March 1st begins Brain Injury Awareness month. We were hoping to kick off this month with Corey’s big announcement, but like most lessons we’ve learned during this journey, we need a little more time. Your only hint is…Jon, FarmCat Media, is working with Corey and me on a special project that will continue to help Corey with her Cognitive Therapy and many of you will be inspired by the result.
Although the big announcement is a week or so away, we do have lots of good news to share. It happens to coincide perfectly with our advocacy for brain injury awareness.
To begin, Corey is concluding her last week of approved coverage for out-patient rehab. This is always a trying time for us; however, Corey continues to show improvement which will help our therapy team submit for more time by weeks end (start your prayers). Good news; last Thursday, Corey had a personal best with Natalie. She walked 376 feet in a 6 minute timed test. That’s not Corey’s all-time best but it is her current best since her fall November 15th. Natalie was ecstatic! At the ‘finish line’, Natalie asked, “How do you feel? Does anything hurt?”
C – Nope
N – if you had to keep walking, do you think you could?
C – Sure, where do you want to go?
We were thrilled. Her left leg was strong, her steps were balanced and her stride was consistent. Corey has also shown strength climbing a flight of stairs and improving her speed and repetitions for her matte exercises.
Corey’s left arm is beginning to gain range of motion and her hand is beginning to rotate 180 degrees from palm down towards palm up. Anne has seen greater hand movement as well. Corey is beginning to consistently use her thumb with each grasp, lifting assorted sized objects. Her strength is still not where it needs to be, but she is beginning to lift a 1 and 2 pound weight.
Now for the most surprising change; we have written in the past about Corey’s ‘moments of clarity’. Her ability to be present, enjoy an activity and engage in conversation, unfortunately, with the severe memory loss that moment is often forgotten within minutes of moving on. At best, Corey can remember a vague blur of the experience. If we talk about an event, she appears to know it but can’t describe it even with clues.
In the last two weeks she is initiating memories. This has not happened in 6 years. The most profound was this weekend. We went to Long Island to visit family and see her cousin perform in a play. We stayed in my father’s house. Saturday morning after I gave her 6am medication, we lied back in bed to sleep a little longer. As I started to doze off, Corey said, “Mom, I’m remembering something”
M – What do you see? (I ask her to picture what she is trying to remember and describe whatever details she sees in her mind’s eye. This has been helping both of us ‘piece together’ her recall)
C – I used to sleep in this room
M – Do you see anyone else?
C – Billy and his sisters but I don’t know there names
M – Were they with you in this room?
C – No they were downstairs. I slept here.
In 2008, Corey spent the summer as a CIT (counselor in training) at my father’s company The Rinx. My younger sisters’ children went to the camp that summer, too. They all lived at my father’s house.
Saturday night we went to my older sister’s house for dinner. We were planning on attending her daughter’s performance in RESPECT at Theater 3 in Port Jeff. Prior to leaving, we watched a CD of last year’s performance of Me & Jezebel. (this detail will reveal its importance shortly)
Sunday after I packed the car to head home, I came in to get Corey who was sitting at the dining room table in my dad’s house.
C – I’m having another memory
M – what do you see?
C – (looking at the chairlift across the living room) I remember Dedema going upstairs waving her hand (Corey motioned the classic beauty queen wave). She would do that when she said goodnight.
Back home on Monday, we went to my girlfriend’s house. After spending time in her family room, Corey asked, “I’ve been here before. Is that right”?
M – yes, that is right. What do you see?
Corey pointed her finger and motioned it in a circular pattern – speaking to my friend, “you have boys and they were running”
Corey used to babysit my friends sons in their home when she was 12.
Today, we had a friend come to visit. She asked Corey how her weekend was. We mentioned going to see the play. Corey seemed to connect to the statement, so I asked her to tell our friend about it.
C – it was about Elizabeth and her roommate
I was shocked and elated; she was remembering the characters from Me & Jezebel
M – That was the CD we watched. Can you picture the theater we went to?
Corey moved her hand horizontally from right to left – what’s that called?
M – the stage? She laughed because she couldn’t remember the name
Corey lifted her hand and raised her eyes as she pictured the set. She pinched her fingers and motioned several short vertical movements – there were lights
M – yes, it was a simple set. It had platforms and hanging lights that changed color as the scenes changed. What else do you see?
C – Elizabeth talking and singing
M – Yes, she was the narrator and she sang with the cast.
Up to this point, Corey has not remembered this much detail from an event nor has she recalled it 4 days later! What is happening? Is it natural healing? Is it the event? Is it her memory starting to re-fire because of the environment? The only change we’ve made is diffusing Peppermint essential oil in her room when she sleeps. Corey never sleeps through the night. If we get 2-3 straight hours it’s a good night. In the last two weeks, we’ve had 3-4 nights of her sleeping 4-5 hours. Maybe it’s the oil helping her to sleep soundly. Is the restful sleep helping her brain with the neuro-plasticity we keep reading about?
The take away in this month of TBI awareness is healing continues. For all those that think cognition, memory, and physical abilities have limits…I invite them to meet Corey. She, like so many long-term survivors, will continue to teach us all about hope, trust, blind faith, determination, tenacity and living life even when it’s hard. Corey hates that “this isn’t fair” but she keeps saying, “I will do it”, “not YET”, “I proved them wrong, didn’t I mom?” … Yes you did and yes you DO! xoxo