[Alan here. I received a post updating my undergrad pal Trevor's progress from Debbie and him this evening and figured I would post it as a whole new entry rather than adding to the string of the now 439 comments, best wishes, photos and fond memories from family and friends in response to the post I wrote when I heard the terrible news. So here you go...]
An update on Trevor’s progress is long overdue with much to write about.
On July 23rd, 2007, after over a year in Vancouver General Hospital, we joyfully left BC for the hope of rehabilitation at the Halvar Johnson Centre for Brain Injury in Ponoka, Alberta. We were advised by the doctors at VGH to put Trevor in a long-term care facility and “let him get on with his life”. I didn’t have to wonder too long what life would be like in a public long term care facility. I wasn’t about to let that happen. We flew out of BC via military flight early on a rainy “wet” coast morning. We were met at the airport by an honor guard from Trevor’s unit in Vancouver, the Seaforth Highlanders. Not surprisingly, this is Trevor’s first memory after the injury. He doesn’t remember any of his time at VGH, which is a blessing in spite of some of the wonderful people we came to know during our time there. I have many pictures and have filled him in on various events and people at that time. I also kept a daily journal for him to read which he has been going through of late. He is endeared by so many of the stories of the true spirit of friendship and generosity. Thank you to everyone who visited Trevor, sent cards, gifts and even prayers for him. He tells me he plans to respond to every one “in the fullness of time”.
When we arrived at the Rehab Centre in Alberta, we were told there was very little chance of recovery and that he would be offered medication trials only and wouldn’t participate in rehab. Fortunately, I had become very good at selective listening by this stage. I had read many stories of people overcoming the odds and I knew Trevor was capable of being one of those stories especially since modern research has found the brain to be “plastic” and able to reprogram itself if given proper cues. In my head I would think, “we’ll see”. Knowing Trevor’s spirit, I felt that he would respond and step up to the challenge rather than languish in this huge body for the rest of his life. I knew he would rather die than live in a wheelchair in a long-term care facility. If this was to happen, someone had to give him a chance to succeed. Thankfully, the Centennial Centre gave him that chance. He proved me right. He did succeed and surprised everyone. When we were admitted to the Centre, he had little to no purposeful movement. He is now able to do bench presses, leg presses and more functional activities like eating, shaving and brushing his teeth. His technique isn’t perfect and he requires a little help with each task but he gets better with each month that passes. When we entered the Centre he barely had a voice. He is now able to speak clearly and articulately and almost at his original level. On September 12, 2008 after 14 months in rehabilitation, we left the Centennial Centre and all our friends in Ponoka for our new home in Nanaimo, BC.
Rehab is far from over for Trevor. His goal is to walk. We’ve been told it’s not realistic by some but this just drives us even harder. We’ve encountered many obstacles over the past 2 ½ years and tackled them head on. Walking isn’t going to happen overnight but we believe it will happen in the fullness of time. In the meantime, we work with our new expert team, have fun and enjoy the journey. Rehabilitation is Trevor’s job. His hard work is paying off. He works out over 2 hours a day and is seeing progress and results weekly. He’s a proud man and isn’t content to have people helping him but he has accepted it as a means to an end. He is scheduled to get a universal gym in the new future for his workouts.
There are many people to thank throughout this journey. I’ll do my best although words cannot express how much these people have done for us in their own way. For those whose paths we haven’t crossed, you no doubt need to be thanked for keeping Trevor, Grace and I in your thoughts and prayers, thank you.
The first group to give a special thanks to is PPCLI ‘A’ Company (ROTO 0, Op Archer), specifically platoon commander Kevin Schamuhn, and section commander Sergeant Rob Dolson, for their quick thinking and rapid response reflexes that prevented the young fellow from taking what would have been a final death blow at Trevor. Your courage and expert training saved Trevor’s life. We are forever grateful for your actions on the afternoon of March 4, 2006. A large debt of gratitude is extended to Shawn Marshall, medic with A Company that day for your proficiency in stopping the bleeding and saving Trevor’s life with the skills your were bestowed. The entire group should be applauded for comforting Trevor and encouraging his soul to stay with us while awaiting the Blackhawk’s arrival for transport to Kandahar hospital.
Special thanks to Sergeant Gary Adams, medic onboard the US Blackhawk helicopter. Gary was instrumental in unblocking Trevor’s airway amongst other procedures on the flight to Kandahar Hospital. Gary flew to Vancouver from overseas on his time off to visit us. He was met with a night out with the rugby gang. I’m told he did survive the night. I did get to thank Gary personally that night but there are never enough thank you’s for helping to save a life!
I haven’t had a chance personally to meet Dr. Homer Tien, trauma surgeon at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital, who stabilized Trevor in Kandahar Hospital for the flight to Landshtuhl, Germany. Thank you to Dr.Tien and his staff at the Kandahar Hospital.
An expert team of doctors met Trevor at the Landshtuhl Regional Medical Centre in Germany. Dr.’s Sorini and Johnson (and team) performed life-saving surgery which allowed Trevor’s brain to swell without causing additional damage. Both doctors no doubt saw many horrific injuries from the battlefield during their time in Germany. We were blessed that they were there when Trevor arrived. These doctors gave Trevor his life back and a future for our family. Heartfelt thanks to both of these exceptional surgeons. Also a big thank you to Dr.Catherine Gray for being a liason between the doctors and family in Landshtuhl. We appreciated meeting you every night for a briefing of the days events, in layman terms. We wish you all the best on the birth of your first child and look forward to seeing you next time you’re on the island. The care Trevor received in Germany from the doctors and nursing staff was second to none. We applaud these people for looking after our injured soldiers.
Although our time at VGH was fraught with numerous ups and downs, I appreciate the efforts of the nursing staff, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and respiratory therapists in all the four+ units Trevor was in. I also appreciate the work of Dr.Woodhurst, nuerosurgeon for the second bilateral cranioplasty which successfully repaired Trevor’s skull. An extra special thank you to Cynthia Wilson, physiotherapist for remaining committed to Trevor despite the lack of initiation, awareness and results. Trevor doesn’t remember much from VGH but he does remember your big smile and vibrant personality. You are a talented physiotherapist and a compassionate person. I have videos from when a thumbs up or 12 minutes of keeping his head up was a big day. You provided the building blocks for much greater things!
A warm hug to Ray McDonald of VGH spiritual services. Thank you for dropping by Trevor’s room with your guitar and furry friends. I miss laughing with you and hearing your stories and songs in person. You were a great source of comfort during those turbulent times.
Also a big thank you to Dr.’s Dhawan and Reebye, physiatrists for being “cautiously optimistic” about Trevor’s outcome. It was a pleasure knowing and working with both of these specialists in Vancouver.
This note would go on and on forever if I mentioned everyone’s gifts in detail but a big part of this journey has been various “healing hands”. These folks added their touch to Trevor’s mind, body and soul despite the critical eyes of hospital staff. The first was Adam, a gifted healer who worked his magic on Trevor during the critical first few months of his injury. I have no doubts this young man has very special powers. He was able to see early on the “spark” in Trevor brain. Numerous others have helped to bring this spark to life including our good friend Eve for the months of Reiki (and tea), John Blazevic and Janet Cook for the acupuncture, Andy Bryce for the EFT, Kelly Johnsonand Joy Larsen for the cranial sacral therapy and Anita Lawrence for the spiritual guidance. In Ponoka, we were fortunate to find Trish Bowie at the wellness Centre, Heather Lambert for craniosacral therapy and Jennifer Davidson for her magical massage therapy.
We are so grateful to Dr. Gray and his team of professionals at the Centennial Centre in Ponoka. We were fortunate to work with the best of the best at the Center including physiotherapist, Lori, occupational therapist, Kunle and speech therapist, Leah. Although we presented a huge challenge, these capable professionals rose to it in their respective fields. Thank you to Dr. Gray for his knowledge and expertise with the botox needle, I’m sure Trevor won’t have to worry about wrinkles in his upper body for a long, long time. Also a big thank you to Rebecca and Jamie, recreational therapists at the Centre. We had many, many laughs with you both and miss you incredibly.
A big thank you to Theresa Hacking and Greg Edmonds and the Military Casualty Support Foundation (MCSF) for your generous gift toward our wheelchair accessible van. The van has been an essential part of our lives. In Ponoka, the van gave Trevor the freedom to leave the Centre for weekends and outings with the family. Since we’ve been home, it’s been critical for appointments at the physiotherapist, an hour drive each way. This organization was created to fill the gaps not currently met through the Ministry of National Defense programs and services. Information on contributions to the MCSF can be found at www.mcsf.ca.
We are so incredibly grateful to Nick Twyman, Dave Neufeld, Valerie and Rob Gibbs, Deanna Vandeneykel and everyone who contributed to or assisted with the fundraisers. We have comfort knowing that we have a backup fund for Trevor’s ongoing rehabilitation or recreation needs. What we don’t spend on rehab we plan to pay it forward to those in need.
Lastly, a big thank you to the Department of National Defense with special thanks to our case managers Steve Stawiarski and Lisa Bardon and assisting officers Steve Basaraba, Colin Coutts, Mike Larose and Dave Gilmour for providing Trevor with the best any soldier could hope to receive. We also recognize the incredible work of Sandy Daughn, OT for her ideas and ability to make things happen. It’s been rewarding working with you all. Canadians should be proud of the way their country took care of its injured soldier. We received the best Christmas gift in 2007 from the military engineers who installed a lift in our house which allowed Trevor to come home for Christmas and weekends thereafter. A sincere thank you to the Seaforth Highlanders for your continued support throughout Trevor’s recovery. We appreciate the place you set for him at each mess dinner. We were honored to attend the inaugural family day at the regiment on Nov 8th this year and look forward to future events. Also a big thank you to the military people in Edmonton, specifically the CIMIC and OSI folks for your support. It really helped Trevor get through the rough phases. We were able to personally thank Ponoka Legionnaires Dave MacPherson and Hugh Greene for your visits also during our time in Alberta. Trevor and I were so blessed to have weekly visitors from all facets of our lives since the very start of this long “marathon of baby steps”. The visitors started immediately when we arrived home in BC and still continue today. We cherish how you keep our connection to our former lives. And thank you to everyone who posted comments on this blog. Trevor is blown away every time he reads it.
Most importantly, thank you to our families and friends who continue to supply us with unwavering support. There are too many of you to list here but you all know who you are. A special thank you to Regina for taking good care of us all over the past 3 years.
On Dec 13, 2008 at 7pm PST CTV will air a documentary on Trevor’s recovery by filmmaker Sue Rideout. The story follows Trevor after release from 13 months at Vancouver General Hospital until we moved back home to BC.
Trevor and I can be reached on facebook for anyone that doesn’t have our contact information.
Debbie, Trevor and Grace