Monday, June 25, 2012

Western Blind Rehabilitation Center

Sean was accepted into the Comprehensive Neurological Vision Rehabilitation (CNVR) program at the Western Blind RehabCenter (WBRC) in Menlo Park, CA.  On February 21st we flew to California to get him admitted into the program.  Through the VA’s Caregiver Program, I was able to spend the first week and a half at the blind center with Sean to help him adjust and to observe the program. 

The staff and program at WBRC were impressive! We both felt at ease and Sean settled into his routine.  His day included:  Manual Skills where he learned woodworking, ceramics, leatherwork, and gardening; Orientation and Mobility which offered a refresher on his mobility and cane skills along with training on the TrekkerBreeze; Living Skills focused on cooking, cleaning, and using devices such as the Milestone to better organize his day; Visual Skills emphasized using the Victor Reader Stream for his audio books as well as using proper lighting and scanning techniques; CNVR training instructed him in use of the iPad and his computer, and introduced him to Interactive Metronome (IM).  IM uses rhythm to help reset the brain’s timing and to improve a variety of functions including memory, concentration, and focus.  Sean will be continuing IM therapy at home.

Before I returned home we took the Caltrain into San Francisco for the day.  We went to Pier 39 and took a boat tour of the bay around Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge.

I returned for the family training portion of the program on May 9th.  We met with the neurologist and with Dr. Cockerham and discussed the results of the MRI.  The high-resolution MRI did detect areas of brain damage on the right side in the frontal lobe, temporal lobe, and deep white matter.  While there is not visible damage in the occipital lobe (visual center of the brain) vision travels throughout the brain and all parts of the brain play a role in what the brain sees.  Sean’s damage is on the right side, and his weak eye is his left since vision crosses the brain while it travels to the back of the brain.  Testing indicates that Sean receives very little visual information through his left eye.  When presented with a light bar approximately four feet long with flashing lights, Sean’s eyes responded automatically to lights on the right side, but did not respond or “jump” to any stimuli from the center of his body to the left.  While there is no clear “x marks the spot” answer, I respect that there are things medical science cannot explain and that the doctors were up front and honest.  The instructors who worked with Sean every day did not find any indication of conversion disorder.  At this time continued vision rehab, such as the CNVR program, is recommended for possible improvement over time.  Sean will likely return to the WBRC in 8-12 months.

Overall, we were thrilled with the program and found the staff, training, and accommodations to be top notch!  HUGE thanks to John and Dan of the CNVR program, as well as to Nikki, Anita, Paula, Matt, Tony, Nicole, and all the nursing staff (and anyone I forgot)!

Western Blind Rehab Center, Menlo Park, CA
Playing Black Jack
Pier 39
Sea Lions at Pier 39
Golden Gate Bridge
Sean made dinner in Living Skills
Watering his garden
Working in the shop with Tony
Graduation with Program Manager John Kingston
Technology Class with Dan

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


March took us to D.C. to participate on a panel as part of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs.  Basically, we reviewed grant proposals and then worked with a panel comprised of veterans, doctors, and scientists to determine the merit of each proposal as it applied to science and to the impact for patients.  To say this was a learning experience would be an enormous understatement!

The highlight for me was meeting fellow FOV staff Brannan Vines, and Amanda & Tony Patchell!  So exciting to meet my friends in person and be able to hug each one of them.  The trip was a huge success and a great time was had all around.

Melissa with Brannan Vines,
President and Founder of Family Of a Vet
Melissa and Amanda
Tony and Sean

Challenge Aspen C.A.M.O.

In February Sean and I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the Visually Impaired Ski & Snowboard festival through Challenge Aspen C.A.M.O. We traveled to gorgeous Snowmass, Colorado for a week-long adventure filled with skiing, friends, and relaxation.  

Sean easily picked up with skiing as if he'd never stopped.  The sport is excellent for his balance as well as for physical fitness.  We spent time with fantastic friends and made new ones as well.  The girls took a day off and rode the gondola up Mount Aspen and had lunch at an incredible hidden gem called Krabloonik where we were able to watch the sled dogs get hitched and ready to run.  

Steven Schulz and Sean at Spider Sabich

Sean with instructors Kathy and Jim
Torrey Shannon and Melissa riding the gondola
to the top of Mt. Aspen

Girls' Day at Mt. Aspen
Dog sleds at Krabloonik
Melissa and Debbie Schulz 
Sean, Karen, Eddie, Steven, Sergio, Corey, and Dorian

We enjoyed our experience so thoroughly that we will be heading back to Snowmass in July for Horses for Heroes, part of Challenge Aspen's C.A.M.O. program.  Can't wait!  

Sons of Southfork

This post is horribly overdue!  But I decided to share it anyway because the Sons of Southfork have been avid supporters of Sean's cycling and recovery.  Every October they fly a group of veterans to the Southfork Ranch in Dallas, SD for a weekend of pheasant hunting and camaraderie.  Celebrities such as Kent Hrbek and Tom Watson come out and spend the entire weekend hunting side by side with disabled veterans.  Please watch the promotional video to truly understand the impact these men have on the lives of wounded veterans.