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We appreciate your prayers, support and words of hope during this time when it matters most. I was so naïve in so many ways, not knowing what I know now. Archer said he wanted to gradate with his class, which meant that Archer could not lose any time from school. So, that was last Friday and we set up a conference this past Monday. But the answer was still, No for the trip to Lourdes, at least for now. But, both also being over 6 feet tall, the nice roommate situation did not last long as they separated us after about a week since the KKI hospital room literally did not have enough room for two extra long beds. He opened his big arms wide and threw back his head and his sweet face and mouth opened wide to exclaim in very labored speech HOWWWWW’s ARRRRRRCHHHHER? I was so bowled over I almost fell over but instead fell into that big embrace of his. I’ll tell you more about our medical collaboration in another post. There is so very much to do, and when each of us offers even just a little bit, it makes the world better. He also looked at and thought long and hard about Georgia Tech for it’s excellent engineering and climate, and at USC in Los Angeles for its excellent engineering and film and it’s climate, and at UCLA but we saw with a visit Bill made on Archer’s behalf that the terrain of of the school was too hilly and too many steps. So, Archer said he really liked the vibe of Philly and the campus was easy to navigate and it was close enough to home that if any emergency arose, he knew we could be there in a couple hours, and even stay with him the first couple or so months while going back and forth.The road ahead is long, but we will be with Arch every moment of the way. In my mind, it was then mid to third week in August, Mc Donogh was starting classes in less than a week and half, he had already missed soccer tryouts and varsity placements, and I had one day in Baltimore to tour and figure it out. We will continue our lives as if regular, just living in a hospital or wherever we would be for the rehab for a couple weeks or so. Well, KKI told me they had someone on staff who was an education liaison and they would ensure he got the schooling he needed. The night of the Cum Laude event, last Monday, we had a telephone conference with a team of doctors in California. At the end of the questionnaire, they told us that Archer had passed the first screening! Being that it was May and Archer has his Senior Thesis and then will have his Senior Project, he was Ok with my not putting energy into figuring out a way. In January the members of the Order of Malta, most of whom are doctors and such, were conducting the physical screening of other potential candidates for trip to Lourdes, the one this week. The screening had been going on all-day and ended at 4pm. No sooner had I arrived on that cold Saturday at Mercy Hospital, it was weird because there was a parking space right in front of the hospital, and I felt the need to run in and hurry which I did. Archer was sleeping with his legs handing off the bed and poking out from under a curtain and there was no room for a nurse to get near a bed if she had to once I unfolded a chair near alongside archer’s bed. G had lost his ability to speak, but would let out piercing loud squeals when he was excited about something. I knew why I had to get there to see the screening. His mother is one of the sweetest ladies, like an angel, you’d ever meet. We hugged and I pulled her aside and told her all the things she needed to do to demonstrate that G could be accommodated. So, that is where our focus has been partly now that it is decided where he will go. After all, Archer needs help 24-7 and during the day, opening doors, holding doors, taking his hoodies on and off, charging his phone and ipad, putting food on a plate or tray, giving his credit card or meal plan card to a cashier, being fed, having his Camel back water pack refilled, emptying his cath bag, getting the hair out of his face if windblown, putting his foot back on the foot plates of his chair if one falls off the plate, letting him know if there are people behind him when he turns in his chair, etc. Like figuring out the location of the dorm room where and what and how big and accessibility given that all doors are card swiped, and figuring out tuition and cost of nursing care and what the days should be like. Oh while I’m playing a little catch-up and we’re into Broadway, yes, Archer and Billy did go to see Stephen Colbert on his show a few weeks ago. Like figuring out PT and OT when the facility is a few miles away.
This picture was taken outside of The Food Market in Hampden, Baltimore on Archer’s birthday in July. I couldn’t help but feel joy and gratitude in every cell of my being as I watched Archer roll across the Mc Donogh School stage this past Monday. Archer maneuvered his powerchair using the T-bar in which his left hand rests, powered also by his left shoulder pushing his hand as if an extension. I quickly learned that none of these facilities dealing with acute rehab is equipped to teach or provide teaching while in-patient. His recovery was complicated, and honestly, his intellectual ability was complicated as it was near impossible to find teacher matches for him if the goal was to graduate a/k/a staying on course with the classes he would have otherwise been taking which were all AP’s and high level math. But I had no idea it was anything different than any other catastrophic injury like quadriplegia. So, last June, a wonderful surgeon at Johns Hopkins successfully removed it and all 42 feet of leads around Archer’s ventricles. I am sure that mirror neurons are sending messages to his brain, Remember walking? A machine like the GEO simulating what his body knows how to do already, maybe it will not only strengthen, but maybe it will wake it up. He stays up until 1am on many if not most school nights which concerns us on one hand and which we also admire on the other as he is driven to move forward and learn and do well in life despite the injury.Archer loves to cook and bake, so the evening was extra special! I watched him lift his right arm and extend his hand, always wrapped carefully in an arm and wrist splint so it’s not floppy and so he can extend it, to shake hands with his School Headmaster. A simple gesture really, but one that takes great effort for Archer as he still has no feeling, no sensation in his arms or his hands. Yes, there was a certain awkwardness, as it was a bit clumsy given that Archer has no means of accepting an award in the usual way, no ability to grasp or hold or even know if an object is touching his body unless he can see it and know from experience before 8-5-15 it’s weight or texture since his brain does not register any signals about any sensations of the body from the shoulders on down as a result of the severance of his spinal cord, but it didn’t matter. He stopped his chair in front of his headmaster, and Mr. It’s surprising how few teachers there are who can teach those subjects, and they certainly are not in the home and hospital pool by and large. I don’t think it would be unusual for many of you though if it had been your son or daughter. They had called last week for an interview with Archer. They noted how Archer had not sustained just a fractured C5 neck which required delicate neck stabilization surgery but a shattered C2-C5 neck which required a complete reconstruction of the bone before it could then be stabilized with pins. We had said then, Archer, we need to get everything we can out of your body to be prepared for what might come your way in future medical surgeries and advances. I’ve felt that way too about some surgeries related to his bowel and urethra too that might be worthwhile but could change the internal workings in such a way that IF he walks someday, might interfere. Oh, I think I’ll send you a little clip of one of our more recent PT sessions. I learned from my eye healer that dead cells in my macula can be awakened. Here’s another picture of where I was waking up the cones of my non-dominant eye, the one with the most macular degeneration. Because his nightly and morning routines each take about 90 minutes now that we have things smoothly running and know what his body needs and how to care for him, it means he is going to bed very late and we need to awaken him early in the morning again.He was voted by his classmates to give the commencement speech. Amen Wednesday, May 3, 2017 Archer Senft Friends & Family Update SUNDAY, 4-30-17, Month 20 We can never hope too much; the one who hopes for everything, obtains everything. But a cultural gesture he knows well to do which was graciously received by Mr. Archer was being inducted into the Cum Laude Society. Britton gently placed the signed parchment certificate on Archer’s legs, his lap, a fine resting spot. Anyway, no need to dance on the head of that pin about it, Archer wanted to graduate with his class. When they said he was more complicated than any they had seen, it brought a flash of memory not so much of horror, but more like, well, sort of distant, a memory, just that, a memory, still there but not really sharp. And I am deeply grateful for those parts that are behind us, a new beginning. Ah yes that dive, that crack, that shatter that changed our lives and most importantly his life in a split second. The ICU protocol of neck stabilization surgery, feeding tube, and as needed ventilator, as well as full body weight shifts and the shock and adjustment to being paralyzed is horrific for any quadriplegic. And I have come to love a number of those families I have met along the recovery journey. Sure, the degree of impact and the lungs filling with ocean water added grave additional factors, but it’s so uplifting to think of what is possible. It was a 3am weight shift for many months followed by a am wake up. He says he doesn’t want to waste any time and he needs all that he can get.After working the lunch rush in the kitchen as the cook at the Beach Club of Cape May, Archer went down to jump in the ocean and cool off before returning to clean up and get ready for the next day. Luckily, Archer was surrounded by capable and caring lifeguards and friends, and he was quickly taken to Atlanticare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City, NJ. And as for Archer, well, it’s an inspiring aspect of Archer I must say, his inner drive. I really never had a chance to write the education chapter, as it was always happening but there was just so much more happening medically. And then everything changed after week two in the ICU, and they told us we needed to find a long-term acute care facility, as Archer would never breathe or walk or move on his own. In the insurance scramble and the chaos, I had received a call from a stranger, now I see her as an angel, affiliated with an organization that had been following these very blogs. That led to beginning to look and consider other out of state alternatives. You know the rest of the story of the scramble of calls to the Chief doctor there at the Shepherd Center and the flight and the Blue Angels pilots and the crazy delay and well…we were on a flight to Shepherd in about 48 or so hours. Delight in the use, the ease, how often you need them all day long. Breathe in the goodness of your own use of arms and wrists. But back then it was also Archer’s not being able to tolerate being hand lifted out of his chair without great pain. And it’s not that it was every hostile or closed, it was just unusual for them to be collaborating in this way they said. And because Archer’s hands have no sensation nor do they have nerve endings to help move them, it’s nearly impossible to get gloves on him, so his hands can get very cold, and he doesn’t even know it. Well, the crazy thing about quadriplegia is that the brain doesn’t register the discomfort, and that is when Autonomic Dysreflexia sets in, so…. For those of you who might be thinking mittens, we tried them too, as they were definitely easier to thread on, but he was not able to maneuver the chair and the T-bar since he could not tell whether he was on the bar or not through the thickness of the knit. It just takes time and a lot of follow up and educating about a situation. By the way, happy late Passover, and late Easter and Happy Spring! We create energy fields for healing and hope and truth of what is possible. And I will take your prayer with me if you would like to Lourdes. Bruno said, We can never hope too much; the one who hopes for everything, obtains everything. He surprised us with his decision to apply Early Decision as he is interested, at least for now, in a specific program that is not offered many places: a dual degree in Engineering and Fine Arts/Film/Animation/Design.We’ve created this page to keep friends and family updated. But in essence, Archer told me within weeks of the fateful dive while in the ICU, using our message board of letters since he could not talk because of the ventilator and oxygen and feeding tubes in his nose and mouth, that he wanted to graduate with his class. I mean, the ICU was telling us in the first days that Archer would be discharged and we should look for a rehab center where he would be rehabbed for 2-4 weeks and he would then come home. The education part of that is that as I had been looking at facilities in Baltimore, one of the top things on my list was Archer’s schooling. Hold the image of Archer having the use of his triceps and wrists and whisper your favorite prayer. Again, another real marker in his progress as Billy and a few other strong men lifted him last month when they took him on a Spring Break trip with his lacrosse team to North Carolina. It seems that all the many hours of physical therapy and time have helped with further healing and strengthening without a doubt. The chief doctor who had delivered to me the disappointing news about Archer and I were friends and I did understand the whys. And, we are always learning too, so the educating goes both ways. Oh, Archer has been asked to have an art show, more about that in a later entry. Here’s a pic of all of us together for Easter Sunday. I want to sign off with joy in my heart and asking you to please pray for our trip to Lourdes and for the young man I will accompany, and for Archer that he will be chosen as the right match for the stem cell therapy, and for other injured young adults and their families who have reached out to me in the last six months or so for assistance. And in the interim, advocate when necessary, pray always. Two other schools with the program, Cornell and MIT are too far north for Archer’s quadriplegia to tolerate as his particular injury doesn’t allow his body to acclimate easily to changes in temperature, especially cold temperatures, and ice and snow make it hard to get out in his powerchair where he can maneuever it and still be able to communiate if needed on an ipad/phone which he can access by voice but not if it’s cold and or raining/snowing.