After six months away at a rehabilitation hospital recovering from a spinal cord injury, my son and I finally get to come home. If you haven’t already, read My Son’s Traumatic Accident Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 first.
The plan was for us to leave Colorado for Kansas City on July 1st. But, Cayden and I missed home sooo much and we wanted to surprise everyone, so we left a day early!
Before we went to our house, we drove past the site of the accident. Surreal. It was Cayden’s first time seeing it.
No one was home when we drove in the driveway except our dog. What a greeting!
Cayden hadn’t been home in six full months!
He walked up to his room and unpacked some of his things before we left for my oldest son’s basketball game.
That was another reason we left a day early. We wanted to attend my oldest son’s last summer basketball game. We had missed all of his games from January 8th through the end of basketball season. In June, they do a summer league and we missed all those games. Except this last one. It was so fun walking into the gym and sitting in the stands.
After the game, we went to the girl’s swim meet and surprised them! We snuck up before their race and surprised them and hugged them! Our friend, who announced the meet, saw Cayden and made an announcement about him being home. Everyone stopped and clapped.
I loved the community that surrounded us. It was amazing to be HOME and to be surrounded by these people that had supported our family.
Taking a break
The first month we just relaxed. I didn’t go back to work. I did everything I could with my other kids. They’d come to visit a few times but I just wanted to soak it all in, sit on the couch, talk with them, attend their activities, cook dinner for them, etc.
Cayden stopped doing all therapy and enjoyed every second of NO electrical stimulation on his muscles.
We planned a welcome home open house for Cayden at our church. We wanted to say thank you to everyone who had helped us. Family came in town and we celebrated and enjoyed seeing friends and church family.
Finding services at home
The next step was to find doctors and therapists in town.
Most of the recovery after a spinal cord injury takes place in the first six months.
After the first six months, we were told there could still be recovery up to the two year mark, but on a much smaller scale.
For Cayden, the next year was mostly about strengthening the muscles that worked.
Continuing on the journey
We knew one of the most important things that helped was to work out consistently. In Colorado, we hired trainers to workout with him five days a week. After his month off, he needed to get back to work.
Our friends and owners of Rise and Shine Wellness, Jeff and Wendy Basch, reached out to us and suggested Cayden consider working out there under the direction of Wendy and Melanie, a Physical Therapist they employed. They believed Pilates would help Cayden strengthen his core plus they could incorporate all sorts of other things to keep him challenged.
We visited the studio and agreed to start Cayden training there. It was amazing. They loved on him and challenged him to do things he didn’t think he could do. One of those things was jumping rope. (Favorite video – He later got to 100 jumps in a row.)
OT and PT
Our insurance was maxed out on outpatient therapy but we knew he needed more. Falling Forward Foundation does just that. They helped him continue with more therapy at Ability KC. His therapist continued to work on muscle coordination, jumping, and even tried to practice running. (Favorite video – Doing things we never thought he’d be able to do!)
Letting him make decisions
I could push and encourage and try to keep Cayden going but there is a time where I had to, and wanted to, step back and allow Cayden’s to make his own decisions. He gets to decide where he wanted to continue working and where he didn’t.
One thing he hated was trying to use electrically stimulating leg attachments. I can’t even remember what they are called. We held on to hope that they would help him be able to run. After hours of therapists trying to fit them correctly, he finally decided he was done with those things.
He’ll probably never be able to run so will not be able to play sports like he used to. But, he does like playing games like pool, ping pong and corn hole.
Drivers license and finding a car
One of the first things he wanted to do when we got back was get his permit reinstated because it had expired in Colorado. He practiced a little and then took his driver’s license test. He passed and got his license. Then, he found his dream car and bought it. Well…the dream car that he could afford – a 2004 Acura TL.
Driving with the windows down is still one of his favorite things to do.
Medical challenges and surgeries
We had to find local doctors and specialists. After some (painful) tests, he did end up needing surgery. There are various challenges, health issues related to being a quadriplegic, that Cayden deals with. Even now, it is really hard.
Thinking of what Cayden goes through, the things he has to do, and what he’ll never be able to do, is probably the hardest part for our other children. And, for my husband and me. Sometimes sadness, and even anger, come up for all of us as we think of these things.
In 2018, after he graduated from high school (on time and with a 3.884 GPA) he decided to have tendon transfer surgery. We left in May and flew to Colorado to a hand specialist there. For the next six weeks he had a giant cast on his right hand.
His right thumb was the only thing that really worked and now there was a cast on it. It was a rough summer. But, the surgery was a success and now he is able to extend his four fingers open at the same time. This allows him to pick up things easier and shake people’s hands, something that had been very awkward.
Life continues to go on.
He works out on his own now. He hasn’t been back to therapy in over six months. We’ll probably keep checking in with therapist but, unless he has new recovery, there isn’t much they can do.
A lot was taken from him the night of the accident. But, he also got back more than most with his injury.
January 8, 2019 marked 3 years since the accident.
The two year window where we hoped for more recovery is complete.
For the most part, after the 6 months we did not see any new recovery, just the strengthening of his working muscles.
There are still many things that do not work. There are still medical complications. There are still things he will never be able to do like run down the court and shoot a basketball like he used to.
But we are thankful for what he can do.
- He was able to stay on track and graduate from high school with his class, walking across the stage to receive his diploma. (Video.)
- He left for college in the fall, after graduation and hand surgery, and lives in the dorm independently.
- He has received unique opportunities and worked with amazing people who love and support him at First Hand Foundation.
- He was invited back to the Craig Hospital employee banquet to share just how valuable the employees are in the lives of the patients. He walked out on stage and gave examples of how they (from the doctor to the maintenance staff) made a difference in his life.
- He figures things out. It’s amazing what you can figure out when you have to.
- He can now shake people’s hands.
Somehow, through it all, he has kept his positive attitude, always finding the bright side of things and always making us laugh.
As for me…
**I’ve seen the wonder and amazement of people’s hearts and hands as they’ve loved and helped our whole family.
**I’ve walked through a hard time and come out the other side. Even though there are scars, mostly for Cayden, I believe God walked through it with us.
**I was singing the words, “I will trust in You.” BEFORE anything bad happened. I can still say, “I will trust in You.” AFTER the bad happened. The words of this song will forever bless me.
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So let all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation
The rock on which I stand
Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go
You’ve not already stood
(excerpt from Lauren Daigle’s I Will Trust In You)
Another of my all time favorite lyrics that ministered to me in the late nights was Casting Crowns Just Be Held.
**I notice the hard things people go through. From traumatic events to the simple grind of regular life challenges, I’m in awe of human resilience. I have so much more compassion for people. It’s why I pursued and earned my life coaching certification and am now using it to help people learn how their minds work. I love helping people learn how to create the results they desire, even as they walk through challenges.
What about you?
If you are in the midst of a tragedy, large or small, may I offer that God is walking through it with you. Consider trusting Him. Stop holding on and just be held. Please reach out to me if you need help.