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!


  1. What great news! Joe is really making progress. We're all really glad he's coming home soon. That has to be a HUGE relief for Ginny. I'm really glad to hear he has been quizzing the staff regarding microbiology. Way to go Joe!

    We look forward to when we can all see Joe back at home. Hang tight!

    Bill, Michelle and the girls.

  2. Lisa,

    Although you don't know me, I have been following this blog weekly to keep updated on Joe's condition. I was a friend of Ginny's (Virginia back in high school days) and have kept Joe in my prayers. I wanted to pass along a thought.
    My father was in a horrific car accident 2 years ago this past February 19th. He was not expected to make it and at one point we had to make the decision on a DNR. He had massive head, facial and chest trauma. One thing that you had mentioned in the blog above was that Joe seems more confused in the mornings. We noticed the same issue with my dad and finally determined that his oxygen saturation was going down at night when he would sleep thus making him more confused in the mornings as well as having a headache upon waking. I just thought I would mention it as a possibility to consider.
    As a result of prayers across the nation, and around the world (as my dad is a gideon and petition for prayers quickly spread concerning the extent of his injuries), wonderful doctors and marvelous family and friends my dad is doing remarkable. He has some difficulties and faces some challenges but overall we are soooo blessed.
    We found a support group for TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and if that is available it might be nice for someone in the family to check it out for Ginny. The group has been a blessing and wealth of knowledge for us.
    Please convey our prayers to Ginny and remind her to rest in hope and find peace in the True Healer, our Lord Jesus Christ.

  3. What GLORIOUS change as spring is springing up for EVERYONE....Just being back in Madison will be a relief for everyone. Being able to get a fork out of your own drawer, or move ten things to get a carton of dip will be wonderful. (and a whole lot cheaper :) :) Plus being able to just hear and see from those immediately in your sphere of family and immediate collegues has got to be like being released from a locked up cell. We are still praying daily for your new routines. BUT YOU ARE HOME, SAFE!

  4. Wonderful news, continued prayers for the preparations and transition.

  5. FABULOUS NEWS!!! We're so happy for you all. Joe, you are one amazing man! You are a fighter and at the same time, a gentleman who shows great resolve in making the best of what God has in store. We know it will be a great relief for you and your family to be together in familiar surroundings. We love you all.

  6. Prayers of thanksgiving. God is GREAT! My name is Erin Percy and although I have not posted before today I have been a prayer warrior since that terrible day and followed this blog faithfully. My husband is part-time faculty at UAH and we are St. John's parishioners as well. We will continue to pray for your whole family.
    I have also just become the meals coordinator for the parish (taking over for Robin Kutsor). There are many people standing by and ready to cook for the family. I will call in one week to check on you and see what your needs are but please feel free to contact me if you need to before then. erinpercy AT gmail DOT com and 864-3216
    I pray for an easy transition and continued healing. May God continue to shine His light on you and your family.
    Erin Percy

  7. bkeykens, What is your name? We couldn't figure it out from the blog. Ginny wanted to know. By the way, thanks for the information on your Dad and we're so happy he's doing so well. Lisa

  8. Fantastic news! We can't wait to have you back in the neighborhood. Ginny, you are such a pillar of strength, and Joe, you are an incredible fighter. We wish you continued success on the long road to recovery, and your entire family is an inspiration to all. Have a safe trip back to Madison!
    Donna & Kai (and Willie)


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