Friday, October 12, 2007
10/13 Meeting with the Doctors
Yesterday Doug, Marty, Julie and I had the chance to sit down with Courtney’s doctors, Dr. Chae and Dr. Yang and our case worker, John. We spent more than an hour talking about Court’s progress and the overall plan at Spaulding (as has been the norm, the doctors were hesitant to offer a long term prognosis on her recovery).
Courtney is rehabbing in three different disciplines: cognitively, physically and emotionally. We've already seen flashes of her physical capabilities, Dr. Chae said they are not sure how intact she is mentally. It helps that previous to the heart attack she was in good shape, intelligent and emotionally stable.
The critical areas of her brain such as the brain stem have been sparred after the heart attack and there hasn't been a large amount of swelling. However, oxygen deprivation has killed some of her brain cells (none sure how many, Dr. Chae concurred with our past neurologists that the damage is severe). He described Courtney's progress as the result her brain compensating for that loss, it is working around the dead cells and rerouting its' functions.
This reorganizing may manifest itself in the form of seizures like a computer going haywire. Courtney is still on seizure medication, Topamax, but the doctors are working to bring her off of it within two weeks. While we run the risk of Courtney suffering seizures, she is under constant supervision and the risk is outweighed by the benefit of seeing her when she's drug-free.
Her muscles are in good condition (she’s graduated to arm wrestling now, I still can’t catch a break), it’s her coordination that needs tuning. Courtney says her leg kicking is not under her control, although she can move them at will they do take on their own Norris-like personality.
Court is still eating via IV, but she is now being fed at regular intervals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Eating solid food is a foreseeable goal as the respiratory therapists have capped off Courtney’s trache tube, she’s been able to breathe deeply, clear her throat and speak more clearly. The trache is scheduled to be out on Monday.
Yesterday's physical therapy session had Courtney standing up in the Spaulding gym. She was able to hold herself up by her arms, standing between a set of parallel bars with spotters in front and behind her for guidance.
I sat in on some of Courtney’s speech therapy session, the therapist, Rachel, asked Courtney questions about Burlington, her work and college. She didn't have trouble offering up answers, although she did tell Rachel she lived on Cedar Street in Burlington, which is where she lived a few months ago before moving to her new apartment on Ward Street. The doctors mentioned that short-term memory loss may be a lingering effect from her heart attack. Her focus and attention are also slow to come back to her, its difficult to engage with her for longer than a minute or two.
We took Courtney on a wheelchair tour of the hospital while her bed was being made and her new roommate moved in (room 826 by the way, you’ll need to remember the number if you park at the hospital). We settled into the lounge at the end of the hall which had an amazing view of the sun setting on the Zakim Bridge. Boston may not be considered beautiful naturally the way Vermont or other parts of New England are, but there is beauty for those who look hard enough. Besides, I’m sure you don’t have to look as hard as you would in, say, New Jersey.
Keep it up Court, you're getting stronger everyday