October brought about big changes in the lives of Marla, Mary, and Leo. On the weekend of October 9th and 10th, after weeks of preparing and
packing Marla’s belongings at her townhome in Northglenn, they moved back to Mary and Leo’s home in Glenwood Springs.
It was an exhausting process, as packing had to be fit in between therapies at Craig as well as doctors appointments and other commitments.
Leo especially became worn down, as he continued to manage financial concerns with Marla’s mortgage company, surrounding the details
of vacating her home. That effort required many hours, in combination with hard work packing and moving boxes, patching walls,
and last-minute repairs and fixes–all tasks that Marla and Mary, due to physical limitations, could not offer much help with. Thankfully,
many friends chipped in to help in many ways, including packing, moving, and unpacking, and thank you to you all, from the depths of
our hearts (you know who you are)!
One of the factors affecting the timing of the move is that Marla’s benefits for physical therapy ran out for the year the week of September 27th.
That made it financially imperative that the burden of her townhome mortgage be relieved, so that all of her resources could go toward
therapies. Also, Mary and Leo have become worn out by living (and driving!) in Denver for the past year and a half. The drive from Northglenn to
Craig Hospital in Englewood takes anywhere from 45 minutes to over an hour depending on traffic, and various of Marla’s physicians are
located all over Denver, from Lakewood to Downtown to Thornton. It is much easier and less time-consuming to go to therapies in Glenwood
Springs, where Valley View Hospital is literally three blocks from Mary and Leo’s home.
Marla’s last week at Craig was bittersweet. Marla, Mary, and Leo have developed close relationships with Marla’s therapists, doctors, and
neuropsychologists, including Celeste, Marla’s physical therapist, Peggy, Marla’s occupational therapist who has been with her the whole
way ever since she started as an inpatient at Craig, Dr. Barry, Marla’s neuropsychologist, and Marcie, Marla’s speech therapist, and
Dr. Weintraub, her neurologist. It was hard for everyone to say goodbye! Marla prepared beautiful hand-made thank-you cards for each
of her therapists. On her last day, the staff gathered together and gave her a present–a knit Craig Hospital vest. Dr. Barry told
Marla that of all the people that he had worked with through the years, she was one of the bravest.
Marla had a good-bye party in the Library at Glacier Peak Elementary School on Thursday September 30th. Many of her colleagues
and good friends from her years of teaching in the Adams 12 School District, at both Malley Drive Elementary, and Glacier Peak,
participated. It was an emotional evening. Marla really enjoyed seeing all of the many friends that she has made over the years
all together, and had a lot of fun, despite the sweet sorrow of parting. Despite the emotions of the moment, Marla had sworn to
Mary and Leo before the event: “I won’t cry!” And indeed she didn’t. However, there were few dry eyes amongst Marla’s friends,
as the teachers presented Marla with a memory book with many remembrances and tributes to her years as a teacher
Each of her teacher friends had contributed their own personalized page to the book. Marla’s friend Missy, a teacher at
Glacier Peak, read the following poem, written by Marla’s grandfather, Howard Williams, in celebration of her graduation
from high school. The sentiments of the poem fit Marla’s philosophy of life so well:
I want to be a star,
I want my light to shine,
Not just for others,
But to light this life of mine.
I want to be a star
So I can glow and twinkle,
And have a little stardust
To make the world a brighter place
For everyone to see.
I’ll share the joy and Love of life
That others have shared with me.
I want to be a star that shines
And not just a reflection;
In all the things I do in life
I’ll keep working toward perfection.
I will light a candle
And help its love light grow,
Until it becomes a shining star
For all the world to know.
Howard Williams 1992
The weekend before the move, Marla and Mary attended the Brain Injury Association of Colorado’s annual conference in Vail. The
event offers a wide variety of exhibits, sessions, and talks geared toward survivors, care-givers, and the medical profession.
Both Mary and Marla enjoyed spending time with fellow survivor Kevin Pettit, a physics professor at the University of Colorado in
Boulder, and especially had a good time laughing with his wit and enduring sense of humor. In a “small-world” type of coincidence,
Kevin’s aunt is Theresa Bargston, a friend of Mary and Leo’s who used to lived in Glenwood Springs.
At one of the evening sessions of the conference, Marla presented two samples of her artwork: her drawing of her near-death experience and a collage that she created as a part of the art therapy program in which she participated at CU-Boulder over the summer. She received many compliments on her artistic expressiveness, and enjoyed speaking with the various participants at the conference about her experiences.
On the medical side, the break in Marla’s arm near the artificial elbow joint continues to be of concern. Her physicians have been hesitant to reduce the medication that prevents the excess build-up of bone (HO) that occurs around joint injuries coincident with head trauma. However, this medication may be impeding the healing of Marla’s bone. The most recent X-Ray appeared to be of particular concern, as it appears that the fracture may have enlarged. However, Marla’s physician in Glenwood Springs suggested getting Marla’s orthopedic surgeon in Denver to review the X-Ray as soon as possible for an expert opinion, since his experience with HO is limited. The X-Ray was overnighted to Dr. Sachar’s office in Golden, so we’re holding our breath concerning the results.
Marla’s recent blood work revealed that the output of her thyroid gland, which helps regulate the body’s metabolism and use of energy, is not within the normally expected range. Thyroid abnormalities are not uncommon amongst head-injury survivors. This could be the source of the fatigue that she experiences on a day-to-day basis. She has an appointment with an endocrinologist to review her blood analysis and to suggest some options for treating the condition. Hopefully the outcome will be increased energy levels!
Marla continues to work hard at physical and speech therapies each day. She is also using an electrical stimulator on the left side of her face, in an effort to increase the function of the nerves that control her facial muscles. Progress is slow, but she is hopeful that the efforts will pay off in her smile! She also uses an electrical stimulation device on her right arm, to promote healing of the bone and tissue around her artificial elbow.
Marla, Mary, and Leo are gradually adjusting to life back in Glenwood Springs. As Marla is a very social person, she is looking for friends and companions who share her interests, such as crafting and scrapbooking, hiking and walking, and love for animals. The Glenwood Post-Independent ran an October 26th article about Marla’s progress and her return to Glenwood Springs. The writer of the article was also motivated by Marla’s courage to write an editorial in the same edition about several inspirational individuals, Marla included, whom she had met through her work through the newspaper.
Thanks for checking in on Marla’s progress, and special thanks to everyone who continues to help in her recovery process!