Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 16,2010. Lisa

Dear family and friends

We hope you are all well. We wanted you to know that Joe is doing well. He graduated a second tome from physical therapy! The whole family did run the 5k in the annual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. We are all heading to Ohio for Christmas. Joe and Ginny now have another driver as Stephen got his drivers license a couple weeks ago. They look forward to seeing the Leahy family in Circleville and the Warnecke family in Lakeview.

We wish you a very blessed holiday season with you loved ones!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Joe and Ginny as well as their entire extended family all over the country wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. Know we have all of you collectively in our prayers of gratitude as we know that Joe still being with us is a gift and we are so deeply appreciatively for all your prayers and support. Below is a message from Ginny she asked me to post. Love and Blessings to all, Lisa

Everything is getting back to normal. Joe was released to return to his various therapies late last week so this week there have been evaluations of his current condition. Lots of good news. No real set-backs anywhere. The only change was a some decline in his left hand grip strength. His left side has been weaker, all along. But his left leg is caught up totally, left hand lingers but is fully functional, just not as strong as the right. This is actually true for most right handed folks in any case but overall strengthening of both hands and all muscles is the goal.

A few evenings ago we jogged two miles. We were really excited. Not sure we will be able to do the 5K on Thanksgiving morning but we are hopeful. If the weather is bad though, we will need to skip it in any case. Poor conditions would make it to dangerous from a falling perspective.

The MRSA infection is nearly licked. If things continue to go well, the antibiotics will be DC'd (discontinued) tomorrow, the day before Stephen's birthday. We are very excited to be done with the picc tube/IV medicine. Having said, it actually has been easy plus now we have another new skill. Both of us hope to be a good resource for others who might have similar situations.

Shortly decisions will be made about Joe's right eye. It is clear this eye is the source of problems and treatment should no longer be delayed. So we are insisting on it. We see yet another ophthalmologist on Tuesday to get his opinion on the best course of actions.

Cognitively I see improvements all of the time. And even more often Joe knows and understands his struggles. So my normal comment is to "out smart" his problem. If you know something is present "intellectually", then keep looking for it until it comes into your visual field. From a recovery perspective, this is really important for managing daily life....understanding and problem solving. Joe's speech therapist is working so hard to help him with these concepts and I see great results. Some frustration, but great results. Better to know your problems and work through them, then not even realize there is a problem.

Thanksgiving, well let me say, it has a whole new meaning this year.

On Friday we fly to Ohio to be with family and friends for the weekend. Joe and Stephen will attend the big game (up North at least)---OSU verus Michigan with our best man John. Paul and Lisa we be there too. I will be shopping with my Mom and sisters and watching the game at home on Saturday. Keith will hold down the fort and eat the Thanksgiving leftovers as he starts finals on Thanksgiving Monday.

Wishing all a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Love, Ginny

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nov. 2, 2010 Ginny via Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

I spoke with Ginny today and Joe is doing great. His infectious disease doctor in Huntsville, Dr. Spera (sp?), who also treated him after the incident, is monitoring Joe very closely and reports that his labs are looking quite good. Joe is fatigued still, which the doctor said is to be expected given the infection, the incident itself and all the surgeries, but he is feeling pretty good overall. A nurse comes in on Monday and Friday to change the dressing and take blood. He's getting on Ginny to train for the turkey trot but Ginny wants to wait until they both can train together. I neglected to post the email Ginny sent at end of last week about Joe's progress--so sorry. Here it is and love to all, Lisa

Wow. Joe is so much better with new medicines. I am so relieved but watching like a hawk for swelling or any other indications that the new, much less offensive, antibiotics are not working as well as the original one that completely tore him up. Joe is so tired/fatigued. This is likely due to both the infection and all of the anti-nausea medicines being used. The latter I am trying to wean off. But so cautious. I sure don't want to set his system into another tailspin. Other than the first week home after Atlanta, this has been the worst. But it to is behind us and there is no reason to think otherwise. Joe sleeping so I am sleeping....and eating. Jackie and Phil will attest to that!! They left just this morning thinking we are again back to forward progress.

So all is good. Keith is once again back to errand boy, getting a few groceries tonight. If this week continues to go well, hopefully therapy can be resumed soon too. Several doctors next week. Tuesday Infectious Disease. I feel certain the infection is being killed but it will be good to know for certain. Though my hands are still really dry, no cracks or pain. The cream proscribed by my doctor really worked great. And next time I will get help before it gets so bad. I am learning. Latex allergy I guess. The glove liners provided by Theresa and Jackie, then the non-latex glues seem to be the perfect combination. You should see our house. Soap and paper towels everywhere. Along with trash cans overflowing and laundry running constantly. Trying not to reuse anything Joe touches just to be sure. No sign of infection for me or boys. Not even worried anymore about that but still really careful.

Work on hold....again. There is no way I am leaving Joe for more than an hour at least until we see ID on Tuesday. The infection came on so fast the last time, it getting significantly worse over the four hours I was at work. Not letting that happen again until it is gone from his system.

Funny that he asked me to take him to his lab yesterday in order for him to do a MRSA test on himself using stuff he has in his lab. He wants to see his results and compare to ID's results. Incredible. Struggles to not spill his food while eating but still can do lab work. I just shake my head in wonder and so often before.

Reminded again, to always be thankful for so many blessings. Hugs, Ginny

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Oct. 23, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Well this past week just stunk, but today Joe turned the corner--we think--we hope!

Joe has been home but has not been doing well. Sick to his stomach, not keeping ANY food down, not out of his robe or out of bed much since Monday until today (Thank the Lord!). His nausea was attributed to Vancomycin, the antibiotic prescribed for the MRSA infection in his brain, that he had to take twice a day intraveneously. Though he had be prescribed an anti-nausea drug, it didn't do the trick against such a large dose of Vancomycin. It was hard to tell whether Joe's fatigue was due to all the nausea and/or the infection he was fighting. That MRSA is nasty stuff!

Thursday night was the last time for that drug, and yesterday Dr. Spera switched him to Cubicin. One great aspect of Cubicin is that it is only administered once a day (5cc's) via a syringe put directly into Joe's picc line, so much less hassle! Further, it doesn't seem to nauseate him as much, and he was able to eat jello and keep it down yesterday. I think he was going to try small bites of peanut butter and jelly today and try to go for a short walk outside.

Today when I talked to Joe on the phone, and he seemed much more upbeat. We are cautiously optimistic that we're finally lickin' this thing!

Take care and love your family and friends!

Blessings, Lisa

Friday, October 15, 2010

Oct. 15, 2010 8:20 Pacific Time

Dear Family and Friends,

Unfortunately Joe has MRSA. I give the Mayo Clinic Definition below:

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection is caused by a strain of staph bacteria that's become resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat ordinary staph infections.

Most MRSA infections occur in people who have been in hospitals or other health care settings, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers. When it occurs in these settings, it's known as health care-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA). HA-MRSA infections typically are associated with invasive procedures or devices, such as surgeries, intravenous tubing or artificial joints.

However, as Ginny's sister Theresa described so aptly:

"This is scary because of the location of the infection, but he's on antibiodics and he has Infectious Disease specialists looking after him. He is not immunocompromised so there is no need to think that he won't get through this. He needs prayers, but he's in good hands."

Drain line is to be removed today and Joe may be released today or tomorrow. He left a message on my cell and he sounded good. Relieved me a great deal. He is bummed about the MRSA but is taking it in stride, reporting his condition in a very rational, microbiologist way.

Enough said for now. Thanks for your continuing prayers.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oct. 14, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

I've copied below and email sent to me from Dad Leahy as communicated to him via Ginny. This gives a bit of the back story leading up to Joe's surgery. Update today is that Joe's drain line to the brain site where they removed the plate will be removed today. The Picc line was inserted. He didn't sleep well last night and had considerable stomach distress yesterday but doing better today. I know they are working on the dosage of antibiotic to give him to knock out this infection without making him sick to his stomach. Poor Joe, not a way to celebrate his upcoming birthday! Again, thanks for your prayers.


10/10 Noticed some minor swelling on right eye lid. By Monday, increased concern due to significant swelling and redness which had spread to right forehead and left eyelid and brow. Go to ER at Huntsville on Monday night and on to UAB by Hemsi (ambulance) shortly after midnight.
10/12 When seen by Dr Fisher, he determined plate had to be removed due to infection and by 5:30 PM it was done.
Joe has continued to be stable though he is experiencing some stomach distress, likely as a result of the high dosages of antibiotics. So after 8 months of miraculous recovery, we experience our first set back. Joe knows the microbiology of infections so he is a great source of information and comfort.
10/13 Friends from Madison church stayed with Ginny over night. Joe's mom and Dad arrive. At this time basic path forward, aside from current recovery in hospital is to put in a pic line so Joe can continue to get antibiotics when home thru this line. This may go on several weeks. Dr Fisher is planning on putting in a new plate but not for at least 6 months.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Oct. 13, 2010 Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

Some of you may not know that Joe had to have surgery yesterday to remove the titanium plate that had just been inserted a couple of weeks ago. He developed an infection in the brain so it had to come out. He's doing well and Mom and Dad Leahy arrived there today. Thanks to Cindy Taglowski (sp?) and Illiana (?), friends from Madison-Huntsville for being there with Ginny and even staying overnight. He's on mega doses of an antibiotic being administered through a picc line and MaryAnne the caseworker is making arrangements for someone to come into home and administer the antibiotic but think Ginny might be trained on it too. Joe was in ICU this morning but now in regular room. Not sure how long he will be staying in the hospital but I will post more as information becomes available to me. Mark and I just arrived at Lake Tahoe today for the Western History Association conference so I'm getting bits and pieces from texts and phone calls but asked Dad to email more info tonight.

Please, as always, keep Joe and family in your prayers. We are frustrated by this setback but grateful Joe is doing so well. We don't know the origin of the infection but could be his bad eye--just not sure. He won't be able to have another surgery to put the plate back in for several months as brain needs to heal. What makes me smile is that Joe was most concerned about baing able to still make the Ohio State-Michigan game with Stephen in November. Hopefully that can still happen.

Take care and thanks for all your prayers.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Oct. 3 11 pm. from Joe's Dad tPhil Leahy hrough Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

Talked to Joe and Gin. They went to mass tonight, all impressed by Joe's surgery results. They had lasagna brought to them for supper--another one of those stories with all the connections. Mark Roberts brought over the lasagna that he made; he is a Huntsville police officer who was one of the first on the scene at UAH and saw Joe at that time. Mark's wife, Mary, is Joe's occupational therapist, and so it goes. Mark said he could not believe what he saw in Joe. Thought it would have been million to one that he might survive. "Truly a miracle" he said. Love, Dad/Phil

Yes, we have witnessed a miracle. Good night everyone. Love, Lisa

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Lisa Oct. 2, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Joe just called me to say he is back home and doing great! From a picture sent my Ginny via cell phone, the indentation caused by the injury and the subsequent debridement surgery is now smoothed over. He is taking it easy and staying ahead of the pain with meds. He will be going back to UAB on Friday to have the sutures and staples removed.

Thanks to all of you for all your prayers. Thanks to Dr. Fisher for doing such a great job. And thank you God for getting Joe through one more surgery.

Happy Feast of the Guardian Angels.

Love to all,


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Surgery Thursday, September 30 Joe via Lisa

We thought this surgery wouldn't occur for awhile. Mom and Dad Leahy just returned to Ohio recently from the first surgery and are sorry to not be there. Please keep Joe and his medical team in your prayers. Love to all, Lisa


I'm going to have another surgery at University of Alabama-Birmingham tomorrow at 10 am or so. They are implanting a titanium plate in my forehead to cover the "dent" in my skull. I'm sure everything will be fine, but please keep me in your prayers. Gin and boys are taking great care care of me.

Love to all,


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Post from Joe and Gin via Lisa--Sunday, Sept. 19, 2:11 Central

This is copy and pasted directly from email from Joe and Ginny with direction to post. I apologize for my earlier mistake in thinking Dr. Long did the surgery--Dr. Louis did this surgery yet Dr. Long will be doing a future surgery. It is all so confusing. Thank you so much for your prayers, cards and well wishes. The entire family is very grateful.



So many people have asked for details of the surgery. I checked with Joe and he is fine with us posting the details of last Thursday's surgery. So here goes--

Slice of history--

We had told about a month ago that UAB physicians would likely be able to do several procedures at the same time, saving Joe from a "one thing at a time" situation with multiple surgeries and recoveries. However, as the doctors more closely examined his CT scans (no MRI can be done due to pins in his cheek), the recommendation was made to go back to the "one thing at a time" approach. Most of this is because they don't know what they will find until they are doing the work and the potential for swelling might change the approach.

So on Thursday, Dr. Louis', goal was to repair any holes in the upper right eye socket and determine, when in surgery, what other holes are present and either repair them or determine a strategy for next procedure. The upper right eye socket had to be repaired to in order to do anything with the right eye ball, which has sunken into the socket due to all the fractures.

The entry point was through an incision in the crease in the right eye lid. The incision is the length of the lid. From there Dr. Louis was able to determine with scopes, I suppose, the upper orbital (socket) defect (hole) and thereby determine the bone graft necessary to cover the hole. The graft was taken from Joe's left skull, obtained from an incision cut zig zag, deep in the hair line, starting above the left ear and going up. It is a long incision, closed with about 15 staples. Somehow the bone graft was obtained and implanted then over the orbital hole which was determined to be the somewhere between the size of a quarter and 50cent piece.

The surgery was a complete success. The hole was repaired. Dr. Louis also determined that the rest of the right eye socket is healing extremely well, including the bottom so no additional bone grafting or plastic surgery should be needed.

Dr. Fisher, a neurosurgeon, met with us the day before the surgery. He was available for Dr. Louis if any 'brain" issues came into play. When the surgery went over our expected two hours, and lasted four hours instead, we felt certain that issues had arisen and Dr. Fisher had to be called in. Much to our relief, when Dr. Louis spoke to us post-surgery, he said everything went great and there was no need for Dr. Fisher to join in. I must have had a look of alarm, or something, when asking about the duration, his comment was something like, "Well, we like to take things slowly". That I do appreciate!! When he explain the size of the hole, length of grafting incision, it all made sense. And we were sure relieved Dr. Fisher's expertise was not needed. Even minor movements of brain tissue is a scary thing. I did not want to give back any of Joe's recovery thus far. There was no brain herniation nor any cerebral spinal fluid leakage present so that was fabulous news too.

The next step will be repairing the defect (dent) in Joe's right forehead. (Unknown to us previously, Dr. Fisher showed us that the skull fracture extended a long way across the skull, like maybe 8 or so inches. This fracture has healed but is somewhat misaligned.) Dr. Fisher recommends that we go with a relatively small implant and simply repair the dent rather then go with a much larger one that would repair the misalignment given that Joe's hair is thick and completely hides the ridge. This seemed very practical and reasonable. We hope to have this surgery done in the next month or so.

Surgery was Thursday, finishing at 5:45 pm. Friday morning, at 7:30am, Joe was conversing, starving to death and asked Dr. Fisher when he could be released, have normal food, and most importantly if he could attend Stephen's cross country meet Saturday morning. Dr. Louis was surely willing to keep Joe in the hospital but Joe really wanted to leave, felt well enough and I knew I had Jackie and Phil to help with any issues and concerns. By noon, after both a wonderful breakfast and lunch, Joe was ready to go. It was a done deal.

The cross country meet was great. Joe is tired but we still made 5:30 Mass and saw Fr. Phil. Some things just seem right. Joe has some serious swelling on his right eye lid. (Think the first Rockie movie--ouch). The left skull incision looks great and is healing. No hair was shaved so it is like searching in a forest for the staples. Incredible what now can be done.

Today we are in resting mode. It is about 95 degrees here so a short walk this morning was plenty. Joe is helping Stephen with a genealogy project now so more normal is good. There is still a long road, but little things each day brighten my spirits. The boys, the company of Phil and Jackie, the support of my folks, our siblings, the kind words, friendly smiles, and prayers of so many who are on this journey with us. Words can not express the depth of our appreciation.

Joe and Ginny

Friday, September 17, 2010

Update from Dad Leahy regarding Joe via Lisa

Joe looking good this AM, Dr said if all stays OK he can go home at noon, so we are scrambling to pack etc. More info, if any, later.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sept. 16, 2010 10:20 pm

Hi Everyone

The surgery was long--didn't actually start surgery until 1:45--finished around 5:30--
they were able to do the bone graft and repair the bones above the eye. At some point they thought we were going to have to make the repair from the top--which was more dangerous, time-consuming, and with a longer recovery--but fortunately were able to make the repairs from below the eyebrow. He went back to his room pretty quickly after surgery and was eating a cookie. Thank you so much for all of your prayers.Keep them coming!


Sept. 16 3:00 pm Lisa

Hi Everyone

Quick note to let you know that Joe didn't go into surgery until 12:30. Will let you know how it went as soon as I hear. Love, Lisa

From Ginny Through Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

Please pray that Joe's surgery today goes smoothly. I've copied an excerpt from Ginny's email to the family here. Love to all, Lisa

The timing for the surgery was today at 5:30am, which got moved to 10 am. No food from midnight on. Ugh. The duration depends on what they find. If the repair can be done from below, just under the brow, it will be 1.5 to 2.00 hours long. If brain or brain fluid has seeped into the opening, then the entrance has to be made from above, though the forehead, and the duration extends to as much as 5 hours. The latter will mean a much longer stay here too. I only have under clothes for 3 days so I am optimistic!! But Walmart is close too, if necessary. Joe really wants to make the XC meet Saturday. Now that is optimistic.

Love, Gin

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Sept. 12, 2010 Lisa

Hi Everyone

We are very happy to report that Mel Warnecke, Ginny's dad is out of the hospital and recovering quite well at home. Thank you so much for your prayers! Please keep them coming as Joe's surgery is this Thursday, Sept. 16 at University of Alabama-Birmingham. The goal of this surgery is to repair the orbital

Dr. John Long, an Oculoplastic and Reconstructive Surgeon (originally from Iowa--where the Leahy extended family harken from--so you know he's got to be awesome!)will be working to repair the orbital region, particularly the upper part (roof?). There is a gap in the bones under the eyebrow and I believe they are planning a bone graft to plug the gap. As they can't do an MRI due to everything in Joe's skull already, they don't know the whole story of what is going on. Another surgeon, Dr. Lewis, will be present to lift the brain out of the way if it has fallen down into the orbital region (Again, my apologies to the medical people out there--it's something like that).

Phil and Jackie Leahy (Joe, Paul, and my parents), are heading down to Alabama to help out. Last we heard is that Joe may not be in hospital for as long as once projected given that he's having one procedure rather than three. Joe is even hoping to get to Stephen's cross country meet next weekend! Gotta love the great attitude!

Congrats to Stephen who did a great job in the last cross country meet (5K or 3.1 miles). He ran it in 19 minutes 33 seconds and finished 21st place out of 3326 runners!

Love to all,


Monday, September 6, 2010

Prayers Needed For Ginny's Dad!!!!!!!!!!! Labor Day 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Brother Joe just called to request that I blog that Ginny's dad, Mel Warnecke, is seriously ill in Lima Hospital (Lima, Ohio) with a Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection. By definition this bacterium is difficult to treat. As I recall I think Joe said it started with a simple infection of a hair follicle on Mel's arm. We ask for your prayers for Mel, his wife Kate, poor Ginny who has been through the ringger this year, and the entire family.

I will keep you posted as I hear updates.

God's Peace to all of you,


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Please continue to pray for Joe and all of us. Everythng keeps changing regarding surgeries and it is very unsettling. The surgeries are not trivial and carry with them risk. Wanted to share this wonderful tribute to Joe-the St. John's 2009-2010 yearbook was dedicated to him as you can see from the picture above.

Love to all,


Saturday, August 28, 2010

8-28-2010 From Ginny posted by Lisa

Dear all,

UAB Oral Maxillofacial called yesterday to let us know that Joe's first surgery, which will be done at UAB, is scheduled for Sept 16, 5:30 am. We also need to be in Birmingham all day on the 15th for pre-op and not less than two doctors appointments. Two or three surgeons will be attending, including Dr. Fisher, Oral Max, a Neuro-surgeon (Dr. Fisher) and possibly a Ocular Plastics physician (Dr. Long). The work, to my limited understanding, will be limited to Joe's right orbital and possibly include some work on Joe's right eye ball.

The staff explained to me that most folks stay at the Marriott connected to the hospital. The hospital stay will be a minimum of 3-4 days, with possible extension depending on Joe's recovery. Joe parent's Phil and Jackie will be with me and Joe for the surgery and be staying in Birmingham for the duration of Joe's stay in the hospital.

After a period of observation and recovery, a prosthetic will be installed on Joe's right frontal lobe in a separate surgical procedure. We had hoped to combine these two items but the physicians recommend a period of observation between the two procedures. These are the two major surgeries to my understanding. Additional work will follow though I do not know the time frame.

Love, Ginny

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Aug. 3, 2010 Lisa

Hello Everyone

We all had a great visit. The Omaha clan is the last to leave Ohio. Joe, Ginny, and Stephen left yesterday for Alabama and got there with no problems. Joe and Ginny's last day was very busy. Joe was interviewed by a reporter for the Circleville Herald and the story and Joe and Ginny's pictures were on the front page of the paper. This was followed by a gathering of some members of Joe's high school class (1978), and that was very enjoyable for Joe. Memorable line from Joe was: "Surely we can get together as a class more often and not wait for someone to get shot." I think efforts are underway to meet more often and start a class of 78 facebook group. Later that evening, everyone came out to Gary and Deb Scherer's farm for a cookout. Great night. Everyone really enjoyed it and appreciate Deb and Gary's continued hospitality.

I must also mention before closing that I was in such a hurry in writing the last post that I mistakenly said my younger brother Paul had a son named Keith. This is not accurate. Paul and wife Lisa have 2 kids, Nick and Devon. Joe and Ginny have 2 kids, Keith (19) and Stephen (15).

Lastly, some of us went skydiving in Xenia Ohio and it was amazing! Ginny texted me as they were traveling back to Alabama that their family would like to do that.

Maybe next year....??

Take care all. More pix to be posted soon.

Lisa Leahy Scherer

Friday, July 30, 2010

Pictures from July 29, 2010 Lisa

Friday, July 30, 2010 Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

The entire Leahy clan is in Circleville, Ohio (except for Keith who is finishing up summer class finals at U. Alabama-Huntsville--poor guy!). Joe, Ginny, and Stephen arrived in Circleville on Wed. night (28th) and will be in Ohio through the weekend. Paul Leahy and wife Lisa and kids Devon and Keith here from Carmel, Indiana. Lisa Leahy Scherer (me) and my husband, Mark, and kids Eric and Phil here from Omaha (along with Jillian and Jessica, Eric's and Phil's girlfriends). We've been having such a wonderful time. It's been such a blessing being together, not to mention miraculous that Joe is doing so well!

We all hung out at the lake Deer Creek State Park yesterday. We had the Scherer ski boat and a pontoon boat that Paul and Lisa had rented. The big news is that Joe tubed quite awhile behind the ski boat--we were are a little nervous but elated at this milestone! Several of the Gary and Deb Scherer and Tom and Julie Scherer clan joined the Leahy family for a great day. The weather was awesome and we practically had the lake to ourselves. We capped the evening with a great meal at the Deer Creek Lodge to celebrate Nick Leahy's (Paul and Lisa's son) 10th birthday.

Another accomplishment that Joe is very proud of is his running progress. He wants all of you to know that this morning he ran 2.4 miles, longer than he's run in a year! By the way, Ginny ran the whole way with him (I could only do 1.2 miles before having to walk!). Stephen ran about 10 miles! It's exhausting keeping up with them!

Joe, Ginny, and Stephen leaving for Indian Lake after lunch today to visit Ginny's parents, Mel and Kate Warnecke, and all of her family and friends in that area. They will be back tomorrow in time for 5:00 mass at St. Joseph's--it will be nice to be together with the St. Joseph's community who prayed so hard for Joe's recovery (though we know and appreciate the fact that Joe and our family have benefited from the prayers of many people from all faiths!)

On Sunday, Joe is being interviewed for our local paper, the Circleville Herald, and shortly after that will be a early afternoon reception for him at the clubhouse of our parents' condo, the Crossings. Joe is looking forward to seeing all his classmates and other friends, and we are all grateful to Julie Scherer for setting this up. Thanks also to Debbie and Gary Scherer for letting most of our family crash at their house and feeding us all!

Pictures are forthcoming! Love to all and enjoy the remaining days of summer!

Lisa Leahy Scherer

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010 Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

Ginny called today with very good news. Joe graduated today from physical therapy!

His lower body is VERY strong given his displined workouts at the track and his conscientiousness in giving 110% to his PT regimen. His physical therapists played Pomp and Circumstance graduation music to celebrate his matriculation; we are all so proud of him and grateful for his wonderful therapists! Joe will continue at the Shelby Center in Huntsville for occupational therapy as the left side of his upper body still needs work. His left upper body is not so much "left side neglect" as it is "left side inattention" so more work is needed there. We are so grateful for Joe's graduation from PT because it frees up Ginny and Joe's schedule to get to U. of AL-Birmingham Low Vision Clinic.

The BEST BEST BEST news is that Ginny is driving Joe and Stephen to Circleville on July 28 to see family and friends. We are sooooooooooooo elated about this news as the Omaha Scherer Family will be in Circleville from July 26 through Aug. 3 so we will be able to see Joe, Ginny and Stephen (sad that Keith won't be there as he has summer finals that week!). In addition, we already were coordinating with Joe's brother Paul, his wife, Lisa, and their children Devon and Nick to come to Circleville. We might have all the sibs and family together with Mom and Dad Leahy in Circleville as well as many of Ginny sibs and her parents, Mel and Kay Warnecke, at Indian Lakes, Ohio.

So much tragedy, loss, and sadness, yet so much gratitude and hope. Our family thanks all who have prayed for us and helped our family in any way. You are blessed. Remember our Good Lord cannot be outdone in generosity, and we wish you many more blessings, and we dare to presume that you will continue to keep Joe and our family in your prayers.

Friday, July 2, 2010

July 2, 2010

Dear Friends and Family

I've gotten some emails from Ginny that indicate some disagreements among the experts regarding whether brain has herniated into the right eye and whether a titanium or some softer prosthetic should be put in place. Everyone disappointed as the surgery is 6 weeks out, and we all continue to worry about Joe's fall risk.

Hope you all are well and enjoy the 4th. please continue to keep Joe and Ginny and family in your prayers.

Love and Blessings,


Sunday, June 27, 2010

June 27, 2010 Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

Since the last post, Ginny and Joe celebrated their 26th anniversary. Congratulations Joe and Ginny! It is clear that your love and devotion to each other as well as your incredible faith in God's love for us, despite the madness of Feb. 12, has enabled you to weather this tragedy with grace and resolve.

We are grateful for Joe's continued improvement but many challenges remain. Joe is able to open his mouth much better and thus eating is less of a struggle. After the surgery that removed his external mandible fixator in May, Joe could barely open his mouth--they measured the opening as 13 centimeters--but now he's up to 31 cm with 40 being "normal." Friday Joe and Ginny went to a picnic gathering in the neighborhood with 3 other couples (Happy Birthday, Bill) and had a great time. Though Joe does better with one-on-one conversations, he has improved in his cognitive ability to process multiple verbal inputs. We are quite proud of Keith and Stephen who have been a great help to Ginny by helping their Dad and giving Ginny time to address the myriad routine household issues everyone faces. Keith is his Dad's strength coach, helping him with his left grip strength, which is one of the few areas on the left side to remain weak. Stephen is Joe's running coach; as you can see from the picture from the last post, he goes to the track to work out and is now JOGGING!! He made it around the track twice (800 meters) in 6 minutes. He is quite happy about his improvement but still bemoans being so out of shape. He apparently has jogged around the neighborhood as well. This is all well and good, but despite the fact that Joe is no longer running into walls at home and is more "sure footed" to use Gin's words, we are all worried about Joe falling. Recall that Joe was originally scheduled to have a plate inserted in his skull to protect his soft spot on July 6; this surgery is now at least 6 weeks out for a variety of reasons. Apparently the neurosurgeon, Dr. Tau, wants more detailed scans, to ensure the fit of this prosthetic plate, as do the manufacturers of the plate. However, we've been waiting 2weeks for the scans to be scheduled and after those are done, sent and read, it takes another 4 weeks to actually make the prosthetic, and then there is the scheduling of the surgery, etc. PLEASE pray for this process to speed up a bit as the brain is herniating into the right eye area(gravity?). Once this surgery is complete, the next step is the right eye but the nature of that step remains unclear. Recall that Joe is blind in the right eye and this is the eye that sustained the greatest damage from the bullet. The doctors are keeping an eye on it as it is sinking. So far it is still getting oxygen so still viable but may eventually have to be removed--the odds of the latter depends on which doc one talks to. Though there can be no major surgery any time soon to the bones above and below the eye due to dangerous proximity to brain tissue, a prosthetic eye appears to be possible anyway. This is all very complicated and I apologize if I don't have this quite right. In any event, the key surgery is the plate insertion, so again, please pray the scans get scheduled and the whole process is expedited a bit. The left eye vision is without question the biggest threat to Joe's quality of life and is his greatest challenge. He still only sees the right third of the visual field, suffering from what the experts refer to as "left side neglect" He has therapy and exercises to help him learn to scan left. When talking to Dad Leahy on Father's Day, he mentioned that an improvement of Joe's vision is something he constantly prays for--I'm sure Mom, Ginny and the whole extended family agrees!

I hope I wasn't too negative in this post as there is so much to be grateful for. Joe and Ginny have increasingly been able live a bit more "normally" and have gone to graduation parties, church, and other outings. Joe has been to the university periodically talking to his research advisees and other activities. He is working very hard in therapy and I think sleep has improved somewhat though I forgot to ask Ginny if Joe is still waking up for breakfast snack at 3 am.

As always, we ask for your continued prayers, and we thank you for all you have done for Joe and our family.

Blessings to all,


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 15, 2010 Lisa and Ginny

Dear Family and Friends,

The picture I've included is from Stephen--Joe has been working hard to get back in shape--I'd venture to say he is in much better shape than at least half of America, even after being shot!

Joe has been making lots of progress, and the biggest news is the next surgery is scheduled for July 6. The surgeon will be inserting a plate in his skull to protect the soft area where the dead and contaminated brain matter had been removed immediately following the shooting. On a lighter note, Ginny is utilizing a gift card to avoid trimming Joe's toes--yes, Joe will be having a pedicure as part of his Father's Day celebration!

The rest of this post is from an email from Ginny. Love to all and Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there! Lisa

All good here. Day to day progress. Boys helping so much with chores, etc. When we are home, Joe spends some time doing homework given to us by therapists. I am actually enjoying having some summer time home with boys. It has always been hard for me to work in the summer and leave kids alone. So I am taking advantage of it.

Sleeping is still rough. Joe awakes so often in the night. He gets disoriented as to the time and regularily we are up at 3ish, eating some breakfast and back to bed. That is our agreement....rather than arguing!! The deal is, I help him with breakfast, he agrees to come back to bed when done....rather than staying up. Unfortunately that usually makes us up late, which in turn seems to mess up the next night. But this is soooooo much better than early on when he was waking, what seemed like every hour and was completely unbalanced, not even being able to walk to the bathroom alone. I get tired sometimes, as I still struggle with taking naps. The caffine likely my issue therefore self inflicted.

Joe's therapist are so wonderful with him. Eating has been a really messy event and now his speech therapist is really working on this issue. Only being able to open a small amount, but still thinking a tall sandwich fits, well, you get the picture. Joe uses a jaw spreader now (Dynasplint exerciser three times a day), which is working to enlarge the opening to his mouth, the muscles of which got so tight during the time wearing the external fixature. Early on he could barely open much wider than a straw.

Cognatively, and probably most importantly, Joe's short term memory is really getting better. Now he remembers current things, like shutting off water, going to Mass, eating a meal, whereas before, it was tough for him. You can imagine our relief at seeing the improvement. The boys still raise our eyebrows when Joe really remembers something small and insigificant.

More soon. Got to dash. Love, Ginny

Friday, May 28, 2010

May 28, 2010 Lisa

Thought you all would enjoy a picture of Ginny's well-wishing pork friends who arrived to celebrate her 50!

Speaking of birthdays. Happy Birtthday to Joe and Ginny's nephew (our son) Eric who turned 23 today!

Love to everyone! Lisa

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

May 24, Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

It has been awhile since I've posted due to all the preparations for the graduation party for our youngest son, Phil, who recently graduated from Creighton Prep. Mom and Dad Leahy traveled by car from Alabama to Nebraska to celebrate with us--was great to see them--they are now back in Ohio (Ginny's mom and sister Mary I believe going down to Alabama at the end of the week). Also was great to see Mark's mom and dad and brother Gary and sister-in-law Debbie who all came in from Ohio to help out with the party preparations and celebrate Phil's big day. They were all a huge help! We are so blessed to have such great families on both sides. Congratulations to Devon Leahy who was confirmed on the same day as Phil's graduation and congratulations to Stephen who was recently confirmed as well. We heard you and the family were personally greeted by Bishop Baker who told Joe that he was surely a miracle and that God must have plans for him. Totally agree! Congratulations also to Stephen for getting a varsity letter in track as well as cross-country as well as doing well academically! Happy 50th Birthday to Ginny! We hope you had a chance to enjoy it! Rumor has it that a pack of plastic pigs were left in your yard and Joe wished the pigs had been real so he could cuddle one in bed--too funny! Keith, happy birthday to you as well--19so you are legally an adult in Nebraska at least! 3 classes in the summer--yikes! We're so proud of all your hard work and making this transition to UAH. Good luck and don't work until they're done!

Again, sorry it has been so long since the blog updates. After the party I was out of town on a silent retreat so just getting back into all the emails that have been piling up in my absence. This update will be in no particular order, but I will attempt to cover the major news.

Joe is doing amazingly well--I talked to both him and Ginny on the phone today. Joe was quite excited to tell me that he walked 1 1/4 miles on treadmill and lifted weights--this on top of all his therapy and his nightly walks with Ginny. UAH provided a membership to the gym for both Joe and Ginny. Joe has a personal trainer named Katie who was, of course, one of his former students! (they're everywhere!)

Also improving is daily functioning. Ginny has to help Joe less and less in the shower but she does engage in "quality control" and examines his left side which he typically neglects. According to Gin, Joe laughed about not being sure about wanting to be completely independent of Ginny but he has set a goal of June 23 (their wedding anniversary) to be able to successfully do all his shaving, etc without Ginny's help. Another milestone was Ginny feeling safe enough to allow room on Joe's side of the bed so he can exit the bed. Ginny had up to now been too worried about Joe falling out of bed but feels more comfortable now. Joe is learning the habit of reaching for his glasses rather than trying to put in contacts. He is also more aware of the dangers and limitations of his injury, even more than last week. They've set up a baby monitor so Joe can be monitored and ask for help when he needs to.

Joe's eyesight, recall, is limited as he is blind in the right eye and can only see the right third of a paper or screen--this is called left side neglect. However, due to the continued generosity of Dr. Amy Sanderson who provided Joe with 2 sets of glasses for free, Joe is doing better seeing, particularly close up. At mass this weekend Ginny was elated to see Joe for the first time following along the text of the Mass readings with his finger. He also typed his first letter on the computer--had many typos as he drags his left hand due to his brain injury but Ginny could tell what he was typing. Ginny told me she has Joe hold the left side of the monitor with this hand and then scan left to find his left hand. When he does this he is very successful reading everything on the screen but he often lets his left hand drop and Gin has to remind him to hold on to the screen again. In fact,the biggest challenge for Joe is remembering to scan left. Everything on the left side is weaker than the right side due to the injury location although his left leg is pretty strong according to Gin.

Joe's short-term memory shows improvement. Yesterday he reminded Ginny about a prescription list that was needed for the UAH athletic center which had not been discussed since last Thursday. Ginny had forgotten so she was impressed Joe remembered. The short-term memory is spotty but improving.

Joe and Ginny have been to UAH several times and Ginny reports they are always greeted very warmly and with great excitement. Last Thursday, Joe had lunch with PJ who had covered one of Joe's classes and after some struggle Joe finally realized that PJ had finished Joe's class, given exams, etc. and posted grades on time. It finally seemed to click for him that he could relax a bit and not worry so much about his teaching commitments. After the lunch about 10 other students hugged Joe, and Joe recognized all of them and even inquired about their work, spouses, kids, etc. He did not miss a beat. So many told Joe what a difference he made in their lives.

I've posted many pictures Dad Leahy emailed. One is Ginny and the young man she sponsored (Daniel Conforti). Another is Joe's award and yet another of Stephen giving it to him. There is a picture of Mom Leahy, Joe and family friend and occupational therapist, Nikki Craver (sp??). There is also one of Keith's birthday celebration and his favorite-banana cream pie as well as one of just Joe and Ginny.

Concluding Comment
"Progress" seems to be the theme. Joe repeatedly told me he was making progress and Ginny told me she is so proud of Joe's hard work and patience in dealing with...well... everything! The first thing I read on my retreat was an article by a friend who will be ordained as a priest in the Society of Jesus in a couple of weeks. The theme of the article is that we are all "works in progress"

Keep praying for us and we'll keep praying for all of you.


Monday, May 3, 2010

May 3, 2010 Lisa


I've attached a picture of Joe and Keith as well as one with Joe with the family. Tomorrow is surgery #3--Joe HOPEFULLY getting the external mandible fixator removed as well as his surgical braces. I believe this will mean that Joe will be able to get back to regular eating. I know he is anxious to have the feeding tube removed.

Other surgeries in the future (not sure when) include repairing the bone structure surrounding the damaged right eye to prepare it for an eventual prosthetic eye--currently the eye is drooping due to the extensive damage to the bone structure supporting the right eye. Dr. Tau, who did the original surgery on the brain will ultimately put in a metal plate to protect the soft indentation where the debridement occurred. Not sure about anything else right now.

Joe's schedule of appointments with doctors is daunting and I admire both his fortitude as well as Ginny's in going from one place to the next, especially as some of the appointments require a 1 1/2 hour drive to Birmingham. We are grateful that both sets of parents are still alive and able to help out. Mom and Dad Leahy have been staying with Joe and Ginny and running the household--they haven't left the south since the incident on Feb 12, so have to admire their stamina as well. Happy that Mom and Dad Leahy able to come to Phil's graduation in two weeks and that Ginny's parents coming down to help. Sad that Joe and Ginny, who had planned on coming to Phil's graduation, can't come now. Phil is also a trackster and I noted yesterday that he wrote "Charge On" on the top of his running shoes--wanted to smile and cry at the same time. By the way, Stephen deserves to be congratulated for his 4 X 800 team's school record time and 7th place finish in state. I also posted a picture of Joe with the track team and an accompanying article in the high school newpaper. Everyone looks great!

Probably the biggest concern is Joe's vision in his "good" left eye as he can only see a narrow sliver of the visual field and needs to be prompted and practice "scanning Left" If you show Joe a piece of paper he sees only the right half of the paper and once he scans to the left he sees the left half of the paper but the right half then disappears. Reading is quite frustrating for him, but everyone is encouraging him to continue to practice this new adaptation of scanning left. He is going to a low vision clinic in U. of AL-Birmingham for therapy of sorts for this problem. Please continue to pray that new connections and/or adaptations can be made.

Lastly, I was so grateful to hear that Joe was able to walk up to the priest to receive communion this past weekend, another first!

Please pray that everything goes well with the surgery tomorrow.

Blessings to all,


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday evening, April 25, 2010 Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

Sorry it has been awhile since I posted. I'll try my best to summarize what's been happening and the plans for this week.

Last Sunday was the first time Joe was able to go to Mass since the incident. I know Father Phil and the other parishioners were happy to see the family at their home parish of St. John's in Madison.

Medical Update
Appointments with occupational, physical, and speech therapists filled much of last week, and though the therapy is tiring for Joe he really likes all his therapists. The PT challenged Joe, having him step over 12-inch hurdles, and he was a bit frustrated by how out of shape he was. Patience was never a strong suit in our family! The week culminated in Joe's first appointment with his Rehab doctor, Dr. Keith Anderson, who will oversee much of Joe's care as I understand it. Joe and Ginny really liked Dr. Anderson and appreciated the thorough evaluation he performed and how well he listened. One of the mental tests required Joe to remember three words: cube, ball, paper. After talking for another half hour, the doctor asked Joe if he remembered them, and Joe did correctly recall the words. However, Ginny and Mom Leahy report having had difficulty remembering them! Dr. Anderson also did some med adjustment so that Joe could sleep better--always a delicate balancing act between neuro-stimulators to help Joe make connections and stay attended without over-stimulating him so much that he can't sleep.

Upcoming Medical Appointments
Ginny's last email to me indicated that Joe is scheduled to have appointments with the endocrinoologist and neurosurgeon "next Monday" so I assume that means tomorrow, April 26. Hormonal imbalances continue to be a challenge so we are all relieved that the endocrinologist at Huntsville, Dr. Bobby Johnson, will be on board now, as Ginny has had to communicate with the endocrinologist at Shepherd during this transition. Dr. Tau, the neurosurgeon who did the original surgery on Joe, will be following up with Joe and perhaps discuss whether he and/or Dr. Knolls, the oral maxillofacial surgeon, will be putting in plate over the injured site on Joe's skull. I have no idea how much of a priority that particular surgery is. The next surgery scheduled is with Dr. Knoll who will remove the external mandible fixator and surgical braces on May 4. This is great news as Joe will be able to shave and eat more. He has graduated to soft foods rather than just pureed, and though he has a feeding tube, he no longer is using it--Ginny just has to flush it out regularly. Also on the schedule for the end of this week are appointments with a neuropsychologist and a neuro-opthamologist, both in Birmingham. These appointments are very important due to Joe struggling with not going to work and not seeing very well out of his "good" eye--still not scanning left too often.

Though Joe sometimes complains that he feels like a third grader and is frustrated by his disabilities, he still has maintained his sense of humor. After the Mass last Sunday, Joe commented: "You know, Gin, I am kind of disappointed that my name was only mentioned 3 times at church, kind of used to being the center of attention!" After Dad informed Joe that he now has a handicapped placard with an expiration of 2010, Joe responded "It doesn't make any difference, Dad, the Mayas say the world will end before then." Joe was grateful for all the gift cards the family had received and commented, "you know me getting shot may have helped spur on the economy."

General Observations from Family
Dad reported that when Joe is alert, his long-term memory is outstanding and can carry on an interesting conversation; however he also will sometimes forget something recently mentioned. Everyone is amazed at how strong Joe is getting. He is now going up and down the cul de sac a couple times a day, and he goes up and down the stairs more regularly now as he prefers to brush his teeth upstairs! (Joe could be the poster boy for the American Dental Association--he is so conscientious about brushing!). Also good news is that Joe's stamina, despite the strenuous therapies, is improving and he's not wanting to fall asleep quite as early in the evening.

Some Thoughts for Our Beloved Aunt Joyce
Catching up with email last night, we just learned that our Aunt Joyce Leahy died on Friday night (Was married to Dad Leahy's brother Tom from Clinton, Iowa but they more recently lived across the river in Fulton, IL--Tom dies earlier this year).
Our Aunt Joyce was a great baker and I have never eaten such great chocolate fudge. She was always great for hugs and generous with her fudge, always pretending to not see you when you reached for another piece! An avid reader, she was one of the adults in my life who modeled such a great habit. Kerry, Karlyn, Kristy, our prayers are with you as I know how much you will miss your Mom. But now I must go as our 18 year old called and wondered if we had any chicken nuggets I might make for him--it's 11:30 pm. Joyce, I remember all the late night snacks you would make for cousin Kerry and me when I was there overnight so I guess I'll carry on the tradition!
Love to all,

Sunday, April 18, 2010

April 18, 2010 Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

Just a quick post but many pictures to share. Joe achieved another milestone yesterday in getting to Stephen's track meet. His endurance is gradually increasing, and he was able to make it through Stephen's last (of 3 I believe) races, the 3200. I've included some pictures of Joe at the meet as well as some welcome home pictures. Love to all, Lisa

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April 14 4:30 Lisa

Ginny just texted me that they made it to Alabama. It was a long but easy trip. More later. Love, Lisa

April 14 Addendum

Forgot to mention earlier that Ginny is contemplating getting a cell phone for Joe. I was shocked to discover that Joe didn't have a cell phone. This might be an effective way for Joe ro re-connect with friends and family. On Easter Sunday, our brother, Paul, and his wife, Lisa, were gratified to be able to talk with Joe on the phone. Paul was happily shocked at the improvement in Joe's ability to track what was being said and ask logical follow-up question, including inquiring about his niece, Devon, and nephew, Nick. Another advantage of the cell phone would be an alternative way for Joe to communicatie with Ginny if he neeeds her. Goodnight ALl, Lisa

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April 14 8 pm Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

Praise the Lord that this is the last night of Joe sleeping in a hospital! Hooray! We are prepared for an adjustment but know that Joe will ultimately get more uninterrupted sleep in his own bed. Ginny called earlier to provide me with the latest updates for the blog. If I'm repeating myself, please forgive me. Very tired tonight.

Family Request

She has received many generous offers of help once everyone is back in Madison, but wanted me to reassure you all that for now, the family needs some time to themselves, at least until after the adjustment has been made and a routine is established. Father Phil and religious are exceptions to this as communion and prayers are always welcome. Mom and Dad Leahy staying on for awhile to help, and food and basic tasks are covered. Ginny has reassured us that she will ask for help when she needs it, and she will follow Joe's lead regarding company as well. He does seem to crave intellectual stimulation and at some point he may need to have 15 minutes here and there with his science colleagues. (I feel sorry a bit for the nurses he keeps quizzing on microbiology---how intimidating but humorous!)

Medical Support Team

Ginny also wanted me to relay more imformation about the support person UAH has hired to help Ginny. Her email message is quoted below:

My name is Mary Ann McMeans, RN, BS, CRRN, CCM with Comp1One. I have been assigned to work with you and Dr. Leahy as medical case manager. As your case manager, I will be assisting you with medical issues pertaining to Dr. Leahy’s injury. I will assist in organizing and scheduling therapies, physician appointments, etc

We are very, very grateful to UAH for Mary Ann's help. Though the family and friends got the ball rolling with regard to initial research and some appointments it would next to impossible to continue to monitor and synchronize the various doctors, therapists Joe needs to maximize his recovery.

We are very happy about Dr. Keith Anderson agreeing to be Joe's Rehab doctor; he specializes in spine and neuro rehab and is in the same practice as Dr. Tau who did Joe's initial surgery. Dr. Knoll, the oral maxillofacial surgeon will see Joe on Thursday, and we think surgery to remove the external fixator and braces will occur early next week. The original endocrinologist, Dr. Bobby Johnson, has also agreed to take Joe's case and will also see him soon. PT and OT assessments are scheduled and a speech therapist is on board. Neuro-opthamologist Dr. Cline is taking on Joe's care for his vision, and Mary Ann is determing whether a neuro-optomotrist is needed at this time. The only loose end is a neuropsychologist and clinical psychologist, or someone who is board certified in both which is ideal. We thought we found such a person but were told she can't take the case due to a conflict of interest.

Updates on Joe's Condition

Joe's button, the last vestige of the trach, is gone! He negotiated going up and down stairs and getting in and out of the van quite well. We are still awaiting the endocrinology test results to better understand the heightened levels of human growth hormone. There are other endocrinology issues as well. He is cognitively improving all the time, and is mildly complaining about being treated as a third grader, a good sign according to the neurologist. His feedng tube will remain but will hopefully be removed once he can eat solid food again.

Training and Meds

Other than a few odds and ends such as securing a blood pressure cuff and a removable shower head, which Mary Ann is working on, everything is falling into place. Ginny is quite confident of her ability to successfully manage Joe's care, especially after all the training she has received in the past couple weeks from the various therapists. Monday was an intense training day for the family, and my folks were there for most if not all of the sessions as well. (I wish I could have stayed longer but had to return to work, especially as it is the end of the semester and the students are predictably and understandably stressed.) Ginny has been particularly impressed with her Shepherd case worker, Tammy, who has doggedly tracked down the myriad doctors, gotten their prescription orders and made sure they have been filled for 30 days. This is HUGE! Everything we have all been doing is to ensure getting on the road as soon as possible after Joe is officially discharged. Mom, Dad and Ginny are currently packing up the final items in Gin's apartment and loaded everything into the two vehicles.

Prayer Requests

Ginny is wishing to coordinate surgeries to maximize Joe's recovery and minimize his distress and discomfort. Please pray that the doctors work together to do what is best for Joe. Prayers are also requested for no discharge delay and for good weather and an uneventful trip tomorrow. Thank you for your continuing support through prayers and uplifting texts, emails, blog comments and cards.

Love and Blessings to All and As Always,

Charge On!


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sun. 8:20 pm April 10 Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

Joe is snoozing. Ginny and I took him for a walk around the halls, and he did great. We each hold on to his belt in back for safety, but he walked himself! He was able to detect 3 crosses on a picture from about 40 inches away--Ginny said that distance represented an improvement so we're pretty excited. We're leaving now--we'll go to Mass tomorrow at 8:30 at Sacred Heart in downtown Atlanta as we haven't visited there yet. I'll then visit with Joe some more until it is time to leave for Omaha.

All for now. Love, Lisa

April 10, 2010, 1 pm, Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

I'm with Joe while he's getting his last IV injection of glucose. He's anxious to finish this test as he is starting to get really hungry as he had to fast from midnight. They tried doing the oral glucose test (glucose via feeding tube), but he threw up as he did three weeks ago when they tried doing this test the first time. Thankfully there was a doctor in the room when he vomited so he called the endocrinologist who in turn immediately changed the test to an IV injected form of the test.

Joe told me to tell you that he's happy to be having his last hormone test today, and he looks forward to another black cherry smoothie from Paneras. I promised him I would go get him one for a snack today, but Ginny quickly added to Joe that he had to eat his veggees first! I got him a Panera's gift card today since he's so nuts about their smoothies--when I told him he was delighted.

Ginny wanted me to post a picture but I'm not sure this is going to work as the picture is in a weird format so I'll try it again if it doesn't work. It is a picture from 10 days ago of Joe working on the treadmill. Remember Joe has to wear a helmet to protect his skull.

Ginny got a call from the Benefits people from UAH that they were engaging the services of an experienced nurse to help us coordinate the medical needs, etc. We are elated by this news and very very thankful.

I also forgot to tell you that Joe was able to take communion for the first time on Thursday. We appreciate the extraordinary ministers of holy communion from Christ the King who have come by and prayed with Joe and the family, and we are grateful for all the masses and prayers that have been offered by so many people for Joe and all of us.

I will conclude this post with the words Joe remembered to say after receiving communion Thursday. Blessings, Lisa

"Lord, I'm not worthy to receive You but only say the word and I will be healed"

Friday, April 9, 2010

April 9, 2010, Atlanta Shepherd's Center, Lisa

Dear Friends and Family,

I arrived in Atlanta on Wednesday night, with Ginny picking me up from a nearby station of the Atlanta's subway station. Joe had since fallen asleep so we headed to her apartment where we came up with our "to do" list. My major job since arriving has been to research and make initial calls to various doctors and therapists in Huntsville for Ginny to get some appointments set up and a rehab plan for Joe upon their return to Madison. We're getting some leads and help from the Shepherd Center people as well but there is sooo much to do and so many decisions to make that it is overwhelming at times--left lots of messages today so hopefully on Monday Ginny will get call backs.


Whoa! I guess I should have told you all initially that Joe is being discharged this coming Wednesday, April 14, and Ginny and Joe will be returning to their home in Madison. I'm leaving Sunday afternoon and Mom and Dad Leahy are arriving in Atlanta Sunday evening so they can attend family training with Ginny on Monday and help with moving out of the apartment as well as the car ride back to Madison. Joe and Mom Leahy are riding with Ginny (who has assured me and others that she wants to drive Joe) and Dad Leahy will follow. Ginny has asked me to communicate that though she is grateful for the many generous offers for meals and visits, the demands of this transition from hospital to home necessitates some "family only" time, at least for awhile. Once Joe is settled in for a few weeks, all the doctors and therapists are scheduled, and some sense of normalcy and routine is established, they will be able to reconnect with their friends and community. They look forward to seeing everyone at church, sporting events, etc. Please know that Mom and Dad Leahy are staying on for a bit to manage the household duties and ease this transition.

Joe's Additions
Wait! Pardon the interruption. Joe wants me to blog some information about his progress. This is verbatim from him, or darn close to it:

"Tell everyone that my leg strength feels relly pretty good. I have no problem standing but have some balance problems when walking. I have occasional lung iritation that leads to coughing spells. My vision is steadily improving."

So there you go! We're all in his room, and Joe has been enjoying his pureed food and his juice that he managed by himself, with Ginny only occasionally reminding him to look left to find a utensil or his crackers for his soup. He has been conversing with me in a very natural and logical way about a variety of topics, and it really has been a blessing to have these pleasant conversations with him. He is aware at times that he's confused, but he's so intelligent that it frustrates him when he mixes something up. Yesterday, for example, he thought he was in Omaha, which is a pretty logical mistake given that I just arrived from, and he and Ginny were originally going to come to Phil's (our youngest) high school graduation. We keep reassuring him that he's making phenomenal progress and to be patient.

Evidence of Memory Improvement

A couple of interesting conversations we've had include Joe asking about how I liked the restaurant I went to last night--I was so delighted that he remembered that I had left briefly for a gathering of current and former UNO graduate students in I-O psychology at a local restaurant. Despite the confusion, which seems to be at its worst in the morning, I am encouraged that Joe is remembering newer memories. He asked whether our son,Eric, was still dating that cute blond girl (but couldn't remember her name--sorry Jillian!) and whether our son, Phil, had decided on a college yet. He brought up the frosty from Wendy's that Ginny's sister Patty had brought over to him a couple days ago, and he raved about the black cherry smoothie he had at Paneras on the excursion he took earlier today with his recreational therapist.

Some of the more comical exchanges that lets us know that Joe is getting better!

He quizzed his nurse Mary on the difference between a gram positive bacteria and a gram negative bacteria. I asked him to tell me, and he informed me that it was the thickness of the layer peptidoglycan and the color of stain, etc. (I looked it up and he was right). I cracked up because Joe's been quizzed constantly so he was just returning the favor!

At some point I asked him why he became a microbiologist as opposed to a molecular biologist or zoologist. He replied that at Ohio State the microbiology graduate students were the most normal and the nicest to the undergraduates whereas the graduate students in other areas tended to be long-haired misanthropes who lacked basic interpersonal skills. Really, Joe! Misanthropes! I love it!

Regarding his stay at Shepherd:

"People are nice and work hard but it feels like elementary school in that people tell you where to sit, where to walk, when to eat and go to the bathroom, etc." This mild complaint is very good news according to the neuropsychologist fellow, Dr. Nash, who has been so helpful to us and spent an hour with me yesterday.

He also mentioned: "I'm sure glad we have disability insurance. Everyone should have disability insurance. Very important!"

Other Observations

Joe is walking very well and I'm particularly impressed with his improved ability to transition from bed to standing and walking or from walking to laying back down in his bed. He does this with only Ginny steadying him for balance.

I'm thrilled that Joe is keeping his left eye open now, but again, his vision in his "good" eye has been compromised. It will take time, but we hope and believe it will improve as he is definitely blind in his right eye. I was pleasantly shocked when I sat with Joe for supper last night, and he reached out many times and very consistently to drink his bottle of Ensure or his water (and he occasionally stole some sips of Ginny's soda, teasing her that she should share some of her "sweet nectar."

Stephen called to tell Joe about his track races last night, and he was delighted at his progress and told him "you're doing a great job, Stephen, keep up the the good work."

Nice Surprise

Joe is now the proud owner of an autographed jersey of Cincinnati Bengals' receiver Chad Johnson (Occocinco). Apparently his respiratory therapist Monte, who accompanied Joe and Ginny to the neuro-ophlamologist office in adjoining Piedmont Hospital, asked Joe whether he had a favorist pro-football team and player. Joe responded that he liked the Bengals and got a kick out of Chad Johnson. Apparently Monte reported that to another respiratory therapist named Ivan who knows Chad Johnson and had received 3 signed jerseys from him to use or donate as he wished. He decided to give his last one to Joe. Isn't that generous! Go Bengals!


Joe going to have a glucose test tomorrow as the endocrinologist wants to determine why Joe's human growth hormone is so high. The endocrinology issue is currently the most critical health issue at this time, and as per Ginny's instructions, I left a message with the Huntsville Hospital endocrinologist, Dr. Bobby Johnson, who did such a great job managing this delicate balance among the hormones, sodium levels, and other issues while Joe was there--hoping we can continue with him as he knows Joe's case.

May not have the opportunity to blog again until after weekend, as we will be spending time with Joe. Ginny wants me to post a picture of Joe before we return so I will do that very soon. You will notice that he is wearing a brown spongy helmet; this is due to the indented soft spot in his skull from the removal of all the bone and dead tissue following the shooting--we were told he probably will at some point have a metal plate put in.

Hope all you Prep boys have fun at the Marion Prom this Saturday! BE GENTLEMEN!
(And take pictures for me. Good luck with your exams Keith and good luck at the track meet tomorrow Stephen.

Love and Blessings to All!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April 6, 10:45, mark

I apologize for the long delay between posts -- no excuse other than laziness and neglect on my part.

Rest assured that Joe is doing well, continuing to make solid progress on many different fronts. A few of the highlights of the last week: Joe went on a bus trip and a "walking tour" away from the hospital with other patients and staffers, and got along well; he carried on a phone conversation with his brother Paul and sister-in-law Lisa on Sunday, asking logical questions, clarifying points he wasn't clear about, and inquiring about niece Devon and nephew Nick; he and Ginny both enjoyed a visit over the Easter weekend with Phil, Jackie, Keith, and Stephen; and of course he has continued to work with his therapists and doctors on dozens of daily physical and mental exercises.

Ginny's sister Patty has been there in Atlanta since last week, and has been a huge help. She left today (or maybe yesterday -- I've lost track), and will be replaced as Ginny' assistant tomorrow evening by Joe's sister Lisa (also famous as my wife), who will be staying until Sunday.

On a more somber note ..... During an examination by the neuro-opthamologist last Thursday, Joe "officially" received the news that the bullett that struck him severed the optic nerve to his right eye, resulting in his permanent loss of vision in that eye. The family has been aware of this since the night of the shooting, but we didn't want to disclose it publicly until Joe could understand the news himself. That day has now come and, to his great credit, Joe has accepted this new reality with grace, and even some ironic humor -- for example, when someone complimented him on some accomplishment, he said "Yeah, not too bad for a crippled pirate." (referrring to the patch he wears on his right eye). He is also battling some ongoing problems with his left eye (since it's controlled by the damaged right side of the brain). He has lost about a third of his vision in that eye -- the peripheral left side of the field of vision, and is working hard to make adjustments for that loss in his therapy sessions.

Another big milestone came today with the removal of Joe's tracheotomy. My understanding is that the trach incision is not closed yet -- rather, he's moved into some sort of transitional phase where there is a button controlling air flow, as a last step before closing the incision entirely. Ginny says he'll have this new device for a week to ten days. Among other things, this should allow for improved breathing and better speech, and is a great morale boost for both Joe and Gin.

I guess that's it for now. Hopefully, with Lisa going to Atlanta tomorrow, we'll be a little more diligent in our postings (but don't be surprised or alarmed if that's not the case).

On behalf of all the family, our love and thanks to all. Keep the faith and CHARGE ON.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March 30, 10:00, mark

Today was a "training day" for Ginny as much as for Joe. She worked with the therapists in learning how to help Joe with his daily tasks and in transferring him from bed to his wheelchair, etc. He is making great strides in his walking (pun intended) and Gin is learning how to safely assist him with that as well.

It was a beautiful day in Atlanta, providing a great opportunity for another landmark event -- Joe's first "outing" away from the hospital. Accompanied by two therapists (she said one for Joe and one for her) Gin pushed Joe in his wheelchair to a CVS drugstore a few blocks away. All went well.

Joe's respiratory problems are greatly improved. His coughing and congestion have lessened a great deal, enhanced by the reduction of his trach from an "8 to a 6" (whatever that means). They've also been able to "plug" his trach (not sure if it's plugged all the time or just occasionally) -- meaning that, at those times, he is breathing normally as if there were no trach at all.

Perhaps most significantly, Joe's mental "sharpness" continues to improve steadily. He is asking lots of questions and seems to be remembering answers on both a short-term and long-term basis, although still with some inconsistency. In response to his questions, Ginny has now told him about the events of Feb. 12. He has no memory of the shootings, but did express his dismay at what happened, repeatedly saying "that's horrible" as he contemplated the murders of Gopi, Adriel, and Maria, and the woundings of Stephanie and Rogel. A poignant moment for Ginny, as she crossed that threshold with him.

So, all in all, a very eventful day.

Love and thanks to all. Charge on.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

March 28 Palm Sunday noonish, Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

Lots of news to report but needed to wait until family had been notified before blogging it.

Many of you have asked about visiting Joe, and though we appreciate your friendship and support, Joe isn't ready for visitors at this point. Rest assured that a family member is with Ginny most days, with a break here and there as she needs. Mom and Dad Leahy were with Joe and Ginny last week, and yesterday left Atlanta for Madison where they will stay until Joe and Ginny return. Thanks to all the wonderful neighbors and friends in Madison for keeping an eye on the house and helping out Mom, Dad, Keith and Stephen. Brother Paul arrives today in Atlanta and will stay until Tuesday, and sister Patty will arrive on Holy Thursday. Patty will help Ginny move out of the Shepherd apartment efficiency as the 30 days allotted to patients' families are up on Good Friday. Mark helped Ginny find a nice apartment across the street when he was in Atlanta last night. Mom, Dad and kids will come back to Atlanta on Saturday and leave Sunday. Stephen will be competing in the state science fair on Friday so congratulations on getting to state, Stephen, and good luck! We are so proud of both you and Keith for all you have been able to accomplish during this ordeal.

Now for the updates on Joe's condition. I will heavily quote from Ginny's email to the family. Again, apologies in advance for anything I might say that is not technically correct from a medical perspective.

This last week has included some amazing things. After a change in Joe's medication to help his brain make connections more easily, Ginny has witnessed major progress in Joe's level of awareness and attention span.

Physical Updates
He has been able to feed himself pudding and applesauce, brush his teeth and perform basic hygiene. He is getting his appetite back and craved tomato soup the other day, which Mom Leahy retrieved from the apartment and brought over for Joe. Due to his jaw fracture and until the follow-up surgery in Huntsville, Joe is only allowed to eat soft and pureed foods It is so wonderful for Ginny and family to see Joe feeding himself with utensils, but his vision from his left eye is inconsistent as is his tendency to open or shut the left eye (note the left eye is the uninjured eye). The Neuro-ophlamologist will see Joe this Thursday about his eyes.

Joe is still experiencing some respiratory issues. Cat scan doesn't show any reason to be alarmed, and though the mucus is greatly decreased the docs still don't feel he's quite healthy enough to plug the trach yet.

A major improvement is Joe's ability to get around. We were first pretty happy that he is pretty facile in walking his wheelchair (he uses his feet to move the wheelchair forward), but even more exciting is his improvement in walking. He walked pretty well with only the support of Stan, one of Joe's favorite nurse techs. from the gym to his room, and then e hsat in a regular chair while Stan retrieved the wheelchair. Of course we were all elated by this news.

Mental/Emotional Updates
Joe strung large wooden beads onto a string with color identification,e also wrote some "microbiology" formulas and related information for his therapist Allison who
was very impressed with his "brain work and organizational skills", commenting that she would have enjoyed having him for a professor.

Joe has recently requested to use Ginny's laptop to google various things. He asked Ginny to search for Building DNA Computer Models and even added when she should add a space between words. After sharing the results with him, Joe indicatdthat none of the hits were what he was looking for but he would do more research later. (Lisa note: I can't remember what Stephen's science project is, nor do I begin to understand it, but I wonder if these search parameters are relevant to Stephen's science fair project??).

According to Ginny, Joe is less content, perhaps even melancholy, compared to a week ago. He often wants to go home, indicating that he has work to do. Ginny has explained to him that he is injured and needs to stay a little longer in the hospital. Despite Ginny's relief that Joe understands and accepts the situation, he nonetheless is sad that he is away from his home, his sons, his friends, his work. So many of the books on brain trauma indicate that increased self-awareness is certainly a reason for celebration,yet the sobering reality can cause sadness and even anger. Though we are aware of this, it doesn't make it necessarily easy to deal with so please continue to pray for Joe and all of us.

We are nevertheless filled with much hope and optimism, and we are continually grateful for the miracle of Joe's survival and the generosity of so many friends and even strangers who have fed both our bodies and souls since this ordeal began on Feb 12. The generosity witnessed in Madison and Huntsville has continued in Atlanta, as Peggy, a sister of Kathy Bradford of Madison, has organizred a group of ladies in Atlanta who have provided a steady stream of food and have alleviated Ginny's concerns about shopping and food for Easter. Thank you Atlanta ladies!

Ginny's thoughts after Palm Sunday Mass
I went to early Palm Sunday Mass today at Christ the King. A Father Lopez presided. He gave a wonderful homily about trying to be like Jesus. He reminded those folks who currently are suffering to avoid being whiny as surely Christ was not a whiner! Instead he urged us to unite our sufferings with Christ and rejoice in having something in common with our Lord, and he asked us to remember that the Resurection is a just a short week away. When I returned to Joe's room I displayed the palm branch, and I reminded him of the reading of the Passion in today's Mass. He seemed to appreciate it. So happy Palm Sunday to all of you. I had not idea this is what "family" means. Love, Gin

Well, folks, that's all for now. The enire family thanks you again for all your prayers and suppport. God Bless All of You!


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 23, 9:00, mark

Ginny reports that Joe had a busy and tiring day today -- he was full go on all therapy sessions, while still fighting the troublesome respiratory issues that have lingered since late last week. Lots of coughing left him too tired to eat much supper, but the respiratory specialist, labs, and other indicators suggest that the infection is getting better. Ginny said he was sound asleep by 7:30, and the congestion seemed a bit better than it had been to her as well.

Gin also reported that on Sunday Joe did a great job of propelling himself in his wheelchair. He does this by basically "walking" the chair along by moving his feet in a stepping motion while seated. Gin didn't push him at all, but gave him verbal directions which he followed accurately, and the really cool part of the story is that when he came to a door that required the pushing of numbered buttons to open, Gin told him the numbers and he promptly hit them accurately to open it. These kind of things aren't always consistent -- it depends on his level of alertness, mood, etc., but they are exciting when they occur and offer lots of hope for the future.

Gin was happy to see Phil and Jackie (Joe's parents) arrive back in Atlanta yesterday (Monday) afternoon. They will be moving on to Madison sometime later in the week to help with the boys, who were being assisted by Ginny's brother Ed for quite awhile, and then more recently by her brother Theresa and husband Mike. Huge thanks to them and all the rest of the family and friends who have been handling the Alabama end of the operation for so long now. Joe's brother Paul is returning to Atlanta on Sunday and staying for a few days, and will be followed by Gin's sister Patti a few days later. (Theresa is also coordinating a lot of the family logistics and "rotations" of coverage which, as you can tell, is almost a full-time job itself).

Through it all, the healing process that Ginny often calls "the dance" goes on . . . sometimes three steps forward and then one back, but always charging on.

That's it for now. Thanks for all the continuing love and support.


Friday, March 19, 2010

March 19, 3:00, mark

Hello everyone,

I'm writing today from the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where I've been with Joe and Ginny for the last few days. The visit has been a powerful experience, on many different levels.

So many thoughts are jumbling around in my mind, it's difficult to sort them out and pass them on in a coherent way, but all of you friends and family want --and deserve -- to know how things are going, so here are few of my impressions:

1.) First, at the risk of sounding overly gloomy, I've been strongly reminded of the severity of Joe's injuries, and the long and difficult road that lies ahead for him, Ginny, and the boys. So too, I'm moved to urge all of you dear friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family members who have been supporting them in such remarkably generous ways, to understand the need to continue that assistance, including most importantly your prayers of support, for the long term as well.

I hope you won't misunderstand me -- there is ample reason for optimism. We continue to believe that Joe can and will make a full or nearly-full recovery. He has made truly impressive strides, in countless ways, in just these five weeks that have passed since the shooting. He can stand with support; he can verbalize and interact -- usually in a coherent manner -- with family and caretakers; on many occasions, we get to see and hear flashes of his brilliant intellectual abilities, his strong and uniquely positive personality, and his great sense of humor. All of these achievements seemed almost unimaginable five weeks ago, and we have every reason to believe that the progress will continue.

But despite what he has already accomplished, Joe is literally having to relearn hundreds of mental and physical skills and behaviors that we take for granted -- from how to swallow his food to how to control the movement of his legs and arms, and everything in between. Perhaps one of the best metaphors for the process, which someone suggested to Lisa, is to think of Joe's mind and body as a deck of cards that have been scattered, and now he is working to collect all the cards and restack them in the correct order. It is a long and painstaking process, and the bottom line is that we are still a long way from having the Joe that we all know and love "back" with us in the fullest sense of that term. I guess I wanted to convey that fundamental (and perhaps obvious) observation to all of you as gently, but firmly, as I can.

2.) I have been so impressed by the efforts of the staff of professionals here at Shepherd, and their dedication to Joe's recovery. Every hospital stay brings its share of uncertainties, frustrations, and anxieties for patients and their families, but the personnel here -- like the doctors, nurses, and EMTs who saved Joe's life in Huntsville -- have shown truly astonishing levels of skill, dedication, perseverance, and patience in their work with Joe. It has been both humbling and inspiring to watch.

3.) I've been blown away by Joe's attitude and strength. As mentioned before, he is being asked to do things, and to relearn basic bodily functions and behaviors, that would be difficult for anyone to accept and put up with even under the best of circumstances, and yet he has been unfailingly cooperative and congenial in all of the interactions I've observed. He has not given in to pity or frustration but rather, whenever he's awake and responsive, he truly is "charging on" and working extremely hard at all of his rehabilitation tasks.

4.) Finally, and perhaps most significantly, it's almost impossible for me to express how proud and impressed I've been by Ginny. She is the very epitome of a "steel magnolia" -- gentle, gracious, and kind to all, but fiercely protective of Joe's interests and uniquely competent in dealing with the overwhelming medical, family, financial, and bureaucratic details that confront her 24/7. Her interactions with Joe are a beautiful thing to watch -- loving, patient, determined -- she always seems to know what to say and how to say it so as to encourage him and help him move forward. It's been a remarkable and inspiring privilege to see her in operation, and I've learned lessons from her that I hope I'll never forget about facing adversity with grace.

On the purely medical front, yesterday (Thursday) was a really good day, full of lots of activity and progress -- Joe ate the most "solid" food (actually pureed) he had ever taken in and did well in his therapy sessions. He was mentally sharp for the most part, and quite talkative during some of the day -- he was "on point" with me on several different topics, including the NCAA basketball tournament games, and he stayed awake and alert well into the early evening, which was a improvement from the prior days, when he got sleepy and inactive from late afternnon on.

Today, frankly, has been not so good. Joe was heavily congested and distressingly "wheezy" this morning, which was alarming for us, and then there was a malfunction of his call button that compounded the problem. The nurses and technicians have suctioned his trach tube several times, and he has been a good deal more lethargic than usual. His primary doctor ordered a new chest X-ray, which came back "OK but not great" -- his lungs were not as clear as they had been a few days earlier, so she ordered no more therapy for the rest of the day, opting for bed rest to allow him to get his wind back. His blood labs were fine, showing no signs of infection, but pneumonia is still an outside risk so they are taking precautions against that. He's to be seen by a respiratory specialist this afternoon for further analysis. It's possible that they might put him back on the respirator for awhile to help clear his lungs.

That's it for now. Thanks for putting up with the length of this message and, on behalf of the entire family, as always, thanks so much for all the continuing support.

I'm proudly wearing my UAH shirt today so, to all of you .... Charge On,