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.