August 24, 2012

Erik's imprint

 I've mentioned before that Erik worked for 27 years at a hospital in our hometown.  When he started to show signs of confusion we knew his well-earned retirement was approaching.  So we made plans for that next phase of his life, which I've written also written about.   But I've never shared with you the newspaper article the Dallas Morning News ran on the occasion of Erik's amazing retirement party back in 2007.  I've gotta remedy that right now.

 A reporter wrote the following about Erik:

Saying goodbye and good job
-- After 27 years on the job, hospital worker is showered with gifts and respect.
  While his father saved lives, Erik Barret touched lives.  They worked at the same hospital, the father as a pediatrician and the son as a utility technician.
  Mr. Barret spent 27 years at Baylor Medical Center at Irving.  He rarely missed a day.  He loved his job,  And he always wore a smile.
  Now, he's moving on.
  "When I retired about three years ago, Erik told me he thought that maybe he should retire, too," said Dr. Walter Barret, who was on staff at Baylor Irving and Children's Medical Center in Dallas for 43 years.  "It's just the time for him to leave."
  His eldest son is only 46 - an age that's young for retirement, but a milestone for someone with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes varying degrees of mental retardation and physical problems. 
  "When he was diagnosed, the doctors asked if we wanted to put him away,"  Dr. Barret said.  "Not much was done back then for children with Down syndrome."
  But he stayed with his parents and quietly shattered stereotypes.
  Mr. Barret learned vocational skills at Helping Hands in Irving, which is now Our Children's Center.  He ran track and became a good bowler.  He graduated from Notre Dame School in Dallas.
  And for more than a quarter of a century, he's been a dedicated employee.  His tenure at the hospital surpasses most staffers in his department.
  When his supervisor wanted to give him a break during his last week on the job, Mr. Barret was offended.
  "He didn't want anyone helping him," said Al Gibbs, director of Environmental Services. 
  In his blue uniform shirt, Mr. Barret beams with pride.
  "Erik is such a success story," said his father.  "Where many people just meet their potential, he has exceeded his."
  Mr. Barret's co-workers wholeheartedly agree.
  Doctors, nurses, administrators and staffers stopped by his retirement party last week to say goodbye.
  Hospital chef Ed Perrotta prepared a wide array of dishes for more than 200 guests.  Bags of M&M's and Skittles served as centerpieces.
  Mr. Gibbs presented gifts to his wide-eyed employee.  A big Dallas Cowboy fan, Mr. Barret received a basket of team goodies and a stereo unit and headphones.
  Even the city pitched in to honor Mr. Barret.  Mayor Herbert Gears sent a proclamation stating that Jan 31, 2007, was Erik Barret day in Irving.
  The guest of honor didn't blush as his friends applauded loudly.  He just grinned.
  Many guests were teary-eyed as they hugged Mr. Barret goodbye.  They wished him well and said he will be missed.
  "Some people leave an imprint that will never be replaced,"  Baylor Irving chief Jim Thaxton said.  "Erik is one of those people."
  "I love him a lot," said Sharon Martinez,  Mr. Barret's favorite nurse.  "He loves to sneak up on me and tease me.  Once he leaves, it will be hard.  He always smiled and waved at me."
  "I'm so proud of Erik," Mr. Gibbs said.  "He has such a strong commitment to the hospital. and he's very versatile."
  "I sometimes mop and clean the stairs," Mr. Barret said.
  The oldest of four, Mr. Barret was born in Memphis, Tenn., but came to Texas with his father's job. When he started at the hospital, he lived in a group home in Dallas.  For the past two years he's lived behind the hospital.
  "He loves being independent," Dr. Barret said. "He can manage everything but money."
 Now it's time for a change.  Mr. Barret will move to a group home on 160 acres in Brownwood, where he will still be able to work.
  While sad to leave his Baylor family, Mr. Barret says he is excited about his future.
 "I'm going to the country," he said.  "I'm going to have new friends."

I know I'm a proud sister, but wasn't that wonderful?  God's blessings abound.

Today when I was in Erik's room he pointed to this article (hanging on his wall) and looked at me, wanting me to comment on it.  I said, "Yes, Erik, that's YOU in the newspaper article.  You worked at the hospital."   He points to this article almost every single time I visit him.  I'll bet he shows it to everyone else who comes in too. 
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week.

Erik doing a great job at the hospital.

August 10, 2012

Expectations adjusted

I can't believe that it's been 6 months since Erik moved from the group home in central Texas where he lived for 5 years to an assisted living facility nearby our home.   Talk about time flying.   We've settled into a rhythm and I still see Erik several times a week.  When I'm not there, he's constantly on my mind.    His sweet nature has been such a bonus during this time except that lately I've been wondering if we're headed for choppier seas.    Several times over the past 2 weeks, he has been angry, even uncooperative, and it's so hard to know how to help him. 

This has been a lesson in faith for me as I visit Erik.  Expectations need to be adjusted.  My thoughts:  How will he show his displeasure to me today?   Usually it's when I have to leave him.  One day it was while I was putting his clean clothes back into his dresser.  The worst is when we have to take him back to his home, he's been refusing to get out of the car.

I took our sister's dog to visit him twice.  Another visit we did some crafts together.  Another visit he enjoyed teasing Mike.  During all these visits we had moments when Erik was laughing and seemed happy but he'd change suddenly and he wasn't anymore.   Tough love was easier when I was teaching my own kids to cooperate.  Alzheimer's is giving me many lessons in tough love.

Yesterday I visited during the morning and he was sound asleep.  He roused once, blinked real big and saw me sitting there but couldn't fight the sleep, he went back in for another nap.  So I left knowing I'd be back today to collect  his laundry.  Today I found him and boy, he seemed like a new Erik!   Smiling, even speaking a bit.  I was rejoicing inside, he really seemed content and wouldn't stop smiling.  Thank you Lord.   But that smart guy just knew when I was close to leaving and he had a hard time again.  But I have faith that we are going to get through all these new experiences and Erik is going to be ok.  God is faithful.

no more smiling, at least for now.

From earlier:
Erik and Benji
Erik and Benji again, this time after Erik's accident,
We strung beads and hung them from his window so the sun shines through.
Watch out, Erik's about to tickle you.

August 2, 2012

One of those calls in the night

Early this week we had quite a scare.   Monday morning at 4:45 my cell phone rang next to the bed.  I looked at the number, didn't recognize it, and let it keep ringing.   A few seconds later I had a voice message, so I sleepily listened and then became wide awake.   The call had been from an ambulance driver telling me that Erik was being transported to a hospital nearby.  He had had a seizure and fallen on his face and the residential living facility thought he should be sent to the ER.  While getting dressed and trying to wrap my mind around this, a caregiver from Erik's home called to tell me what had happened.  She said as a result of the fall, he'd cut his face and was bleeding a bit on his head.  When we arrived at the hospital Erik had been taken for a CT scan.  He was wheeled back into the room he seemed confused, dazed, not sure where he was or why his head hurt so badly.  He kept holding his forehead and scrunching up his eyes in pain.   There was an IV in his arm which he really didn't like.   The ambulance guys came in and told us he was alert and awake on the drive over there.  After he arrived, the doctor ordered blood work and cleaned up his contusions.  Good news, the Cat Scan and blood work results came back negative, no abnormalities.  I asked if Erik could be given something for his headache and that was done.  And then we were free to leave.  We were to watch him for symptoms of a concussion and let them know if anything else happened. 
So that day ended up being a long day of tending to Erik.  Poor guy, he was not himself, in pain and very tired.  Pain meds eventually helped, as well as food.  (you know that always works for him.)  Many dear friends were lifting him up in prayer.  As the day progressed I began to see his bottom lip swell up, like he'd been punched in the mouth.   When he fell, he must have cut it too.  He started looking more and more like Chuck Norris had had a swipe at him.  I tried to tease him about that but he wasn't in the mood.  I didn't blame him.

Thankfully, the next day he was back to his normal self, laughing, teasing the people at Elmcroft and me.  Ahh, I felt like I could let out my breath a bit.  Today I'll take our sister's dog with me to visit him, he'll love that.
The day after;  tough on the outside, sweet on the inside.
I know that older Downs are susceptible to seizures.  So the news that Erik had one didn't come as a surprise to me.  We've wondered if Erik is experiencing some dizziness lately.  We'll be keeping a watchful eye.  Do any of you know of older Downs who experienced seizures?  I'd be so grateful to hear about it.

August 1, 2012

Special Olympics

In honor of the 2012 London Olympic Games I decided to share these 2 pictures of the Olympian in our family. Erik participated in the Special Olympics when he was growing up, back when the organization was in its early days. I wish I could share more details about his involvement but don't know much about it. I do recall he traveled to New York State to compete and I believe that's where the first picture below is taken. I also know he competed in track and field and later, in bowling events. 
Erik, on the right, with his medal.  I think he still has that medal in his room today.

I looked up the Mission Statement of the Special Olympics and loved what I found:
The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.  

Erik personified the Sp. Olympics mission:  demonstrate courage and experience joy.
For years Erik would proudly tell everyone he met about his Special Olympics experience.  What an amazing organization.  (Here, link to their website.)