Today was a mighty good day full of “baby steps” down the road to recovery. Libby was more alert, as indicated by smiles, right arm and leg movements, and quite a few yawns – which means either she is improving physically or quite bored with her loved ones’ monologues – or both! We are reading a few of the cards and journal entries to her every day, but we are still a long way from getting ahead of the outpouring of love and support from her many fans and friends. Thank you all Very much! They are good medicine for Libby And for those of us who get to share them with her! -Sister Ellen
Libby’s sister Ellen just posted the following on Caring Bridge:
If you know Libby, you know she likes to line dance. Ok, you know she likes to lead and teach ( not surprisingly) line dancing. Well yesterday was slide two steps forward and today seems to be rock one step back. She slept thru PT today, but is still showing brief smiles and movement, but having a laid back day. “Momma (and doctors) told us there’d be days like this…”
Libby’s sister Ellen posted again last night:
The reports from Lester this afternoon and from my friend who visited and read to Libby tonight were that Libby was resting peacefully with no change from this morning. We hope and pray Libby will be sliding forward again tomorrow.
One interesting tidbit – A therapist asked if Libby spoke other languages (which she does to varying degrees). When told Spanish was Libby’s second-best language, the therapist spoke to her in Spanish which seemed to get a slight response from Libby, according to Lester’s niece.
I wonder what the therapist would have done if the answer had been “Swedish”, which Libby learned as an exchange student in high school? Anyway,It will be interesting to see which language Libby will re-connect to first. My money is still on English, or at least what passes for English here in Texas.
Good night or “Buenas noches” to all.
Updates for 5-25-13:
From Cathy last night:
Libby had a quiet but good afternoon. She opened her eyes several times, she smiled, and she wiggled her legs a lot (yes, the left one too!). The neurologist came by and said that swelling in the brain is about the same. Her incisions are healing well and look a lot better without the staples. She coughed a little more than usual which the doctor said is good. Baby steps, baby steps….
I want you to all know that the family is very pleased with the care Libby is getting at Kindred Hospital in the Houston Medical Center. The doctors are top notch and caring, and the nurses and staff are compassionate and attentive. It is a clean and quiet place. She has a spacious corner room with a large window that looks out on the beautiful campus of Rice University where she graduated from college in 1970. She met Lester there – he was a football hero – when she tutored him in Spanish. As soon as she is able to do so, I know it will give her pleasure to be within view of a place that is dear to her heart.
PS. Several of you have asked for a picture of Lester with his solidarity haircut. Sister Ellen took one on her I-phone and sent it to me so as soon as I can figure out how to do it technologically, I will post it in the photo section.
And here is the picture Cathy posted:
Then, this morning, Sarah posted the following on Caring Bridge:
Libby was pretty alert this morning when she opened her eyes. Per Ellen’s suggestion played music from iPhone and she smiled – a lot. Oh what a beautiful sight those sweet slight smiles are. Held her hand and we “hand danced” gently swaying to the rhythm of the song. Think she is stuck in the ’80s & 90s as she responded to Crystal Gayle, Eddie Rabbit, Don Williams & Wyonna Judd. Running a bit of a low grade fever but still lots of leg movement on right side. Thank you Cathy & Bill for getting photo upright. May everyone be showered with bliss & grace today! Muchos besitos! Sarah
And may Libby and her family also be caught in that shower of bliss and grace.
Update for 5-25-13 evening:
From Libby’s sister Ellen:
Back by popular demand, we are making sure Libby has some tunes playing on an “old school” CD player/radio for therapy And relaxation. She seems to enjoy the music and hopefully, it will help her remember the things familiar to her. She was resting peacefully today with only a low grade fever. She gave us some good smiles, hand squeezes, and limb and right hand movement, while listening to the reading of the CaringBridge messages with George Strait singing softly in the background. Awww.
P.S. Please send more jokes – those are my, I mean Libby’s, favorites. Thanks.
Update for 5-26-13:
From Ellen on Caring Bridge a few minutes ago:
Reports from those who visited Libby today were that she had a quiet day of rest. The visitors played a lot of music and read her the jokes – which by the way, you people are a Riot! Libby continued to have movement on the right, quick smiles, and not too much alertness. Lester’s niece Diane reported that the nurses say Libby has adjusted very well to having the trach shut off and some patients don’t. They have also commented on her beautiful, wrinkle-free skin. We Really like these nurses!
Thanks again for the jokes! We will read them again to Libby when she is more awake. In the meantime, she seems to be enjoying the music, especially Willie Nelson and John Denver. Adios for now.
Update for 5-28-13
From Ellen, last night:
Happy Memorial Day, especially to those in our country’s Service – past or present, or family members! Thank you!
Today Libby continued to respond best to Lester’s voice when he sweet talks her into opening her eyes and smiling. For that she gets a sweet kiss from Lester on her cheek – causing more smiles – from Libby and anyone witnessing it.
Libby’s brother-in-law Tommy relentlessly “coaches” and coaxes her into obeying simple commands to move her limbs, including her left leg. Her fellow Southpaws and the doctors should be pleased with some movement on the left “on demand”. We sure were!
Between the two men they’ve got a real Good Cop/Bad Cop routine going on, but it seems to be working. Keep it up Team Libby!
And, a few moments later:
Oops. Ever realized you made a mistake right after you hit the “send” button? Me too.. Like tonight. Tommy is married to Lester’s niece Diane, and has been a good friend of Libby and Lester’s since Tommy’s freshman year in college with them. Although he is not technically a brother-in-law, he is still -close family.
Sorry, my apologies to Tommy and any of you out there who now know more about our family tree than you ever needed or wanted to know.
Signing off -Sister Ellen
Update 5-28-13, pm:
From Ellen again:
NEWS FLASH! Here’s the latest on Libby in an email from Lester:
Dr. Koch came by while I was sitting in lobby with Libby in wheel chair. He said if Libby will continue with the small daily improvement that he is seeing he is going to have the trach removed maybe as soon as tomorrow but the great news is he is going to call TIRR (rehabilitation hospital) and have them come look at her this weekend to hopefully get her moved there next week. I asked him about her being asleep so much and he said she wakes up when they work with her in PT. Libby squeezed Jenni’s hand (PT person) and pushed the right wheel on the wheel chair 6 or 8 times on her own. Libby was mostly awake during the ride but went to sleep for the 45 minutes we sat in the lobby (I guess she wasn’t too impressed with the view of Rice.) I still have a hard time believing she might be in TIRR next week – we all need to open and close with that hope in our prayers!!
And a few moments ago from Cathy:
Libby is completely exhausted from the morning wheelchair ride and PT and she is sleeping peacefully. She has been taken off the post-surgery antibiotics and is infection free (yea!). We listened to the Mama Mia soundtrack, Billy Joel, Clint Black and some Andrea Bocelli recordings that my husband, Bill, selected for her and put on my i-phone.
I read Libby some of your messages and cards. The jokes are great, and the cards and letters are amazing. They always make me cry because they are either so hilarious or so heartfelt and sweet. So many of you have shared your story about a loved one (or yourself!) on a similar “health journey”. The recurring themes of “hang in there”, “patience is the key” and “miracles do happen” is so comforting. Bless you,
Cathy (Sister #2)
Update for 5-29-13:
Cathy posted two updates. The first is from Lester:
Libby had a good PT this morning. Jenni (Therapist) said Libby squeezed her hand when asked to do it. Libby was also awake with both eyes open most of time. They stood her up twice and asked her to kiss me. She either didn’t want to or maybe she doesn’t like the new hair do (she is going to have to get over that) anyway I was scorned (kinda reminded me of our first date !!!). Jenni was pleased with her performance.
The second comes from one of Libby’s old friends who visited her today:
Susan Gartner, a dear high school friend of Libby’s and a close family friend who has been reading to Libby, reported the following:
Spent some nice time with Libby this morning.
Post PT I found Libby more responsive after a nap. Opening her eyes on her own and smiling more when I spoke and seemed to be focusing on my face more than in the past. Couldn’t get her to move her left leg, but active with right leg. Also, like last Friday, she really seemed to want to hold my hand. Then, all of a sudden she dropped my hand and moved hers a good distance away. I thought she really looked good today, color and skin tone.
Update for 5-31-13:
Yesterday’s updates from Libby’s sisters Cathy and Ellen were not as happy.
Not much shaking in Libby’s world today. Things didn’t go smoothly in PT, and the rest of the morning was mostly recuperating from trying to do PT. She has been resting peacefully with only a few moments of alertness, and thankfully, her little smiles. Cathy is on her way to the hospital now with some Ricky Tims’ music, so that ought to lift her spirits, for sure.
If you’ve ever driven to Colorado from Houston (which we did every summer to visit our grandparents), you probably remember the transition from flatlands to hills to plateaus to mountians. Today it is sort of like Libby is on a mesa top, rolling along, but not really climbing or descending. She’s sort of somewhere between Lubbock and Amarillo.
And from Cathy:
Libby was very unresponsive today. In the late afternoon Lester and I turned up some 60’s music (Twist and Shout, Chain of Fools, etc.), but she wasn’t in the mood for grooving. Later, I played my personal favorite Ricky Tims’ CD, Christmastime. O.K., I know it is weird to play Christmas music in May, but who doesn’t love “Oh Holy Night” anytime? I know Libby loves Christmas. She always decorates her tree the day after Thanksgiving. I know it won’t surprise you to learn that for many, many years she has made individual, hand painted Christmas ornaments for every extended family member with their name and the year on each one. What treasures!
Even though they know that recovery and rehabilitation are long and hard and that some days are better than others, those less-good days are still discouraging. Please, leave a message below to cheer them up.
Update for 6-1-13:
There was important, but not very happy news about Libby last night.
A doctors’ report from Cathy:
This is difficult for me to write, so I am just going to give it to you as close to the doctor’s words as I can. Today in a meeting with Libby’s primary Critical Care doctor, Dr. Stephen Koch, we learned that Libby has lost her center for speech, which was located on the right side of her brain (not unusual for left-handed people) where the major stroke damage occurred. This affects not only her ability to speak, but also her ability to understand what is being said to her. This is why she has little response to verbal commands – she literally does not understand what is being said. She can respond to visual things – If you smile at her she can smile back, if you demonstrate raising your right thumb she can raise her right thumb. The “intelligence” part of her brain is still intact. But he likened her situation to a computer without a keyboard or monitor. Therefore one of the main focuses of her rehab will be on speech therapy. It is possible for her left side of the brain to learn from scratch the cognitive and physical speech requirements, but it is much like a baby learning to talk. We will learn more about this when she is transferred to a Rehab hospital, hopefully as early as next week. The good news is that the swelling in her brain is way down and they removed the trach today. Ellen will give a report on her PT today, which went very well. Please pray for strength and patience
Cathy also posted a picture of some of the wonderful cards that Libby’s friends have sent from around the world:
I forgot to mention that I have posted a picture that my husband, Bill, took of the bulletin board in Libby’s room with some of the cards and artwork that you have sent to Libby. I had taken one earlier on my i-phone but it was slightly out of focus and my husband deemed it “not up to Libby’s standards.” There are so many cards (500+!) that we rotate them everyday so please forgive us if you don’t see your card in this picture. The doctors and other caregivers have all commented on it. “It makes me happy” one physical therapist said today. Thank you all for your thoughtfulness.
And Ellen posted this beautiful prayer:
Thank you for this day and all our many blessings – that Libby was able to do better in PT, and able to get by without the trach in her throat or oxygen in her nose. Thank you especially for her sweet smiles and pretty green eyes that look at us so warmly. Keep her in your healing hands and help us be with her every step of her journey with strength, compassion, and love.
Give us courage to handle the new problems we have learned of today. Help us ask the question “How? – How can we help Libby?”, and never the unanswerable question “Why?”. Be with us as we deal with our disappointment and keep us ever mindful of your presence and your grace. Be with her doctors, therapists, nurses, and caregivers and give them wisdom, skill, and kindness. Thank you for the support and affection from her many friends and family.
Please rock Libby, Lester, and Les to sleep tonight in your gentle arms, humming softly one of Libby’s favorite hymns, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.” Amen
Update 6-1-13 pm:
Cathy posted again this afternoon:
Libby is resting peacefully today, and she squeezed Lester’s hand twice this morning. There is no PT or doctor’s visits on the weekends, so it is a time for recharging. We are all still a little shell shocked from the meeting yesterday with Libby’s main doctor. You try so hard to get more information from the doctors and specialists, but when you start to get their conclusions and observations, it can be very sobering. My sweet sister Ellen’s prayer made me weep because it is so very, very comforting, and it reminded me that we are not in charge. Thank you, Ellen.
2220 Stanmore Dr.
Houston, Texas 77019
I have included my address and e-mail so you can direct specific questions to me, or you can include your e-mail on your Caring Bridge message and I will try to respond individually. We feel bad that we cannot answer your many questions on Caring Bridge. Often times we do not know the answers. Does Libby recognize individuals? We certainly hope so. How about Libby’s memory? At this point we have no idea about her short or long-term memory. Does she recognize the written word? According to the doctors, no. She has no language ability. Your messages mean the world to us. Often at night when I cannot sleep, I read them over and over. You are so supportive and kind. We send a giant electronic hug to each of you.
Update 6-3-13 pm:
Today was Libby and Lester’s 43rd wedding anniversary. This is the evening post from Libby’s sister Ellen:
Although certainly not the type of celebration Lester and Libby would have liked to share, a celebration never-the-less. Libby wore a bright new scarf, silver earrings and necklace, and pink glossy lipstick, which surprised Lester, in a good way. She also rewarded all those present with open eyes and big smiles, mostly directed at her honey. It was a bright spot in a dark week, and we are Thankful for that!
Lester has gotten a semi-commitment from the TIRR people to come tomorrow to evaluate her condition and eligibility for their program, and we are all hoping she qualifies. In the meantime, her PT and other therapies have somewhat stalled out, so we are hoping a new, more intensive program will rev her engines up. God be with her and Lester on this special anniversary day for them!
Happy Anniversary to two wonderful people! May God bless them both!
Update for 6-5-13:
A “wild ride” of an update from Ellen tonight:
Hang on to yer hats because today’s story is a wild ride. First, out of chute #1 came rejection by the TIRR doctors this morning who said Libby was not ready yet for their rehab program. We felt like we had been bucked off and hit the dirt hard on our hindsides. Then out of chute #2 was a better ride with our resignation and acceptance that Libby would need to stay at Kindred Hospital for a while more. Then chute #3 was a rough bronc – a call this afternoon to Lester from Kindred saying Libby would need to move out of Kindred (an accute care hospital) into a skilled nursing facility by Friday! Bucked off again!
But, by the end of the day we have dusted ourselves off -completed some research, many calls, and one visit, and have a short list of possible skilled nursing facilities. Whew! We hope to nail one down tomorrow. God be with us and guide us to the best care facility possible for Libby, and help us accept that His answer to our prayers for acceptance to TIRR was- “not yet.”
But the end of today’s wild ride was the Best part! As some of us were getting ready to head home, my daughter Susan leaned over and said firmly, “I love you, Aunt Libby, and you keep fighting!” To the surprise of us all, Libby nodded her head affirmatively. We were all thrilled to see this action on Libby’s part!!! Then when I teased her with, “What a nod for Susan but not one for me?” She gave another little nod. Fade to sunset and cue the music, “Happy Trails”.
Such good news is welcome, indeed! Happy, happy, happy!
From Libby’s sister Sarah:
Last night after listening to different music for over an hour from iPhone, Jimmy Buffett’s album came on and Libby grinned big smiles – alot. Thought probably just coincidence si played other music and then back to his songs. Again smiles. Had forgotten Libby was such a parrot head ( what Jimmy Buffett fans are called). So think Libby is just on laid back, relaxing, no hurry, island time. It was just a peaceful evening.
And from her sister Cathy:
Lester, Ellen, Doris (Lester’s sister), and Diane (Lester’s niece) spent yesterday afternoon and most of today looking at skilled nursing facilities. We selected University Place in SW Houston, mainly because it appears to have the best rehab program – speech, physical and occupational therapies 5 days a week. Libby should be moved in the next few days. It is part of the Memorial Hermann system, which is good because they also own TIRR, where we still hope Libby is able to go when she is ready.
Libby was a little more alert today – she held her eyes open more often and longer – and was able to do some PT. Dr. Koch said he was very pleased with Libby’s alertness today. Please pray that University Place will be a place of recovery and progress for Libby.
We’re glad to know that the wild ride of yesterday has settled down a bit.
Please take a moment to leave a comment below that we can pass on to Libby and her family. The messages she’s received so far are making a real difference and helping them all get through this difficult challenge. Can you imagine them unrolling a long scroll with all our get well wishes and a map showing her quilting admirers all over the world? Pin your wishes for Libby on that map!