Wednesday, September 15, 2010

THANK YOU

Here is my long overdue THANK YOU to all of you who helped plan, donated, and/or attended my Second Annual Golf Benefit. It was all of you that made it happen! It turned out to be perfect weather and a great crowd.

It was great being able to compare my abilities at last years golf outing to where I am now. I was able to step into the golf cart, didn't have to be tied into my seat and had much more energy to get through the day! Again, along with my hard work it has been the support I have gotten from friends and family that has gotten me this far. I am hoping the money donated from this past event will help me make just as many gains in my next year of therapy.

I am very excited to move to San Diego next week and get back into a regimented, intense therapy program. Along with attending a program at Project Walk, I have also set up a weight assisted treadmill that will be stationed in the garage at my apartment. I hope to find volunteers to help pull my legs and want to use this piece of equipment five days a week. I want my main focus to be on therapy for at least one more year.

I am so thankful to those of you who showed up at the event as it was great seeing so many people before I make my big cross-country move. So, thank you so much to everyone that helped and attended the golf outing. Its success will contribute greatly to my continual rehabilitation.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Andrew's Radio Interview / Second Annual Golf Outing

Here is the link for the video from Andrew's interview on WHBY on August 17th, 2010.
http://www.box.net/shared/kkejkmotgx

This is also a reminder of the Second Annual Andrew Hippert Golf Benefit taking place on Monday August 30th. We encourage everyone to come to the High Cliff golf course in Sherwood, WI to golf. 10am shotgun start. People will be in groups of four playing best ball. It does not matter if you are a golfer - come join the fun anyway! It is $65 to golf and a meal is included. After the golfing fun is done there will be a silent auction as well as other activities such as a 50/50 raffle, jail and bail, band, etc.

If you can't make it to the benefit but have items you would like to donate for the auction or are able to contact local businesses that would be willing to help as well please contact either Andrew's sister Laura or Sarah.

Laura: 920-740-3287, laurahippert@yahoo.com
Sarah: 920-428-7341, iamshe1030@sbcglobal.net

The money being raised is crucial for Andrew to continue on to his next step in this long journey of recovery. He will be moving back to San Diego and will be participating in a therapy program through Project Walk. Project Walk is not a hospital setting, therefore insurance will not cover any portion. Project Walk is one of the best spinal rehab facilities around and is right near his home in San Diego. Andrew is currently still walking with forearm crutches and wants to be pushed to the next step - canes, then walking without any assistance. Walking is great but it is still frustrating and difficult when you can't carry anything because you are relying on your arms for help. Let's help him reach his goals!

We hope to see a great turnout just like last year! We can't wait to see everyone!!

Thanks!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Working Hard in Atlanta, GA



Hello Everyone! Boy, it's been a long time. Time just seems to fly by when you are busting your butt to walk again. As many of you know, Kalli and I have been living in GA with some friends while attending a therapy study called NRN (Neurological Recovery Network). The program is going very well and they never cease to amaze me how many ways they can figure out to make you sweat. The program here has me up on a weight assisted treadmill five days a week along with guided over ground walking with new and more difficult devices than the loft strand crutches I am currently using.

Just recently we have switched up our therapist to a great guy named Brian. It has been a good experience for after 60 days we just needed a change of pace. It is amazing how every therapist has a new twist to throw into the therapy and our daily work out routine. This change gave me another positive surge of energy and renewed Kalli's and my excitement and determination to stay with the program for a longer period of time.

Even though it is harder than heck, I have been walking with loft strand crutches for two and a half months now for the most part everywhere I go. I guess the only way I could explain how it feels is like having a 500 pound gorilla on your back lugging him around everywhere you go. Luckily, this gorilla seems to be on some sort of diet plan and he keeps getting a little thinner and trimmer each month. The latest and most difficult walking device that we have tried in therapy has been a pair of downhill ski poles with little rubber stoppers on the bottom. They are more difficult because I am not able to put nearly as much weight through them as I can with my crutches. Attached is a video of me using them for the second time just this week.

An interesting thing that we are looking into this coming week is the possibilities or options that may be out there for my hands surgically. The Shepherd Center has a great specialist that works with spinal patients on achieving more functionality of their mitts through surgery. We don't know any information and have a consultation planned in the upcoming month to learn more to see if I am even a candidate. This has been something that I have been curious about and wanted to pursue. Even though my hands are continuing to get stronger, it is still very difficult for me to get complete extension and it seems as if this may be something that I could get help with surgically. Not only am I looking for something to help functionally, I also am hoping to find some relief of the pain I am often experiencing in my hands as a result of them being so tight.

Over the course of the last year an important part of our progress has been a wonderful ability to prepare for the next step. NRN has been a wonderful stepping stone where we have seen great progress but there will come a time when we will be ready to move away from this endeavor as well. I have applied to a program in California called Project Walk. This is a great spinal cord facility that is cutting edge and incredibly intensive. The program has been around for quite some time and consists of mainly personal trainers opposed to most facilities being more of a hospital setting with physical therapists and occupational therapists. The down side is that Project Walk does not have any studies to participate in, nor can you use any insurance to cover your sessions. At this point I don't have any insurance coverage for physical therapy left anyway since at the rate I was doing it I used up my sessions by the beginning of February. Since it is not billable through insurance, all sessions are charged by the hour and you can only imagine how expensive a specialty clinic such as this will run. We are incredibly excited for Project Walk and ready for the next step of this journey. One of the best things about Project Walk is that it is located only twenty-five minutes from our old apartment in San Diego. So, Kalli and I are thrilled to be quite close to picking life back up where it was so abruptly taken just over a year ago. Wow, it has been an entire year.

The next few months will be busy because not only will we be continuing therapy we also will be trying to plan our move back. Moving back will entail getting our stuff moved from GA to WI and then from WI to CA. We also need to start the apartment hunt, I need to go car shopping and Kalli needs to find a job. As overwhelming as all of this feels, the excitement to get back to life in CA gives us motivation to figure it all out. If anyone has any connections near San Diego to help Kalli find a teaching or nanny position please let us know!

In order to make my next step in this journey possible, my family and friends have decided to throw a Second Annual Golf Outing to help finance Project Walk. The only information I know of so far is it will be held at High Cliff on August 30th with a shotgun start at 10am. There will be more details soon. If you would like to sign up now please contact Mark Lee at gmail.com or call him at xxx xxx xxxx. I really hope people will be able to make themselves available that day so I can strut my stuff with my new walk hopefully even more improved by then! Last years was so fun and much appreciated because it allowed Kalli and I to focus on therapy over the last year as our full-time jobs. I am truly excited to walk over to a golf cart, sit down, and ride away whereas last year around that time it took two people to lift me into the cart where I was then strapped in with belts in order to help me stay sitting up straight. Wow, how far I have come.

Can't wait to see all of you!

video

Monday, January 11, 2010

January 11th, 2010

Hello once again. It has been a busy busy month since I last posted. With all of the holiday activities, Christmas, New Years it has been a jam packed month of family, friends, doctors and too many Christmas cookies. Kalli and I enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with both her family and mine which was great and I feel like I got everything I asked for. Health, happiness and a dehydrator for making beef jerky. A lot of things are going on right now and there is quite a bit to come in the next few months. But first, I would like to thank a few people.

First off, there has been an incredibly wonderful group of individuals that have been following my every move throughout this journey over the last seven months. Wow, seven months! They call themselves The Prayer Group. With kind words through what feels like hundreds of thoughtful cards they have continually been there showing their faith, support and love. And now, they have gone beyond and continued the support with a gift that will provide several new therapy pieces of equipment that will continue to help me reach my goals.

It is one thing to walk up to someone in front of a whole group of people and give a large gift while at the same time receiving recognition from each and every person who knows how much it costs and that you gave it to them. For this group to stay anonymous to me means even more knowing that they are doing it truly just from their heart. So, thank you very much for the love and support you have given Kalli and I through this very difficult time in our life.

I also want to thank the many others that have also physically, financially, and emotionally supported me. There is no way to go through and name each and every one of you or this blog would be ten pages long. So, thank you as well for everything.

So, in between family gatherings, Christmas parties, and holiday fun there have been a few other things going on that I would like to share. One of those is that I have decided to reach out to a group called DVR which stands for Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. DVR basically tries to help individuals who have become disabled get back into the work force. One of the services that they can provide is to help outfit a reliable vehicle for you to get to work on your own. So, I set up a meeting with one of their counselors and filled out all the necessary paperwork to get into the system in order to receive some services. After meeting with my counselor she informed me that with my situation I would be eligible for assistance on outfitting a van with the necessary equipment in order for me to drive it on my own. Their view is that everyone has to purchase a vehicle in order to drive but not everybody has to invest twenty thousand dollars on equipment in order to have the freedom to drive. So, that is where they will step in and help out. So, right now I am waiting on their decision of when services will be rendered. This is a great opportunity for me to get a reliable vehicle with new equipment professionally installed. So, I will be needing to invest in either a brand new van or a used fully equipped van in which the vehicle cost would then be subtracted from the total purchase. So I am hoping I can find a good used minivan that DVR will approve and co-fund.

Over the last five and a half months I have had probably one of the worst customer service experiences of my life which is so unfortunate because it just makes me wonder how many people have had to go through this same exact thing considering that National Seating and Mobility, my wheelchair distributor, is the largest wheelchair distributor in the country. The last week of the year, Monday morning I gave a call to Chris, NSM's corporate operations manager, who was now heading up the delivery of my chair, asking her "so this is it, this is the last week, are you guys going to be able to deliver in 2009?" Chris continued to assure me that she was doing everything under her power to make it happen. The chair was to be next day air freighted from Quickie manufacture to Chicago on Wednesday and would be there at 2:00. So, Wednesday afternoon I called Eric, the technician that would be putting the chair together, to see if it had arrived. Once again, something had gone wrong and the chair didn't make it on the plane. Mind you, Thursday is New Years Eve, the very next day. Eric responded with a new date and time of Thursday at 10:00am. Instead of the chair being shipped to my local rep and being delivered to my home like it should be, Kalli and I decided we had to drive to Chicago for there was no way that they were going to make it happen if we didn't. So we arrived at NSM around 1:00 and there Eric was putting together my chair. After three hours of patient measuring and screw turning in order to make the chair fit me just right it was finally ready for me to fill out the paperwork and sign off on my new chair.

So, at 4:00pm New Years Eve, I signed and dated 12/31/2009 on my delivery, the very last day of the year, one hour before close. Of course, even though I signed, there were still four things that were wrong, or screwed up about this chair. Even with a member of their corporate team being intimately involved in this delivery they could not get it right. Amazing. With that said, I love my new chair and the power assist wheels have given me an incredible new found freedom. The way I can easily move on carpet and any surface outdoors is truly a blessing. I used to push on tough surfaces or long distances and end up with incredible pain through my shoulders but now with these new wheels most of that pain is eliminated.

Insurance looks at any injury as plain and simply as though you broke your arm whether you broke your neck, or your arm, you receive the same benefits. At the rate in which I am doing therapy, which is only three times a week, I will eat up all of my physical and occupational therapy sessions within the first two and a half months of the year. First off, three days a week isn't even enough in my mind. Second, what do I do with the next nine and a half months? A spinal injury needs so much more attention and time to heal than virtually any other injury. As a result, it is imperative that I seek more. After searching for what to do and where to go for outpatient assistance is $500/day out of pocket and an inpatient setting is closer to $2,000/day we have decided to join a study in Atlanta, Georgia.

In Atlanta there is hospital called the Shepherd Center which is rated one of the top ten hospitals in the country and is probably the largest spinal program in the country. Shepherd is participating in a program called NRN (Neurological Recovery Network) which is an intensive walking program affiliated with the Christopher Reeves Foundation. The study is trying to change the industry by developing a large enough data set that shows distinctly that if an individual with a spinal injury such as mine is given a more intensive amount of therapy they will have an incredibly higher rate of success in rehabilitation. There was a fairly strict criteria for entering the program and my situation, function, and injury level fit exactly what they are looking for. The program works solely on ambulation for an hour and a half five days a week in a specific gym dedicated for that reason. Not only will I be able to participate in the programs activities being part of Shepherd will give me access to their activity center which is basically a YMCA for wheelchairs. Between the study, full access to the NRN program's gym, and Shepherd's activity center Kalli and I will be able to fill each and every day with therapy. Luckily, I know someone in every major city throughout the country, haha. We will be staying with one of my best friends since I was a kid, Bob Schmelzer and his wife, Bethany who have recently moved to Atlanta. There house is only twenty minutes away from the Shepherd center which is absolutely amazing and we couldn't have asked for a better situation. Oh yeah, so I forgot to mention, the way the program works, is that you have to come with a handful of insurance covered sessions of physical therapy and as soon as they run out the Christopher Reeves Foundation will then sponsor me for the program. The program wants you to dedicate at least one month initially, and then if you progress in any of the four specific categories that they are evaluating they will ask you to continue another month. Many people in the program will go on for three, four, five months. This is an amazing opportunity for me to get the best professional guidance all while being sponsored. As of now, our plan is to pack lightly and move around the 21st of February for our new home with Bob and Bethany who have so wonderfully opened up their life with open arms and are already hoping that we love Georgia and never leave.

Even though we are moving to Georgia in a search for an intense schedule of guided therapy it is by no means because we aren't working hard here. Here is our new years schedule: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays Kalli and I wake up at 6 or so and go to the Y to walk for an hour in an open gym time that we have found. It works perfectly to use the basketball court for it is such a nice big open space and there is usually no one there early in the morning. After walking, Kalli helps me get into the pool and she heads to a Yoga class held right there in the Y. I swim, do squats, and many other exercises in the water while she is forming long, lean muscles doing yoga. We then head home, have lunch, and work out in the Platinum Gym here at home until 5 or 6. Tuesdays and Thursdays I have therapy at Theda Clark. We have decided to cut back from three times to twice a week to manage how many credits of therapy we enter the NRN program at Shepherd with. After therapy is basically the same routine, back home for lunch then to the Platinum Gym. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, I also do a longer swim with my brother every Tuesday night as well. So that is four days a week of swimming, I might just turn into a big prune.

As far as updates things are going really well. The new record for walking distance is over 700 feet and hard to even keep track of anymore. I believe the last time I blogged it was right around 470. Everything seems to be getting stronger especially my weaker right leg. In therapy I have even gone as far as unlocking my right leg brace at the knee while walking with the walker. After I came back from Mexico I got on the mat at Theda Clark to do some leg strengthening. Usually when I get on my side and do a set of exercises I need a leg skate with wheels to eliminate friction in order to perform the exercise. My therapist, Chris, immediately was shocked and excited saying "You don't need this skate on your weak leg at all anymore." It is moments like that that truly put a smile on your face, knowing that you are getting better. My parents bought me a set of 15 lb dumb bells for Christmas and it is truly amazing that I am using them to do curls with ease. I will never forget looking back only 4 months ago when I couldn't even hold a two pound dumb bell and I needed wrist weights in order to do curls. Between working at Theda Clark and a ton of therapy with my favorite therapist, Kalli Laflin, we will make sure to work as hard as we can so as to be ready for this up and coming new part of our journey in Atlanta.

All in all, things seem to be going well. Now, goodnight and farewell.