Our Journey To Recovery

Our Journey To Recovery

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Great Ocean Road and more, Australia 2014

Our stay at Queenscliff has been very restful. We have been battling the cold wet southern Victoria winter weather, but it keeps us hopeful with the sun breaking through every once in a while.

Fort Queenscliff
Looking towards Point Lonsdale and the third lighthouse.
The Black Lighthouse located inside Fort Queenscliff
Sunrise over the Bay

WWII gun emplacement and the White Lighthouse
The crew in the observation tower.

Queenscliff is at the opening of Port Phillip Bay just to the east of Torquay

We soon started on our trip along the Great Ocean Road stopping for lunch along the way. One of my first trips here was with Debbie and Christopher in 1996. Christopher was two and a half years old. We had almost the same exact weather. A little sunshine mixed with a bit of cold rain just to keep us alert.

We started out with some beautiful weather, enjoying the sunshine, most of the day. We were traveling in two vehicles, the girls, Debbie, her mum, Vickie and Sandra in Sandra's car. Christopher, Davis, Coleman, Allen and myself in the van.

We intended on this being a day trip out to Port Campbell to see the Twelve Apostles, stopping along the way at several other sites like Bells Beach, the Loch Ard Gorge and Apollo Bay. If I remember correctly we had lunch in Anglesea, at a beautiful little Asian Fusion restaurant. We parked along the beach road and sat at the tables outside, under the gas heaters.

Lunch time getting Christopher's order

It was beautiful looking out at the water. After lunch while walking back towards the car we did a little shopping in the local shops and then decided to have some ice cream before heading on. Not sure that was a good idea, putting ice cream on top of asian noodles.

Christopher's tummy sure didn't think it was. the combination of foods and the winding ocean road soon had us stopping to clean up a mess. Luckily we had a change of clothes for Christopher. Little did we know at the time we would soon be stopping to buy him a shirt and another pair of sweat pants. The roads was doing a number on him.

Well with the frequent stops and added shopping we were running out of daylight and we still hadn't made it to see the Twelve Apostles. After one more stop we finally made it to Port Campbell but the sun was already setting, so we decided to find a place to stay the night and try again the next day.

She's a beaut mate! Hey, it is clean and the people were friendly.

The girls found us three rooms at the the Twelve Apostles Motel & Country Retreat, Christopher was ready for a shower and bed. Oh, he did somehow find the strength to eat several pieces of pizza before retiring to bed. He was quick to recover from the ill effects of the road and had plenty of room for something to eat.

Anxiously waiting for breakfast. I have to say it was worth the wait!
12 Rocks Cafe and Beach Bar Port Campbell Australia

We started off the next morning with breakfast in Port Campbell, we sat there long enough for a monsoon storm to pass by before heading out to see the Twelve Apostles. Just a few miles back up the road, past where we spent the night, is the entrance to the Twelve Apostles site.
Wish I could take credit for this picture, breathtaking colors!

This is an amazing site to see, there are only 8 remaining rock formations, the southern ocean has taken it's toll on the others. We were lucky enough to be able to miss the storms in the area to see everything, without getting wet. I was able to get some great shots with the rainbows over the water.

Christopher striking a pose.
The rain is coming in again. Time to head back.
The rock formations stand as high as 45 meters (nearly 150 feet), the surrounding cliffs reach 70 meters, (over 200 feet). Over the years this has been one of the most treacherous sections of shoreline in Australia, with many shipwrecks and lost lives.

To keep ourselves safe and Princess Vom Vom in good health, we are heading back to Queenscliff via the main highway. Should be a little straighter road and less likely to cause Barfarella any issues. We love you Christopher, but the car stinks and we are out of paper towels!

Friday, September 12, 2014

First part of our trip to Australia, July 2014

Christopher rocking his headphones, waiting for the flight attendant to bring more snacks.
Christopher did extremely well on each of the flights over. Air New Zealand has a new design on their international aircraft. called a "Sky Couch". Debbie was able to book it on her flight over and was very comfortable.
This what they look like.
The dream scenario, as, in your dreams!

Great concept, only Debbie is 5'10", she fit comfortably over the three seats. Try fitting two grown men in that same space. Christopher is 6'3" with no flexibility and I'm 6'1" and old as the hills, needless to say we didn't spoon well together.

I wish I could have gotten a photo, but we were so crammed in together I couldn't get my phone out of my pocket to take a picture. Davis and Coleman were sound asleep several rows back.

We have rented a van for our stay Debbie picked it up earlier before meeting us at the airport. So after we landed, cleared customs and did our meet and greets at the terminal we headed to Nana's house, (Deb's Mum).

Our first day or so was spent  just getting acclimated to the time difference. Some of us adjusted quicker than others.

Davis and Coleman down for the count.
Once we were finally able to get everyone revived we bundled up and headed out to see the sites. We tried to go to the Melbourne Vic Market but it was closed, unfortunately so was every other market we tried. So we just headed down to St. Kilda to the shore.

Standing in front of one of the Melbourne Trolleys
Luna Park built in 1912 fashioned after the Luna Park at Coney Island in New York built in 1903. Many of the same builders were used design and construct the Roller Coaster, Carousel and several other rides.

The weather was a little blustery, we left 90 degrees in Atlanta and got hit with 48 degrees in Melbourne. Just a little cool and wet. But we were making the best of it. We had a great time seeing the site. We soon headed home, we had plans for dinner that night with Sandi, Alex, Vickie, Allen, Katie and stead stream of visitors. Alex had been preparing all afternoon. What a great evening.

The next day we had made plans to see one of the wildlife parks just north of Melbourne and then head down to the beach at Queenscliff where we were going to stay for the next several days while making day trips from there. Vickie's sister Leslie has a cute little cottage there and graciously let us stay there.
Two brave souls in the wild.

The Queenscliff White Lighthouse
Deb, Christopher, Sandi and Nana
Christopher amusing his Nana.
Buds waiting on donuts.
Deb, Christopher and Nana overlooking city and marina.
This was such a beautiful day site seeing around town. we are planning to head down the Great Ocean Road tomorrow. It has some of the most beautiful scenery you will every see.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

June 30th

We are counting down until our trip to Australia, everyone is getting excited to get home to see the family and friends. It has been almost five years since we have been back.

It will be very emotional for us all. Debbie's mum hasn't seen Christopher since before the accident, they have always had a very close relationship and this has been very hard for her to have to be so far away.

Just a few more weeks and we will be off. Debbie is going over a little earlier, the boys, Coleman and I will be traveling on the 29th of June. Christopher is still working hard with the therapy team at Pathways. He really likes the Lokomat and how it helps him with his walking. See below:


We will be finishing the therapy sessions in the next few weeks, just before leaving for Melbourne.

Working hard, we are so proud of his never quit attitude!

As soon as we complete the therapy sessions at Pathways w will be packing Christopher's schedule full of new and interesting things. We will be starting sign language with Mitzy Parks another Lassiter teacher. She and Cathy will be working together over the summer to strengthen Christopher's communication skills as well as ours.

He has really enjoyed the time he spends with Cathy and Gary. They both have been awesome, Gary really pushes Christopher past any self consciousness he may have had in the past to do some crazy things.

Terrorizing Walmart
Can't get enough of those hugs.

Smiles all around, what a great influence you are, we would also like to thank Hannah for being there as well.

Well the time has finally come we on our way to Australia. We are all packed and ready to go. Coleman's mom and dad are driving us to the airport. What a great help, save on parking expense. We will be flying first to LA then to Auckland, New Zealand then to Melbourne, Australia. We have a couple hours layover at each stop. Christopher is very excited, we'll see how he goes after 20 something hours on a plane.

Here we are waiting for our flight in LA
Waiting in Auckland, NZ Air was great.
We had to cross half the state of California to get to the international terminal for our flight to New Zealand. Delta lost Christopher's wheelchair seat and back. They put it with another passengers chair. We finally got it back after about 45 minutes of searching.

The staff at New Zealand Air had concerns about doing the same thing, so they made sure they tagged everything, they put the seat and back in the cabin so it wouldn't get lost. Unfortunately they lost the chair instead, so we waited about 30 minutes before we could get to customs. We found the chair in baggage claim.

As we were coming out from custom into the terminal Christopher nearly vaulted himself out of his chair when he saw his Nana. We had a whole clan waiting for us to arrive, it was awesome. Debbie, her mom and sister, Vicki and Allen, what a welcome.

Friday, June 13, 2014

May 31st

We have had a very exciting and sad few weeks.We had to lay to rest one of our sweet dogs, Buster. Jake and Buster came into out family 14 years ago, purchased through the Lab Rescue Program the two brothers were together until the end. Rest in Peace Buster, you gave us many years of joy and happiness.

Photo: Today we had to lay to rest a great friend and companion. Buster you are loved and will be missed.
The Lassiter Trojan Baseball team made it to the playoffs again, Christopher and I made the trip to Lawrenceville, to watch them play a double header against the Mountain View Bears. The Bears just happened to be the number one seed in the division. We had a great night, everyone was excited to have Christopher there, calling him their good luck charm. Well it worked out well we won the first game 1-0 and the second game 5-0. Mountain View were 22-4 in the regular season and we just stunned them, shutting them out both games. Great job Trojans!

Sorry to say the next round wasn't quite as pleasant, Johns Creek took us down in two. We had a great night anyway, thanks everyone for a making us welcome. Go Trojans!

Several weeks ago Tyler Seaman contacted me regarding a friend of his Rachel Kendig, wanting to do a fundraiser for Christopher. Rachel is a student at the University of South Carolina, she and her Chi O sisters, family and friends all got together to raise money to contribute to Christopher's rehabilitation fund.

On May 16th Rachel and Tyler came by the house to see Christopher and present us a check. We are so grateful, yes for the contribution, but more for the spirit in which it was delivered. The thoughts and prayers continue to motivate and keep our spirits high. We thank you Rachel for your kindness and generosity. We continue to find new avenues to explore in Christopher's recovery and the donation will be used to help defray the cost.

Rachel and Tyler with Christopher at Lassiter High School
Christopher has made the news yet again, thanks to Cathy and Gary Zingler. Christopher has a been going to the football field to throw the ball and watch the spring football practice with Gary. So Coach Irwin and Gary got together and made plans to bring Christopher onto the field during the Spring Football game to run a play in for a touchdown. After Cathy contacted Channel 11 to see if they would like to televise the event, everything started to get crazy. We ended up having both Channel 11 and Channel 2 there to interview us and televise the play. Marietta Daily Journal also ran a story to update Christopher's progress.
Photo: Cathy, Gary and Christopher. Some special people. Thank you for all you do.Photo: Christopher Heitzman gets an opportunity to get back on the football field at the Lassiter High School spring game. Here he is at the 1 yard line going in to score. Thank you Cathy and Gary Zingler, Coach Jep Irwin, Davis and everyone for making this happen. What a wonderful night. Great job Christopher.
Cathy and Gary with Christopher, the smiles say it all!             Here's Christopher, Gary and Davis
Christopher was so excited, the crowd in the stands were on their feet cheering him on, many of them with signs made for him. Unbeknownst to us, a great number of the the fans in the stands were students that graduated with Christopher who came back to see him take the field one more time.

So happy I got to see Chris tonight and even happier I got to see him run in a touchdown for the Trojans! Your hard work inspires us every day!Marley Fiveash's photo.Love my boys

Thank you all for making this a wonderful night, one to be remembered for many years to come.

Oh Yeah, Christopher turned 20 on the 19th May

We have started new therapy sessions at Shepherd Pathways one of the many apparatuses Christopher is using is the Lokomat. It is a combination of treadmill, zero gravity harness and robotics to help retrain Christopher to walk properly. Check out the video, it's pretty cool.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April 29th, 2014

This has been a fun filled month, beginning with a milestone birthday for me 60 years young. Wow

Here we are April 8th at the H.O.G. Dinner honoring Jamie Durio. Our speaker host Bob Kelly is at the microphone with Christopher hugging him after walking up to greet him in front of the group. Jamie and Christopher both graduated from Lassiter High School. Christopher was honored by the group last year. Bob has had a huge influence on Christopher before the accident and since.

Helping One Guy is the brain child of Bob and several of his friends and has been honoring "a guy" in our community who has recently experienced an irreplaceable or catastrophic loss or injury since its inception in 2012. The numbers of the group are steadily growing, each honoree becomes one of the newest HOG members. This is a great group, doing whatever they can to help.

There has been so much going on this month, the weather continues to be crazy. We are fighting to stay warm one day and then shedding clothes to stay cool the next. The plants in the yard don't know what to do.

April 9th, our guest arrive, ready for a wonderful visit with several of our friends from Australia, Vicki and Sandra are childhood friends of Debbie's. They all went to school together, all the way through nursing school. So we had Vicki and Sandra, Allan, Vicki's husband, Katie, Sandra's daughter and Robert. Below you can see us all at the Ritz.

The Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee, Vicki's birthday.
During their visit we have venture to Savannah, ate at Paula Deans. Headed to Memphis to visit the King at Graceland, eat a fried banana and peanut butter sandwich at the Arcade and see the ducks at the Peabody. Then off to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry, back through Chattanooga and then down to the lake to rest up. They shopped wherever we stopped. Great time had by all.

Peabody ducks
Say cheese
Walking with Katie and Debbie at Opryland
Picture of our restaurant, great atmosphere
Christopher showing off his unassisted walking skills
April 23rd gathering for our goodbyes before they leave for home 
Sandra, Davis, Coleman, Vicki, Debbie and Katie

Frances Halvorson and Maureen Gucky
taking Christopher on a little excursion to Paradise

April 25th Marley's Senior Dance Solo
GA Tech Ferst Center for the Arts
Christopher's latest attempt at walking on his own