Thursday, December 23, 2010

12.22.10- Counting Down Looking Up


Acutely focused on her return home to Carmel, Rachael continues to work everyday getting stronger and poised for the big change coming. It is now official that on January 4th, 2011, Rachael Elizabeth Short will be going home after over 2 months in the hospital.

Rachael's circle has been working hard getting things ready at her future home. "The Carmel house is coming along. New pathways, new bathroom, and the black widows are getting removed," says Rachael. She lights up when she talks about going home and is very thankful for all the work everybody has been doing to help make it possible by retrofitting the house.

"We just got a little thing for the back of my truck so I can roll the wheel chair onto it. Then I am going to get a chauffeur. The wheel chair that I am getting is $28,000 and insurance is going to cover 70%. So that is good. But what the heck! I have never even had a car that has been that expensive. All this stuff costs a lot of money. I am getting an iPhone 4 cause I can use it with my knuckle... and then I am going to get an Apple TV so I can control the TV from my IPhone. Then hook my computer up to it and go crazy."

I joked around about it sounding like a pretty plush Christmas and Rachael responded, "Ya, expect I have to pay for all of it."

When I asked Rachael what else is new she stuck her tongue out at me, smiled, and said, "I still have a whole but I do not have a trach, my stomach tube is gone and my filter out of my neck is gone. that hurt really bad."

"Dr. Leibovitz, I hate you," she joked due to the pain of getting all the tubes and filters out that had been a part of her for over 6 weeks. "My right shoulder really hurts too, cause I was starting to pump too much iron"

Another thing that was new, exciting and bit scary was that for the first time Racheal was out of her bed and out of her chair and propped upright in a standing brace. The contraption allowed Rachael to have the sensation of standing upright again for the first time. Due to her low blood pressure she become a bit dizzy and saw a few spots so it didn't last to long but it was an exciting moment and a vision to hold onto.

Along with Rachael and her family, we wish you all Happy Holidays and an awesome New Year. Thank you for your continued support, prayers, and good thoughts. Counting down the days until the 4th of January and still looking up with hope.

***Any donations can be sent to Rachael Short at her P.O. box 161 Big Sur Ca. 93920***

***************You can view Rachael's photographs at***************

Sunday, December 12, 2010

12.11.10 - In Rachael's Words

"My life changed 40 days ago; not for the better or worse. No. Wait.

I'm not sure if the 40 days have flown or crept by. No. Wait. That's not right; it hasn't flown by... I've spent hours staring at the white hospital ceiling.

Ok. Day 41, and Rachael is still in the hospital. Not sure what direction to take this. Should I make people laugh or cry? Or both? Ok. Geez, it took me a month just to write my best friend Vanessa Auburn's wedding speech.

Ok. Day 41. Days and weeks blur together, but my focus is on January 4th, when I'll be able to go back to Carmel. In the weeks to come, the staff at wherever we are, are preparing me for my life away from the hospital. I'm trying to find an electric wheelchair that will allow me to go down Ocean Ave to Carmel beach, then back up to Cassaonova St, and to my gallery, without sending me flying out of it.

I'm also in search of a caregiver for around 4 hours in the mornings, an occupational and physical therapist with spinal cord injury knowledge, and a trained service dog.

Time in the hospital has allowed me to...

I've been overwhelmed by the generosity of friends, family and the community who have pulled together in this trying time. I truly believe that things happen for a reason, and that some good will come from this tragedy, and have faith that I'll one day be back in Big Sur, standing on my own two feet. Call me crazy, but that's what I'm thinking.

That's good enough, right?" -Rachael Elizabeth Short

***Any donations can be sent to Rachael Short at her P.O. box 161 Big Sur Ca. 93920***

***************You can view Rachael's photographs at***************

Saturday, December 4, 2010

12.1.10- Half Way Home

One month after the accident, Rachael is continuing her rehabilitation progress. She recently moved downstairs to a new room right next to the gym where she spends a lot of her time. The new space is shared with 2 other patients and signifies a stable condition. Rachael is breathing on her own for most of the day and is ready to put the vent, that was helping her breathe, aside for good. Thanks to her efforts and the care of family and the staff at SCVMC, she is getting stronger everyday.

The doctors have said that the projected date for Rachael to return home to Carmel is January 4th. And while Rachael is half way home from the hospital, she has a long road ahead of her. The goal at this point in her recovery is learning how to become as self-sufficient as possible prior to her release date. Not an easy task.

As strength returns very slowly to her arms, Rachael now focuses on regaining some dexterity in her hands. She can move her thumb every so slightly now. Her hand dexterity is critical for her to be able to do just about anything. Her wrist control is improving along with driving skills and she usually only runs you over in her motorized wheelchair now if she means to.

When I asked Racheal what trying to use the keyboard again was like she giggled in frustration saying, "It's like trying to get one of those stuffed animals with the machines with the claws that open every time you think you have it."

The last time I visited Rachael she said something that stuck with me. When I asked her about how we were doing communicating her story with the blog she said sarcastically, "What is with all the smiling photos? I am not happy."

While Rachael may not be happy about her situation, every time I visit I still see her determination and strong will. I see moments where her smile shines through and her positivity persists. She is still the light. But this story is not just about the smiles and successes. It is also about the challenge of what she is going through.

One of the toughest things of late has been hearing the doctors and staff coach Rachael all day long about how the rest of her life is going to work. It is a bit overwhelming to hear the information over and over again and the realization of the situation as it currently stands in the professional opinions of the staff. The dreams still remain, but understanding some of the facts of what it will be like to be back in Carmel at first are hard to swallow.

Racheal is faced with a difficult task. She must balance a fine line between keeping the hope alive of a full recovery someday at the same time as accepting where she is today. In order for Rachael to make progress she has to deal with the task in front of her and the information given to her, and work toward her goal everyday.

Looking into options for vehicles was one of the scenarios she faces today while keeping the dreams of tomorrow in tact.

***Any donations can be sent to Rachael Short at her P.O. box 161 Big Sur Ca. 93920***

***************You can view Rachael's photographs at***************

Thursday, November 25, 2010

11.23.10 - Working up an Appetite

The light pours through the window of her room as Rachael patiently prepares for another day. She is dedicated to her recovery and is keeping focused on the task at hand. She has her ups and downs and has been absorbing lots of new information and lots of love. The long days have been leaving her very tired and while Rachael loves seeing everybody, it has been requested that you call her prior to visiting at this time. Best times to visit are from 4-6pm everyday and noon-6pm on Sundays but please do call first to make sure she has the time and energy to visit.

The new good word is that Rachael may be moving downstairs to another room next week, signifying a good deal of progress and a more stable condition. Her days will get even busier downstairs and from this new stage she could be moving back home to Carmel as early as the first of the year. Before that there is a lot of work to do. Almost everyday she drives her wheelchair down to the gym for some long hours of physical training (PT).

The workouts are tough and Rachael jokes, "Where are my muscles? I want my muscles back!"

Rachael was used to doing pull ups at her home on Apple Pie Ridge in Big Sur and though she cannot grip the bar yet, she is able to do lat pull downs with light weight. The motions of working her shoulders, biceps and triceps are strenuous but she is leaps and bounds further along than she was a week ago, doing an array of exercises.

The PT is not all weights and cardio. Trying to regain and fine tune finger dexterity is another big part of the puzzle. The cell phone is as intricate as it gets. Rachael looks forward to being able to use her cell phone again someday soon and is working diligently with a great team at SVCMC to speed up this part of the process.

We joked around about how the PT wasn't as hard as soccer practice when we were kids. I asked Rachael what her goals are for working out over the next couple weeks. She told me, "Getting my triceps back. Just more movement in my arms so I can have one of those manual wheelchairs to cruise around... We'll get there. I feel the burn."

We all have heaps to be thankful for and I know one of those things is to have Rachael be the light in our lives.

"Happy Thanksgiving. Thank God I can eat!" Then she looked up to the sky and said, "Thank you."

***Any donations can be sent to Rachael Short at her P.O. box 161 Big Sur Ca. 93920***

***************You can view Rachael's photographs at***************

Monday, November 22, 2010

11.22.10 - A Message from Mom

"I would like to say thank you for all of the generous donations that have been pouring in since Rachael's accident. The love and support has been overwhelming, I am in awe of her friendships.

Rachael's friends came from everywhere within hours of her accident. Vanessa & husband Pat flew in from Los Angeles, Fabie flew in from Hawaii, Caroline and her husband Dan were there almost immediately from Pleasanton. Jenny and Jon her good friends from Apple Pie were keeping us all fed in the waiting room, with Jenny making us very healthy snacks, (get well soon, we miss you). Vanessa's mom Annie rubbed her shoulders. Not to mention Tom O'neal, who flew down to Mexico to photograph a wedding for Rachael! There are so many thank you's I can't keep up.

Derric has been instrumental in being fully supportive of Rachael every step of the way. He has been there sleeping in the room overnight by her side and reading everyone's well wishes off his phone.

Her dad never left her side, reading to her until she fell asleep, and not missing a beat when it came to the many doctors that came in and out, he kept and is keeping track of every detail. Myself, I am not remembering much, I have been in a fog of sorts.

The progressive surgeries that were performed on Rachael are thanks to the diligent work of Pat Carey and Dr. Elliot Carlisle, reaffirmed through the contacts of Dene Oliver. And a special thanks to Dr. Ivan Cheng M.D. at Stanford Medical Center for performing these wonderful surgeries.

A huge thank you to the Big Sur River Inn for hosting a fundraiser on November 17th, I believe they have raised close to $16,000. Thank you to everyone who participated in "Running for Rachael", at the Big Sur half Marathon. Thanks to Michael Jones, who hosted a benefit at the Cachagua General Store on November 21st, I hear that they raised over $6000! I really wanted to be there to taste that wonderful food and see old friends, but it was my day for the hospital rotation, her dad, Derric and I have all been taking turns.

Oh, and a very big thank you to Marikay LeValley, Rachael's business partner Evynn's mother, for raising a years worth of rent for their gallery. Thank you too, Evynn for handling Gallery EXPOSED business and all of the friends and family (brother Alex) who have stepped in to help keep that running smoothly. And, Carina, Rachael's godmother (my best friend from high school) who's visit was too short, thank you for flying in from North Carolina. The look on Rachael's face when she saw you....not too mention your support for me.

All my family & friends have been amazing. Thank you!" -Katherine Jenkins (aka Mom)

*photos from the River Inn and General Store courtesy of Nic Coury and Evynn LeValley*
***Any donations can be sent to Rachael Short at her P.O. box 161 Big Sur Ca. 93920***

***************You can view Rachael's photographs at***************

Sunday, November 21, 2010

11.18.10 - The First Bite

After 19 days of not eating a bite of solid food and talking very rarely, Rachael was able to do both with great joy. Due to her tracheotomy, which helps her breathe easier, she was not able to do these basic things for nearly 3 weeks after the accident. A new valve combined with her determination gave her another victory on her road to recovery. When I asked her about what it was like to speak again she said, "I started getting to speak this week... it feels good. It is nice to be able to talk and make fun of everybody... helps keep my mind off things."

Rachael's days are long, full of a busy schedule of doctors and nurses coming in and out of her small, window lit room. Sometimes they are there to run a basic test and explain things to her and sometimes there are just there to check in and say hello. If you would like to visit, Sundays are best, as those days are often more flexible with nothing planned. Weekdays from 4-6pm are also a good time to pop in for a chat.

For her first meal Duncan, her father, brought some soup from the hospital cafeteria. Rachael described her first meal as, "some weird soup contraption... a turkey, ham cracker thing." Rachael and I both agree that is it nearly impossible to take a flattering image of a person eating so you can just picture her smiling as Duncan serves up some soup, spoon by spoon. Maybe a Duncan's Pizza from the Cachagua General Store (named after her dad) will help with our unphotogenic food dilemma.

Another huge triumph is that Rachael, with the help of her nurses and family, is able to get into her new 'sports car' as Duncan calls it. She is beginning to cruise around in a motorized wheel chair and heading down to the gym to "lift some weights and get all buffed up," she says. She was able to go outside and feel the light on her face and the fresh air on her skin. Being able to eat and communicate is a huge step in the right direction and Rachael is looking forward to continuing her progress everyday.

"Thanks to all my friends who have been coming by and sending their love. It helps... It helps a lot. I do love looking at the pictures and the colors, because this room is definitely... ugly. But it is better than the Stanford room with the crooked television that looked like it was going to fall off the wall." - Rachael Elizabeth Short

***Any donations can be sent to Rachael Short at her P.O. box 161 Big Sur Ca. 93920***

***************You can view Rachael's photographs at***************

Saturday, November 20, 2010

11.09.10 - The Transfer

9 days after the accident and 2 surgeries later Rachael was transferred from Stanford Hospital back to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC). It was a tough day, but a step in the right direction to the beginning stages of her rehab. When she was prepped to make the move her team of talented doctors and nurses at Stanford came to go over the details and say goodbye. The Stanford team did a great job operating and keeping morale high.

Upon arrival at SCVMC, the new team immediately began comprehensive testing to begin to understand the state of the C5, C6 injury more completely in order to make decisions to aid in her recovery. While the team of nurses and doctors attended to Rachael, her Mom and Dad were always by her side reading her lips or reading books to her.

You remember when you saw magic for the first time? You remember how you had to run around and tell all your friends about it because you wanted them to share in the awesomeness of it? Well I saw Rachael move her arm. It may have not been easy for her, but she made magic happen and I can't wait to see the next magic show that she has in store for us. Keep the positive energy flowing.

***Any donations can be sent to Rachael Short at her P.O. box 161 Big Sur Ca. 93920***

***************You can view Rachael's photographs at***************

11.06.10 - The First Visit

My good friend and fellow photographer Rachael Elizabeth Short was a passenger in a car accident in Big Sur, California on Halloween night. She injured three of her vertebrae and was rushed in a helicopter to the hospital. If you ask the doctors they say that she will never walk again. So we are not asking the doctors. We are thinking good positive thoughts and listening to those who believe Rachael will be dancing again sooner than later.

Rachael requested that I come and visit with my camera because she wanted her recovery to be documented. It is an honor to be able to help a friend share their story.

I arrived on November 6th at the Stanford waiting room. It was filled with friends, family, and a few flowers even though they were not allowed. Everyone was visiting with each other, getting updates from doctors and waiting for the next visiting hour to begin.

The nurse told me to wait to take pictures because she had to call her boss to make sure it was ok. When she was just outside the room Rachael looked at me and because she couldn't speak she mouthed, "Shoot now." We were thinking the same thing, that they might not allow photos to be taken, so we should just document what we could before the nurse returned. It put my nerves at ease to see Rachael's usual rebel personality of "shoot first ask questions later."

Walking into the room for the first time all I could see were tangled up tubes, beeping machines and Rachael in the middle of it all. The chaotic feeling of unknown clutter made it hard to visit with her at first. I felt so distant from such a close friend.

After I spent some time with Rachael she smiled. The tubes and machines faded to the background and I could see Rachael through it all. Although I was trying to be there to support her and relay messages from our concerned community it was Rachael that had the real message to share to comfort us. To me her smile was her way of saying, "Keep smiling and thank you all for your support."

***Any donations can be sent to Rachael Short at her P.O. box 161 Big Sur Ca. 93920***

***************You can view Rachael's photographs at***************