Not Your Routine Friday

July 26, 2008

Friday was busy.

One of Mariah’s commanders and a staunch supporter, Colonel Severin, was already with her when I arrived at 8:15 am. (He usually beat me to the punch at Walter Reed, too.) He received radiant smiles as a reward for the drive down from DC.

In PT, Mariah walked about 30 feet using a walker and assistance from her therapist. That was followed by trunk strength (sitting up) exercises and a raft of other workout moves, drawing a number of “Slow down, Mariah” prompts from the therapist. (Mariah’s friends know that she’s not fluent in Slowdown.)

General Cheek and Dad (McGuire VAMC, 7/25/08)

General Cheek and Dad (McGuire VAMC, 7/25/08)

A short while later, US Army Brigadier General Cheek, Director of the Warrior Care and Transition Office, arrived for a tour of the facility. He asked me what had happened to my daughter. I replied that she suffered a stroke while mountain climbing in Peru. He asked whether I was referring to Captain Kochavi whom he had heard about while she was at Walter Reed. Small world. He gave me his card and a beautiful coin, a large red triangle, to honor Mariah’s courage.

Later in the morning, Mariah spelled part of her name (“MariaoKo”) with only one error on a prototype assisted communication setup. Her speech and occupational therapists had teamed up to find the right combination of switches, computers, software, and settings, allowing Mariah to tap her left foot to control a selection box on a computer screen. Just a week ago, she wasn’t able to initiate a tapping motion quickly enough to manage the selector. But with improved motor function and some tweaking of the system, it’s now very close to functional. Her therapist will be testing the newest version of the computer with her next week.

Maybe it’s time to start taking bets on what Mariah’s first words will be. I’ve got $5 on “You don’t have to shout; I’m not deaf.”

Then the real fun began. Mariah ate an ENTIRE TRAY of food for lunch in the patient dining room. Pureed savory chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, applesauce, vanilla pudding, and a container of milk. She was ravenous and devoured every scrap on her plate. In fact, while wiping her mouth, my finger brushed her lip and she snapped at it. I pulled back horrified while she laughed. I suspect some of the other patients may have been a little annoyed by all the shouting and celebrating while trying to watch the TV, but maybe they understood.

Molly and Mariah (McGuire VAMC, 7/25/08)

Molly and Mariah (McGuire VAMC, 7/25/08)

Mariah’s good friend, Molly, who had been with her on the mountain in Peru, came for a visit on her way from North Carolina to New England before she heads for vet school in Philadelphia. Molly gave Mariah gifts from her recent visit to Cairo, including a beautiful silver scarf she wanted to wear.

The afternoon was a little rough for Dad, as it came time for me to depart for Boston. At 2:35 and with a cab arriving at 2:45, the ward was in a bit of a surreal hush over an impending visit by the Secretary of the Navy, Mariah was having a bad headache (she actually asked for Percocet which she usually shuns), and there was some confusion around whether the docs had left an ok for the drug. Of course, it would all get handled, but I hated saying goodbye to Mariah with things so in flux.

She offered me the pencil drawing she had just made (“See the snowman?” the recreational therapist asked. “Someday this will be worth a million dollars.”) We hugged, I gave her a kiss and a promise to call every day until I return on August 4. She gave a tearful nod, gazed at me stoically, and off I went.

Mariah and Dad (McGuire VAMC, 7/25/08)

Mariah and Dad (McGuire VAMC, 7/25/08)

– Mark

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4 Responses to “Not Your Routine Friday”

  1. kim said

    I read each day and am amazed at the strength Mariah shows – from the person I knew in vet school to the person I see here today, my thoughts are with her as she continues to re-emerge.

  2. Leah said

    I am totally bringing you ginger cranberry oatmeal! Keep up the excellent work.

  3. Pete Rogers said

    I have been out of touch with you Mark for several months and just finished reading your blog about the journey your incredible daughter Mariah and all those who love her are on. Thank you for sharing that journey with such caring and articulateness. We are richer from being readers. My wife, Sophie (a physical therapist) was most impressed with Mariah’s progress. We will keep a close watch on this website to follow her re-emergence. Mariah and you will be in our prayers. Pete

  4. Mark said

    Hi, Mariah, I have been reading about your progress. It is so exciting that your are begining to speak…I miss you and hope to see you very soon. I know your going to be just fine. Your already awesome. We all love and miss you very much. Love Mark

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