Weekend Update

August 24, 2008

If you’ve been keeping up, you know that Mariah is enjoying considerable progress with her physical reemergence, but her spirit is in immense pain. So great is her emotional discomfort that she’s sometimes unable to participate in her therapy sessions, and her despair is such that the hospital staff is keeping a very close eye on her at all times, for which I am profoundly grateful.

I’m one of Mariah’s “non-medical attendants” (NMA) on weekdays, but I returned to Richmond on Saturday instead of Monday this week. As more of a visitor than the NMA yesterday and today, I’ve had an opportunity to get a different perspective on the situation.

For one thing, from what I’m reading, Mariah’s attention span may be shortened, and she’s more likely to respond positively to a changing variety of stimuli of short duration. Visitors get to do that. They pop in with an array of fresh ideas, words, smiles, and encouragement. Mariah rewards energy like that with frequent smiles and laughter – gifts for the guest. As a weekday NMA, such lavish compensation doesn’t come so easily.

For another, I’ve explored some of Richmond’s attractions with an eye toward future field trips with Mariah. Nearby Byrd Park holds promise. Scenic lakes, paddle boats, an amazing duck pond (see below), fitness trails, a rustic outdoor amphitheater, and much more await. I’ve been trained on use of the hospital’s wheelchair van, so when the docs give her the green light, we’ve got places to go and things to do!

In terms of progress, Mariah’s strength and fine motor skills have increased noticeably in the last week. Yesterday she spent 25 minutes exercising on the bicycle machine. She sits up with excellent posture and holds her head and shoulders straight. Her head movement is much smoother, especially side to side, and the seemingly-startled expression she sometimes wore is largely absent. She scratches her head and rubs her face with greater acuity. I haven’t heard much speech, but I think she may prefer silence.

All in all, I believe Mariah is healing well. I think our job is to keep her safe and to encourage her while she grapples with amazing challenges.

– Mark

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