The Words of the Schanker Family
Hyeshik Schanker - Report #5 - Developments and Needs
October 4, 2007
Dear Family and Friends,
Please forgive me for the long delay since my last report. There is so much to tell you. Transferring my beloved wife from New Jersey to our native Maryland, and from acute care to sub-acute, rehabilitative care, involved a huge amount of research, travel and visits, coordinating insurance approvals, and general advocacy of her situation, not to mention the many emotional and physical challenges to us, her caregivers, as we navigate this new and (to us) unknown path.
I did not realize that nearly 2 weeks have passed since we updated you all. The doctors and staff at Overlook Hospital in NJ, where Omma had been since her stroke on September 7th, were magnificent. But with the "gloom and doom" prognosis of the neurological team there, and the many dangers and question marks on the road ahead, it has been a great challenge to keep a consistent, positive and encouraging mindset.
My ever-supportive daughter Mi-ae and I, and all of our family are grateful for the encouragement, wisdom, support and guidance that many have shared. In the meantime, however, Hyeshik has made a lot of progress, and we continue to set and reach significant goals. We are now focused on achieving all that we can, step-by-step, in the early months, before taking any prognosis seriously and evaluating the next steps.
Last Saturday, September 29th, we were able to transfer my dear wife from the Coronary Care Unit of Overlook Hospital in NJ to Layhill Center, a rehabilitation facility in Silver Spring, MD -- about 10 minutes from our home in Rockville, and part of the Genesis Healthcare network.
She weathered the trip well, in fact her lungs were clear for 2 days afterward. She is in the short-term care area of a long-term care facility -- essentially a nursing home. The level of urgency, attendance and professionalism here is far from that of the critical care unit of the premier neurological facility where she spent her first 3 weeks.
There have been a number of shortcomings and mistakes already. But my "pain-in-the-butt" reputation, well-known at Overlook, has already been established here, and my daughter continues to charm and win hearts. Like NJ, we are trying to engage the "team" of therapists, nurses and case managers to achieve the best result.
1) Due to the clearing of her lungs we were able to bring her closer to home earlier than anticipated, after the initial delay due to fluid build-up there (she was not infected, but retaining water in tissues and lungs as well).
2) She is more and more awake -- there was some misunderstanding earlier. MY WIFE IS NOT IN A COMA. Though she sleeps a lot, during her increasing hours awake she is conscious and aware, but due to the damage caused by the stroke to her brain stem, she cannot move anything below her facial area.
3) Her muscular control and neural response continue to grow: -- She has begun to "track" (follow movements with her eyes and control where she looks), just a bit -- we are using several visual tools for this, the most effective one being a framed picture ensemble -- one of our couple next to one of our children. She has looked from Appa to Omma to children on command -- with great effort. This tires her incredibly, and she needs to be awake and in the right frame of mind to achieve it.
A few days ago she began to breathe out through her mouth (she inhales through the tracheal opening in her throat), and later began exhaling through her nose as well. She continues to shift back and forth occasionally, exhaling through trachea, mouth and nose alternately.
Yesterday she was able to open her mouth when I asked her to (I obtained a more tasty, lemon-saturated swab, which may have encouraged her). Now we are using an electric toothbrush to cause a little vibration around that area -- helping awaken her nerves there, so she can reclaim it.
Communication is still intermittent, but definitely improving. Tomorrow (Friday) we will get her up in a wheelchair and take her outside for the first time. (It was to be today, but she is suddenly running a fever once again, so blood tests to rule out infection are prescribed). We will do this daily if possible, helping her lungs, muscles, etc.
4) Her warmth, circulation and energy seems to be continually improving, as is her breathing. She is receiving massage and reflexology, and soon we hope to begin acupuncture and other oriental methods of stimulating circulation and energy.
CAN YOU HELP US?
What Hyeshik needs most is stimulation, encouragement and give-and-take. Now that she is in the Washington, DC area, we hope that friends and loved ones here can spend some time with her. Either my daughter or myself is with her daily, from 10 or 11 AM till 8:30 PM or later (visiting hours are 11 AM -- 8 PM).
This morning Elder Huh came and checked her "chi," and Glenn Strait sang an original song for her, then joined me in singing some holy songs while Julia Hess massaged her hands and feet. A number of Korean friends have come by, as well as others from the DC community, bringing prayers, communication and encouragement.
Though she could not have flowers or plants when she was in the critical unit in NJ, she can have them now, and we are trying to fill her room with color, music, God's word, and photos of family and TP.
My assistant and friend, Sheila Song, is helping to coordinate visits. Come whenever, but you can call her if you wish. The location is:
Layhill Center (Genesis Healthcare)
3227 Bel Pre Road
Silver Spring, MD 20906
Visiting Hours: 11:00 AM -- 8:00 PM
Please come only if you feel called to it -- by heart or if it is your ministry gift. We recognize that it is difficult for many to know what to do or say -- even some close friends are keeping distant, and I understand that it is because they do not know what to say or do. And we really don't want to put a burden on others. Please know that your prayers and concern alone are truly appreciated. On the other hand, some have offered to help in practical ways, and though I haven't been able to make use of most of these offers, our hearts are receiving them fully.
If necessary we will rely on the support of friends who have offered to help maintain our household and support our youngest to get to and from school daily, but for now we have it in hand. Mi-ae stays at our home 3 or 4 nights a week, and between us we are managing well.
I am still focusing all my energy and heart on my wife and family, and am actually comforted doing my share of laundry, ironing, cooking, dishes, etc. My mother trained me well, but after being spoiled for 25 years, let's see how long my enthusiasm lasts!
My wife has run the household and managed bills and finance, but I am quite capable of doing it, and my sons will help get everything set up online. David is already 16, and will have his driver's license in 2 weeks, and can transport himself without difficulty. B. and Josh will come down from Boston again this weekend, and we will again be all together.
We deeply appreciate the financial gifts some have given us. There are clearly big challenges ahead, but there are so many families in deeper need, and so many providential and ministry concerns, I do not feel right to ask from others at this point.
We have also been greatly moved by the love of True Parents and our national church leadership. Dr. Yang and Rev. Jenkins have visited and kept abreast of the situation. True Mother, Hyun Jin Nim, and other EG staff who know my wife have expressed tremendous concern, love and support (Hyeshik was on staff at Chungpa Dong in the early 70s, supporting True Parents and family).
As this trial evokes all the essence and meaning of our Blessing and family, people continue to be moved by what they can see in our marriage and children. One-by-one, the CCU nurses from NJ testified to us how moved they were by the level of commitment and support they saw surrounding my wife, and how unique and special it seemed to them (they also liked the music).
One nurse told us it was her goal to find the kind of loving and committed relationship she could see in us. As we settle in to the Maryland facility, we have discovered staff issues, racism, resentments, irresponsibility and negativity, and I am putting pressures and expectations upon them. But as I was saying goodnight to the staff the other night, one young man said, "We have been talking, and we appreciate people who treat us the way you treat us. You are a good man."
Love and prayer,
Phillip, Hyeshik, Mi-ae Schanker and family