Asking for help for a friend

If you’ve been following my blog, you know what happened to my husband in May, 2011 and the difficult road my family has had to walk for the past eighteen months. If you haven’t heard, you can read the full story here.

Along this journey, we’ve met some wonderful people and one such family is the O’Keefe’s. In May of 2011, a man broke into Kelly O’Keefe’s house and started beating her. Her brother, Danny, heard her cries and rushed to help her. He was beaten as well. Then stabbed nineteen times in the head .

Danny and Kelly were in the ICU with my husband. They are both still struggling to heal. Danny needs extensive physical, occupational and speech therapy. His insurance will only cover 50 sessions. Believe me, that’s nothing, especially when you’re going to therapy nine times a week.

The O’Keefe’s are asking for help to send Danny to University of Michigan UMAP program which costs $27,000 for a 4-5 week session. And that is just for speech therapy. That doesn’t include the cost of travel or room and board nor the other therapies he needs.

I know this family personally. I can vouch for them. They’re kind and caring and are living through hell right now watching two of their four children struggle every day. I would never, ever ask my faithful followers for anything like this if I didn’t know everything about this family.

If you can give anything, anything at all, it would be beyond appreciated.

The O’Keefe’s are a proud family and when I last talked to Kathy O’Keefe she said, “It’s hard to ask for money but when it’s your kids, you’ll do anything for them.”

In her blog, she writes, “Danny is our hero. He saved our daughter’s life, but at a great cost. Danny loves sports. He played baseball, football, and soccer. He loved to read, and play the drums. He’s lost it all.”

If you’d like to read their story, you can find it here.

I understand that money is tight these days. If you can’t give monetarily, please send up a few prayers for Danny. The power of prayer is enormous. My family is testament to that.

Thank you!



Life Is A Marathon

John and I the summer of 2010

I can’t tell you how many times over the past year that doctors and nurses told my husband and I that we were running a marathon. Hundreds maybe. Enough that if I were paid a nickel for each time I’d be a rich woman. They were right, of course.

One year ago today life in the Cullen household came to a screeching stop and made a huge right turn.

Even a year later we still don’t know the details of the accident. My husband went on a bicycle ride and took our black Labrador retriever with him. It was something they’ve done before, though not very often.

John fell off his bike and fractured his skull in two places. No, he wasn’t wearing a bicycle helmet.

By the time my daughter and I arrived at the hospital, the helicopter was on its way to transport him to the closest trauma hospital.

It wasn’t until months later that I would learn how close we came to losing him. By some quirk of fate John was out with friends a few months ago and ran into one of the hospital staff who was in the ER of the trauma hospital he’d been taken to. She told him that his arrival in her ER was a life changing moment for her. She’d been grumbling that she didn’t want to be there because it was her birthday when John was brought in. His condition quickly deteriorated and the doctors were yelling at him to not give up.

He was rushed into emergency surgery to have part of his skull removed to allow the brain to swell. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for nine days and in neuro ICU for fourteen days.

John is a police officer and his fellow officers were there for him, looking like they were going to take on the world and anyone else for John. I will never, ever forget the feeling of seeing them standing behind the doctor as he reported John’s condition. For the next few months they took care of my family. They drove my kids when needed, they did my grocery shopping, they cut our grass and they never left me alone in the evenings at the hospital. There was always someone there to walk me to my car. Every night.

But that marathon? That was something John and I had to run ourselves. No one could do it for us. And it wasn’t just one marathon. It was one after the other, after the other.

John spent twenty-five days total in the hospital, eventually transferring to a rehabilitation facility where he had to relearn how to walk. For five months he was in speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. The road was long and we’re still not finished walking it, although the pace has slowed. As John says, “You don’t go through something like this without some side effects.” John bears the external and the internal scars and I sport a few of my own internal scars.

But, like a pebble thrown into a pond, the ripples get farther from the epicenter and life slowly settles into a new normal. There will never be the old normal. That’s long gone. But we have a new version of it. A better version in some ways. We’re both changed people and for the most part the change has been for the good.

Recently John asked if I’d known what was to happen all those years ago when we got married, would I still marry him. Without hesitation I said yes. No doubt. No thought. Absolutely yes.

I’d like to think that we’ve reached the finish line of this particular marathon, but we don’t know that for sure. Truth is, like everyone else in this world, we don’t know what the future has in store for us. We just have to keep running and enjoy the scenery while we do.

John finishing his first 5k. Five months after he learned how to walk again

Why the Cullen family is especially thankful this Thanksgiving

John and I the summer of 2010

Excuse me if I start to cry, but this is an emotional post for me. We here at the Cullen house are especially thankful this year and you can bet your bottom dollar (whatever that means) that we’ll be thanking God before we dig into our Thanksgiving dinner today.

On May 9th my husband left the house to go on a bicycle ride with our Labrador retriever, Winston. This is something the two do all the time. John holds the leash and Winston runs alongside him and they both get exercise. We don’t know exactly what happened this past May 9th, but John fell off the bike. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. He cracked his skull in two places and suffered a traumatic brain injury. John was rushed by helicopter to the nearest trauma hospital where his condition quickly deteriorated. He was taken into surgery and part of his skull was removed to allow for the swelling.

There is a poster on the wall in the waiting room of Neuro ICU. Its of a man in a hospital bed and all of the machines surrounding him. Apparently its supposed to prepare people before they go into the ICU, but no picture could adequately prepare me for what I was soon going to face. The first seventy-two hours were critical. The doctors wouldn’t give me any sort of prognosis other than he’d survived so far. He spent nine days in a coma, fourteen days in ICU and eleven days in a rehabilitation hospital where he had to relearn how to walk, to talk, to eat and everything in between.

This past year has taught me that friends can be more like family, that acquaintances can quickly become lifelong friends and that there is an inner core to all of us where we draw strength, hope and courage.

3 weeks after the accident

Today I am thankful for the woman who called 911, for the EMTs and their quick response, for the ER doctors when they recognized the severe trauma and had Air Care on the way before I even arrived at the hospital. I’m thankful for the neuro surgeon whose night was interrupted for emergency surgery. For Dr. Jordan Bonomo, John’s neuro ICU doctor, for always being patient and most of all positive and for never sugar-coating anything. I’m thankful for the numerous nurses who nursed John back to health with dignity and respect.

I’m extremely thankful for Dr. Bavishi, John’s neuro rehabilitation doctor and for all of his speech, occupational and physical therapists: Lauren, Stephanie, Allie, Courtney, Amy, AmyII, Karen, Melissa and Jonathon–there is a special place in heaven for all of you.

I can’t even begin to express my thanks and gratitude for the friends and family who picked up my kids from home and drove them to the hospital every day (thank you, Pattie!), for John’s co-workers who showed up that night and sat with me until 4am and who continued to sit with me for two straight weeks. Who left their homes and families to come to the hospital late at night so I wouldn’t have to walk to my car alone, who cut our grass on their days off. Who grocery shopped for me when I couldn’t. Who laughed with me and cried with me and ate numerous meals at Chipotle with me because that was the only decent place to eat around the hospital. THANK YOU!

For the hundreds and hundreds of prayer warriors who put John on their prayer lists. He was an international sensation. From England to Scotland to the US, thousands prayed for John’s recovery. God bless each and every one of you. Prayers work. John is proof.

John and I today

So when we sit around the table today, I will be thanking God for all of these people. But most of all I’ll be thanking God for returning John to me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

John finishing his first 5k. Five months after he learned how to walk again