After Cheryl started using the device and after her newfound social circle, Cheryl began to show amazing improvements. Things we hadn’t seen in… Well, since before the accident. While these were all good things, it also meant there was a new worry upon us.
It started relatively innocently…
One night, Cheryl was tired and wanted to go to bed. Ally and I were going to stay up and finishing watching whatever show we were watching. I help Cheryl to bed, turn off all the lights and close the door. About 10 minutes later, the door opens and Cheryl comes shuffling out asking me something.
Now, while this seems perfectly normal, you have to take into consideration the amount of work that took for her. I laid her on her right side, she had a pillow between her legs and she was covered up. This is the trifecta of what Cheryl refers to as “traps!”
Plus, it was dark. With Cheryl being half blind, well… that means it’s extra value meal dark.
So not only did she free herself, but she propped herself up, GOT up and navigated the room in the dark.
Not once, but THREE times! That’s a massive improvement.
Time for a Tracker…
One of the things that’s on my daily list of chores is running to the store to get food. I tend to not shop for the week on purpose. Going to the store every day might seem like a pain in the ass, but it gets me out of the house, gives me a break and allows me some exercise. On this particular day, I come home from the store to find the door unlocked. I knew foe SURE I had locked it before I left, but like all things we do on auto-pilot I quickly questioned myself. Maybe I forgot.
As I’m waging war in my brain about what I did or didn’t;t do, I set the groceries down in the kitchen and look up into the bedroom to let Cheryl know I was home. Except, no Cheryl! She was gone. It only took a second to do the math, door’s unlocked and Cheryl is gone…
After panic set in, I looked to my right and saw her sitting on the couch staring back at me. “Jesus! You almost gave me a heart attack! Did you leave the apartment?”
“Yes,” she tells me. “I wanted to go next door and see if they were home.”
Well shit. This was new. Now that she was mobile and social, it was time for her to get some independence, but that also meant I might come home and find her… well not home, and that wasn’t going to be okay. So I did what any normal human would do… I bought her a Bluetooth tracker off Amazon. I got her a Tile, which is a tracker where you can use your phone to find your keys or your wallet. I put it on a necklace and now she wears that whoever she decides to go off on her own.
We’ve also had to establish a “no leaving the building” rule. She still hasn’t really learned to navigate the real world being deaf and her getting hit by a car is a real possibility, so for now, she stays in the building. Luckily we have a sun deck on the top floor of our building, so she likes to go up there by herself and has managed to learn how to find her way back to our apartment. Just in case though, I’ve created a little help for her outside our door. That way, if she gets turned around, she knows which apartment is ours.
A few months ago, I posted about Cheryl not being able to bend over and pick up a plate. I even included a video of the whole ordeal. (You can check it out HERE.) That entire video is obsolete now. I’ve seen her bend over to pick up socks, pieces of paper, her shoes and the towel she always carries with her. Not only that, but it takes her no time at all. She doesn’t have to think about it, she just does it. It took almost four years for her to able to just pick something up off the ground.
Speaking of her shoes, she’s also fairly capable of putting on her shoes now. She’s not always successful, but she gets pretty damn close. Not only do we live in a world where she’s leaving the apartment herself and wandering around, but we also live in a world where she’s picking up her shoes and putting them, on before going out.
You have no idea how impressive that is. She couldn’t do any of those things 6 months ago… and to be frank, never really wanted to. That’s all changed.
With this newfound freedom, I’ve also placed some responsibility on her. Just little things to help make her feel like she’s doing something. One of these tasks is making coffee in the morning. This past year for Christmas, Ally got us a coffee pot with a timer so that I could make the coffee the night before and have it be ready in the morning. Now, with Cheryl wanting to do more, I make the coffee the night before and have her get up and “press the button” every morning when she’s ready for coffee to be made. While this seems like the simplest of tasks, she sometimes struggles with it.
The longest streak, without any hiccups, has been 7 days in a row. Seven days of hitting the button successfully. Sometimes she does it immediately, other days it takes her a few tries to get it right. A couple of times, I’ve had to send her back to double check and she’ll get it right the second time.
There was a bit of a learning curve. I put a sticker over it, so she’d know which button to hit. I tried to get her to learn where the “on light” is, so she knows when she turned it on. Finally, it came down to taking her finger and pressing the button a couple of times so that she feels the click. That seems to have worked although there are still some days where she struggles and throws in the towel.
Either way, it makes her happy when she’s successful and what better way for her to start the day?
With this newfound mobility, she has now started to try to go to the bathroom herself. The first time she did this, I wasn’t home. She got herself on the toilet, but only got her pants half way down. When I asked her how long she had been sitting there, she hyperbolically stated “months!”
Since then she’s managed to go to the bathroom twice on her own. Both times she was able to pull her pants all the way down but that’s where the process ends. She can’t wipe, get off the toilet and pull her pants up. Given the fact that 6 months ago this was hardly on the horizon in terms of possibilities, I’d say we’re doing just great in the progress department.
It’s only a matter of time before she can go to the bathrom start to finish herself.
Early on on Cheryl’s in home rehab, we were trying to find things that she used to do that she loved. Something that could trigger automatic responses. One of the things we came up with was bowling. Back in the day, Cheryl was quite the bowler and was even on a league eons ago.
The results were hardly what we expected. We got her to throw the ball a few times on her own, but even on her best of days she lost interest after like the third frame.
Eventually we sort of gave on trying because she just wasn’t into it. Well, not that we have our social circle, we were looking for something to do and bowling came up. The neighbor, along with her daughter, went bowling with Cheryl and I.
This time, not only was she in to it, but she was trying to teach the daughter AND played all ten frames with zero problems!
Such an amazing improvement!
Other little things…
These are obviously some of the big things that have taken place since getting Cheryl the device, but there are a lot of other things too. Just little differences that wouldn;t really make any sense to someone who doesn’t know Cheryl.
Most importantly, there’s a renewed spark in her eye. She’s happier than she’s ever been and yes, she still has her bad days. She still gets tired and wants to lay down. She still feels sluggish sometimes and tell me her brain is “slow.”
As far as I’m concerned it’s because she’s doing more than she ever has in close to four years. Because of this, Ally and I (truth be told, mostly I) thought it would be time for Cheryl to have a bit more responsibility.
So we’ve enetered a new chapter in our lives. But I’ll save that as a story for another time.
If you’d like to contribute to Cheryl’s device, you still can. We thank you so much ahead of time. It’s obviously doing a world of wonders. To donate, head over HERE.