Chris's Christmas letter 2010
Wow!! Another year has flown by and boy, are my stem cells are tired! It seems like just a few months ago, cartilage from my knees was being weighed for use in Spiderman. Thank God my life-force sense started tingling.
We had a big year. Gwen or ‘Gwen the glue’ as I call her, kept everyone on their very busy schedules. I wish I had the wit to make a joke about how important to her family’s survival is to Gwen was but sadly it would “tank”. Just like General Rommell did in Northern Africa during WW2.
I think Gwen was greatly relieved to get back to work in September but I am sure our loss was Truro Vet’s gain. She did get out in the garden a couple of times this summer but both times I dragged her back inside to talk to a salesman (1st time) and a Jehovah Witness for the prosecution (the second). For Christmas, Gwen wants an amphibious garden on a giant carrousel with a large moat around it. You also have to be able to leap 6 inches to a small platform to gain access to the garden. Good luck getting that in here, Santa!
10 year old Tara is growing and maturing at a phenomenal rate. She is involved in everything musical. If she hears a song on the radio or CD player that she likes, you are guaranteed to find her plucking away on the piano and figuring out the tune with amazing success. She is really becoming a mini Gwen in that her values and scruples are very sound and she forces them on the rest of us almost relentlessly (much to her Dad’s frustration)… Wake up Dad. She is right just like her Mom. She will be a “Star” as long as Dad finds the sense to get stay out of her way.
Jungle “Quinn” is an athlete in every sense of the word. He is very dedicated to his gymnastics. He played baseball this summer for Texas. They won all their games, as did all the other teams. He is a natural at everything he tries. Sadly his Dad tries to take some of the credit for this. Hopefully he will be the start of a new and very much improved gene pool. Quinn has one other magnificent trait I want to share with you. Day or night, good mood or bad, Quinn, our precious little boy, will help his Dad. Whatever I ask of him, he tries his hardest. No matter what the task, he is always there for me. Small wonder he remains my “Hero” in great standing.
I, Chris, am home and currently working on exercising (or excising) my many demons. It is slow going and I question every couple of minutes if I an am up to the task. Progress is far slower than I want it to be. I complain and whine muchly. I feel as if I need another miracle to save me. It just hasn’t fully sunk in that ‘I have to be that miracle’. I hope 2011 is an incredibly wondrous year for everyone and I hope that next year’s letter makes you laugh and cry at the same time. Much love to you and yours.
Now a note from me(Gwen:
We are sending you these letters because in a small or big way, you have played a role in helping Chris and our family recover. It may have been lifts to the hospital, food at the door, visits in the hospital or at home or it may have been a phone call with the right message at the right time.
As a person who has a good understanding of life sciences, it continues to amaze me how I have only just learned that the human species is a functional biological mass that enables us, as individuals, to achieve things that we would have never thought were possible. There is a group effort for every individual accomplishment. Miracles would never happen without the help of others.
This year, Tara has asked the question that all children ask. There comes a point in a child's life when one doubts the magic. This 'right of passage' transcends culture and religions. At this time of year in our culture, belief in Santa often comes into question. There have been rumblings at school that Santa is not real. Not wanting to believe this, she came to us and asked. "Is Santa the real thing?"
My reply was automatic - I didn't even have to think. "Of course he is. It is a matter of belief. If you believe in him ... then he is real. Believing in something makes it real ... believing in something makes it happen. People call these miracles but miracles can and do happen all the time because someone, somewhere, believed that they could."
I will be the first to admit that some days Chris's recovery doesn't seem like a miracle. Chris may argue that he is the first to admit to these lapses in faith. But when our faith wains, other people's faith takes over and allows our miracle to continue.
This is a letter of thanks to all of you that have filled the gaps of belief and allowed for Chris's and the family's recovery to continue.
Chris has been home since late April. He has, and continues to make improvements everyday. Physically, he is healing. Emotionally he is healing too but that has been a struggle. The emotional damage left by the stroke impedes his belief in himself. Thankfully, that too is starting to change. It has been an emotional roller-coaster ride since he has returned home. On his good days or moments, he talks about the future with a positive attitude, can see the progress he has made and imagines more improvement as time goes by. Bad days are ... well, just bad days - nothing more.
He has far more independence now within our home. A large part of this improvement must be given to Kim. On June 25 (his birthday) he got Kim, his own 'personal trainer and coach'. Kim has been working with Chris on the days that I am at work and has coached him to improve in many little tasks. There are many more basic day to day challenges ahead of him so she will be busy. She is very dedicated to his recovery, possibly more than I, which is impressive since Chris may improve to the point where she is out of a job!
He is now a proud owner of a trike. Triking is physically demanding exercise. The peddles are positioned so that Chris must peddle parallel to the ground. Gravity is no help in pushing the peddles. The trike and walking are his main forms of exercise and help him burn off the Tim Horton's 4X4. Smoking continues to be a challenge that he is trying to battle. Thankfully his pain is under control, as are most of the other daily demands that one makes of their body.
Chris has had a few significant moments during his recovery this fall. At the end of August, Chris was the honorary race marshal for the Cobequid 10 k and Half Marathon. One year ago this race marked the start of his journey. He spoke to the runners and shared with them some of his epiphanies of the living experience that he has had since his stroke.
Late September, Saint Andrew's Church organized a family walk to raise money or the Nova Scotia Brain Repair Centre that is being built across the street from his room at the NS Rehabilitation Centre in Halifax. The church raised over $3000 for the centre. Despite her poor health, Chris's Mother and Father flew down for this event. They did some of the walk and soaked up the local support that we have all around us.
Lastly, in early December, Chris was the motivational speaker for the Provincial Boy's Volleyball Tournament. He hooked the volleyball players with his unique sense of humour and then he spoke of his journey. He spoke of the life paths he had taken and how he could have done things differently. He spoke about the poem 'If" by Rudyard Kipling and the impact it made on him both before and after his stroke. He spoke ... and the boys listened. I had to read the last few sentences of his speech because his emotions got the better of him. There were over one hundred young men there that heard his message and if he helps just one of them, then the tears were worth it.
This was an extra special event. 'King', Chris's new service dog made his first public appearance. He is a dog that is being trained as a service dog by women at the Nova Institute, a local federal prison for women. It has a program called 'Pawsitive Directions' for the woman to participate in that involves adopting dogs from shelters and training them to be special skills dogs. To date they have matched many people to special dogs that make their day to day life a little easier. King lived in the Charlottetown SPCA shelter for seven months when he was saved and put into the program. He has lived at the women's prison for a year being trained. He is the most recent miracle in our lives. Now Annie, our dog, has a new best friend, when he is not working.
I continue to journal almost everyday. I use it process my feelings and document Chris's recovery as well as acknowledge the steady stream of inspiring people who enter our lives almost daily. Two of the most important inspiring people for Chris and I are Tara and Quinn, who continue to give us strength to continue this 'marathon recovery' everyday.
We hope these letters find you well and most importantly, that you are continuing to believe in the miracles that exist in your lives. Miracles are everywhere. You just have to believe.
Thank you for being part of our miracle
Chris, Tara, Quinn and Gwen.