Monday, May 2: Update

Little birds have been perching on my shoulder the past month and whispering in my ear: “Hey you. Yeah you. Write another blog post. We need an update.” I’ve brushed them off for as long as I could.

Needless to say, we’re going on nearly three months without an update. I apologize for the radio silence. I understand how many people are eager to hear about Claire’s progress. We are grateful, as always, with the support for Claire. We also appreciate the angst that people have shown over hearing about her trials and victories.We have much to report in each category.

Before getting to Claire’s progress, however, I have also been negligent in posting about an event that was held in Claire’s honor in March. My dad’s sizable California family (my grandparents raised 14 kids) organized a fundraiser for our family, a charity dinner that was an unexpected blessing. We were overwhelmed with people’s generosity and sacrifice. It humbled us.

We were also very happy with the timing of the event. It coincided with the biggest news we’d had in a while. Claire smiled. We were aware that it was coming. For a couple weeks prior to actually getting her to crack a smile, we were noticing substantial changes in Claire’s facial composition. Her eyebrows were relaxing more frequently. Her jaw line was more loose. Her mouth was beginning to make different shapes. So for a full week we’d been making fools of ourselves trying to get Claire to smile. Tiffany was on the phone one night while I was taking my turn as the fool. Her eyes got bright and started to sparkle and then the corners of her mouth started to tug. Tiffany rushed in to the room when I yelled “She smiled” and two minutes later was followed by the people with whom she’d been talking, our neighbor’s the Barnes. It put us all over the moon.

That night we made calls to family members adding to our joy. And for the subsequent three days we did all manner of things to get her to smile. But Heidi was holding the ace in the hole. My parents came into town three days after Claire’s first smile. We didn’t hesitate to show them Claire’s new trick. The following Monday, while I was at work, Claire trotted out her biggest act with Heidi leading the way. Heidi was trying to get Claire to smile and chose a rather macabre method of doing so. “Claire, I’m falling down a cliff, ” Heidi’s story begins. This is followed by a perilous fall down said cliff and the requisite squish at the bottom. Claire smiled. Then she laughed.

It started as a little laugh. And nobody was certain at first. So Tiffany encouraged Heidi to fall off the cliff again. The second time it was unmistakable. Claire laughed from her belly, a cute, full laugh. The emotions came quick for Tiffany. It had been over nine months since we’d heard Claire laugh. Both Tiffany and I can clearly remember the last thing Claire said to us before the accident. We were not certain when we hear a piece of her again. Instead of words, it was a laugh. And it brought a tide of emotion. While I didn’t get to see it, I got to hear it moments after the first one when they called me at work. It’s a beautiful sound. We still smile every time she laughs. And we’re bigger fools than ever trying to get her to laugh every day.

Claire is now laughing at least once a day. The first day Claire spent a significant portion laughing. At one point Tiffany discovered a new way of making Claire laugh, to the point that Claire was having trouble catching her breath. After that first day, however, Claire took a break from laughing. Smiling was becoming an everyday occurrence; however, we’d have to wait another week before we’d hear her laugh again. Now we don’t have to wait as long.

The laughing started out with slapstick humor, the gut reaction to something we find internally amusing. Now Claire is laughing at more subtle forms of humor. This has coincided with an increase in Claire’s awareness. She’s much more aware of her surroundings and pays attention to social cues and communication more acutely. She’s also starting to remember things. We can’t determine how she is remembering things: does she actually recall the stimuli or is there something deep seated in her brain that is triggering emotion? We do believe, however, that she is remembering things to a degree. One item to which Claire responds is a viral video she would often watch before her accident called “Kitten Inspired by Kittens” (http://youtu.be/FtX8nswnUKU). Tiffany was talking with Becky one day about Claire and mentioned Claire’s affinity for the video. Tiffany started quoting the video and when she looked over, Claire was smiling. The video is now a sure thing to get Claire to smile and she’s back to watching it over and over.

Claire’s awareness has also translated over to therapy sessions. Claire continues to progress with oral therapy, each week increasing the amount she is able to swallow without coughing. She’s also started working on reaching out and touching objects in PT and OT. Her efforts here are very labored. Claire has not been able to do much in the area of building up her limb strength. Her core muscles are getting stronger due to horse therapy, yet her arms and legs still lack coordination and purpose. This makes sense since the primary area of her brain that was injured controls motor movement.

Despite the slow progress with her motor movement, Claire’s doctor expressed a degree of confidence that Claire’s cognitive faculties have been protected. This is consistent with Claire’s awareness and response to humor as well. This means that the bulk of our effort will continue to be directed at the physical side of things.

Her mouth is one of those areas. The oral therapy has been making Claire’s mouth more responsive and we’ve been noticing a more concerted effort to make new noises. We temper our hopes, but are eager to see what Claire can accomplish as we ramp up her speech therapy. We want her to talk so much so she can express herself again.

The key takeaway over the last two and a half months is that Claire continues to make progress. There have been some seminal events, yet progress remains slow. But it’s still progress.

Autumn and Heidi are doing well. Heidi is now enrolled in violin lessons and Autumn is back at piano. Both girls are registered for two camps this summer. Both are going to golf camp, while each has her own special camp: Heidi is going to science camp and Autumn to theater camp.

I enrolled Tiffany in a book club, so she now has to get out of the house at least once a month. After a year lay-off, I’m finally getting back to studio work. Eiger is a puppy. And he’s good at being a puppy. So we’re all puppy tired. But he’s a good dog, loving and sweet.

I hit on the high points, and I’m sure to have missed a lot of the details. I’ll be watching the comments section for any questions and update through there. Thank you again for your support and hopes. We are happy to share this news with Claire’s army.

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68 thoughts on “Monday, May 2: Update”

  1. I’m SO happy to know that sweet Claire is smiling and laughing! That makes my heart soar. Much love and many blessings to each of you.

  2. Thank you so much for the update. I thought of Claire just yesterday and wondered how she and all of you are doing. It was wonderful to read such positive news and lovely to see the beautiful pictures.
    May God continue to bless you in His ways.
    A friend in VT.

  3. Thank you so much for the update. I’ve been thinking about Claire a lot lately and was wondering what was happening. You all continue to be in my prayers.

  4. So so nice to read this update tonite πŸ™‚ Brought tears to my eyes to read about her laughing. Such a precious little girl. Our thoughts and prayers remain with you.

  5. I get to see Claire and Tiffany for a few brief moments on Wednesday’s before one of Claire’s OCH sessions. It’s nice to have that weekly familiar set of faces come through the door! Tiffany unbelievably finds a way to ask about me and my kids, even if she is out of breath from carrying in Claire and the extra bags of equipment in one armful.

    Remarkable mom! All the efforts and work you all have done with and for Claire are shining through. I was so excited when Tiffany shared the special smile and laugh story with me. Having read almost all of the blog entries from the beginning has allowed me to share in that happiness for each of Claire’s new improvements and really grasp the true joy that each one brings.

    I am sad I won’t get to say “Hi” this Wednesday since I volunteered to be a chaperon for my son’s field trip. Blessings to you this week though! Love the pictures and updates!!!

  6. thank you soooooo much for the update! i miss teaching autumn and i’m so happy for your family that things are progressing! you are in my prayers.

    jade melton (autumn’s former art teacher)

  7. Loved reading about Claire and her progress and the laughing is wonderful. I know that was a huge moment for you all.
    Will be praying for her progress to continue and for you to all have joy in each day.

  8. So happy to hear the latest news. I always share your blog with my 6 yo daughter and 9 yo son. Just last week my son asked how Claire was doing and it made me smile just to know he was thinking of her, someone we have never met. Claire-we are so happy to hear of your progress! Keep up the good work sweet girl!! God is good!

  9. My son, Nathan, and I continue to pray for Claire every night. Nathan was so excited to hear that Claire smiled and laughed. Thank you for sharing Claire’s story with us!

  10. What a wonderful update!!! Claire looks amazing!!! I can only imagine how you all felt the moment you saw the sparkle in her sweet eyes… Thank you for sharing this incredible news with us!!! Marbella continues to pray for Claire daily… her way of keeping us focused on what is really important in this life we live!!! πŸ™‚ And Tyler – thanks for listening to the little birdie that kept speaking into your ear!! We love to hear from you!!!
    Warmest – Karin, Andy, Marbella, and Milana

  11. I am so very, very, very happy to read this news! I pray there will be many more opportunities for laughter for Claire and ALL the people who love her.

  12. I was so pleased to see that there was an ourclaire post today. It has been so long and even though we know you are all busy working with her, we on the outside, are eager for updates. Regardless of their length.
    It warms my heart and moistens my eyes to read that Claire smiled and laughed. What a gift of encouragement God has given you, to hear her laugh.
    Praying for God to assist and comfort you as Claire progresses.
    Joyfully His,
    Bambi

  13. Yay! Thank you so much for the wonderful updates! Everyone looks great! We miss you guys so much and hope to see you soon! Love to you always, H&H

  14. It was wonderful to get an update. Thank you for taking the time. I have been praying and will continue to.

  15. Still praying all the time! Thanks so much for this update — such great, encouraging news! You may recall from our story that the first time Jacob laughed was when Luke and his friend Paul were acting out a slapstick scene with stuffed animals and made one fall off the bed rail. I’ll never forget that moment, and I know you won’t forget this either.

    LOVE these photos. They’re all wonderful, but the violin shot — WOW! Stunning.

    Much love to all of you,
    Jeanne

  16. I am just crying after reading this & PRAISING the Lord with you..WOW! She is smiling and laughing..I cannot even begin to imagine how happy that made you..What a gift..THANK YOU for this update & I hear much hope in your voice..STAY STRONG!! The Lord is with you..

  17. Joann and Don sent me the movie clips of Claire laughing and Tiffany’s response–I’ve watched over and over and cry every time. So glad it wasn’t a one-time event! Glad, too, that she continues to progress, even if things are always slower than you would like. It is so good to know that Claire’s personality is still there, and her sense of humor. God is good indeed! And you’re wonderful parents who have managed to keep your family intact through this. Loved the photos, including Autumn in the sprinkler and Heidi concentrating on her violin. May they love summer camp, and Tiffany love her book club! Love, Dodie

  18. what a tremendous blessing… I couldn’t help but smile through my tears as I read this news.
    You all are continually in my prayers…

    Love in Christ, Lora

  19. I am so glad that you finally posted! And what exciting news! I have continued to pray for Claire to and stand with you for her healing and progress.

  20. I am so glad you all were able to hear Miss Claire laugh again! Children laughing is one of my most favorite sounds! Thanks for the update!!

  21. So happy to read about Claire’s progress! And glad to read that the girls are active and having fun and I love the violin picture. Keeping you in thoughts and prayers.

  22. I was so happy to see the post and that Claire has smiled and laughed. And that your family is doing well.Your family will continue to be in my thought and prayers.

  23. So awesome to see Claire’s smile! Looks like you’re all doing everything right. Your whole family is beautiful. Thank you for the update. It does my heart good to read these posts. Love all the pictures.

  24. I got chills reading your post, and was grinning ear to ear just like Claire! What a gift – truly incredible to have your child’s smile and belly laugh back. The wait seems like an eternity, but boy is that reward worth it. I can really see the sparkle in her eye – so awesome!!!
    Re: youtube videos, does Claire like the evian rollerbabies one? Lola can’t get enough of it.
    Amazing news – thanks so much for the update!
    Gillian

  25. If kitties make her laugh, you gotta watch this kitty video. My daughter loves it! I cried reading your post. Laughter is SUCH good medicine. Go Claire!!

  26. I’m so happy to read a post again. Thank you for the update. My prayers will continue to go out to you and your family. God is GOOD!
    Darla Herndon

  27. i am so thankful for your post. i have not forgotten claire and pray for her and your family often. especially since an i-friend has suffered a major stroke at 38 and is clawing back at new life since it all happened in january. her strides, struggles and accomplishments remind me of claire… not the exact same journey, but a slow paced marathon similar to yours.
    i remember waiting for that first intentional smile from my babies and i can imagine claire’s first smile was a cause for celebration. laughter and tears here, too, in knoxville for your sweet claire. i love how you call your blog “our claire.” i feel like i’m a part of this journey too. thanks so much for including us.

  28. It’s sooooooooo good to read a blog update! The pictures are absolutely FANTASTIC. Thank you for sharing.

  29. We are thrilled and so thankful to hear of Claire’s progress. What a beautiful smile! We continue to pray for all of you.

  30. Your family is beautiful and so full of life. It warms my heart to hear the WONDERFUL progress that Claire is making. She is such an inspiration to everyone!

    Thank you!

  31. So happy to hear the news!! Claire’s beautiful face is even more so with her sweet smile. Glad to hear Heidi and Autumn are enjoying music and will have a great summer this year πŸ™‚ Make sure to make time for yourselves as a couple as well. I’m sure you and Tiffany are drained, but it doesn’t hurt to go get a cup of coffee together to feel like sweethearts again.

    Thank you for sharing with us. I haven’t forgotten you guys!

    Carly Berg

  32. Tyler and Tiffany, it was well worth waiting the three months to hear such marvelous news! Claire’s laughing and smiling are the best — for everyone in your beautiful family. How astounded and grateful you must have felt when you heard the sounds you’ve been missing for so long. She’s precious, and so are Autumn and Heidi and Eiger (he looks like a keeper). Wishing all of you the very best in the coming months with the book club, camps, Heidi’s violin and Autumn’s piano. God bless all of you!

  33. Tyler-so happy to hear the news about Claire’s progress. Also great to hear what your family did for you all, that has got to help. I hope to see you sometime soon, and wish you and your family all the best and hope for continued progress with Claire. Have a great spring and please let me know if you happen to make it out to Colorado anytime in the near term.

  34. Wow! So glad to hear the great update. My daughter, Makayla, misses seeing Autumn at school and ask of Claire often. She had just asked shortly before receving the email update. We will continue keeping you all in our prayers.

  35. Thank you so much for the update. What wonderful news. I continue to pray for Claire and am so excited with her progress.

  36. Her sweet smile is beautiful beyond words. We will continue to remember Claire and your entire family in our thoughts and prayers. Thank you for the update!!

  37. thank you so much for the delightful update! How precious to see Claire smiling and to hear about her laughter. My heart exploded with joy reading this and knowing her families hearts had all done the same. your girls are all so beautiful. God continues to be faithful and I believe Claire’s progress will continue thanks to her strength and all the love and care poured into her.

  38. Wow. I can’t’ even imagine how amazing those milestones must have been for you guys. I was smiling huge as I read them. I would love to hear her belly laugh! πŸ™‚
    Much love and prayers to you guys as you soldier on!!!

  39. The photo of Claire smiling with those lively eyes told the happy story before I read it. Isn’t a sense of humor a fairly advanced gift from God? I think I learned that somewhere, sometime. Great news!

  40. I am so happy for you guys!!! Claire is always included in my children’s prayers so we are very excited to hear this wonderful news!! And pictures!!! We will continue our nightly prayers for Claire’s improvement and strength for your family!!!! God Bless!!!!!!!!

  41. Wow! So encouraged!!! Thank you for the update. We all loved to hear. The photos are great too! We will continue in our position(of prayer)!

  42. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
    Hallelujah!!!
    Post that lovely smile on Facebook, too, please.
    Laughing is good for the soul, as well as chest/lung/abdominasl workout. Bonus for Claire AND all the rest of you.
    Autumn and Heidi are the best big sisters in the world.
    Tyler and Tiffany, you have done amazing work on ALL your children.
    We pray for all of you, every day.

  43. I had read on Facebook that she smiled, and I am so thrilled to read that she is now laughing too! What a blessing! I would imagine that the smiles and laughs make the days much easier. Love you guys!

  44. We have been thinking about you all and wondering how you are…So good to hear from you!!
    We are in agreement here that you’re seeing a miracle. Just amazing! Love the pictures!
    We send our love.
    Praying,
    Paul and Carolyn

  45. I am so happy she is making great progress. Like you guys said, she is a fighter.

    Veronica Montes

  46. What a wonderful update and so thankful for the gift of Claire’s laughter. You all continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.

  47. We are so happy to hear of Claires’ progress. Whatever the progress, it’s still progress. Praise the Lord!, for Claires’ smiles. May they come often. Our prayers are for her to be able to talk, reason, walk – do everything she used to do before the accident, and that she may progress to those stages ASAP.

    Our Love and Prayers,

    Ken & Jana Kirkpatrick
    Jesup, GA 31545

  48. Thank you for the update. One of my classes at school has been praying for Claire throughout the year, so I will be thrilled to share the latest with them! We’ll continue to pray!

  49. Happy Mothers Day Tiffany! Our kids give us some of life’s lowest lows and right along side can be some of life’s highest highs! In all events we attempt to see the unseen, our Father, risen Savior Jesus, and the reality of His Spirit , living in us, bringing His Personality into our “jars of clay”‘. As we live in the uncertainty of this thing called life, we are able to sing, Blessed be the Name of the LORD, Great is thy Faithfulness, On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand, How Great Thou Art, Just as I am, and It is Well with My Soul – while grasping our personal reality. Rare glimpses of the “unseen world” may be only through etched glass, but we can HEAR it clearly today… in Claire’s laugh! “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” are God’s words to all Mom’s. We women can mirror Paul’s answer to our Lord, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 11Cor. 12:9 As bright as the full moon on a clear night, I see Him shining thru you Tiffany! I give Him praise for you and your precious family today! Thanks for the update :=)

  50. What a fun update! Oh, I cried with you guys as I read the latest on Claire smiling and laughing! Just beautiful. Thanks for continuing to invite us in your story. Much love…

  51. Thinking about your family this weekend. You are in my thoughts and prayers always, but especially this weekend.

    I love reading your updates and seeing the gorgeous photographs! Filled with joy to read about the smiles and laughter. I can only imagine how your heart must have swelled to the point of bursting…tiny, little miracles make life so much sweeter.

    Love and prayers from the Rutzen Family!

  52. I have been thinking of you all for some time now and praying for little Claire! I was rejoicing and thanking the Lord for the progress that Claire has made! Smiling and laughing…….thank you Lord!!!
    Thank you for keeping up this blog!!!

  53. It’s so nice to hear an update, especially one that makes us smile (pun intended)!

    Wow! Laughter IS the best medicine!

    Thx for the wow report:)))

  54. Hi, Tyler — wonderful writing — really gives the feel for your family.
    Apologies for not getting back earlier to your request for information on ABR.
    I am taking the liberty of pasting some links to our recent workshop for professionals that took place as a part of Pacific Rim Conference on Disabilities on April 19th, 2001 in Honolulu.
    ABR PacRim Workshop p1 Fascia Research Applied to Cerebral Palsy
    http://vimeo.com/25292877

    ABR PacRim Workshop p2 Cerebral Palsy cases before and after
    http://vimeo.com/25294250

    ABR PacRim Workshop p3 Cerebral Palsy Trans-Anatomical Analysis Theory
    http://vimeo.com/25295916

    ABR PacRim Workshop p4 Live Eval Cerebral Palsy Trans-Anatomical Analysis
    http://vimeo.com/25297866

    ABR PacRim Workshop p5 Techniques from Theory to Practice
    http://vimeo.com/25316112

    I hope that will be of interest and turn out of some use.
    Cheers

  55. So glad to be able to read the well informed update. Im still thinking of you guys and praying for complete healing and recovery for Claire. Looking forward to when the next update will be!!
    God Bless

  56. What a joy to read about Claire’s progress!!! Theo was really encouraged. We do pray for you almost daily. Happy to hear of the activities of Heidi and Autumn. Here are hugs for each of you.

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