Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Touched from afar

Sunday I was at the Rogers Ranch community pool with the kids. I was tucked away under the shelter of the pavilion trying to hide myself from the searing solar rays that we have had lately. From the shade I was watching the kids and few other families that were at the pool that day. Traci, her mom (Karen) and the three kids (Jack, Isa, and Ava) were at the pool with her. They were in the shallow end, at the steps that enter the pool. They had been there for what seemed like a rather long time just cooling themselves in the water.

A woman that had also been at the pool with her daughters got up from her seat and went over to Traci to introduce herself and let Traci know that she and her family had been thinking of the Lopez family and praying for them all. She was very respectful and clearly did not want to intrude on their family time and tried to separate herself from the conversation rather quickly, so as to not offend Traci. But the conversation continued for a short while.

Just after their conversation she came over to me and introduced herself, “Hi, I am Kim.” After exchanging our introductions our conversation quickly changed to something that we had in common… Ava.

Kim and her family had not had the priviledge that I have had of seeing Ava’s recovery in a more personal light and from so near. It is almost something that you take for granted… being so close… seeing her so often… seeing the small gains that she makes… seeing and becoming accustomed to the physical deficits that remain. It is so easy to forget how many people continue to follow from afar. It is so easy to forget how many people are emotionally invested in Ava’s recovery but do not have the luxury of getting to spend time with her or them… either because they lack the finances or time to be able to travel here eventhough they feel emotionally close enough… or because they are here but do not feel emotionally close enough to the family to “intrude,” so they watch from afar.

Traci’s family, Manny’s family, Larry, the Millers, the Lawrences, the Meiers, and countless others are examples of the former case.

Kim is an example of the later case. Someone that is here locally and who’s family is emotionally invested in the story of Ava, but they lack the familiarity with the Lopez family to openly address them under nearly any circumstance. So the relationship stays as it is… distant… watching from afar.

Kim and I, and later Traci and I, discussed that herein lies the problem. The relationship stays distant because we are unwilling to breach the distance that separates us. Don’t get me wrong. Not for a minute do I think that the gap continues out of rudeness on anyone’s part. As a matter of fact, it is quite the opposite. It is the politeness of others that prevents the gap from being bridged.

It is similar to hearing of a neighbor who loses a loved one, is diagnosed with cancer or other serious illness, or some other tragedy that has fallen upon them. It seems to me that when people experience such adversity is when they are the loneliest and need the most interaction with others. Yet we avoid them. We are so fearful of offending their tender emotions that we avoid the discussion entirely… not knowing what to say. All the while they just want to talk to someone about it.

It is amazing to me how easy it is to be therapeutic to yourself and someone else by just caring enough to let them know that you are there and that you want to talk to them.

Kim was so kind and apologetic for “intruding,” but little does she know that it is that very conversation that may have provided just the lift that Traci needed that day.

Traci and I spoke of it later and agreed that the self introduction on Kim’s part was not seen as rudeness, but rather as kindness. And further interactions of this sort will only serve to make our communities more friendly and secure.

As Kim and I discussed the issue further we mentioned that a relationship must start somewhere. On Sunday her relationship with Traci and the Lopez family began. For all we know they will continue to be dear friends 40 years from now, and it all began with one woman having courage enough to breach the emotional divide at the Rogers Ranch pool, and one woman being receptive to it. This is again one of the lessons that Ava’s story can teach us.

A recurrent theme has been our emotional availability and interconnectedness with others. We just have to open our eyes to it and be there emotionally to let it happen. Sometimes we’ll initiate it… sometimes we’ll receive it… but both have to be there for it to happen. Make yourself available to others and make this a better place.

Ava, the party waits for you.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

From the Lopez family to YOU - Thank You!

I am writing tonight to express my gratitude towards two very important people. I was picking up my daughter and her friend from an event in our neighborhood and a person approached me. The one and only other time I met face to face with this person was the night that he held my daughters head and neck so that she was able to breathe as adequately as possible after having been plowed down by a drunk driver in my neighborhood. There were two people that arrived immediately to the scene, one being a very amazing woman named Jennifer and another named Scott, the person I speak of above. I almost hesitated writing this letter because there are so many people that I am so appreciative of. However, whenever I think back to the accident, which by the way is on a daily basis, there are several images I can’t get out of my mind and two of them are Jennifer and Scott. Without the help of both Scott and Jennifer I am almost certain we would not be where we are today. Ava would not be where she is today. If I have not done so already I wanted to say Thank You for being where you both were the evening of April 23rd. Thank you for taking part in helping to save my daughter’s life.

I am thankful to everyone for their continued support. My Aunt was able to stay with Ava in the later part of her hospitalization during the evenings so that Manny and I could be home with Jack and Isa. My Mom has been with us since the beginning of June and has been a tremendous help. We have other family members coming back next month which we are thankful for. To all of our friends EVERYWHERE thank you for all of the continued prayers and support. The meals have been much needed and appreciated, the car pooling with Jack and Isa has been so helpful and has enabled them to enjoy some of the fun activities summer has to offer. To the medical community, which includes too many individuals to even begin to name, our deepest appreciation for continued efforts in getting our daughter back to the life she once lived so innocently.

To all of Ava’s angels……thank you and good night!

Fred….the party is getting closer!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Memorable Father's Day

My family had the privilege of spending Father’s Day with the Lopez family. This is not anything new for us. Most holidays that we are in town together, we spend together. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have been routine for us for the past several years. For obvious reasons this year was more special to all of us.

I could go on for pages choosing words and phrases that would try to match the grandeur of the day, but instead I decided to spend my time learning how to convert, edit, and upload a short video clip that was taken at the Lopez household on Father’s Day. Given the heartbreak of the evening of the 23rd of April, a mere two months ago, you will see why I thought that it was more appropriate to add this video rather than a neatly crafted collection of letters.


I have also added some pictures that were taken that day. I hope that you find them uplifting and that they prompt you to go and hug someone that is very dear to you.

Ava, the party waits for you.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

We are thankful

Today was a good day for several reasons. It has been a little over 7 weeks since Isa, Ava and I were hit by a drunk driver in our neighborhood……today is the first time Ava has sat by herself in over 7 weeks. Manny was playing with Ava and the other kids when all of a sudden he was yelling my name. I quickly stopped what I was doing and ran to the room where I saw Ava sitting in front of Manny. While this may not seem as a big deal, to us it was another hurdle that she has had to overcome from this senseless tragedy. Ava is currently in physical therapy 5 times a week, occupational therapy 3 times a week, speech therapy once a week and vision therapy once a week. We have also been blessed with an amazing woman in our neighborhood that has offered to help Ava twice a week with occupational therapy. Rosie has a background in OT and like many other people during this entire process has offered her services to help Ava get back to the little girl that we all love so much. Today I was able to enjoy the time I spent with Isa and Ava at the pool. Something I often have taken for granted, I now cherish. Jack was able to spend time with a friend and came back at the end of the day and seemed revived. I was able to put all three of my children to sleep tonight with smiles on their faces…..for this I am thankful.

Our day started by attending church at Oak Hills. There was a motivational speaker at the church today. Many of you may know of him, Bruce Bowen from the San Antonio Spurs. He had an incredible message that I think is worth mentioning. He said ‘you should never give up even when you are faced with life’s challenges’. I saw a man tell us the story of his life and how he faced all of life’s challenges and because of that has become a loving father, husband and very successful NBA basketball player. This accident has resulted in numerous challenges (too many to even count). Just like he did, we too will face life’s challenges knowing that things will get better. Although Manny will never be an NBA basketball player, our family will have the most important thing life has to offer…each other

We were able to meet Bruce Bowen and share Ava’s story. We left knowing that he was wearing an “All for Ava” bracelet and were just so touched to have another person looking out for her. It is because of all of you that we are where we are today. A far cry from where we were April 23rd. Does this mean that I have forgotten the reason why we are even here to begin with? Absolutely not. I am thankful though that I can hug each one of my children every night and tell them that I love them…..something I never thought would happen again.

Each day will bring a new challenge but with challenge will come change and this is how we will get Ava back one step at a time.

To all of Ava’s angels…..THANK YOU!


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Life at home with Ava

In case you missed the news stories that aired over the last few days since Ava's homecoming, here are the links for the videos that have been posted:



Please continue to pray for Ava's recovery and for the family's strength and patience as they adapt to their new life.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Golf, anyone?

The Sharing & Caring Foundation is a charitable organization started by Keller Williams associates with the mission of responding to meet the needs of persons within the local community. Their mission statement states that “success will result through our faith, hope and love of all God has created. We hope to create opportunity as we breathe life into unfortunate circumstances and change the lives of those we will touch.”

The Caring and Sharing Foundation sponsors a golf tournament every year with the proceeds going to support various causes. This year the tournament is being held on Monday, June 29th at Fair Oaks Golf Club. A portion of the proceeds are being donated for Ava’s recovery.
Each Player receives a “Member For A Day” Replay Certificate from Fair Oaks Ranch Golf & Country Club, Breakfast Buffet, Lunch, 2 Drink Tickets, A Goodie Bag, a T-Shirt, Golf Cart, Warm Up Balls, Bag Service, Professional Scoring, Hole In One Opportunity and Green Fee’s.

Fair Oaks Ranch Golf Course & Country Club
Monday June 29, 2009
Registration at 8:00 AM and Shot Gun at 10:00 AM
Lunch at approximately 3:00 PM with Awards to Follow

You can get more information about the golf tournament and registration at http://www.sharingandcaring.org/.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Ava is home!

I am sure that most of you are aware by now that Ava returned home on Friday. There was a small, intentionally unannounced “welcome home” at the Roger’s Ranch community pool on Friday afternoon. Many people from the community were there to welcome Ava and the Lopez family and to let them know that they have been thinking of them and praying for them. As Ava was brought in to the pool area, an applause broke-out.

The applause was warming not only because of the community heartbreak that has been felt over these past six weeks, but also because Ava’s personality began to show itself to the community. As the applause continued, Ava waved like the homecoming queen sitting on the top of a convertible’s backseat during a parade. She is a character… and there are many people who are breathing a heavy sigh of relief to see these pieces of Ava’s character re-emerge.
Jennifer was telling me that when they took Ava home for the first time since 23Apr09, that there was no doubt as to whether or not she recognized her surroundings or seemed to feel comfortable. Upon entering the Lopez’s house a tiled hallway extends straight ahead until it opens up into a carpeted sitting area with a high vaulted ceiling and a connected, open kitchen. As you enter the sitting room there are a collection of children’s toys immediately to your left, on the floor. Upon entering the room, Ava immediately started reaching for the toys as if there was no doubt who they belonged to or whether or not she could play with them. These were her toys… and she knew it. Welcome home Ava.

The Lopez’s spent much of the weekend like any other family in June… poolside. If you were unaware of the tribulations that had fallen upon this family, then you would not think too much of seeing them at the pool… Jack swimming with his friends... Manny and Traci trying to teach Isa how to swim… Grandma sitting in a chair on the side of the pool holding the baby and watching the others from under the shade of the pavilion. Much of the time Manny or Traci would hold Ava and twirl around with her in the chest deep waters of the pool. To the outsider, there is nothing particularly different about this family, but to those of us who know… we know that there is something very special about this family frolicking in the pool in early June.
“Well what about ‘Ava, the party waits for you?’ Why wasn’t there more fanfare?” Well the party does wait for Ava, and while she has returned to her home, her rehabilitation continues and there is still much healing that is left to be done.

Lilliana Story and I were talking earlier today. She recounted to me that she was at an unrelated function and happened to meet someone who was on the Anesthesia team that helped care for Ava the night that she came to University Hospital. This person had not particularly followed along since that time. Lillian told her that Ava came home and gave an update regarding her nothing but miraculous, on-going recovery. The reply was essentially, “SHE IS ALIVE?”

Oh yes, Ava is alive. And of course I do not mean in the “her heart continues to beat” sense. Ava is ALIVE!!! Like “she will live her life and be a testament to this time in all of our lives” sense. She will be a testament to the invincibility of youth…of hope…of love…of determination…of prayer. She will one day have children of her own, and grandchildren. And she will be the matriarch to an entire lineage of people who almost never existed. And you should smile… knowing that you helped make it so.

As for Ava’s party, there will be one. It will be well publicized through this and other venues and all will be invited, but it is still a little early yet. Once a few more uncertainties are resolved, then we will start talking party plans. Everyone has been so very gracious and respectful through this trying ordeal. I am sure that everyone understands and anxiously awaits the “please come and celebrate with us the miracle of Ava’s life…”

While laughter has returned to the Lopez house, much work remains to be done. Sincerest appreciation for your continued prayers, support, generosity, and encouragement. Keep it coming.

Ava, the party waits for you.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ava is coming home!!!

Ava’s recovery has continued to be stellar. She is now able to sit in a high-chair and feed herself. Her body strength continues to improve, which allows her to sit-up for longer periods of time. She still does not have the strength in her legs to support her body weight, but this will improve with time… especially now with the assistance of the KidWalk.

Ava is using the KidWalk daily. Currently she moves by extending her legs in-front of her which consequently pushes the KidWalk backwards. This is a natural progression for kids as they learn to navigate the walker and improve their ability to get around and explore her environment. The KidWalk is especially nice because it does not require the use of her hands. She can get around and continue to touch and feel things in her environment, which helps to encourage her to move around. All of this exercises her lower body more and gets her one step closer to walking without it. Then it will get passed on to another child who will one day learn to walk with it… and then another… and another… and so on.

While all of this is great news… it pales in comparison to this…


Yes! It is true! Her recovery has been progressing so well that she is anticipated to be released from Christa Santa Rosa Hospital Friday afternoon following the completion of her physical therapy sessions that day.

This is an amazing recovery in an amazingly short period of time. Granted she will still require extensive physical therapy, but she is coming home!!

72 hours… check
Extubation… check
Out of the PICU… check
Alert and talking… check
Eating… check
Out of the hospital… check (well, should be on Friday)
So what else is left other than walking?

As we have discussed before, Ava had a right occipital lobe infarct (dead brain tissue on the back right portion of her brain). This area is primarily responsible for vision. I am sure that many of you have heard that the right side of your body is controlled by the left side of your brain and vice-versa. The vision works similarly, but different.

You look with each eye but your brain merges the images from each eye together so that you only see one thing; otherwise you would have double vision all of the time. Essentially, when you look straight ahead everything to your left is seen by the right side of the retina in each eye, and everything to your right is seen by the left side of each retina. Your brain then merges all the stuff that you see to your right in the left occipital lobe and merges all the stuff that you see to your left in the right occipital lobe. As above, a significant portion of Ava’s right occipital lobe died as a result of her injuries from 23Apr09. So if the right occipital lobe is damaged, then this would affect things that are being seen by the right side of each retina. The right side of each retina actually sees the things that are in your left visual field. Because of this injury Ava cannot see things that are to her left, if she is looking straight ahead. This is called “Bilateral Left Hemianopsia.” Bilateral – both eyes. Left - left visual field. Hemi – half of her visual field. Anopsia – no vision… Bilateral Left Hemianopsia.

This is what we need to continue to pray for… her vision.

It is expected that given her young age that she is likely to recover from this too, but until it happens, she is still without complete vision and is not yet whole again. We need to continue to pray for her, for them, for her vision, and for her continued recovery.

Much appreciation for your continued prayers, support, generosity, and encouragement. Keep it coming.

Ava, the party waits for you.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Ava's KidWalk is a reality

Sorry for the long interval since our last update. This one will be short, but with nothing but good news.

Thanks to all of you, Ava’s KidWalk is a reality. She looks amazing, and all of you have been so instrumental in helping her make it this far. If you are still interested in helping financially, you can contribute via the donate button on this blog. The Lopez’s are exploring starting a foundation whose mission will be to help children and families affected by pediatric head trauma.

Ava continues to make improvements every day. She had the feeding tube removed at the end of this past week. She now has no medical support devices sustaining her. She is doing it all on her own. She is gaining more strength in her torso and is able to sit up in a high chair and be fed.
Another first…Manny and Traci told me that they heard her laugh for the first time today since her injury on 23Apr09. It was so refreshing to see more levity return to their lives as they described her giggle. While we did not speak of it, I am sure that part of it is a sigh of relief as the reality of the return of Ava’s personality is starting to show itself more and more. How wonderful to have come so far in such a relatively short period of time, especially given the severity of her injuries.

Sincerest appreciation continues to be extended to all of you for following along, spreading the word, contributing in whatever way you have been able, and praying for Ava and the Lopez family. You cannot be thanked enough for your thoughts, love, and support. Please keep it up.

Ava, the party waits for you.