Monday, July 20, 2009

Meal Calendar has been reopened

We have opened up the meal calendar until the end of August due to overwhelming requests. If you're interested in signing up, please use the following link and log on credentials:

Calendar ID: 15804
Security Code: 9927

Thanks for everyone's continued support!

Baby Steps for Ava

Update on Ava’s recovery…….

We wanted to again thank you all for your continued thoughts and prayers for our family, especially Ava. Ava remains in therapy 5 days a week. She is in physical therapy 5 days a week, occupational therapy 5 days a week, speech therapy twice a week and visual therapy. She seems to be making improvements on a daily basis. To us that see her every day they seem like baby steps but to those who see her maybe once a week it seems like she is making great strides. The bottom line is she continues to improve and that is the most important thing. Her speech is still slurred at times but her vocabulary is back to where it was pre-accident. We have to prompt her most of the time to say specific words but she does repeat them. She will say Mama, Dada, Jack, Isa, Grandma and Callie without any prompting which is music to our ears! She is starting to sit by herself for longer periods of time and is able to transition from lying to sitting pretty effectively. She is also starting to crawl….more of a military crawl but we’ll take that for now.

We finally received the kid walk last week. We had been using the demo at Christus Santa Rosa for the past several weeks. It is not always Ava’s favorite thing however it seems like the time she spends in the kid walk(her tolerance level) increases with each time she is placed in it. She is able to take small steps using the kid walk and I am certain that this will be instrumental in helping her to regain the skills necessary to begin walking again. Ava’s vision is still impaired and we aren’t certain to what degree. We do know that she has a left visual field cut and that she is able to see in her right visual field. Her doctor said that the amount that she is seeing in her right visual field is improving. The last time we visited the eye doctor she noticed that Ava’s right eye has the tendency to deviate to the outside. Most likely due to the fact that her vision is better in her left eye which causes her to ignore her right eye. We are currently patching her left eye up to 4 hours a day. The goal is to make the right eye work more and hopefully the vision can be restored. It is amazing how complicated vision is….sorry that I am not able to break it down like Fred does so beautifully.

Ava continues to fight the fight! She gets easily frustrated but to some degree I think this is what keeps her going. She wants to be running and playing with all the kids just as much as we all want it. Someday soon I am hopeful that she gets exactly what she wants! Until that day (and always) we will be here to love and support her! Thank you all for the kindness you have given to Ava and our family over the past three months. We are in a better place because of each and every one of you!


Monday, July 13, 2009

We will not forget

I was on-call this weekend at Brooke Army Medical Center covering the Radiology Department. A woman bicyclist had been brought in to the ER after being hit by a car. She was in her late 30’s… an athlete, you could say… good physical condition prior to being hit… but this was no minor “accident.” The severity of her injuries were such that she could have easily died before making it to the operating room to have her internal injuries repaired. I have thought of her often since seeing her lay helplessly in the CT scanner… alone.

Early the next morning (Sunday) I went down to the cafeteria to get something to eat. The cafeteria was essentially empty with the exception of a few lone hospital workers eating some breakfast. In one quick glance you could guess the total number in the dining area as less than 10, but there was a cluster sitting at one of the tables. A group of adults sitting at a table talking…eating breakfast… but not really eating. Clearly, they were civilians by their attire. Family members of someone who was now a patient at the hospital… I presumed. It was early in the morning, but this group had not just awakened. These were vigil watchers. While I do not know who they were there worrying about… praying for… crying for… I imagined that they were the family members of the bicyclist that I had seen come in the evening before. I imagined them receiving the call…”your loved one was just hit by a car… You need to get here immediately… They may not survive.”

Your heart sinks as you think of receiving the call. Your stomach feels empty and sick. “I wish that I could vomit… if it would only help with the void and helplessness that I now feel.” As I walked by them I was quickly reminded of the first hours/days/weeks that were spent in the hospital with the extended Lopez/Southerington family… Ava’s Army. I remember that pain very well.

This story is not too dissimilar from Ava. One person with the promise of a lifetime… doing the right things… taking care of themselves… and in a fraction of an instant… it all changes.

But this story reminds me of something else… as I walk by this family my mind plays a trick on me… it makes me feel like I am back at University Hospital that night… I am again peering through the back of an ambulance watching my friend tremble as he tries to breathe life into his daughter… I see Traci sitting on the curb with blood smeared across her leg and arm… my stomach feels weak for a moment at the thought of it. The psychology of it all is curious. Why are we this way? Is our mind trying to protect us by not letting us forget how these things felt? Is it trying to make sure that we steer clear of the “danger?” Perhaps.

Interesting… and I am a guy… a typical guy… not overly sensitive… analytical… “rational.” I am even somewhat removed from it all. It wasn’t even my child. I didn’t even witness the event. Yet, I am affected by it, nonetheless. My thoughts take me to others… women… who tend to be more compassionate and empathetic than us insensate men.

I think about Jennifer, who witnessed the Lopez family being run-down in their yard… I know that she has not forgotten how that felt.

I think about the Lopez/Southerington families… I know that they have not forgotten how they felt.

I think about Manny… I KNOW that he has NOT forgotten how he felt.

Nor will she… anytime soon.

The “void/emptiness/sickness” that you feel in your gut when something like this happens is called a “visceral reaction.” Your mind makes your body feel it. Traci’s mom nearly falling as she saw her daughter for the first time following being hit, is a “visceral reaction.” I got sick once after eating at Chili’s restaurant when I was going through chemotherapy. I have not eaten there since and still feel a twinge of queasiness whenever I drive by it. I see soldiers everyday whom have been burned and busted by the atrocities of war. What psychological demons they must face in their sleep every night.

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a term that we are all quite familiar with, but many do not know that it is a spectrum of disease… mild to severe. It is not limited to soldiers at war and can occur after any “stressful” event. Our bodies heal long before the brain forgets. We must remember that psychological wounds hurt too. They can be hard to see… and they can take very long to heal.

Similarly, the Lopez family continues to heal from physical wounds at an exceptional rate. It has been less than three months since Ava was nearly killed (23Apr09). Her physical recovery has been meteoric to this point, but the wound to the Lopez family from the psychological trauma was deep… and it will take much longer to heal.

There was an encounter a few days ago…

The message was an uncompassionate… “get over it.” (in summary).
For those who share such sentiment I want to remind them that no one is making you participate in any way. The people who are participating in this community event do so out of the goodness in their heart… and they will be repaid in kind in the future… maybe not by this group… maybe not in this life… but one day they will need help… and they will receive it from the goodness of others… because they have been recognized as “being good.”

When Ava, Isa, and Traci were “injured,” those of us who care about them committed ourselves to them for the duration of their healing…

“For the duration of their healing.” What does this mean? When the bandages come off my responsibility is done? No.

Healing comes in many forms… physical and psychological. They are our friends. We have committed ourselves to them. We have committed to support them until they are whole again… in every way.

While Ava’s physical condition has improved dramatically, she is not yet whole… and neither is the Lopez family. And even when Ava is walking and running again, the psychological wound will remain… and so will their friends.

Just as I would not enter the bicyclist’s hospital room tomorrow and tell her to “get over” her extensive physical wounds, we cannot expect psychological wounds to heal just because we think that they should have healed by now. They will heal when they heal… and not any sooner than that.

Do not be angry and petty that this family has received so much attention and support. Be happy that their remains such goodness in this difficult world. Extend yourself to those who need it… It will pay dividends later… in this life… or the next.

Ava, the party waits for you.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sign of Hope

Over the past few months a transformation has been taking place……the transformation of our side yard where the accident happened on the evening of April 23rd. There have been several neighbors/ friends in the Rogers Ranch community as well as friends/neighbors outside the community that have demonstrated the true meaning of “Community Support”. While this is something we never expected we truly appreciate all the effort that has gone into this special project. Instead of looking at our side yard as a place where lives were changed, dreams shattered and innocence lost I am hopeful to be able to look at it as a sign of hope. Hope that Ava makes a full recovery, hope that our family can continue to heal and grow together as one unit and hope that there will be a positive message to come from this horrific incident. We are very fortunate to have the support that has been offered since April 23rd.
To all of Ava’s angel’s….thank you again for exceeding our expectations.

The Lopez Family

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ava is the victim!

This is an extremely powerful and must read letter from Traci...

I had a difficult time sleeping last night and I wanted to share the reason why. Someone recently told me that a neighbor of the person that hit Ava, Isa and I feels as if she (the woman who hit us) is the victim in all of this. I have thought about this statement over and over and just can’t seem to get it out of my mind. I’m not quite sure how to react to this statement except to invite this neighbor to my house and introduce him/her to Ava….the 18 month old innocent child that was plowed down by his/her extremely impaired neighbor. I would like to show him my child that is unable to walk, crawl, stand, sit for any length of time without getting agitated or let alone see to help facilitate all of the above. My daughter who prior to April 23rd was all smiles and now becomes extremely frustrated and angry multiple times throughout the day because she has had a major brain injury and can’t understand why she is unable to do the things I just listed above. I would like this family to spend just one day with my daughter going to therapy, going to doctor’s visits, feeding her and reminding Ava that she needs to chew and swallow when she eats her meals, holding her because she is scared to be left alone. Then at the end of the night I would like them to explain to my 6 year old son why it is okay for this to have happened? Why the person that hit us is the victim? I talked to my son Jack last night regarding the accident….one of several conversations we have had since the accident. I told him that Ava used the kid walk in therapy today and that she did really well. She was able to bounce a ball back and forth with me while putting pressure thru her legs. I said Jack, isn’t that great’? His response was “Mommy I want Ava to be able to bounce the ball with me without that walker thing, like she used to”. To the neighbors that feel as if the woman that hit us is the victim, I ask you to put yourself in our position. I also want to know if you truly believe it is appropriate to pass along the message to our children that it is okay to drive while impaired? Fortunately for you this is not your child. You are not living the hell that I am.

To all of Ava’s angels…..I hope you understand that this needed to be addressed. I thank each of you for YOUR continued prayers and support.