Here is an update from Brenna on how Elijah & family have fared in these past months. Thank you so much for all of the ways you have continued to reach out in support and prayer, even though the blog/facebook page have been relatively quiet. We are so grateful for you. Enjoy the update!
“Long overdue for an update on Elijah, I have been getting many questions texts and emails so it is time! Thank you for continuing to pray and be concerned!
We sang a song in church recently about God being in the storm. Yesterday marks 11 months from the day that changed our lives. My mind often travels back to how our storm began that Friday evening, May 8th. From May 10th until October 2016, our kitchen window bore the words “We will praise Him in the storm”. The storm was literal and figurative; physical and spiritual. Now it seems we see the black clouds of the storm in our rear view mirror. The aftermath is still very evident in the marks on Elijah’s body and the recovery he has to make. It is also evident in each of us as we strive to embrace life the way it is and make the best of it as the gift that it truly is.
It is curious to me that I can hardly remember the severity of the storm even if I sit quiet and reflect back to all of those seemingly endless ICU/LTAC days and the panic we felt as we cried out for God to calm our storm. But as time separates us from that day, I pray that we will all have the faith and focus to seek God with the same fervor and need in our everydays. As life seems more do-able and we can appear to have more control over our days and choices, I pray that we never forget the One who paid our debt and delivered us, carried us and protected us through the storm. The storm caused a wreck or the wreck caused a storm. Either way our lives are in His hands- He is in control. The Lord truly was our only hope and anchor in the storm (Hebrews 6:19)
Elijah is very content and I could safely say that he never complains. In October 2015, when he arrived home, he told me that his job was to pick up the pieces. After the visit to the orthopedic doctor in January 2016- viewing the x-rays of still very fractured femurs with rods through the centers, I asked Elijah, “What will your life be like with such fractured femurs?” He replied, “My life will be whatever I make out of it.” He speaks truth. He chooses joy and contentment over anger and bitterness. It is clear that Elijah’s perception of all things is much different from ours as he was “asleep” for much of the time that we were feverishly praying. He feels much the same mentally and emotionally and mainly just woke up to a body that seemingly was not working. He has said that God protected them in the accident and he does not fear the future but knows that God will continue to watch over them. He does not pity himself but told me that he feels sad for what has happened to Autumn.
I am just now seeing a glimpse of our family relationships being restored. Siblings have missed the old Elijah and struggled to recover from so much time away from mom and dad. In a sense, we have had a different birth order for this time of recovery. We try not to compare the “new” Elijah with the former one and let him be who he is, but at times it is just hard – so we reflect back on how far he has come. We know at the end of the day, no matter the challenges, that things could be worse. We saw far more stories of suffering at each of the hospitals than we have had to endure and praise God for miraculous amazing recovery. When Elijah arrived home, he was mostly wheelchair bound and could not even get out of bed alone- it took 2 hours to get him ready in the morning and 2 hours to get him ready for bed at night. It took him almost 4 months to learn to get out of a chair – so if you see him rise from a sitting position unassisted now, you can be in awe of the struggle it took him to get to that point!! Now he does all of his self care: in and out of bed, bathroom, shower, dressing, grooming etc. He only still needs assistance with socks because of his limited hand strength in his left hand. Praise God his hand is recovering the ulnar nerve sensation and motor function in the pinky and ring finger, though. Since January we have been speech/language, cognitive, physical and occupational therapy. Since I (mom) am with him most- I am mostly responsible for all of the areas, but siblings, Dad, grandparents and friends have all been very helpful. Here is a summary to hopefully cover the main questions I am frequently asked:
He had some chronic pain in his right foot and right hip that was quite severe as he was learning to walk last fall. Actually, some days the pain was limiting his progress. Even as recently as January the orthopedic doctor grabbed onto his feet and predicted he would “always have pain in his feet all of his life”. Now, Praise God he is a 0-1 for pain on a scale of 1-10(only his two right toe joints- for awhile he was at an 8) and his hip pain is gone as we have strengthened his glutes and hip flexors TFL). He wears a carbon fiber insert (football players use them for turf toe) and a toe straightener to help his right foot. This has helped him tremendously as he relearned the motor pattern for walking and continues to develop the strength to walk heel/toe. His femurs are mostly healed with only a small spot where the bone has not completely surrounded the titanium rod in his left leg. We are praying God will finish that healing. Interestingly his left leg is much more shattered but his right leg has always been weaker. He can now walk stairs with just a handrail (up) and a cane (down) and is able to climb up to the top of a parking garage. He can walk 2 miles, leg press 180# and on the elliptical trainer he is able to run for 20 minutes at high intensity intervals – in November, when he started, he struggled to get to 3 minutes and was leg pressing 40#! He has gained a total of almost 30 pounds from his low of 125# in July but is still about 10 pounds less than before the accident. He would be a gym rat and enjoys working out once a week with Haley’s dad, Todd, who trains him hard with balance and core strength. He also has benefitted from the generosity of Robert, a personal trainer who has been meeting Elijah at LCCC pool once a week to work on strength and balance – this has been an amazing opportunity. Elijah’s next big goal is to run by the end of May. Another big improvement besides walking, is that he can push using the palms of his hands. This was so painful that he was not able to really use his hands in that manner until January. Now he can do modified incline push ups! (he can’t put that weight on his toes).
As the grey matter of Elijah’s brain was not damaged from the fat emboli (just the message carrying white matter) he still retains an amazing amount of memory/knowledge of life before the accident. Once in awhile there may be a disruption in the timeline of events he recalls. In his words, “I feel like I know, but I don’t know” so he often confirms his thoughts with my recollection of past events. His short term memory is also very sharp- in fact I rely on him! His attention span is markedly improved and despite visual field deficits, he is reading everyday. His visual perception is still recovering and reading is significantly easier now. We are still not quite sure if he has some visual field loss (hemianopsia) – that’s on the schedule for May. He is currently reading Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and this week he has been studying human anatomy and physiology. In July/Aug his handwriting was one “letter” on top of the other. He can write left to right across the page now but still finds writing very laborious (in fact it is such a challenge that we say each word he writes is a set – like a set at the gym) so we are working on fine motor control/motor planning and sequencing. In conversation he is much more able to initiate than when we came home. He would barely initiate anything in October – there was so much energy spent on physical recovery that having the energy to initiate a thought or conversation was just too difficult. While he is not yet where he was, he is much farther down the road than when we came home. It takes less energy for him to balance and walk so he is able to allocate his neurons to make way for language and thought. Think about the development of little people as they master physical movement before they have language and executive function (reasoning, planning, decision making) and that is exactly the pattern for Elijah’s recovery. It is remarkable to witness. It is wonderful to hear the inflection returning to his voice and he is beginning to sound more like himself in conversation and reading aloud. I know he is coming back when I hear him playing devil’s advocate with his sister! He also was very blessed to be on the scenes for TeenPact Wyoming 2016 – a class he was very involved in through the years. This week spurred on much neural and language recovery and he was able to visit the legislature where he interned a year ago. We saw similar neural recovery and stimulation when he spent a day at the Rocky Mountain Classic debate tournament. The RMC (Speech & Debate) tournament was one of his last big memories before the accident and it was great for him to see former competitors and teammates, watch speeches and debate rounds and even have a chance to judge.
- “Does Elijah still see Autumn?”
Yes, they are still in contact and support each other and we have visited as families. They both have miraculously traveled a long road and have a long journey ahead…sufficiently empowered by the grace of a kind a loving Heavenly Father.
- What does “A day in the life of Elijah” look like?
A day in the life of Elijah involve all activities that in the past would be labeled school and now are labeled therapy- except vision exercises. He gets himself ready and helps with chores, and after prayer and Bible he helps Ezekiel with some of his subjects and pursues his own plan for the morning. He participates in History and Worldview discussions with the rest of the family and has been memorizing quite a few articles, sections and clauses of the Constitution and the Founders quotes. The afternoons involve some other activities- either social or physical – with 2 hour gym sessions.
- “Is Elijah the same?”
In some ways no. Not yet. But a friend wisely prayed he would be better than he was. While his basic personality is there, he still has much more brain recovery and sometimes the cognitive/emotional/social improvements are less dramatic than the physical ones but they are still coming and we are still believing. Elijah asked what I say when people ask that question and he said, “I’m not the same, I’m Elijah 2.0” and he definitely has been rebooted or reborn, whichever way you look at it!
Friends and family have had to adjust their perception of who Elijah is and I thank God that he has some great friends, faithfully sticking with him throughout his whole recovery. Games with the guys, editing scenes from Reflection, out of town friends for the weekends, Bible studies, dances, bowling and movies all provide an added joy for him.”
— Brenna, for all