Well, it's been way over 18 months since my last update letter. In fact, last month, on October 7, I "celebrated" the 3rd anniversary of my injury. So, I thought the approaching Thanksgiving holiday was appropriate time to reach out to and update my network of friends about my health/ongoing recovery, what's going on in my life in general and how you can help. I have a lot to be thankful for as I'm sure you all do as well.
First, let me apologize for the long delay. I was preparing to send out another update in the fall of 2009, just before my one-year anniversary however, a series of medical setbacks and new challenges began. I kept postponing writing the update so that it would be upbeat and positive and, as the challenges continued; the delay became more and more extended. In any event, let me begin where I left off last time. Don't worry; it's not all bad news.
By September 2009 I had made great strides in recovering a lot of the functionality I lost due to the spinal cord injury I suffered from a freak bicycle accident. These strides included the ability to stand and walk short distances (with the aid of a four-legged walker), groom, shower and dress myself with minimal assistance, do light meal preparation, transfer in and out of bed by myself and into the passenger seat of a car/truck/van with assistance (I would then use a manual wheelchair and get pushed around upon reaching my destination rather than relying on the motorized wheelchair that I used at home). I was in the process of developing a plan to reduce my care giving needs from a full time 24/7 to a part-time schedule. In some ways, that seems like a million years ago... but then, so does the gardening, swimming, bike riding and the partying that I so loved doing before my spinal cord injury.
In preparation for a couple of minor outpatient surgeries, my doctors changed my blood thinner medication. I had been taking blood thinners pretty much continuously due to the discovery of a few minor blood clots in my right leg shortly after my injury. Well, the short story of what happened was... the surgeries were successful and uneventful however, about a week later I experienced massive swelling/edema in my lower extremities due to DVT (deep vein thrombosis) otherwise known as severe blood clots in both of my legs. Unfortunately, my legs became so heavy that I was no longer able to stand, walk, transfer out of my wheelchair - even with assistance or turn myself in bed. I became much more sedentary, had to start using a hydraulic Hoyer lift to get in and out of bed and became dependent upon Atlanta's public transportation paratransit service, MARTA Mobility, to go places in my motorized wheelchair, since I could no longer transfer into the passenger seat of a regular vehicle. Needless to say, I got depressed. Surely, I thought, this would be a short-lived, temporary condition and I would be back to standing walking and transferring within a few weeks or months at the latest.
About the same time this setback occurred, my executive search business, The LeROI Group, received two new contracts which we successfully filled. (Yea!) I resumed my former business role, handling client management, candidate development and presentation. This motivated me to spend a lot of time perfecting my ability to leverage the computer including becoming very proficient with my speech to text software, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and using the mouse with my two "good" fingers and thumb on my left-hand. In fact, I mastered my ability to use our special recruiting software as well as the entire Microsoft Office suite of programs -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. This was incredibly rewarding because I realized that I was able to operate at such a high level of competency that for the most part my disability was undetectable and quite irrelevant. The flip side of this was that I found myself spending a lot of time at the computer, perhaps too much time, when I should've been doing more therapy. But, it felt great to be productive and normal. I was also the primary business development person in our firm which, is a role that I have not been able to fully reassume in part because of my limited mobility and the additional logistical challenges of getting out in public to attend many of the networking events around town and at various conferences around the country. Since I can't write with my hands, taking notes while on the telephone is also quite a challenge because I have to toggle back and forth between my speech to text software and the telephone headset, muting one or the other since I cannot use them both at the same time. Not being able to do business development and the lousy economy have taken their toll on our business as we have not been able to procure another contract since then.
But, back to my recovery -- the severe and sudden reduction of physical activity significantly and quickly weakened my whole body; this, coupled with the fact that as I began year two post injury, my recovery and ability to bounce back significantly diminished, as is typical with spinal cord injuries. Although the swelling in my legs was almost gone by January, to date I still cannot stand, walk or transfer on my own. I'm actually, more dependent on my caregivers now than I was when I first returned home to Atlanta from California in March of 2009. Still, there's some positive light at the end of the tunnel but first, things go from bad to worse so let me continue.
In January 2010, I had surgery on my right hand with the hopes of this procedure significantly increasing my ability to pinch, grip and hold on to things with my right hand (since my injury, the entire left side of my body including the left-hand and in particular the left thumb, index and middle finger became much stronger than the right side). The surgery actually made things worse for several months before I returned back to about the same condition I was in beforehand. Then, in early March we discovered that I had developed a fairly bad and unusual case of HO (heterotopic ossification) in my left hip. This means that I have bone growing in the soft tissue area of my hip where it should not be growing. This severely limits the range of motion in my left hip, my ability to bend forward, stand and walk. Thankfully, so far, it has not been painful. It is gotten a little worse over the past two years and at the time of this writing, I am waiting for some additional testing and doctor consultation about what my options might be moving forward although, it is my understanding that unless it gets really, really severe, the cure is worse than the disease.
In mid-March, my dad passed away (you may recall that my mom passed away in 2005 and my wife, Leslie, in 2006). His health had significantly and rapidly declined over the previous several months so his transition was not unexpected. So, although saddened by the loss, my family is at peace with this. He lived a full life, 99.9% of which was spent in comfort and relatively good health. He was a great role model and mentor for me. Emotionally, it was very difficult selling the house (especially in this market given the depressed prices) that he and my mom had custom built back in the mid-60s and in which my brother, sister and I grew up and had hoped to hold on to. So, once again, I found myself in the midst of managing all of the administrivia that comes along with settling the affairs of the deceased when one is named the executor of the estate. Since I'd already done this for my mom and wife, I was familiar with the process but, it consumes an enormous amount of time and energy. One of the last things I've got to do is sell a Marriott timeshare week in Hilton Head South Carolina, so, if you know anyone who is interested, please let me know.
The fall of 2010 rolled around and I thought about putting together another update but because I had been accepted in this very difficult to get into research program at The Shepherd Spinal Center, I decided to hold off in anticipation of having some good news to share. This research program, the Action Trial, used an unconventional approach to spinal cord therapy. It was designed for individuals who have been injured for more than a year, when recovery stops/significantly slows down according to traditional medical "wisdom". It relies on intensive exercise therapy and electrical stimulation, working with 2 to 3 therapists at the same time -- 3 days a week, 3 hours per day for 6 months to strengthen the lower extremities, core and even the upper body to some degree. The goal is to restore/significantly improve one's ability to walk, stand and/or transfer. This is a program that I, as well as my entire case management team, had been hoping and praying that I would get into- largely because it held the best chance of accelerating my recovery and returning my ability to walk and stand and transfer. The same program is offered on a retail basis, not through the research program, but costs almost $1000 per week. Needless to say, this was a huge windfall for me, offered great hope and optimism for my future.
This was a great experience on several different levels. I literally busted my ass for 6 months, working as hard and in some cases even harder than during the 1st year of rehab after my accident. Week by week I felt myself growing stronger and was positive this program was going to make a huge difference in my life/recovery. Unfortunately, what became clearly apparent by the end of the program, was that the HO in my left hip limited my range of motion so severely that it prevented me from being able to stand upright let alone walk without relying on the assistance of several trained therapists and special adaptive equipment that would not be possible to duplicate on my own, outside of the special therapeutic environment of the research program.
So here I am now, 3 years post injury, more dependent than I was shortly before my one-year anniversary. You may be asking "where is this good news he promised to share"? Well, this may not be quite what you were hoping for but here goes. First and foremost, I am thankful for every day that I wake up on this side of the dirt and made a deal with GOD that if He will wake me up then, I will give the day the best that I have. Now, mind you, this is a lot easier said than done because sometimes the hardest thing I do each day is to call my caregiver to come get me up when what I would rather do is continue laying in bed and fall back to sleep so I can dream about being able bodied -- the vast majority of my dreams, as it turns out, are about my being able-bodied. One of the reasons I like going to the Shepherd Center is because every day I am there, I see someone who is so much worse off than I am and also someone who is much better off than I am -- and that helps keep everything in perspective. I have not had a lot of the problems that many quadriplegics face -- urinary tract infections, pain, skin breakdowns etc. When I see other SCI quadriplegics and paraplegics, MS patients and brain injury patients -- some newly injured, others veterans of the struggle -- working hard at their recovery or just trying to work out in the gym to keep what they have, I get inspired, motivated and very thankful.
Most days I stay pretty up and positive. There are times when I have allowed myself to wallow in depression and feel sorry about my condition but, those are few and far between. Depression is such a funky, yucky feeling -- kind of like standing on the rim of a dark foreboding abyss or black hole that is trying to suck you in -- that I just can't allow myself to remain in that state for long periods of time. So, I get up anyway, even when I don't want to, and just try to take life one day at a time which, as it turns out, is all one can do anyway regardless of one's condition. So many people have told me that I'm an inspiration (although I don't see where I have done anything all that exceptional) and I should write a book that I've decided to do just that in the hopes that maybe I do have something to say that could be worthwhile and helpful to others. Maybe it's the reason God left me alive with a fully functional mind... maybe it's my karma. In any event, it gives me a reason/purpose for getting up every morning to continue to "fight the good fight" as one of my therapists says. I'm also finding it very therapeutic to put down on paper a lot of the thoughts and feelings that I have, situations I've tried to work through, challenges I've faced and sometimes conquered etc.
And then there are my daughters, Aleshea and Camryn, the lights/loves of my life. I have had the privilege/opportunity to see both of them blossom into beautiful, intelligent and compassionate young women -- and I might add, college graduates (attending Camryn's graduation in May of this year was a wonderful experience). Our relationships have deepened and evolved over time and just keep getting better and better. They also add great purpose to my life. When I pick up the phone or open an e-mail that starts with "Daddy", I know that I've still got work to do and value to add in my role as parent/friend/advisor etc. Sometimes, it's simply to offer some fatherly advice about navigating the complexities of young adulthood. Other times, it is to intervene and referee over some seemingly ridiculous/petty dispute they are having because they are siblings and are either too much alike or in some cases too dissimilar in their personalities, habits and views toward life. Oddly, being here to help them work through what I call "sibling crap" is among the times when I feel most alive and most needed -- I guess because it reinforces my purpose as a parent. Maybe it's because their mom is no longer around and I remember very poignantly promising Leslie on her death bed in hospice that I would take care of our children and that she need not worry or concern herself about that.
So, although I cannot brag about having gone through some miraculous recovery or regaining the ability to stand, walk or dress myself, I feel there is a lot of good news to share and I have an awful lot to be thankful for. In summary, I spent the 1st 3 years after my injury focusing on recovery and rehabilitation. Now, that everything is pretty much stable, recovery has slowed down/stopped I've moved into a phase of "practical acceptance" and am focusing my energy on getting used to/creating the "new normal" for my life. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!
Oh, there is one more thing, by way of this update, I am launching a fundraiser to raise enough money, approximately $50,000, to purchase a handicap accessible van so I can reduce/eliminate my dependence on MARTA Mobility to get around town, rebuild my business and travel to other places. In many ways, the public transportation service is a godsend however, is also very unreliable, very uncomfortable (even downright dangerous at times) and it significantly limits my flexibility and ability to get out of the house when my schedule changes or things pop up at the last minute that I want to do. I have even tried to using the handicap accessible taxis (vans) with great frustration and expense. Because of my height, 6'4", and the height of my chair, I don't fit in most of the standard taxis. They don't have sufficient headroom for me to actually enter the taxi or ride in it without reclining at a very uncomfortable and unsafe angle. I know this economy has put stresses and strains and limitations on most of our finances, however if you're able to contribute, a donation of any amount/size would be greatly appreciated and would be among the many other things for which I'll be giving thanks this holiday season.
All donations to HelpHOPELive (formerly NTAF) are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.
Just click the "Donate Now" button at the top of this page. And, don't forget that some of your employers will match your charitable donations! Just make sure your employer specifies my name on the check.
You should also know that:
In order to help cover the administrative costs a 4% fee will be taken from incoming donations. The administrative fee is slightly higher for credit card contributions (7%), corporate matching gifts or foundation grants (10%) due to higher administrative costs. and they do not share with me the amount you have donated only -- name, address and e-mail (please include your e-mail address so I can send you a personal thank you note).
Make checks payable to: HelpHOPELive
Note in memo section: In honor of Craig Triplett
Send to: HelpHOPELive Two Radnor Corporate Center 100 Matsonford Road, Suite 100 Radnor, PA 19087
For credit card donations: Call 800.642.8399 or click the “DONATE NOW” button at the top of this page.
You may contact me directly:
775 Densley Dr.; Decatur, GA 30033
In closing, here's wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving and blessed holiday season.
-- Craig, November 2011
Please click on the links below for previous updates.
Nov 22, 2011
July 2009 Update July 22, 2009
I’m sorry it has been so long since I’ve provided you with an update about my progress and my condition. This note will bring you current and tell you what I’ve been up to. But first, let me thank all of you who have kept me in your thoughts and prayers and give a special acknowledgment to those of you who have directly contributed to me financially or via my fundraising campaign website at http://www.transplantfund.org. Your contributions, regardless of size, have made a big difference.
Most of you know that after spending six months in two different rehab facilities in California, I returned to Atlanta in mid-March to begin another rehab program at the Shepherd Spinal Center. Shepherd is a world renowned facility that specializes in spinal cord injuries. Their Day Program, which I participated in, involved my being in seven hours of therapy, from nine to four each weekday. In the evenings and on weekends I was at home. Each day consisted of a variety of therapeutic modalities including occupational therapy, physical therapy, and recreational therapy, strengthening, stretching and exercising as well as education classes that teach you about the special nuances, the care and feeding of SCI’s (spinal cord injuries). The Center also has a handicapped accessible gym and swimming pool. It is incredibly well-funded, and I noticed a big difference between it and the non-SCI specific facilities in California. Needless to say, this was a pretty exhausting schedule that wore me out every day… and it was not uncommon for me to crawl back in bed for a nap, once I arrived back home at the end of each day. A good bit of the focus of the program is to help make patients more independent and able to function on their own, reducing or eliminating the need for a caregiver. As a result, by the time I completed the program I had made a lot of progress including the following:
- Getting in and out of bed by myself - Feeding myself (been able to do this for some time) - Dressing and undressing myself (it still takes a long time, but with practice, I’m getting better and better at this) - Coming from sitting to a standing position on my own - Using a regular walker to ambulate short distances (I don’t walk very quickly and it ain’t graceful, but I am walking!!!) - Grooming e.g., brushing my hair and trimming my beard (I actually use scissors in my left hand accomplish this feat!!!) - Showering myself (98% - I’ll leave it to your imagination to figure out that part of my body that I can’t reach while sitting on the shower bench J) - I’ve even done a little light meal preparation in the Shepherd Center’s special adapted kitchen (my daughters and friends are helping me reconfigure my kitchen at home, so I can begin cooking at home) - I’m also beginning to develop a pinching grip, albeit weak, in my right hand
Another metric for marking my progress and improvement is the following. I was initially scheduled to be in the Day Program for about five weeks. However, because I kept improving and making good progress meeting the goals that had been established for me, my therapist kept coming up with new rehab goals that caused the insurance company to keep extending my stay. All in all, I was there for about 2 ½ months. Apparently, the average stay is about three weeks. I was told that I had the longest tenure for any Day Program participant that most people could remember.
Another accomplishment that I am particularly proud of is learning how to use, fairly competently, the speech to text software, Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Since my hands still don’t work well enough for me to use a keyboard efficiently, I use Dragon to dictate into a microphone and it types what I say. It doesn’t always understand what I’m saying, and some days it seems to work better than other days. But all in all, it’s allowed me to resume my ability to communicate in writing – something I treasure dearly. I’m using it now to dictate this update, I use it for e-mail (I’m often real slow in responding) and perhaps most practically, I have used it to reengage with my business, The LeROI Group on a part-time basis – helping prepare proposals, presentations and I can even use Dragon to interface with our recruiting software. Despite the horrid economy, there are actually a couple of search assignments that we have bid on in the past several weeks that I am very hopeful will come to fruition. So, keep your fingers crossed for us and don’t be surprised if I reach out to you in the not-too-distant future for help sourcing candidates. I just wish that the cycle time between doing the work on a search and getting paid were not so long J but, such is the life of a small business entrepreneur.
So, with all this good progress, I’ve been on a fairly aggressive timetable for establishing my somewhat independent lifestyle at home, moving my full-time caregiver to part-time status. However, a couple of minor setbacks, e.g. the discovery of blood clots in my right leg, intermittent recurring weakness in my legs, and a recent fall/head injury have caused me to relax this timetable considerably. Still, I’m hopeful that within a couple of months, I’ll only need help for couple of hours in the morning and around bedtime. Without giving up hope for eventual full recovery, I have grown to accept the fact that my wheelchair and I will be good friends for much longer than I initially expected.
So moving forward, the plan is to use in-home therapy, OT and PT, until my outpatient therapy program begins at the Shepherd Center in several weeks. By the time you read this, I should have a signed lease for my house. I still need to buy a van with a lift to transport my power wheelchair. Please advise if any of you have resources or contacts to help with this. My garden, herb flower and vegetable, continues to thrive thanks to years of attention and pampering on my part and, because of the help of several very special and dedicated friends who have done some planting and weeding for me.
In any event, I hope this brief update finds all of you well, in good spirits and surviving this wacky economy. You’ll hear more from you later, when I get new news to share. Until then, may God bless you, know that I appreciate you and rely/depend on your good thoughts and prayers more than you know.
All good things…
Nov 22, 2011
March 2009 Update March 10, 2009
It’s been several months since I’ve been able to get an update letter out to you but, I’ve had this one in...
Nov 22, 2011
December 2008 Update Dear Friends, Family and Supporters, Some of you were previously informed about our good friend Craig Triplett and the terrible bicycle accident last year that resulted in his...