Paul (Joe's brother) and I arrived at the hospital in Huntsville last night, and found the rest of the family in great spirits. Joe's amazing feats of progress have filled everyone with hope and optimism, and much of the fear and anxiety from that awful first week have faded away.
We get to go see Joe for fifteen minutes four times a day, and he looks really good! His wounds and surgical incisions are healing well (today they removed his sutures and half of his staples). The nurses tell us that his latest chest x-ray is clear, so a spot that had been concerning is gone. He still has the trach tube, and is restrained from fidgeting with it. He spends most of the time sleeping, and keeps his eyes closed while we visit. While he definitely demonstrates that he's comprehending our conversation and can verbalize some responses, these are intermittent periods of lucidity. With a traumatic brain injury like the one he has suffered, he just needs a lot of downtime to recover. So he rests while he heals. And then, when the nurses or physical therapists least expect it, he'll draw on his deep-rooted determination to excel, and do something like stand up when all they wanted him to do was sit on the edge of the bed. He did that for a couple seconds today, and scared the bajeezes out of them. Then he slept it off for the next several hours. Those of us who know Joe well have no doubt that this lifelong overachiever will conquer the challenges that lay ahead.
This afternoon Paul, Lisa, Jackie (Joe's mom) and I visited the UAH campus. We were touched by the memorial and prayer wall, and picked up a stack of letters that the students, faculty and staff left for Joe and the family filled with get well wishes. It's wonderful to read and hear all these stories about how Joe has touched people's lives as a teacher or a coach. We are all so very grateful for the tremendous amount of care, support, and prayers Joe and the family have received.
Keeping the faith,