Day 10 – Caleb’s Big Play Day

Caleb's Dad ~ 20th November 2010

As we sat in a corner booth at Chili’s, I felt like we were there, but at the same time I felt like we were not there.  I felt very much in my head, away from where I was. I would come in and out at times, catching glimpses of the conversations going on around me, and then retreating back to the silence of my thoughts, then back to hearing the commotion of the crowd, then back to the  silence again.  

It felt so strange as I looked around at the people—the faces of many strangers talking about football, their past experiences, what they planned to do the next day…mundane things.  I thought about how just a few weeks ago that would have been us as well—living life with the expectation that nothing bad could ever happen to you, or your family, especially your children.  It’s amazing just how quickly life can change.

My wife and I had the chance to get out of the hospital tonight.  This is the second time that we have officially been “out” since the accident.  My mother-in-law came up to stay with us for a couple of days and spent some time with Caleb, so we took the opportunity to get a little shopping done, as well as go out for dinner.  Our conversation as you could imagine was quite limited.  The time spent was talking much about how we miss our other children, how we are thankful for having Caleb, what he is doing in therapy and what we still need to do.  We talked about life when we, one day, go home, and all that may entail.  And of course, we also spent some time just in silence, just being with each other.

This morning we woke up with Caleb being tired and unwilling to participate in his morning therapy. They schedule his physical therapy on Saturdays at 8:45am and so taking into account the time used to get him up and get him fed, our starting time is about 8:00am—way before Caleb’s usual wake up time at home. Caleb has kept pretty much the same sleep schedule since we have been here, getting up right before 9:00am, then going down for a nap and sleeping for a couple of hours, and then getting up to spend the rest of the day being active till about 8:30pm or 9:00pm.  So with that said, this morning Caleb was quite tired.  He didn’t really want to eat and he certainly did want to start working exercises on the mat.

It seemed our next therapy was perfect for our little tired Caleb…a new therapy that we had not experienced yet called Therapeutic Recreation. We went into a small playroom that had a little open play area, lined with low-to-the-knee shelves, all full of toys. The therapist asked us what Caleb would do if we placed him on the floor and laid toys all around him, leaving him to play on his own. We said that he would probably just sit there.  In all the play time up until this point whenever Caleb would be on the floor, he really wouldn’t engage that much with his toys.  We would sit with him moving his hands up to the toys, queuing him to move his hands and fingers over them. Usually at this point, he would engage his right hand a little, but not for long.

The therapist then told us that today we were going to try something a little different.  She asked about his play behaviors before the accident. “Before all this happened, did you play with him all the time?” “Well, no, not all the time, he did play on his own and with his brothers a lot.”  

The therapist was making the point that on the road back to normalcy Caleb needs to engage in self play and self entertainment again. So we laid a mat out on the floor and placed him in the middle of it.  We sat Caleb on the mat with legs stretched out in front of him. We marveled again about how well he was able to sit up on his own.  His balance has improved dramatically over the last week.  It was so amazing just to see him sitting up, able to correct his posture if he moved off balance.  

The therapist moved over to the toys that were neatly placed on the low sitting shelves and she dumped out a number of childhood favorites. Things like Lego blocks, cars, trucks, and one toy that I knew, under any normal circumstances, would make Caleb gleeful; a nice big Tonka dump truck. Caleb is like most little boys and certainly like his older brother, being crazy about cars, trucks, and especially any type of vehicle that they can take out and get in the dirt and mud.

I remember the morning of the outing to Fall Creek Falls. We woke up without a care in the world. We had purposefully decided that we were not going to stick to any certain schedule.  We didn’t care what time we got up, how long we waited to go somewhere, or what time we went to bed.  We were just there to be there…together.  In my mind I had already thought of a few things I had wanted to do that day.  

The night before when we arrived at our campground (at 2:00am from being lost), I noticed how beautiful the stars were at night.  Living in the city, it is hard to see the stars and it’s so easy to forget just how glorious and majestic they can be when you see them unencumbered by their manmade luminary counterparts.

Colby, Caleb and I walked the 50 paces or so to the little cabin across the road to buy our 2 bundles of wood for the camp fire, and as I looked up, the scene was breathtaking—literally millions and millions of stars were looking back at us, singing the praises of our God.  I thought immediately to the scripture that says that the heavens declare the glory of God.  When you see a sight like we saw that night, you inevitably say to yourself, how could they not!?

I knew right then what I wanted to do.  I planned to later that evening, after we spent time at Fall Creek Falls, and after we got back and grilled dinner over the campfire….I planned to take Colby and Caleb out with our sleeping bags, and spend some time lying out on the ground, just looking at the stars and talking to my sons about God.  

It saddens me to think that we never had the chance to be able to do that.  Perhaps we will one day.

After cooking breakfast on our newly purchased Coleman stove, we ate pancakes, eggs, and bacon in the cool of the morning, sitting together on an old picnic table across from the tent.  We laughed, smiled, giggled, and talked about the fun that we expected to come that day as we were getting ready to go to the Falls.

After we ate, I laid out a couple of plastic containers—one filled with newly heated water from the campfire and the other with fresh water from the pump nearby our tent.  It was time to clean up.  We sang a song together as I was in charge of washing and Colby and Caleb were in charge of rinsing, “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere…clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.” Caleb was more interested in splashing the water than he was with rinsing, and Colby though he was helping with the task, was also joining in some of the splashing fun.

Not long after we were done I poured the water to the ground.  Immediately the boys took off!  I wondered where they went.  It didn’t take any more than about 5 seconds to realize that they went and got their little dump trucks, bulldozers, and diggers.  They said, “Look dad, there’s mud…can we play it it? Pleeeeeeease!”

I looked at mom, already in agreement with their request.  Mom was a little concerned about shoes getting dirty, but quickly had a change of heart as she said, “Oh well, shoes will wash.”  And off they went; a full-fledged construction zone at the foot of the picnic table.

After the therapist laid the big dump truck at Caleb’s feet, I wondered what he would do with it.  I wondered if he would even see it. The therapist asked us to back away from him a bit and leave him alone with the toys—still lingering nearby of course in case he came off balance.  

We sat there watching him—his head moving back and forth, trying to see and fix his gaze as best as he could. His leg would twitch and shake as if the desire was there to move it, but he didn’t, choosing the comfort of balance and security over the curiosity of movement.  The therapist leaned over to him and gave him some queues, moving the truck closer to his line of sight.  I joined in and moved his hands up to touch the back end of the dump truck. The therapist changed his position by placing him on his knees, sitting him in a low kneel position—a position that Caleb played in a lot back at home. Again we watched and waited. 

And then to our surprise, after my wife and the therapist had started talking, movement began.  Caleb started pushing the dump truck on his own, slowly at first.  With both hands on the back of the dump struck he pushed outward, slowly moving himself off his center of balance.  I was amazed to see him push the truck that far!  I was a little concerned about his ability to move his arms back in, bringing himself back to his center of gravity.  

Fearing that he may give out in weakness and fall to his face, I placed my hand under him, ready to catch him if he fell.  And again, to your amazement, he pushed downward and pulled himself back in! We clapped and cheered and said, “Yay Caleb, you go little buddy!”  

And with that Caleb had a huge smile on his face.  Caleb knew that he had been able to actually play on his own and that with his movement forward, he didn’t fall, and I would imagine the thought was, “Hey that’s fun….let’s do it again.”  He was almost beside himself with laughter at this point.  With one of the largest smiles I had ever seen, he quickly moved his hands and pushed the truck out and in, out and in, out and in. 

Caleb was so happy that he had played with the truck. After we sat him on his bottom again, he started to move his hand up and down, patting his leg.  Again, he realized that he could do something that he could not do before, and he started smacking his leg, pretty hard! But the funny thing is he was laughing all the way through it.  I noticed that he tried to lift his other hand to do the same thing, but he was unable to have the same success.  But he laughed anyway.  

He knew that he had two things that he could do now that were fun, rolling a dump truck out and in, and smacking his leg.  After this, as he sat on the mat, we noticed him actually moving more.  Instead of that fearful twitching of the leg, almost deciding to turn, he actually moved his leg, turning himself slightly into another position, and slightly turning himself around.  

As he played with the Lego’s we noticed him not only using his right hand but also now using his left more, picking up blocks and placing them in the back of the dump truck.  Another victory for another day!  We are so proud of our little Caleb!

After break time, speech therapy was held in our room, as the therapist wanted to use Caleb as a “case study” to show another resident therapist some of their swallowing techniques. I thought it was kind of neat (and hilarious) that she picked Caleb to be the test study for how well a child can learn how to eat.  I heartily laughed and thought, “That’s my boy…my little eater!”  Colby is our picky one as we are barely ever able to get him to eat anything. Caleb on the other hand doesn’t miss a meal for nothing! J

Later in the day at occupational therapy, the notable thing that we thought was great was when the therapist decided to get Caleb to sit up a high kneel position, with his hands and elbows on a small bench that was about his chest level.  The idea was to get him to engage in playtime while sitting upright.  Caleb was not all that interested at first…that is, until the therapist pulled out a bottle of bubbles and started to blow bubbles down toward Caleb.

I told Caleb what they were… “Hey Caleb, look! Do you see the bubbles?  Come on little buddy, let’s pop ‘em!” His eyes immediately lit up with excitement.  As he smiled, he began to move his hands up and down, smacking the surface of the bench over and over.  He was certainly trying to pop the bubbles and was quite excited about the fact that he could move his arms the way he wanted.  

I grabbed his other hand and helped him in his game of bubble popping. I noticed that at times he would take over and try to use his left hand for popping.  Again, he has a hard time with his left hand, but every now and then he gains a little control over his hand and he is able to move it up and down.  He did a couple of times during his bubble popping fun time.

After occupational therapy, Caleb was still excited about the fact that he can now get his right hand going in a slapping motion.  We went to music therapy, and as always, as the therapist is singing and strumming her guitar, playing all the most popular kids tunes, the kids were all given musical instruments of all sorts—tambourines, shakers, jingle bells, and a number of other noise makers.

Caleb was given a drum this time, and as I was sitting there trying to get the drum stick positioned in his hand just right so he could try to hit the drum, he moved his hand up (breaking away from me and my futile efforts to get the stick in his hand), and he proceeded to hit his hand on the drum! I quickly got it!

He didn’t want the drum stick, he wanted to play the drum in a more traditional style!J  So off he went with that little hand, slapping away at the drum, again smiling from ear to ear. It is so exciting to see the joy in his face over the fact that he can now move in this way. You can tell that as he gains more control over his body, he gets more and more excited.

And speaking of his recent success in hand smacking, earlier as we were about to change his diaper, he was sitting in his hospital bed, looking up at us.  He was wearing only a diaper and a shirt, and the look on his face was classic.  He had that look of, “Are you going to get me?” He’s come to expect that from daddy, whenever daddy is around, especially when there is that much skin there for me to tickle.  

He began again to raise his hand and slap his right leg, laughing hard.  I chuckled, saying, “Easy there little buddy, don’t hurt yourself.” He wasn’t fazed a bit, but kept on laughing along as he smacked away.  I scooped him up in my arms and sat him down on the mat on the floor next to the bed. And tonight, like we do every night, we laughed, and we played; we tickled until we couldn’t laugh any more.  I straddled him over my tummy and let him ride me like a horse.  He loved it.

 In looking at the things that we would write down as the day’s successes, among them would be the fact that every time we see him play, especially in the evenings when he is playing with us, we always see him play a little harder, a little faster, a little more animated and entertained by his surroundings.  After our floor play time, after we laid him back in his bed, another thing happened that was probably the highlight of the whole evening.  He tried to sit up on his own! 

He moved his legs up, moving his body over toward his belly. He placed his hands flat on the bed, pushing with all of his might, getting himself up nearly into a low kneel position. I was amazed and fearful at the same time.  I am glad to see him moving so well and so strong, but if he keeps this up, we’re going to have to get him a crib soon. I’ll be afraid he’ll fall out!

I’ll go ahead and wrap up the post for tonight.  We have been so busy working with Caleb I have had very little time to write.  I have other day’s posts to get caught up with. I did want to mention a few things about some of the other children that we have been praying for. 

First I am sad to say that I got the news recently that baby Sophia passed away.  Her tiny little body had suffered so much.  Our hearts truly go out to the family in all the pain that they have had and are now going through.  The page they set up to give updates on Sophia can be found athttp://www.facebook.com/pages/Praying-for-Baby-Sophia/113208532065492 

I only found this page the other day.  I did not know the family but noticed that someone had tried to post notes about Sophia on our page, most likely to get a lot of prayers, and I obliged by reposting  a few times.  God bless you Sophia, and rest in the arms of Jesus.

Now, concerning the little boy down the hall, the one that I mentioned about crying himself to sleep often, I am glad to say that things have really changed for him over the last week.  

I found out after many of you started calling the hospital that due to hospital regulations, my posting about him on Facebook caused a bit of a stir with hospital personnel.  I found out that there is a lot more to the story that I didn’t know, and to make a long story short, he is doing very well now, and he is in a much better position than he was a week ago.  Thank you all so much for your prayers and concerns over him.  You really made an impact even here at the hospital with your outpouring of love.

Concerning little baby Thomas, I have not gotten any new news on him, except that after out time of prayer yesterday (from all the prayers on Facebook), his most recent heart surgery worked.  Things are better, but there is still a lot of danger—definitely someone to keep praying for.

As for Isaac, he continues to make small improvements each day.  Our hearts have really gone out to this family and we have grown to feel very close to them as we both struggle through each day being coaches and cheerleaders for our children in therapy. As I have mentioned before, one of the concerns that they had recently was that they were going to have to go home soon as Isaac had not been progressing very well in his recovery. I reported recently that all that had changed, and since he was showing signs of progression again, they approved him to be able to stay a few more weeks.  

Isaac’s hill of recovery is going to be much steeper than Caleb’s, so please continue to pray for him and his family.  And just to give you a glimpse into the family, Isaac has a older brother who is 10, who loyally stays with him and is just as close to him as he was before.  He also has a little sister, Emma, who is 3, who is a doll, and whose light and smile is an encouragement to all who is in the hospital. Mom and dad are the best and you can tell that they are doing everything they can for their son.

I walked over to Isaac’s room earlier just to see if the family might want some of the goodies that people had brought us.  As I slowly peeked into his room, I saw dad, in the hospital bed with his 9 year son, cuddling him.  Wow what a father. 

Our prayer concerns have not changed.  We want to still pray for Caleb’s sight, as well as his speech and ability to interact with his surroundings, especially using his left side.  Thank you all so much and God bless you all.

Blessings.

094Would you consider adding Caleb to your church and personal prayer lists? Also a fund has been set up to help offset Caleb's ongoing medical expenses and related costs. Thank you for your love and support! Donations via PayPal can be made by clicking here: 

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4 Comments

  1. Gayle Oliver

    November 22nd, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    The pictures you post in the updates are beyond words! … The joy is so evident! ..

    Big hugs to Caleb … and you and Tiffany … :)

    Much love and prayers ..

    Gayle

  2. Tammy Cagle

    November 22nd, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    so glad to get to read a post about how Caleb is doing. I didn’t realize how much I enjoy reading about his progress until you were not able to post for a few days. Thats ok though, I would rather you spend time with your family and help Caleb than post everyday. Hugs and kisses to that sweet little man. Prayers are still going up in New Johnsonville.
    So glad you finally got my package. Hope he enjoys all the things we sent him

  3. November 22nd, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Your love & devotion to Caleb are such a mirror-image of how God loves all of His children. Thank you for sharing the ‘inside story’ so openly with many of us who are ‘strangers’ (although we’re really family!)

    I’m especially moved by your willingness to spread Love beyond the four walls of Caleb’s room. When you’ve encountered Christ it’s so much easier to love freely, even in the midst of your own pain, concerns, and uncertain times.

    HE truly is working everything for your good and His glory…what a defining encounter this has been for all of us!

    Thank you for sharing your hearts and your sweet little man.

    In His Love,
    Rhonda C

  4. c ball

    November 23rd, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    I have been following your sons story every day…It is so amazing to see how far your little man has come,and I know that our god will give all back to him 100 percent….Last year my husband and I was away from our four children at Thanksgiving due to his Dad being in vanderbuilt and I Know exactly how you feel about being away from your other son…I will continue to keep caleb in my prayors and you and tiffany as well…..

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