READ CHAPTER ONE HERE: Yvonne & Tabitha's Story "His Miracles...Our Miracle" (2016)
We are now thirty-two months since Tabitha was hit by a drunk driver. To say life has changed is an understatement. From where we were when our first story with 7 Billion Ones first aired, Tabitha can now sit up by herself, she can stand with the assistance of her quad walker and hold her balance for approximately a minute before falling down, she feeds herself but still has to be reminded to take small bites, still has her feeding tube for fluids and all medicines since swallowing is still a huge issue for her.
Tabitha chews her food and for the most part, and does not choke on it unless it is a juicy item such as fruit, meats, etc. All of her liquids still have to be thickened because she will automatically choke on them. She does not feel liquids trickling down her throat and is considered a "silent aspiration" because liquids will be in her lungs before she is even aware of it. She still gets two tube feedings a day just to maintain her fluid levels to avoid dehydration.
Tabitha now has VPI (velopharyngeal insufficiency), a long word meaning her soft palate doesn't close. This is the reason she still cannot talk properly. Since our last interview, Tabitha got a communication device that speaks for her. She simply types in what she wants to say and it speaks. She will use this to "talk" with others but does not use it around family. We have gotten to where we can communicate with her and if we don't understand her verbally, she uses sign language which we have taught her as well. Tabitha did have a procedure to try to fix the VPI but we do not feel it worked fully. Some days we can understand Tabitha's words a lot better, other days, not so much.
As with everything else in a TBI (traumatic brain injury) patient, things can change on a daily basis. Some days the skill or task can be done, other days she doesn't have a clue. We never know what the day will bring, but whatever that day brings, she is ALWAYS a joy and an inspiration to be around. Many patients with TBI become angry, violent, depressed - not Tabitha! She always seems to know how to cheer me up if she sees me or her sisters having a bad day.
Tabitha still experiences short term and long term memory loss. Some days she can ask something and not 30 seconds later be asking the same thing again. She just laughs it off and says, "Oh I forgot!"
Tabitha has other medical issues now that have resulted from the brain injury, some now requiring her to see a specialist in St Louis. She is always having doctors appointments and therapies it seems. Tabitha now has a PA (personal assistance) help that is provided for by the state under a medical waiver she qualified for due to her disabilities. Her PA's are her sisters that can actually come in and help assist Tabitha with her daily needs. They take her to her therapies - which she still has PT, ST and OT every week. Tabitha attends an adult daycare during the week when her PA is not scheduled to be with her. This is all so I can continue to work. This service definitely made my life easier to have help with Tabitha.
Everything we have done through this new journey we are on has not been easy by any means! I feel at times I'm advocating for Tabitha and just spinning wheels getting nowhere. Sometimes it’s a step forward, two-steps back type of thing. Now that we are trying to function in the world of the disabled, it's a whole new ball game. I'm going to go out a limb here just a moment and advocate for ALL the disabled people you might come across - If you're able to use a regular restroom stall, please do so. Please do not park in a handicap spot illegally. If you see a wheelchair coming towards you, please walk around, don't cut them off or at least give them the space to proceed. These are some of the biggest gripes I have. Please just remember those less fortunate than yourself.
I mentioned advocating for Tabitha, it's more like fighting the government every little step of the way - that being Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. We will just say that that is still an issue and for legal reasons, I won't go any further.
Since our last update, Tabitha and I have moved into a house recently that was built accessible. Tabitha can now go around anywhere in her chair in our house and even has a walk-in shower which has made life much easier on us.
This was a totally preventable "accident". Tabitha and I are involved with MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and have travelled to Jefferson City to help advocate for stricter penalties for drunk drivers. We have even met the National MADD president! Speaking of MADD, there will be a MADD Walk here in Springfield, Missouri on October 20th, 2018. This is a fundraiser for MADD to keep their programs going. MADD has been there with us every step of the way through court, sentencing and everything. They are there anytime I need to just talk to someone. Tabitha and I will be walking in that and have a team entered as TEAM TABBY. Anyone and everyone is encouraged to come walk with us. Contact me if interested through #prayersfortabby on Facebook for more details.
Tabitha also did a video with Safe and Sober that will be released to all Missouri Jr High and High Schools next spring. It is a very powerful video!
Life is totally different from when 7 Billion Ones first came across our story. Tabitha continues to get better, we continue to adapt to our forever changing environment and LIFE is GOOD! Our motto - ONE DAY AT A TIME. Don't stress over the things you have no control over.