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.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Today, March 28th, marks 16 months since Lance was injured. I always deal with an unwarranted amount of emotion when the 28th of each month comes up on the calendar. Today seems different; it is so busy and Lance has had three successive days of fun developments. In fact he has had three and a half weeks of excitement since arriving at the Shepherd Center. In the first three hours after his admission so much happened. Dr. Elmers and her team were busy listening and sharing ideas; their knowledge of him was astounding due to the excellent reports they had received from his outpatient therapists as well as Cardinal Hill. Gena and I later compared notes on our feelings; she experienced alot of emotions just walking down familiar hallways and remembering Lance's status when we were here a year ago. I did not have those flashbacks until I started bumping into staff members who had provided care for Lance with so much affection.............provided support for us, his family, when we were so fragile. To each of them I will be forever grateful......................... Each of us have the chance to help others along their journey; while you cannot always be ready to jump in and help.....keep your eyes wide open as there are so many people fighting hard battles.
I promised myself I would be brief, so I will just hit the highlights. Gena and I enjoyed the first week with him in Atlanta as our wonderful team provided assessments and began giving input and put together a plan of action for Lance. We had fun times as he started laughing more often when funny things happened. Still the travel had been tiring and now he had to quickly get accustomed to a new group of people, new schedules, and new surroundings. The trip itself would have caused anyone to become disconcerted; Lance slept in four different beds on four consecutive days during the transition. Friday - Vanceburg, Saturday - Knoxville, Sunday - Atlanta but not the hospital until Monday. We were able to help him begin his birthday celebration. Other birthday visitors were the Dunaways-Chris, Deah, Noah, and Lance's buddy Grant.
Jill and Grandma Betty were with him during week two. This week was challenging with Lance having a Baclofen pump surgically placed by Dr.Frankel on Thursday. This allows medicine that helps to control muscle tone to be delivered, site specific to where it is needed, in his spinal cord. This, as well as all other coordinated efforts, are precursors to him being able to walk. In order to avoid post-operative problems he had to stay in bed, relatively flat, for 48 hours after surgery. All has gone well and we are starting to see benefits. (This will be a long term medical device for Lance; many deal with similar devices such as pain pumps or insulin pumps.) I underestimated the recovery time but he now seems to have that behind him.
Sue Jane Bane and Brock were with him a couple of days while he still didn't feel well, early in week three. Gena finished out the third week; Friday was a troubling day as Lance had a light seizure soon after wake-up. She was in room helping him get day started when the episode occurred. The rest of the day and the weekend was spent closely monitoring him. There were some immediate medicine adjustments; some meds, typically used for patients like Lance, have seizure risks. No other similar occurences have been observed since then.
Chelcee and I arrived for week four and have enjoyed our time with him. By Monday it seemed that he was much stronger and there was a new difference. He was laughing at TV shows, at me, even at himself. The laughter doesn't have the volume that you who know him would miss. However, the laughter is spontaneous......and there is a twinkle in his eye that is beautifully familiar. I've missed so much for so long........this has been a wonderful blessing. Much re-training is occurring. He seems to embrace learning, just as he always has. His attitude is outstanding as it has been through the journey. Next week he is going to have surgery on his Achilles tendons; they were stretched during the months in which he was in a coma - to a point where walking, running, bicycling in a normal way would be impossible. He understands and is willing to go through yet another tough procedure / recovery to obtain the best possible outcome. I'm thankful to be in such a place of hope, a place where big dreams are dreamed and realized.....by avoiding low expectations.
His determination seems to be coming from inside him and not only from those who surround him. Pictures will display casts that are being used on left arm and leg for muscle extension. These are treatment techniques that he has experienced before but now with new goals. He advocates ardently for the Louisville Cardinals with anyone who brings up the Final Four. Visitors during the Cards-Gators game on Saturday included Mike and Jenny Ginn, Chuck Perry, and the Hyatts-Todd, Megan, and Parker. He attended the Atlanta Hawks vs. Utah Jazz game Sunday night thanks to Fleming Countian and fellow Uof L alum Derrick Crump, who works for the Hawks.
Dad and I always enjoyed good news/bad news jokes. So did Lance and I. On Monday afternoon Lance and I were sitting outside on a 75 degree Atlanta spring afternoon. I had carried out the plastic dish with the last three oatmeal cookies that mom had sent with us. I gave him one and kept one for myself. A few minutes later I opened the top and held it so Lance could look inside at the sole remaining cookie. I said there's good news and bad news. The good news is there is a cookie left; the bad news is...". He interrupted saying, "and it's for you."
Today we called to tell Gena about the upcoming surgery; I wanted to use the good/bad idea again so Lance could tell her in a fun way that it was going to involve not just one, but both ankles. I started, "Tell Gena the good news about when the surgery is scheduled." Lance said, "Next Thursday." I followed, "And the bad news is.........". Lance finished, "......and it's on me!" It was so fun that he improvised, away from the script, and said something that was much more humorous.
Last night he told me something that was bad news and good news, but not a joke. Chelcee and I had just finished helping him with a shower - no small task for a man with two casts. I looked at him and observed a grimace on his face as he shifted to get comfortable on his pillow. I asked, "What's the matter Lance?" His reply, "My neck is hurting." was the greatest complaint these ears have ever heard. Sorry as I was to hear him describe pain, I had just witnessed a complete sentence spoken spontaneously - his first. To some this will sound too simple to dwell on.......until you ponder all that has to happen for this God given communication system to work in our brains, our bodies. Let's pause a moment and give God praise for many things that we can so easily take for granted.
As we move toward Palm Sunday - Holy Week - Easter, let's pause for longer periods and ponder BIG things that God has done for you, for me. You think God seems far-away, elusive? Start obeying what God is telling your inner self to do..............God will be much closer than you thought.
Friday, March 16, 2012
The following link is to email Lance:
Also, I wanted to show everyone this picture of Lance, on his birthday. The girl with him is Jennifer. She's amazing. I took a picture of her and Lance last year when he was at Shepherd. And one day, if its ok with Lance I will post it.
Lance had a minor surgery yesterday. They inserted a baclofen pump. This will help with the muscle tone is his left arm and leg. They predict that he will be to take some steps once the medicine starts working! As a result of the surgery, he has to lay flat for 36 hours. However, he is dealing with it like a champ. Therapy has been working him really hard the last 10 days. Mom is hanging out with him now, Brock will be going down over the weekend. and I am going 7 days!!!
That's all I've got for now. I'm in between lab and a quiz. :)
God is good.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
This March is no different.
Mom had a birthday last Thursday. My dad is celebrating his today. Brock will be 23 tomorrow, along with Peyton turning 9. Lance will be 26 on Friday. My Aunt Christa celebrates on Saturday and Shauna at the end of this month. Its crazy. I'm usually out of money by the end of March and definitely sick of birthday cake. (Notice that I didn't include ages of those who are older than me :))
Our cousin, Bopper Stenzel was voted 10th region Player of the Year. He plays for George Rogers Clark, and they will be playing in the state tournament next week. GO CARDS!
For those of you reading, who aren't in Kentucky, the weather is crazy!
Last Friday, tornados ripped through our state and demolished several small towns. I was in a hallway for 2 hours during a tornado warning while at school. My good friend Kayla lost her car and her parents home in Frenchburg. Counties south of Morehead, which is where I work, were leveled. Unfortunately, not only were homes and business destroyed, but lives were lost.
On Monday, we had snow - 6 inches in some places. This was taken in Morgan Co, by my good friend, Brandon Beasley.
Today, its 70 degrees. Crazy.
ok, lets see, what else is happening. Oh yeah, Lance is back in Atlanta!
Yay! we are pretty excited. He headed out on Saturday, spent the night in Knoxville, and got to meet our cousin, Shelby for breakfast on Sunday morning at Cracker Barrel.
On Monday morning, he began the grueling admission process. Several nurses and therapists that he had over a year ago came in to see him. And of course, they were thoroughly impressed with his progress. His new doctor immediately began assessing and tweaking his medications. The therapist team evaluated to see what to try next on the left leg. Its improved greatly in the past couple months. But still needs work. They have decided to try an intrathecal baclofen pump to treat the spasticity. As always, we are completely amazed with The Shepherd Center, the hope that you feel as soon as you walk in the door, and the intensity of the program itself.
When Lance was discharged from this facility last year, it was with the intent to come back as soon as he was ready. Even though we see huge improvements in Lance's progress, its still surreal that he has advanced out of his 'comatose' state and is now ready to try whatever they throw at him.
It a humbling experience to be a part of.
Here is a picture of myself and my handsome brothers on Saturday, before he left for Georgia.