Saturday, February 27, 2010

Feb 27, 7:30 pm the other Lisa (Joe's sister-in-law)

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,

Friday, February 26, 2010

Feb. 26 5:20 Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

Lots of great news. Joe was sleepy during the 1:30 visit according to Gin and the Warneckes--the therapists are giving him a workout. Joe's Mom, Dad and I went to Advanced Eye Care in Madison to see if they could adjust Joe's glasses. What is amazing to me is that Dr. Amy had been reading the blog, noted one of the earlier posts on Joe's glasses and realized Joe hadn't ordered new glasses that matched his contact prescription for awhile so she order some for him--thanks so much--they should arrive in time before the transport to Shepherds. Thanks so much! His current glasses worked pretty well at the 4:30 visit so we're very pleased.

Some time during this afternoon the nurse asked him if he wanted to listen to some music and he replied: "Yes, that would be nice--it would add to the ambience" Isn't that awesome!

During the 4:30 visit Joe was more alert and he finally had his glasses working. Stephen shared that he received a 101% on his science fair project on solar energy, we all clapped, including Joe!

He kissed all of us and told all of us he loved us. I told him if was Friday of Lent and asked him if he wanted us to say some prayers as he had been a bit agitated. He agreed and made the sign of the cross with us and lipped the prayers with us. It was very powerful as he settled down. I wanted to let everyone know that during these difficult two weeks when we prayed, Joe's blood pressure decreased significantly!

After praying, Joe indicated that he wanted to sit up so the nurses got him up--it was great! He then wanted to stand but we had to tell him that he couldn't do that quite yet. He is definitely ready for Shepherd's. We are guessing maybe Wednesday as weather forcast (snow) doesn't look good for Tuesday--we'll keep you posted.

Everyone at the Huntsville Hospital has been wonderful but we want to especially thank the nurses and nurses aids of the NICU--you are all AWESOME and you all deserve a raise!

We wanted to thank all our friends and family that have been sending us cards, posting on the blog and facebook for all their support. Our hometown of Circleville, Ohio where Joe graduated from high school as well as Mom and Dad's hometowon of Clinton, Iowa have showered us with cards. We have also received so many cards from Englewood Florida, Indian Lake, and of course here in Huntsville-Madison area. Kristin, thanks for the facebook, the decals saying "charge on" and the art therapy cards from the UAH students--they are wonderful. I am putting all the cards in photo scrap books for Joe, who prefers that everything be contained and put away. Ginny will be taking the books of cards to Huntsville, and I know Joe' healing will be further aided by knowing the vast number of people praying for him--love really does heal.

I include a picture of Joe with some of his high school classmates from Circleville. From left to right are Joe, Rodney Cook, David Cook, and John Frericks (John helped set up the moment of silence and announcement for Joe, Gin, and kids at the OSU-Purdue game).

Love and Blessings to All from Huntsville

and as always CHARGE ON!


Feb. 26, 11:30 a.m.

Hi everyone,

Once again, the report from Huntsville this morning is all good. Joe had a quiet night, and is a bit tired today after all of yesterday's activity, but he has been sitting up in his bed and doing all of his therapy quite well. All you Catholics out there will be particularly pleased to know that one of his newest accomplishments was making the Sign of the Cross this morning!

It turns out that it has not been necessary to move him into a "cardiac chair" as we mentioned a few days ago, because his high-tech "astronaut bed" allows for all of the benefits he could get from the chair. The gang is currently working to reconfigure his glasses in such a way that they will stay on his face, hopefully allowing him to see better -- sounds like a job for super engineer Grandpa Phil (or there's always duct tape). Paul and "Lisa-in-law" will be arriving from Indy this evening, and everyone is looking forward to that.

The family and staff are still in the planning stages for Joe's impending move to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Not yet sure when it's going to happen -- there is to be a meeting on Monday with caseworkers and a representative from Shepherd to, hopefully, make final decisions and arrangements. Lots of logistics and variables to consider. Stay tuned for more info on that.

As always, our love and thanks to all. CHARGE ON.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Feb. 25 5:30 Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

Joe is making miraculous progress! I'm not sure where to start.

He wrote a lot more today, and most importantly he was speaking today. The respiratory therapist plugged his trach opening, told him to take a deep breath and then he was able to communicate with us, even with his jaw being wired shut.

Questions and Joe's Answers:

1. What is your first name?

2. What is your last name?

3. What year is it?

4. Where do you teach?
U. of Maryland (where he got his Ph.D)
Then he said: Univ of Alabama in Huntsville

Then he started to talk without waiting for a question. He had his own agenda!

He asked about taking a shower
He was asking Ginny about bringing him his lessons and activities
(earlier in the day when we weren't in the room, he told the nurse that he needed to get his rest because he needed to get up early to give a test on Tuesday)
He said he had 2 boys and then Ginny told him that his parents were at the house taking care of Stephen and Keith, incase he was worried about them. After learning about the folks being at the home, he said "Good, follow the rules" That cracked us up! We were both laughing and crying at the same time. We've had so many emotions during these last two weeks!

We are in a whirlwind right now, due to Joe's unexpected quick rate of progress, and we are needing to make many decisions and hold many meetings to plan for the transition to The Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Given that, Ginny has asked that no one visit tomorrow (Friday) so we can catch our breath and plan for this move.

Love to all,
Praise God!


P.S. I forgot to blog yesterday that Joe leaned up and kissed Mom too! (I got the business for this omission this morning-:)


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

To bike again....
Ginny, Lisa (sister), Devon (niece), Joe, Stephen

Feb 24, 6:11 Lisa

Great, Great News!

Joe wrote his first and last name! Stephen will scan it in and post it later. We all are amazed especially as he can't open the right eye and he's very nearsighted with his left eye. The nurse put the paper on a clipboard and then gave him the pen so he was writing with his right arm extended and not able to see very well. Keep this in mind when you see the signature

We were also told that they would be trying to get Joe into a cardiac chair tomorrow--not sure what this means exactly.

Other good news is that Joe has been off the ventilator all day and is wearing a trach collar.

He's nodding and shaking his head. He did his own physical therapy workout today for Ginny and even bent his knees and lifted both legs together to his face, lifting his hip. Ginny was so excited and thought Joe was trying to show her that he was doing okay--that he was strong.

Lastly, Joe leaned forward and gave me a kiss today after I told him I loved him--that was the 1:30 visit--at the 4;30 visit he did the same to Stephen.

We are all very, very grateful and awestruck at the progress he's made. When he signed his name, his nurse yelled it and the other nurses came to see; they were all very teary eyed and excited to show us his surprise.

All for now.

Lisa Leahy Scherer

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Feb.23, 7:30

A few short follow-ups to today's earlier postings, relayed from Ginny and Lisa:

Since coming out of the successful surgery this morning (see Lisa's earlier post for details), Joe has been resting comfortably. As expected, he's been relatively quiet and inactive -- still mildly sedated and medicated to stay ahead of any post-surgical pain.

One development that we hadn't mentioned before is that the staff has been weaning him off the ventilator slowly over the last few days, usually on a 4 hours on/1 hour off rotation. Another good sign of progress, according to the pros.

Gin and the others are happy that they've been given the OK to bring Joe's glasses to him, so that they can prop them onto his face, as he tries to see more clearly out of his left eye. And, the nurses and therapists are having him use a yes/no board for easier communication -- when the family or staff asks him questions, he can point to yes or no to respond.

Despite all this remarkable progress, the staff cautions the family that Joe is still in critical condition, and infection remains a serious threat (as Joe the microbiologist would be the first to confirm). Therefore, he can't yet have any visitors other than family, and even they have only limited access. For those of you in the area who want to visit, Ginny thanks you, and reminds you that you should come to the ICU waiting area on the GROUND FLOOR to meet with her and the rest of the family.

I think that's it for now -- if I've misstated or forgotten something, I hope Stephen or Lisa or someone will post corrections or additions later.

As always, our love and thanks to all. Charge on.


Pictures that will make you smile!

Thanks to Theresa, Ginny's sister, for the pictures. The pictures depict Joe and Gin dancing at Theresa's wedding, Joe with a goofy grin at Christmas, and the Warnecke family at Katie's wedding (Gin and Joe's niece)--Joe not in that picture as he was busy coaching a track meet! Sorry for the sideways picture as had to convert all of these pictures from pdfs to jpegs and this was the result--I have enough knowledge to be dangerous.

Love to all,


P.S. We are going to try to have a family meeting at 4:00 and then we will visit Joe from 4:30-4:50. We will also have another meeting from 6:30 to 7:30 and then we see Joe from 8:30 to 9:00.

Feb 23, 11:05 am Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

A quick post to let you know that the surgery went very well. The doctor also added a stitch or two to the outside part of Joe's right eye as it was leaking some kind of fluid,and the doctor didn't want it to dry out and become infected. The GREAT and AMAZING news is that none of Joe's teeth were affected. What a blessing!

Keep the prayers coming. Though Joe still in critical condition, we are witnessing a miracle!

We hope to see Joe at the 1:30 visit but we have many meetings after that. I may call Mark in Omaha and dictate the post for this evening.

Love to all,
(Joe's sister)

Feb 22, too late, too much caffeine, Lisa

More happy pictures. Keith's graduation from Catholic High School and Steve's graduation from St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.

Feb 22, 11:50 Lisa

Wow! Lost the connection in the middle of the post. Here is the rest of the other post.

Hours we see Joe: 10:30-10:50 am; 1:30-1:50 pm, 4:30-4:50 pm; 8:30-8:50 pm

To close, we discovered today that many of Joe's excellent nurses in the NICU were educated at Univ of Alabama in Huntsville and have taken classes from Joe who is a professor of microbiology. At one point Joe shared with a colleague that he wanted to give all of his students the best education possible because "one never knows if one of your former students will some day be taking care of you." Eerily prescient but a grace-filled moment as well.

Charge on and sleep with God,

Joe's sister

Monday, February 22, 2010

Feb. 22, 10 pm, Lisa

Dear Family and Friends,

The day began at 5:30 am with a call from the NICU nurse to Ginny asking her to come sit with Joe as he seemed to want company. Ginny sat with him until about 7, reporting that he was opening his left eye, blinking a lot and looking around most of the time. We wanted to bring his glasses to him as he's blind as a bat without this contacts but nurse indicated it was too soon for that. Joe responded to commands throughout the day but he was pretty tired during the day; however, fatigue is to be expected given the amount of PT and OT he's receiving daily in addition to the hourly testing by the nurses.

The big news is that Dr. Tao okayed reconstruction surgery--at least the first phase--for tomorrow at 8:00 am on Joe's cheek and jaw. Dr. Knoll, who will perform the surgery, indicated that he will repair the upper part of Joe's cheek and his jaw. With apologies to anyone with medical backgrounds for the errors I will inevitably make in describing this, the surgeon will first align Joe's teeth, put surgical braces on them, wire the jaw shut, and put an external mandible fixator outside of Joe's jawline to allow the bones in his jaw to heal and fuse together (or something like that). The surgery will last about 2 hours, and we have been warned by the nurses that perhaps due to the surgery and all associated with it, we may see a little regression in Joe's progress. We are very thankful for Joe's progress and we cannot emphasize enough how much we appreciate your continued prayers and masses for Joe. Father Phil stopped by this morning. We prayed over Joe and received holy communion which gives us the strength of the Holy Spirit to continue this journey of healing.

Many meetings took place today and lots of decisions have been made and others are in progress. We've decided that we need to have daily meeting with the extended family every day to coordinate schedules and "to do" lists. Our goal is to have this meeting at 2:15 every day in one of the consult rooms so if we're not there when you visit, please just hang out in our usual room behind the ICU information desk. Some of you have asked that we post when we are visiting Joe so I've listed that below:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Feb. 21, 10:15, mark

Just received these photos from sister-in-law Lisa (Paul's wife, or as she prefers to refer to herself, the "new and improved Lisa Leahy").

We hear that some folks are enjoying the photos, so here you go:

Feb. 21, 10:00, mark

Short entry tonight, but another good day. Joe's responsiveness and movements continue to get stronger. He waves to the family and forms "A-OK" signs with his fingers; some moments of frustration along the way, too, as you would expect.

Still uncertain on when the doctors are going to attempt surgical procedures to repair some of the facial fractures. Will maybe find out tomorrow when doctor rotations gets back to regular weekday operations. Ginny and family all continue to be extremely impressed by, and thankful for, the skill, dedication and warmth of all the hospital personnel.

Good night and thanks to all for your interest and support. Charge on.