Friday, August 28, 2009

John passed the swallowing test -- Yippee!

Latest message from Heather:

Hi all,

Dad passed the swallowing test today. He had ravioli for lunch just couple hours ago. Yay! However, there are some standards that his food stuff has to meet.

No 7-11 coffee just yet. All liquids need to be thickened to a "nectar" consistency. They have special thickened drinks here at the hospital that we can ask the nurses for if need be. (Of course, they provide these things to him at meal time.) Also, no steak just yet. He cannot have anything that requires a lot of chewing. I.e. Cookies, crackers, apples. He can have things like chocolate pudding, or a burger that is cut up into small pieces. His breakfast, lunch and dinner are now something for him to look forward to and will be therapeutic in boosting morale. His meals will also be a continuation of his speech therapy in that he needs to concentrate greatly and eat slowly to ensure he is swallowing things properly. Eating is hard work for John, even though he feels as though he should be able to just tuck in. This is due to the impulsiveness that is a direct result of the part of his brain that was damaged during the stroke.

So in summary, we all need to be aware of his level of concentration and speed when/if we help him eat. It is perfectly acceptable and also necessary to ask John to slow down when he is eating or drinking. For that matter, it is also necessary in almost everything he now does.

There was also a family conference today with his case manager, Christine, and all of his previously mentioned therapists. As a family we all want what will be best for dad's healing process and whatever will help him regain as much independence as is possible. While at one point we thought going into a family member's or friend's home after acute therapy would be best, we have been reevaluating his situation. If John is to go into a sub-acute therapy setting, he will receive a minimum of 5 days of therapy a week. If he is to go into someone's home he would have 3 days of inpatient therapy a week. Inpatient meaning- therapists coming into the home. We are currently looking into the sub-acute therapy places available to us as the next temperary living situation. Dad's tentative discharge date is September 8th.

There are small steps happening every day here. Today we saw those small steps lead to a huge result.

See you around the hospital.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Quiet Week at Camp Kreitzer

Things have been quiet at Camp Kreitzer this week. We miss the giant (aka Matthew) and all his buddies. I especially miss having no excuse to go back to the roller rink and get back on skates.

Don't anyone tell me there is nothing to do in Woodstock. We have entertainment options galore. Hey we have a movie theatre with three screens. And a Cracker Barrel. The roller rink is more fun than the video arcade at Springfield Mall ever was. Brendan calls it the closest thing to paradise he can think of. And the County Fair is coming up in another week. (High times in the old town!)

The roller rink has a bumper car area and I was really eager to try them out, but I'll save that for another day. Ashley, Brendan, and Rachel seemed to enjoy them a lot and it sure looked like fun.

Meanwhile we've been catching up on laundry, sleep, lawn-mowing, bill-paying, returning things to their proper places, and watching The Monarch of the Glen on Netflix. I love the Scottish accents!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Heather's Report on John's Progress - Keep Praying!

Hola family and friends,

There Is a lot of good news from Kernan. As I mentioned before dad is undergoing 3 hours of therapy most days. This breaks down into an hour each of 3 kinds of therapy-physical therapy (pt), occupational therapy (ot) and speech therapy (st). In ot therapy they are mostly focusing on his upper body. Most of the time the leg comes back before the arm. He does feel greater amounts of pressure on his left arm, but cannot feel gentle touches. He also has trouble understanding where his arm is in space, as this is a much more subtle sensation.

In st they are concentrating most on his swallowing at the moment. He had a swallowing study done today where they x-rayed his throat to see what exactly is happening. What they found is that one of the throat muscles, that was damaged during the stroke, is hanging in the way. Not only is it causing a sensation of him having something stuck in his throat, which is why he is clearing his throat often, but it is also blocking the way for him to swallow down the esophagus. Instead, it creates a cavern for it to then flow into his lungs and possibly cause aspiration pneumonia again. They will be starting with electrode stimulation, either tomorrow or Monday, to get those throat muscles working again. For now he still has the feeding tube into his stomach.

During pt they are mostly concentrating on his lower body. As in standing again or learning how to reposition his body. However, this repositioning of the body flows into all of the forms of therapy. His center of gravity is off. Where most of us know how to balance ourselves, dad will have to relearn this. To him it feels as if he is holding himself up properly when he is actually leaning to the right. This is because he has forgotten the left side of his body. So his center of gravity, as he feels it, is centrally located on his right side. As he remembers his true center, and is taught to fight his now natural urge to lean, he will start to reawaken his left side.

Besides the feeding tube, the only other tube he is sometimes hooked up to is oxygen. This is mostly in the evening after a long hard day. It is difficult for Dad to keep his blood properly oxygenated with his left lung being diminished. When he is energetic and able to be more aware of his breathing, his oxygen levels have been fine.

Don't forget:
No eating and drinking in front of Dad, as he is unable to do so himself.

Please be his advocate when you are visiting. If he needs a nurse, you may need to help him get their attention. The call button he has at his disposal seems to work best.

See you round the hospital.

All My Daughters (Except Alice)

Sounds like a soap opera, doesn't it? But the only soap is the well-scrubbed, squeaky clean, all-American-girl goodness of these beauties!

Our 40th anniversary celebration got all of us together for the first time in about six years. All our children and grandkids were together for one big happy family celebration. But the overlap portion of the visit (with both Texas families here) was only a few days and they were filled with commitments, so I never had a chance to take all the girls out together. We finally had a girls' day out last Friday shortly before Neil and Martina left for their return trip to Austin on Sunday. I wish we had called Alice from the restaurant to say join the party in spirit, but I didn't think about it until just this minute. Sorry you couldn't be there with us, Alice. I love all you darling girls and hope you know it! Thanks for filling my mother's heart with joy. And keep loving those handsome husbands and those absolutely perfect grandchildren!

John's new home as he recovers

John is at Kernan Rehbilitation Center as he recovers from his stroke. Kernan has an excellent reputation and deals with many different types of traumatic injuries and strokes, etc. It is encouraging to see how this institution operates and to know that John will receive at least three hours a day of therapy. Larry and I will visit for the first time on Sunday.

Swallowing is still a problem and they are doing an X-ray today to see if there is something else preventing John's ability to swallow. Please keep praying for John's full recovery, and especially for his ability to swallow.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More Exotic Critters at Camp Kreitzer

Never a dull moment at Camp Kreitzer. You've heard about swimming with the dolphins. How about swimming with the snakes? Neil was in the pool a few days before they left for home and who should come slithering up alongside him but this handsome critter.

I wish I knew how to add audio because this would be perfect with the jaws music. Someone said it looked like a western diamondback (Yes, that's a rattlesnake!), but actually it's a harmless milksnake and, when you see his actual size, not quite as intimidating.

So the critter census in the past few weeks is: one bear, dozens of little frogs, three crayfish, at least a dozen deer, lots of apple-gathering squirrels, countless visits to the hummingbird feeder by ruby-throated hummers and their mates, and an occasional chipmunk. Haven't seen any groundhogs so maybe the two we captured and took on a trip to the dam were the only ones.

John Moved to Kernan Last Night & Here's Heather's Latest Update

Hello everyone,

Dad was moved to kernan tonight at around 7. I am very excited about the therapy they will be starting with him tomorrow. There will be a minimum of 3 hours of it a day. Yippee.

Visiting hours are much different at kernan. Regular visiting hours are from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, Monday through Friday, and 12:30-8:30 on Saturday and Sunday. However, family members who will be providing care to the patient after his return home are welcome to attend therapy at other times for training, with the permission of John. Also, they are very strict about the number of visitors at a time: no more than 2. There is a family night every thursday from 3:30-4:30 in the patient dining room. This is for educational purposes. There is also a stroke club that meets once per month from 10am-12noon. This is also available to patients and their families. The contact person for dates and information on this is Pam Cauley at 410-448-6320. This place has a lot going on! There is even a healing garden.

All that being said:
Kernan Hospital
2200 Kernan Drive
Woodlawn, Md 21207

Room 733-1 ( his roomate is on the other side of the room in 733-2)

Hospital number: 410-448-2500
Dad still has his cell phone with him.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

John May Move to Stroke Rehab Today!

Here's Heather's latest update on her dad (8/11):

This just in: Dad's white blood cell count down today.

Sorry this is going out so late. The television distracted me tonight. It was so nice to veg for a while. We are hoping dad will be moved to kernan tomorrow. Dad has to be without a sitter for at least 24 hours, according to regulation, for this to happen. Currently aunt Susie is at the hospital. She offered to stay overnight again for us. Thank you aunt Susie. Everyone has been so wonderful at rallying around john so far. The family support system has not faltered. Thanks much.

I will be heading in at around 7am tomorrow. Since the sitter was released at 3 pm today, I am hoping the moving process will start tomorrow late afternoon/ early evening. We will see. One step at a time.

Here is the web address for the rehabilitation center we are shooting for:

See you soon,


Keep those prayers coming! Larry and I continue to pray through the intercession of Fr. John Hardon for a full recovery. When we visited on Sunday John was awake and alert. I put holy water blessed by Father on his fingertips and he made the sign of the cross. Then Larry and I prayed the rosary. He joined a little but mostly rested and even nodded off for fifteen minutes or so. We got a picture of him with one of the sitters, Maddy, who was an absolute delight. Thank God for angels like her and another sitter I didn't meet named Beatrice, I think. May God reward them for being ministering angels.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Happy Birthday, Marianna!

Marianna Rose (aka Anya - but not by Gramma) is celebrating her birthday today which was actually on August 5th, but today is the big party. So here's a birthday greeting to the littlest rosebud in the family who is just beginning to bloom. Won't it be fun to watch those petals unfold. Hugs and kisses and ten pony rides on Gramma's knees for Marianna! Happy Birthday, Girl!

Friday, August 7, 2009

August 7 Update on John....

Hi everyone.

Dad is doing well today. He was taken off the ventilator yesterday and was moved back to the 6th floor today. His left side is still very impaired. The feeding tube is still in place because he is not able to swallow properly yet. He is not on any sedatives currently, and is pretty aware of what is going on most of the time. The antibiotic regimen he is on for the pneumonia is working. He has another 5 days or so of that. The main duty we have all had in recent visits is making sure he gets all of his secretions out, either by his suction wand or spitting. Very exciting stuff. He has longer visiting hours on the 6th floor: 7am till 9pm. He is in room 692.

Be seeing you around the hospital.

Camp Kreitzer

Ever since we moved to the Shenandoah Valley we've been trying to think of a good name for our property. But after our long procrastination the kids took over the job by calling it Camp Kreitzer. Larry and I decided to get a sign to put on our post and make it formal. So we are now officially Camp Kreitzer.

Unfortunately, there are only two staff members. Nevertheless, the camp still operates somewhat efficiently. Cookies get baked, the grass gets mowed, the pool cleaned, and the weeds (sometimes) get pulled. Our little visitors (and big ones too) seem to enjoy it. (I just saw two in their pajamas walking along the row of pine trees out back and several are jumping on the trampoline. Some of the big campers, aka parents, went running up the mountain to the fire tower.)

We haven't had a visit from the county yet to see what kind of camp we are running, but expect we will at some point. If you're in the vicinity, stop for a visit with the proprietors of Camp Kreitzer. If you're lucky cousins' camp will be in session and you'll get to meet a gaggle of little campers swimming, baking, crafting, dressing up, driving or riding behind the tractor, getting ready to go throw rocks in the river, roasting hotdogs around a campfire, or going on a bear hunt.

Now all we need is a camp song. How about, "Hail to Camp Kreitzer, home of frogs and deer, All critters welcome, Camping's fun out here." Hmmm...may need a little work.

Status update on John -- Keep Praying!

From my niece Heather, John's daughter, sent yesterday:

Dad is doing much better today. He extubated himself again this morning (the 6th). They were already planning on weaning him today too, just like yesterday. He expedited the process. Then, he did so well that they removed the ventilation system from his room. Therefore, he is also off of the sedatives. We are all hoping he will be back on the 6th floor, which is where the stroke ward is, by tomorrow sometime. It has been a good day so far.

So keep those prayers coming. We're looking forward to a full recovery for John and many more years serving the Lord and enjoying his family, like he and his youngest son were at this family wedding last October.

Love you, John!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Personal Story about John, who is My Hero!

Having begged for prayers for John, I want to share a personal story that reflects the kindness of my brother and one of the reasons he's so special to me. John is one of those people who really would give you the shirt off his back, not to mention the last dollar in his pocket. And he'd even get under his car to wire up electronic brakes to pull your camper.

Last year Larry and I were off on a two week trip to upstate New York and then to Vermont for my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary. We planned to camp in the Cascades and were really looking forward to a beautiful and restful vacation. didn't quite turn out as we planned.

Three hours into our trip, the transmission on our Trooper blew and we ended up stranded on the shoulder of an exit ramp waiting for double tow vehicles to pull our car and our camper to a service center in Lebanon, PA. It was the start of the Labor Day Weekend and there was no way we were going to get the car worked on for the next three or four days. So there we were in Lebanon hoofing it around town on foot, staying at a Comfort Inn about half a mile from the transmission repair place. We tried to rent a tow vehicle to pull our camper and continue our trip or pull it home. No dice unless we were a business with insurance. Then we tried to rent a car one-way to drive home. Nope! We didn't really want to rent for a week or turn around and come right back, so what to do? Any other alternatives?

Then the lightbulb went on. John will help! He has a Suburban with a tow package. So I called John and without a moment's hesitation he agreed to come and even said he'd enjoy the ride. I told him at the time he was my hero, and so he was and is. Now he's a wounded hero who needs all our prayers and support. You've got 'em, John. I love you!

And please pray for John's children as well, who are camping out at St. Agnes. This is a stressful time for everyone. When times are tough it's best to handle them with prayer.

Please Pray for John through the Intercession of Fr. Hardon

Last Wednesday my brother, John Scheider, had a serious stroke that left him paralyzed on the left side and blind in his left eye. He's been doing well, but had a setback on Monday morning. The doctor thought he had a blood clot in his lung, but after the MRI was negative, they diagnosed him with pneumonia, moved him into AICU (Acute Intensive Care Unit), and put him on a ventilator. I went up to the hospital yesterday. John is lightly sedated and was asleep, but his color looked good, he has a strong heartbeat, and his blood pressure is in the normal range. Larry and I prayed several decades of the rosary for his recovery.

We're asking for healing through the intercession of Fr. John Hardon, a very holy Jesuit priest who died in 2000. Today is the feast of the patron of parish priests, St. John Vianney, and I am again asking Fr. Hardon's intercession for John's complete healing. Fr. Hardon had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and the practice of using her miraculous medal. Fr. Hardon said he would not have been where he was if he had not seen miracles throughout his priesthood. He used to relay a particular story of a miraculous cure through the Blessed Mother and her miraculous medal.

I asked my pastor to bless a medal yesterday morning after Mass and I pinned it to John's sock. I also blessed him with the sign of the cross with holy water blessed by Fr. Hardon which I received while attending a retreat he gave the year he died. A friend also loaned me a first class relic which I laid on John's hand while Larry and I prayed. Don't misunderstand. All of the devotional practices have no power in themselves. Like the blood on the doorposts that marked the houses of the Israelites in the Old Testament, they are simply outward sign's of our faith. But even the secular world has confirmed the power of prayer.

Interestingly, today's first Mass reading was about the power of intercessory prayer. God punished Miriam and Aaron for their jealousy of Moses who was described as the "meekest man on the earth." Miriam became a snow-white leper. Moses immediately petitioned God for his sister's cure. In tomorrow's reading we will hear how God responded to Moses' intercession by wiping out the offense of Miriam and Aaron and curing Miriam's leprosy.

I am praying for John through the intercession of another Moses, Fr. Hardon. I hope those reading this message will join me. You can find the prayer here.