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Progress report on Terps

It's been quite a while since I have been able to post a progress report to
the group; in the main, this is because the Unitel/Editel merger has been
all-consuming of both time and energy. But enough about that, what about
our pal, RT?

My wife and I have been visiting Richard every few days for the last three
weeks, after his admission to Northridge Hospital. There has been a steady
improvement in his condition during this time. When he was first admitted,
we were not seeing any movement at all in either his right leg or right
hand. We were also beginning to see some heavy contracture of both arms and
hands, which quite alarmed us. This was quickly spotted by the therapists
at Northridge, however, and suitable corrective splints were applied.

Several things happened with RT's family, out here in LA. Richard's sister,
Anna, had to fly back to Britain, so a very close friend of the family in
England, Mark, flew out to help Sabina and Joe drive to and from the
hospital each day. During the first couple of weeks of May, the weather
here really started to warm up, and although he never complained, Joe
Terpilowski was having a very hard time with the heat. Sabina and Joe were
staying at Richard's house in Woodland Hills, which does not have central
air conditioning, so there was no real relief from the heat for Joe.
RT's parents made the reluctant decision to go back to Britain, temporarily
at least, and so flew back at the end of the week of May 15th. Mark stayed
on for a few days to sort out some of Richard's personal stuff. I know how
torn Terps' parents were about leaving, and his mother, Sabina,
particularly asked Richard's friends out here; his riding friends David,
Janette and Sabina; Albert and Darlene and ourselves, who have been
visiting him regularly, to keep an eye on him.

During these first two weeks of May, Richard's level of wakefulness
increased dramatically. When he first went to Northridge, on May 1st, he
would be in and out of consciousness, and even when awake, would be very
heavy-lidded. By the end of the second week, he was much more alert, and
would stay awake and focussed for many minutes. He started to move his
right foot and leg around the second week of May, and regained some control
over his basic facial musculature. Before his mother flew back, he was able
to give her a kiss.

We also began to see some movement in Terps' right arm and hand, the last
extremity to come "back to life", although his left side seemed to be the
most active still. He has continued to try to make sound, although he is
prevented from well-formed speech by the tracheostomy (which I earlier,
incorrectly, called a tracheotomy). Northridge also spent the first two
weeks of May clearing up RT's infection and pneumonia, as well as some skin
breakdown which had occurred, possibly towards the end of his stay at Holy

By the time we went to see him last Sunday, May 18th, Richard was able to
sit up in bed, with some assistance, and hold a visitor in a long and
studied gaze. The rest of his body was quite restless, especially his left
leg, which seemed to be in constant motion. He was able to answer a short
series of yes/no questions by pointing at my left or right hand with his
foot, including possibly showing that he could read the words "yes" or
"no". His control over his leg still wasn't perfect, so we were not
absolutely certain about the results.

There was no doubt at all about his response to requests: he could lift or
lower a leg, extend an arm, or give a thumbs-up when asked to do so. He was
awake when we went into the room, and remained awake and alert for pretty
well the entire time we were there. He had developed a slight tremor in his
left hand, but our overall impression is that he was much more active,
alert and interested in what was going on. He was also able to tell us
quite forcefully via left leg sign language that he didn't want my wife
there at that moment, probably because she had been in the previous week to
work on his hand range-of-motion, an uncomfortable process at best!

On Thursday, we had a welcome phone call from Ian, Richard's brother, to
say he was back in Los Angeles, and was hoping to stay for some time. Ian
last saw Richard the day before Richard awoke, and so he has had to follow
RT's progress via phone messages and calls to the physicians. I know it is
a relief for Ian to be back with his brother, and it really does lift
Richard's spirit to have his family around him.
So how is Richard doing right now? We were able to visit him twice over the
Memorial Day weekend, and there is no doubt that he is coming along. It is
quite disconcerting to carry on a one-sided conversation with him; he has
still a limited range of facial expressions, and cannot speak. He will also
hold you in a steady, but comprehending, gaze for quite some time, and if
he disagrees with something, or a nurse comes in to perform a procedure
which is uncomfortable, he can register his displeasure by a disgusted
expression, or by turning his head away and closing his eyes, or even by
pushing people with his left leg. We had been with Richard about 25 minutes
when Ian arrived with Richard's riding friend, Sabina. Ian had obviously
wasted no time in getting up to speed on Richard's latest condition, and
was very optimistic about the eventual outcome.

The day before we went to see RT, the physiotherapists had gotten him out
of bed and had been walking him up and down, which he clearly needs: he had
climbed out of bed the previous night and fallen to the floor, which is
quite a feat, considering the height of the side rails of the bed. He did
not hurt himself on that occasion, but when we went to see him, he had been
loosely attached to the bed to avoid further falls.
Richard's leg muscles are starting to show the weeks he has been in bed:
there is a marked difference in the amount of apparent atrophy between his
left leg (which was only inactive for a couple of weeks) and his right leg,
where movement appeared a lot later. The PTs are clearly starting to try to
build up his strength in this area, and RT is responding by appearing to
want to get out of bed the whole time. There are times when his expression
turns to intense frustration, and it is hard not to get upset by his
condition, where it seems that his mind is much more active than his body
can allow.
He still had a tremor in his left hand, which may just be part of him
regaining control over the movement. His right arm is splinted, to avoid
any further contracture, which could be very serious once he recovers
movement and starts to use the arm. His right hand is still clenched
(contracture), and is splinted part of the time, but he has fairly good
control of the thumb, and when I asked him to shake hands after our
Saturday visit, he made a strong effort and partially unclenched the fist.
We saw good neck movement, but not yet controlled enough to be able to
shake a head for "no", or nod for "yes". There is a tremendous amount of
physical restlessness, which may mark the next stage of his recovery.
According to the message pad which is hung on his bed, Richard was able to
articulate his name, and the numbers "one, two, three" for his physician,
as far as he is able within the limit of the trach. Ian confirms that he is
infection-free, and mentions that the trach. orifice will be changed to
allow RT to start to speak. I think we are all waiting for this as a major
step forward, as communication will undoubtedly ease the frustration which
Richard seems to be experiencing.

When we saw Richard briefly on Sunday, he appeared to be more rested and
quieter. Again, he had a steady gaze, and you find yourself in long periods
of eye contact wondering exactly how much he is understanding at this
stage. His eyes feel as if they have the spark of intelligence and
understanding, but he is just not able to communicate this properly in
other ways. Nothing can prepare you for dealing with someone on this level,
especially if you have known them a long time, but there is something about
the way in which Richard looks at you where you are left in no doubt that
he really has recognition and comprehension.

It is difficult to know whether to recommend people to go and visit Richard
in Northridge. Right at this moment, he could certainly use all the stimuli
and conversation he can get to help along the healing process. At the same
time, we sense that he is a little embarrassed about being confined to bed
in a hospital environment. There is something about surrendering control of
one's own destiny, which I think he is finding hard to bear. Despite this,
it is probably good for him to see people he knows, and for people to let
him know in person that they care about him.
Richard is presently on the third floor in rehabilitation at Northridge
Hospital, located on Roscoe just East of Reseda Blvd. If you enter the
hospital via Etiwanda then turn right to the emergency entrance, and go
into the building beneath the "IFL Tower" sign, the elevator immediately to
your right will take you directly to the rehab. floor. You will need to
check in at the nurses station before entering Richard's room. Please mail
me directly if you would like to know his exact room number.

I will try not to leave it so long before posting an update in future: bear
in mind that Richard has embarked on a potentially long, slow and hard road
to recovery, the end of which is still uncertain. But, six weeks ago, I
feared I might be coming back to LA to say goodbye to an old friend. The
progress from then to now, although it seems slow and day-by-day, is really
little short of miraculous.

Rob is maintaining a donor's list over on the web site, and envelopes
continue to arrive at 525 and Editel. Jim Campbell at 525, and I, get
together every couple of weeks to check the contribs. in, and I
subsequently mail names of donors to Rob. There is a bit of a lead time, so
please bear with me, but do check with me here or at orton at editel-la.com to
verify receipt, if you need to do so.
Richard's mother is planning to come back out mid next month, so I'm hoping
our community involvement will make travel expenses a non-issue.

A couple of weeks ago, Al Walton, Editel's President, offered to match any
contributions from Editel folks, (thanks, Al), something which a couple of
other companies have also done. He summed up how the TIG has risen to this
occasion very succinctly: the real power, he said, is in the obligations
and community which this crisis has highlighted. The power is in the
knowledge that people will take care of each other.

Thank you for doing just that.

God Bless

Mike Orton

| "I do not distinguish by the eye, but by the mind,      |
|   which is the proper judge of the man."                |
|         Seneca. 8 B.C.- 65 A.D.                         |

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