Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chili and Cornbread

I wish I could have spent more time in Nashville. Though my visit was short, it was very sweet. I am going to lay this out somewhat like a report. I took some scattered notes in my journal that I will attempt to put together in a flowing manner. First, a brief history of me and Hollis.
We are very dear friends. Pre India, we were hanging out on a near to daily basis for quite some time. We are both members of the Bay Area Derailleurs bikedance team, as well as the PSOP-( Permanent Sleep Over Posse.) I know her well. I was there the night we were informed by Harrison about the accident which was immediately after it happened. He called Eliza to find out Hollis's blood type. It was a terrifying night. I was also there at the airport when she arrived back in the US from India. Went to visit her in the hospital in San Francisco while she was there. I mention this because I have seen many stages of her recovery and that is part of why this visit was so special to me. The last time I saw Hollis before this week was over a year ago in September when she was taken back home to Nashville to be near her family. Before I go any further, I would like you to know that her mother, Diane, is one of the most solid, loving mothers I have ever met. Diane has literally been at Hollis's side since the very beginning of this unfortunate accident. From India, to Stanford, to San Francisco, to the care center in Nashville. Thank you, Diane. You are unspeakably loyal and amazing. Okay, that's enough history, lets get on with the update.
I arrived in Nashville on the 13th of December with a mutual friend, Layna. It was evening. We showed up at Madison Health Care and Rehabilitation feeling very nervous. Will she remember us we thought to ourselves. Of course your mind goes wild in stressful situations with "what if" scenarios. We go inside and head for Hollis's room. Lucky for us, she remembers us! ( I actually knew this already because I had called Diane a couple nights before to let her know we were coming and she put Hollis on the phone for a second. Hollis said to me, "Jamie Bond, you are a very remarkable person." It brought a tear to my eye.) It was nice to have the visual reassurance. We got settled in and did some talking. Yes! Talking to my friend who wasn't talking for a long time. She is very articulate and using complete sentences. We would say something like, "Do you like ice cream, Hollis?" She would respond with, " Yes, I like ice cream very much!" I was so happy to see the dinner tray come in. I didn't realize that she was eating solids on a regular basis. She still has feeding tubes- one for the stomach and one for the small intestine. This is to make sure that she gets proper nutrition while her body adapts to taking in solids again. As it turns out, she was not very interested in dinner, which I will discuss later. She goes to bed early so we were only there for a couple hours. Took off for the night to go meet up with a new friend and get settled in for the night. Layna started crocheting a hat for Hollis. It was a lovely deep red color. The next morning we got up early and were back to hang out for the whole day! Hollis's sister Heather was supposed to be hanging with her today, but when she got there and found Layna and I, she left us to have some friend time alone. Hollis was in a wonderful mood. We did a lot of joking and laughing. She is hilarious! It almost seems as if she is her old self and a little kid at the same time. She was constantly saying, " I love you very much!," " Do you love me?","You are so funny", "I love my Mom." Despite being articulate, there was a serious range of vocal pitch influction. She would start out speaking in a normal tone, but as she got excited her pitch would get significantly higher while speaking faster and a bit more mumbly. She is still working on getting full control of her mouth. Eating was a bit of a mess but she is eating and that is what matters. We would have to remind her to chew and sometimes food would come plopping back out of the mouth, which made her giggle. And she would continue to say, " Thank you for feeding me." It was spoon feeding which also reminded us of a childlike essence. Chili and cornbread was very appetizing to her for lunch that day. Ice cream for dessert. At one point in the meal Hollis burst out with an exclamation to Layna, "Thank you for stuffing my face!!" We all giggled and Layna continued to stuff chili, cornbread, and carrots into her face until it was almost gone. Now it was time for an adventure. Layna finished the warm hat just in time because we were going outside! Warm was necessary because some sort of "Arctic Blast" moved in from the North, all down the Midwest and into the South. It was a mere 18degrees the night before. A light blanket of snow everywhere. We got Hollis moved into her chair and bundled her up in sweaters and blankets. She said she hadn't been outside in a long time. First we checked out the courtyard, which ended up being not very exciting, (plus it had no smoking signs and Layna and I wanted some tobacco!) We decided to go straight out the front door, down the driveway, and across the street to look at the park. It was a bumpy walk and I did my best to keep it smooth. We were out for about ten minutes and Hollis decided that it was too cold so we went back on inside. I was sort of surprised that none of the staff stopped us from taking Hollis out, but then again, we weren't doing anything wrong. We got back in and turned on some music. I tell you what, Hollis has way better memory than I do when it comes to remembering song lyrics. She knew almost every word to every song that we played. We had a lot of fun listening to an entire Bob Marley album. The song "I shot the sheriff" was cracking her up to no end. Eventually, we decided to check out those limbs and do a little body work. We noticed that Hollis's right leg was significantly colder than her left leg. The only thing we could figure was poor circulation due to inactivity. Layna did some power blast Reiki action on Hollis's head while I worked on the right foot, ankle, and leg. This went on for about an hour during which Hollis fell asleep. When we finished the pampering treatment, Hollis woke up and said, " I feel like a human being again." We got serious with her for a minute and did some mobility work. She is still not using her right side and needs to work on making it work. At one point she said something like, "I can't move my leg." This was not what we wanted to hear. The "can't" attitude will get you nowhere. We got her to focus really hard and squeeze Layna's hand with her right hand. Then we said told her to move her right leg. It was very difficult, but that leg started moving when she focused on it. She has virtually no muscle left in there after being in a bed for the past two years so she needs to rebuild it and then it will be easier to move. Physical therapy is necessary. Diane and Heather have been doing their own versions of exercise with Hollis but I personally believe that she needs some serious grueling professional assistance in this department on an intensive daily basis. She needs to be reminded to focus and think about reconnecting the neuropathways that enable mobility and everything else. It may not be fun but it is what will make a dramatic improvement with her recovery. Diane said that they are waiting for Medicare/Medicaid to kick in within a few months when they will re-attempt to get Hollis re-accepted into Shepards Center, a specialty brain injury recovery center in Atlanta, GA. It was really nice to know that Hollis is at least somewhat aware of her condition and the work that needs to be done. She repeatedly told us that she wants to go home. Lucky for her, Diane's house is almost remodeled to accommodate and Hollis will be going home by the 15th of January at the latest. Hopefully sooner. I believe that this move will create a drastic improvement in her recovery. For the past 15 months she has been in a nursing home. Literally. Madison Healthcare and Rehabilitation is full of some really weird energy that she is no doubt soaking up. She is by far the youngest person there. I will post some thoughts on the US medical system in an additional blog post that I would like everyone to read and think about. In summary, it will be about how much it sucks that our current medical system keeps people away from the specialized treatment that they need in crucial time periods of recovery. Overall, I think Hollis is has made significant progress and she wouldn't be where she is today without the love and care she has received from her family and friends. As we were saying goodbye, she said to us, " Forgive me if I am absent minded." We told her that it's all good and keep on being the strong, beautiful woman that she is. My suggestion to you is to go visit her, call her, send stories and pictures, send music, send love. She really liked being told how much we love her and how beautiful she is. The beauty in that is that it is nothing but true. True friends are with you through the good times and the bad and that is something you can always count on. We are blessed to have such an amazing community. We are even more blessed to have Hollis here with us and getting closer to a full recovery every day. It takes a village so don't be afraid to get re-involved. She will thank you for it.