One of the many blessings that came from the Observer article was an email from Phil Sperling. Phil is the owner of Ditto. Ditto, as you may remember from the article, was the service dog that prompted Jack to say his first word following his loss of speech. It was "dog", of course. Phil was very moved by the fact that his dog had helped Jack that he contacted us through the reporter at the Observer.
Phil and Ditto are doing very well. Ditto is now 14 and has the same calm demeanor and beautiful face that we remember from back when Jack was in the hospital. This dog is truly an amazing dog. He can dial 911 for Phil in case of an emergency. He knows sign language and Hebrew. As a matter of fact, all the commands that Phil gave him when we were there were in Hebrew.
We took Phil to lunch and enjoyed catching up and talking about holidays and family. Jack and Phil prattled back and forth like Jack likes to do. We had a good time and promised to keep in touch and get together again soon.
Yes, it's official. CAYLIE is now a Swiger! Karen gave us the word yesterday that she is now a member of our household. Woo hoo! Except for occasional paws4people appearances and prison visits, she is now an official Swiger doggy and will be staying with us permanently.
And keeping with the tradition of all Swiger dogs, CAYLIE will be given a middle name. Before her, there was Lacy Belle (God rest her soul) and Moe Andre to honor my parents (believe me they were THRILLED). Also, there is Maggie Ann (for Lisa). So now, there is CAYLIE JO in honor of Lisa's sister Jolene.
Somehow, I think Jolene IS actually honored.
Anyway, please welcome CAYLIE JO SWIGER to our family.
Over the next couple of months she will continue to train Lisa and I in how to do things right.
Even though the weather was mild, we hauled out the old Christmas tree and decorations yesterday. Jack was so excited he could hardly stand it. It's nice to have a little one in the house to remind us of what Christmas was like when we were children. With all the stress recently regarding the medical issues, it was nice to have a little time to think about nothing else but keeping Jack from grabbing the breakable ornaments. There was only one casualty and no blood was spilled. The tree seems particularly beautiful this year.
The paws4people organization has asked us to begin a new blog detailing the "transfer" process. It is entitled "jack & CAYLIE". I have added a link on this blog so please feel free to check in on both our blogs at any time.
As expected, we had a large turnout for the 3rd annual Bradford Park Turkey Trot on Saturday. This one was special though. The local charity was none other than our very own paws4people and all proceeds were to be contributed in Jack's name. If you haven't heard, over $3100 was raised thanks to the generosity of our neighbors and local businesses. Again, thank-you to everyone who made this possible and enjoy the pictures.
Hello everyone. Sorry it's been so long but it has been crazeee around here. We had a wonderful trip to WV for CAYLIE's graduation. We even got to bring her home with us for a night and now we are in the process of doing the transfer training. During this time, Karen Owens, the NC trainer will train Lisa and I in handling CAYLIE. Actually, I had previously thought this would only take a few weeks but found out today that it will take 2 - 3 months. She will be able to move in with us permanently in 2-3 weeks (CAYLIE, not Karen) but the actual complete training will take longer. Anyway, we are thrilled to have CAYLIE around almost all the time now and Jack is loving it as well.
A cd is forthcoming from the graduation cermonies but we took a few at the reception.
Mom and Dad at the reception
Kyria - the woman who started it all looking sweet (we know the truth though)
Heidi and Jack
Terry looking thrilled to have his picture taken
The graduate - CAYLIE
Jack and CAYLIE getting close
On a more serious note, Jack continues to struggle with the seizures. He had such as severe one the other day that there were residual effects from it for a couple days afterward. The neurologist ordered an EEG and bloodwork to make sure it wasn't anything more serious. It wasn't. Meanwhile, we were a bit blindsided by the neurosurgeon who calmly suggested that we might want to consider brain surgery over the VNS therapy. Needless to say, we are struggling with that whole thing. Our neurologist, though, was very kind and helpful, but to add another twist; his last day is today!
Goodbye Dr. Nelson, or Dr. James as Jack calls him.
This Saturday, the much anticipated event at Hazelton, West Virginia finally takes place. Lisa, Jack and I along with my parents, Mary and Andy Swiger, will be heading to the US Penitentiary Secure Female Facility and Camp to attend a very special graduation. CAYLIE, will be graduating from the paws4people program that she has been in since she was a small puppy.
CAYLIE has been preparing to become a full service dog and since last winter, specifically, Jack's service dog. After graduation, she will come to North Carolina and live with Karen, her trainer, as she begins her transition to our household. Lisa, Jack and I will all have to be trained on how to handle her, especially in social situations. As many of you know, CAYLIE's biggest job will be to provide mobility and stability to Jack.
We couldn't have picked a more beautiful weekend to spend in the North Carolina mountains. Thanks to the generosity of Mark and Pam Hofer from Advent Lutheran we had a wonderful time. They have a brand new 3 bedroom cabin in McDowell County and the leaves were at their peak this past weekend. We had a little rain on Friday but that didn't stop us from building a roaring campfire and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows to make smores. The sun was out on Saturday and Sunday and the view off the back deck was tremendous. Lots of pictures below.
We spent a good part of Saturday with Lisa's sister Jolene and her boyfriend Lonnie at Lowe's Motor Speedway, which is about 15 minutes from our house. It was cold but we had fun walking around and seeing all the different vendors and all the souvenirs and sampling the food. (Not me of course.) Jack had a great time seeing the race cars up close and one man even gave him a lug nut off one of the race cars as a sourvenir. Jo and Lonnie spoiled him as usual by buying him toys.
We also spent some time in their RV with their 3 dogs. That was really enjoyable despite being parked right next to some Michigan fans. And when we learned that Ohio State had lost to Purdue, of all teams, they actually didn't rub it in too much. Of course, they knew that I could always play the "App State card" at any time. There were lots of OSU fans at the track all lamenting the impending loss as the game was winding down.
But, other than that, we had a great time. We are planning a trip to Columbus for New Year's to visit them. Enjoy the pictures below.....
The fundraiser at Advent this past Saturday was a huge success thanks in part to all the vendors and customers. Approximately 15 vendors donated a portion of their proceeds to paws4people in Jack's name. There was good turnout and quite a variety of gifts available for early Christmas shoppers. One of the paws4people dogs, Nikki, was also present (thanks Sharon). We are happy to announce that over $1100 was raised! A special thanks to Mona and Betsy for organizing this event. A few pictures below...
Advent Lutheran Church in Charlotte, NC is hosting a fundraiser for paws4people this Saturday, October 10th from 1-5pm. Sixteen vendors, including Mary Kay, Tupperware, Pampered Chef, Spirit Glass (Lisa's jewelry), Southern Living and others will be donating 10% or more of their proceeds to paws4people in Jack's name. Please come and support paws4people.
If you can't make it, you can also make a donation in Jack's name by clicking on this link.
We had a good visit with Jake in Chapel Hill this weekend. However, we did meet with the pediatric neurologist as planned and although he didn't have anything new to offer in terms of treatment he did stipulate that he didn't feel the baclofen pump was in any way interfering with or otherwise affecting his seizures. He also confirmed that we were probably at the end of trying all the anticonvulsants that would be available, which we also knew.
Basically, here are our options at this point:
1) Ketogenic diet - high protein, high fat diet that has shown to reduce seizures in some epilepsy patients. Click here to learn more.
2) VNS - vagus nerve stimulator: a device implanted in the neck that sends a mild electric shock to the vagus nerve. To learn more click here.
3) Epilepsy surgery - obviously, a very last resort and one that we are definitely opposed to at this time. This involves removal of the damaged brain tissue and carries a significant amount of risk.
The doctor advised us to proceed by going with the least invasive option first and moving up. So, we will probably look at the diet first. The difficultly with the diet is that you have to eliminate carbs and that's mostly what Jack eats. We will seek a referral from our doctor to a nutritionist and then go from there.
Sorry it's been way too long since the last entry but we did get a call today that there is an opening with the pediatric neurologist in Chapel Hill that we've been wanting to see. We had thought we weren't getting in until October so this is good. This particular doctor is familar with Jack's type of seizures AND the intrathecal baclofen pump so we're hoping that he can provide some guidance on our next steps.
We will be heading up this weekend and of course, will be visiting with Jake.
We went to visit Kris last night for dinner and Jack got to meet Shannon's new kitty Bella. Jack enjoyed playing (and to some extent, torturing) Bella. But Bella took it all in stride and playfully chased everything Jack tossed around the room. Cute kitty Shannon!
Yesterday was Jack's first day of school and he was so excited to be going back. We are very grateful for the new school hours this year as he doesn't get on the bus until 8:00 and doesn't get home until 3:30. We were getting him up at 6:00 last year so this is much easier. His new teacher is Mrs. Sosa and although Jack misses Mrs. Hall very much I think they will get along just great.
We had quite a whirlwind weekend but enjoyed our time spent with CAYLIE and the paws4people crew. On Saturday, Terry, Kyria, Jeremy and of course, CAYLIE, all came to visit us and Jack and CAYLIE practiced walking with a new harness. CAYLIE, still acting very much like the puppy that she is (16 months), bounded around the house and backyard retrieving a ball she had picked out of Jack's toys. She was quite the bundle of energy.
We learned that graduation will probably be in the mid-November timeframe. As to exactly when we will receive CAYLIE permanently in our home is still to be determined. She still has a bit to mature and the training with her and Jack will be more gradual. Still, we're hoping for placement late this year if all goes well.
Maggie was not her usual feisty self as she was recovering from an allergic reaction to a rabies vaccination but was a little put off by CAYLIE's bounding around "her" backyard and snapped at her once. I think once they are together for a while, they will be the best of buddies.
On Sunday, Lisa had her fundraiser for paws4people at Candace and Paul's house. She did extrememly well, raising $300 for "paws". Thanks to all the friends and family that came for support and purchases of Lisa's handmade glass jewelry. CAYLIE and Jack were in attendance of course. CAYLIE was much more subdued on Sunday, probably due to the large number of people and activity. She was content with laying at Terry's feet and napping from time to time.
Enjoy the pictures.
Learning to use the new harness
Jack and CAYLIE will have to figure out how to coordinate each other's movements which will only come with practice.
Jack was practicing voice commands like 'down', 'leave it' and 'eat'