Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Progress can be measured in many ways and today's progress was small, but progress nonetheless.  The first sign of progress was seen in Mom's face when I first walked into her room this morning.  Her face lit up just a little bit and there was a slight smile on her face.  There weren't any tears, which is a big improvement from yesterday when she was crying at the drop of a hat. I think the crying had a lot to do with the intense amount of pain and the pain medication.  Another step in the right direction was that her severe shaking/shivering from the pain had subsided. This happened a lot yesterday in combination with the crying.

The first thing I told her was that she looks much better today and her response was that she doesn't feel better :(. The headache was still very strong and bothersome.  Two of her surgeons came in shortly after my arrival and discussed their plan for surgery tomorrow.  They will take her in for surgery around 6:30am and the actual surgery is schedule for 7:15am.   They will use "nifty tools" to move her spine around and put some nice "hardware" in there.  They talked with a lot of confidence, which made me feel pretty good about the situation. The surgeons also mentioned that it would benefit her a great deal if she was able to get up and do some walking today in addition to doing the breathing exercises she had been assigned.  They said that they do these surgeries every week, but they recognize she doesn't have the surgery every week so they will talk her through it afterwards and make sure she is comfortable when recovering. To make sure she is as comfortable as possible, she will go to the ICU after surgery where she will have her own nurse that can tend to her in more of a timely manner than the nurses that have more than one patient. Dr. Pashman's parting words were: "You'll wake up and feel like you were hit by a truck, but the nurses will take good care of you and you'll be glad we did this."  Not sure those were the words she really needed or wanted to hear, but at least he was honest I guess.

Some more progress came in the form of Mom feeling up to working with physical therapy (PT) early in the morning. Rather than putting walking off time after time, she actually wanted to get up and moving earlier in the day, which I view to be a great sign.  She had a great physical therapist today that really made her feel comfortable and taught me some more about getting Mom's brace on and the best ways to help her out of bed.  Mom graduated to walking in the hallway today, which was another bright spot of progress.  She set a goal to walk to the "quiet sign", which is a sign to let you know you should be quiet in a particular area because they may be counting medication.  This sign is about 25 feet from her room, so she was able to walk about 50 feet in total.  She is currently being assisted by a walker, mainly because she is on pain medication and they want her to have balance in case she gets dizzy. The physical therapist and her nurses were so surprised at how well she is walking.  She looks much better and is more talkative when she is up and walking, which is something I really like to see!! 

Yesterday Mom was given a device called Triflo that she has to use for breathing exercises for her lungs so she avoids getting pneumonia. She has to inhale through the device, which causes three different balls to raise up depending on how much she inhales.  Yesterday she had difficulty to get all three balls to raise up, which is the ultimate goal.  Today she was able to get all three to raise in less tries...she was even inhaling a bunch of times in a row as if to show off. I had to slow her down so she wouldn't get light headed.  This is yet another sign of progress that I was very pleased to see. 

The most promising sign of progress came late in the evening when Mom actually asked to get up and walk.  I thought it was great that she took the initiative to ask if she could do some walking.  I was able to get her up and walking (which is surprisingly somewhat of a complicated and time consuming activity considering the task at hand). We went out to the hallway and Dad and I asked her what her goal was.  She said "the exit sign", which was about 50 feet away.  In unison, Dad and I both said "Are you sure, that seems a bit far" - especially since she had just received another dose of Morphine and the nurse had warned her of dizziness.  We suggested she go to the "quiet sign" again, which was about half the distance to the exit sign.  She did not respond and just started walking. As we approached the quiet sign, I asked if she wanted to turn around and her response was "I said the exit sign!"  I liked to hear the strength in her voice, so I just let her keep going. I was most concerned that she would tire out before we could get her back to her room, but she proved herself by completing her ambitious goal without even a hint of slowing down.

Dad and I got her all set up and ready for bed.  She didn't want to go to sleep, but she didn't really have a choice since the Morphine started to kick in quite nicely :).  As I said goodbye, she said "exit sign" and I just told her that I am so proud of her progress today, to which she responded "I walked to the exit sign." She was definitely very out of it, but I'm glad that she is able to recognize her great accomplishments.  The last words she said were: "I am afraid of the Monster trucks tomorrow", which was in direct reference to what the surgeon had said earlier. I think she chose Monster trucks as the ones to "hit" her tomorrow because she associates them with her wonderful grandchildren, Zack and Carson.  I assured her that I would take good care of her after the Monster trucks hit her, to which she responded with a slight smirk and then she was out cold.

The thing I admire so much about Mom is that when she is told that something will help her in her recovery (such as walking or using the breathing device), she is bound and determined to do it to the best of her ability considering her conditions and she has a great attitude about accomplishing each task assigned to her.   Unfortunately, tomorrow will be somewhat of a step backwards, but I am confident that her positive attitude and determination to heal will help her immensely to progress in her next stage of recovery.

Thank you again for all of your wonderful comments and words of encouragement for Mom and the rest of us helping her out.  The kind words help both me and Mom as we approach each challenge in this journey. Please continue the thoughts and prayers as Mom goes into surgery tomorrow.  I know tomorrow will be an emotionally challenging day for all of Mom's loved ones.  I better get some rest so I can face each challenge with as much strength as possible!! 


  1. Julie, your mom is a strong and determined lady with LOTS of courage...and you are an angel to come out and give her so much help and support. Be sure to take care of yourself, too! I'll keep you both in my thoughts and prayers tomorrow. I hope the Monster Trucks are as easy on her as possible.
    Lyn Logan

  2. Julie,
    Thank you for keeping us updated on your mother's progress. Your writing style is flowing, and easy to read. It paints a picture of what you are all experiencing.
    We will be thinking of your mom, and of your family, throughout the day tomorrow. Yes, it may be a step backwards, but towards a greater goal in front of her.
    With love,
    Fran and Rowena

  3. Dearest Lettice,
    You hang in there girl..Our thoughts & prayers are with you and your entire family each day. Can't wait to invite you & Jeff for a fantastic Italian meal in celebration of your 'successful' & 'full recovery'...

    Oak tree - Claude & Diane

  4. This one almost brought tears to my eyes! I'll be thinking about you all day, and hoping the trucks turn out to be the Tonka variety. Just a thought -- If that which does not kill us makes us stronger, you should be able to kick some serious a** after this! :-)

    Julie -- you definitely make me wish I had a daughter! You're incredible. But then Lettice raised you so.....

  5. THINKING OF ALL OF YOU.... Lenna... you are truly amazing.... Julie, THANK YOU.

  6. Julie, you're an angel. Your posts are terrific both in information and style (I smile every time I think about a rubber glove, especially if it's blue), and tears to my eyes when I read about your valiant Mom! My thoughts and prayers every day, to you Lettice. Love, Thea

  7. Lettice: sending you a lot of love and prayers during your surgery and recovery. We wish you a successful surgery and speedy (hopefully pain-free) recovery.

    Julie: This is a great way to keep everyone posted on your mom-- amazing! Wishing you, your dad & brothers well during this time:)

    Love, The Allards (Chris, Nancy & Hailey)