Family Corner

Day Program at Shepherd Center

So I was really terrified at the idea of moving into an apartment with Darren and being responsible for his care. Yes, I had learned how to do pretty much everything related to his care, but ON MY OWN?? How would I ever manage? Of course, we did manage, and now laugh about some of the situations we found ourselves in.

The idea of the Day Program is to help patients and their families transition home with support from the staff. Each day, Darren got on a bus with the other patients who were living in the apartment complex, went to Shepherd Center for the day and came back on the bus at 4 or 5 pm. We started the day with doing his range of motion exercises in bed, getting him dressed, ate breakfast and boarded the bus. While he was transported, I showered and ate, then walked up to Shepherd myself. We didn’t have a car, so I walked everywhere, including to and from the grocery store to get what we needed for our little apartment.

The day consisted of PT, OT, recreational therapy, gym, art, swimming and any other social activities they had planned. It was a full day, and Darren often just wanted to rest when he came home. If there was something going on in the evening, sometimes we just stayed at Shepherd instead of going back and forth.

One night, we did go back for a rugby exhibition, and we met some great guys who were on the team. I think back to how hard it was for Darren to push a rugby chair (I don’t think he was really able to do much) to now, and realize how much different his abilities are now. To go back to Shepherd that evening, I had to push him up the hill to get there and then hold onto him going down the hill to go home. It was an experience I’ll never forget. What a workout for me!

One Monday night, Darren & I took a public bus to the ESPN Zone Bar/Restaurant for a Monday night football game. It was interesting to take public transportation for the first time with a wheelchair, but people were very helpful and we had a good time. It felt good to do something “normal,” even though there were challenges throughout the entire trip.

Arianne stayed for a long weekend at one point during our stay in the apartment when we were fortunate to have a car on loan from a friend of ours. We drove to ESPN Zone this time, watched another Monday night football game and had a lot of fun. I was learning how much longer it took to do even the simplest things, but we were determined to try.

Another weekend, Ari, my sister and another friend visited and we took a trip to the Botanical Gardens. It was a really nice day and we had a good time being out and about. But car transfers at that time were really difficult! We always had to park near a curb so we had a little height advantage getting into the car. And even then, things didn’t always go so smoothly! I remember seeing another patient’ s dad nearby and asked him for some help. I think Darren might have wound up on the ground if he hadn’t come along!

As the whole idea of the Day Program is to make a successful transition home, the PT’s and OT’s came to our apartment to help us become more comfortable doing Darren’s care. Each of them had a student intern, so when they came there were 4 of them, Darren and me in our tiny bathroom, doing things like bowel care, shower chair transfer and taking a shower. It was pretty hysterical, and still the memory of all 6 of us crammed into the bathroom makes me laugh. At least they were making light of the situation, while Darren & I were alternately mortified and terrified of doing all this stuff on our own. And forget modesty! That went right out the window!

Another scary/now funny situation happened when Darren decided he wanted to sit on the couch in the apartment. It was easy to transfer out of his chair onto the couch, since the couch was lower. We didn’t really think it would be all that difficult to reverse the process, but boy were we wrong! We tried and tried to do it ourselves, but with no success. I had to go bang on a few doors before I found someone home in the apartment complex to come and help us!

After one week in the Day Program, the Shepherd Case Worker managed to convince our insurance company to cover one more week. And after that week, we got a third week, but they said in no uncertain terms that was it – no more extensions after that. John was doing the best he could to ensure the construction on our home modifications and addition of Darren’s room would be complete by the time we got home, but the elevator was a problem. Everyone was doing the best they could, but while Darren’s room and bathroom were all ready for him, he couldn’t use them because the elevator was not operable.

In any case, we ended our time at the Day Program, said all of our goodbyes, packed our stuff into a van and headed to the airport. Ari flew down to be with us for the journey home, and we really needed her. Not only physically, but emotionally, too. First, we had to pack and ship a lot of stuff home beforehand. Then we had to get ourselves to the airport, manage all of our belongings and take a flight to New Jersey. Friends loaned us their accessible van so John could pick us up, and we arrived at Newark airport, ready to go home after 3 and ½ long, tough months.

It’s always good to go home…