Dave's Car Accident

October 2017:

Many of you know part one of Dave’s story, the past year and a half of neurological recovery from a very serious brain tumor. His family is busy growing while he has been getting strong, back to work, and back to living life again. 

Sadly, on October 14th, 2017, Dave was in a very serious single car accident while driving on Highway 99 near Madera on his was to a family event in Southern California. He had a seizure while driving, lost consciousness, and crashed. He was transported to a hospital in Fresno and was diagnosed with two fractured vertebrae in his neck and a dissection in his vertebral artery.  They were told neither required surgery and he was sent home in extreme pain and immobility the following Wednesday night.  After a difficult few days at home and trip to the ER, he eventually got transported to UCSF Neurosurgery on Saturday night, a week after the accident.  Imaging showed a bone fragment impinging a nerve, in addition to the cervical fractures.  Surgery happened on Friday, October 27, where they decompressed the nerve and fused vertebras C5-C7.  Surgery stabilized the neck fractures, removed the agonizing pain and improved the weakness and numbness on his right side.  He is expected to make a full recovery but recovering from spine surgery will be slow with lots of follow up at UCSF.   

Due to the trauma of his brain surgery and radiation in 2016, Dave was on a maximum dose of anti-seizure medication.  His seizures were well controlled and there was no reason to be concerned.  He had resumed most of his regular activities and had been doing well, so the accident has been a tragic and difficult development to his story.

November 2017: 

Dave is recovering at home and has completed his home health visits.  He will continue to wear the neck collar for a few more weeks until his follow up appointment with his spine surgeon at UCSF.  His shoulder pain, weakness, and numbness continue although should eventually go away. Thank you all so much for your support, prayers, and help.  They are bringing us though another difficult time.  

 

My Last 7 Months

My Last 7 Months

On Friday morning, January 29th my wife, Annalisa, took me across the river from our home in Arnold, CA to the ER at Sonora Regional Medical Center because I was having stroke like symptoms (loss of speech and loss of feeling in the right side of my body from my tongue all the way down to my foot).  There a CT Scan discovered our worst fears. There was a large mass on the left side of my brain and my whole life began flashing before me as I was quickly rushed by ambulance two and a half hours away to UCSF where I underwent an MRI that showed a large brain tumor (what surgeons would later describe as a softball size atypical meningioma). 

On Monday morning, February 1st, a team of doctors performed a procedure called an embolization (much like an angiogram) where they went through a main artery in my groin all the way up into the skull where they were then able to cut off the main blood vessel that was supplying blood to the tumor in order to ensure that during the brain surgery there would be less blood loss.  Two days later I went in for the main event which would be a full craniotomy (cut from ear to ear) in order to remove a large enough piece of my skull to extract the softball sized tumor!  The surgery lasted a total of seven hours (which was a good thing because I had lost almost two liters of blood) and they had originally projected the surgery could last as long as 12 hours!  The surgery was successful when the surgeons had removed the cause of all my bizarre and sometimes scary symptoms (from speech loss, to memory loss, to severe migraine headaches that would last sometimes for 26-30 hours!) that I had been experiencing over the past five to six years.  In fact, the doctors believe that the tumor had been slow growing for as long as a decade of my life, allowing my body to adapt to its presence except for the occasional “episode” or bizarre symptom that would preclude a migraine headache.  Then over the year and a half before my brain surgery, the bizarre symptoms went from occasional (every three or four months) to monthly, to then almost weekly where I was afraid to leave my house out of fear that I would experience an episode away from the comfort of my home and care my wife provided so caringly and lovingly.  Then in late January me and my family’s life would never be the same.

Following the surgery and 3 days in the ICU at UCSF, I spent two and a half weeks in a live in rehabilitation hospital in San Franciso called CPMC where I would need to relearn simple things I had spent the previous 34 years perfecting and taking for granted.  I would have daily therapy sessions from speech therapy, to occupational therapy, to physical therapy… relearning how to walk, take a shower without falling, take in the stimulation of city life that would so easily overwhelm me, speaking, thinking through how to make a bed, etc., etc.  I felt like I had become an infant again, reborn into a world I was familiar with but had to go through the painstaking process of readapting to all of the things I had always taken for granted like turning my head while walking, or simply sitting in the passenger seat of a moving car.  Thankfully it didn’t take long for my brain to relearn these basic skills and I was released from the full time care I was receiving at the rehabilitation hospital and was able to go home for the first time in a month.  While at home I was able to continue my rehabilitation for the next three months at a local therapy clinic in Angels Camp, CA.

Ironically enough, our third child we were expecting in early May came six weeks early on Friday, April 1st, 2016 (April Fools Day), in the same hospital my wife had driven me to just eight weeks earlier!  And since our new baby needed to be in a NICU the closest hospital was an hour and a half away in Modesto, CA where he would live the first 15 days of his life.  It’s there where we named him Charles Alden Christian and on April 16th we were able to introduce him to his older brother and sister who were eager to meet him!  It was a special day!

I had found out earlier during my hospital stay that the pathology report indicated that my brain tumor was neither malignant nor benign but “atypical” so I would need to begin radiation treatments the last week of May back at UCSF and the treatments would last through July 1st.  I was able to live with my in-laws in San Francisco just four miles from UCSF which made it easy to get back and forth for my daily treatments (30 in all).  

Needless to say my family and I have been through a lot since the beginning of the new year!  But God has sustained us and has provided for our every need.  Our family, friends both near and far, and church family at Mountain Christian Fellowship and beyond have loved us and have been so incredibly supportive to Annalisa, our children, and I.  We are so incredibly thankful and blessed for life and to have such an understanding and supportive community that were praying for us and lifting us up daily to our God who was not surprised by the events we were going through but we found he had us in His arms through it all.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9-11:

    

    “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in         weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

I have learned one thing: You never what tomorrow holds… but thanks be to God, He does.  He knows my entire story from my first cry to my final breath.  No matter where I go, how good or difficult my life is, He is near and He knows my every need.

 

This coming Labor Day Weekend I will be getting back in the saddle again, and selling my art in Arnold at a two day craft fair so come on out to see my new prints I was able to get done in December and January before going in to the hospital.  I haven’t been able to do any new paintings since everything has happened but have been sketching and coming up with new ideas to be done this coming Fall and Winter so stay tuned!

Going on an adventure with daddy.

On top of Wheeler Ridge with Highland and Silver Peaks over my left shoulder.

On top of Wheeler Ridge with Highland and Silver Peaks over my left shoulder.

Many of my designs begin as what our family calls going on an “adventure with daddy”.  Over the years since our son Anderson (he is now 3) and daughter Greta (she is now 16 months) were born, I have taken them on many little adventures.  Whether it's a bike ride in a trailer through Calaveras Big Trees State Park, a hike to the top of Wheeler Ridge on Ebbetts Pass, or a camping trip out on Union Reservoir, I have come to treasure these "adventures with daddy".  

The little adventures have also served to be a spring board of sorts for inspiration and creativity.  These excursions naturally lead to ideas for many of my paintings including the one at the top of this post called Highland Silver Peak which I painted shortly after the hike seen in the video below.  

I love spending time with my children in the outdoors and where we live provides us with an endless supply of destinations for our "adventures with daddy".

How it all began... (the art business that is)

How it all began... (the art business that is)

The date was March 17, 2011.  It was a cold and clear day in Murphys, California at Murphys Irish Day, at an annual street fair and parade to honor our town’s Irish history.  My wife and I had been back from our round the world backpacking trip for three months and without full time employment I found myself with time on my hands to draw again, something, beyond our recent trip, I had done little of since college.  After creating a set of souvenir travel prints of three famous peaks in Patagonia, I designed a series in a similar style of the near by breathtaking Yosemite National Park, also featuring three famous peaks.  Friends and family began insisting I try selling my art and although I thought nothing would come of it, we had little else going on and on a bit of a whim we decided we’d try to participate in Murphys Irish Day Street Fair.  

That day I displayed a total of 8 designs, stacked in layers precariously situated on one folding table.  I had done the Yosemite series, The Celebration Series which was inspired by our experience in Munich at Oktoberfest, and a print of an iconic barn in Murphys.  I was nervous but hopeful for my first day ever attempting to sell something I had created with my own hands. Unfortunately the weather had different plans for the day and although it had started clear, by late morning it wasn’t just storming but actually snowing in downtowns Murphys at 2500 feet elevation.  Huge sliver dollar sized snowflakes fell all around as we began dragging everything into the center of the booth. It didn't take long for vendors to start packing up and we followed suit.  Despite the weather that day, I sold 15 prints, not too bad for my first event.  I went home in a bit of shock both at the snow we received in Murphys that day and that I had actually sold my first set of prints, something I had no intention or plan of doing only months earlier.  Three and half years and two kids later, I have done over 45 travel prints and dozens of shows.  Looking back at our first event that snowy day on Main Street, I would not have believed it if you told me this would be your full time job in a few years.  It’s been an unexpected journey and one that has just begun.  ...And it hasn't snowed on Irish Day since then.