Here is an update from Autumn’s mom on what the last few weeks have been like for their family, as they have continued to persevere on this journey. So thankful that our Father’s mercies are new every morning, and for the amazing ways He’s answered prayer in the past 160 days since the accident. The story is still unfolding!
“Imagine waking up to find that the contents of your entire filing cabinent(s) has been emptied onto the floor. Now imagine the amount of time it will take you to find your files, place them in the correct folder, and re-file them. That word picture is perhaps the best way to describe what has happened to Autumn and the immense challenge that she faces on a daily basis. The accident dumped the contents of her memory and now she is undergoing the slow, arduous task of re-filing her memories, thoughts, and knowledge into the best places where she will once again be able to retrieve them.
She has been outpatient at Craig for almost 2.5 months now. Autumn has really been making some great leaps in her recovery. . . however, I do still see the ‘three steps forward, one step back’ at times. I was warned that recovering from a traumatic brain injury isn’t a quick process. I nodded, shook my head, said I understood, but then the reality hit. . . mostly in small, unsuspecting ways. A good example is the other day we were in the orthodontist office to get an evaluation on her jaw. It seems that the accident did indeed affect her joint, so we are on our way to see a specialist about that. Anyway, she was filling out her info and it took quite a while for her to process and complete the very basic personal information that every office requires. She had a few questions along the way and afterwards she said to me that she feels like she should have known how to fill out some of the questions. She did know all that at one time, but now she is re-learning and re-filing. It’s little things like that when I realize that this is a very long road to complete recovery.
She also has moments where I can see that she does have a lapse in memory. The other day she came out wearing a pair of her favorite shoes and asked when she got them; or the fact that she was always able to remember a line from a movie or song, but now she struggles to place where those pieces fit. These are all little and seemingly insignificant, but for me they add up to the bigger picture of what her brain is dealing with.
Autumn still struggles with her double vision. She has multiple pairs of glasses she is using with a variety of eye exercises to work on re-aligning her sight. We have been going to have some acupuncture done to help heal her cranial nerves that were damaged. Her occupational therapist works on her vision weekly with her as well, and she has regular appointments with the Vision Clinic here at Craig. If it is decided that surgery is required, she won’t undergo that until she has been a year post-accident. So, we’ve some time to continue to try and strengthen and improve her vision.
In spite of the many struggles she has, her progress has been amazing! I have seen her go from sitting by herself in church because she can’t initiate a conversation, to coming up and hugging a friend and then engaging in a conversation with laughter. She went from not being able to focus on reading an article, to attempting to read textbook material. Her Speech and Community Reintegration therapists are working with her on cognitive assignments as well as getting back to her plans for college.
Autumn is currently involved in two exciting groups at Craig. The first is called the GIST group and its focus is helping people relearn social skills. Keeping a conversation going, getting to know someone, picking up on nonverbal cues, etc. are all topics covered in the group. They are a group of nine, all with some level of brain injury. The second group is a recreation group of about 15-20, all TBI outpatients. Here she will be able to practice some of what she re-learns in GIST. There are a few young adults that are right in her age group, so it will be a fun opportunity to make some new friends…and for me as well, to connect with other caregivers. They brainstormed about activities that the group can do and then in two weeks they will meet again to plan the activities. I think it will be a good place for her to be…with others who have some of the same struggles, thoughts, and emotions.
Some days are still very much of a struggle. It is hard to see her have to work to get back to where she was before the accident. There are the moments of wishing the whole accident had never happened, yet knowing that God has a plan in everything. However, I am so thankful that the Lord spared her and has allowed her to progress to where she is! Life could be very different right now were it not for His hand of mercy and grace.
I’m sorry this update has been so long in coming! It seems like it was easier to update when all I did was sit beside that ICU bed. Now, in trying to get back to normal life while picking up this new role as Autumn’s patient advocate, it is so much harder to write about her progress. I am so consumed with keeping up with her therapy, taking her to Craig, scheduling and taking her to other various therapists/specialists, not to mention getting school done with the other kiddos. Sometimes it is hard for me to see the progress in the day to day; I am so thankful for her team here at Craig and for their genuine care for her. They are an amazing part of our life right now! Just in case you are interested (and as a great picture to see how many people are involved with her care right now), here’s a list of all the therapists/specialists that we frequent:
Therapeutic Recreation Therapist
Community Reintegration Therapist
Clinical Care Manager
(Soon to start) Prosthodontist for TMJ
Somehow it all works and it all gets done, but even when I look at that list it seems overwhelming. It’s probably good that we don’t see them all in one day! Anyway, I hope you will forgive me for the long hiatus between posts. Please know that we are all so grateful for everything you’ve done for us, prayed for us, and sent to us! No words are truly adequate enough to express the gratitude our family has for all of you! The support that you have given our family is overwhelming; thank you from the very depths of our hearts!”
~Cinnamon, Autumn’s mom