Since our last addition to the website in the spring, so much has been happening! While we all settled into a new routine with Art finally at home again, Art continued with his in-home therapy. We were able to purchase a therapeutic standing mechanism, that he oh so “affectionately” coined Bessie. Bessie has been a great addition to Art’s day, as it has provided him the opportunity to stand up with support for as long as he wants. He wanted to be able to do more, safely, outside of his standard therapy. And if you ask Art, standing up feels so good!
My Mom, Sandy, took over the at-home care and continued to coordinate all the necessary schedules with me for both Art and the three busy teenage boys! Lacrosse season came and with that Art got the chance to see the boys in action again! He was thrilled to be able to see them competing and it gave him his first real taste of being back in the community he loves being a part of!
Over time, Art was able to begin enjoying some of his favorite foods again without the need for them to be pureed and processed. As summer approached, another change in the Ward’s world was Art’s transfer to outpatient therapy. With Sandy being at home during the day while I am at work, she and Art were off to Whittier Rehabilitation anywhere from 3-4 days each week. Art met a whole new group of people who would continue to help him in his recovery. There, muscle strength and endurance continued to be the focus of physical therapy and coordination and fine motor skills the key to occupational, and vice versa. However, the biggest change was in Art’s speech therapy. His new speech therapist is trained in a relatively new and very aggressive approach to speech and swallow therapy involving electrical stimulation of the muscles in his throat. Art admits it is a very painful process but well worth it to assist his speech articulation and ever more importantly, his muscle coordination for swallowing. To this point, he was still being given liquids through his feeding tube and having that removed was a big goal for Art and one we hoped would come faster with this new treatment.
I also continued some alternative therapies that were started while Art was originally at Spaulding. There is evidence that acupuncture has a positive neurological effect helping stroke patients recover connections in the brain. And REIKI is also getting some good “reviews” as a massage therapy. Because Art has responded so well to standard therapy, far beyond what anyone expected, I figured we would throw the book at him and see what works! Granted, there were times I considered actually throwing a book at him, but I found that taking him to the movies and out to eat relieved both of our stresses much better!
While Art plugged away at therapy and summer arrived, I was given the opportunity by one of Art’s friends to use his house in Falmouth for some R and R. Having barely gone a few days without therapy in the previous nine months and not having gone much further than twenty minutes from home, this would be an adventure for sure! So off we went for a week of fun in the sun on the beaches of Cape Cod. Wheelchairs and beaches don’t exactly go hand in hand but with advance notice, local beaches rent special beach wheelchairs that they have on hand. With extra helping hands and lots of hard work by Art, we were able to enjoy the sun and surf as a family again. Art was even able to get out on a friend’s boat with the boys (Thank you Bob Hanlon and John Herlihy who would not take “no” for an answer!) Who would have thought?! Though I returned feeling I needed a vacation after my vacation (some things never change), I was thrilled that we all were able to enjoy some of the small pleasures in life and found the joy in being able to spend quality time together as a family. Oh, and of course, so as not to feel too far from the routine, Alison came down with baby Jake for a visit and Megan brought her five kids to make sure there wasn’t too much quiet time! It was a great week filled with making lots of new memories. (Thank you so much, Tim Valas, for your beautiful house and generosity!)
And finally, hockey season came along again! Art got what he had been waiting for…a chance to get back into a cold hockey rink and watch our boys play the game they all love so much! The boys love having him behind the glass and Art so enjoys seeing the progress they’ve made in the past year. Of course, we have to allot extra time, as it seems every person that walks into the hockey rink knows Art! We are continuously saying, “okay, now who was that?” We now fit in as many games as possible. That is therapy in and of itself!
As Art has continued to make progress, there are definitely those periods where gains feel much smaller than they once did. Going from 0 to 60 feels HUGE but going from 60 to 65 doesn’t have quite the same feeling. But one undeniable advance has been Art’s continued improvements with his speech! While he still has to focus and coordinate the mechanics for good articulation and phonetics, he is back to his old ways of always having something to say about everything! It is awesome! Quite frankly, I never thought the day would come that I would again want to tell Art to be quiet, but it has!
Even more monumental, with his improvement in his speech came a better coordination and strength of the muscles used to swallow. And on September 9, 2012, almost one year to the day it was put in, Art had his feeding tube removed! What a victory! He is now able to drink mildly thickened liquids and loves it! His wounds also healed at warp speed and he had his very first POOL therapy TODAY! He was ecstatic to finally get there and exhausted when he finished. But to be able to move his body with such ease will, he truly believes, maximize his unrelenting determination and hard work. We are definitely celebrating this milestone!
We are also happy that Sandy and Mike (aka Mom and Dad or Grandma and Big Daddy), are living under the same roof again! They sold their much loved condo to move into our home. We are blessed to have a situation that works for everyone. Needless to say, the house is always a buzz, especially when the younger grandkids want a sleepover!
Looking towards the future, Art has his sights set on a special walking aid (www.secondstepinc.com) to help him become more independent and practice walking safely while he is at home. His therapists are also going to get him back out on the ice soon! Yes, on the ice! Tapping into all the connections his brain remembers is vital to his physical recovery. It is in doing all of these crazy, quirky things (like when we brought Art his coaching glove with the whistle on it to get him to remember how to blow air out for speech purposes! ) that Art has been able to regain so much in body function and muscle memory. (www.glidingstars.org) It truly is miraculous!
While all of this has been motivating in and of itself, the real driving force behind all of Art’s hard work, determination, and positive attitude has been our three boys, Kevin, Colin, and Matt. Through this whole ordeal I have been able to witness how selfless Art really is. He has wanted nothing more than to make sure they are okay, and one day, sooner rather than later, literally keep walking with them through this journey called life! I told him the other day that I still cannot believe he had a stroke. He told me, “Yep, I got gypped, but I also got a second chance, and I will show them all when I beat this thing.” What an amazing outlook. I don’t think I could be so positive. Several months ago, Art found a song that has kind of become his theme song. He listens to it daily to help him stay motivated and he wanted to share it with all of you, that it just might inspire others too.
In closing, on behalf of Art, our sons and all of our family, I want to thank all of you for your continued prayers and support! Without that, none of this would have been possible! May God bless you and your families and continue to bless ours.
With love and gratitude,
Art out on the boat with the boys!
Art’s journey began at on September 7, 2011, at Beth Israel Deaconess. After suffering a massive brainstem stroke, he spent two weeks in ICU. He was unable to move any part of his body or talk. He was completely “locked in” for well over a month. It was a while before he could only communicate with his eyes. After spending almost another 2 weeks at Beth Israel, he was moved to Spaulding Rehab where he underwent intense therapies for over 3 months. In that time, he was able to slowly start to regain some control of his extremities and was able to go from using his eyes for communication to his finger on a letter board. His progress was remarkable, considering his original prognosis and his strength of spirit was unwavering. He was motivated by something far greater than any of us could ever imagine. He awoke every day with the resolve to work harder than the day before.
In January, Art was transferred closer to home to The Jewish Healthcare Rehab facility in Worcester. Again, he was determined to make great strides in the time he would have there. There, he ecountered another group of amazing therapists who fed off of Art’s fighting attitude. They worked him hard and with purpose. “One month,” is what Art said.
So, February 15th, Art returned home. Let me rephrase that; he discharged himself from Jewish Healthcare on February 15th. He said he was tired of training nurses and just wanted to be home. He has been driving me crazy ever since, so you know things are back to normal! The kids have not stopped smiling since he returned. They act as if this is the way things always were for our family and just go along with our new way of life. In regards to Art and his progress, it has been tremendous. To be honest, it has been unbelievable, at times, and miraculous. Today, with focus and proper technique, he can talk slightly. He can communicate efficiently without a letter board or ipad. It is such a great accomplishment for him, and we are so happy to have his voice back in the house
He has regained some degree of movement in all of his limbs, which is amazing! He keeps building on thatand continues to regain strength and his balance. . He is able to move from his favorite chair, to his wheelchair, and on to the various workout mats and his exercise machines. With the help of his wonderful therapists, he is learning to walk with a modified cane, as well as all of the daily routine activities we take for granted. The list of his accomplishments goes on and on. He continues to have intense therapy, every day, all week and is determined to make a complete recovery. He is a true miracle and inspiration to me and the boys.
We cannot ever thank you all enough for your love and continuous support. It will be a long journey but if you know Art, he has great resolve and will be back better than ever!All he needs is time and that is one thing we do have. We know we are so fortunate to have just that. Please feel free anytime to stop by and visit. He loves catching up with friends, especially on his new fabulous deck! Thank you again Jon and FNH!!!! Go toHOME IMROVEMENTS tab for more details!
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Ward's- Kristen, Art, Colin, Matt, & Kevin and coaching hockey!