Tuesday, January 31, 2012


January 31, 2012

WHAT A GREAT DAY! Today Elaine showed the entire staff at Hoag Hospital just what kind of person she is. She impressed all of her therapists with significant progress in just 24 hours! She sat up in a chair for about 45 minutes and she even STOOD UP! While doing therapy, the therapist was trying to get her to keep her hip and butt up. He was poking her in the butt and finally he started slapping her butt to get het brain to remember and she said, “Oh, I love it when a man slaps my butt.”

Every day, or even every few hours, one of the nurses comes in and asks a series of questions to test neurological and cognitive ability. The always ask her age. When she was in ICU she had a habit of telling the nurse that she is 40. Then she waits a beat and says that 60 is the new 40. The ICU nurse laughed, but warned her not to use that line when she moves to the regular hospital or they may throw her in the psychiatric ward!

Onto the positive clinical news. The neurologist was very impressed and surprised by her progress. It all started in the middle of last night when she was able to squeeze the nurse’s hand with her left hand. Then she moved her left leg – just a little – but she moved it. That alone was a HUGE improvement from the day before, and is a testament to Elaine’s determination.

We think she loves shoving it in the face of the naysayers. They are definitely getting a sense of the kind of person she is. They are learning quickly that she will defy their odds and continue to surprise them everyday. She truly is the most incredible person with an unbelievable spirit. If you are reading this, you know what kind of person she is and you remember how you loved her the instant you met her. We know that all of your prayers and love truly inspire her.

As far as the prognosis goes, the plan is still to do the biopsy on Thursday. As you (and we) now know, that could change, and hopefully we will have a better idea tomorrow. Today’s progress was VERY encouraging. We are convinced that attitude and will are the most important things. Elaine has those attributes in spades, and every doctor and therapist that walks into her room learns that fact right away.

We remain incredibly optimistic and continue to take it one day at a time. We suspect that there will be more great days ahead with a few not so great days mixed in. She can handle those days, too. So can we. We are most grateful that she is here to fight this fight. As Fred has said many times over the last few days, he can’t imagine his life without her. We all share his sentiment.

Therapy wasn’t the only thing on Elaine’s schedule today. She also had a stream of visitors from near and far. Her dear friend Linda came by and braided her hair – no easy task with Elaine’s hair.

We are also so fortunate that Richie and Julie are here as part of our team. We literally could not do this without them. They stepped in and stepped up right away to help take care of Elaine and to take care of us. This is not the first time we have called on them for help, and they have always come. We are so grateful for the way they dropped everything to be here.

A BIG thank you to Ashley and Lisa who helped us out with the blog by cleaning up the design and making it look so much better. Please click on the Choose Joy link to read about Ashley and her own inspirational story as she battles cancer! She is an inspiration to us and Elaine and Ashley are two of the most incredible women you will ever met and certainly two people that will inspire you, amaze you, and won’t take no for an answer.

Lastly, we want to share with you the signs of a stroke. The quick response by Tim and Kyle literally saved her life and we urge you all to remember these signs. Time is the most important thing and it is better to be safe than sorry.

Think FAST to stop a stroke:

Face- ask the person to smile and look for any sign of a droop

Arm- Ask the person to put their arms in the air

Speech- slurring or difficulty repeating a sentence

Time- Call 911 because every minute is valuable

Please “subscribe” to the blog and you will receive an email when it has been updated. Continue to send her emails and write on the blog. Your messages give Elaine much needed strength and inspiration.

We love you

Monday, January 30, 2012


Hello everyone. We are so blessed to have so many wonderful people who care so much about Elaine. Although we have never written a blog before, we think that this is the simplest way to update all of you on Elaine's progress. Thank you for caring. Thank you for sending thoughts and prayers her way. We make sure that she hears every single message that has been sent.

One housekeeping item before we get started.  Elaine received dozens of flower arrangements today, and they were all so beautiful, so thoughtful, and so appreciated.  They literally filled the room.  The nurses of 3 East had never seen anything like it in all of their collective careers. These nurses are dying to know if she is famous.  Elaine told them that she is!!!

Unfortunately, due to a respiratory fungal and bacterial infection, she cannot have flowers in her room any longer.  She (and we) are SOOOO grateful to all of you who have sent flowers, but sadly her doctors have requested that her loving friends and family not send additional flowers.

January 30th - Today was Fred & Elaine's 37th wedding anniversary.  They made the best of it by celebrating with Elaine's favorite - butter cake and ice cream from Mastro's.

Elaine has a huge team of concerned doctors including a neurologist, a pulmonologist, a cardiologist, an oncologist, an ENT, an infectious disease specialist, and an internist.  We are doing our best to understand the right way to fight the battles in front of her.  We mentioned previously that the situation is fluid and changes almost hourly.  That certainly continued today. Elaine went into the day expecting two days of blood thinner then a biopsy on her lung on Wednesday. That plan changed when the doctor recommended aspirin instead of blood thinner for fear of a brain bleed. She has an MRI scheduled tomorrow to see how much of the clot has dissolved.  That scan will determine when the biopsy will happen.

Back to the fungal infection for a minute.  This is something that was found in her nose by her ENT in the desert.  The pulmonologist believes that this fungus could be the cause of the spot on her lung. We are optimistically hoping he is right about that.

Ashley, our friend from the desert, surprised Elaine today. As many of your know, Ashley is fighting a battle of her own against cancer.  Elaine has called Ashley her inspiration, and she was overwhelmed when Ashley walked through the door.  They had a wonderful visit complete with laughter, hugs, and tears.

Thank you again for all of your thoughts, well wishes, love, and prayers. Elaine relies on each and every one of you for inspiration and strength.  Elaine can receive emails nows so please send her encouraging messages to etsmith12@aol.com.

Elaine is the strongest and most determined person we have ever come across.  We know full well that she will tackle any obstacle in her way!

Another Elaine Joke of the Day. The therapist was working with her on some cognitive drills by asking simple questions.

Therapist: Does Congress elect the President?
Elaine: No. The people do, but sometimes they make mistakes.
Elaine: What? Do you disagree with me?
Therapist: This isn't a political discussion. Next question.

She is definitely keeping everyone on their toes!

Thank you. We love you. We appreciate you.

Fred, Ben, and Staci


Again, thank you all so much for the continued love, support and prayers. We truly are overwhelmed by how many people we have heard from -  so thank you. Again, please continue to forward on the email. Thanks!

We her moved out of ICU and into her room this evening so that is great. She lost pretty much all mobility in her left arm and leg last night and that continued through the day. They did an MRI to make sure it wasn't another stoke and it wasn't, but the MRI confirmed that the original strike was massive. 

The clot was caused by her heart, and it is still there. After careful consideration, they (specifically her cardiologist) have decided she needs to go on a blood thinner to try and prevent a rebound stroke. They will start that tomorrow morning which will delay the biopsy until at least Wednesday. 

She is scared and angry, but determined to fight. She really likes her oncologist and we all feel very comfortable with her extensive team of doctors. The oncologist was positive, quick to remind her that we have no idea what she has and that based on what they can see, whatever "it" is, doesn't appear to have spread outside the lung area. They have come so far in medicine and we need to stay positive. So each hour brings something new so I try and update at the end of the day. She is fighting and encouraged by your love and prayers. We had the Greek priest come in and give her a blessing, as well as a blessing from the missionaries. Thank you to all that lit candles, said prayers, offered her mass, and are thinking about her.

As for her stroke recovery, what they told us today, which I am sure will change hourly like everything else, is that she will stay in the hospital on the stroke floor for the next 10 days or so. After that, we will move her to the best local rehabilitation center for the next "several weeks" - whatever that means. We don't listen to their odds or numbers they throw at us. We know know she is strong and determined. We know she is surrounded by so much love and prayer and most importantly she wants to get better, and she will! We brought the kids in to see her today and they were incredible with her. They held her hand and gave her strength. Christi wants to spend every minute with her and I know they will be additional incentive for her to get better and stronger. 

Tomorrow is a new day. I keep praying we will walk in that hospital room and her spunky self will jump out of bed and be ready to go shopping. Don't take one second for granted and hug your loved ones tight. Life changes in an instant. We are taking good care of her and one of us is with her 24 hours a day and will be every day of her recovery. 

Our dear friend who is battling cancer and has been an incredible inspiration to us, wrote about my mom today. My mom has been talking about her constantly to nurses and getting strength from her. Ashley and my mom are two of the strongest people I know who we can all learn so much from. Please add her to your prayers as well and read what she wrote today and her incredible story. (http://www.lilblueboo.com/2012/01/let-go-let-god.html). 

Through all of this, my mom is certainly keeping her sense of humor. She wanted to let everyone know two things:
1) Don't exercise. It causes strokes.
2) She is (partly in Ashley's honor) planning on eating donuts everyday in an effort to get FAT. 

We love you all. Thank you to friends near and far. 

Fred, Ben and Staci


First of all let me tell you all how overwhelmed we are by all the prayers, love and support. Its very humbling and we have felt so much love. I have been reading emails to her and she cries through them all but I know it helps so much to hear them and to know how many people are praying for her. 

Unfortunately, we need all the prayers we can get! The have found some spots on her lungs. The will biopsy them hopefully tomorrow depending on how her day goes  today and we will know more within the next 3-5 days. We are hoping the reason for the stoke was so that we would find the spots that would have otherwise gone undetected. It was completely by accident that it they saw them when they did the initial scan of her brain when we were in the ER. The doctors told us then it just happened to be the perfect time to catch the perfect view. They did more tests yesterday to confirm and until we get the biopsy results, we won't know much. We are praying, hoping and begging for them to be nothing. She deserves it! 

As you can imagine, we are all still in shock, devastated but hopeful. She ALWAYS defies the odds. She is a fighter and she will beat this. She is the strongest person I know and has so many prayers and people that love her. We are staying strong for her. She is so incredible and surrounded by so much love! Thank you again for all your continued love and support. If I don't respond to your email, I will and don't think its not appreciated. 

Be strong for her and stay positive. We are and most importantly she is!    

We love you all,
Fred, Ben and Staci


Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Today has been the scariest day of our lives. Life changes in an instant. I will bring you up to date with what we know now and should know a lot more tomorrow. 

This morning Elaine suffered from a massive stroke while working out at her gym in Newport Coast. Thankfully, Tim and Kyle from Living Fitness recognized the signs immediately and called 911 (probably saving her life). One of Staci's close friends (Kristin) happened to be at the gym and called Staci right away so she was able to ride in the ambulance with her mom to Hoag Hospital. On the way to the hospital, Elaine was given a dose of magnesium called FastMag which is part of a clinical trial through UCLA. We aren't 100% sure if she received the medicine or the placebo, but the nurses at the ICU seem pretty convinced that she got the real thing and that it really helped. 

She arrived in the ER early enough to receive TPA (clot busting drug) via IV (which apparently only happens for less than 3% of stroke victims).  Ben and Staci stayed with her in the ER while Fred made it from the Vintage to Hoag in 1 hour and 23 minutes.  When he arrived, he was so happy to see her alive that he exclaimed that this was the most beautiful he had ever seen her look. 

We have had to add in one lighter moment of the day. We were in the ER and the doctors and nurses were attending to her, frantically trying to get her hooked up to monitors. One of the nurses turned to Staci and quietly said, "Is it ok if we cut her shirt off?"

Staci said, "Of course, whatever you need to do."

At that point, Elaine, who hadn't said much yet, stated for everyone to hear, "DO NOT CUT MY WHITE SHIRT." 

She's a fighter and has already defied the odds with her recovery. This morning she was completely paralyzed on her left side from head to toe. She has gradually gained strength and is at about 50-60% now, which is incredible considering where she was and what the doctors thought. Her will to fight and her strength are amazing. She is in ICU for the night and they will hopefully transfer her to the stoke unit tomorrow. We don't know how long she will be there or what lies ahead but we will get through this. We should know much more tomorrow. 

Please keep all the thoughts, prayers and wishes coming.  I'm reading her to them and I know it helps. 

Thank you again for your concern. It means the world to us.