Monthly Archives: March 2012

DAY 134.0

Dear Friends,

So, it has been great having Phil back home.  He is enjoying it and his family really likes it too.  I personally like it because I can work with him doing therapy and I am able to see his improvement better than when we were at the hospital.  I also feel that I can get him to work really hard, cause he knows he wants to get better.

The good news is that Phil really enjoys playing board games and cards.  This is actually great because it can be used as therapy in many ways.  Incorporating speaking into the game and the normal strategy make its very good for Phil.   It is also good for his fine motor skills since his arms need improvement in coordination.  Yesterday Phil played some UK Monopoly with Dave and I and today Phil played sequence in the morning and right before bed.  He really enjoys it. 

It has been a great blessing to be at Emma’s house not just because it is easy for Phil, but also because she is a great cook.  The food is excellent and she enjoys serving in that way, so it is very helpful.  Mom, Emma and I have a good rotation of working with Phil so that none of us gets too tired.  I think Phil enjoys us all as well. 

Phil officially starts home health tomorrow so from then on for the length of time we do that he can’t really get out of the house except for important stuff, so we took him out to eat tonight.  When given choices he chose chinese so we took him to our favorite place and he enjoyed it.  He ate almost all of the huge plate.  Julie joined us for dinner and Phil enjoyed the company of his older sister. 

I personally am joyful in the situation because it is a blessing to help my brother the way that I am.  It has been great and it is very exciting to see his improvement.  He is doing great and seems to be really happy at home. 

Continue to pray for his speech, as this is what Phil really wants to improve in.  He worked with me some today and he has come a far way with his ability to say specific words, and now the bigger problem is his aphasia, or inability to express his thoughts in words.  This will improve over time, but we know that his was a very severe injury, though we know with Christ all things are possible. 

We thank God for all that he has given us and are exceedingly grateful for those we love.  Life in Christ is good.  Keep enjoying it.



DAY 132.0

Dear Friends,

As I am writing this Phil is sleeping soundly in his new bed at my aunt’s house.  Yes, today was the big day that we got to take Phil home.  I was so excited and so was Phil.  When he was done with breakfast, he said, “Go home.”  I laughed and told him we needed to do a few things first, like check out of the hospital.

At breakfast Phil got a big round of applause for “Graduating” from Shepherd and surviving “Boot Camp”.  It was well deserved.  Phil was so happy to leave when asked if he would return to visit the staff he said, “no”.  It was sad saying goodbye to much of the staff that we had grown close to these past few months because of their immense care for Phil.  Please pray a blessing for: Rodney (day tech), Pauline (night tech), Folly (night tech), Jeanne (nurse), Megan (Physical Therapists), and Tristen (Speech Therapist), and all else who has worked with Phil at the Shepherd Center.  These people were all blessings to us, so we pray that God blesses them with his overflowing love.

We also had to say goodbye to Sherry Hopkins, and her family, though not for good.  Thankfully she has family in Lexington, so she has multiple excuses to come up and visit.  The Hopkins family has been a huge blessing for us while we were sojourners in their city.

On to news about Phil….  He did well on the trip home and didn’t even sleep in the car.  He seemed very excited to see everything and take in sights he hadn’t seen in a long time.  He successfully used the bathroom in a public restroom for the first time with me, which is pretty cool.  Phil is improving at this and pray he continues to improve.

Pray for mom and the whole family as we try to organize the home in such a way that we can serve Phil and meet his needs.   Just a warning, don’t all ask to come see Phil, we know that it is good for him to see his friends, but the nurse told us that too many faces will be very confusing to Phil, so we will go slowly.

We have a doctor’s appointment at Cardinal Hill tomorrow, so pray for that to go well.  This will help the doctor get to know Phil so she can see where he should be and what he should be doing next.

Please call my aunt or mom if you are thinking of doing something like fixing food for the family, (I’m not suggesting it, but I know people have already done this).  It is an amazing gift, but it would be good to coordinate so that we don’t get too much on one day, and we know that  there are many people who love Phil.

That’s it for now, except for one thought.  Today I realized that ‘home’ for me hasn’t really been a place for the past months.  I realized that my life was so tied to Phil’s that ‘home’ was wherever Phil was.  I decided that is how our relationship with Jesus should be.  That wherever we are and whatever we go through, we are at peace with our situation, because we get to be with God, our great Emanuel.


DAY 129: “String Music” for PHIL!

Today is an exciting update.  Phil’s Aunt Karma and I are both witnessing Phil conquer many firsts. Phil was in OT and was working to put various size and shaped beads onto a string.   Yesterday afternoon, was the first time Phil had used his “fine motor skills” to hold a long string steady as he picked up and placed each bead onto the string.  His OT Sheila, said it was a first.  When Phil was done, he lifted his strand of beads up to me with a smile. It was a great moment to witness what Joe Dean would refer to as  “real string music.”  In addition, Phil walked the treadmill and strengthened his legs even more.  Megan (his PT) mentioned Phil needs hinged knee braces, to help bend his knees slightly, so his knees don’t totally lock-up when he stands.  This will help it feel more natural.  Phil had speech therapy this morning, and practiced sentences for his outing he had today.  “I want to eat “x” and “I want to drink Diet Coke” and so on.  It’s important that family continue to help Phil at home, by encouring him to practice what he wants to say before he goes out, so he’s comfortable and knows how to communicate with others.  Phil’s outing today was small and intimate, with only Phil and one other guy.  They went to the “first” place I took Janet to eat, at Zoe’s Kitchen.  This locally owned restaurant is famous for awesome chicken salad and chocolate cake that is to die for!   Phil ate his lunch and brought back his chocolate cake to eat tonight with his pizza, while we watch UK beat IU.  As of this writing, Phil is yet again – 100% using the restroom and staying dry.  I’d say now that it’s been 3 days in a row that he’s accomplished this, he’s forging ahead to accomplish “the next thing!”   Now regarding Phil strengthening his legs… Phil is totally able to move his wheelchair a long distance on his own.  He can manuever it by using his feet to walk it forward while using his hands to navigate it in the right direction.  So much so, that he got a little raw skin on one hand today and Karma put a bandaid on it.  MORE BIG NEWS!  The staff prepared Phil’s wheelchair so it would be perfect for him in MANY ways.  The chair technicians made numerous adjustments so it would fit Phil’s frame much better.  Then, they gave him “new rims”.  Not just any rims, Kentucky BLUE rims!  Yea, Phil is loving that I’m sure.  Emma arrived this afternoon, and brought Phil that new, UK shirt for tonight’s big game.  I wasn’t present, but understand from Karma that Phil IMMEDIATELY started pulling off his shirt to change!  Phil’s memory is second to none.  He doesn’t forget anything.  He is intentionally listening to progress.  He is determined to talk more, say more and do more!   At dinner, Karma asked Phil if he was 6’1″.  Phil answered, “No.  I’m 5’14” – then he bursted out laughing!  Phil, Karma and Emma laughed so hard their faces turned red!   With all the progress Phil is truly making, let’s continue to pray for Phil to say more words to complete sentences and to communicate any and every need.  Let’s pray that Phil continues to strengthen his legs so he can walk!  He is standing up great and getting VERY little assistance in transition from bed to wheelchair.  Everyday he is getting stronger!  Let’s praise God for Phil’s progress!  I read a devotion to Phil about loving God with all our heart, soul and mind.  Before we prayed, I told Phil that others can learn exactly what that means, by knowing you. 

This will be my last blog for the family since Janet and John return to Atlanta tomorrow.  Pray for them throughout the weekend.  Pray around-the-clock.  Ask God to provide wisdom and discernment in all decisions for Phil.  Pray it is a smooth transition.  One of Phil’s therapists told me that the most important component for healing and progress of those with an acquried brain injury is family support.  She mentioned that she has never seen a family so devoted and dedicated to one another as the Duff family to be there for Phil and one another.  And to that fact I say there is not doubt that Phil will be able to do all things through Christ who strengthens him, along with the family who never leave his side.  I love you all with the love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 



Phil at UK Basketball Practice before Sweet 16 at GA Dome! LOVE that smile!

Day 128: Phil goes to see UK practice at GA Dome!

This was a day that the Lord hath made for Phil.  I received a text from my sister, Andi this morning:
“UK basketball team has an open practice from 3-4p at the Georgia Dome!  You goin?”

The first thing that popped in my head was a prayer: “Lord?  You know how much Phil loves you.  He is an extraordinary young man who truly deserves a day out to see the Cats practice.  Lord please direct me on what to do to make this happen.”  And He did.   I texted his Aunt Karma who had left Shepherd’s Center to eat a bite, and basically said, “I think you might want to get back.”  And she did, wearing her UK shirt.  I told her earlier what I had hoped to do for Phil.  It was hilarious.  Phil had on his Superman shirt.  His UK shirt hung in the closet, clean and ready for tomorrow’s big game.  It was all we could do to keep this secret from Phil until it was time to go.  But.. His Aunt Karma and I decided we needed to get that UK shirt on him for the occasion. When I told Phil to let us call for help to put that UK shirt on him, he said “No!  Tomorrow!”  He said “Game is tomorrow.”  He meant it, too.   When Karma said his Aunt Emma was bringing him a new UK shirt tomorrow, so he could wear that one today, he finally said “Ok.”  (Sorry, Emma, we had to tell him about the new UK shirt to get him to put it on!)   We waited for Nate, one of his therapists, to come at 230p.  Phil still didn’t know what was going on.  We were grinning and acting like kids, knowing what was about to go down.  Nate and the entire therapist’ team came with a  camera and outing stuff, and Nate said “Hey Phil.  Want to go see UK play basketball for an outing?”  I think Phil’s hard work on continence was truly challenged because he was so excited!  PHIL PREVAILED!  He is already 4/4 or 100% again today, making it to the bathroom on time.  (I feel like a proud aunt, myself!)  We had the best time at the GA Dome!  We watched the Cats practice and he ate a pretzel, drank soda while Karma gave him all the stats, facts, figures, coaches names, etc.  Tomorrow’s game is a game they’ll win and to me, it’s all for Phil.  I do want to tell everyone something extraordinary that happened with Phil.  We were in his room chilling before lunch.  I said “Hey Phil, let’s call John and your mom to pray with them”  to which Phil replied “at Papaw’s funeral.”  I looked up at the clock, and sure enough it was noon. Phil & I prayed for the family right then, that God would bring them comfort and peace.  It was heavy on Phil’s heart. Phil is more aware of times, events, people and happenings than he’s ever been.  He’s saying sentences that blow me away.  He’s got this “determined look” that he IS going home and that his family is coming back for him this week and he is so ready to go!  He’s working twice as hard, trying twice as hard and it’s so special to see him progress even more.  He’s homeward bound.  He knows it.  He reminds us many times a day, March 26th.  Monday.  I’m going home.  Yes, you are Phil.  You’re going home to the Bluegrass.  You and your family, sure will be missed in Georgia but I celebrate this joyful occasion coming soon for you.

A Milestone for Phil

James 5:16 “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Phil was 5 for 5 today.  He was able to communicate his need to go to the restroom and successfully made it each time!  Let us give thanks to God for his faithfulness in answering this prayer!  I saw the great sense of accomplishment in Phil’l s eyes!  I told him how proud were all were of him and how very proud the family will be to know about this great milestone.  I asked Phil if he’d like to call the family and tell them, to which he replied an emphatic, “YES!”  We called John first, and Phil really enjoyed hearing his voice!  It was the spark that charged him to work twice as hard in OT and PT.  Then I set a time to Skype with the family but John couldn’t be there, so John asked us to call him again before dinner. We called about 5p and they talked together for 15 minutes.  One topic was soccer, and John asked Phil what his favorite soccer team was, and Phil said “Tottenham!”  (I had them on speaker phone so I could re-state any of Phil’s responses to John, that John couldn’t hear.  John heard that one!)  After talking to John again, I took Phil to dinner and he ate every morsel.  We went back to the room and Skyped the 2 beautiful women in his life.  When Phil saw his mom and sister’s smiling faces on the screen, he held my laptop SO steady!   He didn’t want to miss one second seeing and talking to them.  Technology is a gift.  I am so thankful for cell phones and computers and Skype.  We ended the night (Karma, Phil and I) – with a devotion about “Brothers and Sisters.”  God calls us to spend time with those who love Him.  Phil: 2:2 “Make My joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”  Matthew 18:20: “Where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name (in person or Skype or cell) – I am there in the midst of them.”  God truly was in the midst of our time together with Phil yesterday.  Let us pray for Janet and the family, and ask God to be in the midst of them (the center) – as they celebrate the life of Janet’s father, Abraham Walters.  May God be your Comforter on this day. 

Phil had a GREAT DAY yesterday!

Psalm 29:11 “The Lord will give strength to his people; The Lord will bless His people with peace.”

I am writing this blog on behalf of the family.  It’s my first one, so I apologize I wasn’t able to figure out how to put the photos with the blog, but rather sent the photos out first.  Yesterday, I had the amazing privilege of spending the entire day with Phil.  We sat together at lunch, and he ate all of it but the small side salad.  They forgot his ranch dressing.  I asked the helpers for ranch dressing, and they came back with Thousand Island and French, to which Phil said “No, ranch.”  They came back 10 minutes later with ranch, then he ate every bite.  He had a great day in therapy.  As we sat together waiting for his speech therapist, she came into the room and I asked him “Who is that, Phil?”  And he replied, “Tristen.”  She asked him questions that Phil clearly knew all of the answers to!  “Phil, what room in the house has a toilet?”  Phil’s reply, “The bathroom” (then he chuckled.)  She asked “What room has the TV in it?”  Phil said “Living Room.”  She asked, “Where would you like to vacation?”  Phil replied “The beach.”  She asked “Where is John now?”  Phil said, “He went home.”  Phil knows everything that’s going on and it’s awesome to hear sentences, now!  Megan is his PT and she said Phil is getting stronger every day, and Phil was able to stand up with “very little assistance” from the bed to get into his wheelchair.  All she did was help swivel his hips a tad, to sit him back down.  His OT, Nicole, had him do 1lb weight exercises to strengthen his wrists, and he kept his forearms level and down to focus on his wrists.  He did great with both hands!  And as you see in the photo I posted, when he put pegs on the peg board, he chose Kentucky Blue out of the container!  (Yea, he bleeds blue.)  He put pegs all the way across the board.
When therapy was done, I took Phil to his room to have a devotion with him.  We read scripture together about “peace.”  Our verse was 2 Cor 13:11 “Finally brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and he God of love and peace will be with you.”  About 603p, Phil’s Aunt Karma arrived from Florida.  Phil was so happy to see her! They talked about all kinds of memories and laughed.  Phil was pointing and asking me about the sun, then I finally figured out he was telling me to pull the blinds down, the sun was in his eyes, then he pressed the button to his bed up so he could sit up.  No wonder he was lying with the bed completely down.  He is truly communicating well!  Later, he said “I need a drink.”  I asked him what he wanted, and he said “milk.”  I didn’t know where it was, and I said “will you show me where to get it?”  So Phil and I left the room and he took me around the floor straight to the “nourishment center” where there was a fridge and milk!  He was SO happy!  (I had just given him cookies, but he only had water. Shame on me!  Of course he wanted milk with his cookies!)  Now I know where we go to get it!  Finally, Phil, Karma and I had devotion together about God walking with us. Phil loved it.  He craves the Word.  The one verse I quoted was John 14:16 “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, who will never leave you.”  Today, on behalf of the beautiful Duff family, let’s pray for them while they’re in Lexington to have peace and know God is always with them, and pray for Phil to continue growth in his communication and strength for his body, and to feel peace too, until his family returns later this week.   May God bless each of you today.  Sherri Ockerman-Hopkins (friend.) 

Phil in OT with Nicole

Phil in OT with Nicole

Phil is strengthening his wrists by doing repetitions of curls with a 1lb weight. He is truly getting stronger and was able to do both hands while keeping his forearm level, enabling him to focus on the wrist movement only.

Phil in Speech Therapy with Tristan

Phil in Speech Therapy with Tristan

Phil did great ijn Speech Therapy yesterday! Tristan asked him questions and asked Phil to respond in sentences and he did! She said “Tell me what you like about vacations and Phil replied “I like beaches.” LOVE IT!

Phil Placing Pegs on the Peg Board

Phil Placing Pegs on the Peg Board

Phil in Occupation Therapy placing pegs onto the peg board yesterday. (The only green one on the board, was selected by the OT. Phil got to choose the remaining pegs out of a container with red, yellow, blue and white. Of course, he chose the remaining ones in Kentucky BLUE!” )