Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Purpose

      I'm writing this as I watch yet another amazing soul massage Steve.  We've been blessed with our friend Karyn volunteering to come massage Steve as often as she can & now a dear woman named Michele is here to volunteer some of her services.  For those who don't fully understand ALS, the pain that is involved with your muscles deteriorating is sometimes unbearable.  Add the muscle spasms and lack of mobility and you have the recipe for misery.  While I try to stay on top of range of motion (stretching) & some massage; some days I just can't squeeze it all in.   While watching these incredible people work with Steve, it has become obvious this is their purpose.  They are so good with light touch & just the right amount of pressure to relax Steve.  I've been able to learn so many valuable skills from them & have felt more inspired to continue the pursuit of my purpose.

      It probably sounds weird that I'm almost 30 and talking about pursuit of purpose, but I believe some people's purpose changes constantly through life.  Currently my purpose is to be here for Steve as his caregiver & his wife.  The reason I know this is my purpose is that it makes me happy to be able to care for him & my desire to constantly want to learn more about how to help him.  So many people have suggested that I pursue nursing because of all the medical experience & knowledge I have gained while caring for Steve; however I don't believe it's my purpose to be a nurse for others; but honestly I'm so in the moment with Steve I don't know what my future purpose is. (Side note: I feel it's important to share that Steve has often wanted to have lengthy conversations with me about how I will be without him.  While some may find this morbid for those who know Steve, he has worried about me from the day we found out & this is his way to help him feel like he is helping me through the difficult situation.  He and I have talked at length and he has often said, "while you are trying to figure it out I'll be there with you sending signs."  It's an amazing experience to have such an honest conversation with your husband.  It's an amazing connection we are able to share & I appreciate his willingness to openly discuss this with me.)

     I know a lot of people often say that Steve is so lucky to have me, I'm not denying that, but most people don't think about how lucky I am to have Steve.  I don't just mean in that I have him as my best friend or the love I receive from him, but he taught me that what I was doing before isn't my purpose for my life.  He opened my eyes to truly enjoying all aspects of my life (even if it is cleaning up vomit).  I'm not saying care giving is always easy but at the end of the day I can go to bed knowing I did the best I could that day, that I truly made a difference, & a sense of satisfaction I never had while doing therapy.  

    I feel so blessed to have learned a new outlook on life and to be able to continue to learn new things about myself.  I am constantly growing and learning and proving to myself that I am capable of doing anything I put my mind to.  I have a history of struggling to believe in myself that thanks to so many incredible people coming into my life at the right time, I've been able to continually work on improvement in that area.  

   I also have noticed a shift in Steve himself.  When he first had to stop working due to ALS, he struggled with what would be his purpose.  During that time not only was he adjusting to an awful diagnosis but he felt like he would never have a purpose again.  It was amazing to see him decide to find a purpose and to put so much energy, even in his sickest moments, to continue to pursue his purpose; which is to spread awareness for ALS, living life, & loving.  The day we decided to begin filming our documentary Steve began handling life with ALS with a beautiful grace that I can only wish to have half of in my life.  

   I sometimes have so many thoughts that I feel like my writing is unclear and scattered.  I'm not always the best with grammar and proper punctuation but I still feel so driven to write and share my thoughts.  It's that pull of energy to pursue certain things that helps me feel at ease about always finding my purpose.

Speaking of lots of thoughts at once I have several updates since my last blog. 

After spending most of August and beginning of September in the hospital we were able to spend close to a month home until September 25th Steve had some respiratory distress and had to be taken to our trusty hospital Emory Johns Creek by ambulance.  Gave me a big scare  but it was a known he was going to the hospital the next day due to the infections still being detected in the sputum earlier that week that we weren't totally surprised.  So we spent a full month with our family (the ICU staff & respiratory teams at Emory Johns Creek really are now considered friends/family) & have been home now for 3 weeks.  While in the hospital we got Steve's feeding tube switched from a G(food goes into stomach) to a G/J (where food can go into stomach or directly into intestines) that way we could begin to give him tube feeds again & attempt to ween from the TPN (IV food) some so his liver would get a break.  We also worked on mobility as due to stiffness, lack of use, & some injuries became a problem.  We have a physical therapist at home who has made AMAZING progress with Steve & his mobility.  :)  The infectious disease doctor put Steve on a very strong antibiotic regimen, that they use as a last resort which successfully kicked the MRSA & made the pseudomonas "light growth". Just a quick recap Steve has had pseudomonas & MRSA in his lungs for close to 4 months.  He is still on these antibiotics & the pseudomonas is still growing lightly but MRSA hasn't come back, so that's progress.  After handling Steves trahe care since May I can say that his secretions have become much more manageable & I can see progress.  

Since being home we've been working on getting Steve back in his wheel chair so he can get back to painting & we can get out & about again.  He's incredible and has made huge strides and improves daily.  

For those interested in Steve's paintings the website is up.  www.driveforacure.com go check it out & stay tuned for shirts & greeting cards :)

On Friday (November 8th) we got out of the house & went to the Michael Franti & Spearhead show at the tabernacle.  It was so uplifting to get to see Michael & Sara again & get to attend the concert.  He brought us out on stage for our song Life is better with you  Steve stayed in his chair for 6 hours total and did amazing.  Half way dancing on stage it hit Steve that he had pushed it a little and he said he felt sick.  We got off stage I gave Steve some meds, suctioned him, & hugged Sara & Michael goodbye mid song & we left a little early.  It was amazing how accommodating everyone was to us & made us feel so special.  Steve said he could feel the love from Michael, Sara, the people back stage pre show, & the audience----& it made him feel amazing.  It's a surreal feeling to know so many people care about us & love us.  Michael & Sara are amazing to allow others to experience that same feeling through Do it For the Love .  Another amazing thing from each time Michael invites us on stage creates amazing awareness.  The show was written up , here in the creative loafing. Check it out. My mom was in town for the weekend, which was amazing to have her there to experience all the love & to have her help. We also got to spend some time with our dear friends Karyn & Lisa & their family whom we have grown to love like they are our own family.  All in all another amazing experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Here's some photos from our fun night out with our favorites! :)  








I want to also thank everyone who has been coming to visit us.  We love company & each visit helps uplift us, so please keep them coming!! :)

I know it's been a while since I blogged and this is a lot to fit in one blog but wanted to send a quick something out to yall.
Love each of you lots & lots & lots. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

We love you all. Lots. So here's an overdo update.

Well a lot has happened since I last wrote & I owe y'all updates: 

Been a bit busy soooo will be probably just updates this blog but because we love all of you who follow & support us so I owe y'all some words :)

So for starters August 14th Steve ended up back in the hospital, & was discharged home the 29th, starting to feel like Emory Johns Creek is our summer home with how much time we have spent there this summer.  

We went in initially because Steve began having some serious stomach issues where he was rejecting all feedings and became severely dehydrated and malnourished.  Upon entering the hospital we were also concerned with possible aspiration from some frequent vomiting.  Because of Steve's condition, frequent hospital visits, & dehydration there was no finding a vein to get an IV or any blood so they decided on a central line.  Steve's had this previous hospital visits with no problems but because he was so compromised going in the line ended up causing a pneumothorax (collapsed lung).  After a few days it was determined he also had pseudomonas & MRSA (either again or still depending on how you look at it).  So we had a lot going on. 

They began Steve on TPN (IV feedings) which has been the most amazing help!  He is doing the best (now) he has in the past 2 months.  Obviously we still have lots of work to do but he is showing vast improvements.  The stomach issue was determined to be gastroparesis, which in short is where his stomach is unable to process food.

Steve was sent home with a PICC line for us to continue the TPN & continue administering antibiotics. (I seriously could be a nurse with all this experience.)  This has been the most strength & weight Steve has gained in months so we are pleased.  We are going to be (once he gains a little more strength) be doing a procedure to get his feeding tube changed from a G to a J.  Theory is it is not a dangerous procedure that will move the feedings lower in the gut so his body will be able to handle "food again" & we can discontinue TPN.

Steve still has an infection we are treating in his lungs however his lung doctor is pleased & believes Steve is almost done beating this (hopeful).  He sleeps with a trilogy on pressure support settings (meaning he takes the breath & the machine helps give him some extra air) & is finally sleeping more through the night (Thank the good Lord, whew).  He got as low as 83 lbs, which when you get that malnourished your body can't fight off infections which is why he had such a severe case of it, since gaining 5 lbs & possibly even more since being home his body seems to be fighting things better.  Obviously we still need all prayers, good vibes, positive thoughts etc that he continues to improve & build strength with no more road blocks!

In other news:
Special thanks to Jeremy Brown & everyone who purchased some of Steve's art the Drive art show was a great success.  Due to popular demand & the fact that Steve has finally been feeling up for being out of bed we plan to make more paintings this week---so if you are interested in purchasing one act quick, they don't last long. :) The 'Drive' art show promo video

While we were in the hospital we had a very special visit from Michael Franti, his partner Sara, & good friend Leah.  It was a blessed visit & one that I will never forget.  So much love flows from them & to them & we are so grateful & blessed to have them.  Upon that visit Michael & Sara also gave us the blessing of helping us hire some help at home for a little relief for me! Amazing.  They are truly the most genuinely kind hearted, warm. & caring souls.





Also check out their video for Do it for the Love foundation Amazing foundation & an amazing video highlighting our "joyful experience" it has been with Michael & Sara.

Also, very excited to announce that the Hope for Steve documentary should be coming out soon.  We haven't officially released the trailer although it has "leaked" so if you look hard enough you may find it.  Stay tuned though shortly we will be releasing.  We are also looking for musicians who are willing to allow us to use your talents in the documentary if interested contact me & I will forward your info on to our producers 

Ok I once again need to thank ALL of you for the love, support, random acts of kindness, running errands for us, donations, prayers, & all around awesomeness.  Each of you help us share our message each day & continue to energize us for this battle.  After all we are all in this crazy ride together.

Lots of love!!! xox


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

optimistic realism

I realize that I have been in slack mode with blogging again, however I assume my reasoning will be accepted by y'all. :)

I wanted to write some quick thoughts down while I had a few free minutes (Don't get many of those these days & it's hard being the only caregiver sometimes---however I wouldn't give up spending each moment with Steve any day)

For starters I want to say that watching Steve deteriorate has never been easy, obviously, but I have always found a way to focus on the positive remaining and the things ALS hasn't robbed from him.  Seeing that the progression is this far along lately the list of things it has taken from him is longer than what is left.  With that being said this is the perfect time for us to give up, throw in the flag and be defeated, but that's just not Steve & my style & like Steve Gleason says, "No white flags."  So I wanted to write that while we are facing this harsh reality of now having more bad days than good we still find a way to find good in every single day; in fact we try to find multiple good moments in every day.  It's not always easy some days it seems impossible to focus on the silver lining but if there is anything this has taught us---sitting & feeling sorry for ourselves, complaining, or being defeated doesn't make things better. To put it simply if you seek out something positive more positive happens.   

Here's Steve once a thriving successful 20 something now a 30 year old stuck with his wife doing just about everything for him.  Spending 2 of the last 3 months in the hospital is not something that was planned, having to cancel travel plans wasn't planned, neither was having Steve lose his voice and ability to eat, his ability to go to the bathroom without assistance, his ability to sleep peacefully at night without worrying his breathing is going to stop, the ability to hold his phone, the ability to sit up for certain periods at a time, the ability to hug his loved ones, or pet his dogs.  None of that was planned however despite each new things ALS threw at us we somehow learned to accept that as our new reality and move forward.  As the list continued to get more things he can't do vs. things he can we had to learn to continue that process.  Steve may have his body being taken away from him but truly his spirit has remained the same.  Of course like every human he has his moments of sadness & anger but his ability to overcome these is incredible.  I also, have my complete melt down moments but am reminded that if he can pull himself together so can I.  Some days I am just thankful to have another day with Steve & that alone is enough to the give me the strength & the happy to get through my day.  

I hope that along with living life to the fullest, not taking a minute for granted, & loving one another;  people can learn to use that: no matter how bad a day you have you can dig deep to find something to be grateful for each day.  Something to keep you going and something to keep you positive.  

We had another unexpected trip to the ER last night which although I was a bit worked up about I was ultimately glad we went to get Steve the help and that he wasn't admitted.  Whew.  Few things most people don't think about is that with ALS comes a lot of other "medical problems"; infections being one huge one of those.  When your body is fighting against itself it opens itself to all those bugs that want to attack & the weaker you get the more infections come.  Steve has handled all of these with such class & this one is no different.  Steve has battled frequent urinary infections since almost the beginning of his diagnosis & sometimes he gets an unexplained blockage & infection that will end him up in the ER.  This one however has been the worst I've seen and they sent him home with a home catheter and instructions to follow up with his urologist.  As with everything Steve is taking this in and learning to accept it as reality to continue to move forward.

While we are facing the harsh reality of ALS and all the things that come with it we are choosing every day to face the reality with optimism.  

Just a few updates, things to share, & upcoming things:

-->Before Steve ended up back in the hospital July 12th Steve & I were enjoying some time in Charleston/Folly Beach :)  Wanted to share a few photos of our time we did get before ending up in there ER & driving through the night all night to make it back to our trusty Emory Johns Creek.  We spent another 2.5 weeks there so it was worth the stressful drive to get back to a hospital we trust where we are surrounded by everyone who loves & supports us at home.  




-->With all the infections, some extremely bad stomach reactions to antibiotics, & simply having ALS Steve has lost way too much weight.  I am currently working my butt off to get weight put back on him and make my own shakes for him daily that include such a large amount of calories & protein & healthy stuff---however any all all recommendations of course are always welcome.  We are always willing to try anything.  Steve's body "rejects" all formula foods so I have to use all "real" food.  With the vitamix & lots of patience I am able to get pretty much anything the right consistency to use in the pump (recently unable to "handle" bouless feeds as well).  

-->With that our dear friend Raymond Adams, who has taken so many beautiful photos for us, took on a heavy truth project of showing what ALS is doing to Steve's body.  These photos are a true amazing way to see the reality of ALS, they make me cry each time I look at them, but it's so important to show what ALS is doing to Steve's body---makes it even more incredible that he still has such a strong fight & loving spirit left. :) 


--> Steve, myself, & our friend Jeremy Brown from Love is Art have been working on some projects together to help promote ALS awareness, Steve's drive for life & our love for art.  His art gallery is coming up , August 24, which is going to be amazing & it is our goal to be there for it! 

--->One last random note :)  Since I constantly "preach" ;) about living life to the fullest I have decided to fulfill a random bucket list item of something I've always wanted to do but never allowed myself to do it.  I'm allowing my hair to dread. :)  Yes. you read that correctly.  If I don't practice what I preach what kind of teacher am I really? :)  So I am fulfilling a life long "I've always wanted to do that."  For multiple reasons; because I can, to prove to others that it's ok to take a risk in life no matter what others think even in silly things, & do do those things you've always wanted to.  :)  

An extra thank you to everyone who has helped with yet another transition back home.  Our time out of the house these days is truly limited until Steve gets some strength built back so to all my errand runners & everyone who brings me treats---thank you.  To all the new donations also, thank you---the new medicine & equipment added of course comes with the added cost, so thank you all for the help!

Lots of love always. <3 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Time to keep moving...

Been wanting to update y'all since my last blog.  Monday June 3rd Steve was released from the hospital!  We were full of every emotion; fear, excitement, happiness, frustration, etc.  We however knew once we got home that we would work it out, we always seemed to.  We came home to a clean house thanks to a great group of friends & with the help of them got all the medical equipment organized right away also.  

Feeling the combination of totally unprepared and totally prepared we tried to stay calm, on the way to bed however Steve began to panic and feel like he wasn't able to breathe.  I tried to settle & comfort him but without success and eventually called for the ambulance.  In this situation it is better to be safe than sorry and after 15 minutes I had 15 guys standing in my room.  I kind of blushed and then said, "uh there are a lot of you, anyway we can have just one person check him out."  Turns out his oxygen was fine (97) but his blood pressure & pulse were through the roof (typical anxiety attack).  The EMT were both so nice & stayed with us until Steve felt more comfortable and stable.  

After that little "scare" and the fact that the pulse-ox reader my mom ordered us wasn't delivered yet  I went to buy a back up pulse ox reader.  (For those who don't know what a pulse ox reader is---it's a reader you put on your finger and it reads what your oxygen level is & what your heart rate is).  This has been our biggest tool as any time since being home Steve has felt uneasy we put the reader on him to let him know how he really is doing.  I would recommend peace of mind to anyone so if you are an pALS or cALS (person or caregiver with ALS) and know a trach is in your future go ahead and plan to get one. 

Now 3 weeks being home I feel comfortable saying we are "settled" & "adjusted".  It was a hard process for me personally learning to feel comfortable and prepared for all of the new caregiving responsibilities, balancing out Steve's anxieties, and trying to get him used to our normal organic natural made shakes, put weight back on him, etc.  I at first felt a bit like I was going to go out of my mind but I have to admit a lot of my stress was silly.  

Our first day out of the house just happened to be the same weekend my old college roommates surprised me & came to visit for the weekend.  It was so nice to have the three extra girls here to help me for our first adventure out.  A friend of Steve's (Matthew Moore) put together a fundraiser for Steve, a golf tournament at St. Ive's so it was nice to be able to go swing by; see, thank everyone, & catch up for a little bit.  It was such a great first trip out because not only do the funds mean the world to us (especially now) but how cool is it that Steve's first trip out was him being surrounded by so much love & support!  





Side note---can I just say what a treat it was to see my college roommates; Jen, Ali, & Cori.  Those girls & I have been through so much & it was great that even after 3 years it's been since we've seen each other that we were able to pick up like no time was missed.  That's a gift to have with friends & I'm blessed the girls cared enough about Steve & me that they wanted to come visit & pitch in to help any way they could.  I of course (like I do with anyone that hangs around me long enough;)) put them to work  & they were great help!  



Since leaving the house Steve & I have picked back up on our normal "get out & about" routine.  Running errands, walks, sitting on the back porch, movies, visits, etc.  Getting out as much as Steve can handle it.  The thing is before this hospitalization Steve & I traveled a lot because it kept him going.  He does better when we aren't just sitting at home.  We kept busy to keep Steve going & to keep having fun & make memories.  After this hospital visit we didn't know what to expect or if we would be able to have that back.  The first 2 weeks were a little difficult because of that reason, but once we left the house and realized that again Steve does better out & about things began to fall in order.

We had some visiting nurses come help us transition home but as their time runs out & we learn that we don't qualify for any in home nursing care we are even more motivated to get back into a routine of being on the go.  Steve & I had a long much needed and a little difficult conversation about important decisions for the future.  One conclusion was that although we will not be able to travel as intense as we have in the past we will continue to travel as much as we can.  The prospect of this makes us both excited and full of hope. 

Steve has never been one to allow ALS to stop him from doing the things he wanted and I knew this would be no different however was unsure of how much he "could do".  I'm so proud of his fight & determination.  It never ceases to amaze me that just when I don't know if he still has it in him to get through the next challenge that ALS hands he does it with stride.

I have learned a lot through these 3 weeks that I am grateful that I am constantly learning about myself and life through this whole "experience".  I am reminded that I can handle things and shouldn't doubt myself, I am stronger than I give myself credit sometimes.  I am also reminded to let go of the "small stuff", when we were home I was so worried about who was coming and at what time, that I let the visiting nurses and visits from friends overwhelm me. There were plenty of other "little" things like being "on time", having everything in perfect order, etc bother me.  I often get "preachy" about not sweating the small stuff & here I was sweating all the small stuff.  Grateful for the reminder to chill out ;) 

There have been so many people reaching out to help financially & with things around the house. From the friends in my home town who did fundraisers for us (Kate & team doing the color me fun run, Kylie doing the yard sale, & Jen selling candles for me).  Also, thanks to everyone who helped Steve & I get his eye gaze up and running.  He is slowly getting used to it & hopefully soon will be a pro. :) Another special thanks to team Gleason for hooking us up with this gadget! 


Another side note driving home last week, Fox 5 called and wanted to do an interview with us about our story and our response to the 790 radio controversy.  We of course are always glad & willing to share our story & always hoping that anything will help spread ALS awareness!  check out the interview :)

All in all I have to sum up saying that I am so excited and relieved that we have reached "settled" status, that we are done with "home rest" & that we have begun planning plenty of trips. :)  Also, to all those who have asked---we are okay & love visitors.  So please text & make plans & if I don't text you back odds are I got side tracked so text me again :) Your continued support & outreach is amazing & we are forever grateful.  Each of you have a special place in our hearts.  

Lots of love, enjoy every minute of life & Just keep swimming. ;) 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The roller coaster ride that is ALS

I am way beyond over do for a blog.  For those of you who are unaware while visiting family in PA Steve began feeling very sick we cut the trip a little short and immediately made a doctor appointment for when we returned to GA.  Upon going to Steve's doctor he looked at us after checking Steve out and said, "You need to go the ER, Steve has aspiration pneumonia."  

Of course the words Pneumonia & ALS together aren't something you want to hear.  Obviously scared but not truly understanding the extent of the pneumonia we came to our favorite hospital Emory Johns Creek on May 9th.  Here we are June 2nd still here & it has been an up & down emotional roller coaster since the minute we walked in.  Wanted to share a bit of our journey for those who don't fully understand just how adding any other health complication to ALS can be deadly.

Upon arriving they informed us Steve had an extreme case of the aspiration pneumonia.  For those who don't know what the aspiration part mean---it simply means something that Steve has swallowed whether it be mucus/food/drink/vomit/etc has gone to his lungs and settled there.   We were full of nothing but questions at this point.  We thought it had happened when Steve had gotten sick from a tube feed 2 weeks prior how could it be an extreme case by that  point and the longer we stayed the more answers we received.  They began treating the infection right away with strong antibiotics and breathing treatments.  They got him on a healthy feeding routine that his body was accepting, and began what we thought was the process of recovery. 

We had a pulmonary doctor  visit and suggest that he thinks Steve's ALS had progressed enough that it was time for him to get the tracheostomy done.  Of course Steve & I both are thinking he is
 not ready for that & I in a simple and nice way tell him to leave.  The morning of May 14th Steve woke up in respiratory distress.  I have never seen him have such a hard time with his breathing---I immediately call the respiratory team to come.  One of our favorite Joyce came and did the NT suction (Suction through nose to lungs) on Steve which he has been getting to help get some of the secretions out of his lung. His reaction and her concern made me immediately call Steve's parents to get there right away.  Joyce went to call the doctor and nurse to come in the room and at that very moment as I was reassuring Steve he was okay and he was looking at me with scared eyes, they suddenly rolled in the back of his head and he became unresponsive.  A lot is a blur but I know Steve's parents, doctors, nurses, etc all come running in the room and next thing I know I'm listening to them struggle to intubate and put him on a ventilator.  The same doctor that I told to leave as he didn't know anything about Steve was the same doctor who had saved his life and came to hug me after to tell me, "We got him in time--he will be okay."  They obviously say getting off the vent for an ALS patient is always tricky. So they began aggressively weening him to assure his body didn't learn to rely on the vent and still did some work.  

Steve was doing so well so May 17th he got off the ventilator.  He was doing fantastic breathing on his own with minimal oxygen support.  He was smiling, talking, and able to cough up the residual secretions he had remaining.  We were so excited when we were leaving the ICU the 18th to head to a regular room.  Steve was so strong through this after he asked what had happened and I explained it to him, we immediately learned to communicate in a new way & he was still smiling & squeezing my hand saying he was ready to beat this.  

Sunday morning May 19th Steve & I had just finished watching church online and we were talking about how excited we were to see our dogs in a couple days, because according to doctors we were headed home very soon!  Suddenly with no explanation Steve reported he was feeling short of breath, got the nurse we hooked him up to a pulse ox reader it was 94 so we called respiratory.  Before anyone could even get back Steve looked at me and in the clearest voice he has used he said, "I love you & I'm so sorry if I can't beat this."  Suddenly his eyes rolled in the back of his head and he again became unresponsive.  I ran out screaming this time, and again in a blur the room is full of people and machines trying to get Steve stable, I black out for some of the chaos after hearing them say they no longer had a heart beat.  The next thing I remember is sitting in a chair with a nurse holding me as I cry hysterically and asking her if he's okay.  She said they were working but as of now he had a heart beat, I stand up weak knees and all and follow them as they wheel him to the ICU again.  Thankfully in the blur I was able to get Steve's parents to be there and right as I heard them paging a code blue to Steve's ICU room Steve's mom grabbed me so I didn't fall out of my chair again.  I hear them getting the paddles & saying clear when a doctor makes us go to a conference room.  Hearing him tell me, "We lost him & we won't be getting him back,"  was an unacceptable thing where I then yelled for him to go fix it.  I may or may not have added some colorful words during that, reports were all different on exactly how I worded that.  It felt like forever but they finally came back and reported they had him stabilized.  We all rush immediately to him and again I'm looking at him with such awe of his fight and spirit that he made it through another respiratory failure and is still alive.  

I immediately demand answers of everyone without a logical explanation for hours.  They are having me sign all kinds of paperwork for a central line and other consents and all the while still not knowing will he recover from this, is there brain damage, will he be able to breathe on his own again, etc.  The remainder of that day they have him heavily medicated so he can rest while they continued to evaluate him in every realm.  As I sat in that room I cried the entire rest of that day and night and kept thinking of how amazing of a feeling it is to know that when he knew that he was taking his last few breaths he still was able to muster up the strength to tell me he loved me.  My emotions were so mixed; I was so heart broken that he was back in the ICU, back on a ventilator, & that he had to experience so much trauma but also so overwhelmed with gratitude that he was still alive and with me.  Needless to say I didn't sleep much that night as they were in working on him through the night and lots of our favorite hospital staff stopped in to give me love.  

It was then that I really relied on our support system to lift me up with all their prayers, love, kind words, & support.  The cards, the messages, the emails, the phone calls, the facebook shout outs, the photos of Steve, the viral reaction of his video, etc.  All of that helped me get through the next few hard days of watching him be so confused & scared of how he ended up back on the ventilator.

The morning after this horrible day the doctor and respiratory team both talk to me again about now the absolute necessity of the trach.  I am tearful with both the doctor and respiratory therapist and overwhelmed with the feeling of responsibility and regret that I didn't listen to his first encouragement to get the trach.  They all tell me that it was only fair to Steve to give his body a chance to see if he could go without and that also with him doing so well they had high hopes he wasn't in desperate need.  They reiterate that most people who end up with a trach are usually doing it because there is no other choice.  They explain that without the trach if they were to remove the vent they didn't for see him making it through the week but with the trach they can ween him faster and assure they can keep the secretions from blocking his airway.  Now Steve & I have had these hard conversations & even happened to have completed an advanced directive with the social worker 3 days prior. So the answer was obviously yes.  I however, was so heartbroken that Steve didn't get to make the decision on his own.  

They decided to give his body a few days to rest before the surgery because of them having to resuscitate him & schedule it for later in the week.  The days in between I would try to explain to Steve in between moments of him being highly medicated what was going on and would get some positive reaction to him understanding, but it was extremely difficult to know for sure how he was going to respond.  The surgery itself went without any problems---they all said he was a great patient for a trach and it actually looked pretty. After his surgery we sorted through medication reactions, anxiety, & sadness got him weened off the ventilator again and on Saturday May 25th he was finally alert enough to ask me "What happened?"  

As I explained to Steve all that had gone on in that week after a few tears he was able to tell me, "Okay well guess we will learn how to live this way now."  He accepted it so well and was encouraged as I showed him all the love and support he had been receiving.  It's amazing how in sync Steve & I actually are as far as communicating.  It's obviously a frustrating experience to go from being able to talk and having ALS take yet another thing away from you and rely on my lip reading skills (while in the hospital that is thanks to Team Gleason & Elizabeth Chopton we are set up with some awesome equipment at home to help Steve be able to still communicate the way he likes to).  Despite some frustrating "wait what" times we have really worked out our own communication skills. 

As of today we are in a regular room just waiting for them to say for sure if our discharge date is tomorrow or Tuesday.  Steve has done well with speech he is able to use the Passy Muir (speaking) valve to say some words & they say as he continues to use it he will build up his strength.  Steve is allowed to swallow some thickened liquids & some special ice cream which is a blessing as some trach patients aren't allowed anything by mouth.  Despite some understandable anxiety Steve has handle this with the same grace he has everything else ALS has handed him.  In fact he made it through all last night & today not even needing to consider any anxiety medication (he has a bad reaction to most of them anyways) and is very peaceful.  I have learned trach care in every realm---cleaning, changing, suctioning, etc & feel very confident that I will be able to take good care of him at home. 

Reflecting on all that has happened I have learned so much both medically and emotionally. 

For starters, knowing how much I love school despite student loans I will probably somehow end up in the medical field after this.  I am so comfortable with taking care of these situations and am fascinated to continue to learn more.  I have learned a great deal about Steve's body & what ALS is doing to it, how to read his body, and how to work with him.  I have also learned to accept help this month.  Normally when people would ask me if I needed help with the exception of close friends helping me clean or bringing me a supply here & there, I would typically turn people away.  I've learned that not only is it okay to accept help but it also allows those that are providing the help to feel good and like they are doing something.  I never had any doubt that Steve & I are loved & that we have an amazing support group, but the way that all of you whether you have actually met us or not came together to support us has been incredible.  It's the most encouraging and amazing feeling to have so many people care about us.  I know I always say that I can't put into words how much it means because it means that much, however, since I'm working on my writing so I can finally finish this book I've been working on I am going to try.  You know the feeling of someone remembering something you like that you only mentioned in conversation & them surprising you with it + the feeling of going on an amazing vacation to somewhere you have always dreamed of going + seeing a friend you haven't seen in a really long time + the feeling you get when you see your dog after a long days work + when a stranger tells you that you look pretty today when you really didn't even get ready that day + getting to hug the person you love after a vacation + getting a big job promotion= how amazing your love & support makes us feel.  :)  I never want to hear another thing about people saying there is no good left in the world, because we are living proof of receiving blessings on an hourly basis sometimes not just daily.  There is so much amazing & good in the world & if we all focus on it & spread it maybe one day there will be no bad left.  ;)  

I also want to add that Emory Johns Creek has been amazing of course spending close to a month somewhere you won't be happy with everything but after working in a hospital and having family members in hospitals, I will say this has been the best hospital visit I've ever seen.  They all put up with my melt downs, my extreme OCD about Steve's care, my pestering to learn things, my excessive questions, & have shown us love more than it just being a job but that they actually care!  Honestly if you ever God forbid have to spend time in a hospital come here.  

Now I don't believe in coincidences but for sayings sake, I don't believe it was any coincidence that Steve has spent the entire month of ALS awareness month in the hospital.  Since Steve has gotten diagnosed he has made it his mission that he was going to bring awareness to this disease and he was going to fight it with every ounce of energy he has.  He always said he wanted to motivate others to continue to overcome hardships no matter what the circumstances.  Our following has increased a great deal while he was in the hospital and the video he wanted to go viral has gotten close to 8,000 views.  Our wedding video is close to 10,000 & HopeforSteve has close to 4,000 likes.  The fact that so many people care enough about our story that they share it is such an amazing feeling.  The love Steve & I have helps us through this crazy roller coaster & it is a blessing when we hear how it inspires others.  That's really what life is all about isn't it---Loving one another, encouraging one another, & helping one another when they really need it. 

Thank each of you for the support & prayers & to all my little helpers who have brought me goodies to the hospital, who have helped clean our house, taken care of our dogs, visited to lift our spirits, sent surprises in the mail, & who have reached out to help with all kinds of other amazing things.  You are all blessings & we are so grateful to have each of you in our lives.  If I haven't said this enough already we sincerely love all of you. <3  



PS:
Make this Viral for Steve
link to our news story with WTAE Pittsburgh Action News
Our story written in the daily courier a PA local newspaper

Monday, April 29, 2013

Some days are better than other days...

I try to keep most of my posts positive because I try to keep most of my thoughts positive, but sometimes I have to write real blogs for y'all because of how real ALS is.  

I have to say that watching a loved one deteriorate is probably one of the hardest things to do...but add any addition pain for your loved one & it turns pretty horrible.  Steve has been having some issues with throwing up after meals, but never consistent enough for me to count it as something in his food.  My only other connection I can think of is phlegm.  Steve, like most ALS patients, has an excess amount of phlegm but as of late it seems worse.  It has a cough some days but it's not consistent and there are no other signs of it being a bug.  After speaking with his doctor this is one of those "can happen with ALS" explanations.  I honestly try not to think about what bad can or is going to happen in the future, I like to focus on the present moment; and focus on the positive that still remains & positive in the future.  Just on days when Steve is sick on top of ALS I catch myself fearing too much of the negatives that could happen.  It's a good thing that I pay attention to assure he gets the proper care but even after talking to doctors and assuring he has all things that can help if I'm still thinking of it---I have to work double to change my thoughts off the negative. 

On days like these I tend to pull the whole "oops I forgot to drink anything in the last 5 hours oops did I eat today?" & it makes me think of all the other people out there taking care of their loved ones (whether it be ALS or something else) & the importance of the caregiver taking care of themselves.  The reality is how well can you take care of someone if you aren't taking care of yourself.  Although I truly put a lot of energy into taking care of myself I forget & wanted to write on this in hopes to remind all the care givers to make sure they take time to care for themselves.  

One thing I have found that has been my most helpful "take care of me" tool has been yoga. Now I am still not to where I want to be with my practice, but seeing progress always makes me happy. :)  I originally started yoga to help with strength to lift Steve, balance for when I do lift him, as well as to help with any extra pain affiliated with all the lifting & moving.  I never knew that it would become more.  First of many is it's my reminder to make time for me---I do yoga at home with myyogaonline.com so that if Steve has any sort of emergency I'm there.  However, it is the time where he gives me that he won't ask for help with an itch, getting a drink, etc.  It has also been another one of those reminders not to doubt myself.  I used to think a lot that I wasn't capable of certain things, as I have so often proved myself  that I am in fact capable with taking care of Steve; yoga has done the same.  It's a wonderful reminder that with determination, the right attitude, & practice I can do anything. Surprisingly I find it even helps me get more centered.  I am VERY scattered brain (not negative talk, just true;)) & with all that goes into caring for someone with ALS it has gotten worse---so yoga helps me get centered and focused to where I find myself becoming more mentally clear.  I'm grateful I didn't let other people's negative view of what yoga could be stop me from taking my own journey with it.  It's helped me a great deal along with journaling, praying, mediation, & vent sessions with friends.  

It's so important that we all find our own self care technique & you'll be surprised to find that when you start in one area you will continue to carry through in others.  IE: working out can lead to eating right which can lead to more energy to do better work, etc....

To all of my caregivers out there, please remember that you are valuable & you need to make sure you take care of you. AND---I will always try to practice what I preach :)

Also, please be praying for Steve.  When putting him to bed tonight he seemed to be on the mends, but please be praying he continues to feel healthy & we don't have any more set backs.

A huge thank you to every single person that follows our story, shares it with others, shares your stories with us, shows us love, supports us, &  surrounds us with prayers & warm thoughts.  You all reenergize us when we feel low & help continue to lift our spirits in hard times.  Lots of love to everyone! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Life is better with you

For those of you who follow us on facebook or twitter you already know about our amazing Wanee experience but I wanted to write a quick blog about the best weekend, ever.

Steve & I as most of you know are always up for a good adventure; and last year we attended the Wanee music festival and enjoyed every minute of it.  We knew that it was going to be a lot more difficult this year but we still wanted to attempt it.  When we saw the line up we of course decided right away we WERE going to pull it off.  Steve & I tweeted Michael Franti a few times; we are both big fans of Michael Franti & Spearhead (if you haven't heard of them---check them out you will love them) letting him know how excited we were to see him perform & asking to meet him.  Being the kind soul that he is, he responded that he would love to meet us.  Of course we were pumped then! :)

Michael went above any expectations we could have ever had.  So after communicating with both his manager & tour manager we had passes lined up & plans to spend some time with him after the show, and that we could venture back stage before to find a good spot for Steve to watch the show.  Right away as we walked in we were greeted warmly by Hossain, his tour manager, who told us Michael & his partner Sara were on stage & we could head that way.  As we saw Michael & Sara for the first time we were greeted with a smile you'd expect from an old friend with big hugs to go along.  They both began to tell us about their experience with catching up on our journey and after sharing some tears they continued to ask more details about our story.  We spent the whole 30 minutes before show time talking with them explaining Steve's diagnosis & sharing how we got married.  You could tell immediately that they genuinely cared and were touched by not only our story, but seeing Steve & me out enjoying our lives.  They invited us to watch the show on stage---which added to the already awesome experience. It was incredible to watch Steve's face light up while watching the show.

Neither of us expected what happened during the show to be a reality.  Before I get into that let me preface by saying Michael Franti & Spearhead put on an amazing show---so much energy, they literally brought out the sunshine & had the whole crowd dancing & having a good time. As Michael started playing "Life is Better With You", he then brought us out to introduce us to the crowd.  The feeling of having thousands of people cheer on Steve & me as Michael told our story was so overwhelming and amazing.  It moved both Steve & me to tears. Looking out in the crowd I saw we weren't alone. It was such an unreal moment to hear someone as well known as Michael understand what Steve & I have been trying to accomplish.  We try our best daily to spread awareness & to spread the message of living life to the fullest & loving one another & he worded it so beautifully. What is even better than that is that he was so moved by our story that he shared it with thousands at Wanee.  Now, so many new people now have a new understanding of what ALS is & what it does to people.  They also got to see Steve facing the hardest thing anyone has to face but still out doing what he enjoys.  He even invited us back out to dance with him for the rest of the song.  It was so much fun! Just an added oh my gosh moment---the song he dedicated to us---I sing that to Steve all the time.  Gooesbumps right. All in all we spent a good 5 hours with Michael Franti & Spearhead, & Sara & we will forever cherish it.


After the show walking through the festival we had so many people come and hug us & tell us how moved they were by our story & people saying that they were so proud to see Steve out enjoying himself.  We even had a few people tell us they felt reborn after hearing what Michael had to say & seeing us on stage.  It was an incredible moment---and it didn't stop there.  Michael then posted our story on Facebook which shared our story with even more people.  The response we have received has been overwhelming & has been so amazing. I have to thank each and everyone of you that sends us love & positive words.  It makes Steve & me smile with each response we hear of ways we inspire you, so please continue to keep them coming :)

Here is a link to a youtube video of Michael Franti introducing us to the crowd: click here :)

SO about the rest of Wanee---was amazing---thanks to Danny & the guys for helping us with camping. Along with getting to meet & hang out with Michael Franti & Spearhead we also got to meet Artimus Pyle, Warren Haynes, & JB from Widespread Panic.  So like I said---coolest day, ever.

Steve & I have been cuddled up behind the computer since Saturday with tears and smiles feeling blessed by what Michael Franti did for us.  It is amazing to think that a celebrity would take the time to do this for us and learn about our plight and share it with all of his fans. It continues to helps us have more faith in people and is another reminder of the blessings that still remain in the world.  Can't help but think about amazing the world would be if everyone had as big of a heart as Michael & Sara do.  Who knows maybe this act will find someone who will in turn to donate the money needed to find a cure.  We are still in shock that this happened to us & that we could be a part of bringing so much awareness to ALS.  I truly feel rejuvenated & refreshed from this & still can't stop feeling like the most blessed person in the world.

To see more photos from Wanee click here :)

Side note---for everyone who follows us in Pennsylvania please check out this fundraiser my dear friend Kate is putting together for us.  If you can come, please do, we would love to see you there! Cinco De Mayo Fundraiser

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Perspective

I know I have written about this before, but some things have happened that inspired me to write on perspective again.  Recently Steve's chair (he uses a Jazzy) died.  We then had him use a few other borrowed chairs with out much success.  Even after having a newer chair a little customized, it is still not functional for him.  We are still not sure if his Jazzy is repairable and if it is going to be something that we can afford, as the repair company is not able to get to us until tomorrow.  My prayer & hope is that it is something that is a quick affordable repair, however if not we will have some new challenges to face.  Steve has tried several different chairs but do to the progression of his ALS his arms & hands do not work the same and he is unable to drive the chair with the ease he is able to with the Jazzy.  

I never gave much thought to just how much a change of a wheel chair can be such a set back, but for someone with ALS who already experiences such limitations in mobility to all of a sudden not be able to move on your own or have to try to use something else is very difficult.  It gave me some much need perspective about being grateful for my mobility & my independence.  I know sometimes it's hard because I went from being the girl who went out every night to the girl who stays home (when we aren't traveling) most days to not feel like I'm "missing out";  then things like this happen and make me realize that in reality I'm blessed that I am capable to walk on my own, I'm capable of being able to drive, to talk on the phone, to text or write an email.  Here is Steve in a wheel chair that won't move, having to ask me to type for him (although he is able to do some, it just is hard for him),  take him to the restroom, shower him, feed him, wipe his nose, etc---and to now not having a working wheel chair.  It's opened my eyes yet again to realize that I never have any reason to complain----ever.  

I'm asking that everyone please pray that the repair goes well tomorrow and that it is something that is affordable and fixable.  If that's not the case please pray we are able to find him a jazzy to replace his current one.  This is a huge burden for Steve & while he feels bad that he's letting a chair get him down; it's completely understandable.  On the outside looking in some may think that he should just try the other chair that was provided until he gets used to it, but being here seeing the frustration & pain it causes Steve to not be able to use the chair properly I understand.  

This is just a small glimpse on to the things an ALS patient goes through---and the independent mobility was the one thing that kept Steve positive.  He was able to wheel around the house or easily get in the van for us to go somewhere with the Jazzy and now he's not able to independently do anything.  

Thanks again for all the constant support & prayers.  Thanks for letting me come to y'all when we need something.  I will hopefully have more answers tomorrow and will either be calling on y'all for help or giving a very excited update.  

Much love as always. xox

Sunday, March 24, 2013

When February gets you down there's always March ;)

Okay so as most of you February was a rough month for Steve & I with his recovery but with March came a new month & new attitude. :)

I've been helping (up until vacation) Steve's dad with remodeling our bathroom so Steve will be able to shower.   We are so grateful for Steve's dad to be putting so much hard work into doing the bathroom & will be so grateful when the bathroom is "usable" for Steve.  No more portable toilet, no more washing his hair in the sink, & no more sponge baths!  That's the way it should be for Steve with all he has to face & a HUGE thank you to his dad for making it possible!

Now Steve & I are finishing out another amazing trip.  A friend of ours Corinne was able to get Steve & I passes to Disney (Park jumper passes) for 2 days.  It was my first time & Steve hadn't been since he was a kid.  It was so much fun!  Totally went back to feeling like a kid & rocking the Mickey ears one day & then Minnie the next :)  Before Steve got diagnosed we were planning a trip to go but right as he got diagnosed and we were planning a wedding in 2 months we canceled all those plans to spend the money on our wedding & life.  We never got back around to planning another trip until Corinne told us she got us passes & it made me so happy that we were finally doing something we had wanted to do before he got diagnosed.  See we practice what we preach ;)

The whole trip was amazing but I have a few favorites from Disney:  Seeing the castle, seeing the dumbo ride, watching Minnie flirt with Steve ;), & the world tour in Epcot.




We then drove to one of our favorite places.  The Dezember family condo :)
We love coming to Clearwater for several reasons, but one if they have causeways where you can pull over park right on the sand & be right on the water.  This is about the only realistic way I can get Steve to the beach, because he is so sensitive to extreme heat or cold when he gets hot we can put him in the van with the door open so he can still talk to us but have AC.

We also got to spend time with our dear friend Lisa.  I wrote last about how her husband, a friend of ours, Dan, lost his battle to ALS on Valentine's day.  It was so good to see Lisa and see how amazingly strong she is being.  I know Dan is smiling down from heaven so proud of her.  We will always miss him & we are so thankful we got to come spend time with Lisa & can't wait til our next visit.  Her & I are two peas in a pod :) 

As usual as the end comes up we are bummed for the trip to be over however we have a lot of fun things planned the next few months starting with my sister making a trip to visit over Easter weekend.  Always good to have visitors even better when they are family! :)  

As far as an update on Steve:  he is doing well.  He is using his DPS (the diaphragm pace maker) several hours a day and he will use it extra whenever he feels he needs the extra strength.  We are giving him amazing healthy shakes through the tube in the mornings and he will eat lunch & dinner.  Some days we give him extra tubes through the day if he didn't eat as much.  He is doing well with the tube & it has been such a great tool.  That's the thing with ALS a lot of the options they have to help you seem very scary but you soon accept & realize that they are only tools to help make life easier.  Steve has gained a lot of his weight he lost after surgery back but still  have some to go. He is doing great & is such a strong fighter.  I am very proud of him. :)

Okay back to enjoying our last chill day :) just wanted to give y'all a quick overdo blog.  Lots of love! xo
Click here if you want to see ---->  pictures from our trip

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Scared to go to sleep.

Wanted to write a few updates & also a therapy blog. May be a little on the heavy side---but it's needed.

For those that follow us know that Steve's feeding tube had gotten infected.  I noticed it a few days after writing the initial blog that there was a lot of seeping & it had an odor, I knew right away that wasn't normal.  Steve also the day before the odor began had gotten very sick & still wasn't able to eat and had very little energy.  All added up to a phone call to our surgeon. After a trip to the doctor on Monday they said he has a local low grade infection and they started him on antibiotics & we had to wait another 48 hours to use the feeding tube.  Because of these complications Steve has gotten very skinny & weak, so now first day using the tube again as the infection is getting better we need to strengthen him back up.  This process has def been a difficult one and we appreciate everyones love & support through it.

We are also very saddened to hear that a dear friend of ours Dan Soyka who was also battling ALS had passed away in his sleep last night.  We became friends with Dan & his amazing wife Lisa after we found out we had such similar stories---young newly weds facing just being diagnosed with ALS.  We have gone to visit them in Florida & really enjoyed spending time with them.  It's amazing how quickly you can bond with someone when you have so much in common.  Dan was too young to die.  This disease is ruthless & needs stopped.  I can't believe that the FDA still drags their feet about ALS, I can't believe that as a society we haven't funded & supported the disease enough to find at least a treatment.  There is no harsher disease in the world, and that's a fact.  So why aren't we paying more attention.  My heart aches for Lisa & Dan's family & I want to be in Florida with them all to hug them.  It's such a tragedy. You can send warm wishes to them here & please remember them all in your prayers.

So here I am Steve is asleep & I'm scared to sleep.  I have explained to people before my fear of going to sleep with him sometimes as when a mother has a new born & they want to watch them through the night to assure they are breathing.  Well, I find myself doing this with Steve often & even more so tonight.  I'm sad at the idea of what ALS is capable of & sad that so many amazing people have had to suffer with this disease & sad for all the people who have had to watch their loved ones suffer with such a horrific disease.  I pray & do yoga & meditate to help me with the fear because I know it's not healthy, but some nights are harder than others.  It wouldn't be fair if I only shared the positives with everyone because I want to help make everyone aware of how harsh ALS is so that maybe just maybe the right person will see this & be the person to find a cure/treatment.

So as far as Steve he is finally getting his appetite back some, we used the tube today with some success, & he is SLOWLY gaining strength.  We are celebrating every single improvement because with ALS you just never know if once something gets so weak if it will improve.  So every small improvement is so important.  True meaning of celebrating the small things.

I do want to add some positives.  A special thank you to some very special people.

First a general one to every one who texts/messages/calls to check on Steve.  Your concern means the world to us.  Thank you for caring for us, supporting us, & all the prayers & warm wishes.


Thank you to everyone who has donated or helped us financially.  Financial burden is inevitable with ALS so thank you to everyone who helps ease the burden some.

Special thanks to our dear friends Raymond & Erica for taking time while visiting with their families to come & visit us & bring us cheer.  They are celebrating their 10 year anniversary & because Steve is too weak for us to go to their party they came to visit us.  Very thoughtful & means the world to us.  They are like our family & we are very grateful for them!
Because of Steve's condition we didn't have any plans for Valentine's day which we celebrate love everyday but it's always nice to celebrate the day (side note despite Steve's rough 2 weeks he got me flowers delivered.  So thoughtful & sweet that he put forth the energy since he has so little right now to do something extra to make me smile:)).  Because of that our friends Danny & Jen came & cooked us a yummy Valentine's dinner.  Again so thoughtful & we are so blessed to be surrounded by such love.
Again another thank you to my in laws for bringing me supplies & helping with Steve as I need.  Very very appreciative to have them close by & that they haven't gotten annoyed with all the errands I've made them run! 

Also another good note---because of how rough the past 2 weeks have been my Mom is coming to visit us....She will be arriving Monday.  Sometimes all a girl needs is her momma.  I know having her here for a few days will help refuel me & I am very grateful for such a supportive & caring mom.

Again thank you to everyone who cares & supports us & helps us spread awareness about this awful disease.  If you think of it please share with someone about the disease, donate to an ALS organization or a pALS (person with ALS), or reach out to someone you know that has the disease to send them a warm thought.  Please continue the movement & I pray it makes a difference.

Thank you for letting me write when I have a heavy heart.  Sending everyone lots of love & remember to tell everyone important to you that you love them.  You never know when it will be the last time you see/talk to them. Make sure they know how you feel.  

Friday, February 8, 2013

Steve's surgery

As most of you who follow us know Steve had surgery Monday Feb 4th to get the diaphragm pace maker placed in as well as the peg tube for his feeding tube.  When making the decision to get the pace maker the feeding tube was optional.  I have been wanting Steve to get the feeding tube for close to a month due to some recent weight loss but wanted the decision to be his.  With guidance from other pALS (people with ALS) & caregivers & prayers Steve decided to go ahead and get it.  Because Steve had both procedures done on Monday he is having some extra pain but I couldn't imagine him getting the pacer without the feeding tube.  He has been in so much pain & has not recovered enough from his surgery to want to eat & thankfully the feeding tube has allowed me to get some much needed nutrients into Steve.  It's also been an excellent resource to get medicines/vitamins/etc into him as pills are currently (previously were as well) difficult for him to swallow.  

For those who are unfamiliar with either of these procedures the simple not so medical way to explain it:
The Diaphragm Pace Maker (DPS) helps keep the diaphragm going & is essentially used to help prevent a tracheotomy in the future.  It isn't a cure (because unfortunately that's not here yet) but it does help improve the quality of life.  It is like a work out for the diaphragm & unlike other muscles that can weaken when ALS patients workout the pacer doesn't make the diaphragm weaker---it makes it stronger.  The wires are connected to both sides of the diaphragm & the wires then plug into a box that helps pump the diaphragm.  The box isn't always attached so he has the option to be able to go without it if he wants. The wires connect to a connector holder that sticks to Steve's skin.  The wires are covered with gauze & tegaderm to protect the wires.  These all get changed every 3 days or so & can be covered to shower.  
The feeding tube I think is self explanatory but it helps us pump nutrients into Steve's stomach directly.  We began using it immediately and although it's very uncomfortable for Steve right now I'm very glad it is getting nutrients into Steve.  

I'm assuming these are going to bring some extra expenses with all the extra things we will need---but I will be on the hunt for the most cost effective way to implement this new change--with help from others & research I will def share whatever the best "cheap"way to stock up on supplies when I find it. :)

So Steve is still in a lot of pain but little by little he is getting better & despite that at this moment I would recommend it to any pALS.  Every time Steve has been connected to the pacer despite the initial discomfort he is able to breathe with more ease & the feeding tube goes without saying; I've been trying to fatten Steve up & this helps more than the shakes I've been trying to push on him.  

Dr. Kharsarinia at Piedmont is who did the surgery & he & the all the nurses were amazing.  Just a heads up to any pAL considering this---make sure you or your care giver talk with the anesthesiologist if your loved one is having difficulties with phlegm.  Unfortunately phlegm is a huge part of Steve's battle with ALS and after the surgery he is having some extensive issues but they were able to make sure he didn't have any issues during surgery because they were aware of his struggle with this.  

I want to thank everyone for the prayers & well wishes.  Also, thanks to my in laws coming to the surgery & keeping me calm & stopping over once a day to force me to take a break.  It's been a rough week as it's never easy to see the one you love miserable but I keep trying to remember the end result (I also keep trying to remind Steve of that---but who wants to hear that when they are miserable;)

I will give more updates as I have them as well as any tips we find through this new step.  Thanks to everyone that has been through both procedures for giving us suggestions, tips, & encouragement.  

Please continue to keep Steve in your thoughts as he continues his road to recovery.  

On a complete side note---seeing that we will be sort of "cooped" up for a while don't be surprise if a random "trip" pops up.  Y'all know that Steve & I don't like staying home for extended periods of time. ;)  

Lots of love.