Eventually 5 days later the doctors said he was O.K.to leave the Craig [after 21 weeks!] so we said our goodbyes and thanks, to some wonderfull people, and took a 30 mile road trip to the airport to board a plane for the 2 1/2 hour flight back to Los Angeles. Due to the nature of Stephen's injury it is not possible for Stephen to sit in one position for anymore than 15minutes, or else internal skin sores develop and cause massive problems--so he has to do what is called weightshifts, frontal, rear or side movements to take the weight off his butt for a minumum of 2 minutes each 15 minutes.That meant pulling off the road on the way to the airport, stopping to carry out rear weightshifts in his wheelchair, but on the flight itself, we had to have an aisle seat for Stephen, a seat next to him for wife Melissa and an aisle seat opposite Stephen for myself in order to carry this out.
Every 15 minutes we would have the other passengers wondering what we were up to, cos up came the 2 aisle armrests,I would pull Stephen across the aisle towards me whilst Melissa would push his butt up off the seat so his weight was now on his right thigh, then I would push him back towards Melissa so she could pull him towards the window and I would then lift his butt up off the seat and lean him onto his left thigh to complete the weightshift.All in all there is no option, this is an absolute must, it simply has to be a way of life now for Stephen, it is a lot easier when he is sitting in his electric wheelchair cos Stephen can touch his headrest with the back of his own head and command the chair to tilt itself backwards into a near 180 so he ends up just about horizontal for 2 minutes or more every 15 minutes to take the weight off his butt.
Stephen has had a very complex electric wheelchair made for him so that he can use the back of his head to touch switches inside his headrest which allows him to go forward, reverse,steer, control acceleration and top speed, and also carry out the important weightshifts himself just in case he is without a companion for anymore than 15 minutes. Mega amounts of time have been spent trying to master all these touch sensitive movements and as difficult as it is, there is no other way, as Stephen has no control of anything below his shoulders and must learn to fine tune this complex operation.
2 of Stephens friends were waiting at the airport in california for us, with his newly purchased handicap van [Ford E 150] kindly sold to us by a bmxer friend Justin who has lived with a similar injury for the last 12 years.At the touch of a button[inside or outside] twin side doors open, a hydraulic ramp moves out from the van and then drops itself onto the ground allowing Stephen to move his chair onto the ramp and then be lifted electronically up and then into the van where he is manouvered and locked down into a safe travelling position,yet still allow an electric rear weightshift whilst travelling
What an emotional homecoming, mam Cynthia, sons Seth and Mason, beloved retriever sisters Cassie and Geordie, St. Bernard, Rockie and several well loved friends were waiting as we pulled up the long driveway to Stephens new house. After 24 weeks in Hospital Stephen was at long last back in California amongst some wonderfull friends and I honestly dont know who was happiest out of all of us,we will never forget it. Nor will we forget the next 8 days of absolute turmoil, no home nursing care available, after 24/7 hospital care of 24 weeks we were on our own and not able to call out any nurse or doctor due to a terrible mix up between the Hospital, the insurance company and the appointed care agency. Stephen was going downhill and we could not get anyone to analyse his position no matter how we tried , it was like being in a vacuum so after 3 very worrying days we finally had no option but to rush him into another Hospital where he was diagnosed to be suffering another pneumonia and an infection in his bladder. Another course of antibiotics to start, just a week after finishing the last lot, a very nasty situation which would not have happened with home nursing care in place but thats the way it was and we had to get on with it----how we wished there was an NHS in California.
Cynthia has done an amazing job with the new house, fitting it out and furnishing it in a 5 day period ready for our arrival from Denver, it looked fit for a King. Internally it allows Stephen to get around comfortably in his chair and allows him to exit the house from a choice of 4 doorways to a very nice set of grounds where he can watch the children and his dogs enjoy themselves. Stephen has been very fortunate in finding this house but even more fortunate in having 2 lovely sets of neighbours with young children of their own who will go to the same school and spend lots of time with Seth and Mason over the coming weeks and months. Tony and his wife Katrina, Mitch and his wife Cindy, have spent a lot ot their time helping at the house, making Stephen comfortable in his new environment, and whilst both Cynthia and myself were sad to have to fly back to England this last weekend, we left feeling really pleased that Stephen has 2 lovely sets of neighbours who will give him and Melissa a huge amount of support and help with everything in front of them.
Hopefully the next few weeks wont see anymore healthscares for Stephen, I wish them all the best for the festive season and look forward to seeing them again on Saturday 5th January in Baltimore near Washington D.C..where Stephen starts a 6 week course of intensive physical therapy with Doctor John McDonald, designed to help Stephen gain control of some body movement.We have said before that this is an absolute marathon and are going to do everything possible to help Stephen have the best chance of recovery no matter how long it takes ,no matter how hard it is, we must keep moving forward and look to Stephen having a future without a wheelchair in his everyday life.
The last 6 months has seen Stephen mirracoulsly survive a most horrific injury and learn to cope with it, whilst at the same time, learn to live in a wheelchair.Normally that would be all anybody could hope for , but as everybody keeps telling me --Stephen is not a normal person-- and will not accept what normal people will accept. Doctor John McDonald worked with Christopher Reeves [Superman] helping him to regain some movement before he sadly died, and he is very strong in his belief that Stephen is the type of guy who will be strong enough to cope with all that will be neccessary to overcome the very hard road ahead and finally get the reward. The first stage towards recovery is this 6 weeks back in Baltimore and as Stephen makes progress, his program will be altered suitably by Dr John McDonald.We are so fortunate that we are able to work with John as he is at the forefront of research into all aspects of spinal cord recovery and is committed to finding the cure for Stephen and other people around the world who are sufferng from this most dreadfull type of injury.
Once again our friends, the Murray family most sincerely thank you all, for your amazing support, it would not have been possible to be where we are today, without your moral and financial support, we truly are greatfull to everyone and wish a happy festive season and a successfull 2008 to each of you.
ALL THE VERY BEST TO ALL OF YOU