April 2008

It was my intention to share with you the schematic framework of Todd’s day. The writing was well underway, providing the understanding and interpretation of what the day’s work consists of…..how does one recover from a traumatic brain injury? What is does a slow path mean exactly (of course there are no concrete answers for anything which is difficult for us and how we like to process information) and what is Todd relearning? Well I have been cut off at the pass………by none other than Todd.

Returning to the states has been a full plate. …..our days as a team our considerably longer than what we had grown accustomed to. Many things that we must accomplish in a week, or even a day will never even reach the page. We are both busier than ever, in Amsterdam we were healing and surviving. Now Todd is recovering and that, as we are learning, is a great deal of work. Tackling the simplest of tasks, which we all take for granted. The layers involved in the simplest moves are obvious once dissected but I would guess most of us have not deconstructed the amount of various movements in a chew and swallow or even smile for that matter…..or how laying in bed for a great deal of your day will affect the muscles in your feet and ankles thus your step and stride. How a step is not just moving your foot forward but requires both a lift (requiring the building of strength) and the shift of weight.

Last week’s highlights took us all (therapists included) by surprise. The first occurred while Todd and I were messing around with range of motion while in his chair awaiting the therapist for the first morning session. I have taken to coming in a bit earlier (around 9ish) to start some stretching and movements to increase the benefits of the day. While Todd was in his wheelchair I dropped his hands by his side to stretch out his shoulders and loosen things up a bit. Todd’s hands found their way to the wheels of the chair and then without any prompting he propelled himself forward for the distance available with one full roll. It was not far but what an amazing moment it was. We couldn’t’ wait to show off! Not only did he do it once but he did it again for two separate therapists! Indeed Todd had it in him to (with assistance in repositioning) move forward enough to hit their shins at the urging or challenge of these very needed individuals. This was Todd’s first opportunity to strike back! And boy did he step up to the plate! No bruises were given with the gentle tap he was able to muster but a glorious confrontation of sorts. What a guy. Sometimes these days it’s when you aren’t even looking that the most amazing moments can occur. Now this may sound good but that is just a drop in the bucket.

You thought that was cool?! Listen to this. Setting: We are in physical rehab, which is our major afternoon therapy. (This currently consists of standing frame (which stretches out his legs and drops his heels), to holding himself up on the parallel bars (with assistance), to the assisted walking with the aid of the LiteGait (which takes his weight when he is strapped in to the harness). He is currently in a 3 assist situation with this contraption which is me + two therapist if not three. Well we were on the parallel bars Todd holding himself up……. right got that picture? All of a sudden Diane (our lead physical therapist) shouts “He is moving, All right gang here we go Todd is walking! Alex follow with the chair!” So I am behind while Keany is in front (two more one on each side) and Todd is moving one foot in front of the other! “Go Todd!” we are all shouting enthusiastically. All of us were in shock and I had tears of joy streaming down my cheek. When Todd made it to the end of the parallel bars I was there with his chair for him to sit down softly and rest. What a smile. Todd did this one more time, and that time his mom Annie was watching quietly from a chair. TODD IS A ROCKSTAR! I say it every day….. and I will continue to. Is this a turning point?


I think of Todd’s recovery much like the old fashion barn raising. Where the community comes out and together they work as the structure is built, erected, and solidified. We are witnessing a contemporary version of that which I guess we could call a Todd raising! Tomorrow is the next grand effort (from Vale and team) to assure our survival through this most challenging time! Thanks to you all, bills are getting paid, we are being fed, and we can focus on being together working hard everyday. I have been starting to see and run into to people more and more as the weeks go by and how amazing it is to see the love and also hear accounts of how Todd has influenced and inspired so many people! Keep the faith …….it is a wild ride we are on and we do not know what is ahead or where we are going to land next……but we do know it includes Todd,…HOW GREAT IS THAT!?

(I cut this from a post) Vale wrote:
We’re thinking about Todd daily and following his recovery!_Don’t forget about the “Pranks Film Festival” coming next week. Special Todd Blair Benefit night is Thursday April 3, 9PM at the Roxie Theater 3117 16th at Valencia, SF. Mark Pauline has agreed to a live Q&A with Vale — also will show some of the machine demo tapes by Marian Wallace: Maker Faire 2007; SRL V1 at the Lab, 2003; and the fabulous dual screen Berkeley Art Museum show, taped by Scott Beale and Marian. Also will show a Mark Pauline interview — taped in the ’80s.ALSO the after party at “the Homestead” (corner of Folsom/19thSt.) will follow this show. Hope to see you there! Check the Todd Events page for more details and more on the copious other shows April 1-3. We’ll be giving away a Pranks hardback AND Pranks Film Festival shirt as door prizes. Money from this show to Todd Blair and Alex, so tell your friends.

And now in the true fashion of this long time communication another voice from Todd’s bedside. Here’s Johnny: (he has been quiet lately)

I’m sure y’all will excuse the my lapse in writing. I’ve had a bit of catching up to do since my trip to Amsterdam, but am now able to balance everything out enough to be able to hammer out a few words. I have been helping Todd here and there with his range of motion exercises and sharing some art books with him (which he devours attentively), but this morning was a truly wonderful therapy experience with Todd and his Recreational Therapist Tamara. Alex has described the machine that helps Todd practice walking (the Lite-Gait – – I thought it was some sort of sci-fi transporter device when the therapists were first talking about it). Its cousin for arm movement is a frame which uses counterweights and slings for wrist and elbow to make his arms “lighter”. The plan for this morning was to use this machine, and then Tamara said, “Let’s bring the machine up to the rooftop garden.” With the help of the counterweights and some light guidance by us, Todd was able to pull a marker out of one of the planters and lift it up to read. We then went through some fluid Tai Chi like movements, which, although strenuous, got Todd very strongly focused and calm. By the end he was doing most of the work. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see this progress — hands grasping, eyes focused, mouth mustering words (and apparently coaxing out a few here and there). And all this surrounded by lovingly planted flora, amazing view of the Bay, and a facefull of non-institutional air for Todd to feast upon. Stay tuned for another update next week – – I am planning on bringing in some Japanese brush painting fixins so we can get a little Sumi going on.

Love and hugs and stopping to smell the lavender.

Coming soon……..I am already working on the next entry…..IN A DAY. Keep an eye out. Alex.

Oh yeah and I have some good photos of that guy we are all so proud of. What a determined, tenacious, spirited, bright light!!!!!