Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hello! Goodbye!

Home! We're home! 

We made it through the crazy flights and short layovers. At one point I was handed a wheelchair and after helping Cale sit, we flew! I grabbed it and ran! Once we were to our home airport we were missing a bag and ended up waiting around for an hour and half! We were laughing because who would have thought that after making such tight connections that we'd get stuck in our hometown airport?! Cale was wearing his red angry birds hat and pretended to peck at time went by with entertainment at least ;) haha! We were surprised not only with walking in our new home, but also because my in-laws were standing in our living room! 

The first night since we arrived home so late we visited, Cale walked around and then we were asleep! Tiredness hit quickly in the Darling Home. Next morning we were up and awake before 5am! Yikes! Hello time change. 

Tuesday night we finally celebrated Christmas with family! Our home was full of bodies and tons of food. We opened gifts and shared stories...such a great time. No pictures though! Can you believe it?! Me not taking pictures? Fail.

Wednesday was the day to unpack and pack again! We just got home and we're off again for a week of fun! Cale was saying that this short time was a preview to being home. :)

Laundry, meetings, visiting, errands, eating, packing and surprises. 
Full week.

Here's Cale's big surprise...!

Here's some pictures of our home! I was trying to snap some quickly before a meeting I had today, so sorry for the lack of quality...

Big difference! 

Cale at home! 

While I was home for the week last month, Mama helped me with the shower curtain. It stopped where the black part at the bottom starts and with how high up the bar is, the curtain was way too short! Mama found this black material that has texture and movement, pulled out the sewing machine and within minutes we had a perfectly fitted shower curtain! I think I like it even more now! 

we are blessed. 

I always know to check Cale's pockets when doing laundry...I was still quite surprised when I found these in his pockets! When asked why he had them he said, "I found them!" Haha! 

I chopped my hair off. It's been over a year that I've been discussing the same cut with the lady that does my hair and finally I committed! I already want to change it a tad, but until the next appointment I'm good to go! :)

Do you remember me telling you about a gift that Cale had picked out for Mama for Christmas?'s awesome. And...she's going to kill me for posting this. Footy Pj's...

Cale has had a challenging week. Adjusting is hard and for some reason now that we're home he hates the checklist. We're going to press on and keep going. Will you be praying for us? Pray for Cale's anger which can stem from all the changes that are taking place, confusion, or a handful of other things. Also, pray that he would begin to accept the checklist here at home. Didn't I just write about how it was an answer to prayer?! Be praying for my heart. It's hard not to be discouraged when the same feeling inside now is what I was feeling before 7E. Although, thankfully this time I know we have tools in place and it's not quite as intense. It's been a busy hard week...

Cale has eaten homemade sweet potato fries and at dinner he prayed that God would bless our upcoming thankful for both of those things! 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Homeward Bound and VA on the Way

 On Thursday after discharging from the hospital, we immediately jumped in the car with a couple we had never met and headed for Virginia. Months ago during one of Cale’s explosions on 7E, a woman walked over to me and said, “let’s go get coffee.” I had never seen her before, but through my tears and weary heart, I walked off the unit with her. My husband was still yelling at the staff, but with the lack of sleep the night before and the already strained emotions of the day, I had to walk away. I had to take time to breathe. This woman so kindly gave the invitation that left me needing only to accept.

I came to learn that this woman whose husband also suffered a brain injury was Shannon Maxwell. Her husband was injured while in combat and since his days in the hospital, she has written two children’s books explaining daddy’s brain injury as well as both of them starting a non-profit, SemperMax which is focused on helping families with brain injury.

Shannon willingly joined me for a few runs and encouraged me with advice about racing. We had good conversation and she encouraged my week trip away from Walter Reed. I’m so thankful for her! 

She also sent us an invitation to a couple’s retreat for brain injury. At the time we expected to be home before the retreat, but plans changed!

I was so excited about this weekend! Cale had been doing so great with his behavior and home was within reach. I dreamed up and painted this pretty picture of what the weekend would hold-that’s always a bad idea! Let’s just say it wasn’t the perfect weekend I had dreamed up, but was still wonderful! It really was a blessing!

The first night we had dinner with everyone and began introducing ourselves. The men were the main ones sharing. The group was a mix from severe TBI to mild. Cale being one of the severe I didn’t expect him to share, but after the second or third guy shared, he leaned over to me, “What do I say? I don’t know what to say.” I let him know that I would help if he wanted to talk. He then let me know after him I could talk. He was able to recognize the pattern that was already taking place. I was more than willing to step aside and let him speak.

He started to share, making sure to say his name and my name. As well as how old we were when we were married. I was 18 but every time we discuss how young we were he always says that I was 17! Haha! He cracks me up. I know that they weren’t able to understand him completely, but I was so proud of him for sharing on his own! I knew it was a big step and only the first night.

The day after we were in and out of sessions all day. Cale was not impressed in the slightest. He wasn’t able to process what was being said and so boredom was setting in. The couple that we rode down with had a service dog so after awhile Cale got up in search to find his buddy Wilson. I looked back at one point just to make sure things were going ok and this is what I found…

Do you see his legs sticking out on the ground? He was laying down with Wilson ;) That shows how much he was loving what was up on the powerpoint.

Even though there was boredom the first day was going so well! I was super impressed with Cale and how well he was doing. I felt like he was a whole new guy! Explosions? Yeah…they’re behind us.

Little did I know that the very next day would prove me wrong. In the afternoon he had his first episode, but every one understood why. Again, I know those moments will come; we’re just working on how he handles his anger. He was mad and did need to walk away but another one of the guys stepped in and we both used redirection to help Cale. Later that night is when things became even more ugly. I know a lot of it was banked on my emotions and the pretty picture I had painted. Cale was upset and once again we were back in the middle of where I had dreaded ever returning to. He started yelling that the checklist was for the hospital and his anger continued to grow. I tried to use everything that I already knew along with a few small things we learned in one of the sessions but nothing would work. When he was ready to leave the hotel room and end our marriage, thankfully I was able to stop him and start helping him deescalate.

My heart was broken. I was hurting and when the moment with Cale faded, the tears came so hard and fast. Why? What was the purpose of the last 5 months inpatient if we were going to leave and everything was going to be back to what it was? Will I always have to use all of my energy to keep this man I love from exploding?

By the end of the night, Cale had moved on but knew that I was sad. There was a long time where he wasn’t able to notice and understand how I was feeling, or anyone else, but now when I’m sad he knows it. He came over to me and gently put his arm on my shoulder, “I’m sorry you’re sad my Girl.” I was trying to pretend I wasn’t sad and cover up the ache, but it was too late. He didn’t remember anything about earlier but his comfort in the moment finally was able to warm my heart.

He is so sweet and tender. I think it’s easier for me to forget how hard the hard moments are because of how often the beautiful moments come. I quickly sort the times that feel so devastating into a file of little importance and continue on because they are filled with such intense emotions and that’s not where our reality to live everyday is.

Even now as we’re on our way home from such a great weekend, Cale has had little moments that leave me with questions wondering if I’m doing things the way they should be done. Why is it that he was doing so great in the hospital but as soon as we’re out and about to live our lives together again do things go haywire?

I also remind myself that we’re not even home yet. This weekend was in different ways hard for all the guys. Crazy flight schedules are never easy. Change brings setbacks but it's not forever. And, no matter how hard I try; I’ll never be able to create the perfect little world for Cale. He has a brain injury and that in itself is enough to throw a wrench in any occasion.

We’re excited for home…a flight in a half left…and we’ll walk through our front door.


 This was Cale's favorite session...haha! Which is most likely where the exercise comment I had posted  had come from! 

Each morning we had a huge buffet for breakfast. I was waiting for our drinks and thought I would let Cale go ahead and get his breakfast. I felt confident that he would be able to get his own food and make it back to the table with little issues. I was right, he was able to get his food and make it back...with a plate full of bacon! Ha! That was the only thing he walked back with!! I did walk back up with him to find a little more to fill his belly...

This was Saturday afternoon...the day was perfect. After dinner Cale and I even went on a walk around that little area in the picture. The sun felt so good even though it was a bit chilly.

And this was Sunday afternoon...where did that come from?! When it first started coming down the flakes were so huge! Cale saw them and started laughing because he said they looked like snowballs.

Last night at dinner Cale had the most fun of the weekend! He laughed and made everyone else laugh. It was the Cale I know all too well and love. His honestly kept everyone laughing like always. :) We enjoyed the weekend at such a nice resort and lots of time of feeling spoiled. I think it was the perfect transition for me even if not so much for Cale. Although, I do think it was really good for him too!

Like I said, we’re actually on our way home. Cale hasn’t seen the house since September before sheetrock was up! I can’t wait for him to see it and his surprise!

Did I tell you we created a man cave for him as a surprise?! Well…that was another one of my ideas and Mama did most of the work…but I did help a tiny bit… :) 

We haven't said a thing about it and I KNOW he's going to love it! 

The next couples days are going to be nuts. We're home today and back out for a week on Friday. That's not really anything new with us though...! I'll at least get a quick post up before we head back out and let you know how much this man of mine is loving home. 

Thanks for letting me spill my thoughts...once again!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Farewell and New Beginnings

5 months ago we walked through the doors of 7E. At the time I was desperate. The night before had been awful; scary. We needed help. I needed help.

Mama was with us and having her help was vital to the events that had transpired in the few days leading up to walking through the doors. We were all exhausted but as we were greeted with smiling faces and led to a room across from the nurses desk, I knew everything was going to smooth out...eventually.

The first several hours were full of questions and more questions. At that point I still wasn't able to voice all that we were dealing with. Emotions were wild and rest was so distant.

As time passed there was a lot of behavior training taking place and eventually a med change. At one point the Resident created a task list for Cale which has all of his ADL's written out for him along with extra things for him to choose to do. With each task he completes he receives a point. His points add up and then he gets a reward. When the idea was first given to me, I thought it was dumb. I didn't think Cale would take to it at all, but I was willing to try anything!

Well, he loved it. He thrives with it.

So...apparently I don't know everything! Ha!

Going from him never wanting to brush his teeth, shave, shower, eat, exercise, or take his meds, to now willingly doing it every day-yes please!

AND, he drinks water now.

Need I say more?!

This whole list thing so far has proved to be an answer to prayer!

Mama has been so sweet! I called her asking to make a big checklist to have at home and explained how I wanted it done. We kept making changes, so it turned out to be a more difficult project then planned. Later I called telling her I had a great idea and asked if she was willing to help make travel sizes...the projects continued. Thank you for helping Mama!

The med change happened after the doc decided to extend us this last time and I think it was the best idea. I can tell a difference in his mood but also it's fascinating to watch how he responds to different challenges and stimulation now.

All of it is good stuff.

Although Cale is still very much Cale, he has changed SO much! He's way more engaged in conversation. If he's in a room with others all talking, he may not quite be able to follow what's going on, but he doesn't automatically shut down anymore or get really angry and yell. He doesn't have to win every game he plays; losing a game isn't the end of the world! He's able to find a way to entertain himself on his own without having to have someone else entertain him constantly. He's built relationships on his own. He's able to take a minute and talk about why he's angry rather than automatically explode. He can be angry and not instantly want to put his hands on anyone.

These are HUGE things in the life of someone with a brain injury! He's had to relearn and it's taken time but he's come so far! I bet I could add several more things to the list!

With all that has taken place and the changes we've seen in Cale, we all know that we're dealing with a severe brain injury and that means he's not just "fixed." There will be more outbursts. There will be times that he will protest and fight so he doesn't have to brush his teeth and there will even be more times that when I get in his way, he may try to hurt me.

Over the last couple months we've been able to create a solid safety plan. I've thought over all the different possibilities and tried to prepare as best as possible, including talking with the police department. The last two times we were about to discharge, I didn't feel peace about it. I wasn't confident and wasn't quite sure I was ready. This time I feel confident! This is the right time and both of us are ready to start this new chapter in our lives! 

The exciting news is that we discharged Thursday afternoon!!!!!!!!

Cale prayed Wednesday, "Thank you God for helping me make it."

We're done. We're actually done. 


Pictures & More...

Cale enjoyed getting his picture with these two...although he made sure to let Mrs. East Coast know that the West Coast is better. :)

Cale was excited the other day when he realized friends are free. He said, "Yay! I like free things!"

We met these two. And, we love them. I was so blessed watching Cale and Mike interact. Mike is very aware of his injury and would ask Cale different things like, "Cale, do you have problems with your memory too?" Cale would reply, "Nope." Haha! This happened several times and each time I had to giggle. Cale is oblivious most time that anything is different. He did try to help Mike a few times though! :)

The weekend after I last posted about my struggle with wanting a baby, Jessica came to 7e to be with her husband...and they have a 5 month old baby. Oh goodness. Thank you Jesus!
Every chance I got to hold him-I took it! He was such a cutie! Patrick and Jessica are two amazing people that have continued to fight for life back after injury. I treasured the time I had to talk with her and am so thankful we finally met!

One of the nurses helped Cale make a count down for discharge. It was perfect! We were originally going to discharge on Wednesday but the final discharge ended up being Thursday.


There were a TON of good byes. I hate that the accident happened but we are so blessed by all the people that we've been able to meet! So many amazing people are apart of our lives in some form now, and we wouldn't have met them otherwise! You know me...I teared up a time or two while saying good bye and then quite a bit after we left. I may be a fruit loop.

Before we actually left the unit, there was a ribbon (hospital bracelet) cutting ceremony!

Seers was even a good sport and wore Cale's Wing Nut hat ;)

...and then there was a farewell to 7E...

...and the very sweet cleaning ladies.

Cale was so super excited to get out of there! On the way out he yelled, "Freeeedooom!"


We are now in VA until tomorrow! Stay tuned for an update on this weekend AND Cale seeing his new home for the first time!!!!! Eeeeek!

Just a funny to leave you with...

On the checklist for Cale, one of the tasks that he needs to complete each day is 30 minutes of exercise. On 7E he had the bike to ride but while we've been in VA we haven't worried about making it a priority. Yesterday when I realized we haven't taken time for him to do any kind of exercise he asked, "Does sex count as 30 minutes of exercise?"