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Zahava Recovery – December 26th 2011

Happy christmas to those who celebrate. I’m writing this on Boxing day here in Brisbane, at the hospital next to Zahava. She is sitting in her oxford chair reading a cosmopolitan magazine Phil bought for her.

Since updating you last October Zahava has slowly and steadily progressed. The improvement curve is very slow, but it is heading in the right direction.

The trachy remains the big goal – to have it removed. Zahava had surgery on her throat a month ago to remove some scar tissue that had built up from having the trachy for a long time. The tissue blocks her airway, which must be cleared in order to breath without the trachy.

Zahava had the surgery under a local anaesthetic. She took about two weeks to heal properly, which was about two weeks ago. Since then her speech pathologists have begun the cuff deflations again, which is where the balloon that protects her airway is deflated so she has to handle protecting it herself.

When the balloon is down a speaking valve can be attached so air passes through Zahava’s vocal cords and she can talk. Her voice is quite “wet”, covered in saliva and gurgling, but she can say understandable words in a deep voice.

The whole process is tasking on her breathing, so sessions last for 30 minutes to an hour. The goal is to get these sessions happening every day and increase how long they go for. When Zahava can tolerate the balloon being down all the time and handle the breathing and swallowing etc by herself, the trachy can come out. At the moment it’s about stability and building endurance.

The rest of her body is improving slowly. Zahava goes for short walks with her physio and a assistant holding her up with a walker with wheels. Her left side is good, her right side is slowly getting better. Her left hand works fine, her right hand is getting better.

We do daily exercises to help Zahava with her swallow/mouth and her right arm, in addition to the treatment she gets from the hospital staff.

In terms of mood, Zahava is relaxed, except during the cuff deflations where she does a lot of coughing. Most of the time she jokes around with us, smiling and laughing, has long naps, watches tv and reads magazines. The nurses have regular treatments for Zahava to keep things stable and for the most part the days follow a similar pattern.

Visitors are welcome to pop in for short visits any time. Zahava can remember all of her long time friends very well and will greet you with a big smile. Her concentration and short term memory isn’t great, but in general she is just as she always has been.

Happy new year from all of us at the hospital.


Zahava Recovery – October 16th 2011

Hello again, here is the latest news on the recovery of my mother, Zahava.

Zahava has been through a tough month or so. Unfortunately about six weeks ago her active left hand pulled out the trachy tube from her throat one night on the weekend. This is not a good thing as it causes quite a bit of trauma and she needs it in to help her breath.

The emergency team were called in and put in a new trachy, but unfortunately the damage was done, setting us back a few weeks.

Since then she has been on a roller coaster ride of respiratory issues, often resulting in changes to plans at the last minute, multiple doses of antibiotics just in case of infection, and several not-so-fun late night emergencies. We have been taking it day by day, dealing with each challenge as it comes.

The week before last Zahava had another new trachy put in place, this time deliberately, with a new mechanism that allows some of the secretions to be removed from the top of her cuff. Since then she has had a stable 10 days thanks to some extra cautious planning doing not much more than the basics.

The goal now is to maintain the stability and slowly again begin the process towards removing the trachy from her throat so she can drink, eat and hopefully talk again. In order for this to happen the important thing is for Zahava to practice swallowing, which is what we do every day.

Physio continues, with Zahava having taken a few steps standing up, albeit with several people holding her up. She tires very quickly and sleeps a couple of hours after most physio sessions.

The timeframe for her recovery is unknown, but very likely we are talking years for a complete recovery. For the moment we take a little tiny step forward each day, with the main current goal of getting the trachy out of her throat.

Visitors Welcome

I asked Zahava last week if she would like guests to come visit and she said she is ready for people to come and say hello (with a nod of her head).

Bear in mind her short term memory is not good and she cannot talk to you, so if you do decide to come visit you have to be able to carry a one-way conversation and stick to positive subjects. Zahava would like to hear about the good things going on in your life. She can listen, and respond with smiles, yes and no with her head, facial expressions and hold your hand with her left hand.

She has good long term memory, so will remember who you are assuming she knew you before the stroke.

The best times to visit are Monday at 5Pm, Wednesday at 4PM, Thursday at 5pm or Saturday and Sunday from 3pm onwards. Phil or myself should be with Zahava during these times.

Officially visiting hours are 10am to 1pm and 3pm to 8pm. Chances are if you show up in the mornings Zahava will be working with a physio, speech pathologist, doctor, nurse or occupational therapist, so I recommend the times suggested. I also recommend you plan a short visit of about 30 minutes maximum.

Zahava is located on Level 7BNorth of the Royal Brisbane in the main building, Ned Hanlon, currently bed 48 (check at reception as the bed number can change as we get moved around if you are reading this long after the publication date).

As always, please please please keep the prayers coming, the well wishes and positive thoughts – Zahava needs it all if she is to get through this and recover something like the life she had before.

Thank you for the support.

Yaro and Phil and of course, Zahava.

Zahava Recovery – September 6th 2011

Today I am happy to report that Zahava’s progress continues in a positive direction. She is now awake the entire day and we spend much of the time making jokes and laughing with her, which is wonderful. She still cannot talk due to the trachy in her throat, but she can communicate a lot using her face and head for many non-verbal expressions.

Her swallow is continuing to improve and we hope that eventually she will be able to have the trachy removed and can begin the process of rehabilitating her voice and eating food again (at the moment she eats through a tube in her stomach).

Zahava is slowly regaining some movement in the right side of her body, while the left side remains very active and continues to improve as she gains more specific control over her leg, arm and hand. Every day the physio works on her strength to move towards sitting, standing and eventually walking again.

We still have a long way to go but have high hopes that the current progress forwards will continue. It remains challenging while in hospital as Zahava requires constant help and medications, so we appreciate the prayers and well wishes continuing to help us get closer to bringing her home one day.

Thank you again for your love and thoughts,

Yaro and Phil

Zahava Recovery – August 17th 2011

I have not updated this page in a while as there was nothing significant to report, however today we had a positive change.

For the last several weeks Zahava has remained in mostly the same condition with our focus on swallow training to hopefully one day remove the trachy from her throat so she can breath normally through her mouth and possibly speak again too. This is still our main focus now as the speech pathologists help her improve her swallow, tongue and mouth control so her brain can learn how to complete a swallow 100%. At the moment she can swallow but some of it goes into her lungs so she needs the trachy.

The main goodnews we had today is that Zahava can now communicate with us via nodding and shaking her head to say yes or no. I first saw her nod her head a couple of days ago but I was not sure it was deliberate and could not get her to repeat it. Today on many occasions she nodded her head to say yes, shook her head for no and was very alert with eyes open. She also read some words on cards sent to her and confirmed that she could read by nodding her head.

Naturally we are elated that we now have a means to communicate to Zahava and we hope that improvements continue, although we remain patient – there is a long way to go yet.

This week Zahava’s sister Diane and brother in law Larry arrive from Canada, so we are pleased to have more family here with us.

Thanks again for your ongoing support, prayers and expressions of love for Zahava. Please keep it coming as she has a lot more work to do.

Yaro and Phil

Zahava Recovery Day 43

Zahava remains in a stable condition in the stroke ward. Her alertness remains the same, spending most of the time resting or in some kind of semi-conscious state – it is difficult to know exactly how much she is aware of. She does open her eyes occasionally and shows deliberate communication with us, but tires very quickly.

In terms of her body, she takes minor steps forward requiring less support from medicine and equipment, although she still requires a trachy in her throat to help deal with secretions.

Our focus now is building up her swallow strength so she can eventually have the trachy taken from her throat. Beyond that we hope and pray that her brain is finding a way to rewire passed the damaged areas so she will regain more consciousness and be able to talk again one day.

Thanks once again for your ongoing prayers and support, we have only begun to climb this mountain.

Yaro and Phil.

Zahava Recovery – Day 26

Here’s the latest on Zahava’s recovery as we head to a month now in hospital.

Things go up and down, with mum having a chest infection slowing things down and a rash too. These things are getting better and she is well looked after with antibiotics and 24 hour care. She also has a couple of other “mysteries” that are watched to see how they are going as well, although the stroke remains the main concern.

She had a new MRI last week and just today the doctors have reported back to us that the top chambers of her brain are good, it is the lower parts, in particular the brain stem where all the traffic to the top of the brain goes through that needs repair. The strokes are not big, it’s only the location that has resulted in such a big impact on her body.

The prognosis is still time as some people have recovered from this sort of damage before, but it is hard to know what will happen or when it will happen with Zahava. Because of the location of the stroke she is quite sleepy most of the day and only becomes a alert now and then.

It’s still early days in stroke time, so we wait patiently by her every day, talk to her, give her music and audiobooks, although most of the time she is resting.

As an additional request for prayers for Zahava, please add her mother, Jolie Harvey (my grandmother, Zahava’s mother), to your prayer list as well. Jolie is 90 years old and Zahava was visiting her mother in Canada where she was in hospital just before the stroke. Jolie is not well and I know my mother would appreciate your well wishes for her mother as well.

Thanks again for your ongoing support and keep the prayers and positive thinking coming!

Yaro and Phil

Zahava Recovery – Day 16

Zahava has been moved to a stroke ward at the Royal Brisbane. This is good because the ICU where she was always had ongoing tests and people going in and out, with no real chance for rest.

Now she is in the ward she is still constantly monitored, but not as invasively. She can breath on her own via the tracheostomy and eats smoothies via a tube down her nose. At the moment she is very tired and only rouses a couple of times per day where she opens her eyes fully and acknowledges me and phil. She communicates with her left foot, and her right side remains largely motionless, although we only ask one or two questions because she tires quickly.

At the moment her condition isn’t any worse or better, we just try and give her as much rest as she can get in between the x-rays, drugs, moving her into different positions and all the other things they do to her in hospital. Our hope is that with rest she shows increased responsiveness, but at the moment it’s all about patience.

We appreciate your ongoing support. Phil and I are with her as much as we can during the day and go home for sleep and dinner. We understand you may wish to come visit her, but for the moment please consider how tired she is and save your energy for prayers for her.

Thank you,

Yaro and Phil

Zahava Recovery Update – Day 11

Zahava has made it through two procedures in the last two days. Today the important surgery was for her to have a tracheostomy so she can breath without the use of the ventilator, which has been in her throat since she entered hospital. She can breath on her own, but there are concerns about her being able to clear secretions, so she will have to be slowly and carefully weened off support.

In terms of response, she has shown indication that she can hear me and phil and the nurses/doctors and has communicated mostly with her left foot. We hope now with the procedures out of the way she will show continued response in other areas of her body.

The doctors have told us that she will eventually be moved out of the intensive care ward and into the stroke specialist general ward, but not until they are clear the tracheostomy breathing is stable.

As always myself and Phil are with her every day and go in and hold her hand and talk to her. She rests when she can, but the nurses and doctors do have to continue to observe her, so it is difficult for her to get uninterrupted sleep.

Thanks again to everyone who has come to the hospital to visit us, called, sent through text messages, emails, facebook messages, twittered and left comments on this blog. We appreciate all the support and well wishes and continue to need your prayers to help mum improve to a point where she can return to a life of some quality after this challenging time.

I’l have more updates as I can.

Yaro and on behalf of Phil.

Zahava Stroke Update – Day 6

Once again we spent the day in hospital with my mother. At the moment her body is showing signs of recovery, however what we really need to see is signs of recovery from the stroke, which so far have been minimal.

The good news is her heart rate is looking more regular and she breathes on her own. Her movement is minimal however, and we don’t know exactly how conscious she exactly is.

Our main focus now is being with her every day, holding her hand and seeing if her mind will repair. It could take a long time, so patience is the main ingredient (plus all of your wonderful prayers and love – thank you!).

I will report again later in the week as I can.

Thank you,

Yaro and on behalf of Phil.

Update On Zahava Hospital Recovery

Zahava is still in a stable condition at the hospital and is showing a mild increase in response to our voices (me and Phil, her partner).

At this stage tests are still being done to ascertain what has caused the stroke and ongoing assessment of how responsive she is. At the moment we hope and pray she shows continued improvement and responds in greater capacity to the point where she becomes fully conscious.

We still require as much of your prayers and love as possible as we look for improvement to her condition. We may have only begun a very long recovery period, so please keep the support coming, we all appreciate it, especially Zahava (knowing that she is cared for by so many people would comfort her a lot, so please share a thought for her every day).

I will update you with more news as I can.

Thank you,

Yaro Starak