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Shrimp dumplings, movie nights for Wang

From David Chen, husband of Theresa Wang, who is recovering from injuries sustained in the Nov. 19 car crash that also injured Colt Brennan:

Aloha to our Ohana,

It’s been a couple of weeks since the last update and I appreciate your patience and dedication in following our healing journey of grace. There’s much to share so it’s best to continue from where we left off at the afternoon of luau fun.

Following the round of golf where Theresa amazed us by walking and playing three holes, the next activity was cognitive therapy disguised as a game of memory.

For the eight patients playing, the first would name an item they would bring to a luau starting with the letter ‘A.’ The next one would repeat the first item, then add their own starting with the next letter in the alphabet. This would go on until all 26 letters and their corresponding items were used.

By the letter ‘N’ everyone had made at least one mistake except for Theresa. In fact, the therapist had to remind her numerous times not to give hints to the others as everyone was being graded on their working memory abilities.

In the end, Theresa won the game by recalling all 26 of the items correctly. That this part of her cognition is coming back is a wonderful blessing and another sign of our Lord’s incredible healing powers.

With all of the exertion and activities that afternoon, I expected Theresa would want to return to the CNS residential facility to rest and relax before calling it a night. That was not the case as the last thing Theresa wanted to do was spend an evening sitting alongside her roommates or the rehab aide while being tortured by yet another disease of the week movie on the LMN channel.

As an aside, we rarely watch TV at home, having cut the cable line more than two years ago and replaced it with a $50 Radio Shack antenna. The loss of 80+ channels wasn’t missed and it allowed us more time to talk, take evening walks, and fully enjoy more of each other’s company; another of God’s little pleasures that I look forward to soon. And with savings of $1,000 per year on the cable bill, if former HGTV junkies like us could do it, so could many of our ohana!

When I arrived at Theresa’s apartment, she was just finishing her shower and getting dressed, not for bed but to go out again. Joining her in the bathroom, I continued to marvel at her progress as she prepared two towels for drying: one draped over the wheelchair and the other on her head and upper body.

Once her hair was wrapped, just using the grab bar on the wall, Theresa stood up from the shower chair and carefully pivoted until she sat down in the wheelchair. She then proceeded to dry herself and headed over to the vanity to brush her hair.

Watching her do this with both her arms overhead brought joy to my heart as it was not so long ago she had that frozen shoulder syndrome. After dressing almost completely by herself (I helped with the socks as her sock-aide was in the wash) Theresa saw the look of puzzlement in my eyes and then stated rather plainly, “Oh, we’re going out tonight so choose a movie.”

Somewhat stunned into compliance, I wheeled her out the door bidding farewell to the roommates and aide, and off we went to the local megaplex cinema.

Bakersfield is so spread out that even the local cinema isn’t so close. Just driving from the airport to the clinic to the residence and then returning to the hotel easily puts 60 miles (100km) on the car. The Maya Cineplex was a good 15-20 minutes away; however traffic was decidedly light for a Friday evening and we arrived in time to choose from the 7 p.m. selections.

Since Theresa has already seen many of the recent releases including “Soul Surfer,” “Thor,” “Bridesmaids” and a few others, I chose “Water for Elephants” not knowing much about it. The film’s story is along the lines of “The Notebook” or “Titanic” in that the elderly narrator is describing life-changing events from their past.

Other than taking a bathroom break about halfway through (where Theresa showed off her improved standing and walking ability) we became engrossed in the simple yet sweet love story.

What really surprised me was that Theresa stayed alert and engaged and even asked some pertinent questions throughout. She did mention the circus ringmaster gave her the creeps but that just means he played his part well.

About the only glitch in that long day and night was when Theresa tried to get out of the theater chair after the show. It’s the type that’s low to the ground and the seat bottom slides forward as it reclines.

Despite her efforts, the seat would slide as soon as she tried to get up causing her to fall back into it. After a couple more attempts that ended in laughter (she started and then I joined in) I stood in front and just told her to lean forward into me rather than try to stand.

Once she did so and was free of the carnival chair, all I had to do was hold her hips while she stood herself up. I am so grateful to our Lord for the time spent with Theresa, to be able to witness her progress as His healing powers make her whole again.

The next morning was the weekly grocery outing so Theresa called to say she would be on the CNS shuttle and to meet her at Trader Joe’s at 11 a.m. The hour came and went as I waited until finally Theresa phoned to say that with so many patients and their unique mobility challenges, some delay was inevitable; thus the caravan didn’t arrive until after noon.

We hurriedly made our purchases although Theresa took her time to leisurely sample some food and coffee and then went back for seconds. The reason for the rush was that I had received a call from my Aunts Helen & Margaret from San Diego and L.A. and they were already on their way to Bakersfield to meet us for a late lunch. Along was my mother, Shirley, who just happened to be visiting them that week from Edmonton, Alberta.

After rushing back to Theresa’s apartment to unload the groceries, we headed to the Grand View Chinese restaurant where sure enough, my Mom and her sisters were already waiting and had placed an order for various Dim Sum dishes.

As we sat down and caught up, my Mom and her sisters were surprised at Theresa’s improving condition and how she was so alert and engaging in conversation.

The food then started to arrive and of all people, Theresa led us in an eloquent and heartfelt prayer of grace and thanksgiving. The highlight of the meal was when Theresa emptied the steamer basket of shrimp dumplings onto her plate.

I was about to suggest we should share but thought better of it. Theresa later told me after being subjected to microwaved Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choices lunches for the past two months, she deserved to enjoy one of her favorite dishes by herself.

Following lunch, we bid farewell to my relatives as they prepared for their three hour return drive to L.A. They’d also brought a gift of orchid flowers that Theresa just adored so rather than return to the residence right away, she wanted to shop for a watering pitcher and a pot.

This entailed a multi-stop trip to Target, Home Depot, Albertsons and others to find just the right equipment.

By late afternoon, we finally returned to the apartment where Theresa immediately found a sheltered spot to put the orchids.

Even I was bushed and looking forward to a quiet evening but that was not in the cards. Not half an hour later, the fire alarm went off and everyone had to evacuate the complex.

I still don’t know if it was a false alarm or not but as we were waiting across the street at the designated gathering area, Theresa asked for the second time in two nights which movie I’d like to see — so much for the relaxing evening together.

This movie outing had been previously scheduled and Theresa had signed herself up, not knowing at the time that I would be there. In the end, it wasn’t as tiring as I thought and we enjoyed each others company while laughing and cringing at the silly gal pal flick, “Bridesmaids.”

Sunday would be our final time together on this visit and the day was already looking to be packed. Following church TV, there was a planned outing to the Knotty Pine Cafe, located north of town near the airport. Known for its heaping plates of food (the chicken-fried steak is a two plate affair) the line-up outside the door promised good things to come.

When our turn came, Theresa had the quesadilla omelette and I bravely ordered the CF steak, thinking it could be shared with others in our group. Her omelette seemed to be missing a key ingredient (tomatoes and/or salsa) and yes, the CF steak was as large as a plate but also about as tasty as one.

This didn’t even merit comparison to the famous CF steak at Hickory Hollow in Houston let alone that truck stop restaurant in Nagodoches Texas that served the best CF steak in our memories.

Still, it was nice to sit with some of the other CNS patients and their families and share the sacrifices we have all made for our loved ones.

One devoted daughter swapped her aspiring career in Boston for a Starbucks barista job here just so she could be near and support her brain-injured mother during this critical phase of healing.

In times like these, we must do what we feel is right, and praying for guidance from God is an important step in that process.

The afternoon was spent back at the residence, assisting Theresa with her assigned chore of bathroom cleaning. She did a good job on the vanity, toilet, floors and shower compartment but even while standing, Theresa had trouble reaching high enough to wipe down the counter-to-ceiling mirror.

Partly due to her height and partly because of the limited over the head reach in her arms, I cleaned and polished it but she still received the credit.

Later on, we made a run to Costco for another box of Depends and a few other supplies. She doesn’t even need it most nights but sometimes it’s easier to have on just-in-case, or if the aide has moved her wheelchair out of reach.

While leaving, Theresa had a craving for pizza so I was about to get her a slice when she asked if we could order a whole pie. Having visions of indigestion haunting us in the middle of the night, I asked if she needed that much food and the reply was it’s not for us, it’s for the rehab aides!

This one is always thinking of others and her actions were certainly appreciated by the hungry staff that night. In the end, what started out as a trepidation arrival due to the health insurer’s questioning of the need for continuing care, turned out to be a very rewarding visit with my wife.

While it is in the health insurer’s nature to choose profit over the patient’s needs, their decisions will not derail the faith we have in the healing powers of our Lord, Jesus Christ.


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