By January 11th, the pressure in Dustin’s brain had stabilized and the doctors OK’d him to be transferred from Duke to Durham Regional Hospital, where he would start rehabilitation. Luckily he was able to get a private room so Rebecca could stay with him all day, every day. While there, Dustin participated in speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. Although Dustin’s muscles on his left side and left eye are physically fine, the tumor invading his “motor strip” makes his brain start to dissociate with them. This means moving and looking with his left side is no longer second nature how so many of us take for granted. He has to purposely focus on what he wants to do with each extremity on his left side and think of the actual movement and where it is going and what it is doing. It can be mentally exhausting, especially now in the early stages. It will take time and a lot of effort to rebuild that control to the best of his ability.
Certain activities that he did often such as basketball came more naturally with less of a struggle. Dustin, despite being right handed, always shot a basketball with his left hand. He didn’t have full strength, but he definitely remembered the movements and did it fairly well. He is able to transfer in and out of bed into the wheelchair. He is able to stand and take a few steps with extreme concentration, strength, and some help from the therapist to hold his left knee so it doesn’t buckle. That weekend Rebecca’s parents came down and brought baby Michael, which Dustin was very happy to see. The following weekend on the 19th/20th, his brother Dillon, Dillon’s fiancee Shannon, and his parent Regina and Keith came down to visit. Dustin was in high spirits and actually challenged Dillon and later Rebecca to a game of ping pong. Activities such as ping pong are actually great because it helps Dustin focus on his vision. So the ball may start on his right side where he can see perfectly fine, so that way he sees it first, and will begin to follow it to the left where he has the deficit. So essentially it helps him to make a mental connection that something is there and then train himself to visually track an item as it moves into his left side.
All the therapists were amazing there! One even came in on his off day with his wife to bring Dustin a milkshake from his favorite local spot. It’s amazing people who go out of their way in even the smallest way to show they care that make this journey easier.