Friday, December 30, 2011
That's what I have said to my reflection more than a few times since September so I'm not surprised when little kids do a double take or just stare at me when I'm out. What continually surprises me is how quickly many kids just accept a 3 fingered man who is missing half of his other arm.
Sure, my niece and nephews have been great ever since invading their house; 9 yr old Jack even told me that my hand "didn't look that bad" over a month ago (of course he followed it up with "It didn't look like a hand for a long time"), but I'd chalked that up to coaching by my sister and brother-in-law.
But I've also had these experiences:
When my buddy Chris told his 2 year old to "hold uncle Johns hand" while we were walking through a restaurant, she reached up for my right hand, moved to my left, took a second glance at my fingers then took hold of my middle finger (I think she even shrugged like "whatever").
Yesterday I had a similar experience with little Nicolas. He and his parents were in the area and dropped by to take me to lunch here in Encinitas. After lunch we decided to go for a walk down to the beach. I guess for Nicolas walking is code for "lots of arm swinging" so he grabbed my hand reached out for Christoper's and the fun began.
Not everyone can be so accepting, but I'm hoping to learn more from these kids.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
with only your ring and pinky.
*Those of you that know me will know how important my daily can of coca-cola is.
I can already hold the can with these two 1/2 fingers (I can move what used to be my middle finger, but the knuckle and tip are still kicking my butt).
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
I should be getting mine early next year, but my doctor is going to use my second toe.
Monday, December 5, 2011
- putting on socks (and not just the hospital kind)
- using a fork & spoon (cereal, salad and even yogurt which impressed my nephews the most)
- soloing an in-n-out burger
- brushing my teeth (the brush is electric and the process is not pretty)
I PULLED OFF MY FIRST SUCCESSFUL OPENING OF A COKE (without tools).
I hope to post a video if/when I can re-create it.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
The propellers of that boat took a lot from me, but I will never let anyone or anything take away the feelings I had during that crossing, of seeing the sandy bottom after 6 hrs and 15 min of swimming and spotting the finish line. Those are all mine and I earned them.
I hope that what happened to me will never happen to another swimmer, but I also hope it does not stop people from challenging themselves in the open water.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
I do know that I needed this trip and from the moment we pulled into the driveway I've felt home...and missed.
My newly cleaned car was in the garage.
The yard looked better than it has in years (although the bar was set pretty low here).
There was a welcome basket on the counter and...
My house had been cleaned. (This one felt a bit strange because I had left the house thinking I'd be back in a short week and not almost 3 months and I have no idea how big a mess I'd left).
Thanks to all involved.
I've enjoyed the silly things like showering in my shower. Sleeping in my bed. Walking down to my beach and around my town. But these pale when comparing them to seeing my neighbors or when I've walked into the club and out onto the pool deck and visited with my coaches and teammates. It might be awhile until I can live up here on my own, but I will be back.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
- I saw the hand surgeon yesterday and he told me how happy he was that he was able to straighten my finger by snipping a couple of lateral tendons. He then pulled the staples covering the integra (fake skin), slapped on a band-aid and said he was "optimistic" that he wouldn't have to lop off the finger, and to keep working the PT. Next up is the toe-to-hand, but that's not until early 2012.
- I then went straight to the pain doctor who said everything looks good and I should re-schedule only if the pain changed. Woohoo!!! One less doctor.
- PT and a massage today and both ladies are proud of their work (and rightly so).
I've made some big gains since Sept 3rd, but all of my recovery would not be possible without my team. This team includes my doctors, the physical therapists and my massage therapists. It also includes all of the people that did not sign up to be in the health care field - especially my sister and her family, my parents and extended family, Grant and the rest of the crew that pulled me out of the water, my sisters friends who have brought meals and run errands, my friends and teammates and also from the fellow swimmers and even strangers who have sent cards, letters and even money.
The rippling effects of accidents and injuries is huge, but so is the effort required for repairs. Thank you for your continued support.
I'm not done. I have a long way to go. For every one time I'm able to buckle the seat belt on my own, there are ten times I'm not able to. I can eat a bowl of cereal on my own, but I can't take the cap off the milk (or lift the bottle if its too full). And on and on.
So, I'm celebrating the victories... but I'm humbled by the enormity of it all. I will be leaning on you (figuratively and sometimes literally) for a long time.
Now up to Half Moon Bay!
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Luckily the surgery didn't cause me much more pain than I'd already been dealing with, I was comfortable with the material and knew that the Orange County Water District would be there if I started to stumble and I did okay.
Thanks Bern for making the drive down and spending a day being my legal pad. Who knew learning about UV treatment could be so fun?
Thanks Jen for helping put the rest together. Working with you is a lot less frustrating than Dragon.
Thanks Justin for being my "right-hand" man on Wednesday and Thursday. It's a good thing that you're so good with buttons.
Thanks Dad for the shuttle service. I think he really came along just to see that people will pay to hear me talk.Most importantly, thank you Orange County Water District.
I left OCWD to ride across country in the Spring of 2009, but when I called to see if I could do this training for my new client they treated me like I had never left. In fact, I'm pretty sure the directors and people from Sacramento don't get the support that I had.
In order of appearance, but not importance: Bill D, Tyson, Pat, Mehul, Becky, Janice, Rae, John B, Mike Samples, Richie, Jimmy, Manny, Steve Clark, Don Supernaw, Mike Ewing, Tom, Joe, Juan, and even a special appearance at the Q & A by the GM, Mike Markus.
The pictures are of:
1. A SCVWD engineer practicing the repair of a micro filtration module.
2. An RO pressure vessel being unloaded.
3. The lamps/sleeves from a UV reactor.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
*John was cold from the anesthesia after surgery -
I couldn't resist taking a photo.
First stateside surgery today. Outpatient procedure to remove the scar tissue in his middle finger. John has been making HUGE strides (with the help of PT Jen and masseuse Lisa) to increase the range of motion in his wrist and fingers. His pinky and ring fingers look great - most of the swelling has subsided and he is able to move them. With these TWO fingers he can use his phone, the computer, feed himself grapes, pretzels and other small stuff. He's still working on opening a Coke can - almost there! His middle finger has been "locked" - which has been a source of frustration for John. The only way to remedy this was to have surgery. Now, with PT... more PT... and more PT... he's hoping to get that finger moving like the other two. He'll start back with PT on Friday.
Dr. Chao also removed what was left of one of the original skin grafts and replaced it with a synthetic thin graft - just to speed along the healing process. That graft should come off next week when John sees Dr. Chao again.
As if that wasn't enough excitement for one day, John is now headed up to Seal Beach to hang with our parents for a few days. He's leading a training seminar tomorrow and Thursday at the OCWD (Orange County Water District). Stay tuned :)
Thursday, October 27, 2011
A bit late... but here are some photos from the Shark Fest in Coronado (San Diego) back on October 9th.
Joel Swartz took me down and I was able to see Mike Mitchell and the Oak Street Gang, which as always, nearly swept the awards portion of the event.
I've never considered myself the top 1/% in ANY group, but this is exactly where my prosthetist says my right arm is in terms of recovery. For those of you who might not know what a prosthetist is - he's the guy who will build and fit me for my new cool arms. This was very good news because I've been getting conflicting reports as to its status.
So, how did I get this news? I met Jonathan of Hanger Prosthetics at the CAF event last weekend and was convinced that this guy was going to get me back in the water. Today was my first appointment with him and we checked muscle strength and my ability to send discreet signals from my bicep and tricep muscles. These signals will allow me to use myoelectric arms - like the iLimb that I have previously posted a video for.
We also talked about a swim arm- an attachment to my right arm that will flare out when I enter the water and retract during the recovery of my stroke. He told me without the correct adjustments I would favor this arm because of its better "catch". Who would have thought my right arm could be a cheater? Maybe I'll still be able to ditch the swim buoy.
Super excited about getting a new stable of arms! But... Jonathan says the focus needs to be on my left hand recovery because that is what is going to help me get in and out of my right arm. So, my next meeting with him will be in December.
Scheduled an out-patient hand surgery for November 8th. The doctor will open up and manipulate my middle finger and frozen knuckle. Hopefully this will allow my finger to recover completely so that I have full range of motion.
Of course I can't take the easy route for anything - so I've scheduled a two day training at the OCWD (Orange County Water District- my "old" job) for the SCVWD (Santa Clara Valley Water District- my new contract). Luckily, the people at OCWD have promised to prop me up if I fall down.
If you've read this far... it's time for a break.
jc (with help from jd)
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Hug your family and friends and be thankful for having this day.
Monday, October 17, 2011
John here... with Jen typing :)
Another big day. PT this morning at 8am - with only 10 minutes on the bike because I didn't want to get up so early. PT Jennifer really put the hurt on me, but I made some big gains in finger range of motion. Lunch out on the back patio (see photo left) - no, I am not at "the club" - note dog in
background :) - and then off to see my hand surgeon, Dr. Chao (see photo right).
On the way, I made a phone call to Jill from CAF (Challenged Athletes Foundation) and SCOPE (orthotics & prosthetics) - they have trademarked the phrase "making dreams happen". Nice.
Jill has already found someone for me to talk to is in a similar..... she's missing both arms... I'm excited to speak with her. Jill has also dropped off VIP tickets for the San Diego Triathlon & Tour of the Cove- both sponsored by CAF. That event is this Sunday in La Jolla, and I am looking forward to cheering on the one-armed swimmers!
At Dr. Chao's office, I got a chance to meet Dr. Beasley (no photo of him. apologies to the plastic surgeon nerds). He is "the father of hand surgery" and he trained Dr. Chao back in New York. The two of them both were happy with my progress and were amazed at how far I have come in such a short time, which was encouraging. Several times Dr. Beasley pointed out that "it didn't get your head" This was not lost on me. It looks like I am going to have a out-patient surgery coming up soon to see if they can get my middle finger going, and accelerate the recovery of my final wound site/ skin graft.
Ann Casey has just rolled in to town from Scottsdale (her first trip away from her kids ?) to help out my sister and come visit. I can only hope I am easier to take care of than 4 children under the age of 14!
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Friday, October 7, 2011
the simple answer is this: nothing - and everything. All the little tasks we two-handed folk take for granted take John more time - and sometimes even MORE time, if I'm being pulled in multiple directions (kids need help with homework/ trash needs to be emptied/ laundry is calling...) We really have no idea where out time goes - only that it does...
shower/ brush teeth/ change dressing/ get dressed/ breakfast/ check email/ meds/ talk with someone on phone/ get in and out of car/ PT appointment/ doctor appointment/ nap/ at-home PT exercises/ massage/ watch HULU movies/ listen to music/ check blogs- surf web/ lunch/ read mail/ walk dog/meds/ get kids from school/ sporting events/ dishwasher/ laundry/ dinner/ meds/ watch TV/ brush teeth/ get ready for bed/ bed/ meds... rinse & repeat. Each day brings something new - good and/ or bad: more movement in the fingers (good!)... more scabs falling off (good!)... John turning pages in a magazine (good!)... John fastening his shoes (good!).... and pain (bad!)
Highlights include when people have come to visit:
Scot flew home with John and spent the weekend... Hank came for dinner... Bernadette spent a day... Mike, Lynne & Ronnie came by for an afternoon... Chris, Kathy & Kaitlin came for the weekend... Christopher, Nicole & Nicholas came for the day... John came for a visit on his way home from a cruise!.... Tim & Diane came for the day... Brian came for PT and lunch... Aunt Cheryl came for the afternoon and brought a bicycle... Mom and Dad come down for days or weekends often... a steady stream of Jen & Brian's friends come by daily bringing dinner... Bertie... Kathy... Jeff...
call him - or send him a note/ email... or find a time to come visit... Half Moon Bay/ Bay Area folks: John will be at his house for about 10 days around Thanksgiving - he'd love to see you up there!
Thursday, October 6, 2011
This past weekend, we made the trip to San Diego to hang out with John. Kaitlin had really missed him and asks about him often. I think she really liked seeing John!
We still haven't figured this one out but Kaitlin would look at John's amputation site and say, "pop". She was not afraid of it and fully expected John to still be able to read her a book. It was a test for him but he was able to hold the book and turn pages and read to Kaitlin. John usually reads to Kaitlin whenever he sees her so I think she figured this was how she'd find out if they would be able to continue with their routine. I think it made John happy too to see that he could continue with their bonding routine. It always makes me smile to see John and Kaitlin interacting. He truly is her uncle.....
There were other times where it was at it always has been... John, Kathy, Kaitlin and I taking a dog (Lucky--Jen's family dog) on a walk and chatting about all sorts of stuff. Many of you have been victims of John's long hikes/walks and I am certain that there will be many marches in everyone's future.
We also spent some time down at the playground in Jen's neighborhood. John tested his balance by walking a roughly 8 inch wide plank which is suspended in the air by cables and thus has a bit of, "movement" to it. Kaitlin was walking it while holding my hand and although I was next to John when he walked it, I am not sure I could have caught him! At about the middle of the plank, John realized that this was probably not a wise thing for him to do but he finished anyway. As challenging as it was for John, I hope that he continues to work on his new balance because I am looking forward to snowboarding more with him!
The other highlight of the weekend was spending time with Christopher, Nicole and Nicholas. They came to visit on Saturday and the whole crew had a blast sharing stories, laughing and watching Nicholas and Kaitlin run around the Dorsey house with their toys.
It was a great treat for us to be able to spend a little time with our friend and we hope our visit wasn't too disruptive. We'd love for this to be the first of more visits to San Diego, but until then, we're looking forward to more updates on the blog to keep us posted on how things are going.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
I dropped him off with Jen at PT at 9:00 int he morning... and picked him up at 10:30- hot and sweaty. She really works him hard: manipulating his fingers (bending and extending them) and moving the swelling (edema) out of his fingers and hand. It's not as easy as it sounds because of the scar tissue. We work on this at home, too. Think intense, painful hand massage. When she finishes, he rides the bike at PT for 45 minutes to "feel like I did something" - ???!!!
Quite the adventure getting to the hand surgeon... lovely traffic caused by some crazy person shooting at people from a car on the freeway (we didn't see anything except tail lights). The hand surgeon and vascular surgeon spent the first 10 minutes of the appointment trying to out-do each other with their vast med school vocabulary- completely ignoring us. Once they had exhausted their "medicalese", they turned to us and shifted in to English. Here's the gist: They explained that giving John a thumb is a little like building a house... and they need to get the plumbing and electrical to the site before beginning construction. The first (of two) surgeries will be to re-route some of John's veins/arteries from his arm to the thumb area... and also to check on/ move the existing nerves to the site. During that surgery, he will also have a "look-see" at the inside of John's hand.. and do some manipulations on his middle finger. The darkest cloud over the visit was when he told us that if John's middle finger doesn't respond to the PT and/ or the manipulations under anesthesia, he will remove the finger and use it (instead of a toe) to make John a thumb. This is a way off... lots of time for lots of things to happen.... the first surgery will happen (at the soonest) in 2 months.
John's wounds are healing really well. Lots of scabs! I love to pick scabs - so it's all I can do to NOT pick them. Gross, I know - but I bet some of you are scab-pickers, too! :)
Keep the cards/ emails/ phone calls coming - they are the HIGHEST points of John's days!
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
John had his 2nd visit to PT today... wow.
Jennifer has him practicing picking up things with his right arm.... phenomenal, I think... and he's using his fingers to pick up stuff and EAT BY HIMSELF - grapes, cut up carrots, etc. HUGE!!!
Lots of new exercises to get his fingers moving. There is still a lot of swelling - so we have some things to do for that, too. I am amazed at this whole process of getting John back to independence. John is such a ROCK STAR that everyone he meets (gals at the front desk of PT, assistants, etc) is blown away by his attitude - they are jumping through hoops to help him. Not that it surprises me (or anyone who knows John) - but it's inspiring!
Call him on his cell phone! Chris hooked him up with a new, very comfy bluetooth that he loves... and he is using the voice dial on his phone, too. Your calls MAKE HIS DAY. 650-759-1834
1st off - thanks for all of the calls, cards and well wishes. they do help.
i met my new hand surgeon on monday and was relieved that he immediately started treating me like this was no big deal; almost like he sees 3-4 guys in my condition every day. he said that it didn't look like he'd have to fix dr. galpins work - a compliment? - but i might need some work before the toe/thumb switch
Jen here now... John's fingers gave out :)
Yesterday I went to PT and tested range of motion (ROM) - lots of work to do in the hand, wrist and fingers... but this is her gig. Jennifer (the PT gal) also made me a CUSTOM thermoplastic removable splint/ cast. If you've ever had a mouth guard - same stuff. I've now got "homework" to do - to keep me moving. I go again today... and then it looks like 3x/ week until they say so :)
I'm going to have another specialist for my right arm - haven't set that appointment yet - will do so after the next meeting with my surgeon (Oct 3).
ready for his Coke - so gotta go!
Jen (attorney in fact for John Caughlin) - ha!
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
This is the official paypal donation link for John.
Monday, September 19, 2011
I cut and pasted this article from an online article in SWIM COACH DIRECT
C/o The Dorsey's
1210 Green Orchard Place
Encinitas, CA 92024
Every now and then we MUST look to a greater power for strength.
Today that power is John Caughlin.
On Saturday September 3rd John participated in the Annual Maui Channel Swim. Instead of being a part of the numerous relays he decided this year he would give it a go solo. He made all the usual sacrifices to get himself ready. And was he ready! Many of his friends and fellow swimmers were going with him - spiritually. Some of you who read this blog are already open water compatriots of John's - even though you perhaps have never met him. Some of you have swum the English Channel. Some of you have swum in the Sea of Cortez, or the Gulf of the Farallons.
Suffice it to say that all long distance open water swimmers share many bonds.
John was about 200 yards from shore and the finish when he made a defensive move to protect himself from a power boat, raising his arms to protect his head. As a result of the collision John suffered life changing injuries to both arms. His right arm was amputated above his elbow and he lost the thumb and forefinger on his left hand.
The lingering image from that tragedy is seen in his picture...what a smile of inspiration! Make certain that smile is indelibly etched in your memory forever. Next time you think you are having a tough day remember John's smile. That's all you need to keep moving forward. It is actually that simple.
John and his sister Jennifer (at his side in the picture) arrived in Southern California on Saturday the 17th of September. John is spending some time with his family at the address above.
His words..."I had my swim and then I had an accident. I will come back sooner than later and finish the swim." Awesome attitude doesn't really capture the power of John Caughlin.
Before email, text and twitter there was snail mail. It still works today. Maybe send John a note, card, flowers, something...let him know you are with him...we are certain you will make a difference in his life just as he has in yours.
Be grateful when you go in the water this week...
Don Swartz & Ken DeMont
Friday, September 16, 2011
I talked to John again on Thursday... He is in high spirits and is facing his challenges head on, one at a time. I think he is ready to leave Maui and go to San Diego. He said that he really hopes, once he is in San Diego, that he gets physical/occupational therapists that used to be drill sergeants and that they will work him extra hard. As long as I have know John, he has never backed away from a challenge once he accepts it. Here comes that gritty character trait again!
I also want to thank Lisa Piumetti Farland, the Executive Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving at Loyola Marymount University. Below are excerpts of emails from her for John.
John Kovacevich informed me of John Caughlin's terrible accident. Please let John and his family know I've spoken to Fr. Robin who has notified the Jesuit Community. John and his family are in the Jesuits daily prayers. I've also spoken to Fr. Erps in Campus Ministry. Fr. Erps is including John in our special intentions during the prayers of the faithful in our campus liturgies this week.
It's hard to imagine what you are all going through...John, his family, his friends. Thinking of all of you and praying John's days ahead are filled with hope and God's grace provides all that he and his family will need during this very difficult time.
Lisa Piumetti Farland
Just checking in to see how John is doing. Please let John and his family know that he continues to be in our special intentions at our campus liturgies. In particular, I wanted them to know he will be remembered at the Alumni Reunion Mass next Sunday, September 25, where we expect over 800 to attend the liturgy in Sacred Heart Chapel.
Thinking of John and praying for God’s healing grace.Lisa
Thanks to everyone for the prayers and thoughts!
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Here's a link to the companies website. Looks slicker in the current pictures:
Here's some stuff about transferring Motor and sensory nerves so that you can use the original nerves to control a prosthesis.
Just thought he might appreciate this stuff at some point. :)
Here is a link to Todd's info at the Rehab Institute. http://www.ric.org/aboutus/
Stuff from Tim's friend Chad whom I think is part of the group, "stumps".
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Boat ride out to Lanai:
John and Mike about 2 hours in:
John and Mike about 5 hours in:
Thanks Nell for taking the videos!
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
I just talked to John tonight and he is in good spirits. I think getting a little sun helped him out today. That is Joel, Billy, and Gabor hanging with John.
I don't know how many units of blood John has gotten since the accident but if you all want to help out, please visit your local blood bank and make a donation!
Also, if you know other people who you think should get this blog, please email me, or leave a comment and let me know.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
I talked to John yesterday.. he is doing pretty good. Yesterday, Matt left and is now back in Petaluma. Today, Billy and Joel (and maybe Gabor) arrive to hang out with John for a few days.
It would appear that John is, "working to hard" according to his doctor. So, after a stern talking to about letting his body rest because that is what it needs, the doctor said he wanted John to stay in the hospital a bit longer. It now looks like John will be traveling to San Diego on Saturday (1 week from today) instead of Tuesday or Wednesday as previously thought.
As most of you know, I am an outrigger canoe paddler. In Hawaii, about a year ago, a paddler who is well known in the paddling community, and who is a canoe builder, was participating in a race and he got hit by a boat and suffered injuries from the prop. He has heard about John and recently blogged a bit about the subject--including John. http://kamanucomposites.com/
Thursday, September 8, 2011
On September 3, 2011, John swam an event called the Maui Channel swim. He swam it solo (most folks swim it as part of a relay). It is roughly 10 miles going across the channel from Lanai to Maui in Hawaii. He completed the event with one of his swim buddies Mike. They did it in roughly 6 hours and 15 minutes in some very rough conditions. John likes to talk about the fact that they did not come in DFL (dead f'in last). I have yet to see the official results, but it would appear that John and Mike beat many of the relay teams! They really kicked some butt out there!
This had been a goal/dream of John's for over a year and for a year, he trained and trained. Not only did he put in a ton of time but he liked to make it even harder on himself by how he trained. Most open water athletes up in our neck of the woods (San Francisco Bay Area) don't even dare going into the water without a wetsuit. John on the other hand, decided that he wanted to be part of the tough folk gang that swim in an ocean that hovers around 50-55 degrees in just his speedo, a swimcap and some goggles. John truly has grit in his character.
So why call this blog lifeafter615? Well, an event occurred at the very end of the swim, that is going to call up every bit of grit John has. His life is forever changed by his swim (finished in 615) and what happened at the end. Two hundred or so yards from the finish line of this swim, in an area that was supposed to be free of boats, John got hit by a boat. John suffered great trauma to his right arm and left forearm/wrist, including loosing his left thumb and pointer finger from the prop on the boat. He had a super fast rescue performed on him and at the hospital he underwent surgery. The surgeon was unable to save John's right arm and it was amputated just above his right elbow. The surgeon put John's left arm back together as best he could and in the end, John would have a broken wrist, pins/plates/screws holding his left forearm, wrist and hand together, and lots of "wound" that would need to heal. John's left thumb and pointer finger are now part of the great ocean that he loves to swim in.
So, John now has a new challenge in life, one that began after 615.....