Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday June 29th

Today was the first day my mom was back from her weekend away back in Appleton. She spent some time with friends and family and headed back to the cabin for about half the weekend as well. I had talked to her Sunday night on her way home and she was excited to see me early Monday morning. breakfast came as usual right around 8- I had already been dressed at about 7 by the night nurse who was just finishing his shift. So when my mom arrived at 8:30 I was fully dressed and sitting up about halfway done with breakfast. She told me all about her weekend as I finished up and then spotted me as I transferred into my chair.

Like usual, my first activity was OT Hand Group where I started out by placing these small little pegs into a series of holes, pretty darn simple. After I was done with the pegs the group leader handed me a flannel button down long sleeved shirt and asked me to unbutton and rebutton all of the buttons going down the front. With my hand function that I have, I basically had to use the palms of my hand to pull the buttons out of the holes which worked pretty well. Now, buttoning the shirt back up was a totally different animal. You really need to hold onto that button in order to shove it through the slit in the shirt for each one. So after struggling for about ten minutes trying to even get one I came up empty handed and a bit frustrated. So the therapist dug into her box of magic tools and pulled out a device for buttoning. It was a type of holder that slipped onto your hand and had a wire piece coming out of it that created a little loop that you first put through the slit and then grabbed the button and pulled it through. This device worked great and in about two or three minutes I had the whole shirt buttoned. It's pretty amazing, all the little tools, whether it's a knife for cutting your food or a wire handle for buttoning your shirt, that have been created for people with low-functioning hands to do normal everyday activities. After the shirt was completely unbuttoned, OT Hand Group was pretty much over and it was time for OT one-on-one with Diane.

We headed to my room where she wanted to work on a couple different things in my bed. I transferred over into the bed which again I need to mention, keeps getting better and better- seeming to be less and less effort for me every day. The first thing that we did was testing me on my balance in order to cross off one of my goals which was five minutes sitting on the edge of the bed without assistance with my balance by using my hands. So she had me holding my hands in the air and then swinging them from side to side over my knees without having to use them to correct my balance. This was totally achievable but definitely wore down my abdomen because afterwords I felt a bit wobbly having worked my core so hard. After achieving the sitting on the edge test, Diane had me lay down in the bed and begin taking off my shoes and then my socks so as to put them right back on and try tying my shoes. I was able to take everything off with ease, but then when it came to putting on my socks and tying my shoes- there's a little higher difficulty level there. I did get both of my socks on and eventually had my shoes completely tied, but it was crazy- with the first shoe I tied the laces in probably 6 or 8 minutes and the second shoe I had tied in no more than 2. Talk about learning quickly! My roommate Joey was actually sitting in the room watching because he was bored and didn't have anything going on at the time. Both Diane and him were quite amazed how quickly I was able to tie my shoes with the function I have in my hands. Joey even said, "Boy, RIC should have video-taped that. That would be good for one of their learning sessions."

Once the shoes were tied our time was up and it was time to hurry up, get in my chair, and out by the reception desk for my exercise group. Since I've been here Kate, one of the full time PTs, has had an intern in which she has allowed to take over and run the exercise group. Now Kate has been telling me for over a week that she is excited to get rid of her intern and get her exercise group back. Just simply because it's boring for her to sit back and watch and not be leading the show. I had heard rumors that Kate really works you hard but as hard as Stacy, the intern, was working us and making us sweat, I just assumed that it couldn't be much worse. Boy was I wrong! Kate is some sort of animal/incredible hulk that doesn't let up for a minute. Truthfully, I couldn't completely keep up and every once in awhile I had to lay my hands in my lap and take a couple deep breaths while she just kept pumping along apparently trying to kill some of the people in our group. She kept asking Mr. Crocket, "Mr. Crocket did you fall asleep?" but we all knew that he was just pretending to fall asleep so that he wouldn't have to keep up with her intense work out. He's probably one of the sweetest old men in the world and quite comical too. At half time we took a break, got some water, and strapped on weights to our wrists. The second half is always pumping iron along with the arm motions. I did a little better with the weights as far as keeping up, but my god, was i soaked in sweat by the time the hour was over- and thoroughly exhausted. After exercise group I had lunch and a total of three hours before my next activity. So I went into the Canary Room, gobbled up some food with mom and decided to hop back in bed for a little nap. Not very often do I jump back in bed and take a little break, but truthfully, this morning took it out of me. I knew I had a physical therapy still to go at 3 and I wanted to be fresh for that because I had a couple of things that I had been wanting to do again and I figured a nap would be just the right way to recharge my battery a bit. I slept for about an hour and then in walked my good buddy and number one blogger, David Endow along with another great friend, Kevin Wilson. The two of them of course, came bearing gifts: the newest Dave cd, ESPN Magazine with an article about a 17 year old who is sailing around the world alone, and some cheese curds but really they certainly didn't need to bring a thing. It's pretty amazing that Endow and Wilson had come all the way from Long Beach, CA, and Albuquerque, NM. We all hung out, shared some stories and got me out of bed for my 3:00 PT. The two of them joined me into the gym where we found Carey and I let her know what I wanted to work on today. Over the weekend, for some reason or another, I got excited about trying to load myself into the beautiful '92 Dodge Spirit practice car on the 12th floor again. WIth all the other activities I've been doing, it's so obvious to me the strength I had gained, and I hadn't done the car for at least two weeks and was eager to try. We headed upstairs and of course it wasn't really too hard. Not saying that I didn't battle and struggle to push myself in and out of that car, but compared to last time, it's so much easier. We headed downstairs and the second thing on my agenda was to practise transferring onto a tub chair that sticks out of the tub and you slide yourself across to get into the shower. My wheelchair was able to line up pretty close to the tub chair so I asked Carey if she minded if I tried to transfer without the slide board, which is really the next step in transfers to eliminate that board. She said, "heck yeah- if you're ready and feel like you can make it, let's do it." So I went and gave it my best, throwing my body as hard as I could from chair to bench- and sure enough, I was able to do it! Now, I need a little bit more strength to get a bit of lift so as to be doing that type of transfer 100%, but boy, it felt good to be that close already. These two activities gobbled up the hour quite easily and my time was up. Endow, Kevin, and I headed back to my room to hang out and talk about everything that's going on. We came to the conclusion that Endow wasn't willing to come to Chicago without trying Gino's pizza so Wilson and him headed out to bring back supper for all of us. This worked well because it's been a month and I've been counting down the days til they need to take my catheter out. The catheter and bag are supposed to be changed after a month of use. Today just happened to be that lucky day. I wanted to wait until I was done with all my therapies to yank that puppy out. So while they were gone, the nurse came in and let her rip. Surprisingly, it was virtually painless, which was a huge relief- for I had been dreading it for somewhere around a month. The next question now is whether my body is ready to start peeing on it's own, or if I need to start a cathing program where I get on a schedule and start cathing myself, which is much safer than having a full time catheter and foley bag for my urine. With a catheter in all the time, there is a very high risk for infection so this is the best option and the smartest step to stay healthy.

Once Endow and Kevin returned, we all mowed down on some deliciously amazing pizza which is full flavored and piled with meat to the max. Once we were done eating, my sister Laura also arrived for a day and a half visit. We all sat around organizing my room, cleaning out my closet, and talking about anything that came to our minds. It started getting late and it was time to start the nightly routine. Today was definitely a great exercise-filled day and I will sleep like a baby tonight. Truthfully, I sleep like a baby every night. My mom has said I was always a really great sleeper- able to shut my eyes and be clocked out within minutes. Today is no exception. Good night, and farewell.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday June 28th

Sundays are probably the easiest going, quietest days here at the RIC. I woke up around six, thoroughly in pain, for I no longer take any pain medication throughout the night. So, I immediately requested one of my narco's to ease the pain. Maggie came in quickly and dosed me up. Shortly after I feel back asleep until about 7:30. Then, I began trying to get myself oriented. My breakfast came around 8 o'clock so I requested my knife and foam handle for my fork so that I could begin cutting up my french toast and throw it down. Shortly after I was done eating Kalli and her parents showed up and we all sat and talked for a while. Our goal for the morning was to get down to the beach and enjoy the beautiful waterfront Chicago has to offer. Kalli and I wanted to get a little blogging in to try to catch up so her parents decided to go and figure out the best way to wheel down to the beach. We blogged for about an hour, got dressed and out of bed so that we could go and meet Kalli's parents outside.

We followed the new route that they had figured out. Basically, we went behind the 680 building to a ramp about three blocks away that goes under the road and to the beach. It didn't take long at all and we were sitting front row seats in the grass to the entire beach. Boats slowly gathered, mooring one after another in the water about fifty yards out from the beach. People were sunbathing, reading, running and biking everywhere around us, it created a pretty neat atmosphere to just sit back and relax. To the right of us stretched out the beautiful Lake Michigan and off to our left the edge of downtown's expanding skyline. The entire waterfront of Chicago has been quite neatly created into a park and aquatic play land for people to exercise and enjoy.

After about an hour and a half of people watching and great conversation we headed to the apartment to make some lunch. With out apartment being about half way between RIC and the beach it was just about two and a half blocks away. We flew up the speedy elevators of the McClurg building where Kalli and my mom have become best buds. In the apartment there was hoards of food, taco makings, guacamole, two or three different pasta salads, and also the fixings for a Hippert family favorite radish sandwiches. I am sure many of you have never had a wonderful radish sandwich - so why don't I explain how to make one so you can all run out and get the fixings. It is very simple. You toast some white bread, spread on mayo (Helmans is my choice) on each piece of toast, then you thinly slice some nicely cleaned radishes and layer them on in a nice assortment, one to two thick. Then you sprinkle the spread of radishes with just a touch of salt to take the bite away. Place the second piece of toast on top and enjoy! I have even seen people, like Kalli, that don't particularly enjoy radishes ask for seconds! So, I filled my plate with a wonderful radish sandwich that Kalli prepared for me and a pile of one of my favorite recipes that Kalli's mom makes called Summer Salad. It mostly consists of cauliflower, broccoli and bacon. Rose, Todd, Mary, Kalli and myself all had our fill and then decided it was time to get me back to RIC for another dose of meds.

It was wonderful having Kalli's mom and dad around while my mother took the weekend off. But, it was time for them to depart and catch the train. So, we said our goodbyes and they were off to hail a taxi. Once I got back, my roommate Joey reminded me we had a recreational therapy session with Mike, the activity coordinator. So, I got dosed up and we headed up to the ninth floor where they have their activity room. On the agenda today was simply playing some pool. I mageivered up a velcro strap fastened to my hand to attach to the already affixed velcro strips on the end of the pool stick. It helps me a lot to hold the stick with my weak ass grip. Mike, Joey and I racked up some cut throat and began knocking each others balls around. Joey won the first game and the fun went on and on. Once we had our fix of playing pool we headed down to my room to get some more blogging in, again in order to catch up for we really did let ourselves get behind.

After we got in about a half a day of blogging, a handful of my friends all returned for another visit. Teale, her husband Kevin, Ashley, Anthony, Crazy Carl and Maeghan all came storming in to my room. We began telling stories and reminiscing which turned in to a loud thunder of about five people talking at once. So, I decided why don't we take this out of my little room, so that my roommate can hear himself talk to his mom and head to the canary room where we can all have a little more space. Plus, I really wanted to put together my new toy, a mini Foosball table that Kalli's parents got for me. Once we got in the canary room we ripped open the box and assembled the table. Crazy Carl did most of it, for my hands are kind of weak and Anthony has a humongous cast still on his hand from surgery. Once all put together, Kevin and I began a fierce game of foos. We went back and forth, neck and neck the whole game. But then, when it counted, right at the end I suckered schooled three goals on him, one after another to finish it in glory! All of a sudden I realized that it was after 5 and time to get some chow. So, Kalli and I headed down to the cafeteria to use my voucher for dinner. The pickins were more than slim this Sunday evening, so bad that I decided I want to just head to McDonalds and go get me a Big N' Tasty. So, Anthony, Crazy Carl, Kalli and I all headed to the McDonalds about a block and a half away. We got in there and ordered our food to go so that we could come back and eat with everyone back in the canary room.

When we got back they were playing foosball and all just sitting around and chatting. So, I proceeded to open my food and get my eat on. Meanwhile, everyone decided they really needed to get going to catch the next train back to Milwaukee. So we all said goodbye and there were hugs all around until next time. Once everyone was gone I finally got the chance to open my McDonalds burger box with my wonderful Big N' Tasty. To my disappointment, I opened the lid and there sat not a Big N' Tasty but a Big N' Fishy - some sort of disgusting square fish laying on a bun. My gosh I have been swimming and fishing so many times and have never seen a square fish just swimming around. But, somehow or another McDonalds manufactures millions of these special square fish. I was truly disappointed in this colossal mistake, the non-english speaking cashier made. So, Kalli, being the absolute sweetheart that she is offered to run back and get the Big N' Tasty that was rightfully mine. Meanwhile, I decided I would jump into bed and eat my food there when she returned.

After pounding down the real Big N' Tasty, not the disgusting Big N' Fishy I got the first time, I sat back satisfied and Kalli and I began to blog again. This session of blogging finally got us all caught up and back to our normal schedule of just one a day. I promise within the next two days I will do an Andrew speaks again, but for now I hate to make Kalli's fingers type another single word after the probably nine pages we wrote throughout the day today. I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend for I certainly did. With over a dozen visitors and a fun filled weekend I am ready bust ass and begin another week of therapy. Keep you informed and talk to you tomorrow! Goodnight.

Saturday June 27th

I woke up in the morning and one of my favorite nurses, Maggie, went and hand wrote out my schedule for me because the person that normally delivers them never came. To my surprise, on a Saturday, I had two PT groups on the schedule. So, I began to eat breakfast and Kalli and Ashley showed up around 9 o'clock. The three of us talked and began getting me dressed so I would be ready for my first PT at 10. I transferred out of bed and headed for the lobby to ask where this PT would be held. One of the PT's, that I very rarely work with, named Kristin, was there gathering our group to go outside. She had a pretty intense hour planned for us. Now, I have been over to Treasure Island, the grocery store in the 680 building across the street, before but pretty much was always pushed there by Kalli or some visitor. Kristin had in mind for us to all push ourselves there and then practice going up and down the ramp that is built in to the back of the building to get inside. It is really a beautiful, humungous building that has not only a grocery store, but a hardware store, pharmacy, laundromat, and most importantly it is Playboy's corporate office. So, we headed over pushing ourselves, which on an angled sidewalk, which most of it was, is really way more difficult than you think. Basically, when it is angled the chair really wants to veer towards the downhill side of the angle, so that arm is working really hard and the other one is actually almost pulling backwards on the wheel to counterbalance the twisting as well. It is thoroughly annoying and difficult enough to make you stop and take a break every 100 feet or so.

On our way over to the ramp, JT had just pulled up. He is one of my really good buddies from San Diego who is also Swedish and heading home to Sweden shortly after his visit with me. JT had with him a check for $1,300.00 which was raised at the cookout fundraiser that him and Guillermo and I am sure several other of our friends in San Diego all planned and hosted at our apartment complex last weekend. We took turns one at a time going up the fairly large ramp in the back of the 680 building. When it became my turn I hauled ass into the ramp, getting most of the way up but then when I got to the steepest and last part of the ramp with only about 6 to 8 feet left it brought me to a stand still. JT started saying "you want this $1300 bucks you better go 8 more feet, otherwise I'm taking it home with me! Come on! 6 more feet and this money is all yours! You can do it!" harrassingly/encouragingly he chanted. Slowly, I inched, push by push to the top where I practically collapsed into my chair as I made it over the last inch of incline. The money was mine and I did it! I made it up a good sized wheelchair ramp for the first time. It showed me that I have a lot of strength yet that I need to build and there is definitely no stopping now with the weights and exercises if I want to be able to get around by myself.

At the top, we took a minute to take a breath. Then, it was time to try a whole new ball of wax and head down this curvy ramp. Basically, where my hand function is at now, I just have to push as hard as I can against my side wheels with the rubber gripper section of my gloves and try my hardest to evenly slow down the wheelchair. With my left hand being quite a bit weaker than my right, it's difficult for me to get an even grip to slow myself down. Trying my hardest, I couldn't quite control it well enough to do it on my own. So, the therapist helped me stop in the middle of the ramp because I was getting off to one side too much and about to hit the railing. The therapist then began to explain to me how I should have even pressure on each side and if I want to go right, I should push harder on the right side and if I want to go left, push harder on the left side as if I didn't understand the mechanics of how this would work. This was a bit frustrating to me because the way she was saying it was as if I didn't understand how to control the chair, when in all reality I was trying my hardest and it just came down to I wasn't quite there yet with my left hand, strength wise. That is one of the only things that can be frustrating, is when people talk to you like you are a child or as if you don't understand what you are trying to accomplish, when really it is the physical disability that is holding you back. It is difficult to get frustrated with them because I know they are trying their hardest and they don't realize how they are talking to you, or even that they are frustrating you, with their inflection or unnecessary instruction.

While I was writing this, Kalli brought up a good point. This kind of frustration usually only happens when I am working with someone that isn't one of my two primary therapists. They simply just don't have the hours with you and don't know you as well as your primaries do.

We headed back to RIC, which is about two and a half, or three blocks away, again battling the slanted sidewalks. Once we got there there was a parking lot right next to the front doors. In this parking lot are two curbs that create one of those gated entrances for the lot. These little island sections of curb are perfect for practicing curb jumping with your wheelchair. So, the second half of the session, or I should say the last ten minutes or so consisted of learning the techniques in which to jump and drop off of a curb. Now these ones were fairly short, maybe three inches tall, and I was able to get up on top of it and then hop down with really not too much trouble at all. In fact, I wish we would have had more time and I would have tried a little taller curb, because truthfully it was kind of fun. Something that I have forgotten to mention and is kind of a big deal, and Mark is going to be pretty excited, that's for sure, is that I have now learned how to do a pretty mean pop-a-wheelie! I can't sit and hold it and ride the back tires, but I can definitely get the front ones probably six inches off the ground. It is crazy because not more than a week ago I couldn't get them off the ground to save my life.

So after the PT session we came up for some lunch and Kalli's mom and dad, my niece Rose, and some really good friends of my brother Tim and sister-in-law Lori, and JT and I all sat in the canary room and chatted as I ate my lunch. The meal provided for lunch today was a BLT sandwich, which has always been one of my favorites. I wolfed it down and headed to my next session, another PT, in the gym with Adella, a weekend fill-in PT. I started out by pumping some iron with my triceps on this great machine in the corner of the gym. I put more weight on there than I have ever tried before and really put her to the test. After four sets of fifteen I wheeled over to the mat and decided to practice sitting up and getting my legs onto the mat. After a true battle of slowly easing each of my legs up onto the mat, I straightened out and Kalli proceeded to do a series of stretches to get my legs all loosened up.

After the stretches I worked on spinning to my side and getting myself sitting up on the mat. Once I got myself sitting I proceeded to move my legs off the mat so as to be sitting on the side of the mat with my feet on the floor. Then I transferred into my chair and we all headed outside. The mat was quite hilarious because Joey and I were both on it together, trying to share half and half. Every time one of us would slide or scoot towards the middle we would end up super close and start taking cheap shots, punching each other in the belly, side, or arm whenever we had a chance. I don't think therapy is supposed to be that fun but it sure did make all of us laugh.

Once we got downstairs and outside, we began throwing around my favorite little maroon hacky sac. Darnell, Joey and I created a triangle and threw the bean bag from person to person. After about a half hour of working the arms and coordination, it was time to head out and go grab a drink at this neat bar and bowling alley, called Lucky Strike, just a couple blocks away. Lucky Strike is in the same building as the AMC theater we went to last weekend. The nine of us, Kalli, her mom and dad, Rose, Maeghan, Ashley, Darnell, Joey and I, found a booth for the six walkers to sit in and the three of us wheelchair fellas pulled up on the outside. Our waitress came and we ordered some drinks. We had a great time sitting and chatting but before we knew it, it was time to start getting dinner ready. So, Kalli, her mom, and Rose left the bar a little bit ahead of the rest of us to go start getting a deluxe taco dinner ready.

The rest of us finished our drinks and slowly headed to the apartment. Mike Lord, a good friend of mine, met us at the apartment. When we got to there the girls had everything ready for us. They served up some wonderful tacos, guacamole and chips. After stuffing two huge tacos into my stomach, which is actually getting smaller and smaller, for I have lost 17 lbs since the accident (I weighed a beefy 215 when I jumped into that pool and now weigh 197 pounds), we decided it was time to get back to RIC in order to take my medicine. Kalli's mom's tacos combined with Rose's guac was probably one of the most enjoyable meals I have had since Marsel outdid himself in San Diego with an incredible surf and turf.

Upon arriving at the RIC I was exhausted so I took my meds and jumped into bed. Shortly there after, one of my best friends, Anthony Wilhelms, who's wedding I was best man in, showed up. So Kalli, Ashely, Anthony, Maeghan, Mike, Rose and I all sat and chatted while I relaxed in bed. They all wanted to go out that evening so the girls took off a little early to get ready while Anth, Mike and I sat and talked a little longer. Around 8:30 the boys realized they better get going or they would be in trouble with the ladies and as they were leaving in walked my ex-ex-ex girlfriend's mother and sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Walters. She had with her one of her friends and colleagues. The three of us chatted for a while. I gave her several hugs to share with her daughters. It was getting late so they headed out.

After everyone left it was time for me to start my nightly routine, it was shower night. What a day full of fun and visitors and even a beer! My first beer since the accident.

Friday June 26th

I want to start off by apologizing to my many fans for the delayed posting of the last two days. Things have been busy with visitors and activities.

Friday morning was the first time my mother had finally taken time for herself and planned a trip to head for home. It has been four straight weeks basically since the moment of the accident that she has dropped completely unselfishly every activity in her own life to dedicate her time and energy towards my rehabilitation. I can't thank you enough Mom for all you have been doing for me over the last several weeks. Her good friends were going to be swinging through so they had plans to stop by around noon to grab my mom for a ride home. Because she is not going to be with me all weekend she made a point of coming right away around 8 o'clock that morning to help me with breakfast and hang out before she left.

My mom and I were talking about how it has been really great how much time we have been able to spend together due to the accident because really, since the day I graduated high school I've totally flown the coup. That first summer I moved to Sturgeon Bay to run the sailing school with Mark, then off to college for five and a half years and I didn't miss a beat not more than a month after college I moved to San Diego. So, really besides family events, holidays, and visits to the cabin I've been gone more than any of my other siblings over the past seven years. So being able to hang out with my mom every day has been awesome.

So, once I piled my food down my throat and we got me into my chair, we headed to hands group. The therapists were all ready to get us rockin' and rollin' for fun Friday. Basically, fun Friday means we play cards instead of with children's toys, nuts and bolts, or women's wallets. This week, one of the other patients, Martel, was hell-bent on playing his favorite game, King's Corners. King's Corners is a fairly fun game when you are playing one-on-one, but in a group setting its a little slow when you spend most of the time sitting there. Truthfully, not the best therapy game, but Martel won the first game and then I robbed the second game, just dominating. We got half way through a third game and the time was up.

After hand group I had some free time from 10-11 so I had my mom grab a white towel for me to do a little independent therapy that I learned from Diane. Basically, you lay the towel on the table in front of you and you place your hands on it and slide forward onto the table using your trunk to pull you back up. You continue to do this in all different angles across the table. It is a great way to strengthen your core and get your abdominal muscles going.l

After doing this for a while I was ready for my next therapy which was Exercise group from 11-12, but while heading over there my PT, Carey, came over and said "hey I don't have anything going on right now, can I steal you from exercise group and we work on the tilt table again?" I said hell yea! I have been wanting to get on the tilt table again because when working in a lot of my other activities I could physically tell that my blood pressure control was getting better and better every day. I used to get a bit dizzy and need to take breaks when working different PT exercises on the mat. Now, I can go almost an entire hour rolling around and pretending to be a monkey without any breaks at all. So, we strapped me to the tilt table and began the process of elevating and tilting me about every five minutes. Five, ten degrees at a time. Normally we would hook me up to a blood pressure machine to monitor how low my blood pressure would drop as we raised me higher and higher. At a certain point I will pass out if my blood pressure gets too low. But, I told Carey you know it is very simple and easy for me to tell exactly how low my blood pressure is getting. Here are the symptoms I experience every time I put my blood pressure to the test: first, I feel slightly light headed. Next, my hearing goes to about 50%. Third, I get tunnel vision and slight spots. Fourth, complete whiteout. Fifth, I wake up with thirty people around me because out (only got to this stage once, in the ICU). So with having a good understanding of how much I can handle we decided we didn't need to hook me up to the machine and I would just monitor it with my wonderful five step symptom guide. Carey brought me up again and again and we reached all the way up to 90 degrees, which is standing straight up! I was so fricking excited by the time we got to that point, but also tuckered out beyond belief. It seems like it would be easy to just lay on a table and get tilted up but controlling that blood pressure by working my arms, and breathing properly is like running an entire marathon within that hour. After we got me up to that position and I held it for a little while the entire hour had passed and my t-shirt was ready to be rung out with sweat. We headed back to my room to get me a fresh shirt and lunchtime had arrived. One of the important parts about the tilt table is that is basically the first stepping stone for me to use the lokomat, the crazy johnny jumper, robotic treadmill machine I have mentioned in the past. My goal for next week is for me to stay at 90 degrees for ten minutes. The following week I am hoping to have a goal of 20 minutes, because that is the requirement in order to use the lokomat - standing at 90 degrees on the tilt table for twenty minutes. This could also be added to people's prayer list because it is no easy task and boy do I want to get in that johnny jumper.

We ate lunch in the canary room and shortly after Diane, my OT, came over and we headed to my room to work on my contacts. I tried and tried to get them out of my eyes but for some reason or another, and mainly due to my weak grip, I could not peal them off my eyeballs. Kalli took them out of my eyes for me so that I could try to at least see if I could put them in. After about two or three attempts I was able to put my contacts in, but still I am looking for suggestions or tools to help me get them out by myself. Sounds like Lasik would also be a very interesting option as well, but with as much as I have going on right now the last thing I need to do is add to the list. So, that may be an option down the road. After poking my eyes for a good twenty minutes Diane and I headed back to the canary room to do some arm exercises with a variety of different colored bands, which represent levels of stretch strength that each has. We stepped me up a color for I am getting buff as can be and began several different arm stretches that work on strengthening all different parts of my body. I also talked to Diane about how tight and sore my shoulders were getting after all the different kinds of weight lifting and exercises I was doing for strength training. She advised me that there is a heat pad that only the doctor can order for me to use during these situations. While I was with her she could go and grab a heat pad to throw on my shoulders. So, while we did the stretches I wore a fairly large heat pad across my neck and shoulders. I didn't even seem to notice the heat pad that much besides just an overall warm sensation while I was working out. But, amazingly at the end of our session when she took the pad off, my shoulders were as loose and a goose and completely pain free. So, I am really excited to receive the heat pad from the doctor in which I can use when I experience that kind of tightness in my shoulders.

After working with Diane for what was supposed to be an hour and turned into about an hour and forty-five minutes (which shows the incredible dedication the therapists have here any time they can help) I headed to the gym for my second set of PT with Carey. We decided to hook me up to a bike that they have in the gym that is motorized and really makes me feel like I am pedaling myself. We had an awesome conversation with Carey while I biked away for an hour and forty-five minutes, again WAY over the scheduled time in which I was allotted to work with Carey. We were only scheduled for a half hour and again, another one of my therapists went above and beyond on a Friday when I was the last person they had for the day. Carey had a hot date all planned out with her husband and she still took the extra time to sit and work with me to get my legs moving.

At about quarter to five, Kalli and I decided we wanted to go and see if we could find a Jamba Juice. We were told it was in the bottom of the John Hancock building, just a handful of blocks away. After battling the sidewalks, bump after bump, we found Jamba Juice right where they said it would be. Kalli went and got a peach smoothie while I explored this really neat courtyard area that Jamba Juice was located in. Right next to it was a Best Buy which was perfect for I wanted to purchase a flash drive to fill with pictures of our stay here and all the activities that we have done to give to my roommate Joey. Joey is leaving on Thursday of next week, the second of July, and boy I am going to miss him. We have become really good friends and he has been an unbelievable resource for me as I go through all of these new challenges. Every time I run into something that doesn't make sense or I feel like, boy there must be a better way, I bounce it off Joey and sure enough he has a tip, or a whole new way of doing it. Now, not all of his tips are free - for the other day, I had to trade him a bag of chips for a really great pooping tip. Don't think I am just going to give it away to all of you, I'm looking to get a little something out of it as well before I pass it on to just anybody. As we walked back home to the RIC, a good friend of mine, Jaci Skalla was just a few blocks away to visit.

We met Jaci and her boyfriend Rick shortly after we got back. I hadn't seen Jaci in a while and it was really great to catch up with her and her new boy toy. Rick seemed like a really nice guy, not shy or bashful but easy going and I enjoyed our visit thoroughly. After they left I started my nightly routine where I had really great results - an extra large and a medium, to be exact. Since my mom was gone, a great friend of Kalli's and mine, Ashley Wilhelms, came down from Milwaukee to spend the night with Kalli. They went out to dinner and watched a movie, sounds like they had a great girls night.

More to come about Saturday!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday June 25th

It was another wonderful morning at the RIC. I woke up early, around 7 o’clock and my night PCT, Bonnie, helped me get dressed and even squirted a little cologne on me – got me smelling good for my upcoming day! My breakfast came like normal, around 8 o’clock and I sat with my mom and ate. Then she spotted me as I transferred into my chair and then we headed to hand group. We had a much different hand group than we usually do. They brought a couple buckets full of all kinds of different paint. They had printed out several logos of different baseball teams in which the patients each were rooting for. They knew that I was a Brewer’s fan so they had several different printout logos for me to choose from. Of course, I chose the throwback Brewer’s logo where they incorporate MB (Milwaukee Brewers) in a baseball mitt. That symbol is by far the best baseball logo ever made. I took the printout they had provided and had it taped to the window of the canary room. I then got set up outside the canary room so that I could paint the symbol right onto the window with the pattern behind it for me to trace. The logo turned out perfect and I strategically placed it right next to my roommate Joey’s stupid Chicago Cubs painting he had done the day before. My beautiful mitt made his Cubs logo look like weird children’s chicken scratch. The competition between teams here is fierce, but deep down everyone knows the brew crew will always come out on top.

After an hour of painting a majestic logo, we all gathered by the reception desk to head to the park to ride hand bikes on a nearby running track. Once everyone was gathered we headed to the park and when we got there they had two three-wheel hand bikes and four different sports chairs for us to try out. A good buddy of ours, Darnell and I hopped in the hand bikes first. The bikes are no joke – they run for over $3,000 and able to really get cruising. It took a little while to get it all fitted and sized to my body but once we were all set up I was able to really get cooking. By no means do I want you to think that this was just easy-peasy, for I would get about a third of the way around the track, find the closest area of shade and take a little break. I know my arms are getting stronger and stronger every day, but they aren’t quite there yet to take one of those bikes out for a full ride out on the town. The RIC coordinates the use of the bikes every two weeks for patients to try and play with. The bikes are also available, kind of like a book in a library, for you to just check out and take a ride once you feel confident. The way in which the RIC coordinates so many activities, showing you all the different things that you still can do, is one of the most amazing parts of the program. It is so important to continue to keep the mind set of look at all of the things that I can do. You really aren’t going to get yourself anywhere sitting around thinking about things you can’t do. From biking to sailing, even painting I can’t believe how many opportunities I have already had here at the RIC.

After sweating our butts off in ninety degree weather, we headed back. As soon as we returned my mom was waiting in the canary room for Kalli and I with food to start snacking on before my lunch came. I threw down some lunch quickly because I was pretty excited about a demonstration that was going to be put on at 12:00 down behind the building. A company from Europe was displaying a system in which they install into your car so that you can drive throttle and break with your hands while still steering your car. I have heard of all different systems and after talking with some of the people that had showed up as well that have different systems installed already – they were all really impressed with the set-up being displayed today. Basically, there is a smaller ring installed on top of the steering wheel that you press in with your thumbs while you are able to still hold the steering wheel and this becomes your throttle. Then, mounted on either the left of right side a couple inches away from the steering wheel is what looks like is a handle that looks like a shifter knob that you simply just grab and pull down on for the break. The system is about 12-14 thousand dollars to install into any automatic transmission vehicle. A little pricey, but it is hard to put a number on the freedom in which being able to drive your own car creates. The car that they brought with them, in order to model the system, was a top of the line Volkswagen with a 6.0 liter V12 engine in it, beautiful vehicle and boy must it go! I talked with the owner of the car and he was really happy with the system and he turned out to be a really neat guy and entrepreneur doing well for himself here in Chicago. After talking with him for a while, he gave me his business card and asked me to email him when I got all my stuff together and was done with rehab. Could be a great connection down the road.

After that, I had some time to blow so I organized my RIC binder with some of the stretches and handouts my therapists have given me over the last three weeks. Then, jumped into bed and Kalli did several of the stretches with me until Diane, my OT, came into my room for my last class of the day. She had asked me to be in bed when our class started so that we didn’t waste any time transferring and we could get started on seeing how well I could dress and undress myself this week. It seems so easy and we all take it for granted that we can very simply throw on our pants and quickly toss on a shirt, but for me now it is a drawn out and quite difficult task to get a pair of pants on. But, today, I really had a great improvement and am thoroughly excited about it. I was able to take off my pants, put them back on, take off my shirt and put it back on all in about 40 minutes. This may seem like an eternity for the rest of you, but for me a drastic improvement over last week. For last week, we did this same drill, trying to take my pants off and on and my shirt off and on and once we were done Diane rated me as being able to do only 25% of the task myself, meaning 75% assistance in order to dress myself. Today, I did it all myself and it was really an awesome feeling. I know that every day that I try I will save thirty seconds, or a minute, maybe even five minutes off those forty minutes and keep getting better and better at it. But, to simply be able to do it all myself is an amazing feeling at this point. Diane mentioned again, that it is incredible that I can even change myself this soon into the injury, at this level of injury and with wearing a neck brace. These words of encouragement really help me to continue to be that boy wonder ahead of the curve.

After the session was done Kalli and I sat and chatted and then figured out what we wanted to do for dinner. We came to the conclusion that this amazing accomplishment of being able to dress myself needed to be celebrated by ordering some sushi by delivery. We both love all different kinds of sushi rolls and were spoiled in San Diego with having ten, fifteen really good sushi places within walking distance of our house. So, we ordered a handful of rolls and enjoyed them very much. It was the perfect amount and delicious. After dinner, we did a little bloggin’ and then began my nightly routine. Tonight was a shower night so it takes a little longer.

Once again, just like yesterday with being able to go sailing, I was impressed by the RIC’s ability to put together an activity like being able to go biking, showing you that there is so much out there to help and assist us so as to live completely normal lives even with the challenges we may face.

PS: Thank you so much David and Joan Sier for the tickets to Six Flags. I can’t wait to skip to the front of every single line. It is going to be a blast! Also, I want to continue to say thank you, thank you, thank you to EVERYONE that has sent me a card. It is such a great feeling to come to my room and there is either a box, a card, a basket of cookies, something just showing me the overwhelming support that is out there, carrying me along the journey each and every day.

PPS: There will be a golf outing charity event on July 20th at Reid Golf Course in Appleton, WI in my name. I am so honored that again several individuals have taken it into their own hands to support me in this way. There are just no words to describe how loved I feel as people continue to go above and beyond to help me through this incredible hurdle in my life. I talked to my doctors this morning and told them it was very important to me to be able to attend this charity golf outing. I told them don’t worry I will have them duct tape me really tight to the golf cart and strap a three wood to my arm so that I don’t need to even leave the cart to participate. But in all seriousness, I am really excited to be able to get together with all of you that would like to attend. It is going to be a really fun day with lots of prizes and games from hole to hole. All of the details will hopefully be posted tomorrow and there are three different ways to hear about them. First, through a facebook group that has already been established, second, right here on the blog there will be a spot to click on the right side that will have details, and lastly, there will be an e-vite coordinated through Mark Lee. The e-vite will be the official way to register for the outing. Please stay tuned for more details. I can’t wait to see you all then! Remember, these kinds of events are only for fun and not even really recommended for any serious golfer. It will be done in a scramble where it doesn’t even matter if you can hit the ball; you just take the best of four players each hole. So please, don’t be discouraged to attend if you are not a golfer.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wednesday June 24th

The day had finally come where Joey and I were going to be off on our much awaited adventure sailing out on Lake Michigan in the afternoon. Breakfast came as usual around 8 o'clock. Guillermo and Kalli showed up in my room shortly after the food arrived. We sat and chatted as we ate breakfast. Guillermo has been a really great help over the last two days that he was able to spend with us. It was time for 9 o'clock hand group and Guillermo spotted me as I used my slide board to transfer into my chair and head to the canary room. Oh yeah forgot to mention, as my torso has been getting stronger and stronger, I was able to free myself of the silly velcro strap that I had around my upper chest to keep my balance while in my wheel chair. The strap was very limiting, making it difficult to do several tasks such as pulling my breaks off lock, leaning all the way forward, or side to side to do my own pressure break and many other tasks in which I would want to lean over in some way or another.

At hand group I was given some old wheel chair parts and allen wrenches and was asked to start taking them apart. This was fairly simple but worked the hands well as usual. Next, they had a device made where five threaded rods about 20 inches tall were positioned vertically with a nut on each rod. I was asked to thread the nut all the way from top to bottom, not by just simply spinning it with my hand but actually grabbing it with my fingers and twisting it half a turn at a time. By the time I got through about three of these rods, my hands were really buzzing and they switched me to the next task. I'm not really proud of the next activity they asked me to do, it felt a little strange but I'm going to share it with you guys anyway. I was given a woman's wallet full of monopoly money, fake credit cards, and seventeen pennies. The purpose was to pull everything out of it and then put it all back in. So, I did one step up and not only pulled it out, but counted every single piece of money in the wallet. I ended up with $657.17 and a sack full of credit cards. By the time I was done with that the hour had flown by and I had a half hour break.

My PT, Carey, stuck her head in the canary room and said "hey want to learn a little more about the weights? I've got some extra time." So, I followed her into the gym and she showed me several of the different pieces of exercise equipment and how to use them properly. This was not only educational but incredibly tiring. The weight machines really tucker me out and I can really feel the burn.

After a half hour of demonstrations on all different kinds of exercises with Carey, it was time for my next appointment which was an OT session with Diane. Since a day or two ago I discovered a very slight amount of movement in my left hand for the first time we concentrated on doing E-stim therapy on that left set of digits. It's interesting, depending on where she puts the electrodes we either usually get a couple of my fingers moving, or the thumb. We did several different positions about ten minutes each and then it was time to head to the next thing on my schedule.

At 11 o'clock I got back together with Carey and she continued to show me how to use the different weights and machines in the gym to strengthen my biceps, triceps, and shoulders. The wheelchairs here get some pretty heavy use, patient after patient, adjustment after adjustment needing to be made to fit each individuals body, size and shape. So, once again we had some issues with the wheels moving around and rubbing and we needed her to get into the shop. So, Carey adapted our session and moved me to my room and into bed so that they could take my chair and her and I could work on some stretches that I needed anyway. After stretching for a while, the wheelchair returned and my session was up so we transferred into the chair and unbelievably, the wheelchair had the same freaking problem, but now on the other side. I don't know what these wheelchair guys up on the 12th floor are smoking, but they were definitely off their game that afternoon. So, I was supposed to have exercise group next, which I did join and got a couple reps in but then I saw one of the wheelchair guys walking by and flagged him down, expressing my emergency. Normally, it wouldn't be that big of a deal to struggle through a rubbing tire or some sort of issue, but at 2 o'clock I was about to be heading off on my sailing adventure and I really didn't want to be dealing with a problematic chair, not knowing exactly what all we were going to be taking on. So, I flagged down the guy, had him come into the gym with me, I quickly transferred onto the mat, explaining to him what the problem was and laid there doing my own exercise routine while I waited for the chair to be fixed for the second time (that day).

About 25 minutes later, the chair returned in a good working order! The boys had finally gotten it right and I was ready to go sailing. Then, as soon as I felt like I got my wheelchair fixed and everything was ready to go I looked out the window and saw black clouds as I heard the rumble and crack of disappointing thunder. I headed to the canary room, where Melissa, another one of the patients was on the computer. I asked her if she would please check the weather and see what the radar was showing, for just ten minutes ago it was perfectly sunny and beautiful out. She types in the zip on and the radar came up showing just a small blimp over our area that looked like it was going to pass quite quickly. With incredible relief, for I had been really looking forward to this opportunity, we decided the show must go on.

Mike, the activity coordinator, went and got the van and Joey and I loaded up to head to Judd Goldman's Sailing Center for our fun-filled afternoon. We got down on the dock and one of their instructors gave us a brief "how to" on sailing. He asked us if we had any experience and I let him know that I own a 25ft sailboat and ran a sailing school for five years. We loaded up into the boat with me positioned as the skipper, in the back of the boat so that I could steer with the tiller, and Joey placed as crew towards the front of the cockpit to be able to reach all of the many lines for adjusting the sails. In the boat, we had Mike, his intern Haley, our instructor Paul, and Joey and I. The five of us pushed off the dock and headed through the harbor under motor zigzagging through the docks and out into the open water. Once we got out of the harbor we raised the sail and very slowly sailed along in a light breeze. Even though the weather was warmer than necessary and the wind was light, Joey and I were grinning ear to ear being out on this Freedom20 that was amazingly being provided for us to use. I just kept thinking I cannot believe that just three and a half weeks after I broke my neck I would be a mile and a half out into Lake Michigan with a tiller extension in my hand sailing away. The Chicago skyline from that distance out is absolutely breathtaking and there is no where in the city that could even give it a run for its money. After about an hour and a half of cruising around, we found ourselves back in the harbor. The second half of our voyage the wind had kicked up at least five or more miles per hour, making the whole experience just perfect. Paul, our instructor, must have had pretty good confidence in my abilities for he didn't blink an eye when I said I want to take it all the way into the dock, just please throw the engine in neutral when I say. Coming in at a perfect thirty degrees from the dock, I placed the hull number five, Freedom20 just one inch from the dock, gliding to a perfect stop. The docking was worthy of a round-of-applause and I couldn't have done it better, even before my injury. We transferred out of the boat and on shore was an older gentleman, in a wheelchair, who was in charge of the racing portion of Chicago's quadriplegic sailing teams. He was gung-ho about getting more people involved in racing and wanted to get me started training for their Olympic team. Unfortunately, I don't know how long I will be in Chicago and although everything in me said wow that would be pretty amazing to be a part of, but right now there is just too many questions and more important things to be focused on. We loaded into the van and headed back to RIC.

Back at RIC, Kalli her mother Mary, their neighbor Karen and her three girls were waiting to see me. We ran down to the cafeteria to get me some chow and we all visited while I put down a sandwich, bag of chips and a frappucino. After dinner, we said our goodbyes and I headed to bed to start my nightly routine. All evening, I just kept going back to that same thought of wow I cannot believe I got to go sailing already.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday June 23rd

I was able to talk with the scheduler yesterday and asked for her to not put anything on my plate until 11 o'clock because visitors from Sheffield that were very important to me were coming around 10 o'clock and I wanted at least an hour to visit with them. So, I didn't have to really rush it much this morning. My usual french toast, bacon, 2% milk and orange juice, and three fruit cups came right around 8 o'clock. I got myself sitting upright in bed so I could start throwing it down. About half way through my breakfast Guillermo and Kalli came waltzing into my room ready and willing to get me dressed and going for the day. The two of them battled with my pants, ted hoes (basically, mens tights), and the whole shebang! Once dressed I was able to just sit up in bed and catch my bearings, like usual. I am still battling a little with dizziness, especially right in the morning. By 9:30 or so we began transferring me into my wheelchair so that I could brush my teeth, comb my hair a little, trim my beard and get myself looking spiffy. Then we headed to the canary room and dealt out a hand of golf. As soon as we had the cards dealt and our first two cards flipped in walked Sheffield's, the company I work for, president, vice president, and director of new product development. In town to visit me and see a couple clients. It was really an honor that these gentlemen took the time out of their busy schedules to sit and shoot the shit with me, listening to all of my stories, trials and tribulations, basically my day-to-day over the last three weeks. I had a few requests for these particular gentlemen. First off, a piece of polycarbonate to be sent to my dad to be crafted into a really cool slide board for transferring into my wheelchair. Second, and much more importantly, for them to investigate if there is anything humanly possible to be done with my insurance policy in regards to the amount of time I am covered for inpatient care here at RIC. My policy currently covers 60 days each year which would only give me two months here at RIC. I am so far ahead of the game and really would like to try to stay longer than that. This facility is top notch and I don't want to step back for one second. Dennis, the president of Sheffield, mentioned to me he was actually going to be meeting with the director of all of Bayer Material Science, which covers probably around ten billion dollars worth at Bayer that evening. He said he would try to corner him and see if there is anything he could do at his level as well. So what I am asking is for prayers from everyone. So many of you I know are praying for me, so lets get specific here and shoot some prayers directed completely at this issue. I need more time at RIC and I am sure God knows that. There must be a way to make it happen.

After having some fun conversation, mostly geared towards good rips on Brian Heine, I gave hugs all around and wished them best of luck in their meetings for the day and headed off to OT exercise group. Today I would say was by far my best OT exercise group performance yet. I would like to give a special shout out to Guillermo for being the FIRST and ONLY person so far to start and finish, with no breaks, an entire OT exercise group. More than a half dozen other people have started the exercise group with me, saying "oh yeah, no problem. That should be fun." and like I have mentioned in the past, come ten fifteen minutes, half an hour, Mark and Houli, all of a sudden they are no where to be found. They got an important phone call, they were sweating too much, or plain and simply just couldn't handle it. BUT, Guillermo, he stuck in there even though he started crying for a little bit, he made it. Even through the weights at the end he pounded it out. Unfortunately, I am guessing he will be a little sore tomorrow, but that kind of burn feels good, so he will enjoy.

After Guillermo and I rocked the shit out of exercise group we headed for the canary room and downed some lunch. Today during my lunch my OT, Diane, wanted to observe me to see what kinds of goals we could check off, as far as putting jam on crackers, eating soup, cutting my sandwich with my ninja knife, and several other small tasks that we all kind of just look over as daily actions while eating. I thought I did great and pretty much was able to accomplish every task she requested. Except for when I accidentally threw my crackers into my cup of apple juice, a pretty funny moment. I was so excited that I finally got that darn little cracker wrapper open I decided to throw the crackers in celebration, kind of like I used to do when I finished a beer, tossing it onto the floor.

After lunch I headed into the gym to thoroughly get my butt whooped by Carey with some good PT. Carey had me transferring from my chair, learning to lay down, roll over, pick up my legs off the ground, put my shoes on and off, seated push ups and much more that took just about everything I had out of me. It was a really encouraging PT session because I could literally feel how much stronger I had gotten in the last week. Many of the tasks were nearly impossible only a week ago and now quite achievable. After feeling like I had been in an UFC match against Shamrock I transferred back into my chair and Carey finished the session showing me how to use a really simple, but great piece of equipment for strengthening my triceps - which is a HUGE part of being able to move my body around. Many quads with my injury really don't have very good tricep strength but mine is all there and just needs to be rejuvenated back. That is something that really makes me quite excited and I am really glad to now have access and knowledge of this machine to keep building the goal of being able to do a full seated push-up, where I lift my butt completely off my chair while I am sitting. I am close right now, but just not quite there.

Another really great improvement that I noticed yesterday is realizing that I now have a small amount of non-wrist finger movement in my left hand. My left hand is far weaker and mobile than that of my right and it can be a little frustrating sometimes. The therapist call it my weak hand. The reason why I am so excited about this new discovery is in this next therapy now that I am experiencing small movement we are able to do the E-stim (electronic stimulation) on that hand as well. So I sat down with Diane and we hooked the electrodes up to my wrist and forearm to get my fingers moving with a little shock therapy. It is weird feeling, but for some reason or another, when I am done it makes my whole hand feel really good and I can almost see the improvement after each session. Oh yeah, Uncle Paul, I remember you purchased one of these a couple years ago and if you would be willing to borrow it to me I would love to use it for a little while. My mom is coming home this weekend and the therapists are very interested in taking a look at it and training me with is before I go and just start zapping myself without any guidance. So, if you don't mind I would love it if you could send it with my mom when she comes back on Monday.

After the session, my wheelchair needed a little air in the tires and a couple more small tweaks. You wouldn't believe how many things there are to adjust on a tricked out wheelchair like mine. While we were up on the 12th floor, where the wheelchair room is, we kind of snooped around and checked out all kinds of different rooms that seem to be hidden all over the floor. First, we discovered this incredible machine where a woman was being held in an adult sized johnny jumper and then what made her look like she had complete robotic legs that guided her into a perfect walking pace on a treadmill below her. This machine looked like something straight out of a science fiction or transformers movie and was so amazing. We poked our heads in and asked if we could watch. Of course, they had absolutely no problem and seemed kind of happy that we were curious about the machine. The machine was called a lokomat. The woman that was all geared up and walking with it said that this machine has changed her life and brought her so far in her ability to walk. We stared in awe and then continued on our hunt for the wheelchair room, in which has obviously changed locations several times since there are arrows that point for it to be all over the place. After finally finding the wheelchair room and getting my wheelchair tuned up, we then satisfied our curiosities about the RIC pool, which is also on the 12th floor. Again, we poked our heads in and the pool was a little bigger than we had imagined. People had mentioned it was just a small pool. It had a neat lift for getting you into the pool and got me excited about trying to get some pool time in my schedule as well. So, the 12th floor has a crazy robot walking machine, the wheelchair room, a 1992 Dodge Spirit car for practicing transfers, and a swimming pool, not to mention a mock full kitchen for learning different ways of cooking. I would say the 12th floor is pretty bad ass.

We headed back downstairs for the next set of visitors for the day, my boss John Skalla, his wife, Kelly and one of my counterparts, Brian Heine. We had another great visit with them in the canary room, also giving them a tour of the place, showing them all it had to offer. Heine said show me around a bit, I have been reading the blog, what is this canary room, where is the gym - you read the blog and you kind of make up your own mental image of what it all looks like, show us around. Bayer was putting on a huge dinner and event tonight where they rented out the entire House of Blues and also hired Frank Caliendo for an hour of stand-up, which the whole Sheffield crew were all going to attend this evening. So, they all needed to get on their way so they could get ready for the event. It was great seeing them and unfortunately, Chicago is part of Heine's territory so I will have to see more of him as well.

We walked them out for Kalli, Guillermo and I wanted to go down to Michigan Ave to look around and grab a bite to eat. We found a food court, slammed down some food and headed back for my nightly routine. I am actually really proud of this - so I am going to throw it on here - I pooped in only three minutes tonight! This is a new record and something for me to be really proud of. I hate to always end this thing on some sort of note about my poop, but that's just the way things are going right now and unfortunately we are all just going to have to deal with it that way. So, this is Andrew Hippert, checking out. Talk to you all soon.

PS: Thank you Jeremy for the poster, it really added some spice to my room. And, Mark Sier what an incredible book, Wind and Water, some of the photos are unbelievable. What incredible sailboats from all over the world - great choice! Lastly, I cannot thank all of you enough for the incredible support through get well cards. I have a basket that I put each and every one in after I read it and the basket isn't small. There are over 80 cards filling the basket now and I don't see any kind of slow down for every day there is a small handful to read. Truly amazing. Nick Wilz and Jenny, not to rate any of the cards, but you had the funniest one yet!

PPS: Tari, The Shake of the Day has been a great success. Two people have already won, Kalli won on Sunday and Guillermo won today! We upped the anti to fifty cents and are seriously thinking about making it a dollar.

PPPS: Luke Peters, the nerf gun sat in the basket for a while but today got some great use. We put a dollar out in the hall to bait people and then sat in here in my wheelchair loaded and ready as they came and found the dollar I would blast them when they went to reach for it. Absolutely hilarious! The amazing part is, even after I would shoot these doctors, nurses and volunteers almost every one of them grabbed the dart and gave it back to me, idiots!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday June 22nd

They woke me up early because my schedule, for some reason, was starting at 8. I got completely dressed and ready to go when someone came in and informed me that my PT, Carey, had called in sick and was not feeling to well. So, luckily I had another hour to get some breakfast and a little extra time sitting upright in bed, to get my bearings and handle on my dizziness which can occur if I just go and try to sit up or jump out of bed right away. My Mom came right away in the morning, because Kalli was down by the river working with Mercury and my buddy Mark to set up for a marketing event. They were having kids park and drive 38 and 43 foot yachts with a new parking technology that's based on a joy stick system. We got a PCT to come and monitor me while I slide boarded out of bed. Every day I seem to get better and better at it, getting down the technique of where to put my body weight so that I can slide more easily. Then we headed for my first group which was an OT hands group.

In hands group, they gave me a board filled with holes that would fit all different size bolts. So, the drill was to get a washer on a bolt, skip it through the hole and thread on a nut. Something that I am very familiar with but yet is so hard to do now. It is crazy how a simple task like threading a nut can make me now sweat, cramp up my hands and make my entire arms tingle and buzz. But, the good part is when I get those kind of sensations I know that the drill is working and it is a great challenge!

After OT hand group, I had a little break in the schedule. So, I created my own OT session and practiced a technique that I learned last week. Basically I put my hands on a towel and used my torso to slide my hands across the table going in all different directions, trying to strengthen my core. My break went by quickly and all of a sudden it was OT exercise group time.

The group was large today and actually very focused. I got one of the best workouts that I have gotten from this group so far and I was able to still stick with my upgraded three pound weights.

After the exercise group, wheeling away with jello arms, I headed to the canary room for my second to last therapy of the day. Oh yeah I forgot to mention that my wheelchair over the weekend was kind of our of whack, with several different repairs that were needed to fine tune the driving. So I actually jumped in my old Cadillac jumbo chair, weighing in around 90lbs, for the morning so I could get my new hot rod in the shop with the wheelchair fix-it boys. So in the canary room I had another session of OT scheduled, where she wanted to work on my writing and penmanship. So, we decided to list and write out all of my OT goals that I have achieved and all of my OT goals that I still have in progress. With each type of therapy we determine weekly goals in which I try to continually knock down. Of course, the list that I had achieved was ten items to six that I still have active. It felt good to see all the things that only a week ago I couldn't do and now can. One of the goals was actually to be able to write half a page of words in one sitting. Well, because of this session and writing out all of my goals, I was able to cross that one off too! The funny thing about my penmanship is that if you know me well enough it is absolutely terrible, even before the accident. So, when I am working with my OT's I feel funny explaining that "boy this is about as good as it gets" and I am almost back to where I was at, just a little slower. We are thinking of bringing in my notepad from work for the next session so we can prove to the OT that I truly don't have much further to progress unless I plan on getting better than I once was.

After the session we noticed that my wheelchair was back and all fixed up and so I was eager to get back in my hot rod. So, my mom and I headed back to my room where I didn't have my last session for another hour and a half. The way I was sitting in my Cadillac created some stress in my neck and I was ready for a quick nap. So, I slide boarded into bed and caught a half hour of shut eye. Then, fifteen minutes before my class I woke up, sat up in bed to get my head together, and then slide boarded back into my newly tuned up hot rod.

Last class of the day was a psychological, one-on-one, therapy session. This session is probably really important for many of the patients around here that either don't have a whole lot of support or are just plain old really down on their new injury. But for me, it is really just a chatting session for about a half hour, going back and forth on how was your weekend, how old are your kids,etc. The psychologist is a really nice lady and I get the impression that she has no worries for my psychological state and just enjoys sitting down and catching up with me.

Next, we went outside and our good friend Guillermo, from San Diego, arrived. Guillermo is actually Uruguayan but has lived in Sweden almost his whole life. He spent the last year in San Diego with me studying abroad for a business certificate. he hopped out of a cab, which didn't have AC, a thirty minute cab from the airport in 85-90 degree weather - lets just say he looked a little hot. We then headed over to the apartment to show him where he would be staying until he heads back on Wednesday. Guillermo came with an arm full of gifts and banners. One from my good buddies Marcus and Jonathon and the other a 25 foot long banner that was created during a fundraiser cook-out at our apartment complex in San Diego - sounds like it was a blast and a great turnout! Not only did they have fun, do a little drinking, and eat some good food, but they somehow managed to raise around $1,000 for my fund! It's truly amazing the love and support that all my friends have shown. I mean, none of these people have more than rent and beer money. Most of them are still in school, or just finding their way and covered in student bills, but somehow all reached deep into their pockets and donated money. That was really cool.

We went over to the apartment and hung the banner up across the longest wall we had and it just barely fit. It was covered in signatures, great sayings, memories and notes. And amazingly, fifteen different flags representing different countries of all the friends we met in San Diego - from all over the world. What a unique group of people that we have gathered in the last year for most of them drew their flag after they signed their name. I never thought that I would meet that diverse of a group of friends and it truly made for a neat experience in CA.

After that we headed back to RIC to show Guillermo my room and get some food for dinner. After we ate, once again, I began my nightly routine. Guillermo and Kalli stuck around so we could write this blog. Another day, showing me so much of the love and support that I have received every step of the way. Also, thank you Nick Wilz and Jenny Reh for sending FMH's 100 hottest women of 2009 - Guillermo and I savored each page as we went through making all of our own judgments of who should have been when and where.

Sunday June 21st

So, Sunday - wonderful day for Fathers has arrived. Sundays are really easy going and open-scheduled with not much therapy in the works. I stayed in bed until about 9 o'clock, then headed to the canary room to eat my breakfast. Meanwhile, my parents and sisters headed off to church, to a nearby cathedral that is actually under construction right now. It is a hot day in the 80's. Thank goodness we are right near the lakefront or it could be really bad, sounds like it hit 92 inland a bit. Shortly after I finished breakfast, my parents showed up from church and the plan for today was to order pizza from a local delicious Chicago style restaurant called Geovannies. While we were waiting for the pizza, every Sunday a different nurse takes turns presenting a hot topics lecture - this week's was on bladder control. You can only imagine how interesting a presentation on your bladder and different ways of controlling it could be. So we all sat through and listened to the wonderful bladder presentation. It took about 20 minutes and she was through her power point. Most likely because it was father's day there were only two other participants besides the Hippert family plus Mark and Kalli listening to this wonderful world of bladders.

Then, of course the card playing began. We started up a game of Tricks, in which we didn't get real far for around noon pizza arrived. One thin crust, one mega thick Chicago style crust. Really gives a new meaning to pizza pie. This pizza is like two inches thick and just full of cheese and meat. Pizza was delicious and it was great spending time with my Dad on Father's Day. Once we were done with the meal, Theresa, Dad, Laura and Grey (my little 1.5 year old niece) loaded up in the car and were heading back to Appleton to get together with the rest of the Hippert gang at my brother's house to continue the Father's Day celebration.

Once the gang departed, Kalli, Mark Lee, Maeghan Verhagen who lives here in Chicago, and my cousin Bill Hippert all headed to a close by AMC to catch the latest and greatest movie, Hangover. The AMC was only about six blocks away and completely wheel chair accessible. We went and got our tickets and realized we had about a half an hour before the show so we ventured over to a really cool bowling alley/billiards/bar/lounge called Lucky Strike and sat down for a quick drink before the movie. Kalli made me get a root beer because I am still using narcotics, controlling my pains from surgery. Although, I am doing a really good job of slowly weening off of them for I have gone two nights now without my 12 hour release morphine and without any of the painkillers throughout the night. And, I have been stretching my day time narcos - some sort of painkiller - as long as I can, going between 6 and 8 hours and I could get them every 4 if I would like. My goal is to get completely off of them in the next two weeks. This will increase my energy due to the drowsiness they cause and also let the poop keep rolling (they make you a little constipated).

After the movie, which by the way, was fricking hilarious. There were many points in the movie where I would kind of hold my neck, trying to brace it, while my whole body was shaking from laughing. We headed over to a nearby Potbelly sub shop to grab a quick bite to eat before bringing me back to RIC where I start my nightly routine.

Another great day and it really makes me realize how lucky we are to have the location in which RIC is placed, being right downtown, near Michigan Avenue and all that this area has to offer. How many places could you be where you have got, literally 50 - 100 restaurants and kinds of things to do within a wheel chairs pushing distance? Hope everyone was able to spend some time with their fathers and I just want to say Happy Father's Day to all of you dads out there!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Saturday June 20th

My third Saturday here, for I got here on a Saturday in case anyone didn’t know that. The weekends are nice for I don’t have any appointments or few appointments that don’t start until 11 like this Saturday. All I have planned is an exercise group, and a PT session. It actually turned out the PT I was going to work with went home with food poisoning from the food here at RIC, so a different PT came into my room and said she rearranged her schedule from 12 to 12:30 if I would like. I thought that was really nice of her to go out of her way to make sure I still got a session because my other PT was sick. That morning before we started any of our session, Mark Lee, Bob Schmelzer, Andy Houlihan and Kalli all were hanging out in my room visiting with me. We had some fun joking around then I really wanted to get out of bed. I pushed my call button and after 20 minutes no one was coming. Finally I pushed the button again and the lady said “can I help you?” and I responded “both of my legs fell out of the bed. Can you please send someone to come help me?” Five seconds later we hear an announcement “730 bed 1, both his legs fell out of bed. Someone please assist him” About a minute later my nurse Angel walks in. I said “Yeah, my legs didn’t fall out of bed, but I really want to get out of bed so I’m not late for my class.” She gave me a funny look and said she’d go get my PCT (personal care techniction). My PCT came we got changed and went to class. So at 11 we started our exercise program. Mark and Andy decided to join in. I told them before we started that no one has been able to keep up and do the whole exercise program with me. So we all sat down and started the exercise program which is usually kind of a hoot between making fun of the music, and making goofy exercise moves it can be a lot of fun. So we rocked out the whole first half of the arm movement session and then we took a little break and get weights put on our hands, take a pressure break, and get some fluids. Then after the break, oh my goodness, Mark and Andy were nowhere to be found. I guess the first half really tuckered them out (author’s note, Mark here, and it really was pretty tough and Houli and I really didn’t want to have anything to do with weights after the first 30 min). and they couldn’t handle it like some of the fine tuned participants such as Mr. Crocket, a 70 year old, hunched over African American man, who’s hunched over worse than the hunch back of Notre Dame. Mr. Crocket is a great new addition to the exercise group for he just started this week. He’s got a great attitude and is pretty funny.

We finished out the second half, weight portion of the session which went really well. I forgot to mention that there was another new addition this other guy, probably about 45 years old who’s got a white ninja turtle shell on, he seems alright too.

So then I met up with the PT that offered to do a session with me because mine had been cancelled. We went in the gym and I transferred virtually all by myself from my chair to the mat. She wanted to work on strengthening my core so I sat on the edge of the mat balancing on my own and she did several different drills where I go down on my elbow and balance on my side and then the other side, then we did another drill where we take a ball on my side, a red ball about 10 in diameter where I roll it around my back and grab it on the other side. We did this several times; it seems like an easy enough task to roll a ball around your back from one arm to the other but boy it took a lot of concentration and balance for I couldn’t put weight on the ball because it would roll away. Then she did some of the drills where she would push me around while sitting on the mat to try and throw me off balance. I, of course, gave her a good push back just for fun. The session went well and I did another transfer virtually all on my own which really feels good; my transfers are going really well with a slide board into the chair.

After that we came into the Canary room to have some lunch. Joining me was newly arrived sister Theresa, Laura, Pat Keegan and my dad. My sister Theresa got me a t-shirt that said ‘bomb squad if you see me running, you might want to try and keep up’. I said to her “is this some sort of sick joke, because I can’t run?” We all had a good laugh, it’s a cool shirt.

After lunch we went outside to throw around the bean bag and get some fresh air, probably around 80 degrees and sunny. We had a good group throwing the bag around; Kalli, Mark, Andy, Pat and I were all getting in some tosses while Pat finished off some of Mark and Houli’s ultra meaty pizza from Gino’s. Probably the thickest and meatiest pizza I’ve ever seen. Thanks for the suggestion Gina.

After that we headed to the apartment to meet up with my mom and dad, and the whole gang for a nice dinner. My mom asked me what I wanted and I requested pork tacos with her special salsa combination sauce. We had dinner played, cards, and then I needed to head back to start my nightly routine.

In case any of your are wondering for I had mentioned I didn’t poop in four days, on Friday night the thunder from down under finally came. Those poor poor nurses that were on staff that night took really great care of me cleaning up what had to have been four pounds of poop. On that note, that will be the end of the blog today. Hope you all have a great weekend. Remember to wish your dads a happy father’s day.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday June 19th

So, they got me up earlier than normal, for we switched my schedule so I wouldn't be having classes before 9 because it was a little difficult for me to get my bearings for 7:30 and 8 o'clock classes. Anyways, somehow they scheduled me for 8 o'clock PT where I practiced stretching my legs in bed. Carey, my PT, came in and worked me really hard. Now, I'm not sure if what I was doing was really that hard or if just attempting anything right away only twenty minutes after waking up, just wears me out instantly. But, after she was done with a half hour of stretching with me I was thoroughly tuckered out. At the end of the session she helped me get in my chair and I wheeled over to the canary room to have a little breakfast before my next hands group session.

On Fridays, hands group is called Fun Friday and they try to just do something a little more fun. So, the four of us in the group rocked out a little bit of UNO. I won the first game, of course and during the second game one of the four players actually began having some stomach tightness and needed some attention and she dropped out. The three of us continued to play and we ran out of time with Charlie, this older gentleman, and myself only having two cards left - so the second game was really up in the air. But, if I was willing to bet, I probably would have won that one too!

So after dominating games of UNO I didn't even have to move from the table I was at, Diane, my OT, came right to me and we started her session. I did some more core abdomen strengthening with a neat technique of basically stretching out my arms and placing my hands on a towel on the table. She then had me lean forward as far as I could and move in different directions using my abdomen to bring me back and forth. This too was a good exercise and I could feel it working my core.

When we were through I did one or two laps just to kill a little bit of time because I had a half hour open between sessions. Next, was our wonderful OT exercise group. Today we jammed out to James Brown, which was a nice change of pace for Stacy usually picks this annoying elevator/techno/African drums music. I moved up to 3lb wrist weights, instead of two pounders and really didn't have any problem with the transition, so that was nice. Feeling like I must have achieved some sort of improvement in my strength. Watch our four pounders - here I come! Exercise group was the last of my four sessions for Friday.

Now, I have the rest of the day to do what I want! The weather outside was black and windy, thundering and lightning a bit so it didn't look like we were going anywhere today. So, we decided to just go back to my room and hang out a little. My Mom, Joey and I were just sitting here and I ate a couple cashews and all of a sudden my stomach just turned upside down to the point where I requested a bucket. Sure enough, I threw up my lunch and those darn cashews in about thirty seconds. Right after, I pretty much felt fine again. I would contribute this little session to the fact that I haven't taken a crap in four days and my stomach is so bound up it feels like I am going to explode! Also, they are pumping me full of laxatives of five different kinds or so. Tonight I am sure will be my lucky night! With that being said, I think that will be enough blogging for today. Not everyday is perfect but I just have to keep on pushing!

Thursday June 18th

Another busy day at the RIC. Started out with hand group where I played with several different peg board type developmental tools to work on my hand motor skills. It's fun going to the different groups, you get to know the different patients better and better.

Because I didn't have occupational therapy exercise group today, Kalli and I went back to my room and turned on the music and did our own arm exercise. We did many of the same moves from class.

After our own interpretation of Richard Simmons,was physical therapy where I got back on the tilt table. Carey, my PT, slowly moved me up higher and higher as I could handle it with my blood pressure. I go tall the way up to 50 degrees, which is only five degrees more than last time. But, really I was able to stay there a lot longer than last time! I was on the tilt table for a full hour which is a really long time. It is kind of funny, we did the exercise in my room on our own because I didn't have arm exercise group that day but of course while i was on the tilt table Carey made me do arm exercises for the whole hour to try to keep my blood pressure up. So, I ended up doing an hour and a half of arm exercises and it made me feel like jello.

After getting nice and lightheaded on the tilt table we rolled over to the canary room for some lunch. After a bite or two, of an actually pretty darn good ham and cheese sandwich, in rolls Tari, Kelly, and Taylor VanHoof, a good friend of mine, Ashley Wilhelm's (previously VanHoof) mother and sisters. They didn't come alone - they came bearing gifts galore - books, food, and best of all a homemade "Shake of the Day". This is a fun dice game that includes a shaker, five dice, and a custom decorated money jar designed by Tari. It is a simple game - basically you pay a quarter to take three shakes on the dice in order to achieve five of a kind. If you get five of a kind you receive half of the money that is in the jar. The kicker is, just like the name of the game, you can only play once a day, that way some fool can't just sit and keep paying in until he wins. Anthony, Al, and myself had a "Shake of the Day" behind our bar when we lived together in Milwaukee on Bartlett street. It was such a fun game and people always wanted to play. I believe Ashley even won about $70 on it one time! It paid out several times and was just another fun part of the bar. Now, I don't have a bar in my room here to put it behind, but it will just have to sit next to my stereo and I expect everyone who visits to shake. We had a great little visit and it's nice to know that Kelly is living just a short distance away in Chicago here now too. The longer I am here the more and more people I end up finding that live here. My cousin, David Denor, also stopped by again to drop off a couple of good newspapers and magazines that the publisher he works for has accounts with. One being Plastics News, which was a newspaper that I received back in San Diego twice a month and is kind of an interesting insight into the plastics world, in which my industry is engulfed in.

After lunch, Mike, the director of recreational activities here at RIC,found me so that he could give me a tour of their facility and show me what was all available in his department. Mike is the guy that set up my sailing adventure, which I am still so freakin excited for next Wednesday. So, we went upstairs to the 9th floor, which is also the pediatrics floor, and he showed me their main room. The room had all the equipment to do pottery, a pool table, the same TV that I have back in San Diego to play WII on, lots of plants and supplies to do gardening and much much more. Mike made it sound like even if there is something that they don't have but are interested in, they are willing to go out and find what is needed to make it happen. He takes people fishing, biking, all kinds of fun activities to get you out and about and not just sitting in your room, which sadly a lot of the patients here I feel like do.

Also, in the afternoon, I got together with Diane, my OT, and learned more about my options with controlling my bladder. Soon, I am going to have to make a decision to keep running around with a pee bag or start cathing myself. Cathing myself is much safer, avoiding bladder infections, but time consuming and probably not all that fun.

After a great little session of bladder management I got together with a new OT, one I have never been with before, Piper. Piper is a really nice lady and put me on the mat and started a drill that turned out to be something I felt was very useful. I have been wanting to really work on strengthening my core abdominal area so that my balance gets better and better. Right now, I actually have a chest strap on around the back of my chair to help me balance and I would really like to eliminate that strap and just balance on my own. So, in order to do this, she basically had me sitting on the edge of the mat table and she would kind of shove me from all different directions and I would have to keep my balance. It was kind of funny in the beginning she shoved me about three or four times and then I took an arm and gave her a good shove back. Her and Kalli both started laughing. She said that's funny, for all these years no one has ever done that and she was really surprised they haven't. After pushing me for a while she then had me lift one arm at a time and then both arms out in front of me which made it even harder, but really worked my entire core. I hope we do this drill more and more because it is something I would like to work on right now and I could feel it after we were done - that it had helped.

Soon after all of my classes were done a good friend of mine from middle school, high school and college - Anjali and her boyfriend, Ryan, came to hang out and visit. My roommate, Joey, wanted to head to Treasure Island (grocery store) to grab a couple things and I had never been there before so I wanted to go on that adventure as well. So, Anjali and Ryan actually became our pushers and pushed us about a block and a half to the grocery store. It is a great, old store with all kinds of neat little treats. I even saw the biggest cheese wheel I have ever seen in my life! It made me think "Baxter, you ate that entire wheel of cheese? I'm not even mad, I'm impressed!" After the cheese wheel we picked up some flowers and brought them over to the apartment for Kalli because she was off babysitting then and it was one of the first chances I had while she was gone to get her something nice for all the wonderful things she does for me. After getting the flowers in some water we scooted home to start my nightly routine.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Andrew speaks again

Dear Somerville,
The run you guys put together was so incredible. The way you support me, and in a way you all supporting my Dad, through this meant so much to me when I saw that picture. I don’t know that I have even met very many of you, I have met a few of my Dad’s co-workers through the years, thank you all so much for the encouragement.

Mark – can’t wait to see you Thursday. Find out of if I can drive the Zues – so easy, a cripple could do it. I can see it now, best headline advertisement Mercury has ever had, creating record sales of your new pilot control system and giant sea rays to go with each system. Peace brother.

Tari – odd as it sounds and I really can’t believe it myself, beer and alcohol is really the last thing I want in my system anymore. It just doesn’t ring any bells for me as of now. I’m not saying down the road I’m not going to enjoy a cold beer again, but right now, no kegger attachment needed. Everyone here is pretty darn jealous about the dual cup holders. Some folks don’t even have one and I just sit back and laugh with my iced coffee on one side and a foam cup filled with crystal clear, cold ice water on the other.

Maeghan – don’t you worry, I had enough of you at the wedding and I’m not experiencing any Maeghan withdrawals yet. I will see you when you can! Thank you for your thoughts. Talk to you soon, the best groomsman you ever walked up the aisle with.

Natedawg – all I need to know Nathan is when you are going to be back in Door County this summer. Hopefully towards the end of summer so I can get a couple months under my belt so we can get the Paragon out to sea and visit our friends on Green Island.
Sarah Z – it’s great to hear from you. Means a lot to know that you and sounds like other people you know are supporting me as well. Keep throwing love my way, every bit helps.

Tari – it is hard enough just to get the stuff to come out – I really don’t think I should be throwing it around, but if you want I could save a little for ya and you can do whatever you want with it. Shoot it out of a canon, put it in a brown paper bag and light it on fire in front of an unexpected neighbor’s house, or even just simply flush it down the toilet – your pick. LOL.

Sarah – every color of the rainbow is an incredible amount of love. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much! It was good to see you and thank you for all of your help while you were here. I love you so much and I am sure I will see you again soon. Thank you for the prayers and daily thoughts.

Dear Blazers, keep rockin’ on. I had so much fun with you guys when you came to San Diego to visit Brad. Those were seriously some really great nights between going out to the bars and dancing and hitting up the dueling piano bar, what fun and great guac! Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

Jaci – sounds good! Call anytime, I am usually laying in bed getting ready for the night between 6 and 9. Have a great time at the cottage and as far as blogging goes – Kalli and I sit down and go through the comments together, usually two days worth, and I just say what I want her to type in and she types it for me. I use the blackberry to read the comments each night thought – it really works well. I just lie in bed and check out the blog.

Dear Jenny – thank you for sharing that. I didn’t have a clue. Way to fight through it all. Sounds like you are doing great. Those kinds of stories are very inspiring for me because I don’t plan on letting this stop me from doing anything either. Love, Andrew.

Dear friend of Grant – I know a couple Grant’s and you forgot to label who you are. Very curious as to whom this mystery writer is. Blog again and I will shout back understanding who you are! Lol.

Keith – I do have a bar that I am not using right now, but unfortunately the shipping cost from CA would be astronomical and probably cost more than what the bar is worth. As far as washers go – sorry Endow but I would have to say the set that Keith has with the chains that pull apart and you have three holes where you stand on top of the boxes is pretty much the coolest style I have ever played. The ones with the cans are just too damn loud. Good to hear from you Keith, love you brother, Hippert.

Shorty – why the heck would I need to get you one of the stickers – you are under five feet tall which is legally a midget so all you would have to do is go fill out the form and get one. I have been wondering for years why you haven’t done this – my gosh – front row seats at target, free parking meters, there are endless opportunities with that beautiful red or blue sticker in the window.

Katy/Shorty 2 – same to you, go get a parking sticker.

Evan – man have I not been able to hang out with you enough in these last two years. First you go out of the country and then I leave the state. We had so many good times at 3369 Bartlett. There aren’t enough toes to wiggle to count that. So glad to hear that you are keeping up on me and thinking about me. Love you man.

Endow – I have been practicing with bean bags on a daily basis, working on different kinds of drills from longest throw javelin style to simply playing catch with my roommate. Don’t you worry; when the tournament comes around I will be in prime condition and your number one player! Funny that you mention going sailing, today I found out that I am set up and ready to go for next Wednesday at 2 o’clock. My roommate and I are going out of the Chicago harbor on a Freedom20 which is a specific class boat set up for disabled sailors. I am so excited to get back out on the water for its one thing that I would really be bummed about if I was not able to continue doing.

Patti – thanks for the scripture – those are a couple great lines. They are very meaningful. Hope you guys are having a great time in Yellowstone.

Al – thanks for shouting out for me. I always kind of assumed that little cheer “hip-hip-hurray” was pretty much for me, so thank you for using my cheer. It kind of makes me feel like I was with you, sitting around a campfire, definitely one of my favorite things to do. Have a great trip and enjoy your new adventure!

Kelly – that’s really great that you’re living in downtown chi-town. Just from all the times I have visited throughout my life it really is a pretty neat city with a lot to do, especially it sounds like in the summer. I keep hearing about festival after festival in different parks and amphitheaters all over town. Stop by any time you want. Enjoy the city! Andrew.

Mark Sier – it is great that you are listening and reading. I just can’t believe how many people this blog is touching. It makes it so fun to respond knowing that it is not just going out into space, there really are people taking it in, enjoying the fun, happy humor canter between me and all of my loved ones. If you have time on your way back that would really be amazing, I hope it is not too out of your way. Until then, see ya brother.

Endow – sounds great! We will put you on the calendar. Any day works for us and of course that is what the apartment is for. Definitely stay with us – it is so close and convenient and really it is right downtown to do something fun too. Can’t wait to see you then – you are my number one blogger!

Endow- that really sounds great and maybe we will need his help, but my guess is I take one look at this boat I am going out on Wednesday and you know me – I will have all my own ideas and the Esclapion will be rigged by yours truly in no time flat. Again, that is, if needed. The only thing I will maybe need help with is finding a small helicopter to fly me out to the boat sitting on the mooring. Just seems a lot cooler than taking my dingy out there, that’s all. You work on that and I will get these legs moving.

Marcel – the food here at the RIC is by far the weakest link. This could definitely be a nitch market for you. Even though RIC is rated number one already, you and Kai could come into a great hospital like this and really turn around their patient’s dietary intake by getting them some real food that they would love to eat and be excited for each meal. I miss cooking with you so much. You are, besides Kalli of course, my favorite person I have ever cooked with. I always would learn little things or understand temperatures and timing better after a session of either beer can chicken or one of your beautiful much more eloquent conglomerations. Remember that one night when you made some beautiful thin slices of steak, breaded king crab, succulent shrimp scampi, some delicious sides all topped with a Marcel special sauce and if that wasn’t delicious enough, the most creative looking Caesar salad with baked parmesan, almost cracker like disc perfectly placed on top to go with. Man, what a meal. Even Bob, the best maintenance man in all of CA, said that it was the best meal he had ever had in his life and the guy is like 100 years old! In fact, if you see Bob, definitely give him my love and tell him I miss him and the RIC could use him here too. The washing machine has been broken for like a week, Bob would have had that up and running again in say five to ten minutes! That’s enough rambling, love you Marcel. Keep on keepin on.