Saturday, December 29, 2012

#LICENSE TO DRIVE

SHHEEEEE's BAAAACCCCKKK! Watch out world, Elaine is back. Today she received official word from her driving instructor that she is authorized to drive.

What a HUGE day! Driving is something that we take for granted. A freedom to which we have grown accustomed. That all changed for Elaine on January 27th. Priorities shifted. It was more to important to survive. Then the focus was on getting her brain to work. Then she mastered walking. Everyday, there was a new challenge. Of course, driving remained implanted in the back of her mind as the one thing that equaled independence. That independence could easily be boiled down to the freedom to go where she wanted when she wanted. Well, now she has that freedom, that independence.

If she wants to go the grocery store several times a day (like she used to), she can. If she wants a coffee, she can jump in the car and drive over to Starbucks. If it is workout time, she can head over to the gym. She is unencumbered. The chain to her house is broken. We cannot overstate how proud of her we are. This truly is a huge achievement for Elaine and represents one of the largest, most concrete steps toward recovery that she has taken.

Congratulations Elaine! We are so proud of you! Be safe out there!



Thursday, December 27, 2012

#308

Unlike the night before, the Smith household was sleepless in Newport last night. That is a tough way to start the day, but they fought through it. Elaine was able to drive her OWN car today for the first time in almost a year. She was SO excited and she drove great. After three or four more lessons, she will be ready to drive on her own. They practice by driving her most likely routes - the gym, Starbucks, the mall, the grocery store, etc.

After driving, Fred came back home to take Elaine to lunch but she was too tired. So, instead she took a much deserved nap. Then, she headed to Pilates. Unfortunately, her arm was incredibly sore today after yesterday's intense workout. She spent the time stretching, a little STEM, and some lower body exercises. The Pilates instructor LOVES working with Elaine because she loves how hard Elaine works and how hard she has worked to get where she is today. The instructor is big on tough love so she wants Elaine to be more independent (and not have Fred help her so much).

This afternoon, Staci and the kids came by to visit. As usual, they were so happy to see Nammie and Ampa. They noticed that Elaine looks great - more like herself than ever before!




Wednesday, December 26, 2012

#307

The Smith house slept well and had a good day! Elaine and Fred were up early to do Elaine's arm exercises and balance work. She continues to improve, and she sees the improvement!! Then she headed out for her last day in the "student driver" car. She did great and went out on the freeway again. Tomorrow, the instructor has decided that they will go out in her car, which she hasn't driven in almost a year. She is feeling really excited. Her biggest challenge is incorporating her left hand into the action. She still reaches over to use her right hand to hit the turn signal, but today she actually recognized that she was doing it, which is a big step. Elaine is really excited to be out on the roads and anxiously awaiting her freedom behind the wheel!

After her morning of driving, she relaxed for a few hours before going to Pilates. She worked a lot on her arm, increasing her mobility and doing weights and pulleys. The instructor told her she was in for a big day, and Elaine was feeling sore after it. She was excited to do more challenging,  "advanced" (Elaine's buzz word) exercises. We are hoping she won't be to sore tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

#306

Merry Christmas! We hope everyone had a wonderful day spent with family and friends. Fred and Elaine spent the afternoon at the Francois house, and we had a wonderful day. Elaine was a bit emotional, going from laughing to crying quite often. We are all so grateful to be celebrating Christmas with her, and so proud at how far she has come in this year. She continues to make huge strides towards getting back to normal. Each day she is moving a little quicker, walking more confidently, being more independent, and getting and closer and closer to "normal." She is certainly our Christmas miracle and blessing!

This week, she continues on with therapy and more driving practice. Her driving instructor, like everyone else, loves working with her and is very surprised by her progress. We have learned by now that nothing she does surprises us.

We are counting down to 2013, anxiously awaiting its arrival! Our thoughts are prayers are also with Ben's dad tonight, who went into the hospital with pneumonia tonight. We are sending our healing thoughts and love to him for a speedy recovery!


Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Monday, December 24, 2012

#305


It was like old times today at the Smith house. Elaine spent the past couple of days preparing her traditional Christmas Eve meal. We all stuffed ourselves on homemade brisket, rolls, twice baked potatoes, corn, and the Smith family traditional Peppermint Ice Box dessert. Elaine took it one step further and cleaned up after dinner! She is back in action - driving and cooking and cleaning. It was exactly what we wished for Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the Smith and Francois families! We hope you are able to spend this time with your friends and family. We are certainly grateful that we are able to celebrate Elaine for being here and Fred for being her champion!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

#304

December 22, 1978. Christi T. Smith was born 36 years ago today. December 22nd is always an emotional day at the Smith house. This year was no different. Fred and Elaine spent this day (as they do everyday) thinking about Christi.

There is no appropriate transition from Christi, so we will just move on awkwardly to the next subject: Elaine driving! First, we want to give a big shout out to Fred who took the initiative and found the driving instructor (in the yellow pages, no less). That is what really started Elaine back on the road to the . . .well, the road.

Elaine was a star on the road today. She made significant progress and even drove on the freeway. What a huge accomplishment after only few hours behind the wheel. After her time with the instructor, Elaine took Fred for a drive around the neighborhood. No surprise, he was extremely impressed.

Elaine also spent time at Pilates today. Her teacher was so impressed with how well she is doing. The teacher speaks from a position of experience. Her son had a stroke when he was 34 so she knows the struggles that stroke patients go through. So, it was even more encouraging to hear her supportive words. The teacher also Elaine know that her shoulder was looser than ever and even achieved the elusive 180 degrees!

Elaine showed the Pilates teacher what toughness is all about today. At one point, Elaine had a what is known as a stinger in her shoulder - literally scar tissue tearing. Elaine fought through the pain to continue her workout. She added another person who she will inspire with her determination.

After all that, Elaine morphed into Betty Crocker for the afternoon. Elaine has always hosted Christmas Eve at her home and this December 24th will be no different. She worked non-stop in the kitchen this afternoon to prepare the brisket and the world-famous peppermint ice box dessert. We are all so proud of her resiliency (and we are excited for the brisket and the dessert)!

In Fred news, he went to the doctor for his pre-op consultation. Everything is on track for his procedure on January 3rd. We will keep you updated if anything changes.

Quick note on the bracelets. Thank you to Pat who has dropped off a few orange ETS - FLS bracelets at the fitness center at the Vintage for those of you who were requesting new ones!





Thursday, December 20, 2012

#303

It has been eventful several days at the Smith house. Fred had a pre-op MRI the other day. All went well (even if there was a little surprise for the patient).

The big event of the day was Elaine's driving lesson. Although the instructor didn't plan on leaving the gates of Big Canyon, he was sufficiently impressed with Elaine's driving that soon they were cruising the streets of Newport. She was (almost) an expert driver! She need to work on keeping both hands on the wheel and using her left hand for her blinker (as opposed to reaching across the steering wheel with her right). The next lesson is tomorrow and we expect Elaine to excel again!

After driving, Fred and Elaine went to Taylor's Christmas show then were off to Pilates and Gyro. They are certainly connected at the hip!



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

#301

Today's post is about Elaine's continued exceptional progress with therapy and Pilates. Her Pilates instructor is so encouraged by Elaine's determination. They worked hard today at getting Elaine's left arm (Little Darlin') back into the mix. The instructor thinks that Elaine needs to continue move her arm and shoulder in regular daily life.

With that in mind, Elaine will be wearing a splint at night while she sleeps to prevent her arm from folding toward her body. While she is awake, she will focus on keeping her arm straight while walking and working to continuously spread out her fingers.

All of this will help Elaine achieve her instructor's goal of getting Elaine back on the golf course this summer! We know that Elaine will work harder than anyone toward that goal!

Thanks to all of those who requested orange and pink bracelets. We will send a few to the fitness center at the Vintage for those of you down in the desert. They should be there by Friday or Saturday!

Monday, December 17, 2012

#300

We have a new shipment of bracelets in that celebrate Elaine AND Fred. Orange bracelet (for Fred) and pink writing (for Elaine). If you want your own FLS / ETS bracelet, email Staci at stacifrancois@mac.com.



Elaine and Fred came over for dinner tonight. After they left, we were talking about just how wonderful Elaine looks. She looks more like her old self than she has since January! It is great to see her looking so beautiful.

Her strength is coming back extraordinarily quickly as well. One of her exercises is to stand up from a chair only using the muscles in her legs. Two weeks ago she literally couldn't stand up without using her arms. Today, she did 21 reps in one minute. Then, she showed off some more after dinner (check out the video below).



Sunday, December 16, 2012

#299

This is a week when we have tragically been reminded of the fragility of life and how the world can be suddenly and violently upended. In 2012, we learned important and permanent lessons that are worth repeating following the tragedy in Connecticut.

1. Never take life for granted. It can be taken from you in an instant and when you least expect it.
2. Since #1 is true, use the time you have wisely. Make sure that your family and friends know you love them.
3. Those family members and friends can and will provide remarkable levels of support and love whenever you need them.
4. You can choose to let your situation rule you or you can choose to rule your situation. It takes time and exceptional levels of determination and pain, but things can get better.

Of course, we recognize the significance of this tragedy. The wounds inflicted on the families of Sandy Hook will not heal quickly or cleanly. All we can do is offer our thoughts and prayers to them as they mourn and gradually make an attempt at recovery.


Fred and Elaine are back from the desert after a very fun and busy week. They enjoyed seeing so many good friends for dinners and Elaine had several lunches with the ladies. We are so grateful to all of their friends for caring. They feel so lucky to have you all in their lives. The Francois family was happy to see them today and give them hugs. We had fun playing games and then joining them at True Foods for their Sunday dinner. It should come as no surprise that they are loved at True Foods too. The car pulls up and the valets are racing to get to Elaine's door first and walk her into the restaurant. The hostess lights up when she sees them walk in the door. Fred and Elaine are very loved, and very deserving of all the love.





Monday, December 10, 2012

#298

A quick update. Fred and Elaine are both doing great. Fred is recovering from what turned out to be an infection from his biopsy. He has a very uncomfortable and painful last week, but is finally feeling better after some intense antibiotics. As to be expected, it is quite rare to get an infection from the biopsy, but the Smith's manage to get those rarities. Never a dull moment!

Fred and Elaine went to the desert on Friday after therapy for a week. Elaine is doing great. Her mobility is increasing and even better news, she isn't having much pain in her shoulder. Fred is as dedicated as Elaine is to the exercises, making sure she does them correctly, twice a day. She has started up with some piliates as well and is really enjoying that. She especially loves her independence in the desert when she can jump in her golf cart. Fred and Elaine had a chipping and putting contest yesterday. Fred edged her out in the chipping after Elaine mounted a major comeback, but Elaine got him on the putting green. Get those dollars ready ladies! Elaine was thrilled to be out there chipping, and chomping at the bit to get on the course again. We have no doubt that she will be out there again, sooner rather than later.

Elaine's Coumadin level has been a bit of a challenge over the last month, since her hospitalization. It appears to have stabilized. It has been trial and error but it seems that her diet, and eating green leafy vegetables might be wreaking havoc on her levels. She has been avoiding salads and it seems to be working. Fred doesn't have to prick her very tender fingers again until Thursday, which thrills them both!

I know people are having some trouble getting in touch with Fred and Elaine. Their email address did change a few months ago.
fred@fredsmith25.com
elaine@fredsmith25.com




Tuesday, December 4, 2012

#297

Elaine had another good day. They woke up this morning and went right to work on her new exercises. It took her about 45 minutes to complete them, both times they did they. It went really well. Fred felt like it was even better than yesterday with the therapist. Fred also was feeling much better this afternoon, so all is well in the Smith house. Elaine was very busy decorating today. She has their beautiful tree up, the stockings hung by the chimney with care, and the sweet smell of Christmas in the house. She is even getting antsy to make Christmas cookies already. You can tell she is feeling better:)

The Smith Family hosted the Francois Family for dinner tonight, Taco Tuesday. It was delicious and the kids were so excited to be over at Nammie and Ampa's house. Elaine showed us how she is able to walk on her toes, her left foot too. It was great to witness, especially since we have seen the drastic improvements first hand. Elaine even went upstairs to play with the kids. When she was at the top of the stairs ready to come down, she paused. Christi said, "wait, mom will help you!" She didn't wait, though. She made her way down the stairs very easily on her own. Yet another encouraging sign. Those stairs looked so daunting so that long ago! Elaine was sore from all her new exercises tonight but excited.



The Francois Family is headed to New York tomorrow through the weekend, so don't be alarmed if you don't see a post, actually just know that things are going well. No news is good news in this case:) We thank you all for your continued support. We were all overwhelmed by the emails and texts we received about missing the blog. So, despite our threats to tone it down, while it might be less frequent, we will be updating. Our deepest and most sincere thank you for caring to you all!

Monday, December 3, 2012

#296

Elaine has had a good week. She really got a lot of rest over the weekend, and that helps her out so much mentally and physically. Sunday morning, Ben and Brian dropped off bagels and coffee. Brian reached for Nammie and she grabbed him and held him. He was so excited that she was holding him. He cuddled on her shoulder and just laid there. It was really neat. We all went back over later in the afternoon and Elaine was dancing to Christmas music with Brian and transferring weight to each foot. It was so much fun to watch! We all feel like she has had a week of noticeable improvements.

We aren't the only ones that felt that way. Diane continues to be impressed with Elaine's shoulder and arm. She is able able to do so much more with her arm and her shoulder is much more mobile. Her muscles are still weak, and she needs to work on her muscle tone now that she has such an increased range of motion. Elaine also has some new exercises to work on independently at home to strengthen her lower body, especially her left leg. This week she is going to focus on bridging, and sitting in a chair and standing up, not holding on to anything. This is something she was doing really well at before summer, and then she lost her confidence.

Today Fred and Elaine went to the orthopedic doctor. He gave Fred a shot in his knee. He couldn't believe how much Elaine had improved since last time he saw her. She is able to get weight on to her toes now when we walks. She still struggles with putting weight on her right heel. We know she will get it though. Its truly remarkable to see how far she has come. It seems like forever for Elaine, and we understand that, but she has made so much progress and continues to work so hard! She certainly has the most dedicated caretaker! Fred is going through a lot right now, and he continues to focus on Elaine. He has yet to feel sorry for himself. It is something we all think about daily, but Fred's courageous attitude keep us all calm. In a time when he should be leaning on us for support, he is the one keeping us calm as he continues to call himself "indestructible."

It always seems that we couldn't be more proud or impressed by Fred and Elaine. They keep us in awe everyday at their love, their commitment to each other, and support for each other. They are people we learn from daily and draw so much inspiration from. Life is constantly put in perspective. We all get bogged down by the day to day of life, but despite the challenges this year has presented for our family, we have learned so much about each other! We are inspired by the way Fred and Elaine have handled the hand they have been dealt, their unconditional love, the endless determination of Elaine, the ultimate cheerleader in Fred! When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!