Friday, August 19, 2011

Brian Hogan Jr. Update - August 18, 2011 "Where Does The Time Go"!

Greetings from 104 in the shade!  That's right.  And don't even get me started with the humidity.
I was thinking of what title to use for this update, but I couldn't think of a good one because there really isn't an update.  Sorry :(  The trouble with updates is that there's an expectation of something new and I have nothing new to report. That's not particularly a bad thing, but we really hoped Brian would be called for Stem Cell treatment before now.  It's not unusual to have hold ups with treatments that are not FDA (Federal Drug Administration) approved.  The FDA can put guidelines on treatment, but until these treatments are FDA approved, they call the shots with facilities such as LifeSource in Covington, Louisiana.  Yes, there are other facilities, but after meeting Dr. Lasala, personally, and getting to read statistics on his treatment, this is probably the best place.  Nothing is set in stone, so if the FDA don't pull their fingers out, we'll go elsewhere.  This "holding pattern" might kill all of us! 
I spent 10 very short days with Brian and the family, in July. I hadn't seen him for 12 months. What a great time! From the minute I booked the flight (which was less than two weeks from departure date), I was super anxious about seeing him.  Seeing him means it all really did happen.  Because I'm not around Brian daily (like the rest of the family), I knew it would be very emotional.  As soon as I pulled my suitcase out to pack, the weeping started.  I don't like flying anyway, but I was always super excited to go home.  The past couple of years, it's been bittersweet.  The plan was to get tougher about this sort of thing, not more emotional.  I figured if I cried as much as I could before I got to Ireland, I would be dried up like a prune.  Wrong.
My parents, Nevis and Shane met me at the airport.  Philly cried, of course.  My Dad seems to be shrinking.  Maybe it's because I've always seen him as the tallest man in the world.  Shane and Nevis looked sun kissed, which didn't match the weather outside the airport at all.  I never mind that it's cool in the summer, but it took me 3 days to figure out how to warm up.  I brought all the wrong clothes.  Thank God for whiskey!  My liver is grateful for the break though.
I flew in on Monday, but Brian thought I was coming on Thursday, so we surprised him (see attached pictures).  I can't describe the reunion.  I'll only cry on my keyboard and possibly short the whole computer!

When Brian asked me to describe the sunset, I thought I would curl into a ball and die.  Instead, I described the colors on an outfit I'd seen in his costume collection.  It had yellows, reds and oranges.  He loved that.  When we went to "Quiet Man Country", about an hour and a half drive from Limerick, Brian said "I wish I could see the countryside, I miss it so much".  The car went silent.  Holly barked (she's a dog), which was a welcome interlude.  We spent the car ride playing "the word association game", and Brian loved it.  He said "anything that keeps my brain moving, must be helping to heal me".  He's loving his books on CD.  He says they transport him to another world, one where he can see.

My parents house was a construction site.  Brian will be moving back home shortly.  His time at Beech Lodge was good for him, but he needs to be home.  My parents are in their 60's (which clearly isn't old), but they can't take care of him full-time.  We'll have to have outside professional care, but it'll be nice for the family to know where he is and who's with him at all times.  One side of our house will be for Brian.  It's beautiful.  I wish he could see it for himself.  He wanted exact details of everything from outlets to door knobs.  Brian's profession was Senior Quantity Surveyor at a very big company, so his job was in construction.  Brian was involved in the management side of construction, but he was in and out of building sites on a pretty regular basis.  He misses his work.  He said "all this sitting around doesn't suit me".  It really doesn't.  Brian was always like a bolt of lightening.  It's hard to watch him in a wheelchair.

Watching my parents and siblings with Brian is amazing.  They all do so much.  There's so much love around the kitchen table, that sometimes it's kinda sticky.  Oh, there are arguments too, but mostly everyone just wants to help as much as possible.  Brian took a nap on the Sunday I was home, and I caught my Mother just watching him from the bedroom door.  When she saw me, she said "doesn't he look perfect, like nothing is wrong"?  I can't imagine being a parent and helplessly watch my child suffer.  Parents must have a special trick for keeping it together, because I'd be in a looney bin by now.
Leaving was hard.  I suppose it's a mixture of sadness and guilt.  I get to "escape", but only physically.  Saying goodbye to Brian was actually easy.  He was happy that I was there, but excited about the next visit.  I don't know how he felt on the inside, but he held it together on the outside, and so did I.  It was just me and my parents at the airport.  Phil started crying as soon as I got in line to check in.  Part of me wanted to say "I'll stay for a few more days", but I would have been postponing the inevitable goodbye.  I think this was the first time my Dad cried when I was leaving.  Crying comes easier for him these days.  For that, I'm very sorry.  I thought I'd never board the plane and when I did, I wanted to squeeze my butt through the tiny window and hug my parents one more time.

Between flights and layovers, I was awake for about 30 hours.  I was tired and emotionally drained.  I had a few days to recoup, but they were sad and lonely.  It's never good to be alone when you're that sad :( I communicated with the family by text only for a week or so.  Hearing their voices just made me sad.  It was great to get back to work, but I felt like I was in a fog for a few days.  I have great friends, though.  I'm a lucky girl.

Brian would love to hear from you (even if he doesn't know/remember you).  Here's his contact info:
Brian Hogan Jr.
82 Russell Court
Ballykeefe, Limerick
Phone: 0876554411 (that's inside Ireland)  From the US it's 011353876554411.  From the UK, I'm not sure, but if you're Brian's friend, you'll figure it out!  He misses his UK friends a lot.
Everyone's busy and life just gets in the way sometimes, so if you've been meaning to write or call, do it NOW!!  As Brian says "you'd make a blind, brokenhearted little boy very happy".  If that's doesn't get you, you're stone cold! :)
From all of us, to all of you: Thank you for keeping in touch, your prayers, your cards, your messages.  We're grateful every day.
Hogan Family xx

Monday, July 4, 2011

Food, Alcohol and Brian!

If you haven't seen my "Cooking Under the Influence" series on YouTube, I just wanted to share this latest video with you. I gave Brian a big promo; hopefully it will generate a few visits and donations.
Right now we sort of have Brian in a holding pattern; it would be really hard to get him to Louisiana for his stem cell treatment in the summer. It's most expensive for one thing, but worse, it's SO HOT that he would be miserable in the New Orleans heat. Brain-injured people often have a difficult time regulating their body temperature, so we don't want to subject Brian to a potentially dangerous environment. But on the bright side, it gives a little more time to offer your support to help him!
Anyway, here's the video. You can watch the rest of the episodes of "Cooking Under the Influence" on YouTube. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Huge Thanks!

Sorry it's been a while since posting on here. Brian is doing well. As you know, a few weeks ago he suffered a seizure that landed him in hospital for a few days, but he's been out and about and strong as ever. He's busy with physical therapy and "holding court!" Just recently the lads from Hermitage Green performed a private concert for Brian and Beech Lodge! And if you know Brian, there's little he loves more than music and a good ol' sing-song!

The waiting list for his stem cell therapy is taking a little longer than we expected, but Brian is in great spirits and lives for the day when he can see again. Wouldn't you?! So basically we're on cruise control at the moment, waiting for the go ahead. Naturally, it can be difficult, especially since Brian can't see. His family has been a shining example of love, patience and selflessness in taking care of Brian. Everyone has their good days and bad days. But the support that Brian's friends and family have offered will sustain both him and every person around him. Keep up the visits, letters, emails, phone calls, prayers and encouragement to Brian and his family. They are worth more than you can know!

Also, many heartfelt thanks to Brian's latest donors!
Leanne J. (U.K.) - $10.00
Joe G. (USA) - $100.00
Marion & Andrew C. (U.K.) - $290.00

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On the strength of fathers, cat scans & Amy Winehouse

Yes, yes, it's time for an update.  I keep waiting for these updates to get easier, but the fact of the matter is: they don't.  I don't want to send updates because it just confirms that there's a reason for an update, and I wish (with all that I am) there was no need to sit and type these.  

Brian suffered a series of seizures on a Saturday morning, a couple of weeks ago.  I was in my kitchen chatting with a friend when the phone rang.  It was Nevis.  Not that it's unusual for Nevis to call, but I knew before I answered the phone that something wasn't right.  "Brian's in the hospital, he's had several seizures, they called 999 and the ambulance brought him to the hospital".  Silence.  It's not how you expect your day to start.  It's too far away to just jump in the car and get there.  I could tell Nevis was worried because she was quieter than her usually perky self.  "Nevis, do I need to come home"?  Silence.  "Should I call and talk to Dad"?  "Yes".  I assured her that seizures happen for a variety of reasons, and that he was being well taken care of now.  I don't remember saying goodbye, but I remember having to sit down because I couldn't feel my knees. 

I called my Dad.  I don't believe in reincarnation, but if I did, I'd want to come back as that man.  What a calm and strong man my Father is.  He really is the voice of reason.  How I wish I'd listened and observed more while growing up.  I remember saying "you don't know everything, Dad".  How ridiculous I was.  He knows his children inside and out.  "Don't panic, they're sending him for a Cat Scan, and we'll know more when the results come back".  He said "Brian is a bit out of sorts and is yelling orders at everyone, so I think he'll be okay".  I said "Dad, should I come home".  "Love, if I was worried, I'd tell you to come home".  That's all I needed to hear.  I'm a pro at booking last minute.  It's the packing that still stresses me out.  While Dad was talking, I was making a list in my head of what to pack.  I remember thinking: darn it, I just packed away a bunch of winter stuff, and now I'll have to pull it out again.  "Wait, I shouldn't come home"?  Dad: "not until I'm worried, love". 

The text message updates were pretty entertaining: He's yelling at anyone who comes close to him to get him something to eat.  He's telling the nurses that he's sick of this place and wants to be released immediately.  You can't keep me against my will.  I'd very much like a yogurt.  I'm dying of thirst here people. 

God bless Siobhan.  She sent me a long FB message giving me the details.  I could almost smell the hospital food.  Unfortunately, Brian couldn't eat anything until after his scan.  He was not a happy boy. :) He was transferred to a private room in the middle of the night.  I'm pretty sure it was because he was being a "challenge".  But the staff quickly fell in love with him, and he was constantly being supervised. 

Pretty funny stuff, but I was uneasy until I called the next morning for an update.  The scan showed some minor bleeding on the outside of the brain.  It was nothing unusual for a patient with a brain injury.  The Doctor said to my Dad "about 10% of the population experience bleeds like this, and they never know it".  I was baffled at that, but what do I know?  10% of the population is certifiably crazy as far as I'm concerned, but we're talking about my brother's brain here.  Obviously something is wrong if he's having a bleed, albeit "minor".  So, they sent him to Cork (about an hour away from Limerick) for an advanced brain scan.  That didn't show anything out of the ordinary (except the obvious damage from the incident in July 2009).  He was kept in the hospital for a few days just for observation, and then released.  Apparently he had several sing songs in the hospital.  Shane said at one stage there were 6 staff members around the bed and they were all singing!

He's back to his "normal" self now.  It's par for the course, I expect.  We'll just have to keep an eye on his temperature and watch for any type of infection, even small ones.  Great - he's now a China doll!

His mood is good.  He's just waiting for the donor approval at LifeSource in Covington, Louisiana.  Once the Stem Cells are procured, and placed in the incubator, we have to get him on a plane!  It'll happen this Spring.  I'm confident of that.  We're all so fortunate to still have him with us, so we'll do whatever it takes to get him here, and get him the best possible treatment for his injuries. 

The first time I spoke to him post "episode", I said "sing me something".  He sang "To Make You Feel My Love".  When he sang  "I'd go hungry, I'd go blind for you, I'd go crawling down the avenue, there is nothing that I wouldn't do, to make you feel my love", I thought I would crumble with sadness.  Then he took a deep breath and said "I'd love a coffee".  Par for the course, I expect.  :)  He knows exactly how to tug at the heart, and isn't afraid to do it.  Oi, such a boy!

The week before his seizures, he had been to his old Secondary (High) School.  The teachers invited him to speak to some of the students about his experience at St. Enda's.  He was a huge hit.  He told stories of how he rode his bike to school, parked it, and always wondered if all the bike parts would be there at the end of the school day. One afternoon, Brian and his friend returned to the bike area only to find his friend's bicycle saddle missing! Get him to tell you the whole story. You'll be doubled over with laughter.  He had the teachers and students laughing and crying. He encouraged the students to make the most of their time in school.  He said "go to College, work hard, be a good person, be proud of your education".  My Mother said she looked at my Father, and giant tears cascaded down his proud cheeks.  Brian didn't need notes or prompting.  He spoke from memory.  He was honest.  He told them to chose their friends wisely, as he had made some bad decisions with friendships in his life, and it's forever changed his future.  Brian makes friends easily, but he encouraged the students to surround themselves with people who would protect them from harm.  We know that unforeseen occurrences befall us all, but we can surround ourselves with the right kinds of people in life.  People who become friends, and who protect us from opportunists.  He told the students to be a good brother, sister, daughter, son, friend.  The students and teachers lined up to meet him afterward.  He was then whisked away to the teachers lounge for coffee and scones.  The school want him to address the whole student body soon.  What an honor.  They're all mad about him, and are diligently fund raising for one of "their own".  It's lovely.  My heart swells with pride. 

In other news: my Mother's brother, Dave Clancy, passed away on Sunday.  I didn't have the pleasure of knowing him well, but my Mother said "he was a gentle man".  As far as I'm concerned, that's golden. I felt a particular kind of sadness for my Mother loosing her brother.  We came way too close to that ourselves.  I only wish I'd known Dave Clancy.  It's terrible to be away from home when all you want to do is throw your arms around someone and have a good cry. I don't want to throw my arms around any random person, and bawl all over them mind you.  I'm particular who I share my runny nose with. My cousin Liz, from NY, sent me facebook pictures of the post- wake trip to the pub (as it was happening). The marvels of modern technology.  Far from the days when you'd have to wait for the postman to bring a letter with all the details. Typical Irish crowd -  mourning in a pub is just a part of it all.  The act of celebrating the life lived is sad but it's also a necessary part of the mourning process.  If you didn't do that, you'd forever be trying to figure out what the blazes was missing. Dave was a Guinness man.  I'm betting the Guinness stocks just went through the roof in the Limerick area.  I raised my glass to Dave Clancy more than once since Sunday.  "Cheers".  xx

As far as I know, there's nothing else to report.  Thank God.  That's enough "excitement" for a while. 

Thank you all for your love and support.  We would be lost without each and every one of you.  The email update list has grown, and while I'm not exactly sure who reads these updates, I suspect it's quiet a few.  A big kiss, hug and squeeze to you all.  For those of you who hit "reply", I read Brian your lovely emails. 

Much love,

Hogan Family  xx

P.S.  If you'd like to send Brian a note, here's the address:

82 Russell Court,
Ballykeefe, Limerick
This picture is of Brian dressed as Amy Winehouse.  I'm pretty sure this wasn't the kind of "rehab" he had in mind!  Great legs!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Latest update & pic of Brian

Below is the latest update on our boy, Brian! Also, just wanted to let you know that for those donors due to receive a copy of "Found Wanting," your book was mailed today! Sorry for the delay (had to wait for a new shipment of books and the mail is slow these days with winter storms galore). Hope you enjoy! Now, on to Brian...
2011.  Really?  Where does the time go?  I looked back at the first update of 2010, where I promised to keep it short and sweet.  I did. I'm promising the same for this first update of 2011.  Let's see how I do! :)

The last update was pretty exciting, so this one won't be nearly as good, but when it comes to Brian, we're excited about his progress every day.  He's incredible.  I called him yesterday, and he was on the exercise bike.  I'm pretty sure if they clocked him, he'd have biked all the way from Limerick to Australia by now!

We're still waiting on the call from LifeSource, to let us know they've approved the donor cells.  Then, we have 3 weeks to get him into the US.  I'm pretty sure we won't tell him he's getting on a plane until he's about to board, because he gets wild with excitement, and the phones will ring non-stop!  

When I look back at what Brian has accomplished, I'm amazed.  With reports from Siobhan, Nevis, Shane, Jonathan, Mam & Dad, and of course all the fabulous friends and extended family we have, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude.  Everyone just loves visiting him.  He's such a pleasure (most of the time)!  Poor sweetheart had to have his big toenail removed a few weeks ago.  It was ingrown, and he was in pain.  I called Dad to see how it all went down, and Brian did really well.  He didn't feel any pain, and he got antibiotics immediately to avoid the risk of infection.  He said "my toe feels fabulous"!  

If you'd like to drop him a note, he would love it.  There are times when he's bored, and he has someone read and re-read letters and cards.  Sometimes, it's like it's his first time hearing a letter, so his reaction is wonderful, again and again!   I suppose if there is a silver lining to his brain injury, it's that.  

Waiting is the biggest challenge right now.  If you can call or write, he would really appreciate it.  His lovely singing voice is getting better and better, and if you ask, he'll prove it!

The next email won't be too far behind (hopefully).  It should carry good news about Brian's pending visit to New Orleans, Louisiana!

Here's Brian's address:  Make sure you write to Brian Hogan Jr. (my Dad is Brian Hogan Sr.)

82 Russell Court

His phone number is: 087-655-4411 (that's if you're calling within Ireland).  If you're calling from the US: 011-353-87-544-4411.  If you're calling from the UK, I'm not sure of the codes, but you'll be adding your codes, dropping "0", and using 87-655-4411


Thanks for everything.  You're all "on the team", as Brian says!

Much love,

Hogan Family xx

P.S.  This is a picture of one miracle holding Bonnie Mai, another miracle!