Kind. Genuine. Compassionate. Loyal. Strong. Loving. Brave. Adventurous. Generous. And, a smile that brightens any room. Alone, these are all just adjectives or descriptors. Together, these make up the wonderful human being who is my brother, Matt Clark, a 31-year-old, active young man.
Matt has an appetite to try new things. After having played four years of football in high school, his senior year he decided to take up Track & Field for fun. As the “big guy” on the team he loved to be underestimated by his opponents and show his incredible strength when it came time to race.
September 5, 2020
Today, marks the start of a new chapter of what we’re calling “Camp VMC,” the acronym for Valley Medical Center in Santa Clara where Matt will be starting his rehabilitative journey.
Matt had a stable week with an upward trajectory of progress which allowed the transport today to happen. This past week he spent more and more time in the chair upright and less and less time on the vent with lowered settings. Yay! He also received his voice box trach which allowed him to communicate with us and medical staff via a soft whisper. This meant less lip reading, guessing, and corresponding eye rolling from Matt when we weren’t even close to figuring out what he was trying to say.
On Wednesday, I welcomed the surprise midday FaceTime call from Matt. It was the first time I was able to talk to him with his voice box trach. I was in the middle of juggling my remote work “new normal” and simultaneously trying to solve a mystery. The “golf gang” had received an email from Setton Farms California Pistachios located in Terra Bella, California, who generously offered to be a towel sponsor at Matt’s upcoming golf tournament. After doing a quick inventory, we confirmed nobody knew anyone from that area and we had no idea about the very welcomed and appreciated connection. I exclaimed to Matt, “perfect timing, you can talk now, can you tell me about the nut farm outside Bakersfield and how they know you?” He laughed, shared it was a connection from a former co-worker, and chuckled “NUTS on CLARK!” If you’ve ever visited Chicago or transited through one of its area airports, you know about this famous nut shop. It’s basically an inside family joke beginning when we were young because we never made it to try the NUTS on CLARK despite everyone telling us we had to try them, especially given our last name. I ended the call by blowing him a kiss. Matt blew a kiss back moving his arm/forearm and wrist up to his mouth and making the gesture several times. Mystery solved, a laugh, and a perfect end to our call.
Between being able to talk with the voice box and also squeezing in a couple more unexpected visits with my parents, Matt was all ready to head off to camp this morning and begin this next chapter.
The Clarks know how to do camps. From soccer to football, Boy Scouts and even golf camp, we’ve done it all. Camps are where you learn new skills, meet new people, and embark on new adventures, and this camp, the most important camp of Matt’s new life, will be no different. VMC gave my parents the run down and the ins and outs of what to expect at camp. We were given lists of necessities to set Matt up for success – shoes w/no ties, workout attire, and a few “comforts from home.” Mum packed his bag, labeling his clothes, making sure he had all he needed, and more. First, Matt will start in the speciality rehabilitative trach unit while integrating some physical rehab where he can tolerate it. The goal of phase one of camp is to get rid of the trach by building up Matt’s breathing strength and then he can move on to the more rigorous physical phases of camp.
Undoubtedly, it will be a daily battle requiring both mental and physical strength, but as everyone says, if anyone can do it, it is Matt Clark, and we’ll make sure to remind him of his incredible community of supporters who will be there for him along the way. #rally4clark #clarkstrong
Message from Mum:
Matthew Clark & Family Gratitudes
In true Matthew style- Can I hear a Loud AMEN for the Army of Prayer Warriors and love across religions:
Refuah Shlema; Mi Shebarach prayers
2 Timothy 1:7
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on September 12, at 8am -Church of the Nativity (Menlo Park, California)
August 29, 2020
In The Flesh…
Today was a great day and a great end to a not so great week…we (my parents) got to see my brother IN THE FLESH…at the hospital!
As you recall, last Saturday (tomorrow) marks a week since he had his tracheotomy. Saturday night was hard and by hard I mean absolutely horrible. Our greatest fears about how Matt would wake up from his medically induced coma, alone, in an unfamiliar setting, and face the cold hard reality of his current condition and future became our living nightmare. My parents were able to FaceTime with him shortly after he was stabilized with his new “trach” on Saturday evening. They focused on the future, let Matt know we were there no matter what, and certainly did their best to show their love and support through the iPhone screen he was calling from.
Then, in the middle of the night my mum’s iPad began ringing. Being the night owl she is, she was still awake and downstairs. The nurse requested my mum FaceTime again with my brother because he was distraught, crying uncontrollably, working himself up causing bells and alarms to go off. Among other things, my mum again shared with Matt we are there for him, no matter what, and that we love him so much. The next day she shared with me that her words felt shallow and she felt like a caged mama bear. While of course all of the things my mum shared are true, I can only begin to imagine how alone and scared Matt felt and how heartbreaking that was for her. After some time he calmed down and drifted to sleep while my mum stayed watching him rest until the nurse said she had to go.
The next few days were similarly rough for a variety of reasons. Matt not only spiked a fever again but his highest yet. Turns out this time he had an infection due to his PICC line growing a bacteria. It was immediately removed despite still having the blood clots and the risk that posed. He was put on high powered antibiotics, which at this point seem to be working.
We let Matt and his team of medical professionals know we were there to FaceTime with him anytime day or night, but left it up to him about when he wanted to call. While it felt good for my parents to FaceTime and see and engage with him, they wanted to make sure he was ready and wanted to talk as well. We didn’t hear from him for several days. If felt like Matt was withdrawing and isolating. Our minds went a billion different places since we were only left with the seemingly minuscule SUBJECTIVE assessment from the medical staff, a painfully exhausting game of telephone updates, and SPECULATION about what was really happening on the inside.
With COVID we are not able to observe Matt’s condition, demeanor, establish relationships, make recommendations, or simply be present for the smallest of procedures to the delivery of important updates or news. Is he having a good day or a bad day? And how would they know, they don’t know him anyway? Is his condition improving? How does he feel? Does he need anything? Why isn’t he FaceTiming? Can he see his picture frame? Is the chromecast working? What thoughtless TV channel did they leave on? The truth is we’ve been forced to be spectators, and from my experience, the Clarks aren’t great spectators, we are as my daughter says “TRIERS.” We’ve been forcibly sidelined which feels punitive.
Wednesday was really the turning point. The day report was that Matt was up in the cardiac chair for the first time and did well with lowered vent/trach settings. Best of all, the nurse shared Matt wanted to FaceTime. He had turned the corner. Matt was engaged, smiled, and mouthed a laugh. Our prayers and positive thoughts were answered – his positive mindset had arrived.
Then yesterday we received the UNEXPECTED but very WELCOMED update from the hospital that my parents could go to the hospital and see my brother because a representative from the rehab facility we’re considering sending Matt to was scheduled to perform an evaluation. To be honest, it felt too good to be true and I tried my best not to get my hopes up for my parents. His night nurse shared with my mum this morning my brother mouthed to him “how do I look?” Likely, equally as anxious, excited, while at the same time cognizant and aware it was going to be tough for my parents to see him in that condition. Always thinking of others…
Eleven o’clock was here before we knew it. My parents FaceTimed me from the hospital and I was grateful to be part of most of the visit. I kept reminding myself be positive, don’t ask him questions (because it’s hard for him to respond), and don’t cry. I was positive, I asked one question (and just as quick as it came out, I retracted), and didn’t cry.
I focused my time talking to my brother telling him about you all, his village/army of supporters. We talked about the “golf gang” and the tournament and then I went one by one sharing who I’d talked to, exchanged stories with, emailed, text messaged, etc. Throughout our conversation he would smile, which is something I am truly (beyond words describing) grateful for. My dad showed him the mock up t-shirts, wrist bands, and golf flyers. The “Mayor” gave his stamp of approval with his smile. Hearing about your support clearly lifted his spirits.
The representative from the rehab talked about his journey ahead. If all goes as planned, in the near future he will be transferred to a specialty trach spinal cord injury unit and then to a more specialized rehab unit which includes intensive PT, OT, and more.
My parents stayed with Matt and read him many of the cards, notes, and messages of support, again reaffirming to him that we are in it together. The representative shared it would be the last time we’d see him for quite some time. And, while that fact alone is difficult to process, TODAY we got to not only see him in the flesh, he was in good spirits, and we could scope out the situation and see for ourselves. For me, today felt like a little bit of closure to the book chapter that is hopefully drawing near to the end, which I will title, “The ICU in a Global Pandemic __________ Sucks.”
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September 22, 2020
Sending prayers and well wishes!
September 21, 2020
Just heard of your story through my sister, Elizabeth Silva. Sending strength and all best wishes to you.
September 7, 2020
Our thoughts and prayers are with Matt and the Clark family. God bless! Steve and Natalie Porter
Steven & Natalie Porter
September 6, 2020
Rooting for you Matt! I’ve been following along and praying, and so happy to hear about your progress. You are so strong!