A New Year Pending…

December 30, 2008

Today started off…ummm…more or less without us.  The phone rang at 265 Mologne at roughly 0915 hours and a drill sergeant (One of Mariah’s squad leaders) barked in my ear,

 “Mr Steinwinter!” 
  “who..wha..oh..umm..*yawn*..yes..oh…yes, sir?”
  “You and Cpt. Kochavi aren’t on leave, are you?”
  “no, sir, we are right here at the Mologne house”
  “You two are supposed to be at Formation across from bldg 14 Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays if the Capt. has no other scheduled appointment!  She is able troop and formation is mandatory. You are her non-medical attendant and need to stay on top of this stuff”

…like I said, the day started without us, but luckily the army seems to recognize that brother Clay is not exactly hard-core army material and the sergeant left the fault with me and gave Mariah a gold-star anyway (probably for dealing with me for 26 years, ha!) 

We joined mom at her house in Bethesda for lunch, where Mariah took advantage of mom’s great orthopedic bed and napped hard.  She also fielded veterinary questions that came in via the phone from a friend and from our mom concerning our slowly aging maltese-mix dog, Willie.  This has been mostly a day of rest, which came after a weekend of travel for brother, and a Sunday at the ballet in Baltimore for sister.  We rejoin forces for the week, geared up with a standing divider left by dad to separate our beds for some semblance of privacy.  (This is great because Mariah has a habit of occasionally staring at me from her pillow three feet away from my own bed until I wake up and the first thing I see is her staring at me all creepy-like.  She finds this hilarious, and I find my heartbeat after about thirty seconds.  I am going to be the youngest man ever to go in to cardiac arrest just from waking in the am.)  Happy Holidays to everyone, and thank you all for the cards, the Greetings, the peaceful wishes, and always for all the love.

Love and Light,
Clay

Advertisements

NEW MAILING ADDRESS – We got Mariah a private mailbox today….sorry for all the addresses given, and we will get the mail at whichever location you send it, but here is her personal mailbox as of today:

Cpt. Mariah Kochavi
Abrams Hall, Box 4098
6900 Georgia Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20307

So here is a typical day with Mariah and Clay at Walter Reed Hospital so far:

0630 hours: Clay wakes up to personal alarm beeping, throws arm out and knocks it on the floor while brain adjusts to the fact that body is NOT returning home from a gig but is actually getting up for work…very weird.

0700 hours: give Mariah morning medication and morning V8 juice (this juice is vital, it’s like universe dew for the superhuman..can’t fight superhuman battles without it!) Breakfast ensues, usually Raisin Bran poured into little plastic bowls that I , uh, borrow from the cafeteria downstairs. This is followed by my cursing vehemently about the fact that General Mills with it’s black sourcery ensures that I always purchase the Raisin Bran with only three raisins in the entire box. Mariah usually shares a little of whatever REAL breakfast I procur for my mountainman-self. You know, eggs, sides of ham, whole chickens, small livestock…

0730 hours: after teeth brushing and face washing, Clay bundles up Captain K and self in layers of warm clothing, including gloves and scarves and headwraps and such and heads out the backside of the Mologne house to avoid the excrutiatingly slow and stubborn (and small!) elevator to the first floor front entrance. From backside 2nd floor we fly across the split level courtyard to whatever building MAriah’s first morning appointment is in. (This is the fun part because the past week has been first time appointments and Clay guesses what buildings are what. They are numbered, but only in theory, as far as I am concerned.) To my own amazement, time management has actually been a decent strength of ours as we traverse the campus to make appointments. We have been on time or early to everything, ranging from the optometrist (where I held two prizm-rulers in my hands over each of Mariah’s eyes steadily while the eye doc held two other instruments at various distances to measure her varying pupil dilations to work towards improving her double vision), to the physical therapy session this morning which began with us reading a book together in the waiting room (a Stephanie Plum series novel, very funny stuff!) until her therapist snuck up behind us and, after listening in to me mimicking Italian-voiced characters, introduced herself as, “the captain’s physical terrorist”, at which point I excused myself for, umm, the duration of Mariah’s appointment (yikes!)

1100-1200 hours: Lunch is somewhere in here. I don’t know what else happens here, although a lot definitely happens. I’m so hungry that the other important stuff is flying by me whilst I operate via cruise-control auto pilot. 

1300-1500 hours: There is often another appointment in here. MAriah’s schedule is filling in pretty fast. She even has physical therapy on the morning of Christmas eve!!! Personally, I think Santa is being very unreasonable making my big sis work so hard for her bag of coal this year. Haha! Big sis: 0 little brother: 1 … Captain K’s schedule is re-printed at the front desk each time I make her a follow-up appointment with that office, which makes appointment-scheduling easy on yours truly, since everyone on campus sees Mariah’s schedule as it evolves progressively. 

Oh yeah, today, at aproximately 1430 hours: On way out 3rd floor door of building number 6 (behavioral care, psychiatry, etc.) we passed the vending machines near the elevator. I spotted a lone Coca-cola dispensed in the vending machine receptacle. I paused and stared in disbelief. I looked around the corner…nothing. I passed by, honestly, to the elevator, pushing Mariah in the chair. The elevator, obviously on Mologne-House time, took for freakin’ ever, so I dishonestly wheeled Mariah back to the vending machine and instructed her to snatch that soda…cuz, I mean, if no one was there yet, that Coke was clearly up for grabs, right? Mission accomplished.

evening-hundred-hours: Usually naps and lazy time follow exhausting day-time multi-tasking type stuff. Captain K and Clay kick back and relish the wall-mounted flat-screen with front-load DVD system and the DVD library downstairs on the first floor. Some of our favorites over the past week: (Joe Dirt, Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, Van Wilder…the funny list goes on)

Hey thats all I got today. We love you all and Happy Holidays!!!!!!!

-love and light,

Clay

New Addresses

December 19, 2008

Greetings from the Malogne House:

Today is Mariah’s first full outpatient day.  We have a room together across campus from the main hospital at Walter Reed, where she spent most of the past week.  Yesterday was a bit grueling, as Mariah went through her initial intake and discharge process.  There was a little bit of paperwork, and a lot of transporting between buildings and waiting for things to move forward.  The happy ending was the comfort of a private room to sleep in (oh, except for having her brother in the other bed probably snoring loudly!).  Well, atleast we have moved on from nurse stations, nightly check-ins, and the hospital atmosphere.  This was really a huge step, and Mariah’s courage and fortitude are really showing here.

We got up in our own room at 7am today and after getting washed up, headed down to the first floor cafeteria for a breakfast of raisin bran, cheese eggs, home fries, and Saved By the Bell on the big screen T.V.  As for me, I am trying to get ok with this whole secretary aspect of my job.  I am organizing her appointments and outings so as not to miss any.  Hmmm…there is nothing comfortable about responsibilities.  That’s cool, though.  There will be great fortitude exuding from little brother, as well, through this process.  Thank you all for calling me up, or e-mailing to check in with when and how to get in touch with Mariah.

We have more intake processing to go through today, as well as her initial check-ins with her outpatient doctors over the next five days or so, but things are running quite smooth.  I gotta tell everyone, this morning, while typing on the Apple computer in our room, that it really seems like yesterday that Mariah was first here at Walter Reed, almost entirely immobile with feeding tubes, machines to keep the blood flow up in her legs, and no vocal capability.  From her bed today, while I read from my Bible in my own, she said out loud,  “Clay, I’d like to go brush my teeth and wash my face before breakfast.”

After we ate and returned to the room, I guided Mariah from bed to bathroom with her walker, which is our method of transfer between the two, for regular practice with walking while in the room.  Of course, miracles included, the reality is that this road has been so long (six months now) and will continue for quite some time.  Please please keep on praying, keep calling me for visits, think of Mariah during the holidays and let us know your thoughts, and if you want to do something good for Mariah do not be afraid to do it.  None of us know the best way to help, and thats ok.  Do it anyway, it works.  We love you all.

Here is our physical address (BTW- this is for mailing stuff, NOT for random drop-ins from my miscreant musician friends looking for a fill-in sax player):

6900 Georgia Avenue., NW Bldg 20 (room #265)
Washington DC, NW 20307

If anyone plans on sending any packages to Mariah (um… or Clay!) for Christmas, please send to this address, in nearby Bethesda where Mariah will get them for Christmas.  Thank you:

4425 Chestnut Street
Bethesda MD 20814

Love and Light, Clay

Last Breakfast at McGuire (McGuire VAMC, 12/11/08)

Last Breakfast at McGuire (McGuire VAMC, 12/11/08)

This post is a two-fer. First, some of Dad’s ruminations, and then thoughts from Clay.

Ok, it’s done. Mariah, Clay and Dad had a final breakfast together in the canteen at McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond last Thursday. We packed Mariah’s stuff, cleaned the room at Fisher House which served as our home and office away from home and office for the last five months, climbed into our cars, and drove for four and a half hours through heavy rain  and heavier traffic to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC.

Heading Home (McGuire VAMC, 12/11/08)

Heading Home (McGuire VAMC, 12/11/08)

As it turned out, Mariah ended up in the room right next to the room she was in way back in June in Ward 58, Neuroscience. As of Monday, it will be exactly six months to the day since Mariah suffered her stroke in Peru.

Back in June she was nearly immobile, unable to speak, swallow, sit up, stand, walk, or even grasp the blanket on her bed with her hand. She had a feeding tube in her nose through which nourishing liquids were pumped, several intravenous feeds, and a catheter. She received dozens of medications daily, including a shot in her stomach that made her cry out. She responded to yes/no questions by wiggling her toes when she was able and willing.

Today she speaks, swallows, eats most foods with a fork and spoon, transfers herself between her bed and chair, sits up for hours at a time, stands and walks with a walker and assistance. She can dress and undress herself, kayak, and ride a horse. She’s tube free and takes only five medicines orally. There are no more shots. Tonight, she’s still a patient in the hospital, but in a few days she’ll move into a “hotel” on the hospital grounds with her brother. She’ll visit Walter Reed every day for more therapy and rehab. Mariah’s progress has been incredible.

SADLY, Mariah feels she’s “getting worse, not better” and is discouraged and frustrated much of the time. Her physical and intellectual strength have brought her this far. Now, her spirit has to join the battle, to be inspired to hope and believe in herself and in life’s possibilities. To all who have been following this blog (over 25,000 views since July!) and wanting to contribute, please reconnect with Mariah if you can. Certainly through kind thoughts and prayer, but also by calling or visiting or inviting Mariah to visit you and offering her some time in the world you share with her.

– Dad

From Clay:

The drive from Richmond to Washington on Thursday morning was slooooowwww.  Dad lead the way in my step-sister’s car, and Mariah and I followed with the gear. (Thank you Nicole and Zach for your help to Dad and me over the months.  You are so special)  We were in gridlock traffic the last quarter of the trip, which turned a 21/2 hour jot into a 4+ hour haul.  The good news was the army was ready for us when we got here and things ran real smooth.  By the evening, Mariah was settled, I was checked into the Malogne House, and Dad got a few Z’s back at Nicole and Zach’s house near Bethesda.

The first day was pretty busy, complete with Dr. visits, case management visits, and lots of talks about big important things that made me go cross-eyed.  Mariah dozed on and off a lot, recuperating from a busy week and sharing a room for a couple days with a roommate.  Not easy resting.

Today Mariah and I are chilling, taking it easy, and keeping our eyes on the nurses who have twice tried to administer a shot in the belly that isn’t on her medicine order sheet.  Yikes!  (but joking aside Mariah is under good care here and seems to have laid much of her anxiety to rest already) We are settling in just fine and look forward to getting together at the Malogne House and continue pushing forward and upward.

Many of you saw Mariah’s footage of her kayaking in Virginia.  The contact has been made here at Walter Reed and Captain K will be hitting up the Kayaking program here on campus as well over the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more press coverage.

Being that Mariah will be under the care of Yours Truly (yikes! I don’t even know how to take care of myself!), the web entries may taper off just a little in regularity.  However, never fear.  It is a little known fact that I am the fastest two-fingered typist in the Western Hemisphere.  I will keep the entries coming as often as I can, as Dad has kindly offered his services in continuing publishing the entries.  Thank you all for continuing your encouragement, well-wishes, and loving support.

Please please feel free to contact me, brother Clay, at my cell phone if you wish to visit Mariah.  I am more than happy to coordinate visits, and Mariah is expecting to see lots of the faces that couldn’t make it down to Virginia.  I will not know a schedule for Mariah for a few more days, so be patient with me on details.  Oh, and a special Thank You to the nurses, therapists, doctors, and all who served us at the McGuire hospital in Richmond.  Your strength, heart, dedication, encouragement, and compassion have been invaluable to my sister’s recovery and our family is so greatly appreciative of you.  Thank you McGuire!!!

My cell phone number is (919)-696-0671. Please don’t call after 10pm unless it is an emergency or you want to remind me that this job is not too big for me.  I need your support!

Love and Light,
Clay

Visit With Santa (McGuire VAMC, 12/10/08)

Visit With Santa (McGuire VAMC, 12/10/08)

Santa Claus came by last night and gave Mariah a big bag of goodies. She’s not shy, so she also asked for a pony. He must have said “ok” because today she spent her last full day at McGuire in the Virginia countryside horseback riding.

It was a long drive for a half dozen of us to the Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center in Powhatan, Virgina, and it was worth it. Owner Cliff Arrington and a bevy of local volunteers greeted us at the rustic and cozy lodge where they served us a delicious lunch and regaled us with hilarious stories. Then we met the horses and got ready to ride.

The Lonesome Dove is a charitable nonprofit that offers therapeutic riding to veterans with special needs at no charge. It relies completely on donations and is run by unpaid volunteers. Find out more about the Center and how you can help by visiting their website at http://ldequestriancenter.com/.

Tomorrow (Thursday) is the big move from Richmond to Washington. Many wonderful people who have spent hundreds of hours working with and caring for Mariah have been stopping in to say farewell to her, often with a tear in their eye. Captain Kochavi is evidently a much loved and admired young woman whose presence in the Polytrauma Unit will be missed.

To all the hardworking angels – nurses, therapists, social workers, psychologists, doctors, staff, and volunteers – at McGuire and Fisher House, I cannot possibly express the depth of my gratitude for all you’ve done for Mariah and our family. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You, along with Mariah and Clay, are my heros. I thank God for you, and pray that God blesses you.

– Mark

Warming Up (Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center, Powhatan, Virginia, 12/10/08)

Trotting (Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center, Powhatan, Virginia, 12/10/08)

Barrel Race (Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center, Powhatan, Virginia, 12/10/08)

Kayak Therapy

December 8, 2008

After waiting around since summer, Mariah waded around McGuire’s therapy pool today.  Kayaking was on the agenda, and she loved it. She even got to use her own beautiful wooden paddles which have been patiently resting in her Subaru Outback. As the aquatic wheelchair hit the bottom of the ramp and she walked into the water, she giggled like a kid. We hear there’s a similar setup at Walter Reed. Surf’s up!

– Mark

Testing the Water

Kayaking 1

Kayaking 2

Preparing To Move On

December 6, 2008

Mariah’s discharge from McGuire in Richmond, VA, is scheduled for next Thursday, the 11th of December. She’ll move back to Washington, DC, and continue her therapies at Walter Reed Army. She’ll be inpatient at Walter Reed for a few days to be sure she’s ok after the transition. Then she and her brother Clay will live together at the Mologne House, the army’s “hotel” on the Walter Reed grounds. Clay has already relocated from Raleigh, NC, to DC to be her full-time care giver. God bless you, Clay. You are an amazing young man and brother.

I don’t know if it’s the pressure of the impending move, or the need to be ready to live in the real world outside of the hospital bubble, or what. But Mariah’s progress in the last few weeks has been remarkable. Important things she couldn’t do last month are routine for her now. To be sure, there are some gaps. For example, she can’t handle all the details of bathing by herself. If that’s still the case when she moves into the Mologne House, she and Clay will have to arrange for some female assistance two or three times a week. I’m betting that being back home among friends and family will help solve some of those problems.

Lest anyone think there’s a lull in the action while we await the BIG MOVE..

This afternoon, we cheered Army as they lost to Navy in the annual football game. (Mariah was in charge of a platoon of vendors and food inspectors at the Army-Navy game last year.  Veterinarians are responsible for food inspection in the army. Go figure.) Yesterday, she made a batch of veggie lasagna from scratch which we enjoyed for dinner tonight. Last evening while I was gathering up our stuff to make an excursion into the city for a Coen brothers’ film and a Thai dinner, she wheeled herself to the nurse’s station and signed us out, printing her name and the time quite legibly on the sign-out sheet. Next Monday afternoon, she’ll kayak in the therapy pool, and Wednesday we travel to a horse farm in the country for a day of riding. When’s a guy supposed to get his Christmas shopping done?!?!

Here’s the good stuff. (Those of you who know Mariah understand that she has the capacity to make difficult things appear easy. What you see in the videos is not easy for her. Every step is a struggle that requires intense concentration, courage and great care. She still describes her physical work as “terrible”, and she feels unready to re-enter the real world. But she also says, “Let’s do this.”)

Walking With Susan  (McGuire VAMC, 12/4/08)

Climbing Stairs (McGuire VAMC, 12/4/08)

Walking With Alan (McGuire VAMC, 12/6/08)

– Mark

Wow, the week really flew by.  I should specify.  The week flew by for Clay.  As for Mariah it may have gone at a slightly slower pace.  She said she is looking forward to moving back to the Washington D.C. area Dec. 11th.  She is ready for a change of scenery.

Mariah’s terrific gains were displayed this past week, culminating on Wednesday with her first night away from her hospital bed in nearly six months!  It was a great success. I only wish I could describe the sound of comfort that came from Mariah when I helped her up on to the big plush queen size bed with Egyptian silk sheets or whatever those wonderful sheets and comforter are over at the Fisher House.

The Wednesday over-night stay which lasted through Thanksgiving up until Thursday evening was a window into Mariah’s near-future living accommodations with her brother, Clay, at Mologne House (pronounced like “Malone”) on the Walter Reed campus in D.C.  We will live together in an outpatient setting, taking care of each other (just kidding dad, I won’t make Mariah do everything for me!) and attending daily therapy and rehabilitation services at the hospital.

Mariah’s stay at the Fisher House began with an evening of Kung Fu Panda (hilarious film), followed by a comfortable rest in a real nice bed.  Upon waking on Thanksgiving morning, Mariah asked me to walk her around the oak-tree speckled walking paths behind the house during which she got up out of her chair a few times to do leg stretches and practice walking along the parallel bars supporting her own balance and weight by the parallel bars.

The rest of our day up to the fantastic meal provided by the Blue Star military moms was filled with episodes of Family Guy from a box collection we picked up at Walmart together, and several readings from “Wesley the Owl”, which I read to her while she stretched out on the reading room couch at the Fisher House.  All the family members at Fisher House enjoyed Mariah’s presence, and the food was phenomenal.  We had about forty people dining together at the house, filling the dining hall, and we all held hands and said the Lord’s Prayer for grace.  It was very moving, and Mariah and I both teared up.

Lots of stories were shared around the tables, and phone calls were made to various colonels and generals because a young lady who came from channel 11 to televise a few minutes of the event for the six ‘o clock news was trailed by a local cop who said “you can’t do that”.  I guess he didn’t have any Turkey to eat, huh? Well, the military moms can pull off anything, and after a few calls the cop left and the cameras rolled. After dinner, a tired Mariah asked to return to her hospital room for some respite.

Today is Tuesday morning, and Mariah will be going grocery shopping with Allison, her occupational therapist. I am pretty jealous, cuz I have been here two weeks and now that I am leaving this afternoon Mariah is going to the store to get ingredients for lasagna which she will bake later in the week and feed to…my dad probably.  I feel ripped off.  Oh well, I will get my share in D.C., I am sure.

Mariah and I read her recent comments on the blog yesterday and we are both ready to come to Washington and look forward to catching up with friends. Thank you all for the support since she has been here in Richmond, and please keep it coming on the home-front!

Love and Light,
Clay