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Pen sales up; Wang treats for dinner

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,

The last update ended with our becoming lost while looking for Lake Isabella however the Good Shepherd was watching over us as always. He ensured our safe passage while traversing a narrow, winding mountain pass and when we stopped at a turnaround to do just that, the distant view of the lake was revealed in all its glory.

On the way back through town, Theresa needed a restroom break (and I needed to just plain rest) so we stopped at that ubiquitous Scottish chain restaurant that has a presence in most American towns. While McDonalds is not usually on our frequented dining list, their restrooms are handicap-accessible and mostly clean, mostly.

So feeling somewhat guilty for having used their facilities, Theresa ordered a frozen strawberry lemonade that she promptly handed to me after only a few slurps. For our Wisconsin ohana, Culvers has nothing to worry about as this artificially sweetened concoction is hardly a match for their lemon ice cooler.

The return drive through the mountains was just as beautiful with the raging river on Theresa’s side. She appeared mesmerized by the sheer force of the water and just stared as it dove and cut its way through the canyon.

I was kept busy concentrating on driving the right line through the twisting road and at one point definitely made use of the rental Kia’s entire 102HP arsenal to overtake a slow-moving propane tanker.

Just as we safely completed the pass, I noticed two sheriff cars parked at the bottom of the hill. If their radar/laser was aimed this way they would have had easy pickings that afternoon.

Instead, both of the deputies were out of their cars just shooting the sh*t and enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. For that serendipitous moment, both I and my insurance premiums continue to be thankful for our Lord’s grace.

Returning to Theresa’s residence, we shared the remainder of a lovely day together. As she showered by herself (a seemingly simple task that we take for granted until we no longer can), I prepared a dinner of wild Alaskan salmon using what was available in her refrigerator.

A chef friend once told me that fine cooking is nothing more than the application of heat and spices to good quality ingredients and that was certainly the case here.

Back home, the TV is usually off and especially during meals however here it’s just the opposite – I suspect its purpose is to keep the rehab aides awake. We still enjoyed dinner despite having The Simpsons as a distraction and besides, that show has jumped the shark so many times, you’d think the shark would have died of starvation already.

Still, we are grateful to our Lord for providing these precious moments together and know that some day soon, they will be more plentiful.

Monday was our final day together on this go-around and it would be dominated by the treatment update conference. Before that, Theresa had PT in the morning and she bested her previous treadmill record by walking 25 minutes non-stop.

Toward the end, I could tell she was in some pain however she soldiered through anyway. With a few minutes remaining in the session, the physical therapist wanted Theresa to work on getting up from a prone position but that was not to be as her aching joints cried out for mercy.

Continuing on to the cognitive rehab and education session, Theresa completed the sorting and written comprehension exercises cleanly. That led to the lunch break where Theresa and I sat with Wade, her alumnus from Craig Hospital and his wife.

Comparing notes, both patients have similar opinions of their stays so far – the rehab therapy at the clinic is top-notch however the residential followup is lacking. That was the message we brought to the conference and the management assured us it would be addressed.

From the therapists’ viewpoint, Theresa has been initiating well at the residential facility, especially since moving to the single apartment unit. Without roommates, Theresa has to do all of the cleaning and she has it down to a T.

Watching her run the vacuum from a standing or seated position is a sight to behold. CR reports Theresa’s episodic memory is improving (what she had for lunch; what’s on her to-do list) which is an important step towards rebuilding the executive functions of logic and problem solving.

PT testing shows Theresa is making good improvement in strength and flexibility although stairs are still her nemesis, sometimes leading with the weaker leg, which results in unsteady ascents.

Vestibular balancing is also an issue when her feet are lined up heel-to-toe (likely related to her cerebellum and/or brain stem injury) so it’s good that Theresa isn’t driving yet as she’d be unable to pass a field sobriety test.

From an educational measure, Theresa’s reading comprehension is at 87 percent which is equivalent to a grade 14 level; given her prior accomplishments, she should be at the top level of grade 18 so there is still some work to do.

And from a counseling perspective, Theresa maintains a good attitude, taking bad news in stride, encouraging other patients and having good self-worth and esteem.

For me, it’s good to hear of Theresa’s progress and also be reminded of her current limitations. Of utmost importance is her positive attitude and determination which really comes through in the photos and for that I continue to praise our Lord for His Gift of Healing Grace.

The first week after I returned home, Theresa phoned to let me know of her continued healing and progress. She was now walking up to 1 mph on the treadmill and her endurance was steady at 25 minutes.

There were also stories of the weekend outing to the movies and eateries, one of which really touched me. This night, the plan was for the group to go to the Noriega Hotel & Restaurant for a Basque family dinner (like the one we went to in the last update) however no one bothered to phone ahead.

Upon arrival, it was discovered that there was a private function so the restaurant was closed to the public. With a bunch of hungry patients getting restless, Theresa recalled from her list of Basque restaurants that Benji’s French Basque eatery was nearby so off they went.

While Benji’s had room, a glitch arose with the rehab aides’ presence. At Noriega’s, the management would allow the aides to sit with and assist the patients with their dining but at Benji’s the rule was that each occupied seat had to place an order.

So with the aides unwilling to order, it seemed like the group would return home hungry until Theresa decided to pay for the all-you-can-eat soup, salad, appetizer, and dessert portion of the meal for the aides. The restaurant agreed that would be sufficient and dinner was on.

All went well and everyone in the group enjoyed themselves, some sampling Basque cuisine for the first time despite having lived in the area all their lives.

I later asked Theresa how she came up with the money to pay for all of the aides’ meals and she said it came out of her pen sales and savings from the unspent grocery and outing money.

Once again, Theresa’s generosity and loving attitude come through and even for the non-believers among us, it’s hard to argue against this sign of the healing power of God.


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