October 21, 2014

It has been six months since I have posted an update on this blog.  My apologies to all of you who have followed Jesse's progress with interest and empathy.  Many of you have been faithful in your support of our dream of helping Jesse develop to be more today than he was yesterday and more tomorrow than he is today.  The sincerity of your support has been witnessed by your continual encouragement and for many the daily remembering of Jesse and our family in your good wishes and prayers.  We really can't adequately express our appreciation for you all.  Our family has been so fortunate and blessed to have come through such a devastating family tragedy as was Jesse's near drowning and resulting severe brain injury while simultaneously feeling oddly enriched by the journey.


No question these past almost three years since the accident have been a season of massive personal growth for our family.  The cost though has been significant.  Although I am not referring specifically to the huge financial  burden that Jesse's therapies have demanded, it certainly can't be left off our list of woes.  This event has placed a strain on our relationships both among friends and family, mostly due to our refusal to compromise Jesse's progress. Social time is definately at an extreme premium around our house.  There is an awkward balance that exists between the desire for community and the need for isolation, as well as the demand for more energy and the necessity of rest.


So it brings us to the question, how is Jesse doing now?  I will now attempt to answer that as briefly and succinctly as possible while trying my best to respect those who quite understandably would like as many details as possible.  Personally if I was on the the other side of this event as you are I too would want more details rather than less.  The educational aspect alone of trying to understand the processes involved in the effort to rebuild an injured brain is incredibly interesting.  It unceasignly amazes me that my brain has apparently thought hundreds of thousands of thoughts daily since I was born and I really have no clue where they came from, where they went, how they were edited and sorted into different memory files, why my brain responds differently than yours to fear or pain or confusion or love or faith. How is it that you can do complicated math in your head when I need all my fingers and toes as well as a good calculator just to keep up with you?  Then there is the obvious and undeniable giftedness some have towards the arts, sciences and sports.  It's all a little much to consider here so let me just deal with Jesse.


Quite often we are asked for a casual update from a friend.  So here it is in capsule form.  At this point Jesse cannot walk.  He cannot stand, crawl or have a conversation with you, nor does he play soccer, go to karate or ride a bike.  There are many things that other three year olds are doing that he has not yet achieved.  However his original prognosis was that he would do nothing, ever, that he would not even have a tomorrow.  But how my perspective has changed over the past couple of years.


When my wife and I raised our three children I don't think that even once I had the thought that them living another day could be called an achievement.  However most of our lives are filled with what we would define as achievements or at least we would hope so.  Our lives can sometimes be like great works of artistic achievement.  We've all most likely observed in painted masterpieces bright sunrises, deep shadows, blue skies, inspirational scenes with great mountain top highlights.  Yet before all that paint and inspiration was applied the artist stood looking at a blank canvas.  How many of us when presented with the same blank canvas could produce anything worthy of the gallery wall? And it is often the same in the building of the story of our lives.


May 17th, 2011 was a day that wiped all the paint from the canvas of Jesse's brain.  Gone was the preliminary sketched out layout from the Master's hand.  No more plan.  No points of reference to build the new design upon.  Gone was the natural intuitive knowledge of what brush to use and which colour to begin with first.  A blank canvas.  This was Jesse's brain.  He was without the ability to even ask within himself, "what are these senses coming in? What are these sounds? What do they mean? What is that light touching my eyes? There are things touching my skin. What does all this information mean?  You see there was so much scar tissue in Jesse"s brain that all that stimulus and information didn't know where to deposit itself or what to do and there were so many natural pathways blocked that the new information coundn't connect in order to deliver the correct responses.


Yet over the past two and a half years there has been one connection being made after another and they are adding up to the tens of thousands.  Our Jesse, has full eyesight, incredibly sensitive hearing and is constantly trying to say words.  His mind is like the mind of any three year old child.  It is hungry for knowledge.  Jesse is interested in everything you put in front of him. He intentionally moves his eyes, his head and his arms to engage his interest.  I make funny faces at him or funny sounds and he laughs like a well child would (who had just seen my face.)  Jesse's responses are emotionally appropriate, sad at the appropriate times, excited when he should be, stressed or tired when you would expect him to be, you know...all NORMAL!  Just like your child he loves to be held and told he is loved.  He loves his kisses and hugs and for those of you who have little boys in your house, his favourite thing is to be thrown around, upside down, roughly tossed through the air onto the bed, shoulder rides and even light wrestling.  Daily we feed Jesse's brain mountains of stimulus for we have learned that "the brain grows by use", just like every other muscle in the human anatomy. 


Jesse's canvas is no longer blank.  Neither the canvas of his brain nor the canvas of his life.  His life already has painted in some deep shadows.  But it also already has many inspirational highlights and he is starting to sketch in what is beginning to look like some blue skies ahead where the sun is shining and the world looks like a happy place to live in.  Much of the stormy and threatening sky has been painted over and our family is sensing the beginnings of a new and brilliant work directed by the Master's hand.


Yes, I said the Master's hand because there has not been an hour go by since Jesse's accident that we haven't felt like God was involved in his recovery.  And whether that recovery is quick or slow we believe that there is purpose in the journey.  There are lives that can be touched by the story, hope that can be given to those who feel they are without hope and on this Thanksgiving day to have the opportunity to give thanks to you for your kindness and thanks to God for using one day at a time to create a masterpiece.


Bob Arrigo 

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