Live the Lion was created in an attempt to keep everyone up to date on Lance O'Cull and his road to recovery.

Lance was involved in a car accident near Morehead, Kentucky about 30 miles from where we grew up Thanksgiving weekend of 2010. He was airlifted from the scene of the accident to UK Medical Center in Lexington. The doctors told us that they could fix everything below the neck, but his brain was in God's hands. On December 22, after multiple surgeries, Lance was transferred to The Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia for an intense rehabilitation program.

It was there that Lance began to gradually emerge from a coma. Lance was discharged to home, in Vanceburg on February 17th, to continue his therapy with family.

On March 10th, Lance's 25th birthday, he stood on his feet for the first time in 103 days, with lots of help. On May 11th, Lance was accepted into Cardinal Hill's brain injury unit. There he impressed and amazed our family and friends, as well as his therapists through the progress he made everyday.

Between September 2011 and April of 2012, Lance was back and forth between Cardinal Hill's inpatient program and Shepherd Center's inpatient and outpatient program. He has had a couple minor surgeries to enhance his healing and a baclofen pump inserted to help with the tone in his body.

For the past year, Lance is back in Lewis County splitting his time with both parents. He continues to travel to Ashland 3 times a week and Lexington once a week. He is learning to walk again and we couldn't be more thrilled.

It hasn't been easy, Lance has had some setbacks and tears still fall. But he is up and running this marathon. And we are all running right along beside him.

Most of the blog entries have been made by myself, Chelcee, the big sister, Brock, our baby brother, and Dr. Johnny, our dad. Our goal is for Lance to finish this blog as soon as he is able.

God has been with Lance and our entire family, giving us strength. We give Him the Glory. He is the God of Miracles.



~Chelcee




Sunday, February 27, 2011

Saturday Night

It seems like weeks since we traveled home from Shepherd Center, even though it was only 10 days ago.  It has been a long week filled with long nights and clocks ticking off seconds slowly.  Being back in the Chandler Medical Center, here at UK, stirs up memories of good friends and frightful days for Lance.  We have been here since Tuesday.  The original diagnosis that brought us here was an intestinal obstruction; that seems to have resolved non-surgically.  The next few days will tell if digestive system will awaken after having no nutrition into the stomach for 6 days.  Lance has congestion in his lungs; it presents like pneumonia but is not resolving quickly.  Testing continues as the medical staff wants to find out what is going on in his system.  Lance does not feel well and is not  interacting with us as he was last week.  That disappoints but as we try to avoid discouragement, we will pray and trust God.  As you worship tomorrow, as you slow down and prepare to start a new work week, thanks for praying for Lance.

-John

Thursday, February 24, 2011

the good, the bad, and the ugly

so... we are still at UK. lovely place, this hospital. except for the fact that they only have coke products, their doctors are awesome, the nurses are sweet. and the aides let you sleep through turn time.

its been a crazy week. Lance came home from georgia last thursday, he was very drowsy that night and most of friday. then became very restless friday night and saturday morning. By saturday evening he was downright agitated. we couldn't decide if this was the agitation phase of coming out of the coma, that we've been so excited to see... or pain. unfortunately, it was pain. so on Sunday evening, he was taken to flemingsburg hospital. he was admitted for further observation, he had cat scans and ultrasounds to rule out pulmonary embolisms and kidney stones. everyone there was awesome... the xray girls knew Lance's whole story. and are now sporting Live the Lion bracelets. Its nice to be from a small town.
one of the hardest things was to see him in pain and know that he couldn't tell you what was hurting him. Even though he has had multiple surgeries, i had never seen him hurt that much. he stayed at flemingsburg again on monday night, and on tuesday morning, a small bowel obstruction was confirmed. he was then transferred back to UK, in case he needed surgery.

here's the good...
this afternoon they determined that after emptying the belly, the obstruction seemed to have resolved itself. he doesn't seem to be close to the amount of pain he was in the yesterday, but they are still giving him pain medicine. they will repeat another scan tomorrow and if all looks good, they will begin to feed him again and see if the obstruction reappears.

here's the bad...
he has pneumonia. before the accident, Lance was in great shape. with all of his running and biking, his lungs were in excellent condition. i'm guessing that since this pneumonia has come up in the last few days because of him not moving around as much as he had been. while at shepherd and the 2 full days he was at home, we had him up in the wheelchair, doing exercises. also, since he left shepherd, he hasn't been doing all the pedaling on the FES bike. his trach that has been plugged for 3 weeks is now unplugged, with oxygen. his oxygen saturation has stayed good this evening since i've been here. antibiotics have been started. he cough is getting stronger, something we had hoped for so the trach could come out. however, i don't think this is how they wanted to go about it.

here's the ugly....
UK Men's Basketball is just ugly on the road.


i had some rules for visitors when lance first came home.. unfortunately, they may be more strict now. we just want him to have the amount of rest he needs and just trying to keep everything calm and quiet in his room, especially while they are treating him here at UK.

I was able to go to the first round of the district tournament last night. Congrats Lions!
one of my good friends is from Greenup County, so i was sitting on the visitors side... i know... my mom has already warned me never to do that again. Anyway, as I looked across the gym to our fans, I saw this huge sign hanging by Mr. Voiles and the Lewis County Band of Pride.

also, i had mentioned earlier that we were going to be ordering more Dance 4 Lance t-shirts this week. With all that has been going on, I haven't gotten to it yet. So, if you still want one, just email me chelceeocull@gmail.com The shirts are red, with black lettering. $10 each. you can get any size from 6mos to 5X. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Short Update

Lance needs your prayers tonight ( I know you have already been offering) as he is in UK Medical Center.  He arrived about 4:30PM and I will fill in more details later.  The current status is that he is heavily medicated for pain; the working diagnosis is an obstruction in his intestine.  The doctors of the Blue Team (Lance's original physician team here at UK in the weeks following the accident) are currently reviewing test results so that we can get diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

9:00PM update - Lance received great attention here at UK as soon as he arrived.  The Blue Team docs were in the room quickly; he had been moved directly from the ambulance, through the halls, up the elevator, and into his room.  They are trying to remove gastric contents (draining stomach), and therefore relieve pressure, and hopefully this problem may correct itself - without surgery.  They have taken another x-ray with contrast media in the stomach and it yielded desirable result - that the tube that goes into stomach is positioned properly.  Now the tube has been sutured into position and we wait (for a day or two?) to see if this problem resolves.  The good news is that there seems to be a fair chance that he may avoid another surgery at this time.  Another surgery at this time would be a setback in his recovery, but a non-surgical resolution would not have such significant impact. It was great to see Carly, one of our fav nurses when we were here before and Leslie, another nurse at the hospital who is a lifetime friend and showed tremendous hospitality during December.  They stopped by the room briefly, as did Trish, to say hi.

Thanks to all of you prayer warriors. Those prayers are powerful and appreciated; they are making the difference.  During this time they truly are the greatest gift.  Thanks for all offers their help; we appreciate so much, the love you show.
-John

Monday, February 21, 2011

I figured I should update on Lances condition...
On Saturday morning, we noticed Lance was more agitated than normal. This continued through Sunday. So Sunday evening, after consulting with his doctor, we decided that he should be seen in the ER. Because he isnt talking yet, we are having a hard time figuring out where his pain is coming from. The doctor admitted him to rule out a multitude of issues. Bowel obstruction, hernia, PE, kidney stones, etc. 
I went to the hospital before I came to work this evening and they had ordered pain medicine. So hopefully he will get some much needed rest tonight. 
More tests tomorrow, I'll keep everyone updated as soon as I know something. And hopefully, we will be back home soon. 
-Chelcee 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

straight up


For those of you who know me, you are well aware that I'm not one to sugar coat things. I give it to you straight up. If you don’t know me, you may decide that I'm mean or controlling… but in this circumstance, I'm just trying to be the big sister and do whats best for Lance.
Lance has spent 4 weeks at UK hospital, and 8 weeks at the Shepherd Center, now its time for him to be home. In his own surroundings, with his family. And his friends. We are trying to make things as normal as possible for him. Even though his room is set up like a hospital room and there are home health nurses and therapists in the house daily, we are trying to be normal. He also needs lots of rest. Lance's doctors and therapists have said as much as 14 hours of sleep a day is needed to help him heal.

Many people have asked about visiting Lance…
Because the brain is such a complex organ, we don't know what will help or trigger it into emerging from a coma. We do, however know that over stimulation can cause Lance to shut down. By this I mean, sometimes he will turn his head away or close his eyes. I think its his way of saying, 'ok… I've had enough'.  With that said, over-stimulation is something that we definitely want to avoid. So, I have some rules when it comes to visiting. Again, I'm not trying to be rude, we are just trying to do what is best for Lance and follow the doctor's orders.

1. Let us know…
Calling to let us know when you want to visit is best. If you know our cell phone numbers, call it first, or feel free to text.  We are trying to keep all noise down in the house.
2. Make it short and sweet…
Long visits can over-stimulate and tire Lance.  So short visits are best.
3. Don't travel in packs
Its best if you don’t ravel in a pack of 10. You don't have to come alone, but a big group of people can be overwhelming for him.
4. Don't be offended
If therapy is here or a nurse, we need to let them do their job, their time is very valuable. So, please don't be offended if your visit is cut short due to something of that nature.
5. Cleanliness is next to Godliness
We have been very fortunate that Lance so far hasn't had any major infections. I've even had to wear a mask when I was ill to keep him from catching it. So, we ask that you please refrain from coming if you are sick. We have hand-sanitizer right inside our door, please use that, especially if you are coming from school. I even encouraged mom to change her shirt today when she arrived from school.
6. Don't be scared.
Don't be afraid to come... I haven't kicked anyone out. yet :)

So.. there it is folks, that's me… beating around the bush. 

We are so excited to have Lance home.
During the ambulance ride, he was given some medicine to help him relax and keep him pain free. Some of that medication has caused him to be more drowsy than usual. I'm predicting that by early next week, all of that will be out of his system and he will be settled in and back on a schedule. Since it was such a beautiful day today, my parents took him outside on the back deck in his wheelchair so he could watch the river roll by.
I still have somewhat of a cough, so trying to keep my distance and have some sibling time with my brother has been a little difficult. However, I felt the need to explain to him why our Mom is at our Dad & Gena's house and why our Grandma Betty is in the living room folding towels. This is a new and interesting experience for all of us. One that we are all adapting to quite nicely, I'll have to say.
Brock came in from Morehead this evening, so the three of us got to be in the same room together for the first time in a month. Its also the first time since Thanksgiving that the three of us have been in a house together... not a hospital. It feels good.

Keep the prayers coming!

-Chelcee

Friday, February 18, 2011

Safely Home

Lance is sleeping in Vanceburg tonight for the first time since he awakened here on Sunday morning  Nov. 28, 2010.  That night and all the nights until Dec. 22 were at the UK Medical Center.  Christmas, New Years Day,  January, and all of February, through today, were at the Shepherd Center.  As morning breaks in Atlanta, there is fog but soon the sun will burn it away and a cloudless day will be a blessing we can enjoy for the trip.  The trip from Atlanta was smooth and he tolerated the ride in the ambulance well.  The next couple of days will provide time for quiet recuperation from the long, bouncing ride on a stretcher.

The good-byes at Shepherd were tearful; it is so great to see the wonderful, compassionate people that serve humanity as health care workers.  Lance's family also witnessed many nurses, aids, and physicians that truly loved Lance and also wanted to help all of us in a time of distress.  The therapists and nurses all stopped by his room this week with instructions for home.  Consistent in their visits was the premise and desire that he would return soon.....to engage in rehabilitation.  Dr. Fadia speaks positively, with what seems to be a guarded optimism.  We have greatly appreciated this facility and their employees; we realize that this is not the only rehab opportunity that he would have after emergence, but it is truly a special place.  One last event which was so special was a prayer by nurse  Delores.  She put her hands on Lance and us and  spoke to God as only one, who knows and speaks often with Him,can.

EMT's Shane and Juliet manned the ambulance as Lance's kind care continued and only two stops were made on the trip.  Gena administered doses of medicine at each of these to insure comfortable and relaxed travel for him.  We encountered only one significant slowdown - road construction about an hour north of Atlanta - after that it was high speed ahead.  The full moon was shining brightly as we moved through the valley from Tollesboro to Vanceburg.  As we drove between the rock cut at the peak of the Ronald Reagan connector, you could see the flickering lights in town with the river as the backdrop as well as the lights of the Black Oak community.  As we turned on River Drive our hearts were warmed as neighbors stood in driveways to wave their hands and signs, as we passed by yards with welcome signs for Lance, and as we turned into the driveway to see banners on the garage.

Once inside, Lance was quickly moved from the confining cot on which he had been placed at 10:15 AM, eight and a half hours earlier.  Chelcee has worked diligently, with the help of others, to get all prepared at the house for his arrival.  Today medical supplies and equipment were delivered throughout the day.  Also in attendance, to help settle Lance in, were his mom Jill and his grandparents(John & Marlene and Betty).  Ben helped me unload vehicle and organize all this stuff which Lance needs and the other things that must be on hand when preparing for all situations that a patient can encounter.  Basically, the room/area has turned into a mini-hospital.  

There were many thoughts swirling as we followed Central EMS Unit # 36 for 455 miles.  There was the idea  of bringing a fallen hero home - I could not help but think of the families that have experienced that pain, even more tragic than our circumstance.  There are many, but a few come to mind: Billie Gwen (Ziegler) Barbour,  Mike and Kathy Newdigate, and recently Jim and Michelle Cochran.  There is the notion that we are bringing Lance home as a long term care patient;  I  continue trusting, praying, believing that God is not finished in this yet.   We want God to be glorified in what happens in Lance's life and are thanking Him in advance for what He is going to do.  

As we try to get rest tonight, Lance is very restless - not unexpected after all the change.  We thank you for all the prayers you have offered during his journey; tonight we are safely home.  As he heals, as he rests, as we wait.............home sure feels good.

-John

my good friend Tara, was able to get pictures of most of the signs... Thanks Tara. Much Love Everyone, its been a long day, I'm SO glad my brother is home. He may not be sitting cross legged in my floor rambling on about philosophy, but he's here and in God's time, everything will fall into place. ~chelcee








Wednesday, February 16, 2011

1 Cor. 3:5

"Our power and ability and sufficiency are from God."  I claim this verse tonight as we embark on the next chapter of Lance's life, his recovery, and the unfolding of God's plan through us.  I was drawn to this verse in a book by Major W. Ian Thomas received as a gift from Sarah Ott.  This gift and the visits from Sarah and her friends have been very special.  Yesterday she and Ben visited us in Lance's room and we said our good-byes - as we conclude the current treatment program here at the Shepherd Center.

The week has been busy here in Atlanta and back in Vanceburg as tomorrow is travel day for Lance.  He has finished the coma prep program; it was actually extended a couple of weeks as the doctors and staff thought he was "close" to emerging.  I have learned that "close" can be quite elusive and disappointing.  We knew and accepted at the outset, that the "wake-up" steps that were to be attempted here may not bring us to the point of full consciousness for Lance.  The program has been wonderfully rendered by topnotch professionals, but Lance is still not awake, as Chelcee explained so well in a previous blog.(Is Lance Awake?)  We also came to Atlanta knowing that, if this happened, we would be bringing Lance home for the next stage.  This next stage has a less clear time frame,  but one should count on weeks to months.  This part of his recovery will include placing him in a familiar environment with lots of rest.  There can and should be visitors; we will ask that visitors realize that short visit times with Lance will be best and that different days will have different circumstances.

We have said good-byes and thank-yous to so many at the Shepherd Center this week.  All of them say, "We will see you back soon".  This is very encouraging and there are many success stories that describe how the "wake-up" occurs several weeks/months after leaving the hospital.  We will continue to pray that this is Lance's future.  Last night Lance, Gena, and I spent the night in a transitional apartment designed to give comfort and training to families as they prepare to bring patient to the home setting.  All went well; we feel very fortunate that training/careers from the past will prove helpful for this next stage.  Thanks to all of you as you offer so much encouragement and help.  Your prayers and God's provision will carry us through this chapter of the vigil.  I know He has a plan; we just have to wait for Him to display His power.  Waiting is tough, especially for us who are short on patience.

So tomorrow at 10:00 AM, the ambulance is to load Lance for the 455 mile  ride to Vanceburg.  We all need good sleep tonight.  This stage has many emotions flooding our system.  There is some anxiety about caring for him.  There is nervousness about where this stage leads.  There are those who think hope is gone, while, there are those that believe God is waiting for the right moment to perform His miracle.  As we wrestle with these and many more, here is a beautiful truth to remember.  God knows our thoughts, our hearts, every tear we shed.  Sarah reminded Lance through prayer, that God understood his thoughts even though he could not verbally express them. God knows yours and mine as well.  I just want to remember the verse that describes the source of our power, our ability, our sufficiency.  As we travel I-75 north, the road is clearly marked.  If we decide to make a turn, GPS systems and maps can direct us.  On the paths that we must walk through life, we sometimes find ourselves in areas unfamiliar.  Lance is on an unmarked, rocky, and mountainous path right now (perhaps similar to passes he observed on the Nicene Way).  I know Lance must feel comfort knowing that God is the guide on this journey.  I know I do.

-John      
  

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Friends Are Friends Forever

Leave it to Murph to talk some trash,
Oftentimes loud - sometimes brash.
The Cards played well - no reason or rhyme,
That is - 'til we got to overtime.

Next day, I, my Irish shirt wore
'though red was the choice the day before.
Showing ones colors is always fun;
But each dog'll have its day in the sun.

Memories can make a wonderful friend,
Like a fall weekend in South Bend.
For the trip, we, a seasoned host had -
Chris and Lance and Lance's dad.

Uncle Tom graciously showed us the sights
As we mixed with the masses - aged to tikes.
Viewing pictures, hearing stories - not near the same
As strolling the campus of ol' Notre Dame.


This attempt at poetry is an answer to friend Trish Murphy who has, for several weeks, written emails to Lance in rhyme.  They have been funny and educational - entertaining as we read them to Lance.  In the poem I called her Murph; the week past brought memories of another with that nickname.  My friend Mike "Murph" Murphy died unexpectedly after suffering an aneuryism.  He was a friend to many and I count myself lucky to be one of those.  He and I were competitors in high school sports days - then teammates in college intramurals.  Then we umpired baseball games as one of our part-time jobs; that gave us lots of visit time as we drove from Morehead to area high schools on those spring afternoons.  Many of us found it hard to say good-bye to Murph this week; our sympathy is extended to his family.

Many friendships from the past have been recalled and rekindled over the past 77 days since Lance was injured.  The opportunity to become better acquainted with his wonderful friends has been a blessing.  I realized that his first 24 years have been very busy but I also learned more about loyal relationships with intelligent and compassionate people.  One night back in Lexington, after watching a parade of young people visit, I said, "These 20 and 30-somethings are refreshing as they demonstrate their love so transparently; this world will be better off when they are in charge."

The friends I have enjoyed over the years all come together in a beautiful collage, at a time like this  Comrads band together to pull their sinking friend from whatever difficulty into which he/she has stumbled.  During these past 11 weeks you have reached out to me - I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  You really don't have to say anything; often I cannot get a word out through the emotion and I hope that's ok.  Words are not necessary to communicate with those you love.  You miss them and you yearn to hear them again, but there is a love language that emanates from the eyes.  As I look into Lance's eyes today it's like  looking into his soul as his mind works and his lips and tongue reposition attempting to communicate - attempting to achieve what used to be so easy - what we often take for granted.

One of Lance's friends, who has been a friend to many including Papaw John and Granny Betty, is Charlie Stapleton.  His frequent mailings are easy to distinguish, even though there is no return address, as Live the Lion is neatly scribed on each envelope.  One mailing included a picture from the Lewis County Herald of Brock and Chelcee wearing Dance for Lance medium t-shirts and extra large smiles.  Charlie expressed how he values a smile; not only is it a treasure but I thought, another quiet way of communication.

As Lance's week comes to a close and as the days count down before he returns to Kentucky, we celebrate what has happened.  He looks so strong, so healthy, as we returned on Friday.  Jill left Saturday morning after spending time with him and in training this week; there is much for all to learn.  Gena and I arrived Friday afternoon and was able to watch afternoon therapy sessions.  One noteworthy event of Friday was Lance's third bicycle ride of the week.  Even the therapists were excited that he rode 7 miles in 35 minutes on this ride.  We are excited and hopeful that exercise bicycling will continue after he gets home; it sounds like that opportunity will happen thanks to the kindness of a friend.  Today he had a physical and speech therapy session - more than usual for Saturday.  We are so grateful for the wonderful care and friendliness of the folks here at the Sheherd Center.  It sure has made being away from home - feel like home.  We had hoped Lance could go outside today but the wind with temps in the 40's changed our minds.  We watched Uof L beat the Orangemen and that was good medicine; then we watched the second half of UK/Vandy and that was a bitter pill to swallow. 

Winning or losing, friends are we.  And precious are each one.

-John   

Friday, February 11, 2011

i and love and you

ok guys.. i'm at work tonight, so my thoughts may be a bit scattered as i write this... here it goes:







1. Dance 4 Lance!  A huge success. There were approximately 106 people who came to Central Elementary to dance for Lance. or at least watch the dancing that took place in the gym. The very generous Dancers for Lancer gave $2326! Amazing. We are forever gracious for the outpouring of love and generousity of our community.
Big thanks to everyone that helped with the zumbathon. I'm sorry if I leave anyone out... Kayla Willis, for coming up with the idea, the name and helping with the planning. Grace Bentley, Penny Liles, Betty Poynter for being the Zumba instructors. Karen Killen, for helping with advertisement. Sue Lykins, for hard work on organizing the t-shirts. Tara Collins and Becky Sullivan who were on bracelet duty. :)
Also... we are especially grateful to Jamie Christy who donated tshirts and made us several more. The design is wonderful. Impact Designs is the bomb!


2. the t-shirts...
we can order more! my good friend, Tara Lewis Collins is helping me with the ordering of the shirts. They are red with black lettering, Dance 4 Lance on the front. and Isaiah 40:28-31 on the back. We can order up to a 5X and as small as an infant, 6 months. They are $10. If you would like to order one, you can email Tara at Tara_Collins@live.com with the size you need. If you wish you mail a check, you can send that to Tara Collins, 15 Spencer Street, Vanceburg KY 41179. All orders need to be in by Monday Feb 21st.


3. the bracelets...
apparently, the bracelets have been caught in the ice and snow storm. They have promised me they will arrive tomorrow. So, if you have requested one and haven't gotten it, I apologize... as soon as they arrive, they will be distributed.


4. Because Lance will be coming home next week, his simple email system at the Shepherd Center will no longer be available. I have set up another email account.
livethelion@gmail.com
Everyone is welcome to email this address. Whether you knew Lance or not, have an encouraging story or just a joke you think he would enjoy. We will print them out and read them to him.


5. I went to see Shannon Gilbert at Cardinal Hill on Wednesday. She looks so incredible. Its amazing to see how prayer has worked to heal Shannon so quickly. She actually gets to come home on Tuesday! While I was talking to her and her parents, she realized it was time for therapy. So, she put her helmet on, jumped right up and walked down the hall to her therapy session.
YAY!


6. The speech therapist has been working with Lance to position his lips and tongue to make sounds. We have all heard some noises, although its not coherent yet, we have hope. My dad witnessed that he can mouth a word, like 'Bye'. On Wednesday, when I was talking to Lance on the phone, I told him that I loved him. When Mom took the phone back, she was very quiet. Then she told me. He had mouthed three words. I and Love and You.  =)
I'm so very excited to see my brother!


7. Lance was able to get on the tilt table again this week and did very well. He rode the bike for 4.5 miles! He is showing some signs of agitation when it comes to the casts. He doesn't like them. At all. Mom said he was almost pouting. Mom also had a pep talk with him about his swallowing. She thinks he did a lot better with chewing the ice and then swallowing after that.


As always, thanks for the prayers and the continued support from our family, friends, community and new followers of the blog. We are so very grateful!


-chelcee

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Thoughts for Brains

     In all this blogging we're doing, I've been reminded of the variously pseudo-artistic, partially creative blogs I've started in an attempt at internet-venting.  Sometimes it works, other times it doesn't.  Most of the time, they turn out the same as any documentary-style attempt to journal your thoughts, feelings, et cetera and eventually become a full pocket of time-specific photographs from an era in my life, lodged somewhere in the wild and wacky universe of the WWW.
     MySpace was for complaining and telling people about your band that had more t-shirt designs than songs.  Xanga and Expage gave the young innocent mind the chance to really speak its voice concerning things that matter most in life--usually completely off-target, or miscommunicated to such a grotesque level as to be not so far from grade school gossip, playground talk, prepubescent romance and the like.  And most currently, Facebook provides an immediate declaration of who you think you are and how you wish to appear to people.  I won't even elaborate on twitter.  Who invented this goofiness anyway?
     My point is, blogs are legitimate when they have a purpose.  Since my years of ramblings in various journals, notebooks, sketch pads, post-it notes, and internet-outlets, I've discovered the point of a blog: to simply communicate and freely publish--in a sense--personal thoughts, news, pictures and really, whatever you wish to share.



     Lance and I started a blog on Tumblr last year for the sole purpose of sharing funny thoughts when we weren't together, so that we could read about each other's personal musings in separate cities.  You can check out the blog we started here.  This is a pretty good snapshot of who Lance is, and for those of you who don't really know him that well, it could suffice to say that Lance can be summed up in a few words: extreme humor, inappropriate jokes, intense scholasticism, and a passionate desire to find who and what exactly he is himself.  Enjoy.

b

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lance Preparation On Many Fronts

Lance was kept busy on Monday with a few diagnostics due to some swelling in arms during the weekend.  X-rays and ultrasound evaluation demonstrate that all seems ok so plans can proceed.  A new cast was fabricated for left arm; the purpose of all the casting is to stretch muscles and fight against limited movement due to prolonged shortening of muscle tissue.  These are uncomfortable to him because his muscles want to bend arm while cast holds arm straight.  He continues to wear bi-valves on legs and a soft splint on right arm at this time; these are secured in place from 8 PM to 8 AM daily.

During a time of frustration on Monday morning, Jill reports that the therapists positioned his wheelchair in front of the FES bicycle.  This time, just to see what would happen, no electrodes were connected to his legs to stimulate muscles.  Guess what happened.......he started pedaling and continues to pedal for 26 minutes!!!!  The rest of the day was filled with physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.

In Vanceburg, his bedroom was being prepared with removal of carpet and laying of linoleum.  Measurements were made and materials ordered to construct ramp.  Many calls were being made to arrange home health, physicians, and other needs, once he arrives back in Lewis County.  After work  Chelcee, Gena, and I started toward Ashland to look at a wheelchair accessible van; with  snow covered roads looking dangerous, we reconsidered about 5 miles up the road, turned around and returned home.

-John

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Not So Far Away

Funny how the 450 miles from Black Oak driveway to the Shepherd Center has become the Saturday outing....and it seems to be not so far away anymore.  The miles go faster when one is traveling toward Lance with the anticipation of seeing him; traveling north, knowing you will not see and touch him for a few days, is the most difficult direction to travel.  Yesterday the miles went by so fast and I thank all who continue to help and accompany us through this chapter of life.  The prayers that have been lifted for traveling safety have been bountiful and, to date, all travelers have had safe journeys.

Also as Gena and I maneuvered up I-75 yesterday, we knew that many were gathering at Lewis County Central to Dance 4 Lance.  Wow, what a wonderful combination of planning, hard work, big hearts, fellowship, sweating, exercising, and very generous giving - all to show support for Lance.  I cannot wait for him to understand, see pictures, and read about the event - he will be so humbled and so grateful, as we are.  Thank you so much; we are currently shopping for a wheelchair acessible van for Lance and that is how the donations will be used.

Also phone calls and messages from friends and family continue to encourage us.  I feel that my family is so much larger now - as I blogged about the community of the Kingdom of God last week and as I have become better acquainted with Lance's circle of friends.  This morning in a church in Blacksburg, Virginia where Dick Gilbert worships, a time of prayer for Lance will be a part of their service.  So this morning at 11:15 AM Jill will sit beside Lance as he sits in his wheelchair, knowing that God is being petitioned yet again for his healing.  I am thankful for each of these loving prayers - each and every time that God has been asked to keep Lance alive, to carry him through surgeries, to guard him from pain and infection, to restore him by performing a miracle of healing of nerve and bone and muscle and brain tissue.

I am thankful for friendships forged and lessons learned as we go through valleys - shoulder to shoulder - as Ted and I have during recent weeks.  Part of travel yesterday was a phone call with him as we celebrated Shannon's outing and cooking and overall progress during her stay at Cardinal Hill.  We have a new perspective on Psalms 56:8, "You keep track of my sorrows.  You have collected my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book."  Sometimes we get a very clear vision of God throught he tear-filled eyes of brokenness.

Today marks 10 weeks since Lance's accident, 10 weeks since we have seen his smile or felt his hugs.  I miss him terribly and I know you do as well.  He has made great strides but has a long road ahead.  He is so blessed to have many with him on this adventure. He will have a quiet weekend with no therapy, time for extra rest and to prepare for the busy week ahead.  Thanks to all of you for holding him close in your hearts; I know, by your love, he is never far away.

-John     

PS-more later from Chelcee  

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dance 4 Lance

We keep I-75 hot these days, especially on Saturdays, that's the day my parents are traving to and from the Shepherd Center to spend their week with Lance. Today, my mom is heading south and as soon as she arrives, my dad and Gena will head back to Kentucky.
On this Saturday afternoon, Brock and I will be hanging out in Vanceburg with lots of family and friends at Central Elementary school for a zumbathon, Dance 4 Lance!

From 4:00 until 6:00, $5 entry fee.

Some of you may already have your Dance 4 Lance tshirts, there will be some available for $10 if you would like one. It's my understanding that like the Live the Lion bracelets, the shirts seem to be a hot item. If your size of shirt isn't available tomorrow, some of my friends will be there to take up orders and money for more shirts.
So, whether you zumba or you don't zumba, come and hang out with us. It will be a good time!

Im a firm believer in the power of prayer. What I don't understand is the timing. But I'll just leave all of that up to God. He has it all under control.

Here is the latest update on Shannon Gilbert!

This was a fantastic day!   To paraphrase an old Elvis joke...Shannon left the building!   We were allowed to take her out for lunch today.  This is the first time Shannnon has been outside a hospital for more than 5 weeks, and it was awesome.  My old friend Barry Scwhartz is co-owner of the Campus Pub,  a really neat sports bar/restaurant that is only about a mile from Cardinal Hill.  He and his partner treated us to lunch today, and we had a great time. Shannon was very excited and anxious to get to go out, and we enjoyed a great lunch and some great fellowship and conversation.  

 

We also had another surprise today.  Shannon made me my favorite dessert that she always makes for my birthday or Father's Day.  It is called Striped Delight, and it is awesome!  The therapists bought the ingredients last night, and Shannon made the dessert this morning as one of her therapy sessions.  As much as I don't like to share my desserts, we shared it with everyone else during dinner this evening.  (I still managed to save some for myself!).  

 

Shannon is doing so well, and we are so thankful.  I can't even find the words to describe how we feel.  She understands what happpened to her, and understands that she is getting better every day thanks to her hard work and the great therapists that are helping her, and the awesome power of prayer. 

 

We have enjoyed a lot of laughter today, as Shannon's old personality is coming back strong.  Holly was putting some Mederma (scar cream) on Shannon's trach scar this afternoon, and she told her "this doesn't sting or burn".  After a few seconds, Shannon pulled a joke on Holly when she flinched and said "ouch".  Then she burst into laughter.  This is the Shannon that we know, and it is great to see her coming back.

 

I asked her if she wanted to say anything to those of you that are following the updates, and she said to say thanks for all the cards and flowers and the prayers.   

 

Thanks so much to everyone for your outpouring of love and support, and most importantly, for your prayers.  God has blessed us so much.  

 

-Ted 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Two Weeks and Counting Down

Thanks to all of you who follow the blog; the emails and other contacts we receive are so kind.  We continue to appreciate your prayers for Lance and the family.  Often as I read emails or cards, I cry as your amazing stories of faith leap off the screen.  When I hear from individuals who have lost a child or a spouse or other relative in the past, it makes a difference in my day because you care for us; thank-you.  I have a whole new appreciation for families (and especially parents) who care for those with disabilities.  Thank-you for the kindness so many of you demonstrate as you care for and minister to those who are sick or impaired.

While Gena and I are here, time goes by so fast that posting starts to feel like I'm in school again and I have a paper due tomorrow.  While we are home, and Jill is here, each 24 hour cycle is filled with sleep and work and getting ready to return.  The best report is that he looks better, more like Lance than anytime since the accident.  That was certainly the consensus of Granny Betty, Granny Marlene, and Papaw John after their weekend visit.  (Thanks to all of you who have ministered to them; what an awful 2 months they have had, grieving for this grandson they have spent the last 24 years cheering on.)

Lance had a couple of restless nights, but last night was much better.  Today has been his best day of the week; he has been alert during therapy sessions but able to rest in between times.  Wednesday morning on the FES bike was good; he rode 2.55 miles in 22 minutes with stimulation during half the ride.  Today was amazing;  he rode 3.6 miles in 22 minutes with no stimulation after the two minute warm-up.  He is 6 miles ahead of me on cycling for the week.

One discouraging report came with Dr. Zadoff's visit Wednessday afternoon.  He is the pulmonologist who manages Lance's airway and lungs and is the decision maker regarding the capped off trach tube which is still inserted in his throat.  It has not been used to aid in breathing for over 3 weeks and it no longer has to be used for access to remove secretions.  We had hoped that this would be out by now and had thought that when the skin graft surgery was off the table, it would certainly be removed.  He explained that Lance's coughing reflex had diminished over the past two weeks and that his advice is to leave the trach.  It decreases pneumonia risk, helps avoid an airway blockage, and is just in Lance's best interest to leave in place.  This should not be considered a major setback; the cough reflex should return with time.  Some of you who witnessed Lance's strong cough while visiting him will probably have a hard time believing this paragraph, especially those of you who were targets. 

Today Lance's left arm had a new cast placed-from armpit to wrist; this is to stay until Monday, when it will be converted to a bivalve(see earlier blog for examples-Brock is the model). This is part of the continuing efforts to get his muscles to relax so that coordinated function will hopefully return to arms and legs.  He continues to wear the casts in sections for multiple hours, usually 12 hours during evening/night hours.

Much time this week has been in family training because of the two weeks mentioned in the title.  Lance is scheduled tentatively(and most likely) for dismissal from the Shepherd Center on February 17, two weeks from today.  He was admitted here with purpose of emergence from comatose state, on Dec.22.  The staff has worked diligently and he has progressed significantly during that time, however he has still not emerged to the level which  enables him to begin the rehab phase.  Things could still change during the next 14 days; if they do, all will celebrate.  However, the education process is in high gear.  Today training was given for stretching of lower extremities, respiratory care(specifically for trach), and nursing.  Also, as Lance enters this "out of facility stage" called the Bridge program, the doctors and staff will be able to see him via Skype and therefore continue to aid in his care.  Most importantly, they will stay involved as he hopefully will be able to return here for the Rehab program.  Therefore the name - Bridge, represents this time he enters on Feb 17- bridging the time between the coma prep program and the rehab program.

The best news of the night comes from data collected during the bicycle ride.  The information display shows how much each leg is working.  The left leg is doing its share of the work.  This is very exciting news because it diminishes the chances that there is paralysis in the leg.  There are so many complex mechanisms at work each time we take a step.....we take it for granted as we run through life.  Enjoy each step, each arm movement, every word you can deliver.  In fact, do more than that.  Run or jump or dance at every opportunity!  Use your arms to hug or to give a helping hand!  Use your mouth for kind words, never for gossip......share the Good News!

PS-Karissa, thanks for your comments.  If you could email me some more info from Communality worship, I would appreciate.  He told me about it and I have been trying to put together a blog entitled "Lance Loves Church".  My email, which anyone is welcome to message, is eujohn@windstream.net.

-John

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Praise You In This Storm

Lance has loved music from a very young age.  I remember the first bass guitar purchase - shopping for the guitar, selecting an amplifier, and of course one must have a case to protect the instrument - wondering, in the days before Christmas....how many days after Christmas it would be before it was just another old  toy.  Well for Lance it was a wonderful toy that was constantly  in his hands being practiced and mastered.  In fact, the next Christmas, Gena and I purchased another guitar, this time a 6 string, so that he could expand his musicianship.  He enjoys making music and listening to music from multiple genres.

He used both of those guitars(and others since) to play worship and praise music in many churches and other settings.  We have discussed our friendship with Ted Gilbert as we have kept updating the blog(this is Shannon's dad).  The friendship started when Ted and Holly were attending Fly Branch Church of Christ while Kevin Angel(husband to Rayetta), another old rock and roller, served as minister. Gena, Chelcee, Lance, Brock and I were also part of the congregation at that time.  The boys were teenagers at the time; Brock was a beginner drummer and Lance was learning fast.  Kevin, Ted, Lance, Brock, and I started spending our Saturday mornings practicing so we could play for worship services.  We played hymns, contemporary Christian songs, and a few songs that were modified for learning about or glorifying God.  We all learned alot through that experience, made friendships with one another, and most importantly used our time and talent for the Lord and His Kingdom.  (I've always expected that I was in the band only because I owned some of the equipment and transported two very important band members to practices.)  The greatest thrill of all, as a dad, was to get to spend all those hours over a 3 year time frame with my sons.  I had always thought that as a father of two sons, I would be in ball parks and gymnasiums as they were growing up.  Wow, was I wrong!  They were not like me; all I had been able to think about,during my young years, was sports.

What a gift Lance and Brock gave me - their music.  We spent time at band camp and competitions, at concerts, practicing around the piano.....time with Ted and Kevin and others just learning how to play.  The band, Joyful Racket, had lots of chances to play at church camps,  youth events, and at other churches in the area.  Brock continues to develope his mutiple music talents; he and I have prayed, from the first days after the accident, that Lance's music - playing the guitar as he jumped around in his bare feet - would be a part of his future.  Thank-you, Brock and Lance for such a special memory - getting to praise God though song with both sons.  More praise after update......

Lance was very busy on Monday; speech therapy was very exciting as Heather showed us how he was positioning his lips and tongue to make certain sounds.  At this point no noise comes out, but this is a first step.  As the day progressed he just seemed to notice his surroundings and people more.  His long looks with those big brown eyes seem to be communicating alot, but it is up to those around him to interpret the meaning.  One of the difficult daily(especially during the evening and nighttime hours) occurrences  is storming.  This is a symptom of many patients who experience brain injuries.  During the "brainstorm", the patient will usually sweat profusely, appear agitated or uncomfortable; sometimes the pulse and blood pressure elevate.  These storms are part of Lance life (and part of our life) for the immediate future.  We just do what we can to comfort him and cool him down - pain meds and cooling off techniques - as you would any patient with an elevated temperature.  A song comes to mind that combines praise and storms.  It is written and performed by Casting Crowns; several of their songs were favorites of Joyful Racket.


Praise You In The Storm

I was sure by now
God you would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
 Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen", and  it's still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

 I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
Every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I wll praise You in this storm

I praise God tonight for the Vanceburg Christian Church, our home congregation.  But I praise God for THE CHURCH.  I thank God for letting me see it in action.  I feel its presence in our lives.  I learn daily of how groups of believers around the world continue to pray to God and lift Lance up to Him through their prayers.  The church is God's Kingdom; we are a part of something great, something big and powerful.  Many have made me realize God's abiding presence through their love, prayers, visits, cards, emails, and other ways.  We have visitors that often make me feel like I've been in revival after they leave - such as today.  Guy Priester (of First Baptist of Snellville) and our new friend Sarah Ott(Passion Church)  were both in Lance's room at the same time today; we all joined in prayer as we gathered around his bed.  Yesterday's visit from Jennifer Barnes, so warm and so genuine, brought so much of God's comfort to us.  These people, who we didn't know before this event, are being sent by divine ordination.  All I can say is we will continue to praise during this storm, and the next, and the next.  One day, we are promised, that the storms will cease.  If we desire to follow Christ, we can claim all the promises of scripture.  Our lives will have storms; it may even seem that you have a stormy life - all the time.  Please know and trust that peace is promised.........then, take the next step - seek God with all your heart......that is when we will be truly blessed.  That is when we can claim all the promises!

-John
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