Friday, October 28, 2011

Luck? Miracle? Answers to Prayer?

Nicole and Rustin took treats to the hospital to thank personnel in the Intensive Care Unit and in Rehabilitation who had been especially memorable and helpful.  Rustin had to introduce her to those in ICU since although she had regained consciousness before she left, she has no memory of being there or of her stay in the hospital much before her last week there.

One ICU nurse was our favorite.  He was so expert in the care he gave Nicole and in the counsel and support he gave to us.  Nicole got to meet him and he was so happy and amazed to see her and talk to her.  The outcome of her situation was very much in doubt when she left the ICU.  He told her that there had been 36 head injury patients in the ICU this past season.  Of 36 only three have been able to walk out the hospital.  She is one of the three.  I remember the night he told us there was a possibility she would have to live in a long-term care facility for the rest of her life.  That was about two days after the swelling in her brain went down enough they thought she would live.  He mentioned how shocked everyone was when shortly after she regained consciousness, she decided to get up and go for a walk around ICU.  They were trying to get all her lines and equipment ready to go with her but she was so speedy, this was a trick.  The physical therapists had to come running to keep up with her.

After visiting with more hospital personnel, she came home and told us more details of her surgeries.

Nicole has nine plates in her reconstructed face.

There are 54 pins holding those plates in place.

Twelve pins are on either side of her skull, holding the skull in place after brain surgery.

Thirty pins in her face are holding the nine plates in place.

All the pins are made of titanium like her first mac computer. (Nicole's analogy, not mine.)

In college, Nicole and Carole worked at the U of U Medical Center machine shop - where those tiny titanium pins are manufactured.  At that time they cost about $200 each.  Hence, just the pins in Nicole's face & head cost about $10,800 several years ago.  We're on "pins" and needles to find out what they cost today.  Whatever the cost; they are so worth it.  Nicole is still with us.  She is doing so well.  We feel so blessed to be with her.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Last weekend there were blessings aplenty for the Cannon family.  Our third grandchild, a lovely little girl, was born to Scott and Mitzi on Friday September 2nd in Boise, Idaho - the day before Nicole's accident September 3rd.  We found ourselves in the midst of great joy (at the baby's birth) counterpointed with great sorrow (at Nicole's horrific injuries).  We experienced this whole gamut of emotion in one weekend.  

Jeff and I had planned to go to Boise as soon as the baby came home from the Boise hospital.  Instead, we stayed at the Salt Lake hospital with Nicole for the next thirty-nine days.  By that time, my heart was aching to see not only our new little granddaughter, but her siblings, Corbin and Gabby, as well.  Scott and Mitzi volunteered to come to Salt Lake with the three little ones in tow to see us and Nicole, and to do the baby blessing in our Ward.

Even though that Sunday was our Primary program, the Bishopric kindly gave permission to bless the baby that Sunday.  Scott, surrounded by family and friends, took his tiny little girl in his arms and gave her the name, Piper Cannon.  Then he gave her a beautiful blessing.  I remember being impressed that the first thing he mentioned was that she would be blessed with a love of the scriptures.  Two kind friends made notes of the blessing and brought them to us to keep.
At the conclusion of Piper's blessing, Jeff took the mike.  He explained to our Ward congregation that this little granddaughter had been born the day before we very nearly lost Nicole, our own daughter.  The morning after her accident had been fast Sunday, and we asked for prayers in behalf of Nicole. We knew that many people in that room had prayed for her and those prayers had been answered because Nicole was there today with us to see Piper blessed.  
After the meeting, sweet Nicole was surrounded by caring neighbors and long-time friends so happy to see her.  I watched as she met Dr. Van Boerum, her trauma doctor, for the first time.  She recognized him from seeing his picture in the hospital and from what we had told her about our neighbor being there to care for her right after the two brain surgeries.  She arose from her seat and reached out to hug him and thank him with a warm embrace.  It was the first time she had met him and been conscious. 
That afternoon was filled with family and friends and food and rejoicing at our home.  I got to see my little grandchildren for four days in a row!  When they arrived, I swept little Gabby up in my arms and she screamed bloody murder - as usual.  However, I just whisked her away to see all the Halloween things at our house.  She quit screaming and actually "liked" me and would come to me and say "Nana" the whole weekend.  This is a big step forward for us.  Before, she has only "liked" Jeff, her "papa".  Corbin, as always, is the light of my life.  He loved the giraffe Halloween costume I bought for him.  He literally wore it every chance he got the whole time he was here.  Nana was thrilled.  He also taught me how to play video games.  I have never played video games but Scott has taught Corbin a few and he, in turn, taught me.  My little character would die or do the wrong thing and he would take my controller and say, "Let me help you, Nana." 

He did help me.  And so did his family.  They came to us; they shared their new baby and joy with us.  They encircled our family all together again with love and support.  Nicole was there.  Piper was there.  Behold, our joy is full.   

Friday, October 14, 2011

In Her Own Words - A Message from Nicole

Thank you doesn't quite cover it. I feel like a miracle having been through two brain surgeries and that's just the beginning. All your thoughts, well-wishes, prayers, fasting, powers of the force, whatever have been so amazingly helpful. I'm so appreciative. Thank you more than "thank you" can come close to saying. I'm so incredibly grateful for all your help. I love all of you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Homecoming - There's no place like home

Nicole saying goodbye to Jami and Megan.

Coming home to Han Solo and the Force

There were some tender feelings yesterday; joy is so often mixed with sorrow.  Joy at being able to come home; sorrow at leaving those who have taken such kind, attentive care of her.  Nicole got a full day of final therapy sessions - complete with instructions on how to carry on by herself and with the new therapists she will meet as in outpatient rehabilitation.  She has come to love her speech therapist, especially and has very warm feelings for her physical therapists and occupational therapists as well.  Change is always challenging; especially when you have only recently had to acknowledge that you have awakened from a terrible accident which has left you with brain injury, visual and hearing deficients and all of September pretty much passed you by.  Now you have huge issues to deal with.

Speaking of those issues, through physical therapy we discovered that Nicole also has a hairline fracture in her left fibula.  With everything else so traumatized, we hadn't noticed until she started jumping and hopping on that leg in physical therapy.  The MRI showed the tiny fracture.  I was also told that she had nine - yes, nine - plates put into her face during the facial reconstruction - a complete makeover I'd say.  The doctors did a remarkable job.  She will be on a special diet for a month and a half (until the week before Thanksgiving).  She cannot eat anything except soft, pureed foods.  No chewing will give her totally new upper jaw full of new plates and broken bones time to heal.  So she will be chew- free for a while yet.

We left the hospital toting four boxes and two carts full of memorabilia that is becoming more and more precious to her as she realizes how kind and concerned people have been during her recovery.  When we got to her home, her siblings had left a surprise for her.  The Star Wars poster was hanging along her kitchen wall.  Han Solo, the coolest guy in the galaxy, was there to greet her and more beautiful autumn flowers.  She has seen the poster before but really hasn't had the time or energy to take it all in.  I watched as she touched it and read many of the greetings.  Tears came to her eyes.

Since September 3rd, 2011 a lot has happened.  Nicole is just beginning to take it all in.  At the hospital she is considered a miracle patient.  Her recovery has been rapid beyond what we could expect or hope.  She is a success story - We have prayer her back to us.  Our prayers have been answered.  A new beginning is before us.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rustin Update for October 10th

Another milestone was reached yesterday.  The feeding tube has been removed.  Yeah!!!  She is so happy  She is enjoying being able to lay on both sides of her face comfortably now.  Hopefully we will have more good news today.  Stay tuned . . .

We just passed the swallowing thin liquids test!  We passed.  We passed!  We passed ! ! We passed ! ! !
And right now she in in heaven enjoying a big glass of water.  Thank you so much everyone for your prayers.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Miracles Come in Baby Steps

Sunday is a time to pause and reflect upon the past week.  It has been a week of daily rejoicing.  Each day Nicole's condition has improved.  Each day there have been tiny bits of good news regarding her recovery.  I've wanted to spent every possible moment at the hospital so I won't miss the latest gain she has made.  Each day I feel like "our" Nicole is closer and closer to being with us again.

I was with her during some cognitive testing last week.  Afterwards, the tester commented that she had gone from a score of 10 initially, to 16, to 27.  He was impressed at her progress over just a few days.  Several times I have watched her in a therapy session when asked to do something challenging, Nicole will pause and exclaim, "Oh, mercy!" or "Mercy child!"  Then she does whatever they ask her to do.  I chuckled as I observed an occupational therapy session this week.  The therapist told Nicole he was taking his family to Universal Studios in Orlando to see Harry potter land and he wanted her to help him find the best deal on airline tickets on the computer.  He sort of pushed the computer at her.  "You want me to show you how to find the best deal?" she questioned and placed the computer back in front of him, saying she would be happy to show him how to do it.  He didn't realize that for a few years now Nicole has been teaching people how to do anything and everything with a computer.  He reiterated that he wanted HER to do it.  So she did quickly and efficiently.  She even took him to some speciality Harry potter websites, like to look for special deals in Harry potter land.  She passed that therapy session with flying colors - red and gold for Gryffindor.

She has been able to leave the hospital for a few hours each day this week.  She tires easily but her endurance and energy improve daily.  Monday she went for a short drive.   Tuesday she ate her hospital tray food with us out on our deck. Wednesday she had an outing with a therapist; they went to Walmart and had her find all the ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies.  Thursday she made the cookies at the hospital rehab kitchen.  Friday she came to our house to eat dinner with a few of her former roommates (the Gapa girls) in celebration of Liz's birthday.  They all brought their own food and Nicole had her hospital tray.  She was able to eat enough food that day so she could sleep without having her feeding tube hooked up to the noisy machine that rattles and hums all night long! In fact, both she and Rustin slept till 8AM the next morning - first time since she came out of a coma that she slept through the night!  Saturday she came to have brunch at Coachman's with Aunt Anita and Uncle Bob who are here visiting from St. Louis.  The rest of us had food.  Nicole just had a glass of water.  This was the first time she could have water through a straw instead of on a teaspoon.  I sat next to her and watched her repeatedly take a small sip and then concentrate on swallowing it.  She did this over and over.  They re-filled her glass four times.  She said that to her water is the drink of the Gods!  It tasted so wonderful.  She gave us her assessment of her condition.  She was surprised to find out that in addition to everything else, she had three broken ribs.  Yes, she did.  On top of everything else, they seemed less important and we are hoping that almost a month in a hospital bed has allowed them to heal.  She said she feels that her brain function and capabilities are coming back to her.  Her major deficit is the vision in her left eye.  She told us she can see very well out of the right eye, but she can hardly see anything out of the left.  She says the hearing in her left ear is diminished also.  Don't overlook that despite the fact there is still some damage, she is communicating with us and she is aware of us.  Those are blessings we did not enjoy a short time ago..

A week ago she was speaking in a high-pitched, breathy whisper.  Each day her voice has gotten a little stronger and the pitch and cadence of her speech more Nicole-sounding.

I look back on the last 5-6 weeks and recognize that the hardest thing I have dealt with is my fear.  First my feat the Nicole would not come out of a coma.  Then my fear that the 8 hours of anesthesia necessary for her facial reconstruction surgery had caused permanent brain damage.  It set her cognition back so far.  In each instance, just as I was on the brink of despair, she improved.  My fears were eventually dispelled.  At some point, I felt the comforter's assurance that Nicole would recover and with that assurance came peace.  There is no place for fear when peace comes.  Now I am watching the miracles come; they are coming in baby steps, but they are coming.

There is now talk about releasing her from the hospital - maybe on Tuesday.  If she is able to consume a sufficient number of calories over the next few days, they will consider removing the feeding tube that was sewn into her nose and down her throat during the facial reconstruction surgery.  That would be wonderful.  Another adventure awaits - bringing her home.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Rustin Update for October 8th

We found out that Nicole hit her calorie count yesterday.  Yaahoo!

Nicole just sneezed for the first time since her accident.  It tripped her out.  It was way funny.

Love is all around us!

Amanda's best friend wore this bib and passed out several at the St. George Marathon
An original R2D2 beanie 

Talking Yoda

We received dinner for a primary class activity day.  
Tuesday Rustin and I were sitting with Nicole in her occupational therapy session.  Suddenly my former speech pathologist's ears perked up; there was some "voice" in her voice.  She was using her voice box!  I nudged Rustin.  He heard it too!  There was great rejoicing in the land - Rehabilitation floor 12.  

Then came Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.  Each day her voice has come back for a little longer and gotten a little stronger.  She is beginning to sound like "Nicole" again.  Along with improved voice has come improved ability to swallow.  Until this, I never imagined how wonderful it is to be able to swallow.  And as we have been receiving this blessing; love and support from dear ones continues.

Amanda's friend ran the St. George marathon the first weekend in October.  She dedicated her run to Nicole and made about 20 bibs for herself and other runners.  In keeping with Nicole's love for Star Wars, her bib invited others to "Join the Force" "Running for prayers for Nicole."  That was last Saturday.  On Tuesday Nicole's voice started to come back.  

Nicole and Rustin came to our home for dinner Wednesday evening.  She brought her hospital tray with pureed lasagna - bleegh.  I gave her a cube-shaped box to open that had come in the mail for her.  Her friend in San Diego had fashioned an R2-D2 beanie to cover her little scared head.  She can wear it while conversing with the talking Yoda brought by another friend.

Meanwhile, our dinner was furnished by our Ward's primary Activity Day leaders and their girls.  They were learning what the Relief Society does to help people when they are in need.  FYI - the lasagna they brought for us was WAY better than Nicole's.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rustin Update for October 5th

Something very exciting happened yesterday.  About 1 pm Nicole started getting her voice back.  Everyone was really excited; word spread and therapists ran over to hear and see.  Nicole is also getting closer to having her feeding tube removed.  We are about 500 more calories per day away.  Sooooo close.  Nicole is working so hard at this.  It is difficult because of her limited eating options.  We should pray for her appetite.  Thank you for all the prayers and visits.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Coincidence - Again

Monday evening Nicole got a pass to leave the hospital - officially sanctioned this time.  Rustin fixed her an ultra-comfortable pillow-padded seat in his Land Cruiser.  They picked up Jeff and me at our house and we rode just around the block down by the Cottonwood Creek.  We got out amid a flurry of yellow leaves.  My nose filled with my favorite smell - autumn.

We walked over and looked at the now-dimished water in the creek.  Rustin gave Nicole a big hug and they re-told the story to us of how this was the place where he asked her to marry him.  That very evening, they came back to our home and shared the news with us that lovely day in May.

Next Nicole wanted to drive a short way over by Granny and Grandad's home.  Their lovely homestead was the scene of all the best family parties as Nicole grew up.  The home was sold after Jeff's parents passed away but luckily the new owners have retained its charm.

We drove past and remembered all the good times there and continued down the lane.  We passed some people who were out walking the other direction.  We crossed the bridge and drove along the canal.  There had been great adventures and explorations in this neighborhood throughout Nicole's childhood.

We turned around and began back down the lane.  As we neared Granny and Grandad's we saw the walkers again.  This time they flagged us down.  Now we recognized them.  Here were our sweet Aunt Kath's neices and nephew from her husband's side of the family.  Her neice's husband is one of the two the plastic surgeons who did the facial reconstruction surgery on Nicole.  The good doctor came immediately around the car to her window and introduced himself, "I'm the doctor who did the surgery on your face.  How does this feel? And this?"  He had been to see her before but she really hadn't been able to communicate.  Happy day!  Now she could talk to him.

Nicole hasn't remember much since the accident until the last day or two.  Meeting this handsome, concerned and kind physician who has played such a major part in her healing was a revelation to her.   Nicole has known his wife over the years, who was there with him and loves her.  His wife was telling their little girl about Nicole.  "This is Nicole.  All the bones in her face were broken and Daddy fixed them.  That's what Daddy does when he goes to work.  Remember Nicole?  We've been praying for her and here she is!"

Here she is!  She is alive.  She is not disfigured.  She has been blessed by the skill and prayers of her surgeon and his family.  He is the first person she met the first time she left the hospital.  Coincidence?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Kevin's Second Farewell

Friday we attended the Utah memorial service for our beautiful neice, Abby's husband, Kevin.  A previous funeral service had been held for him in California.  Two weeks before his passing, this wonderful emergency room doctor stricken with cancer for eight years, wrote his thoughts about his ultimate trial and the purpose of trials in life.  The final weeks of his life have paralleled Nicole's tragic accident, coma, intensive care, surgeries and the beginning of her healing process.  Two lives have hung in the balance during September 2011.  

I have paraphrased one of his most poignant thoughts in his final essay of wisdom beyond his years: 
"Maybe we were able to choose the challenges that would bless our own lives and the lives of those around us.  When it comes to adversity and pain and suffering, it is not just about that person who is experiencing it.  Rather, like a pebble dropped in a pool creating ripples which impact wherever the water touches, so too can those who suffer adversity impact those around them. 

This touched me deeply as I pondered the many, many people who have kept Nicole and our family in their prayers.  I feel so humbly grateful for the continued strength we receive from those who have stepped up to carry this trial with us.  Our hearts, and minds, and spirits have been lightened by all who have been touched by the ripples of Nicole's experience and have remembered us in their prayers." 

Kevin, age 43, leaves behind his wife, Abby, and their four children between the ages of 16 and 7.  

Breakfast with Nicole

Rustin's brother came with two of his cute little ones.

Nicole loves bandanas; so Rustin's Mom and sister made her a whole array of bandana's to wear; especially while her hair is growing back.

Rustin is already borrowing Nicole's bandanas
Friday evening a text invitation came from Rustin.  Nicole's therapy team recommended that having breakfast with some family members would be helpful to Nicole as she works on getting her swallow back.  So her parents and siblings were invited to the hospital recreation room for Saturday morning mush.  The deal was just like a lyric from the Music Man, "You can have your fill of all the food you bring yourself".

We brought oatmeal with brown sugar, fresh pineapple, orange juice and cinnamon toast (Thanks Jill).
Nicole had cream of wheat, nectar, and a tiny yellow blob of something I think was supposed to be scrambled egg.  Swallowing is a major effort and a slow process right now; she was just getting started when the physical therapist showed up and took her away for a 30 minute session.  After a stint on the treadmill, she was back facing cold cream of wheat and dried out egg blob.  Not surprisingly, she wasn't too hungry and the nurse came in and took copious notes on exactly how much and what she had eaten.

In order to remove the feeding tube, she must be able to eat enough food to sustain herself.  I think if they put her on the all "dark chocolate" diet; this would not be a problem.

Sunday evening, Rustin and Carole broke Nicole out of "the joint".  They brought her home with her hospital tray to eat Sunday dinner with her family.  This time she had a tiny square of meat loaf, pureed carrots molded into a carrot-like shape and mashed potatoes with what she called an "interesting" sauce.    As a special treat, she got three bites of Jeff's homemade each ice cream for dessert.  I can tell you that her presence has been missed this last month.  We were so happy to have her with us for even a short time.

We took advantage of her being home and awake to show her (again now she is conscious) the Millennium Falcon that the Apple Store employees made for her out of legos.  She was so thrilled; she said she wanted to stay and play with it.  We showed her the giant "Star Wars" poster with all the signatures and she was so touched.  As time goes on, she will realize ever-more how many tender kindnesses have been rendered in her behalf.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Rustin Update for October 1st

Yesterday was another big step in the right direction.  She sat down with the speech therapist and ate some food.  Yes! ! !  Finally ! ! !  Soft non-chewing food, but food nonetheless.  This is the first step in getting rid of that feeding tube.  Her swallow was long and labored.  After just a few bites, she is exhausted.  She is still looking better and better everyday.
Thank you for all of the visits.  They are so helpful.  7:30pm does seem to be the sweet spot lately since you should be able to join her for a walk outside, which is the best ever.
please add to your prayers a request to have her ability to swallow improve.  Thank you so much!  Keep on praying for a full recovery.