shelves in his office for his books, water fountain and a new plant. He had some pictures of his work in computers back in England so I put them up in the office. Also a cork board too so he can put up things of interest. I had a table that I planned on using for my art that I put in there so he has a surface to draw on now. It's a great space for him now with a view of the mountains and the street.

He's now going up and down the stairs whenever he wants by himself. Even carrying things like his medicine box, Kindle, phone or his bag that he puts the water bottle in to water the plants. He's feeding his fish every day. For the past month or more he is even getting completely dressed without any help from me. Even his foot brace and both shoes!! I moved to dresser closer to the bed so it's an easy reach for him to choose his clothes for that day. Shower are getting easier too we've moved his shower seat inside our shower so there isn't as much water spray outside of it now. About two weeks ago he started to read again, now 4-5 chapters at a time. He has said he's even retaining the story now too.

Next Spring I'm going to get some quotes to have a railing put in for our patio cement stairs. I bought new patio furniture the end of last season at a huge discount.  The chairs are wrought iron and have thick cushions for the seat and back. They'll be a lot easier to sit down on and get out of rather than our Adirondacks. Also an umbrella for him so he won't get a sunburn. So having easier access to get outside when he wants is key. Sitting on the front porch is a little more difficult because of the step down there isn't anything for him to hold on to. I'm looking forward to spending time together in our “new” backyard with John....

It's really been a miracle how far we've come this year. We truly couldn't have done any of it without the love and support from each and every one of you. They say you never know what you are made of until you're faced with a challenge. We're fortunate to be able to really look beyond the “little things” we're faced with every day. Now they seem so trivial compared to the major things we've overcome together. Looking back to those first few weeks I never lost faith. John has been remarkable throughout this journey with his willingness to keep trying to do new things. We've finally are getting back to a slower pace around here. Feels good to relax and look back at how far we've come.

Happy Holidays and Thank you all for your love...You will be forever in our hearts.

Debs and John  xxxx

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