I have seen several improvements this past week in Sherrin since my last visit.
She is able to eat small amounts of soft foods. About 2 weeks ago, we started with baby food, yogurt, apple sauce, and mashed potatoes. She really liked it all. Her favorite so far is blueberry Greek yogurt. She is so happy to eat again- she hasn’t tasted food in 10 months!
When she eats, she takes one bite and has to swallow about 4 times to get it all out of her mouth and down her throat. Then she takes only 4-5 bites total (she gets full very easily). We also have been putting utensils in her hand and helping her reach her hand up to her mouth. This helps Sherrin learn how to feed herself again. It’s challenging, though. Her hands are still very tight and unmoving so we have to really assist and force her hands to move.
She still has a feeding tube in her stomach, which is how she mainly eats. Hopefully, the tube will come out within the next 2 or 3 months since Sherrin is doing such a good job with swallowing soft foods. We hope that she will be able to eat harder foods within a month, which is great because her birthday is in April and I want her to eat a birthday cake. My mom has been testing out purees and blenders to mix Sherrin anything that she wants. We have started giving her pureed meatballs, pizza, macaroni, hamburgers, and vegetables.
Her arms have been moving quite a bit as well. Since she got the baclofen pump and an emergency in-bed root canal (she had an extremely painful rotting tooth that prevented her from wanting to move) in November, her body has improved. Her left arm is much more limber and stronger than her right. We often ask her to “fist-bump” our hands with hers or ask her to hit something in front of her using her arms. It’s very slow when she does this, but it does help and give her confidence.
My parents are also working on getting her to sit up on her own. She is either in her bed or wheelchair most of the time with her weight against the back. We want her to able to hold her own weight and sit without using a backrest. We do this by pushing her to the side of her bed so that her feet are dangling near the ground. One person supports Sherrin’s back and another holds her legs. When we did this other day, I was in charge of her legs. I try to bend her knees so that her feet are flat against the floor and I hold it there for about 10 seconds, then repeat. I want her to get used to being on the floor since she hasn’t touched the ground with her feet for 10 months. My mom held Sherrin’s torso and kept her from falling. Sherrin did an excellent job!
Her speaking is a little shakier than what I would want. Most of our conversations are her saying something very quietly and me asking, “What? I can’t understand you.” It’s draining to keep asking her what she’s saying and I think it’s very discouraging for her to keep repeating herself. But she has to keep trying to speak louder or else she’ll never get better.
Sherrin also says things that do not make sense. The other day she kept saying, “I need to see Zach. Where is Zach?” As far as I know, Sherrin is not close with anyone named Zach. She also kept saying, “I need to go to the mall. My friends are there and they need me to go.” Her mind is still spacey, which is normal for TBI victims. The more that we talk to her, the more sensible her thoughts will be.
You go, Sherrin!
Also, March is Brain Injury Awareness Month! Learn more about TBIs by checking out http://www.biausa.org/brain-injury-awareness-month.htm and seeing what you can do in your community to help other victims like Sherrin.