Love Endures... 2 years later!

March 4, 2013

The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts: for the Lord is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Again in this place, which is desolate without man and without beast, and in all the cities thereof, shall be an habitation of shepherds causing their flocks to lie down. Jeremiah 33:11-12 

Over the years, Psalm 136 inspired me to reflect upon the mercies of God in my own life. I imagine the Psalmist was in tears as he reflected upon God's love with the realization of His mercy and sovereignty from the time of creation that he couldn't complete one thought without stating that: "his mercy endureth forever." I've pondered these words in my own life once again as I listen for the melody of our song to resume. Sometimes the note of silence is the hardest to endure because it seems as though the melody was lost or simple forgotten. But it's in that moment of silence that the music is being created. "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." -Psalm 46:10 Do we quiet our souls long enough to hear the grass bow beneath our Shepherd's feet or are we too busy chewing the grass that He's provided to listen for His Presence?
I find myself crying with tears of gladness over the simplest things Dean does and my love for him grows with each passing moment. Our first 5 minute conversation was on March 4, 2011 which marked the beginning of our friendship that would blossom over the next 2 years. (The picture to the left was taken on March 4, 2012 at the place where we met and the photo on the left was taken at our home one year later .) Even though his ability to express emotion has changed dramatically as we experience a stage of inappropriate behavior, the promise of God's Word remains forever true. This does not discount the fact that I miss the tenderness and love we once shared as I long for him to return to me before the setting sun marks another day gone by. However, can we continue with Psalmist by recording our own story and ending each sentence with, "his mercy endureth ever?" Do we see the love and mercies of God in every sunrise and glass of spilled "fish oil?" Do we acknowledge and thank God for His love and mercy through every circumstance?
What Dean is saying:
After praying for breakfast, Dean put his arm around me and said, "Thank you, Mrs. Shenberger." The next evening, he was agitated with me and called me by my maiden name, "Bain." Once in awhile, he calls me Dannielle but many times he calls me a variety of other names. The other day Dean called his brother and asked, "When are you coming over to visit Dannielle and me?" If you don't understand what he says the first time, he usually repeats it exactly the same a second and third time. He puts a lot of effort in communicating with everyone and is very patient. Some words and phrases are perfectly clear but other are blended together and mixed up. He speaks very quickly and I often ask him to slow down if I don't understand. He enjoys talking on the phone with family and friends. He told his mom, "Thank you for coming by to visit us." I've noticed that he likes to be the focus of attention when talking with others and if I start talking about something else or him to them he becomes agitated. He requires all my attention as I try to keep his brain stimulated. If I become quiet he will say, "hello" loudly to see if I am still there. I'll ask him to choose a letter from the alphabet, then I'll read a word from the dictionary with that letter. He likes challenging vocabulary and his selection of words are fascinating in light of his brain injury. He will tell me, "Go on or Lead the charge."
Yesterday morning, Dean said before getting out of bed, "Why am I paralyzed?" I don't use that word around him. He drew his own conclusion of being paralyzed because his legs don't work. I shared with him that he's not paralyzed but that his muscles are just weak due from the accident and lack of activity. He tells me that he is miserable. He will also say, "My knees don't work, my legs are broken, my arm is broken, my back hurts, my jaw hurts, everything hurts or I am constantly in pain." Other times, he will say, "I'm fine" when we ask how he feels. Shortly after we came home, he said, "I was brain dead." I thought it was ironic for him to use such a term in light of his situation because that is what the doctor basically told me on the day of his accident. I have another 11 page report from a doctor given in October describing Dean's condition and prognisis of limited if any recovery at all.
Several weeks ago, he told us that he was afraid of falling when we were helping him to walk. His family was cheering him on as he took each step and after walking about 40 feet he let out of a sigh of relief when he sat. He said, "It's hard because I'm blind." I'll get the mail and place it on his lap and he'll say, "I can't read it; I can't see." Glimmers of hope: One day we asked him the color of his brother's shirt and he said, "black" which was the correct color. Then I placed a yellow card for high contrast in front of his black shirt and he said it was, "yellow." Another day my mom was standing in front of the window as the sun shined brightly, and he said he could see the shape of her standing there. A few days later, he looked intently at me and it seemed as though he was trying to focus on me. It was the first time he looked at me like that and I asked him if he could see me. He said, "Barely." I asked him the shape of my face and the color of my hair. He replied correctly. I wasn't sure if that was common sense or memory so I smiled real big and asked him what I was doing. He said, "Laughing." Then he suddenly became real sleepy. The past few days he told me that his right eye barely works and his left doesn't work. His eyes are very sensitive to the wind and he is unable to blink as often as he should. Sometimes he falls asleep with his eyes slightly open so I'll touch his eyelashes to help them close. The left eye socket was completely pulverized in the accident and was more damaged than the right. During the time of his craniotomy, the surgeons were unable to do reconstructive surgery below his left eye, nose and jaw because he was too weak to be under anesthesia for a prolonged time. In the past few weeks, he started verbalizing about pain in his jaw. Dean is gaining more strength so please pray for wisdom and direction for the timing of future surgeries if necessary. We continue to thank and ask the Lord for his complete healing and it's truly amazing the miracles that have already taken place.
Everyday Dean asks me several times, "How old are you?" I tell him, "I'm 28." He replies by saying that he is 21. (He is actually 31.)  He is bothered by the idea that I'm older than him and that it's wrong. He disagrees if I inform him on his actual age so now I often say that I'm 3 years younger than him so that whatever age he thinks in his mind he can at least know I am younger than him. We talk about his birthday and about 70% of the time he answers it correctly. He also asks, "How old were we when we met?" "When did we marry?" "Where?" He will ask me, "how I feel or how I'm doing?" His conversation abilities are improving daily! During the night, he reaches over and says, "Give me a hand" so that he can roll over. He will also say, "Cover up my knees or my feet" when the blankets shift. I give him choices and he tells me what he wants for breakfast. I asked him if he wanted oatmeal and he said, "Oats are for goats." 
What Dean is doing:
Dean has Physical Therapy 4 times a week and Speech Therapy twice a week at home. I have a mat on the floor and a ball that I use everyday to do stretches with him. We're also trying a glider machine specially designed that I can transfer Dean into and stand him up. It's like a Nordic track. It's really important for him to bear weight through his joints and a machine like this is very helpful to have at home. I'm already seeing improvements with his ability to walk as he requires less assistance from me when taking steps with his right leg. Dean does an excellent job in all his therapy and exercise tasks. He is very determined and puts forth a lot of effort. He follows directions very well as his ability to comprehend improves. He continues to tell me, "I'll do whatever it takes" even though he's in pain. While I was stretching his left hand, he told me, "my right hand is efficient" and moved it around. His left hand has lots of tone and he is very sensitive to anyone touching it. He takes braces off when I put them on and pulls my hand away when stretching. He actually does a great job stretching his left hand with his right. He is gaining more control over his left arm as he raises his elbow out to the side, wiggles his thumb slowly and extends his arm straight down. He was unable to do anything with his left hand two months ago. 
Dean likes to throw a stuffed musical hot potato with me. He has a good sense of direction and awareness as he throws it towards me. Once we had multiple people in the room and he passed it in different directions to include everyone. The other day it landed in my hand when the song ended and a big grin grew across his face when I asked him who had the potato. He also smiles when he wins thumb war. He will throw, roll or bounce a ball when I ask him. Dean remains competitive!
Dean started to swallow his pills a few weeks ago which is extremely helpful! It took about two months for Dean to learn to swallow his pills because he would either chew or spit them out. I thank the Lord Dean no longer spits his food out. Shortly after Christmas, he started to spit and it took about a month of persistence and patience to finish each meal. Dean loves eggs for breakfast and for month he would always spit them out so I stopped giving him eggs. Recently, he started eating eggs and bacon with enjoyment again. He still sips his water through a straw and sometimes coughs if he drinks too fast. He's able to drink thicker liquids straight out of a cup. He can feed himself with some assistance if the food stays on the silverware well enough. I usually catch the food on the way but he's very good at bringing it to his mouth. 
Dean and I go on short trips to the park or to town. We went to the chapel, where we were married, for the first time to listen to the carillon bells. I push him around the track on sunny days where we would go running at the Academy. Dean has become more sensitive to cold weather and often he wants to stay inside because he says, "It's freezing."  We are looking forwards to warmer days!
Things that have happened:
February 9th: Dean went to visit work for the first time. I pushed him around the shop and he touched various machines. He pushed buttons to operate them and knew how to release the emergency button on his envelope press after pushing it. He also played his piano.
February 16th: Dean sliced his pinky finger at work on some metal shelving. I felt the weight of responsibility trying to stop the bleeding as I realized how vulnerable he has become due to his lack of vision. The bleeding stopped but early the next morning it started to bleed so I took him to the ER to see if anything could be done. He didn't need stitches and I thank the Lord it has completely healed with minimal scarring.
February 27th: I awoke abruptly to Dean having his first seizure at home around 6:30. (The last seizures he had were on November 27th.) It lasted for about 1 minute and he only bit his lip. I called 911 just to be sure all his vitals were fine and was privileged to meet the first responder who pulled Dean out of the woods. She didn't think he would survive the helicopter flight to York Hospital and asked for prayer without even knowing his name. She began to tear up seeing Dean at home and doing so well. Dean didn't respond for 45 minutes and then I asked him if he was okay and his response was, "I'm fine." After awhile, I asked him if I could take a shower and he said his usual, "Hurry up." (Dean didn't talk to me in this manner before the accident.) We don't know what triggered the seizure. We're glad for no setbacks only some lost sleep as our days and nights shifted after a morning nap. His cognition continues to improve!
We send a special thanks to all those who have cooked and brought delicious meals to our home! We also thank you for your continued prayers and support on this journey!

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