Tuesday, July 31, 2012

#177

Elaine was fitted for her splint today. It is quite the contraption. It took about an hour to teach Elaine and Fred how to properly fit it. She wore it today for 10 minutes, three times a day. Tomorrow she will wear it for 15 minutes each time, eventually working her way up to wearing it for 30 minutes each time. It is very uncomfortable but the result should be worth it! They said they have to break through the scar tissue that has formed around it. She has to lay down when she uses it. You can see she lays on a big wood board. They strap her arm in once she feels a stretch and then leave it there for the duration. You can tell she is in agony when she has it one. She was very tired and sore tonight, but that is unfortunately to be expected! It will get worse before it gets better. She will start with a new rehab therapist that specializes in frozen shoulders soon too.


This afternoon, Elaine and Fred went to Christi's final swim meet and then had dinner on the patio with the Francois family. Elaine is such a trooper and continues to amaze and inspire us. The road continues to wind, Elaine continues to fight, and be thankful for her incredible support system of family and friends. We are cautiously optimistic about the future! 

Monday, July 30, 2012

#176

Aloha!

The Francois family is back from Hawaii and wow were we impressed with how much Elaine's walking had improved. After not seeing her for 8 days, which is a very long time considering we see her daily, she looked amazing! Her stride is quicker and longer and she is almost rid of her hitch. She looks as beautiful as ever. One of the most encouraging things that happened while we were gone, she said she woke up one morning and for the first time, Elaine actually felt like she was getting better. She said her body felt better and like something had changed. It is so exciting and you can see it in Elaine's eyes! Check out this video:




First, a HUGE thank you to Vangie. She stayed with Elaine for the whole week. Fred was scheduled to play in a golf tournament in Colorado while Staci was away. Elaine's cousins and sister were going to come the same time Fred was gone, but there was a schedule mix up. Vangie was glad to step up and spend the week with her sister. Fred and Staci are so appreciative that she stayed and Elaine really enjoyed the quality time she spent with her, as well as her two cousins Elaine and Joanne. It almost made being away from Fred for 3 nights bearable for Elaine:)

Elaine and Fred started the week off with more doctors appointments. This morning they went to the orthopedic surgeon about her arm. He said that her rotator cuff tear is not much to worry about at this point but her shoulder is severely frozen. As we said, a frozen shoulder is incredibly painful and the fact that Elaine has been living with it shows again how tough she is. All the inflammation has also caused her bones to shrink. The great news is, everyone is optimistic that in the next 6-8 weeks she should have a lot of relief. Unfortunately, getting there is a painful process and it does involve an injection while using an X-ray. This also means that Elaine has to go off her Coumadin for the injection. It is because of the risk of internal bleeding. The doctors wanted to do more research before coming up with an exact plan of how that will happen so we will report on that tomorrow. The injection has been scheduled for next Wednesday. Elaine will also be fitted for a splint for her arm tomorrow. This will also help with the frozen shoulder. More on that tomorrow, too.

After that, they went to see the neurologist. He is also very optimistic that this will alleviate her pain in poor little darlin'. Everyone is amazed at her pain tolerance. She is truly amazing!

Things seems to be headed in the right direction. We have officially passed the 6 month mark! Although we are frustrated that it took so long for someone to pinpoint the source of the intense pain Elaine has been in, we are grateful that there is a solution. The delay in not having an MRI sooner is probably attributed to the fact that Elaine is so tough, has continued to workout and hasn't complained nearly as much as she should have. No one could have possibly imagined that she had a frozen shoulder. It is very common for stroke patients, especially women.

Tonight, Fred and Elaine had dinner with the Francois family. The kids were so excited to see Nammie and Ampa! Nammie walked in and held Brian instantly and later Taylor was cuddling on her lap. It was such a sweet sight to see the kids doing normal things with Nammie again!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

#175

Elaine had a nice Greek day day with her relatives in town. They continue to enjoy their time together in Newport. Check out this photo of Greek ladies out on the town at Big Canyon.






In another tribute to Fred's persistence, Elaine's visit the to the neuro-ophthalmologist yielded some answers. The bottom line is that Elaine is definitely suffering from some vision / perception issues. The great news is that these issues are fixable AND this doctor believes that she is the person to fix them. This may add incrementally to the work that Elaine has to do, but we are  supremely confident that she will get through this and get her vision and perception to exactly where they need to be.


Monday, July 23, 2012

#174

Welcome to California to Vangie, Elaine, and Joanne. Elaine and Fred are so happy that you are in town for a visit! 

Fred and Elaine had a very enlightening day. Elaine had an MRI on her left arm to try to ascertain if there is a good explanation of why she is experiencing so much darn pain. Well, we got some answers and we also got some more questions.

The bottom line is that Elaine is suffering from two ailments. The first is easy to understand. She has a torn rotator cuff (see below). As of now, it appears that through rest and the right therapy that Elaine can avoid surgery.


Elaine's other condition is called Frozen Shoulder. We had never heard of it, but apparently it is somewhat common following a stroke. The text below provides a reasonable explanation. The first step in treating it is have cortisone injected directly into the shoulder to loosen things up. We have learned that this is in no way a permanent condition, but just another thing Elaine will work through on her road to recovery.

Frozen shoulder
The commonest pain following stroke is “frozen shoulder”. This is a pain which is felt in the shoulder when the joint is moved, and sometimes even when lying on it. It is due to inability to move the joint freely by voluntary means, so that the tissues gum up and the joint becomes “frozen”.


This is not news to anyone who reads this blog, but today Elaine once again proved just how tough she is. How many of us could have gone through rigorous therapy with a torn rotator cuff and a shoulder that is frozen solid - and gone through  it without complaint just trying to get better. Elaine is so remarkable and we cannot help but admire her willpower and determination. We mentioned in an earlier post that "The only easy day was yesterday!" That mantra still rings true. Every day is full of pain and small steps forward for Elaine. A lot of us wouldn't have had the fortitude to fight through the past several months. Progress never comes as fast as we would like it to, but Elaine's effort has forced progress over time. We are so proud of her. She is a hero to us and to our kids and to everyone who knows her.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

#173

It was a fun filled day at the Smith house. Christi was so excited to wake up there and despite Nammie being overly exhausted, she still got up and brought Christi breakfast in bed. She went back to bed after for a few hours. Ampa and Christi begged Nammie to stay home today and rest, and not go out shopping with them at the mall. Staying true to herself, she didn't want to miss a thing, and refused to stay home.  She walked around the mall, the shopped and had lunch. They all had a blast; we are unsure who had more fun. Elaine was truly exhausted tonight. She needs a few days of rest and staying off her feet. It has been a busy week physical and mentally for Elaine with her drivers test and continued therapy. There is no one like her in the world. She just continues to plug along, determined to get feeling better and keeping a positive attitude. She consistently says she is feeling good, even though we know she is lying. We love her more than words can express and just wish there was something we could do to help!

Staci ran into someone who doesn't see Elaine frequently and couldn't believe how much progress she has made. Its often hard for Elaine to measure her progress, but remember it wasn't long ago that Elaine wouldn't have walked even past lulu lemon. Today, despite how tired you were, you walked all over the whole mall. That is an incredible improvement and something you couldn't do even a month ago! We are so proud of you!


The Francois family is leaving in the morning for Hawaii. Elaine decided against going this year, which as it turns out, is probably for the best. She is overly tired and a long travel journey, even to Hawaii, would be a lot. She wasn't comfortable being that far away from Fred yet either. She has family coming in to visit next week, as well as a doctors appointment with the neuro-ophthalmologist. We will miss her greatly, but know that she will be with us next year, and we look forward to it! We continue to remember how blessed we are to have her still here! We will continue to update the blog with reports from her doctors' appointments from next week. As always, thank you for caring. It means more to Elaine that you can possibly imagine! 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

#172

Elaine had an eventful day, as always. She started off with therapy. We are trying to figure out why her arm is still hurting so badly. It also seems like because of the botox, she has lost some muscle. She is tired as well! She plugged through therapy, continuing to do really well despite her discomfort.  After that, Staci and the kids picked her up to take her to have her hair done. Since it seems Fred and Elaine don't do much without the other, Fred decided to join Elaine and get his haircut by Laura as well. She did a great job on them both and we all just adore her!


They headed straight to the pool to cheer on Christi at the swim meet. Tonight is very exciting, Christi is having her first sleep over since Nammie had her stroke. She is having her belated birthday sleepover, which means Nammie has to serve Christi breakfast in bed:) Elaine was feeling ready and excited to have her. Christi was guessing Nammie would probably be in bed first! I think that is a safe bet!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

#171

Elaine is exhausted after her big day today! The drivers assessment test went very well! She did well on the written and verbal part. One funny story to share. They asked her to draw a clock. She drew it perfectly according to Fred.

The lady administering the test said, "Do you see how much space you have between the 10 and 11?"
Elaine: "I was trying to make sure the 12 and 6, and the 3 and 9 were across from each other."
Tester: "You have a few inch difference between the gap of these two numbers."
Fred: "well what difference does that make. She drew the clock, all the numbers are correct and in the right area. Who cares if the spacing is slightly off. You aren't handing her a ruler."
The test lady did agree but quickly decided Fred would not be accompanying them on the driving portion of the assessment.

After she did a vision test and then they headed into the car. She did GREAT and the tester was very impressed. It was her recommendation that they work on two things before Elaine drives. Her perception is off. She favors the left side of the road and the lane. They are going to make an appointment with a special neurologist that will do some more extensive testing and then give her some exercises to help improve her perception issues. She also needs to get in the habit of using her perfectly capable left hand to turn on the turn signal. She would remove her right hand from the wheel, and use the turn signal. The lady giving the test feels 100% confident that Elaine will be driving again. She wasn't able to give her an exact timetable, if it would be a month or 6 weeks of even 8, but it is in the near future and she will absolutely be able to. She if going to take a few driving "lessons" after she sees the doctor so she feels completely comfortable. It was a big day and a very positive step towards recovery. Driving was not something we initially thought she would ever do again! Its really exciting for us all, especially Elaine, that she will again soon!

The test was emotionally and physically exhausting for her. They lady also showed her several new stretches to help with her arm. Elaine didn't want to take a pain pill and drive, so she was in a lot of pain by the afternoon after all the movement and stress. She relaxed this afternoon at home.

Today, Fred, Elaine, Staci, Ben and Cece went to dinner at the club and enjoyed a beautiful night on the patio. Elaine really enjoyed the company. She is ready for bed tonight, that is for sure!


Monday, July 16, 2012

#170

The Smith house had a very restful night of sleep last night. Elaine woke up feeling good. Her foot is swollen again but we think its because she has been on it a lot and its been very warm here. She looks great and is feeling good. She had a day off of therapy since Paul was away at a conference. She took to a little retail therapy and enjoyed lunch with Fred, Freddie, Staci, and Brian. She spent the afternoon relaxing at home with her grandkids, while Staci was trying to have Elaine put her feet up. That is never an easy task.


Fred and Elaine went to Roy's for dinner and then Elaine went to bed early tonight. She has her driving test in the morning.  Its not a driving test at the DMV, it is more of a driving assessment, but it does last 4 hours. We are unclear about what exactly happens or what it means, but we know she will do her best. She is a little nervous but we all have total confidence in her and her abilities! She is an amazing women that has come so far and that is just another way to measure areas of improvement and weakness. We know you will all be wishing her luck tomorrow and we thank you for it. It means the world to her!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

#169

Elaine had a really fun day after a restless night, where neither Fred nor Elaine got much sleep. Julie and Mark, Fred and Elaine's niece and nephew, were in town from Las Vegas and spent the afternoon with Fred and Elaine. They had so much fun, and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon together. They laughed a lot and talked about all sorts of things. Time passed so fast that Julie and Mark were late leaving because they lost track of time.





Freddie came in after dropping off his daughter at volleyball camp to spend some time with Fred and Elaine tonight and have dinner. They had a great time and he was so impressed with how well Elaine is doing. Needless to say, Elaine was exhausted tonight! She is gearing up for  a big week of therapy and her driving test on Tuesday. They had such a fun day with all their company! 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

#168

Elaine kicked off the day with the Paul and a two-hour therapy session where they worked on a spectrum of exercises including some work on strengthening her left arm.

Something is definitely working. After a nice family lunch at Big Canyon, Elaine, Fred, Staci, Ben, and Christi went out to play nine holes. It was easily Elaine's best golf day! She was amazing; hitting the ball further and higher than ever. She spent more time and effort lining up putts (therefore improving those putts dramatically). Check out this damn fine swing!








Unfortunately, Elaine did not any driving practice on the golf course. Instead, Christi handled all driving duties for Elaine while Fred mostly walked. It was incredible to see the two musketeers (one only 8 years old and one a non-stop giggler) cruising all over the golf course. Christi did an excellent job as chauffeur and is looking forward to doing that again soon. 

#167

Elaine had a much deserved day off of therapy. Staci, Taylor, and Elaine had lunch together and enjoyed a fun afternoon. After lunch, they decided to go to South Coast to return a faulty purse Elaine had bought. It just so happens that this was the exact plan Staci and Elaine had the day Elaine had her stroke, they were going to meet for lunch at the mall and return the purse.

Staci has been having a week of reflection filled with "what ifs". Today, Elaine was deciding on a pedicure or going to the mall. Going to the mall brought all sorts of emotions for Staci specifically for the reason they were going. The experience for Staci was incredible. Obviously, the return is 6 months later than planed but given all that has happened, Staci was so incredibly grateful to be able to be there with Elaine. You can't help but think about "what if". We are so grateful that Elaine is alive. We are so grateful that she is of sound mind. We are are grateful that she is not in a wheelchair. Although Elaine is not feeling like the old Elaine just yet, it is amazing how far she has come! We are so grateful that she is a part of our lives. It in unthinkable to imagine it any different!!


Thursday, July 12, 2012

#166

Elaine kicked off the day with a two-hour therapy session at Hoag. Plus she and Fred got massages from a lady with a bird. We know that sounds pretty odd so we included this picture to prove it.




Later, Elaine went out to fight the weather and got out thereto play some golf. We generally do not expect to see rain in July in Newport Beach, but it sure came down today - and is raining again as we write this. It may be the rain and cooler weather that contributed to the pain she was feeling all day in her arm and leg. Despite the pain, she toughed it out and played nine holes with Fred and Staci. She also drove the cart for practice. She was certainly not 100% today with the additional pain, but she sure looked great out there. Here is a video of her hitting driver off the tee.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

#165

Everyday is another step toward independence for Elaine. Today, she spent two grueling hours with Paul working on a little bit of everything - all with a  focus on taking her life back!

After therapy, Elaine hopped in the driver's seat of Staci's car and drove the family over to Christi's swim meet. She did a pretty good job - especially given the size of Staci's bus! After parking the boat, the crew headed into the pool to watch Christi swim. Taylor won the battle of who gets to hold Nammie's hand on the way in.




The Smiths and Francois family enjoyed dinner al fresco by the pool. It was another long day that tired all of us out!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

#164

What a great day!! Elaine had her first day with very little pain in Little Darlin' and she is feeling good! She went to Hoag for her two hours of therapy. She started with PT and worked again primarily on her walking. Reiterating what the doctor said yesterday, with the amount of spasticity she has in her left leg, it will be impossible to walk without a hitch. He really believes that when he gives her the large dose of botox in 10 days, she will see a huge difference. After the enormous difference in her arm, just 24 hours later, we believe him! It's very exciting. Elaine was feeling like this was as good as it was going to get, while she is extremely grateful for all that she has accomplished and how far she has come, she wants more and is willing to work to get there. The promise of what is to come is exciting and especially to have some pain relief!

After PT, she worked on OT and got a little preview of what the driving test will be like next week. It is up to 45 hours long!!! It sounds like there is some time spent in a simulator, creating distractions for her as well. She will also spend time in a car, the good old fashion drivers' ed car, where both she and the instructor will have a control of the car. The OT feels like she should do well on the test and is ready for it. Her biggest challenge will be to stay focused the whole time and not get sidetracked. The therapist also gave her some brain teasers to work on at home.

Fred and Elaine then had a nice lunch and headed to see the internist. He did a thorough exam and is very impressed and pleased with her progress. She continues to make remarkable strides and he is optimistic about her continued recovery. We are so proud of Elaine, and Fred. This is quite a journey they are on and they continue, together, to keep working towards a full recovery. We are really excited about the botox, trying not to focus on the fact it wasn't offered to her before and only because of Fred's persistence, and finding a new doctor, did it even happen! It makes all the difference in the world to have such a strong advocate.

In other exciting news, Fred's legs seem to be responding to his new medical treatment. He has had two great nights of sleep!! The week is off to a great start in the Smith house!!


Monday, July 9, 2012

#163

Elaine woke up this morning extremely stiff and feeling like someone is holding on to her limbs, preventing them from moving. This has been happening a lot lately and is impacting her ability to get a full night of rest as well. She said to Fred, "I wonder if this is just how it is going to be from now on."

As you know, Fred doesn't just rest on his laurels, he wanted to get to the bottom of this. Elaine had her two hour therapy session with Paul. He also agreed that her mobility has become increasingly more limited lately and its impacting her walking.

After that, they went to see the doctor, seeking some answers. They went to see the neurologist. He did an evaluation on her arm and was very surprised to see how stiff it was. He doesn't believe that this will last forever and does believe that botox will really help. So he injected her in three places in her arm. We are hoping this will help and ease her pain as well as increase her flexibility. Its hard to imagine the pain she is in 24 hours a day and has been for almost six months now. The pain and lack of sleep is wearing on her, yet she keeps trying, waking up each morning determined to make the most of each day. She keeps her head up, doesn't complain nearly as much as she is entitled to, and continues to inspire us and everyone around her.

Elaine goes back in 10 days for a large dose of botox in her left leg. She is very excited, especially after the incredible result she got from the botox in her toe. The neurologist also gave Fred some additional medication for his legs. He is determined and optimistic that he can help Fred as well. The Smith house is ready and deserving of some sleep - and pain free days and nights. We continue to appreciate all the love, and prayers that surround them daily from near and far. We are so grateful to everyone for their ongoing support.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

#162

Sunday was a very full day for Elaine. She met up with Fred on the 8th hole of his round and took over  cart driving and caddying duties for the next 10 holes. After that, they went to the range together where Elaine hit an entire pyramid of balls. See the video below to check out her progress!




After grinding it out on the range for a while, Fred and Elaine headed over to the mall to catch an afternoon movie. Then it was on to the Francois house for summer BBQ! Here is a pic of Elaine and Taylor as Mini Elaine.



Everyone was tired (both families) after a long day, long weekend, and long, active holiday week. It is back to a more normalized schedule this week - especially now that her foot is feeling better.

#161

Elaine started her Saturday with a short massage to loosen her muscles up and prepare them for a serious two-hour therapy session with Paul. She performed exceptionally well today at therapy and was quite serious about her exercises. So serious, in fact, that Paul mentioned to her that he sort of missed her giggling fits! He should have been around later when the Francois kids came by. She went into a full-scale giggle attack!

Paul had her working on two incredibly important things that could have dramatic long-term effects. The first task is for Elaine to focus on packing equal weight on both feet. The second thing she needs to really work on is getting rid of the hitch she has when she walks. This needs to be a major point of focus for her. For one thing, the hitch could end up being permanent. Plus, the hitch is really hard on her hip and could lead to a hip replacement. Seems like pretty strong motivation to get rid of that hitch!

Elaine's foot has really been bugging her lately. Fred's solution was to take her shoes and, using a pocket knife, cut a hole in all of her shoes where the pain is. Luckily, Staci got over there and used mole skin directly on her foot instead of carving up shoes! 

After the Francois family left, Fred and Elaine had the best time at a small party at the Rountree's house with Bowies, Furmans, and CeCe.  


Friday, July 6, 2012

#160

 TGIF. It is a little disingenuous to be thankful for Friday after a week with the 4th of July in the middle, but we are still happy to be heading into the weekend. Elaine continues to make progress towards her normal life by picking up Christi and Taylor from camp today. Believe us, that is no simple task!

Fred and Elaine headed out to dinner with the Carrolls tonight. It appears that Elaine is back to old social self!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

#159

A day of relaxation and recovery was just what was in store for Elaine today after her very social and busy week! Thankfully she doesn't have therapy tomorrow either. She is doing great and feeling really good. As the pictures show, she looks as beautiful as ever! She is gearing up for her driving test on July 17. That will be an exciting day and one she is anxiously awaiting. The swelling on her foot is gone and her toe pain is much better, she just has a bruise on the bottom of her foot. All signs hopefully point to more botox on Monday:)

This afternoon, Fred and Elaine headed to the swim meet to cheer on the Big Canyon team. They were the loudest cheerleaders and always add excitement - and color - to the pool deck.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

#158



Happy Birthday America! Fred and Elaine love America and they showed it today by dressing up as the Stars and Stripes for the 4th of July party at Big Canyon. They had a great time with their friends at the club, their grandkids, and Jackie and Derek.





We are incredibly grateful to all of the brave men and women who stand watch tonight (and every other day and night) so the rest of us can sleep in peace. Thank you for your service!

We are also thankful that someone makes the festive pants featured below! Happy 4th of July to all of you.


#157

Last night was an amazing night with the Brownsteins. It led to a great a night of rest for both Fred and Elaine in which they slept in for the first time in a long time!

It was a good thing they got some rest because they had another big day ahead of them (and another tomorrow). Fred spent the afternoon with friends. Then, he picked up Elaine and headed to dinner with the Furmans and Parmers. As always, Elaine was the belle of the ball. Things didn't get too crazy since the Smiths are scheduled to go out again tomorrow night for the 4th of July!


Monday, July 2, 2012

#156

We were all relieved to hear that the neurologist was not worried at all by the swelling in her foot. He is quite certain it is because of the botox. He gave her a exceptionally large dose last week because of the severity of her toes. He was thrilled with the results and thinks it is going to continue to help. Elaine was anxious to have more, but he wanted to wait at least another week and see how the swelling looks. In other exciting news, his wife suffered from similar leg cramps that Fred experiences and he is confident he can help him as well! It was an exciting day for the Smith family.


We just returned home from a great dinner at Mastro's with the Brownstein family. Each and every Brownstein has been an extraordinary friend to Elaine and the entire Smith / Francois family. They all call and email and text to check on us almost every single day. We are blessed to have friends like them.



Tonight was a celebration of health for both families. Obviously, we love to celebrate Elaine's remarkable progress and her continued will to get better every day. We also were celebrating the fact that Callae is healthy after a long and difficult battle with brain cancer. It was a true pleasure to spend the evening with such incredibly strong and beautiful women.


It was a late night for everyone. They finally rolled us out of the restaurant after we ate one of every dessert (and 2 butter cakes). We couldn't remember the last time Elaine was out until after 10PM. We hope she sleeps well and sleeps in. After polishing off a pecan pie on his own, we hope Fred gets over his sugar high and gets some rest, too.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

#155

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday. July kicked off with some fun for Elaine. First, some housekeeping. We had it backwards with the INR. Apparently, higher INR levels mean thinner blood, not thicker. More about thin blood side effects than greater risk of blood clots.

In more Coumadin news, Fred and Elaine went to a party in Laguna this afternoon - unfortunately, they left without the afternoon medicine! Ben headed down PCH to drop off the drugs and the evening was saved.

More exciting news! Elaine spent the day brushing up on driving skills by cruising the streets of Big Canyon. Don't tell the cops! She needs to perfect her moves for her July 17 driving test!

Check out this pic and the video below!