It's me, Jamie!

Hey viewers, it’s me Jamie and I’m here writing my first blog post. What a crazy wild ride I have been on and I am so glad to be home with friends and family. As you all may know, I have been in outpatient rehab at St. David’s. I have the best therapists to help me with walking and strengthening my hands to use in my daily basic activities. My physical therapist, Kerry, and I have been getting up and walking off of the parallel bars, and onto the walker. We are at the beginning, but as everyday goes on with my progress in physical therapy, I gain strong beliefs that I will be up and dancing in time for ACL. Then there is one-armed Bob. I am so lucky to have my occupational therapist, Bob, because we have a strong common ground that we can both relate to. It is a powerful thing to have someone like Bob to help me overcome my day-to-day struggles, when I know that he is one to understand my incapabilities. But with a team like Kerry and Bob, I know that nothing can stop me.

Now that summer is coming to an end, I am saying goodbye to my friends as they go on into their third year of college. I have to say that it was pretty convenient that when I was released from the hospital, all of my friends were back home for the summer to help maintain my sanity. Coming home from the hospital, I was filled with fear and nerves because I knew that I was coming home to a completely different life with new challenges. But as the summer went on, I began to feel like my challenges were only minimizing, as if I was heading back to normalcy.

I am also writing to thank all of you for your nonstop support and prayers. It’s pretty amazing to get support from people I wouldn’t expect to hear from, like people from Clint’s church down in Blanco, Texas, my old nurses from the Houston hospital, my sibling’s friends (including their families), strangers who only know me through TV news broadcastings, families all the way up into the depths of Amarillo, Texas, old teachers and friends from middle school and even elementary school. I also want to thank my Papa Gene because without him none of this would have been possible. The support is endless and I am eternally grateful. I know that there are many people out there that I’m not thanking in this post, but just know that I love you all and I’m so glad you’re with me on this journey, Without everything that you all have done for me, I wouldn’t be the same person as I am today and I thank you, for I am proud to be Jamie Schanbaum

8/7 - Jen Griffin comes to visit

STEPHEN COLBERT – “Tonight: I report on the state of racism in America. My guess: Alabama!”

I’m on my way to Alabama (literally writing this on the airplane), but I definitely need to update everyone on the happenings in Jamie-town lately. First of all, we’re getting close to start talking about upper extremity prosthetics. JP (for the uninitiated, Jamie Perrone from Hanger Prosthetics) will be coming by St. David’s during one of Jamie’s upcoming PT/OT sessions (its more fun to say P-TOT, but I digress, like usual) and we’ll be talking about the several options whereby Jamie will be able to grip things, including the Pro-Digits option that we’re all pretty jazzed about. Remember, the Pro-Digits are the battery powered option whereby Jamie will have individually articulating fingers… pretty neat, huh? I mean, we spoke with JP on Tuesday about this and the other options, and I’m happy to report that we are getting access to technology that is so new that, even though Hanger is literally creating and advancing this technology, there isn’t enough data to accurately answer “How long do these things last?” Of course, the answers to the question of “How much does this stuff cost?” are much clearer… More on that in subsequent posts… Jamie has also continued to become more and more independent. She is putting on eye makeup on her own, gripping lots of things in her right hand (the good one she had surgery on most recently), wearing her legs more and more and generally being awesome. This is, of course, awesome. She learned to eat chips on her own too… this is huge… imagine feeding someone tortilla chips with salsa one at a time… yeah… I swear, chips + salsa is Jamie’s favorite food, after tomatoes.

Also, Jamie’s new wheelchair is almost complete. Willy the Wheelchair Guy came to Jamie’s PTOT session on Monday and delivered the wheels that we wanted for Jamie’s new chair… that’s not really the most exciting news in the world, but it did happen, so there you go. Also, Bob, Jamie’s OT guy, has some cool ideas about getting Jamie on a bicycle again. The easiest way to do this is with a recumbent bike, which is where the cyclist sits in a chair and the pedals are located in front of, instead of underneath, the rider. Bob is a really cool guy. He used to coach and be a member of the US Para-Olympic cycling team (I think)… did I mention he has one arm? Yeah, he rules.

Also, Jamie’s new wheelchair is almost complete. Willy the Wheelchair Guy came to Jamie’s PTOT session on Monday and delivered the wheels that we wanted for Jamie’s new chair… that’s not really the most exciting news in the world, but it did happen, so there you go. Also, Bob, Jamie’s OT guy, has some cool ideas about getting Jamie on a bicycle again. The easiest way to do this is with a recumbent bike, which is where the cyclist sits in a chair and the pedals are located in front of, instead of underneath, the rider. Bob is a really cool guy. He used to coach and be a member of the US Para-Olympic cycling team (I think)… did I mention he has one arm? Yeah, he rules.

The main reason I feel so compelled to post though is because Jennifer Griffin came to visit Jamie and the rest of us on Monday. You probably remember Jen’s story, but in brief, about 2.4 years ago, she contracted an infection (Strep A or Staph A) that caused a full on infection, and the subsequent complications resulted in the amputation of her legs below her knees and the removal of all of her fingers. [Remember? Her blog is right over there è It’s called “Get Well Jen” – SPOILER ALERT – she’s doing great!] So, of all the people who try to sympathize with Jamie, only a very, very few can truly understand what Jamie is going through, what she has gone through and what she will go through. Jen is one of them… one of they…? Anyway… I can’t possibly express (I can) how much I appreciate Jen’s willingness and eagerness to be a part of Jamie’s life. She’s the one who gave Jamie the tool she uses to apply mascara and eyeliner. This is the second time that Jen has come to visit. The first was while we were in the hospital in Houston, when Jamie was mostly bedridden, so a lot has changed for the better. Jen came with us to the PTOT appointments on Monday and was pretty impressed with Jamie’s walking. Jen also showed off her cool legs (the heel has a button that adjust her heel angle to allow her prosthetic feet to fit into shoes with heels). Really, the coolest parts of Jen’s visit are those little back-and-forths between her and Jamie. “So, Jen, how do you do this?” “Jen, what can/can’t you do now?” That sort of thing. Also, I should mention that Jen got a present at the OT session. Bob brought Jamie an extendible wand that has a strong magnet at the end. This is pretty useful ordinarily, but super useful when Jamie needs to get something far away (remote, phone [once we put a magnetic strip on it]) but isn’t wearing her legs. Bob gave Jen one too. They’re pretty cool. Before Jen left, we all went to dinner at a pretty good Mexican restaurant and a funny scene occurred… you know, when I first met Jen and her husband at a restaurant in Dallas in December, she told me that one of the most important things she ever learned was to not be afraid to ask people for assistance. At the time, I really didn’t understand what she meant, at least not to the extent that I understand now… So, I thought it was funny when it came time to eat, and, without asking for help, we were all prepared and eager to help Jen like she was a member of our family… which she is. We love her.

Finally, I wanted to say thanks to everyone for their continued concern, well-wishes, support and donations of time and money. We’ve continued to receive a steady stream of all of these and we remain touched. Thank you so much for following along, and, while our journey is far closer to the beginning than to the end, we’re happy to share our progress with you all.

Sorry for writing so much… I’m still on the plane… but I’m done now, so… bye.

7/30 - Walking Around and Jamie's New Marching Orders

... and we're back!

So, I guess I should start with the obvious news. Jamie is really progressing on her prosthetics. We've sorted out, for the most part, the problems she initially was experiencing with her legs (the wounds that weren't closing [still open, a bit, by the way], the knee injury from before her illness that made the socket fit funny, etc.) are mostly non-issues. When she's at her PT sessions at St. David's (seen, to the left), she's started walking on the parallel bars... going back and forth and repeating. On Monday, when she was at PT with Roni, she walked back and forth on the parallel bars 4 times. That represented a huge achievement for Jamie. One of the more recent posts on this blog has a video of her walking a few steps for just a minute or two... so, considering the huge leap from that earlier time to Monday's walking with the parallel bars, I thought things couldn't get much better. Turns out I was wrong... Jamie's trainer, Kerri and I were watching Jamie go through the parallel bars a few times... I wouldn't know how many times because I was out of the room on the phone... but when I got back (Jamie: "Finally! There you are.") Jamie had already been up on her legs a while, but she wanted to show me more. I was amazed to watch her walk back and forth a few times, because I hadn't seen that yet... then Kerri asked me if I wanted to try holding Jamie up while she took steps. This required me to stand in front of her and, with my arms bent at the elbow, I supported Jamie's weight on my forearms while she walked towards me. This was adorable, of course. Then Kerri chimed in with, "Do you guys have a walker?"... "Um, nope."... "Here, let me get one then." So, Kerri went and got us a walker and off we went. This is what it looked like, more or less:

No wait... that's exactly what it looked like. Anyway, in case you want some pictures of your dedicated author standing next to his "little" sister, here ya go ==>

Anyway, so as you could see, she walked around a whole bunch. Bob, her Occupational Therapist showed up for the end of the PT session, which is always before her OT session, and when Jamie was done walking, he made her walk all the way back accross the room to sit in a real chair, where they did some weird wax-related procedure, pictures are over there, to the left. The wax was fun... everyone loves playing with wax.... but what's really interesting is that this was the first time Jamie has sat in a "real chair", at least according to her, since November. So, that was a fun day at OT/PT... also, we got a walker yesterday so Jamie can show everyone her new walking skillz....

... and so she can practice walking a lot more while at home. That's part of the new rules here at the Schanbaum. According to her OT/PT guys, the new "default" will be that Jamie wears her legs for most the day and then can take them off when she's uncomfortable... but she'll have to put them back on shortly. This is a big change from the old rules - where Jamie wore her legs sometimes, but most of the time she didn't wear them. In fact, Jamie is becoming much more independent. Instead of asking us to do things for her or push her somewhere, she's going and doing it herself... or at least trying to do it herself, which is pretty much what she should be doing now anyway. It takes some getting used to on our part as well, this whole "independence" thing. Its not an unusual occurence for Jamie to be seen using a fork on her own, attempting to put things in her webspace, and while it may not work out as she hoped (at least not yet), I'm so happy to see her trying new things...

That's about all I've got to say... so, just for fun here's a picture of Jamie with Daisy Mae, one of our kitties.


7/19 - On Stage at the Ghostland Observatory concert!

Well, that was pretty terrific!
Yesterday, Aaron Behrens and Thomas Turner (above left and right, respectively) - the two men who perform for thousands upon thousands of fans as Ghostland Observatory - outdid themselves again and gave Jamie and her friends (and mom, and Roni and me) some memories that we're unlikely to ever forget. To give everyone a brief introduction, through a series of connections that we luckily stumbled into, Aaron and Thomas each came to visit Jamie in the hospital when she was still doing inpatient rehab (more like, IMpatient rehab... HA! I'm sorry...) at St. David's in Austin. You don't believe me?

See? Told you.

<== Thomas and Jamie

Sarah, Jamie, Aaron, and Michelle ====>

Anyway, as I was saying, this is Act III in their gift to Jamie. When they came to visit, Jamie and her friends told the guys that they would be attending the Ghostland Observatory shows in New Braunsfels as well as the one at Austin City Limits on the day before Jamie's birthday. They both said, basically, "You're coming to our shows, well, hey, lets get you backstage, it'll be an awesome time!" To which, we all said, "uhhh... ok." Fast forward about two months and its July and we're getting ready to see them play, up close and personal... and when I say upclose, I mean it. Check this out:

(Special thanks to Roni for taking all of these amazing shots... once Roni selects her faves, she may post some more up here.)

Anyway, yeah we were super close. But it wasn't just a fun concert, it was a really great day. Most of Jamie's best friends came over to the house around 4 to start putting glow-in-the-dark paint and stickers all over their bodies. There were a lot of us and we piled into two cars and headed to New Braunsfels. We got to the venue around 6:30 or 7 and were absolutely shocked at the set-up provided by the Ghostland guys. When we got there, we met Brian the stage manager and he told us to make ourselves comfortable and to feel at home. He also told us that they had cordoned off an area on the back corner of the stage for us to sit in and that if anyone gave us any stress, to come find him and he'd tell them where to stick it. So, we were elated. We knew we'd be getting backstage passes (though we didn't believe it would happen for certain until we arrived there... didn't want to jinx it), but to actually be on stage is totally different. Here's the view from our first sitting area. It was probably about 8:00 when this picture was taken -

Pretty adorable, no? (Also, that's Roni's friend, Bailey. "Hi, Bailey!") Too bad KC had to work in Dallas... :( Anyway, then we came to find out that our little area would be a little out of the way of the show, and that Thomas and Aaron wanted us to have the best seats in the place... right up front. Actually, take another look at the picture, above, and see where those two horizontal cases are? Right behind the guy with the plaid shorts? That's where we were standing... it was awesome.

There was some time to kill before the show got going, and Aaron and Thomas each came up to us to say hello before the show. That was really nice, and I love when they do that. Here's a picture of Aaron saying hi... I couldn't find one of Thomas saying hi where someone didn't look hilariously terrible.

So, the show went on. It was the best concert I've ever been to. Roni, mom and I had never been to a Ghostland concert before, but it was amazing. The girls (and Andy) felt right at home. We are so grateful to these guys for going out of their way to make Jamie's recovery process a memorable one for all of the right reasons. This is something that she and her friends will never forget.

Here's a few more pictures that Roni took during the show... Just an amazing night overall... now back to work!


7/17 - Standing tall... almost as tall as me...

So, I was talking today to Jennifer Griffin about scheduling her next visit to come talk to Jamie... you remember her, right? We've been in contact with her since our days at Seton hospital in Austin. She's been a source of inspiration for Jamie and our family because, although she didn't contract the meningococcal bacteria, she became severely ill over two years ago. Her illness required the amputation of her legs below the knees and the removal of all of her fingers. She's overcome so much and done it all with grace and a smile. Very nice.

Anyway... so, I'm talking to her outside of 24-hour fitness, where mom is signing herself up for a gym membership (and getting Roni and I 24 day free passes), and she says, "... and you're doing a great job keeping up on the blog." I had actually thought she'd say something to the contrary, like "Where have you been?" I told her, "I'd type more, but there aren't really a lot of significant events to type about... I guess I could type about the lack of activity, and I probably should, but..."

So, be careful what you ask for, because there just happens to be some cool things to show you from today.

First of all, when we got back from 24-hour fitness to pick Jamie up from her PT session, she had something to show us... do you want to see?

Pretty cool huh? Yeah, I took that on my iPhone... She also stood for over 5 minutes, which is also a record for her. This progress is the result of a few things falling into place. First, JP, the man behind her prosthetics, tweaked her prosthetics so they fit her a bit better. She was having discomfort due to another problem that popped up... Apparently, when Jamie fell off of her bike in October, she dinged up her knee pretty bad. This caused her patella to list to the side a bit, which, in turn, caused her some discomfort when she stood on her prosthetics. So, Jamie and her therapists (and soon, you can add Nick and mom to the list of people) are helping Jamie massage her knee so that her patella realigns itself properly.

Jamie felt pretty great about her effort today. She felt even better about what was waiting for her at home... her new wheelchair! Finally, Willie the wheelchair guy (the Schanbaums are good with coming up with names for people... Dr. Bummer, JP, Dr. Foot Doctor, etc.) came by the house to deliver our specially customized wheelchair. Every aspect of the chair is exactly as Jamie and mom wanted. This includes, of course, the sparkly wheels that shine when they're in motion. I'll capture some video of this and send it along. There's still a few things that need to be added to the chair (e.g., the knobby wheels that are designed to allow Jamie to stop her chair easier, since, you know, she doesn't have fingers...), but it looks like its good to go for the next big piece of news, which is that...

Tomorrow, we see Ghostland Observatory perform!!! Lots of pictures of that are sure to follow. Have a great weekend, everyone!