We Love Alex!!
We were saddened to report in 2011 that our good friend, Alex Beaton, had suffered a fall and severely injured his spinal cord. We didn't really know what had happened until recently when Alex shared with us what he recalls of the accident.
I was sitting outside on one of my patio chairs talking to my stepson, John, when I suddenly felt Ill. I asked John to fetch me a glass of water, and during his brief absence, I may have tried to stand up and either my heart stopped or paused which caused me to fall back into my chair, sent the chair toppling over and I hit the ground with such force on my left side that it compressed my fourth and fifth disc and bruised my spinal cord. I was paralyzed instantly. John came to the rescue each time I stopped breathing and, finally after my heart had stopped, he revived me with C.P.R. that he'd learned in high school several years earlier.
Alex has spent time in rehabilitation facilities in Georgia and Tennessee and is being attended to by the finest physicians available. Alex has been a continuing part of our Games from their inception and has always been ready and willing to do whatever necessary to assure their success.
We have been receiving updates on Alex's condition from a variety of people through both emails and Alex's official website: http://www.alexbeaton.com. You may wish to visit their site for complete details of Alex's condition as they are made available.
And, if you wish to to become even more involved with Alex and his recovery you can to see how you can help.
We will continue to share with you the latest update on Alex's condition.
From John Lowry, December 18, 2015
From George Flew, September 30, 2015
Dear Fellow Beatonites,
As many of you know, this past weekend was the weekend for the St. Louis Scottish Games. As in previous years, many of Alex's friends and fans converged in St. Louis to again see the man that has brought us all together. (You remember that last year at this time Alex was fighting for his life at Barnes Jewish Hospital. What a difference a year has made!)
Beth Arnold, Alex's longtime friend and sales person extraordinaire, Amy Brady, Sharon Campbell and I had dinner with Alex and Linda on Thu night. I was immediately struck by how good Alex sounded. His voice was strong and clear he was in very good humor. On Fri, we gathered at Alex and Linda's to help prepare for the Sat night Ceilidh. After a delightful lunch at McGurk's Public House we headed back to Alex's where Alex and I got some Bro-time while Linda and Beth did some grocery shopping. I'd like to say we spoke of worldly problems and our past conquests; however, in truth it was quite trivial though satisfying just to get to talk with my friend face to face.
The Games on Sat started with a big blue sky and promise of moderate temperatures. This year the Games moved from the lovely Forest Park location to just off of the Spirit of St. Louis Airport. So the background was small aircraft traffic along with helicopter maneuvers and the occasional military jet fly by. On the positive side, it was only 15 minutes from Alex's house so he had to spend less time in his chair and, thus, more time at the Games.
When Alex and Linda arrived, they were immediately surrounded by many of his fans and friends that had turned out to see him. As I said earlier, Alex's voice is stronger than I had heard him in several years. He was in practically constant discussions with his many friends and still had a strong voice that night. He arrived in time to hear his friends Jil Chambless, Scooter Muse and John Taylor set at 10:30. John Taylor surprised all, especially Alex, with a ditty that he had recently written and was playing for the first time titled "Alex Beaton's Welcome to the St. Louis Highland Games".
He was constantly surrounded by his friends and told me later that he thoroughly enjoyed visiting with each and every one. Around 3:00pm Alex and Linda had to leave, her to prepare for the Ceilidh and Alex to rest out of his chair. (While Alex's pressure sore has healed, the area is still fragile and can recur if he spends too much time in his chair. This remains a problem that has prevented him from travelling to many of the games that he would like to attend.)
Many of us gathered again at Alex and Linda's home for his 2nd Beaton Ceilidh. After a light meal and drinks, we repaired to the living room where Jil, Scooter and John entertained us with many songs including "Rare Old Times", "The Wild Geese" and "Alex Beaton's Welcome to the St. Louis Highland Games". Alex sang along with most of the songs and I could hear him across the room on several. (To see a YouTube video of "Alex Beaon's Welcome...", click here.)
Alex asked for a few minutes to say a few words. Thirty minutes or so later he was still talking (again showing the strength of his voice after a day of almost non-stop talking). First he offered his heartfelt thanks and love to Linda for all that she has done. She has truly been his rock in this long trial. In addition to thanking all who had come to his soiree, he launched into a detail description of the position and motility of each finger on his right hand. He explained that his little finger lists to the right because of an injury playing basketball (basketball??) as a youngster. He also demonstrated the range of motion of his right hand from down and to the right of his chair up to the middle of his chest. (I would guess it might be a total of 90° of movement, possibly more. Even I was surprised by his overall range of motion.)
He talked for a time about going through some of his old photographs, including one of his mother, Mary, that was distributed via email recently and the one of him and Ron Eisenburg in their early years. He recalled the early days post-accident when, shortly after admittance to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, a large black man, one John Turner, walked into his room singing "Donald Where's Yer Troosers (Trowsers)". He once again recalled the time he time he fulfilled the request of his longtime friend, Georgia McLauchlin to take her ashes to a final resting place at Old Castle Lauchlin at Loch Fyne, Scotland. And then there was the time his friend, Richard Goodman, convinced several of the distilleries on Islay that they were doing a documentary on Islay whisky. Of course, no documentary was ever produced; however a chauffeured driver was provided by Bowmore Distillery along with a townhouse with a fully stocked bar of Bowmore's finest. As a result, Alex and Richard visited eight distilleries on Islay. The manager of Lagavulin invited Alex and Richard to his home for dinner where they tasted very rare vintages of single malt. Naturally they left the home in a painless state. Thank goodness for the chauffeured driver. He also spoke of his friend, J. T. McPherson who plagued him with the question "Beaton, do you know any railroad songs?" (If you don't know J. T., he's from upper East TN and it is quite evident when he speaks.)
Alex finally decided that, unless he stopped talking, we would be there all night. He called for a few final songs. The final song by Jil, Scooter and John was "Tak, a Dram" which ends with
In closing, I must say that I have not seen Alex in as good of a spirit, with a voice strong and clear and the strength to endure that day since well before his ordeal of last year. And finally, as I sat in Alex's home listening to him speak, I was struck by the fact that every person in that room, many of whom I call good friends, I know only because of Alex. And that may be his ultimate legacy.
As always, keep the faith,
George included some photos of the gathering and they are presented here in slideshow format for your enjoyment:
Alex Beaton with Friends
From George Flew, June 22, 2015
Dear Fellow Beatonites,
I spoke with Alex today and he was in very good spirits. When he first answered, he was in the van waiting on Linda to pick up a package. We spoke for some time and it wasn't until Alex told me that I knew that he was following Linda through the grocery store. We talked about what the other customers thought of some guy in a motorized chair following a woman and mumbling to himself. People not tuned in to his Scottish brogue probably wondered if he is speaking English. We got quite laugh out of the situation.
Alex said that, while the pressure sore on his tailbone will take some months to fully heal, it is to the point where he can get out of bed on a regular basis. He has been spending about four hours daily in his chair almost every day. They have plans to pull up much of their carpet flooring and replace it with hardwood. This will make it much easier for Alex to get around in his chair.
We also talked about the St. Louis Scottish Games (http://www.stlouis-scottishgames.com) coming up in September. Alex intends to attend on Saturday and is looking forward to seeing as many old friends as possible. They have moved the games from Forest Park to adjacent to the Spirit of St. Louis Airport. This location is considerably closer to Alex and Linda and should allow him to stay longer at the games. I have booked a room at the Comfort Inn & Suites that is a short walk from the site. I checked and there were still rooms available at $109 a night (lower if you do not want cancellation). Their site is https://www.choicehotels.com/missouri/chesterfield/comfort-inn-hotels/mo164?source=gglocaljn.
I must say that Alex sounded great and this was probably the longest conversation we have had in some time. It was good to talk with him and I am looking forward to seeing him and Linda in Sept.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, April 23, 2015
Dear Fellow Beatonites,
I talked with Alex earlier this week. He had a doctor's visit and reports that his trach incision has closed up. He also met with his speech therapist and she gave him some exercises to lower the pitch of his voice. And finally, his pressure sore is healing well though he still has a way to go before he can get out of bed on a regular basis.
I know this is brief but felt I should pass this on before I leave town for a few days.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, April 17, 2015
Dear Fellow Beatonites,
I talked with Alex on Tuesday and we had a lengthy conversation. He had his trach removed last week and the breathing machine has left the building. He was quite pleased about both of these. I know that they sent him home from the hospital a month ago with a veritable plethora of equipment that has taken up a large portion of their bedroom. Slowly these are being removed as he no longer needs them.
Unfortunately, he still suffers from the pressure sore on his backside. This has kept him bed ridden for the most part though he does get out for such things as doctor's appointments. His wound specialist continues to see and assess him on a regular basis. The sore is delaying his entry to Jefferson Barracks for some intensive therapy. Hopefully, this will pass and he will finally get the therapy he's been wanting. However, day to day continues to be a struggle for both him and Linda.
I was struck with how good his voice sounded. It's still a little rough but it sounded strong though a little high pitched. Alex commented on it but I think he was glad to be where he is, especially given the problems he's experienced since last Sept. Even better was not how his voice sounded but what I heard in it. For the first time since Sept, I heard what I can only describe as joy and hope. I could tell that his disposition is much improved from our last conversation.
He reports that Linda is very satisfied with her new job. And I understand that her employer is delighted to have someone with her skills and knowledge of the business.
The spring always brings new hope to us all. It is good to know that this spring has brought a renewal of Alex's spirit and that things are looking up for both Alex and Linda.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, March 22, 2015
Dear Fellow Beatonites,
I talked with Alex last Monday and he continues to rest and recuperate at home. After all of the time he has spent in the hospital in the last several months and the many bouts of pneumonia that he has suffered through, he is glad to be back in his own home and bed.
His swallow control has improved drastically and he is taking normal food by mouth as well as his meds. He hopes to finally have the trach removed in the near future. As you may remember, they sent him home with a room full of medical equipment. While he still requires it, he is hopeful that much of it will soon go back.
His pressure sore continues to be a pain in the arse and not only keeps him in bed 24/7, but has also delayed his trip to Jefferson Barracks for some intensive PT/OT/VT. One of his major complaints is that, as a result of all of the time spent in hospitals, much of the advances he had made in movement and use of his right arm and hand, and to some extent, his left hand, has regressed significantly. Time and treatment in Jefferson Barracks should go a long way to reversing his loss, but first he has to get there. He is also anxious to get out of bed and spend some time outside in the upcoming spring weather. St. Peters was hit with some especially nasty winter weather this year, as was much of the eastern half of the US.
Linda started a new job last week (just shows you can't keep a good woman down). She has some stress associated with a new job, but she says it is good to be at work and she enjoys her new job. In her words ". . . it's actually been great." Alex has a good caregiver, Tina, with him during the day and Linda feels very comfortable leaving Alex in her care.
I understand that brother Neil and sister-in-law Ann visited with Alex last week on their annual return to Toronto. Alex is always heartened by their visits and I know that it did him a world of good.
As we move into the spring, it is good to know that Alex is at home and looking forward to some much needed physical therapy.
Keep the faith,
From Alex's Website, February 23, 2015
After five months in hospital I am finally home, having been discharged on February 14th - Happy Valentine's Day to Linda and I! It's great to be home - I can finally watch my soccer "football" matches and, more importantly, be with my amazing wife, Linda - LIFE IS GOOD!!
Unfortunately, I came home with six pieces of equipment which are all designed to clear up the congestion in my lungs. The bad news is that it takes FOUR hours out of my day to use all the equipment; the good news is this should only be necessary on a temporary basis. Once I receive the "all clear" from my Pulmonary doctor I will be able to get off the oxygen, high humidity and finally have both the trach and feeding tube removed. The feeding tube isn't being used any longer as even though I have been eating food by mouth for two weeks now as they want to keep it in as a precaution.
The pressure ulcer on my tailbone, acquired while in hospital, will take time to heal. Until then, I'm stuck in my bed. Since my strength was sapped during my long hospital stay and with the FOUR bouts of pneumonia, it will take a few months to gain it back. We are working on reinstating the home-based physical and occupational therapy as soon as possible because exercise, even while lying in bed, will prove beneficial.
Due to a hiring freeze and cut-backs at the company Linda worked for, she lost her job at the end of January. Never one to remain idle, she's been busy applying for several positions and has two offers in hand with a third offer expected early next week. She'll need to weigh her options carefully as she wants to find a company that will be flexible and compassionate when it comes to having to take time off to attend to my healthcare needs. The packages she's being offered aren't what she's used to, but it is what it is . . . . In the meantime, Linda's been glad for the opportunity to get the house ready for my return and to spend time with me getting used to all the new equipment and medications I need right now.
We've hired a new caregiver for me. She'll be here eight hours a day Monday-Friday while Linda is at work.
Finally, although I've received many cards and emails conveying what an inspiration I am, it is YOU, my fan base, who have been an inspiration to me and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your continued love and support.
With much love,
- "Alex Beaton's Scotland" DVD plus two CDs,
- "The Scotsman" plus
- "A Road To The Isles"
In celebration of his return home on Valentines Day, Alex is offering a SPECIAL compilation CD containing full length productions of three of his popular CD's. For more information, visit his web page at http://www.alexbeaton.com/store/products/valentines-day-special.
From George Flew, February 22, 2015
I was pleased to receive a call from Alex this afternoon. He has been back home since Valentine's Day. However, his five bouts with pneumonia have left him very weak and the lack of effective PT has left his right arm with a reduced range of motion.
On the positive side, he is able to take solid food in small bites which he must thoroughly chew before swallowing. He still has his trach in but, utilizing a Passy-Muir valve, he is able to talk and eat. However, he is limited to only 45 minutes a day with the valve closed because it causes a buildup in fluids. This explains why I have not been able to call him the past couple of weeks. And it resulted in only a brief visit today.
Fortunately, Linda has been home with him the past couple of weeks. They apparently sent Alex home with a lot of additional hardware and it has kept the two of them busy.
All in all, Alex sounded good but I could tell that he was weak. He still has some time coming at the Jefferson Barracks VA. I don't know if it has been scheduled at this time.
Alex said that he will be putting out an email blast soon, so keep an eye out for it. I'm sure it will contain more detail.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, January 23, 2015
I received a call from Linda today to let me know that Alex has been moved from Kindred-Mercy Hospital back to the John Cochran VA facility. This is preliminary to his move to Jefferson Barracks. JB doesn't have a pulmonary unit and the VA doctors want to confirm that his lungs are clear prior to admitting him to JB for intensive rehab of physical therapy/occupational therapy and speech therapy. They estimated him being in Cochran for as long as a week but Linda feels that his stay will be only 2-3 days.
While at John Cochran in December, Alex developed a deep tissue injury on his tail bone caused by the nurses not positioning him properly in bed. He had pressure on this part of his body for too long; could happen to any of us. They will evaluate him today or tomorrow prior to moving him to JB and, if the injury will not allow him to have full OT/PT, Linda said she would rather have him home until he is able to do the OT/PT. After all, that is one of the major reasons for him going to JB.
Linda says that Alex's attitude is quite positive. He called me last week and he was very talkative. He is also taking more of a hand in his treatment which is a good indication of his morale.
All in all, the news from St. Louis is really good. Alex continues to improve and Linda's load seems to have been lightened, if only a little.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, January 5, 2015
I received a phone call from Linda on Saturday and am glad to report that Alex's condition is looking much better. On Friday they moved him from John Cochran VA hospital to Kindred-Mercy Hospital. Kindred is a transitional care hospital within a hospital that specializes in providing long term care. They also specialize in Pulmonary and Complex Wound Care. Linda is delighted that Kindred is at least 15 minutes closer to home and only 5 minutes from her office. This will cut her travel time down considerably.
Prior to moving him on Friday, they removed his ventilator in hopes of weaning him from its need. Their expectation for this first trial was that he would be able to stay off of the vent for 15 minutes. He's been successfully off of it since 10:30 am Friday and going strong!!
His trach was fitted with a Passy-Muir valve which allows Alex to speak around the trach. Linda says his voice is strong but can quickly weaken. His pneumonia has cleared up though they still have him on antibiotics for a secondary infection. As well, his lungs need to be cleared of all secretions which they are currently working to do. It will take a while for his lungs to get stronger and during this time (2-3 months), the doctor recommends that Alex keep the trach in.
Unfortunately, Alex developed a sore on his posterior while at the VA and will have to stay in bed until it clears up. Fortunately, Wound Care is one of Kindred's specialties so he should be in good hands. However, this will limit the OT/PT he'll be able to receive during this time.
Linda expects him to stay at Kindred for two to three weeks. Afterward, and depending on how much more physical and occupational therapy he needs in order to return to his pre-September baseline, he will either go directly to the VA at Jefferson Barracks or return home. Alex is back to his entertaining and engaging personality and has charmed the pants off all the medical staff . . . his pulmonary doctor, nurse practitioner and spinal cord doctor have all asked if they can stop by Kindred to visit him. He's also had several orders for his CDs from staff at the VA.
For the time being, Alex is in room 7503. He may move to a larger room, but if you send a card, I'm confident it will find its way to him. If you would like to write him, the address is:
Alex Beaton Room 7503
Kindred Hospital St. Louis at Mercy
615 South New Ballas Road, 7th floor
St Louis, MO 63141
Please keep Alex and Linda in your prayers in this New Year.
Keep the faith,
From Linda Beaton, December 27, 2014
Love, Linda Beaton (and, of course, ALEX!)
From George Flew, December 20, 2014
The latest information on Alex is, though still in IC,, he is stable and doing much better. Linda is also feeling much better about his condition. When she told him that she was going to go home to take care of some business and process fifteen orders for CDs, he brightened up considerably. He continues to suffer from pneumonia and stenotrophomonas maltophilia, an infection that is, according to Wikipedia, difficult to treat. He also remains intubated to assist in breathing.
When Alex is bette,, they plan to transfer him to a hospital that specializes in respiratory/pulmonary treatment. While it is not a VA facility, the VA will cover the cost. And the hospital is near Linda's work so it will give her more time with Alex. JC is about 35 mi from their home and can take an hour or more when the traffic is heavy. They will delay his admission to the Jefferson Barracks facility for PT/OT until after his respiratory problems improve.
On another note, I understand that several of his doctors and nurses have been visiting his web site and listening to his music. Some have even ordered CDs! His pulmonary doctor says that he will sing at their Christmas party next year. It is encouraging to know that she has that much confidence in his recovery.
I receive many disheartened responses to my last email. I know that you will all feel better with the current news.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, December 19, 2014
I regret to report that Alex is back in ICU. He went back in shortly after my last email. I'm sorry that I don't have any additional information; however, I felt that you would want to know.
I know that several of you responded that you would be sending him a Christmas card. If you sent it to his PCU room number, I do not know how they will handle it. I don't even know if they deliver cards to ICU patients.
This is not good news as we approach the Christmas holiday. However, I know that this will only redouble your thoughts and prayers for Alex and Linda.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, December 16, 2014
I talked with Linda this morning as she was on her way to work. As at Barnes-Jewish, the John Cochran VA facility rotates their staff in each unit weekly. She was very pleased to find that Alex had been assigned a Pulmonologist in this week's rotation. She (the doctor) started some aggressive treatment for many of Alex's problems. First, she drained 1.6 liters of fluid from AROUND Alex's right lung. An X-ray before and after were dramatic. In the before, Linda said she could hardly see his lungs and diaphragm and after, it was easy to see the level of fluid in his right lung. She is also recommending that they insert a tube through his nose to drain his lungs. Apparently, their efforts to date have only suctioned the back of his mouth and throat. This has obviously not been effective in clearing his lung.
The doctor has also been pushing Alex to have more input into his treatment. He has delegated much of his authority to Linda and she feels it is time for him to take more ownership. This will allow Linda a little more time at home and not feel that it is necessary to be at his bedside constantly when she's not working or sleeping.
All in all, Linda has been very happy with this physician. And I understand that Alex is very satisfied since, according to Linda, she is quite attractive. It is unfortunate that she will rotate off at the end of the week.
Alex had a swallow test on Friday and he passed it. Though his speech therapist was very encouraged, the pulmonologist does not feel that this clears Alex for food by mouth. He has had five incidences of pneumonia since the first of September when he went in for his vocal cord procedure. At least three of these were directly caused by aspiration. As a result of this recurring pneumonia, his lungs are in a very compromised state and she feels that he should not be taking food by mouth. Hopefully, this won't be a permanent state for Alex.
Linda is working with the VA patient services folks to get Alex additional assistance when he gets home. This would include a caregiver one day a week as well as a caregiver three times a week for personal attention (bathing, etc.). This would help Linda both financially as well as give her some time to herself to get other things done.
Alex is in room 503, PCU (Progressive Care Unit meaning too ill for a regular room, but not in need of ICU). The pulmonary physician expects him to be in the hospital at least a couple more weeks. He should stay in his current room unless something comes open in the spinal unit. I cannot find an e-card system on the JC site such as they had at the BJ hospital. If you would like to send him a card, the address is:
Room 503, PCU
VA Medical Center
John Cochran Division
915 North Grand Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63106
One last note. I mentioned that Alex was delighted to find that one of his nurses at JC had been his nurse about a year ago. That was when he spent some time in Jefferson Barracks. He particularly liked her because she had a good sense of humor.
It is unfortunate that Alex must spend the holidays in the hospital. Regrettably, those are the cards he has been dealt; however, he has been dealt worse hands recently and I'm sure we are all glad to see him doing as well as he is.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, December 13, 2014
I got a call from Alex last night. He has been moved from ICU to a step down unit. While his left lung is still very congested, he has improved enough to make the change. He said that he is scheduled for a swallow test procedure today. He is hoping the results will show improvement towards removing the feeding tube. He has not had solid food (particularly a steak and baked potato) since his admission to BJ in early Nov.
He reiterated that he is expecting to be transferred to Jefferson Barracks as soon as they get his pneumonia under control. He is expecting a stay there of at least three weeks and he sees this as an opportunity for Linda to get some R&R. While there, the will work on recovering his strength and on PT/OT/Voice Therapy.
He tried to relate to me that one of his nurses in the step down unit had also been his nurse at a previous facility. Unfortunately, due to his gravelly voice (not to mention his Scottish brogue), I was not able to understand the details. We had talked for about 15 minutes and I could tell that his voice was getting weaker so I did not press for the details. Linda had told me earlier that the trach and feeding tubes from his BJ stay had caused some additional damage to his vocal cords. I will get the details and pass them on later.
It was good to hear from him and, at times, his voice was strong and clear. The information certainly sounds encouraging and I hope that he is transferred to JC soon.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, December 9, 2014
I received the following email from Linda this morning and thought I would forward it on in Linda's own words.
Good morning, George.
Saw Alex this morning and he's doing well. Was in the middle of respiratory therapy.....of course, I was instructing the therapist on how to be more aggressive. Since the therapy he received yesterday was so successful I want them to continue in this vein. The sooner we can get his right lung cleared (only one lung is affected which tells me that it's aspiration pneumonia), the sooner he can get to JB for PT/OT/Speech.
They've taken him off all of his home meds except for one that he has to be weaned from in order to determine if a particular/singular med is causing him to be confused. He DID NOT HAVE A STROKE which is wonderful news and it could well be the medicine that he's now reacting negatively to.
My parents left yesterday morning to head home. They will return if I need them to.
They have him on antibiotics as a precautionary measure just in case he has an infection in his right lung.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, December 9, 2014
Alex was moved to ICU early yesterday morning where, thankfully, he is doing better. He was moved due to problems breathing. Unfortunately, the pneumonia has once again reared its ugly head in both lungs. They are continuing to suction out his lungs which, along with medication, has contributed to his improvement. His pneumonia condition will delay any transfer from John Cochran to Jefferson Barracks since they do not have respiratory services.
Alex had been confused and disoriented which is one of the reasons that Linda originally thought that he may have suffered a stroke. This condition has improved considerably though they have not found a reason for his confusion at this time.
Linda's parents, Betty and Guy Irvin, are with her to give her support. My thanks to Betty, along with my friend Beth Arnold, for providing this information.
Just a couple of side notes. You have probably heard Alex relate his story of performing on the street corner in Linnville, NC, where he was "discovered" for his first Scottish games gig. He flew into Knoxville where he rented amplifier equipment from Broadway Music. Recently the Broadway Music building was torn down. Alex was saddened when I told him. I do not know what is going in its place.
And on Jan 2, my alma mater and Alex's adopted college football team, the Tennessee Volunteers, will meet Alex's longtime favorite team, the Iowa Hawkeyes, in the TaxSlayer Bowl (formerly Gator Bowl) in Jacksonville, FL. I'm sure that Alex, the consummate sports fan, will be rooting for his beloved Hawkeyes.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, December 7, 2014
It's been some time since I have sent out an update on Alex. I'll try to catch you up on what has happened and on his current situation.
Alex returned home from his mid-November stay in Barnes-Jewish about a week before Thanksgiving. Prior to his discharge, they replaced the nasal feeding tube with one through the abdominal wall (commonly referred to as a PEG). Generally, nasal tubes are not maintained for more than 30 days while abdominal tubes are longer term. Alex's continued problems with swallowing makes the feeding tube necessary.
Unfortunately, on Thanksgiving Day he had to go to the emergency room with a low blood oxygen level. Linda insisted that they prescribe home oxygen for him and he has remained on oxygen since that time.
Linda called this morning (Sunday) to say that they were again in the hospital. She was concerned that he had possibly had a stroke but she was assured that it did not happen. Meanwhile, x-rays show that he still has signs of the remnants of the pneumonia. He was carried to John Cochran VA hospital where Linda says she is pleased with his care. He has been approved for four weeks of OT/PT at Jefferson Barracks and she hopes that they will transfer him there for further treatment and the OT/PT. If this happens, he will be looking at an extended stay and I will get room and contact information back to you.
Please continue to keep Alex and Linda in your thoughts and prayers as we go into this Christmas season.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, November 12, 2014
I received an email from Linda yesterday saying that, unfortunately, Alex failed his swallow test on Monday. It appears that his throat muscles are weakened from his long intubation. He is now on a feeding tube via his nose for nourishment and meds. Meanwhile, he has been getting Speech therapy to strengthen his throat muscles. They will perform another swallow test later this week to determine how he is progressing. He will probably remain hospitalized until this condition can be corrected and they feel confident removing the feeding tube.
He does have aspiration pneumonia probably from his regular feeding. However, there are no harmful bacteria showing up in his cultures.
Linda reports that both her and Alex's spirits are high which is very good news indeed.
Please keep up your support for both Alex and Linda.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, November 11, 2014
A quick update. Alex has been moved to a private room, number 10237. They moved a cot in so that Linda can stay the night with him. No particular reason for the room change other than a room became available and his nurse had him moved to it. In Linda's words ". . . don't you wish we all had Alex's charm?!" At this time, Alex is restricted from anything solid by mouth except applesauce with his pills.
Just a reminder. If you would like to send Alex an e-card, click here http://www.barnesjewish.org/EGreeting/?id=530&sid=1 and follow the instructions.
Linda did not report any significant change in Alex's condition. This should be taken as a good sign since his condition, though of concern, is not near as critical as it was in his previous hospitalization.
Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.
Keep the Faith,
From George Flew, November 10, 2014
Alex called me on Saturday night to let me know he had to go back into Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He had had a cough since his discharge from the hospital a week and a half ago and it had grown worse. An X-ray at his local hospital appeared worse than the last one taken before his discharge. Linda felt that, rather than take any chances, it would be best to nip this in the bud. They checked with the VA but they had no beds available so her only recourse was Barnres. His condition does not require ICU; he was in a semi-private room when I talked to Linda on Sunday.
They think this may be another case of aspiration pneumonia since he was transitioning from his pureed food. They've put him on IV antibiotics and have planned another swallow test for today (Monday). Meanwhile, Alex is back on the pureed diet. Didn't say whether he ever got the bacon and eggs and steak.
Alex seems to be in good spirits (I hear he is laying the old Beaton "schmooze" on the nurses) though Linda is expecting him to be in the hospital perhaps a couple of weeks. I'll try to check back with Linda later today for a room number.
I'd rather be the bearer of good new, but I guess it is not to be my lot.
Keep the Faith,
From George Flew, October 28, 2014
I just got off the phone with Alex. He continues to rest at home and is anticipating word from the VA in the next few days to admit him for some intensive rehabilitation. Until then, he receives PT, OT and Speech Therapy several days a week at home but it is not on the same level as he would get at the VA facility. He also expects that they will perform a swallow test hopefully with positive results. Until then, he continues on a pureed diet. He confided that he craves bacon and eggs and a steak. (I'm sure many of us sympathize with that, unless you're a vegan.)
He wants to resume working on his memoirs and has been in touch with the volunteer that was working with him before this last incident. He has also been working his way through the huge number of emails that he has received over the last two months. He sends his apologies that he is only able to reply to a very small number of them. However, he has been greatly moved by the many words of hope and love that he has received during his ordeal.
He told me that he will be offering up some Christmas specials on his CDs. I suggest that you check with his web site off and on if you may be interested. And he said that he may not restock some of his less demanded CDs when his current stock runs out. Again, check his site periodically for announcements. If your Beaton collection is not complete, this may be your last opportunity to buy some of these. And all of his sales, along with donations, go to help pay for a portion of his therapy and his medical costs as well as his full-time caregiver.
We spoke for some time and I informed him that the Broadway Sound building in north Knoxville had been demolished since he went into the hospital. For those that are not familiar with the story, back in about 1986, Alex flew into Knoxville and rented an amp and mikes from Broadway Sound. He took these to Lynnville, NC at the foot of Grandfather Mountain during their Scottish Festival and, plugging into the store that was on the corner at the time, he performed and sold albums. While he did not get into the Grandfather games that year, he was offered an opportunity to perform at the Texas Games in Arlington the following June. (Please don't hold me to the absolute accuracy of the above, but it is basically correct.)
Alex is doing much better at his home and Linda is back at work. And he sends heartfelt thanks for all of the prayers and support that he received.
Keep the Faith,
From George Flew, October 28, 2014
Linda called me earlier today to tell me that Alex was being discharged today. He will be going home until arrangements can be made at either the VA hospital or at one of the local physical rehab facilities for follow up care. Hopefully, that could come as soon as next week. Alex's trach and feeding tube were removed last week. His diet is restricted to pureed food for now, but at least he has something he can taste.
As always, both Alex and Linda are grateful for the love and support that they both have received during the past seven weeks. There are many factors that have contributed to his recovery and she is sure that your support has had a major impact.
I think we can all finally rejoice in what is nothing short of miraculous. My thanks go to Linda, the medical staff, all of you and the good Lord for pulling our friend, Alex, through this most trying time.
Just shows what can happen when you Keep the Faith,
From George Flew, October 26, 2014
I received the following good news from my friend Beth Arnold. I am forwarding it as I received it.
Hey everyone -- I am very glad to report that this afternoon they took out Alex's trach!! I spoke with Linda and she told me that he finished his IV antibiotics on Tuesday night. Yesterday the started him on pureed food and he enjoyed some cream of wheat for breakfast. She said dinner was "mystery meat melt with a green." I think that is code for roast beef and beans.
Linda is still working with the VA trying to get rehab covered for Alex. There are, of course, hurdles because insurance doesn't want to pay for rehab unless there was some 'event' like a stroke or accident. In my opinion, the events of the last 7 weeks in the hospital should be enough. Linda thinks they will move him to some new facility by next Tuesday if not before.
Thanks for all the prayers and well wishes. He has come a long way and the support of his close friends and family has been a real blessing to both of them.
Much love to you all - Beth
This is the best news so far and I hope that it only continues to get better.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, October 16, 2014
I talked with Linda tonight and Alex is progressing in his recovery. They are on day eight of his fourteen day treatment for his infection. The antibiotics have also helped his pneumonia. Linda said his lung x-ray from Monday showed good improvement over his initial x-ray. He still has considerable congestion and they continue to work to reduce it. His respiratory doctor performed a swallow test today and Alex passed it. However, both Linda and the doctor agreed that it would be best to continue on no solid foods to now.
They are anticipating transitioning to a rehab facility, probably next week, but that is not certain at this time. She is hoping to get him in the VA facility where he should be able to get OT/PT and Speech Therapy. Assuming that the doctors feel he has recuperated enough to leave the hospital, he will get much more rest in a facility where they aren't bugging him 24 hours a day.
I feel that Alex has now reached a point where we can all again start breathing. Though he still needs all of the support you can give him.
I'm headed off to the Stone Mountain Games this weekend. I know that Alex and Linda had planned to once again attend until he was hit with this latest setback. Hopefully, by the time I get back I will have some news on his discharge from Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, October 9, 2014
Since Alex has been in the step-down unit, he has made some progress receiving both OT/PT and speech therapy. They are also making progress with his lingering pneumonia. He has spent quite a bit of his time in his chair which seems to help his lungs as well as the swelling in his legs. Though he still has the trach, he has been mostly breathing on his own and has not required the ventilator. They have also performed a swallow study which indicated that he should not yet take anything by mouth.
Unfortunately, shortly after his move to the unit, he was diagnosed with stenotrophomonas maltophilia. This bacterium is frequently associated with hospitalization and breathing tubes such as Alex's tracheostomy and, when contracted, it is often after an extended stay in ICU. They have started Alex on a fourteen day IV antibiotic treatment. He should remain hospitalized for at least that time. Meanwhile, he remains in isolation and visitation is discouraged.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, October 7, 2014
On Saturday, Alex was moved from the ICU to the pulmonary step down unit. That night they began the process of weaning him off of the vent. He made it all night without it and, last I heard, was doing well with the weaning process. His latest x-ray, compared to the one they took initially several weeks ago, shows no permanent damage to Alex's lungs and also that they were making good progress in clearing up his pneumonia. They warned that the damage may not show up for 3-4 weeks but all are encouraged by the latest report.
Moving him out of ICU has given Linda enough confidence in his recovery to spend some much needed time at the office, though she continues to spend as much time as she can with Alex. This is very encouraging news and it appears that Alex has finally turned the corner to recovery.
If you would like to send Alex an e-card, he is in room 6353. Click here http://www.barnesjewish.org/EGreeting/?id=530&sid=1 and follow the instructions.
I know that many of you would like to visit with Alex. However, both his doctors and Linda agree that it would be in his best interest to limit visitation and to rest and recover at this time.
This is the news that all of us have wanted to hear. I know that both Linda and Alex believe that your efforts have contributed to his recovery and appreciate all that you've done.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, October 2, 2014
Just a very brief update. Alex had another good day yesterday. If nothing changes, they will move him out of ICU to the pulmonary unit when a room opens up. Linda has been sharing your cards and letters with him and he was greatly encouraged by all of the support he has received.
I apologize for not having more information, but I know folks want reassurance that Alex is holding his own.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, September 29, 2014
The news from St. Louis is encouraging. This weekend was the St. Louis Games and Alex's good friends and entertaining cohorts, Scooter Muse and Jil Chambless, took some time from the Games to stop by and cheer him up. Scooter played his most excellent guitar and Jil sang with her angelic voice and played her charmed flute. I understand that their performance included "Rare Ould Times", "River" and "These Are My Mountains". Alex sang along where he could and was quite moved by the performance, with "These Are My Mountains" bringing out strong emotions. As his friend, Beth Arnold, said "That was a wonderful gift of music to a man who has given so much music to the world."
Alex has the picture of himself, Alasdair and Eric (that is on the back of his live CD), in his room and gets upset when someone places something in front of it. So music and his ties to it are very powerful medicine to him both emotionally and mentally. Alex improved considerably after Alasdair's visit and, hopefully, Jil and Scooter's visit will have the same effect. If so, perhaps we can get the St. Louis County Police Pipes and Drums to make an appearance.
On Sunday they disconnected Alex from the vent for a few hours which went well. He was also up in his wheelchair and was much more alert. Linda felt relieved enough to make a trip to the house to retrieve her laptop.
I got the following information from Beth who talked to Linda this morning. They both had a good night and, if things go well this morning, they might take him outside this afternoon. However, the doctor has to approve it and they have to have enough staff available. Let's hope that both happen.
For those that have been asking for his room number, it is 4427. And you can send him a hospital email at http://www.barnesjewish.org/EGreeting/?id=530&sid=1.
As in past situations, it is way too soon to say that he is out of immediate risk, but the news seems to have taken a turn for the better, if ever so slightly.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, September 28, 2014
Alex remains in the ICU. Though he continues to struggle with pneumonia, his main problems at this time are low blood pressure and low blood count. He has been placed back on the ventilator, via the trach, and the congestion in his lungs is, if anything, worse. While he remains conscious, this is a serious setback from last week when he was moved, briefly, to the step-down unit.
Linda got some respite last week when Alex was doing better, but has gone back on 24 hour bedside attendance.
This is a serious setback in Alex's condition and the situation is at least as grim as it was two weeks ago if not worse. Please redouble you efforts on Alex's behalf and hope that the next news is better.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, September 26, 2014
For those that have not heard, Alex is back in the ICU. They had originally moved him to an ENT step down unit but, after discussion, thought that he would be better in a Pulmonary unit. However, shortly after moving him to his new room, there were some complications and it was felt that it would be in his best interest to move him back to ICU.
The doctors are not sure what is causing the complications and continue to look into a number of factors. I'm sorry that I don't have more information at this time.
With the progress that he made earlier this week, I know we are all saddened by his setback. However, we should all continue to offer support for him so that he will pull out of this latest setback.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, September 23, 2014
I received word from Linda today that they moved Alex to a step down unit yesterday (Mon) evening. For those that would like to send him an email (http://www.barnesjewish.org/EGreeting/?id=530&sid=1), his new room number is 6203. He slept well last night and this morning. In the step down unit, he should be able to rest more since the nurses aren't in the room constantly yanking tubes and yanking on Alex. And, of course, shaking him and asking their favorite question "Are you asleep?"
Linda feels that his condition has improved to the point that she can leave him for longer periods of time. She spent the night at her son, John Pat's, house, which is nearby, and I'm sure she slept better than in the hospital room "recliner". She has been putting in work via her laptop from the hospital when she can but she now plans to put in some time at the office.
Linda was not able to tell me what the protocol is for visitors in the step down unit as far as number and time allowed. However, I know that what he needs most is rest and he will finally be able to get it now that he's out of ICU. I would say that those that are planning to be in St. Louis this weekend for the Scottish Games and were hoping to see Alex, I am not sure that you will be able to. I hope to speak with Linda again before this weekend and, if visitation is allowed, I will pass the details on.
This is all good news that Alex continues to improve. I think we can all be glad that whatever efforts we have expended on his behalf have been answered.
Continue to keep the faith,
From George Flew, September 18, 2014
I just returned from St. Louis and apologize that I have not been able to get back with you before now. Much of what I have to report may have already been posted to his web site.
Alex's situation remains quite grim. While I was there he was up and down. On Sunday, they discovered that he had a blood clot in his leg (DVT for those in the medical know.) While this is very serious, it also has its good side. Blood clots can be eliminated with medication without requiring assistance from the patient. That is, the blood clot will eventually dissolve from the medication without sapping Alex's resources to fight it. Though it continues to pose problems until it dissolves, it could be a major contributor to his edema and elevated white blood count. They considered placing a filter in the major vein from his legs (the IVC for the medical folks) but decided that, in his condition, it could cause more harm than good. The doctors remain confident that they can deal with the clot problem.
The doctor's greatest concern continues to be his pneumonia. The pneumonia is bacterial and was caused by aspiration last Thursday after his vocal cord procedure. His lungs suffer from partial deflation and the medical staff, because they did not have his VA records, initially thought he had deflated lungs. Fortunately Linda was there to set them straight. However, his lungs remained quite congested and, to help keep his lungs clearer, he was placed back on a vent on Sunday. This allowed them to suction a great deal of mucus from his lungs. Though still quite congested, his lungs are now much clearer.
He has been on a mild sedation since Sunday. He can be easily roused by the medical team or Linda, but he goes back to sleep almost immediately. This reduces the strain on his body from anxiety and allows his body to fight the infection.
The doctors had been considering a tracheotomy that would allow them not only to remove the vent tube but also give them better access to drain his lungs. And with the removal of the tube he would be able to talk. Beth and I left late yesterday afternoon and we got a call from Linda a little before midnight that they had completed the tracheotomy with little complication and Alex was back in his room resting well. They were going to let him rest through the night and remove the vent tube this morning. Linda was looking forward to talking with her man.
While Sunday was not a good day for Alex, he looked much better on Monday though his edema was still rather severe. However, with the treatment for the clot, I could tell a marked difference in his color and reduction in his swelling before we left on Tuesday.
Though Linda has full confidence in Alex's medical team and they have expressed confidence that they can pull Alex through this, there are still major obstacles to hurdle. Now is not the time to let up on your support for Alex and Linda.
Linda says that Alex has received email cards from many people. Though she opened some of the first ones, she is saving the rest to share with Alex when he can better appreciate them. She has also received personal email asking for information and even that she call to update them. Please understand and her time in the hospital, which is basically a 24 hour job, is taken with care for Alex, talking with the medical staff and monitoring their treatment (and take my word for it, in a 5 minute visit with Alex, the staff is constantly in and out changing/adjusting meds, respiratory treatments, etc.) and when she can, she remotely puts time in on her job. So please accept her apology if she is not able to personally respond to your request.
While it was good to see Alex and talk with Linda, it also brought home to me a full appreciation for just how dire his situation remains. However, the steps taken these past few days certainly give me hope. This week will certainly be critical and I will keep you informed as I can. If you do not do Facebook, you might also check Alex's website at http://www.alexbeaton.com/ for updates.
Keep the Faith,
From George Flew, September 9, 2014
My latest report on Alex is that, while his progress has slowed, at least he is holding his own. The inflammation that he has is a bad case of pneumonia. At least they now know what to treat. I understand he had a restful night with no change in his pulmonary function. They removed his vent this weekend and he was able to make it without it for about 25 minutes. While this is encouraging, it is quite traumatic to remove it and then re-intubate him so it is not something that they will continue to do until they are more sure of his ability to breathe on his own. The ICU doctor who treated him this weekend is "amazed" by his progress. However, this should not be taken as an indication that he is out of the woods yet. No mention has been made of moving him from ICU.
There is some good news to relate. The arrival of his brother Neil and sister-in-law Ann has been a boost to his spirits. And a visit from Alasdair Fraser, whom he has not seen for some time, was very uplifting. I understand Alasdair brought along his fiddle and played him a ditty. Sorry I don't know the tune he played, but if I find out I'll pass it along. (From my experience with ICUs, I'm surprised they let him play.) Pam and Merv Forney, who just happened to be passing through in their RV, will be there today to do some things around the house (mow the lawn, check the mail, etc.) Their house is about an hour from the hospital and Linda has not been able to get home since last Thursday.
I sometimes tend to be optimistic in these emails. While Alex is much better than last Thursday, he is still quite ill and, with his underlying condition, things can still go bad. Please be aware of this and continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers. I have received many, many emails in the past few days telling me how many prayer lists Alex's name has been added to. So please continue this effort.
If you would like to send Alex a card or note, you can send it to the hospital at
Barnes-Jewish Hospital South
1 Barnes-Jewish Hospital Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63110
I'm not sure how they treat mail to folks in ICU. If you'd rather, you can send it to
1803 Jacobs Circle
St. Peters, MO 63376
Or, perhaps best, you can send him an email message at http://www.barnesjewish.org/EGreeting/?id=530&sid=1 I have tried this and it is very easy to use. You will need only his name and room number which is 4432. I know that Alex has found cards and letters very inspirational in his past hospitalizations.
As always, Keep the Faith,
From George Flew, September 8, 2014
The latest word on Alex is encouraging. This is from Linda via Beth Arnold this afternoon. His temp has come down from 101+ to normal and his O2 level is up to 93%. However, this is at least partially due to his being ventilated. His kidney output is improving. He has an infection which they are treating though they have not determined its cause.
His brother, Neil and sister-in-law Ann, drove down from Canada and should be there by now. Also, his old and good friend Alasdair Fraser flew in from California. The arrival of Neil, Ann and Alasdair should be a great comfort to both Alex and Linda.
Alex remains in the ICU and he is, in Linda's word,"far from being out of the woods." However, after days of bad news, it's good to get some good news, no matter how slight.
As always, keep Alex and Linda in your prayers and…
Keep the Faith
From George Flew, September 7, 2014
Alex is currently in the ICU in St. Louis. He went into the hospital on Thursday for a relatively simple procedure on his vocal cords. I understand that he might have had some minor complications during the procedure, but Linda told me that night that he was looking excellent after coming out of recovery. However, later that night his oxygen level dropped drastically and Linda was called back to the hospital. It was at that time that he was moved to ICU. He has continued to have complications.
Linda is currently at his side. Her son and their good friend, Millie Slack, have accompanied her when they could. Alex's situation is quite grave and I would be misleading you to say otherwise. At this time Linda is focusing on Alex's care and working with his medical team and she is not in a position to take phone calls as much as you may wish to comfort her and Alex. However, she has kept in touch with family and their good friend, Beth Arnold, and Beth and I have been in contact all day. I will pass on any information that I have as I get it. You might check Alex's Facebook to which Beth is posting.
I know that Linda would ask that you pray for Alex's recovery. And I would add that you also say a prayer for Linda for the strength to see her through this.
For those that are hearing this for the first time, I apologize for being the bearer of this dire news. However, Linda wanted Alex's many friends and fans to be aware of the situation. Please feel free to pass this on.
Keep the Faith
From Linda Beaton, September 4, 2014
Linda Irvin Beaton
From John Lowry, January 23, 2014
The following picture was posted on Alex's facebook page along with this caption and some additional comments. We thought you'd enjoy seeing Alex.
Seamus Kennedy writes: Visiting with my friend the great Alex Beaton and his lovely wife Linda. Alex was in great form, and we had lots of humorous reminiscences about festivals past to giggle about. Thanks for dinner, Linda. Let's do it again.
From George Flew, December 7, 2013
I received an email from Alex before I send out my email on Friday. Unfortunately, I didn't read it before sending my email. The following contains some additional information that I have highlighted which I think you will find interesting. If you are forwarding my emails, please forward this one rather than the previous (if it's not too late). And if you post this on a web site, please remove the previous email. Thanks,
I talked with Alex recently and thought I'd drop a line to let you know how things are going. He had an appointment with the speech therapist at the VA this week. He will begin a home therapy regime and will follow up with the VA at a later date. (I might say that his voice sounded pretty good as it has the last few times I've spoken with him. However, it does still tend to weaken after a long day.) They also can provide treatment in St. Louis similar to what he has received at Vanderbilt in Nashville. They discussed a future treatment of his right vocal cord similar to the one on his left. Alex added "The VA ENT will assess my voice after a couple of months. I'm a wee bit optimistic that my voice will be strong and clear, although my breath will not be as long as I'd like. We'll see what happens. If I'm still having problems and require surgery on my right vocal cord, the three VA doctors, although they've performed this surgery before, because I'm a professional singer, will refer me to a surgeon at Washington University Hospital here in St. Louis."
His new chair that he received earlier this fall is quite splendid. He is able to operate it considerably better than his older one. This has made it much easier to get out and about and he is delighted with the additional mobility. In fact, he and Linda, along with their friend (the Reverend) Millie Slack, attended the St. Andrews dinner at the Scottish St. Andrew Society of Greater St. Louis. There he was honored for his contribution to Scottish heritage and given a lifetime membership in the Society. As he spoke of this, I could tell that he was very humbled by the award.
Alex also passed on that, at the Seaside Games in Ventura, CA, this past October, they honored him by naming the main stage the Alex Beaton Stage. When Alex and Linda lived in California, he lived near Ventura and performed at the Seaside Games for many years. He has served on their Board since their inception. I was privileged to visit with Alex and Linda and attend the games back in '06 just before they moved to Franklin. Though, at the time, it did seem a little odd to have palm trees in the background.
Alex also informed me that Linda will be starting a new job on Monday (the 2nd). While she has enjoyed the time being home with Alex, she has been looking forward to getting back to work. They have hired a new caregiver, Kathy, who will spend the day while Linda is working. Alex says that she lives nearby and, in her first week, has done an excellent job.
The VA is also providing a volunteer, Maria, three hours per week to help Alex go through some of his old photos and papers. Alex hopes that this is the first step in getting things organized for a possible book. Though such a project would take quite some time to develop. Alex says "She's very good at organizing and we are enjoying our time together working on this project."
In closing, I never did follow up from my trip to visit with Alex and Linda at the St. Louis Games and I apologize for being remiss (see my closing comments). The highlight of the Games was the presentation to Alex of a plaque that read "The St. Louis Scottish Games, in grateful appreciation, honors the pioneering spirit and contributions made to Scottish traditional music at Highland Games around the United States by Alex Beaton, Singer Entertainer, this day September 28, 2013"
Many of Alex's friends and fans showed up at the St. Louis games. However, Alex was especially pleased to see some folks that had traveled a good distance just to see him on this day including Diana and Gary Phelps from California, Amy Brady from N. Carolina, Gayle Robertson and Frank Gauld from Iowa, Bonnie Goebel from Minnesota, Betsy Paschall from Florida and Ray and Lyn Luttner who motorcycled all the way from Ohio.
After the Games, many of us gathered at Alex and Linda's house for dinner including John Taylor, Ed Miller and Jil Chambliss and Scooter Muse. After dinner, to the delight of all, especially Alex, John, Ed, Jil and Scooter offered up a little impromptu ceilidh. They began the night with "Rare Ould Times" one of Linda's favorites and ended with "Rowan Tree", a favorite of Alex's mother. Good food, good drink, good friends and good music. I believe that says it all. (Wish you all could have been there.) If you would like to see more pictures from the St. Louis Games, check out Alex's site at http://www.alexbeaton.com/st-louis-games-september-2013/.
And finally, as a result of my retirement at the end of December, I will be moving to Knoxville, TN, to be with my daughter, Amy. Rather than being 4½ hours from Alex and Linda, I will then be 7½ hours away. (Not long ago it was a mere 2 hours.) Since I returned from St. Louis I have been busy buying a house in Knoxville and getting mine on the market. Thus my excuse for the long delayed email. I hope to get back to St. Louis before I move to visit with my friends while they are still this close.
Hope to see you there,
From George Flew, September 18, 2013
Many folks have written to say they will be attending the Scottish Games in St. Louis and have asked when the ceremonies honoring Alex are scheduled. I heard from Linda recently that they are scheduled for Saturday at 2:15pm.
Also, Linda would like to have a gathering of Alex's friends and fans on Saturday night. It will either be at one of the nearby hotels, probably The Cheshire, or at their home. If you will be at the games and think you might attend the Saturday night gathering, please let me know so that I can pass a count on to Linda.
For those that will not be attending, I hope to have an account and pictures afterward.
Hope to see you there,
From Alex via John, August 4, 2013:
Alex is having a busy summer. So busy, in fact that rather than attempt to paraphrase or otherwise impart what he has to say, we will simply point you to his most recent web site report: http://www.alexbeaton.com.
From George Flew, April 8, 2013
Between colds, company and travel, I have had a time connecting with Alex and Linda the last several months. However, I was determined to get in one final visit before their move to Missouri. So this past Saturday week I spent time with Alex while Linda continued to pack. (Yes, I felt guilty, but Linda insisted that she had it in hand.)
So that left Alex and I to catch up. I asked him how the new "Live in Concert" CD was being received. He said that he had gotten some wonderful reviews. And I can see why. Not only do Alex, Alasdair and Eric do some great solos, but on the tracks that they play together, it's downright amazing. Especially when you realize that they had not rehearsed and they only got one take to get it right! And for those that love Alex's guitar playing, believe me, this CD highlights his playing. A number of the tracks are as good as I have heard Alex. In particular, I love "The Battles O'er" and "Song for Ireland" which he performs with Alasdair and Eric. If you still haven't ordered yours, remember, it's a double cd (a steal at $20). Since they will not have their Internet access for a week or so, you can send your orders to:
1803 Jacobs Circle,
St. Peters, MO 63376
or call Alex at 615.390.9593. (If you order one, please add $4 for shipping, $6 for two, $7.50 for three and $10 for four or more.)
Alex wanted me to remind folks that he will be unveiling a new web site in the next week or so. Actually, it's not totally brand new; kind of a mix of the old and new. Like coming home from college to find out that your parents have totally redone the house. It has a familiar feel, but it has a really updated look. Alex worked with our mutual friend, Merv Forney, to develop this site. Merv and his lovely wife, Pam, along with me and my daughter, Amy, have toured together twice with Alex to Scotland and also on his Ireland tour.
Alex continues to slowly improve in his range of motion and ability to work with his iPad. This has given him more access to the Internet but he is still needs work on his typing speed before he gets back into the email world. He also has become much more proficient with his motorized wheel chair. Unfortunately, we did not get out of the apartment where I could see him scoot around. The St. Louis VA hospital, particularly the Jefferson Barracks Division, specializes in spinal cord injury and we can hope that Alex will continue to receive excellent therapy in their new home. (I hope that they have someone that can pick up on his training with the Dragon Naturally Speaking software.)
Time finally came for me to take leave of Alex and Linda. When they moved to Tennessee, they stayed with me their first weekend to close on their house in Franklin that Monday. Now they were packing to move to Missouri. While I know that both Alex and Linda are looking forward to this move, I am saddened that my friends will now be 4 and a half hours from me. However, there will be more old friends living near them plus family. And I know that Alex is looking forward to becoming a dyed in the red Cardinal fan.
On Thursday, Linda's son John, drove down to help them pack and they headed to St. Peters. They arrived fine on Friday and I got a call from Alex saying that, with the exception of traffic problems not far from Nashville, all went well and they were settling in.
It's hard to believe that it has been almost 2 years since that fateful day when I got the call from Linda that Alex was in the ICU paralyzed from the neck down. We have all suffered personally with the changing news about our friend, Alex, and, of course, Linda. I would encourage you all to check in with Alex's web site and Facebook page for the latest news on Alex. Until next time, I, of course, will . . .
Keep the faith,
From Alex via John Lowry, March 11, 2013
Many of you received this note from Alex explaining a bit of difficulty some were having in ordering the new CD. We don't want ANY to be deprived an opportunity to hear this wonderful never-before-released concert so here is an update and simplified ordering procedure and maybe a chance to speak to the man himself. Please order today--we know you'll enjoy this brand new item:
My Dear Friends,
Some folks have expressed concerns about setting up a Google account in order to purchase from my store. Others have shared that they experienced difficulty in processing their order through my website, www.alexbeaton.com. I apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused any of you. But, the good news is that I am happy to take your payment the old fashioned way! Either:
Glenfinnan Music P.O. Box 681707 Franklin, TN 37068
2) Contact me at 615.390.9593 and I'll be happy to take your order over the phone.
Tier 1 From $00.00 - $20.00/Order, Shipping = $4.00
Tier 2 From $20.01 - $35.00/Order, Shipping = $5.00
Tier 3 From $35.01 - $45.00/Order, Shipping = $6.00
Tier 4 From $45.01 - $60.00/Order, Shipping = $7.50
Tier 5 From $60.01or higher/Order, Shipping = $10.00
I continue to receive many wonderful reviews about the new CD which pleases me greatly. I highly recommend this LIVE recording of myself along with my good friends, the Master Scottish Fiddler, Alasdair Fraser and Eric Rigler, the Worlds most recorded piper.
I'm so excited to share the news with you that my website is in the process of being redesigned. This site, in addition to having a new look and feel to it, will also offer you a much more convenient method of purchasing my recordings.
In four weeks time, Linda and I are relocating to St. Peters, Missouri. I'm very much looking forward to this move and will notify you of the new address once we are settled.
More news to follow.....be well.
From George Flew, February 16, 2013
I received a call from Alex to let me know that his new CD is finally ready. While I have heard the pre-release, I am anxiously awaiting my copy. As you may remember, this CD was made at a live performance (hence the title "Live In Concert") and also features Alisdair Fraiser and Eric Rigler. For Alex's own description of the CD, you can check out his web site at www.alexbeaton.com.
I believe my favorite tracks include the ones that he performs with Alisdair and with Eric. I had a lump in my throat with the three of them playing on "Song for Ireland." If this has piqued your interest and you want to skip right to the order page, click here: http://www.alexbeaton.com/index.htm?inc=80&prod_id=5056&sid=13036. And be sure to pass this on to your friends!
I understand that Alex and Linda have moved the closing date up on their new home in St. Louis. However, they will stay in their apartment in Brentwood until the end of March. Several folks have asked me how to contact them since they moved from their home in Franklin. You can still get in touch with them at the Glenffinan address at Glenfinnan Music, P.O. Box 681707, Franklin, TN. 37068. I am sure that this will be forwarded when they do make their move to St. L.
I hope to visit with them in a couple of weeks and I will have more details on both Alex and the move. However, I knew that many of you wanted to know when the new CD hit the store. Until then. . . .
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, January 13, 2013
It's been some time since I have been able to visit with Alex and Linda, but this past Saturday was such a day. Having not seen Alex since just after our visit to the Stone Mountain games, I was anxious to see how he was coming along. As you remember, he had a procedure on his vocal chords back in October and it continues to hold up well. Not only is his voice strong, but it seemed to hold up steadily throughout the day. We talked for quite some time about how he is doing and how things are progressing. One item that was heartening was that he was recently able to sit up on the side of the bed with assistance from his PT. To demonstrate, Linda pulled him forward in his chair by his hands and then released him. He was able to support himself in that position for quite some time by leaning on his elbows and then sitting back in his chair without Linda's help. I could tell he was quite pleased with the progress he is making.
When last I saw him, he was able to lift his right hand from his lap to his mouth. He is now able to swing his arm and hand out to his side and rotate his arm at the shoulder thus swinging his hand in a circle. He is working to increase his strength so that he will be able to lift a utensil to his mouth and feed himself. This will also give him the ability to finally have control over his power chair. Once he has achieved these abilities, he will have much more independence and control over his life. A great deal of this is due to the fact that the insurance company finally approved more visits with his OT, Cricket and his PT, Stacey. If they would only keep this going, there is no telling how far Alex can improve. . . .
He also continues to progress in his left arm and hand. He has some slight movement in his fingers and I could see his arm flexing as he was able to move it. What is great about this, is that his left arm now is where his right arm was several months ago, so the glimmer of hope is that it will catch up soon.
As a surprise, from one of Alex's longtime friends, he received an iPad for Christmas . . . thanks Mary Ann and Roy Kirsten. With its touch feature, Alex is able gain easier access to email and the Internet now AND it is actually good exercise to increase his hand-eye coordination.
While the iPad gives him some abilities he couldn't easily do with his laptop, he hasn't given up on the laptop. Now that his voice has stabilized somewhat and he is getting more strength in his hand, he would like to get back to the DragonSpeak program. We talked about how this could give him the opportunity to work on some of the projects that he would like to pursue.
On an entirely different note, Alex and Linda, after much soul searching and discussion, have decided to leave Franklin, TN, and move to St. Louis, MO. While they loved Franklin and their home there, they will have much more support in St. Louis. Linda lived in St. Louis for many years and her son and many friends live there. Her parents and brother also live only a couple of hours away. In fact, they have sold their house in Franklin and are currently renting a small, but lovely apartment close by. They have a contract on a house in St. Peters, a suburb NW of St. Louis, which closes the first of March. They would like to do a little remodeling to accommodate Alex's use of his wheelchair, but certainly hope to be moved by the middle to end of March.
I have seen pictures of the new house on-line and it is a lovely ranch-style house with a very open floor plan that will much better accommodate Alex's chair.
When Alex was in the VA Hospital in Augusta, GA, he was visited by Mr. Bill Lawson who is a columnist with the PN Magazine which is a publication of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. He did not know until just recently that Mr. Lawson wrote an article about that visit and published it. While you can find an abbreviated version of it on the PN web site, I have posted the entire article on my website. If you would like to read it, click here. (Thanks to my friend Betsy Paschall and Baa Baa for sending Alex a copy of it.)
A final note from Alex. The new "Live – In Concert" CD has gone to production and should be out soon. Look for it on his web site at www.alexbeaton.com.
Keep the faith,
From John and Nellie Lowry, December 13, 2012
Alex and Linda will spend the next ten days in the St. Louis area, celebrating Christmas and looking for a new home.
On a personal level, Alex still sounds very good and his spirits are high. The work they did on his voice box may have made it stronger but a bit raspy at the same time. He was so eager to hear more details of the Seaside Games and so pleased for the good year we experienced this October. From our end, it was pure pleasure to hear from our dear friend, Alex.
John and Nellie
From George Flew, October 28, 2012
On Monday, the 15th, Alex had a procedure performed on his vocal cords at Vanderbilt. His vocal therapist injected his left vocal cord to tighten it up. The vocal cord had become stretched from procedures that he had incurred during the early days of his treatment. I could tell that the injection had much improved and strengthened his speech. While this treatment is not permanent, it should last for several months and, if it is effective, it could result in a more permanent treatment.
The following weekend, I travelled with Alex and Linda to Hotlanta for the Stone Mountain Highland Games. It was as lovely a Fall weekend as you could ask for (a hallmark of the Stone Mountain Games). Leaving about mid-morning on Friday, we made the four hour trip and, allowing for lunch and the time zone change, arrived about four o'clock. As we checked in, Alex was surprised to discover that his longtime friend and tour coach driver, Barry Austin and his lovely wife, Caroline, had made the trip across the pond. While many of us were in on the surprise, Alex was totally in the dark. The reunion was both joyful as well as emotional. Barry had been our coach driver on the Highlands & Islands Tour just two weeks before Alex's accident and Barry had wanted to visit Alex since the incident.
That night, a large group of us had dinner including Jill Cyr, who arranged for our rooms at the Stone Mountain Marriott, and her dad, Ed Gilander, from Portland, ME, along with my friend, Sharon Campbell from Watauga, TX. Alex and Barry spent most of the time catching up. Barry had driven for Alex's tour this past August (that was hosted by Donnie MacDonald and James Keigher, "Men of Worth") and they had a lot to discuss.
Saturday morning, Alex was met at his room by John Turner. You may remember that John had been one of Alex's aids at Shepherd and attended the Stone Mountain Games last year. Once again this year, he assumed the task of escorting Alex around in his wheelchair.
We arrived at the Games about 11am. The Games had graciously allowed Alex to set up a tent and table to sell his CDs and we were attempting to make our way to it. However, Alex was unable to make more than ten feet without being stopped by one of his friends or fans. He soon realized that he would not be able to make it to his table and back to the grand stand in time for the opening ceremonies. So he pulled up and parked it. During the ceremonies, Alex was recognized for his years of attendance to the Games. He was surprised when, during the ceremonies, they played his recording of "Flower of Scotland". Not only Alex, but both Barry and I were particularly moved by this gesture.
As we made our way to Alex's tent after the ceremonies, Barry noted that, while he knew that Alex had carried many people on his tours over the years, he did not realize that he was as popular as he was. (This was, after all, Barry's first trip to America and to an American Scottish Games.) Oddly enough, many of the folks at the Games had travelled with Barry and he spent most of the day talking with first one then another. I kidded him that we were going to have them announce a "Barry Austin Autograph Signing Hour".
Saturday night, we all went to the campgrounds for dinner with the McPhersons, Forneys and Campbells. Merv Forney had had some excellent California tri-tip steaks on the grill along with shrimp, chili and various vegies, dips, etc. Before Alex retired for the night, he gave a rather long speech in which he thanked John Turner for his help both at Shepherd and at the Games, Linda for her love and assistance and several others for all that they had done during this past year and a half. Everyone was glad to hear the strength in Alex's voice. And it was probably the longest speech he has given in over a year. All in all, everyone felt that it had been a magnificent day and a spectacular evening.
The following morning we met for breakfast. Barry and Caroline plan to travel to Savannah and Charleston, GA, and back through Franklin to visit with Alex and Linda before heading back to Atlanta. They hope to stop by the M3 Ranch to spend some time with Bob and Arra Mae Matheison on the way back to Franklin. From there, they will fly to New York City for a few days before flying back to Scotland. After breakfast, we bid each other farewell and headed our own ways.
To see some pictures from the Stone Mountain Games, click here.
Keep the faith,
From Alex, October 15, 2012
From George Flew, September 15, 2012
It's been a while since I last wrote, but I finally have some information to pass on. I was able to get to Franklin this weekend to spend a couple of days with Alex and Linda. They've been quite busy with folks in and out and travel of their own which has left yours truly with little opportunity to visit.
I arrived Saturday just before noon. Alex and I spent some time watching sports. If there's some kind of sport on, Alex will be watching. (I believe he would watch championship washer tossing if it's all that was on TV.) We watched a little college football and then turned over to the US Tennis Open. After Linda completed some tasks, we all piled into the van to do run some errands including stopping at the post office (he received a package from The Brown Sisters), stopped by Lowe's for Linda to pick up some stuff to work around the house and then the grocery.
We returned and caught the last half of the PGA-BMW Golf Championship and the US Open Tennis semi-finals. Really a busy day in sports.
Alex's longtime friend and fellow Franklinite, Jan Irwin, came over for a dinner of grilled pork tenderloin, potato and salad. Jan, along with her friend, Florence Simpson, was on the Ireland tour and we shared several Irish coffees.
We began Sunday with French toast and sausage and then it was back to sports – mainly golf and tennis. While Linda worked on several projects around the house, we spent some time catching up on Alex's personal emails.
Unfortunately, Alex has not made any progress on his Dragon Speak. I have been trying to find someone in the area that would be able to work with him on this. However, his voice still suffers from up and down weakness which would not be best for the program. (It actually has the ability to "learn" your speaking habits and, with Alex's voice varying as it does, it could cause the program to become "confused.") He continues with his therapy and is anticipating several procedure options that could increase his vocal strength. This will [increase] the likelihood of his mastering the program for his use.
On the other hand, Alex's mobility in his right arm has increased considerably even since the trip to Grandfather Mountain. With some effort, he can raise his hand to his mouth. Though his strength and precision are still not quite there, there is hope that, before long, he will be able to better fend for himself. Though he is showing some signs of getting movement in his left arm, the therapists are concentrating on his right in order to give him more self-reliance.
Alex wanted me to remind folks that he plans to attend the Stone Mountain Highland Games again this year (October 19-21). He and Linda will not be staying in the host hotel, the Hilton Atlanta Northeast, but will be at the Marriott hotel on the park grounds. This will make it much easier for him to get back and forth to the games. His plans are to arrive on Friday evening and leave back for Franklin on Sunday. (Once again my dear daughter, Amy, will be down for those that have been on Alex's tours when we both were there.)
As I left, Alex wanted one last thing . . . to shake my hand. He had a surprisingly strong grip and it did my heart good to feel it. If you will be at Stone Mountain, I hope you get to experience it also.
Keep the faith,
From Alex himself, August 21, 2012
See this and additional postings by alex at his facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/alex.beaton.750
From George Flew, July 22, 2012
Last weekend I accompanied Alex and Linda to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Linville, NC. (For those that haven't heard the story, it was at Grandfather many years ago that Alex set up outside of the corner grocery with his guitar and a rented sound system and hawked his albums. There he was spotted by Ray McDonald of the Texas Highland Games and the rest, as it were, is history.) I drove up to Franklin on Thursday night in order to have some time to visit with Alex's brother and sister-in-law who had been there for the past two weeks.
When I first arrived, Alex's good friend, Randy Farrar, was there. He is working with Alex on a new CD using music that was recorded at the Costa Mesa Games by his friend Dick McGilvery about 10 years ago. It was a very professional recording taken directly from the audio system and sounds fantastic. The CD will not only include Alex but will feature his good friends Alasdair Fraser and Eric Rigler. Since it is a recording of a live performance, it includes much of the banter that we love so much. It contains solo tracks by all three artists. However, the most amazing are "The Battle's O'er" featuring Alex with Alasdair and, my favorite, "A Song for Ireland" that features all three with Alasdair on the fiddle and Eric on the Irish Uilleann pipes. (We listened to a trial recording on the way to NC.) Right now, Randy is working with Alex to arrange and produce the CD and they are in the final phases. Alex is working on the cover art and he hopes to release the new CD this fall. I suggest that you keep an eye on Alex's web site for an announcement.
We were sitting around talking and looking into Alex's back yard at the birds that gather to feed from the feeders that he and Linda have set out. We noticed that the birds had all left and that's when we spotted a large red fox at the edge of the yard. This was surprising as Alex lives in a very urban area.
Friday morning we got up early and began loading for the trip. Alex's brother and sister-in-law, Neil and Ann, set out a little ahead of us. They would be staying in a motel in Mt. Jefferson, NC, which is probably an hour from where we would be staying in Linville Falls.
This was Alex's longest trip in his van yet. We were hopeful that we would be able to position Alex in his chair in the van in such a way that Linda would be able to tilt him back periodically in order to do a weight shift. (I have used that term before; however, if you are unfamiliar with it, it is simple. Since Alex is unable to shift his weight from time to time, it is important to do so for him by tilting his chair.) Fortunately, this worked like a charm. Had we not been able to do so, we would have had to pull off the road every hour or so and tilt Alex for about 5-10 minutes each time. This would have added considerable time to the already 6 hour drive.
Before going to our motels, we stopped at the Pineola Inn to meet Beth Arnold to pass off the CDs that we had brought to sell at the Games. With her was her nephew, Thomas Crain, who was involved in a very serious accident just a couple of months ago. At one time, it was not known if he would walk again or to what extent he had brain damage. However, to see him today, you would not know that the accident had happened; though, he will continue with therapy for some time to come. While we were visiting, the owner of the inn and several of the locals saw us and came out to visit with Alex. He has stayed at the Pineola over the years; unfortunately, their room setups would not accommodate Alex's needs.
We got Alex and Linda checked into their motel and, while they took a little time to freshen up, I went down the road to check into my cabin. (Rooms around the Games, as always, are hard to come by and I was fortunate to find anything. It turned out to be fortunate that it was two bedroom.) My cabin was what you would call "rustic", except for the satellite TV. It didn't even have air conditioning (I walked all the way around to make sure) and, being a warm day, left me a little apprehensive. However, at almost 3600 ft. elevation, the nights can be quite comfortable.
I picked up Alex and Linda and we drove back to Pineola to eat dinner at the Los Arcoiris Mexican Restaurant, another of Alex's past favorites. Dinner was excellent and the chips and salsa were very good. (I give it a resounding "Si"!) From there, we went back to the motel and I helped Linda get Alex settled in and then returned to my rustic cabin. After watching a little mindless TV, I retired for the night. . . and slept like a baby.
The next morning I returned to Alex's room to find that Neil and Ann had found their way down from Mt. Jefferson and all were ready for a bite. The motel served a decent continental breakfast (that included some excellent homemade banana nut bread). Sufficiently recharged, we all piled in the van to head "up the mountain" for the day. When we turned off of the Blowing Rock Highway (think "Thunder Road"), everyone wanted to divert us to the "civilian" parking until they recognized Alex. That got us the "wave on" until we ran into the next obstacle. Finally, we were given the green light all the way to Alex's stage area where we were allowed to park for the duration.
As Alex exited the van, he was met immediately by Ross Morrison, President of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, and Frank Vance, the General Manager, who presented Alex with the Agnes MacRae Morton Award for his "outstanding contribution to promoting Scottish heritage at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games". Alex was much moved and honored to be given this award.
One of the first people to greet Alex was John Lowry who is the President and Founder of the Seaside Games in Ventura County, CA. (I attended the Seaside Games with Alex and Linda some years ago and I must admit that hearing pipes and Scottish music on a flat land with palm trees behind the stage is a little strange.) After that, Alex enjoyed a steady stream for fans and friends stopping by to wish him well and reminisce.
Beth had arrived earlier and set up a table with Alex's "product" and was already selling to Games goers. Faye Bell and Carolyn Keller showed up to help with the sales. They have been very helpful to Alex over the last year in both selling at games and coordinating sales at other games. Being NC natives, I was not surprised to see them.
This year on what I will call Alex's stage, the entertainers were Scooter Muse and Jil Chamblis and Ed Miller. Scooter and Jil play together in the Celtic band, Henri's Notions, and often appear as a duo at games. They also frequently share the stage, often at the same time, with Ed Miller. This weekend, they performed primarily songs that Alex had recorded. Alex took some time away from greeting people to sit next to the stage and listen to a set of their songs. He was particularly moved when Jil, Scooter and Ed did a rendition of "If My Memory Serves Me Well", one of Alex's compositions. (I do believe it brought a tear to Alex's glass eye!)
One of Alex's best surprises of the day was the arrival of Randy Farrar who had decided early that morning to drive up from Franklin. Alex was delighted to have Randy experience the Games and the folks that stopped to visit with him.
The day went well with only a brief rain to mar the occasion. After a long day of meeting and greeting, we finally had to take our leave. From the stage, we went to the campgrounds that are adjacent to the games to visit with the McPherson Clan out of Johnson City, TN, and Bob and Marnie Campbell who are annual visitors to Grandfather. Alex's birthday being the week either side of the Grandfather weekend, it has been a tradition in past years to celebrate Alex's birthday on Sunday afternoon at Grandfather. This year, Alex was surprised by a serenade by brother Neil on Bob's pipes. (For those that don't know, Neil is a world class piper.) He ended his medley with a rendition of "Happy Birthday" joined in by everyone in the general vicinity.
The time came when it was finally time to tell folks so-long. It had been a long day for Alex and he needed a little down time. During the day, Randy, who had originally booked a motel way up in Johnson City, TN, was able to cancel and bunk with me that night in my two bedroom cabin. We went back to Alex's hotel and then on to my cabin to get Randy settled in. Afterward, we went back to get Alex and Linda for dinner. Neil and Ann had left to go back to Mt. Jefferson. They were headed back to Toronto on Sunday morning and needed the rest. Fortunately, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs through Linville Falls and just east of Mt. Jefferson and they had a pleasant drive back to their motel. Meanwhile, the four of us went out for dinner. Alex, Randy and I had a broiled trout while Linda had chicken pot pie.
The following morning, we met back at Alex and Linda's room to find that she had got Alex out of the bed and into the van before we arrived. As Linda explained, she needed to be able to do this alone since she would not always have help. Before we could leave, Scooter and Jil showed up along with Amy Brady to see us off.
The drive back was somewhat uneventful. The only problem was lunch. We stopped in Harriman, TN, for lunch at a Cracker Barrel, arriving around 1:00 o'clock. Along with the entire Sunday crowd. We decided to push on to Crossville, TN. I realized that, travelling west we would cross from the Eastern Time Zone into the Central Time Zone. Being only 30 miles, we arrived there just about the same time of day as we had at Harriman. And encountered the same wait. So we had a quick sandwich at the Subway and headed on back to Franklin. There, I helped Linda unload the van and took a few minutes to visit. I finally took my leave for the 2 hour drive back to Jackson.
This weekend had been a wonderful outing for Alex. He was able to reconnect with a lot of friends that he had not seen in the last year as well as enjoy some good music. I was glad that I could contribute in some small way to making it the great weekend it was.
If you would like to see some pictures of the weekend, you can go to my web site at http://www.clanmcmuffin.com/. If clicking on the link does not work, copy the link and paste it into your web browser. As always. . .
Keep the faith,
From Alex himself, July 10, 2012
Linda and I are getting ready to go to Linville NC for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. I will be on the field SATURDAY ONLY from about 11 to 4, down near my regular stage. Please come by and say hello if you can. I am really looking forward to visiting with so many old friends!
From George Flew, May 19, 2012
I was finally able to get back to Franklin and visit with Alex and Linda this past weekend. Alex continues to maintain a positive attitude, though the fact that he is unable to get up and move around has taken a toll on him. However, he religiously goes to the local Shepherd Center, known as Beyond Therapy, four days a week. He says that their main concentration is on building strength and mobility in his right arm and hand. This is to help him gain as much independence as possible in the shortest time. It is working because Alex reported that he is able to move his right hand from alongside of his body to his stomach! This is the greatest range of motion that he has had since the accident.
Alex explained that part of his therapy is spent with his hand and arm strapped into a device playing therapeutic video games. While these games sound quite simple, they have been very important in his progress. For instance, one game is as simple as moving a cup around on the screen to catch rain drops.
In addition to his trips to Shepherd, he gets some home PT from Guy, Linda's brother. (Linda employed a PT a few weeks ago to give him lessons in Alex's PT needs.) He also exercises him and does range of motion workouts several times a day. Guy and Jean have been an immense help to both Alex and Linda and there is not enough thanks for what they are doing.
Linda and her sister-in-law, Jean, went out for a Mother's Day lunch leaving Alex and I with a list of tasks to work on. The first task was a pair of speeches for the Costa Mesa ScotsFest coming up Memorial Day weekend. Having lived in southern Cali for many years with Costa Mesa in his backyard, Alex considers this to be his Flag Ship games. Still not having mastered his Dragon Speak software, it was much more efficient for me to type as he dictated. He had to produce a speech for the opening ceremonies as well as one for a dedication. (As always, he managed to slip a little sales pitch in even though he will be a few thousand miles away.) He was also pleased that the dedication would be made during appearance his friend, Eric Rigler.
Alex also composed a letter to the St. Andrews Society of Savannah, GA, for a generous donation that will be used to further his therapy at the Shepherd Center. I know their president, Dr. Les Wilkes, worked hard to make this happen. Alex asked me to take a moment to thank everyone that has donated to his fund or has purchased CDs or flags. All of these have gone a long way to taking much of the concern off of Alex and Linda as the expenses have mounted these last months.
We finally took a break to watch a little golf which, this week, was the PLAYERS Championship. You know how Alex is about all sports and he can't spend all Saturday afternoon without it. He was happy to see Matt Kuchar win though I believe he would have been satisfied if Martin Laird, the Scotsman, had pulled off a win. He wound up tied for second a couple of strokes back.
Before I got away, both Alex and Linda had a few tweaks for me to make to Alex's computer and email programs which were quite easy…for someone that knows what to do. It's good to have one really good talent you can share.
It was great to spend some time with both Alex and Linda. He keeps his sense of humor through all of the trials and tribulations that have been thrust upon him. It continues to sustain my hope for their future.
Keep the faith,
From John Lowry, May, 2012
Nellie and I were so privileged to see Alex Beaton on our May trip to Tennessee and to have a nice visit with Alex and Linda. Arrangements were made and we were to meet at a restaurant near their home rather than at home which surprised us since we didn't want them to go to a great deal of bother just for our sake. As it turned out, the restaurant — a very good bakery and breakfast spot that they enjoy — was probably an ideal meeting place. Linda explained that her brother and sister-in-law are still living at home with them and that four people, all the necessary equipment and her brother's three dogs (!) make for somewhat cramped quarters these days. And, Linda seems to have travel with Alex in his chair down to a science. She is an amazing care-giver.
They were comfortably situated in a quiet nook in the restaurant (early) when we arrived (also early) and it was literally like "old home week" being together again. We did not fool ourselves, we knew exactly how incapacitated Alex would be — that his range of motion would be very limited — and it was.
He demonstrated his right hand movements and his remarkable shoulder "shrugs." The right arm can rise and move in an arcing motion but there is not yet enough gripping motion to make it useful. He controls some functions of his high-tech chair by moving his head and that is impressive.
What is most impressive about Alex is his mind. His intellect, his memory, his curiosity. He expressed keen interest in the Seaside Games and how they have grown. Alex was our lead entertainer for the first eight years and you all will be pleased to hear that he has every intention to return to Ventura, if not this October, he says, next October, 2013! We will be counting the days, Alex!
Alex's voice is still very identifiable if a bit weaker some days. The good news for ALL of us — his fans — is that he will be releasing two new CDs (or a CD and a DVD) of never before - seen performances, one in concert with Scottish Fiddler Alasdair Fraser! That news excited me plus the fact that they will available in time for October's Festival.
Needless to say, we were thrilled to make this side trip on our way to East Tennessee's Smoky Mountain Highland Games and Nellie's Graham Clan AGM with their beloved Duke and Duchess of Montrose in attendance. All of it an excursion we won't soon forget.
From George Flew, April 23, 2012
I apologize for having been so long between emails. It's partly caused by the hectic spring schedule and partly because I have not been able to get to Franklin in several weeks now. The last time I was up, his brother Neil and sister-in-law, Ann, were visiting on their way back from Myrtle Beach to Toronto. That day was spent mainly visiting and watching sports. We went from an English soccer game to a Spanish soccer game to a golf match and wound up on the semi-final match for the Final Four. (That should indicate how long it's been.) When the Beaton boys get together, there's going to be some sports on the TV.
Alex's situation hasn't changed much since my last email. Unfortunately, he has had some complications that have held him back. (Without getting into details, these complications are often associated with injuries such as Alex's. Unfortunately, they continue to plague him…and their timing isn't so good, either.) Their timing seems to correspond with the weekends and keep him in bed. I have scheduled trips up the last 3-4 weekends and they have all been canceled because the various complications have kept him in bed. I will try again next weekend. I know Alex is anxious to get back to his Dragon Speak training.
Linda went back to work several weeks ago. Fortunately, her brother, Guy, has been with Alex on a full time basis. In fact, he drove back to Missouri this past weekend to move his wife, Jean, to Franklin. They will be staying with Alex and Linda for the foreseeable future. I am not sure what the long term plan is; however, I know that they are both very welcome. Alex says Guy is an excellent caregiver and they are both glad and lucky to have them there. Guy sees that Alex gets a full complement of range-of-motion therapy on a daily basis. Keeping Alex's range of motion at a maximum is key to getting the most out of his PT and OT sessions.
Alex reports that he has some very slight movement in the left shoulder which is good news. Until now, he has had movement only in his right arm and hand. He also will start this week on six weeks of therapy with the Shepherd Center facility in Franklin. He will be attending twice a week and will concentrate on increasing the motion and strength in his right hand and arm. Alex hopes that this will give him control of his chair for better mobility. If you would like to know more about the facility in Franklin, click here http://www.beyond-therapy.org/tennessee/about.
I know that many of us want to see Alex making great strides in his recovery. Believe me, no one wants it more than Alex. However, Alex is playing with the cards he has been dealt and he does a great job of keeping a positive attitude. Many of you have expressed a desire to get back in touch with him via email. While Alex is working to get back on-line at some point, it remains elusive. However, I know he would like to hear from you via the old snail mail. Please feel free to send him cards and letters c/o Glenfinnan Music, P.O. Box 681707, Franklin, TN. 37068. The PO box is checked every day or two and he should get it promptly.
Like all of you, I continue to Keep the Faith,
From George Flew, March 20, 2012
I haven't had the chance to visit with Alex the past several weeks, but I talked with him this weekend. Several positive things are going on. The VA has agreed to cover some of his therapy. He will be going to Shepherd Center in Franklin (yes, a new satellite facility for the Shepherd Center in Atlanta) this week to begin a workout program in their gym. As I understand it, this is not Physical or Occupational Therapy, but he will be assigned a trainer that is familiar with the needs of spinal injury patients. He will design a program to enhance the PT and OT he is receiving at home. He continues to receive PT and OT at home twice a week through his Medicare supplemental insurance carrier.
Linda has been home since Alex's return compliments of the FMLA. This will soon run out and she is scheduled to return to work next week. Her brother, Guy, and his wife, Jean, have offered to move to Franklin and help with Alex's care. Alex reports that Guy is excellent in working with him on his range of motion exercises. He's also very handy around the house. When they first moved to Franklin, Guy plumbed in a gas line to their laundry room for their gas dryer. (Apparently, gas dryers are very common in CA though practically unknown in this area). Both Guy and Jean will quit their jobs in Springfield, Il and hope that one of them can find work here. Linda and Alex will pay them for their services, but they still expect to earn less than half of what they currently enjoy, so their sacrifice is substantial. Linda and Alex are overwhelmed by their generosity, love and compassion and are excited about their expected arrival; they are much loved and a lot of fun to be around.
Alex continues to work with his Dragon Speak software, but is having some problems. I hope to stop by on Sunday on my way back from my daughter's in Knoxville. I still feel that mastering this software will be a major step in Alex's independence. I also plan to run up the following weekend after hearing from Alex's sister-in-law, Anne, and brother, Neil. After spending three months in Myrtle Beach, they will be returning to Canada next week and plan to swing by Franklin for a quick visit next weekend. It will be nice to get a chance to visit with them.
Unfortunately, some of Alex's medication causes his mouth to dry easily which can result in voice strain if he talks too long at one time. This limits his talk time on the phone so I do not have any additional information at this time. However, I hope to have more to report after my visit. Until then . . .
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, March 5, 2012
Accompanied by my brother, John, I visited with Alex again this weekend to help him get his Dragon Naturally Speaking program going. I went back to Franklin last weekend to tie up several loose ends. The main task was to get Alex's Dragon Speak up and running. However, as with the many other snags we have run into, when we finally set down to start the program, we discovered that his laptop did not have a microphone outlet! One thing that's absolutely necessary if you want to talk to your computer is to be able to plug in a microphone. After going over our alternatives, Alex decided to buy an adaptor from Amazon which, of course, did not arrive until late this last week.
With all of the pieces and parts finally together, we were able to sit down Saturday and begin. If you would like to see Dragon Speak in action, you can look it up on YouTube. We even found a gentleman with a heavy Indian accent using it. He and the computer seemed to gee and haw right well; however, as the instructions say, you must be patient. We were patient for 2-3 hours and by then, we were both pretty exhausted (not so much physically as mentally.) I know that, with practice, Alex will become proficient. He even sent me an email. It said "Hello George". Well, at least it's a start. (I talked with Beth Arnold this evening and she said that she had been talking with Linda and could hear Alex in the background talking to his computer.)
Alex was in very good spirits. Things are beginning to jell around the house. The chair lift has been adjusted and he is able to get in and out of the van readily. (Beth told me this evening that today they replaced his 48" lift with a 60" lift. I believe his feet might have been overhanging with the shorter lift.) This last week, the VA had an overhead rail lift system installed in the bedroom to make it easier to transfer Alex from his bed to his chair. Before the rail system, Linda had to use a jacking lift that looks like the device my dad used to pull car engines. Linda said the lift was very awkward using it on their carpeted floor.
Alex continues with his OT and PT at the house though, as always, he doesn't get as much as he would like. He tells me that he particularly likes his PT because he gives him a thorough workout. Linda was surprised at just how far he would work his arms and is now extending her range when she works with him on his range of motion exercises.
We finally had to call it a day as I could see that Alex was getting tired. Alex said that he would get Linda to help him work more with the Dragon Speak software. This will certainly open him up to much more independence.
Keep the faith,
From John Lowry, February 20, 2012:
The bad news is that he is back in hospital--a local hospital where Linda took him after discovering a catheter problem that resulted in a loss of blood. He had to have surgery yesterday morning which apparently went well and he is ready to go back home. Waiting for his doctor to come by and release him seems to be very frustrating for Alex. Anyone who has been in that position can empathize.
He finally turned away from the phone to tell an attendant that he was not staying in their hospital another night and would be releasing himself (on his own recognizance--can a patient do that)? He reiterated to me that seven and a half months in hospitals was about all he could take.
Truthfully, I think Alex may have meant to call someone else but got my cell but was pleased to have a chance -- we both were -- and to express again his love and appreciation for what the Seaside family has done for him and Linda. She was off dealing with some VA issues, I believe.
They did not build ramps at their house but use a lift to take him up and down as needed. He likes his automated chair but I am not sure he is quite capable of getting himself around quite yet. Is experimenting with a voice-operated computer and expects to be back online and writing emails very soon -- an exciting prospect.
He seems to be settling into this lifestyle that may be his lot for the future but still with an enormous well of hope for further recovery. He told me that he is very much hoping to be at Seaside in October -- this year!! I said that such a visit would be such a blessing for us all and especially as it is our tenth anniversary as a Games! He said that landing at LAX and getting a para-van to Ventura would be quite easy. But time will tell on that one.
So, his hopes are high, his spirit is good and not at all defeatist (even with this week's setback) and he is looking to the future.
Oh, I told him that I talked with Donnie Macdonald of MEN of WORTH this weekend at the Queen Mary Festival and complimented Donnie and James for taking on Alex's Summer Tour that he will be unable to handle. Donnie said they were happy to do so and that they were looking to fill the last two or three spots still available on the Tour. Alex said they will be using his itinerary and hotel bookings.
I hope he will get his wish for clearance to go back home. That is where he is most comfortable and where he most likes to be. Keep him in your thoughts please.
From George Flew, February 20, 2012:
I drove up on Saturday to spend the day with Alex and Linda. Alex has been home a week now and he and Linda are enjoying their time together not in a hospital! Their friends, Carolyn Keller and Faye Bell, have been there for the week to help Linda make the transition. (It doesn't hurt that Carolyn is a retired nurse.) Carolyn and Faye plan to stay through the middle of the coming week.
They finally have their new handicap accessible van. Last week they made a trip to Alex's "barber" where both he and Linda had their hair done. He also went to his personal doctor for his first visit with her since the accident.
Unfortunately, Alex did not get out of the bed on Saturday. I think that he will need some time to adjust to being home and being able to get out of the house. It can be quite tiring to someone who has spent the last seven month in bed.
One of the reasons that I visited was to take care of some of Alex's, well, technical needs. The VA provided him with a new Windows laptop to use at home with the Dragon Speak voice recognition software. When Linda picked up the pc, none of the software had been installed. Due to some technical glitches that left him with an unknown password, I wound up having to re-install the operating system. They also did not have the password to Alex's wireless router, so I had to reset the router and then get his laptop reconnected to it. (Who would have believed ten years ago how our lives would come to be ruled by passwords.) This was pretty straightforward but, it seems, these things never go as easily as they should. After re-installing the operating system, I discovered that Dell had not included a disk of the drivers, including the wireless network drivers. I finally got everything back in working order. I next installed the Dragon Speak software which went pretty smoothly. (Alex now has to spend about a half hour training it to recognize his speaking habits. I just hope the software is better at it than I am!) My last computer task was to install Microsoft Office. I then discovered that the version of Office that the VA provided was the Student version that does not include their email software, Outlook. This doesn't seem serious, but since Alex has to manage several email accounts, Outlook would make doing so with Dragon Speak much simpler. Linda will be checking with the VA this week to see if they will upgrade it.
This brings up a point that Alex and I discussed. I have had a number of folks email me to say that they were glad that Alex is home so that they can now email him. Unfortunately, Alex still has a way to go working with the Dragon Speak software and getting all of the kinks out before he will be back "on-line." For the near future, he will not be able to respond easily to individual emails and folks should not expect a response. As you might expect, the number of emails that he will be getting will be somewhat overwhelming. I think that, once he feels comfortable with the Dragon Speak email, he will send out a general email to folks to let them know that he has returned "on-line". In truth, for the near future, much of his time will be given to readjusting to being home, a continued regimen of therapy and other activities that will take much of his time. The last seven months have left in a state where he is easily tired and he spends much of his "free" time resting.
All in all, Alex is very happy to be home. We talked while he had a delicious late lunch prepared by Carolyn. She had bought some of their canned heirloom green beans that she said they had grown for over 30 years using seeds from the previous season. Along with glazed sweet potatoes and ham, Alex is making up for the seven months of mediocre fare.
I should add that Linda has done a great job of getting the house modified to accept Alex's powered chair. With the help of her son, John, they had repainted much of the interior which, I am sure, has helped Alex with the transition. And Linda continues to work with the VA and their insurance to get Alex as much home therapy and assistance as possible. Anyone that has had to deal with these folks knows what a chore this can be.
I finally had to take leave of them to return home to take care of my girls. I know Alex is in good hands with Carolyn and Faye and especially Linda. Looks like I will probably be headed back pretty soon to get Outlook up and running.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, February 13, 2012:
Just wanted to let everyone know that Alex was released today and is now resting at his home in Franklin. I have not talked with Linda, but I am sure she has her hands full right now. I hope to talk with her soon and, hopefully, to get up to Franklin this weekend. Their friends, Carolyn Keller and Faye Bell, have been there the past few days and will be there to assist them for this first week or so.
I did talk with Linda briefly yesterday and I know that both her and Alex were anxious to leave the hospital. There were some last minute issues with his chair that had to be ironed out this morning prior to leaving.
I apologize for not having more information at this point, but I knew that many of you would like to know that, after seven months in hospitals, he is finally home.
As always. . .
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, January 31, 2012:
I spent a few hours with Alex this past Sunday. He continues in good spirits but is really counting the days till he can go home. While he will miss the opportunities for regular PT and OT sessions, almost seven months in hospitals is beginning to wear quite thin. Linda is working with his health insurance and the VA to continue his therapy when he gets home. The details are still in the works.
On his powered chair, his therapist has managed to squeeze just a little more out of the height and he now can be accommodated with a side entrance mini-van rather than rear entrance. This will assure that he is able to load and unload inside the garage. They are also fitting his chair with another electronic unit that will allow him to use his head unit to control such things as his telephone, TV, etc. This will be very important when he gets home while he continues to exercise and build strength and mobility in his right hand.
He continues to work with his therapist to learn to use the Dragon Naturally Speaking software. As I mentioned before, this program will allow him to control his computer with his voice. This will open opportunities to him that I know will provide him freedom that he presently does not have. I hope to provide more information on this as he progresses.
His last two weekends at the VA will be busy. His longtime friend, Alan Beattie, will be with him next weekend from California. Linda will be down for a few hours on Saturday to visit with Alex and Allen. I believe that he and Allen have a Super Bowl party planned for Sunday. The following weekend, he and Linda will begin the transition from his hospital room that will see him finally getting home on Feb. 14, St. Valentine's Day.
Barring any changes in Alex's status, I probably will not post another email until he is home. In fact, I will probably not see him till he's back in Franklin. Until then, we can only continue to. . .
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, January 16, 2012:
On Saturday, I was able to spend some time with Alex and Linda in Memphis. When I arrived, he was back in bed after having been up about an hour or so meeting with his Kinesio-therapist. Linda was excited that Alex had received word that he would be able to utilize a rear entry mini-van rather than a side entry full size van. This is very good news since Linda was concerned that a full size van would not fit into their garage. Also, because their driveway entrance is on a hill, it would have been very impractical to "unload" Alex in the drive, leaving him to unload in the street. There are still details to be worked out, but now she can proceed with finding and purchasing a van for his use. (You may remember that the handicap taxi that we used in Augusta was a rear entry mini-van. Alex was quite satisfied with it. However, at that time, his personal power chair had not arrived and they were not sure if the height of his personal chair, which would be taller due to Alex's height, would accommodate the mini-van.)
And they had received even better news earlier that week in a family meeting with their medical team. Alex has been given a discharge date from Memphis of February 14th, which many of you romantics may recognized as St. Valentine's Day. After what will be almost seven and a half months and four different hospitals, Alex is excited to finally be able to spend time at home with Linda and is particularly excited that it is on this date. Of course, this date could change if there are any major setbacks encountered between now and then.
I have had a number of folks that have mentioned visiting with Alex while he is in Memphis. With a discharge date less than a month away, the time is getting short. I know that he already has some of his weekends "booked" with folks that are planning to visit. (We all know how tiring it can be to someone in the hospital, so it would be best not to have too many folks in his room at one time. Besides, he is in a four person ward. The wards are roomy, but it can get quite crowded quickly, especially on weekends. Also, the number of folks in the ward seems to be constantly changing.) If you would like to see Alex before he leaves, please contact Linda through Alex's business email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and coordinate with her. If you would like to visit on a week day, you should probably shoot for after 3pm. His daily therapy schedules are generally an hour each with his Physical, Occupational and Kinesio therapists. He also has other therapists (pulmonary, speech, etc.), feeding and those other things they do to you in hospitals that involve hooking you up to electronic stuff that takes a lot of his time.
He also asked me to re-iterate that, if you wish to send him a card or letter, please send it to his business address at
P.O. Box 681707,
Franklin, TN 37068.
Linda checks this on a regular basis and now can see that he gets it each week. In any event, he prefers to share them with her. While I was there, they delivered a couple of letters that were dated back in December. One had been returned to the sender and had to be remailed. Sending them to Franklin will assure a more timely delivery. Besides, when he is discharged, they will be sure to reach him.
Many folks have asked about sending Alex meals from local Memphis restaurants. I earlier alluded to the fact that some of the patients do in fact order meals sent in. However, Alex let me know that the food at the Memphis VA is MUCH better than at Augusta and, while he appreciates the thought, he is satisfied with the meals he is being served (at least for the time being).
Unfortunately, I don't have any new areas of movement to report. He does continue to increase the range of his movements if ever so slightly. Much of his therapy seems to concentrates on what he can do. I can say that Alex remains optimistic, especially now that he can anticipate being home again. He has bounced back from the "holiday blues". We once again had a conversation regarding what he would like to do once he has regained some control of his life. This in itself gives me confidence in the future.
Keep the Faith!
From Linda Beaton, January 11, 2012:
Until that time, if people want to visit him at the VA, it's best to do so after 3:00 pm Monday through Friday or on the weekend.
He continues to work hard in therapy and is still seeing progress in his recovery. Please keep him in your prayers that he may finally get to come home after seven and one-half months in four different hospitals! We cannot begin to tell you how much your love and support have meant to us.
Be well and love to you all,
From George Flew, January 1, 2012:
This past week I made two trips to visit with Alex in his new digs in Memphis. When I went down on Monday after Christmas, Linda and her son, John, were there. We visited for a while and, with Alex in his power chair, went for a walk around the spinal unit. Linda remarked that the décor of the Memphis facility was more soothing than at Augusta. In particular, the colors were much more muted and not as bright. The facility has a number of courtyards open to the sky with wide hallways and lots of light. (There were even enclosed smoking facilities for those that partake. In Augusta, the vets gathered outside one of the entrances. On the weekend, this entrance was locked and they had to prop a book or some such in the door to keep it from closing.)
It's Alex's luck to have arrived just around Christmas. For the first few days, his therapy was limited awaiting his initial evaluation. Unfortunately, this did not occur before folks started taking off for the holidays. He was actually scheduled for an evaluation this past Wednesday but the person scheduled for the evaluation had to cancel due to a family emergency. Alex hopes to finally get his evaluation next week.
Linda and John left after Alex had lunch. We talked about things of little consequence the remainder of the day. Fact was, Alex was a little down at the time. This is certainly to be expected, what with the holidays and all and him in the hospital for his sixth month. And Linda having to leave wouldn't cheer anyone up. However, I stayed till dinner and fed him his meal and finally had to take my leave. Alex admits that the food in Memphis is much improved over Augusta but, after all, it is hospital food and six months of the same menus repeated on a regular basis can be discouraging.
I returned on Saturday, New Year's Eve. Not only did I want to see Alex, but his brother Neil and sister-in-law Anne were visiting. (They were on their way to Myrtle Beach, SC, to, as they say in Canada, "winter" for the next three months.) They are both lovely people and I had not seen them since they visited Alex in Nashville back in June. With Neil, Anne and Linda there, I found Alex in much better spirits. In fact, the difference in a week was as night and day. Alex had called me the night before to tell me that he was scheduled for kinesiotherapy at 9:30 and wanted to let me know so that I could get there in time to attend with him. When I arrived, his kinesiotherapist, Dave, was just adjusting a head rest gadget that would allow Alex to drive his chair using only his head. He was a little hesitant at first but was able to navigate through the ward with little damage to himself or any innocent by-standers. When he got to the wider hallway, he was able to open it up and practiced his driving. We waited on him in one of the lounge areas while he and Dave motored on down the hall. When he finally returned, he gave us a little demonstration by driving around one of the columns off to the side of the hall. Even spun a few donuts in the middle of the hall. (Being in the middle of the holidays, the halls were quite deserted.)
Here's a picture of Alex and brother Neil. You can see the head rest gadget that Alex was using to steer his chair.
We finally headed on to his kinesiotherapy session. If you are not familiar with KT, it is concerned with improving a person's endurance, mobility and strength. Physical therapy deals more with healing the patients ailment and emphasizing preventative care. Dave strapped Alex's feet into a bicycle machine and he spent the next 15 minutes "pedaling" both forward and backward. Alex can actually feel his right leg resisting the motion though not his left. However, Dave said that he could tell the muscles in his left leg were "firing" which is surely a good sign. Alex says he spends the time in these sessions consciously "visualizing" in his mind making his legs go through the motions. This is designed to reconnect his head to his legs. This is a process that could take some time to accomplish.
After lunch, we all headed to one of the common rooms hoping to use their computer facilities so that Alex could catch up on some things. However, none of us were able to get it connected. When we asked for help from one of the personnel that came in, we were told that they did not know either. (Apparently this was done as a measure to keep the staff from surfing the web.) I'm still figuring how the patients are supposed to figure this out.
Since the room had an excellent large screen TV, we figured that we were meant to watch the Liberty Bowl. We watched it to just past half time and then headed back to Alex's room.
There is some very encouraging news to report on Alex's recovery. He has increased motility in his right hand. This is the hand that he has had movement in for some time. He also is able to move his right leg from side to side, though only over a short distance. Of particular encouragement, he is finally showing some movement in his left hand, though it is only very slight. However, this has been consistent so he is excited about this. (The movement is only in the index and middle fingers. Alex feels that this is probably brought on by the increased political activity with the upcoming elections.)
Many of you have asked why Alex was not moved to Memphis when he first left Shepherd in Atlanta. Initially, they thought that he would be returning to Shepherd in 2-3 weeks for follow up treatment. Augusta is only 2 hours from Atlanta while Memphis is 6+. However, they only found out just before he left that there would not be any opening until December at the earliest and that there was a list even then. By then it was too late to make the switch. However, now that he is in Memphis, I believe that it will be a great boost to him mentally. Not only is Linda within a 3 hour drive, but she is able to come down on a weekly basis. Her trips to Augusta had been bi-weekly at best and demands on her at work were probably going to make it worse after the first of the year. I also feel that, with Linda that far away, Alex probably felt even more isolated. She was also in another time zone that increased the feeling of isolation. Now knowing that she can actually make the trip to Memphis and back home the same day if needs be, I'm sure it is much less of a feeling of isolation.
Before I sign off, I'd like to point out that Alex has posted a personal New Year message on his site. If you would like to read it, you can click on this link: http://www.alexbeaton.com/. I echo his words in knowing that 2012 offers hope for him, for Linda and for all of those that love him. Happy New Year and. . .
Keep the Faith!
by Alex Beaton on Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 8:05am
"Much has happened to me the last few months and I would like to take a minute to thank just a few of the many people that have helped me in this time. First, the trip to the Stone Mountain Games was a highlight and I would like to thank all of the folks that made that possible. Particularly, I would like to thank the medical staff at Shepherd Center including Dr. Bowman, my neurologist, my nurse, Deisha, my occupational therapist, Jenn and especially my Health Tech, John Turner. John, you looked splendid in my Saltire Kilt."
"After spending over two months at the VA in Augusta, GA, I am now here at the VA facility in Memphis, TN. During my stay in Augusta, I received excellent care and would like to thank the very wonderful people who helped me with my rehabilitation. These include my case doctor, Dr. Lorch, Pam Snowdy, my physician's assistant, my OT, Stephanie, and my other therapists, Janelle, Ashley and Julie, and Dr. Lee who not only attended to my medical needs but was also my entertainment coordinator. It was Dr. Lee that arranged for my night with the Irish Fiddler, Kevin Burke, and the Kirking of the Tartans at the Presbyterian Church. I would also like to thank the Nursing Staff of the Spinal Unit and in particular Hector Gonzales."
"And finally, I would like to thank all of you that have supported me with your prayers and cards and I want to wish for everyone a very Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with peace, love and good health."
December 21, 2011
From George Flew, December 22, 2011:
Many of you have told me that you get your updates regarding Alex from me (and for that I feel very humble) and you visit neither his Facebook page nor his web site. I admit to not partaking of the Facebook cool aid myself. However, he has posted a personal Christmas message on his web site that you may wish to see. To do so, just click on this link: http://www.alexbeaton.com/. (If the link fails to open, just type the address in your Internet browser.)
As we approach the climax of this Christmas season and the culmination of this most extraordinary year, I would like to thank all of you who have sent me kind words in this tragic period in all of our lives. With every email I send, and the list is now well over a hundred, I get numerous responses, some with a simple thanks and others with more lengthy messages. Some have questions that I take time to answer if I can and many ask me to pass their love and/or information along to Alex and Linda. However, they are too numerous to respond to each and every one but I want to assure you that I do read them all. (And let me say that I am neither encouraging anyone to stop nor to start replying. The fact that no one has asked to be removed from the list says enough.)
All of my life I have been a student of words and I do believe that it is not only important what is said but also how it is said. Among the many emails I have received is one from Claire Browne. She has had her own share of trials and tribulations in her life recently but she found the strength to put her thoughts together very elegantly. I trust that she will not mind my sharing them with you.
"We're reminded daily of just how fragile life is, and that it can change in an instant. But through the sadness, I find joy in Christmas as we celebrate the birth of the Savior.
Thanks for all the news you send us about Alex - we care about him very much and pray for his recovery. But if that is not the Lord's will, I pray that He'll use Alex's life and circumstances in a mighty way."
Merry Christmas and Keep the Faith!
From George Flew, December 20, 2011:
I'm glad to report that Alex arrived in Memphis on Monday without any incident. They left out of Augusta at about 12:20 am and arrived in Memphis on Monday just in time to hit the morning rush hour.
The report so far is good. His assigned physician is Dr. Samuel. He has met his Occupational and Physical Therapists and is anxious to get back into therapy. I understand that they may get in him into his wheelchair tomorrow. (By the way, he received his own personal powered wheelchair in Augusta just before he left along with a non-powered wheelchair and a transfer lift to assist with getting in and out of bed. They all made it to Memphis.)
One of their first observations was that Alex would need a longer bed. I had told him that he was 6'4, give or take, but they didn't seem to remember. His room is also set up to use voice commands for things such as the nurse call and to operate the head and foot sections of the bed.
He also reports that the food, at least so far, is better. All in all, he is satisfied with his new digs.
I talked with Linda this evening and she was just arriving home and said that the shorter trip was really nice. She will be in Franklin tomorrow for the installation of the lift in the garage and will be going back to Memphis tomorrow night or on Thursday morning. I believe her plans are to remain in Memphis through New Year. Though, with home so close she could easily zip there and back the same day. (A real bonus to the trip to and from Memphis is that she will not have to negotiate Chattanooga and it's infamous Missionary Ridge nor Atlanta, both of which can wear a person out by themselves.)
I will be going down to visit with Alex and Linda on Monday after Christmas. I should be able to give you more detail on his new accommodations. And I hope to stop by and get him some good Memphis bar-b-que (not to mention some for me). Until then . . . .
Keep the faith.
From George Flew, December 17, 2011:
Many of you have asked about the "We Love Alex" flags. They are now available on his site. If you would like to order some, go to:
A set of 4 flags is $20 plus shipping. Order as many sets as you please. If you order now, you should (no guarantee) receive them in time to use as "stocking stuffers". While you are on the site, you might want to pick a copy (or 2 or 3) of his Christmas Classics cd.
Alex is still on schedule to make the transfer to Memphis late Sunday night for arrival on Monday by noon. Linda is there helping him get prepared. He took a trip to the stylist today to get "gussied up" for the move. I know that, while Alex is anxious to make the change, he has made a number of friends at Augusta that he will dearly miss.
I hope to get down to Memphis late next week after he has settled in though it being the week before Christmas, I'm not sure if I will make it. However, I will go down on Monday after Christmas and will let you know he is taking to the new digs.
Until then, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and keep the faith. . . .
From George Flew, December 14, 2011:
I received a call from Alex yesterday to inform me that he had been approved to transfer to the VA in Memphis. He is scheduled to be transported Sunday night at midnight via ambulance so that he will be able to check in around noon on Monday. He was in good spirits and is looking forward to the move. This will put him much closer to Linda and she will be able to visit with him more frequently without as much impact on her job. They are both looking forward to the change. It probably could not come at a better time with Christmas just around the corner.
I talked with Linda last night and she plans to make the trip down to Augusta the next few days. She will follow the ambulance to Memphis and make sure that "her man" gets settled in with as little trouble as possible.
I did a recon of the hospital last week and spent a lot of time talking with the Nurse Manager and the Chief MD for the Spinal Cord unit. I think Alex will receive excellent care there. (One of the social workers asked, when I mention that Alex was born and raised in Glasgow, if he still has an accent. When I told her yes, she was very excited.)
Also, this past weekend, his youngest daughter, Catie, visited along with her grandmother. Alex enjoyed the visit immensely and is looking forward to future visits in Memphis. (Memphis is certainly easier to get to from California than Augusta.)
Hope to have a follow up report after Alex gets settled in. Until then . . . .
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, November 27, 2011:
(I wrote the following early last week and had hoped to get out on Thanksgiving Day. However, circumstances prevented that and I was out visiting with my daughter, Amy, and just returned home yesterday. Since the email was delayed, I decided to speak with Alex or Linda before sending it out. I just got off of the phone with Linda who is on her way from home Augusta back to Franklin. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to talk with Alex this weekend.)
Just a brief email to bring folks up to date on Alex. For the past several weeks, Alex has been suffering from a respiratory problem. At first he had some congestion in his lungs, but they are currently clear. They initially performed a bronchoscopy (i.e. they scoped his lungs) where they discovered some fluid and, oddly enough, a pea. (Now, according to Alex, he insisted they perform a biopsy and Alex got the word back that it was what he feared --- an English Pea!)
As a result of this problem, he has missed much of his PT and OT for the last three weeks. Unfortunately, this means his discharge from Augusta will be delayed from December 19 until at least January 11. Both Alex and Linda are naturally disappointed that he will not be home for the holidays, but, as always, their number one concern is Alex's continued therapy and improvement. As usual, Alex accepts this setback as he has this entire ordeal and focuses on the positive rather than the negative.
While Alex has been working on his physical improvement, Linda has been diligently working on improvements at their home. This has included working to get a lift installed (to allow Alex to sleep in the house rather than the garage) and increasing the doorway opening widths to accommodate a motorized wheelchair. She is also looking for a disabled van with capacity for his tall wheelchair that will also fit in their garage.
I get a lot of requests from folks that would like to visit with Alex but are not sure when or how to get it set up. While Alex would welcome visits at any time, during the week it would have to be limited to the evening due to his PT and OT. However, many folks visit during the week which helps Alex breakup the week. If you would like to coordinate a time when you will be in Augusta, you can get in touch with Linda through Alex's email account at email@example.com.
Alex continues to keep his spirit up and is looking forward to finally getting some time back home. Until then, he puts 150% into every therapy session. He also would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.
(The following is from my conversation with Linda this afternoon.)
Linda spent Thanksgiving and the entire weekend with Alex. She reports that his respiratory condition is much better and, indeed, his general condition has improved over what it was a few weeks ago. (From my own experience, I can guarantee that her presence these past four days has contributed as much as anything.) However, the time spent in bed has its own impact on his situation. He is looking forward to getting back to his regular PT and OT routines as soon as he can.
Linda reported that he ate well while she was there. His Thanksgiving day meal was a traditional meal with all of the trimmings that was donated by one of the local churches. (We should all take a moment to give a special thanks for those that support our troops and our vets.) She also brought him meals from his favorite places including Ihop and Olive Garden. (Alex and I have shared a couple of Egg McMuffins from Mickey Dees on many occasions and I trust his meals included that since there is one just next door to the hospital.)
Alex continues to have friends drop by and he sends his thanks to those that are able to do so.
Continue to keep the faith…
From George Flew, November 2, 2011:
This past weekend I accompanied Linda on her bi-weekly visit to Alex in Augusta. We arrived shortly after 5pm and found Alex in a very cheerful mood. His friend, Amy Brady, had arranged for a pair of tickets for Linda and Alex to attend "An Evening of Traditional Irish Music" featuring Irish fiddler Kevin Burke and guitarist Cal Scott. Linda had arranged for the only handi-cap accessible cab in the entire city of Augusta to pick us up and drive us the 4-5 blocks to the event which went without a hitch. We arrived a little early and were able to secure excellent seats.
Alex & Linda at "An Evening of Traditional Irish Music"
After the concert, I stepped out to see if our taxi had arrived at 10pm as promised. I went back to find Alex talking with Kevin Burke. Of course, Alex knew him and they were discussing old times. Unfortunately, after 11pm the taxi had still not arrive even though phone calls assured us that it was on the way. Alex tires easily and, to make things worse, he had been out the night before to a hockey game and had not got into bed until midnight. Finally we called the hospital and two of his tech aides, Hector and John, arrived in a pick-up truck. We spent about 30 minutes trying to decide the best way to get Alex from his chair into the truck. Finally, Hector, a large man himself, grabbed Alex in a bear hug and, while John made sure his feed did not get in a bind and Linda made sure his head did not hit the door frame and I held the wheel chair (and basically stayed out of the way) heaved him into the front seat of the truck. After the short drive back to the hospital, they reversed the procedure and quickly had him back into the wheel chair. (I have been around medical folks that are trained to deal with patients that are basically "dead weight" and they know how to pull this off. And they generally don't want us "civilians" getting in the way.) With that, we got Alex back to his room and, for the second night in a row, he got to bed after midnight.
The next morning Alex was scheduled for PT at 10:15. I arrived around 9:30 with some breakfast from Mickey Dees including a Big Breakfast with pancakes for Alex. Before I had arrived, Alex had had a visit from his primary doctor. He complained that he was tired from the two late nights and, besides, he had company, and would like to skip PT that morning. I believe the doctor's reply went something like "Mr. Beaton, you're here for therapy, not to party!" So after breakfast we headed on down to the "gym" for PT. We were greeted by his PTs for the morning, Catie and Nichole (not his regular PTs), and what Alex referred to as the usual group of characters. This included a retired 4-star general!
Alex with Catie and Nichole
Alex turned on the charm and was able to negotiate his therapy down to some leg exercises and practice driving his wheel chair around an obstacle course – both forward and backward. While Alex has shown only a little increase in the range of movement in his right hand, he has gained more control. One of his main goals is to be able to independently drive his wheel chair before he is discharged in December. This will require that he increase his range of motion so that he can move his hand into the cradle of his joy stick and move his joy stick through its full range and also increase his strength. As Alex navigated the course, his fellow patients both cajoled him and urged him on. I must say that the backwards passes didn't look easy even for someone without a disability.
Sunday morning we attended a Kirking of the Tartans at Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church. Alex had been invited by Dr. Lee, his urologist, who sings in the choir. We once again booked the handi-cap cab. We were picked up by the same gentleman that had taken us to the concert on Friday night. His name is Willie and Alex remarked that he sounded like James Earl Jones. (Though Willie had taken us to the concert, he had arranged for another gentleman to pick us up.) When Linda told Willie that his replacement never arrived, he got very upset and said that he would call to "discuss the situation" with him.
We arrived early and were "entertained" by a couple of the Elders prior to the start of the service. We learned that Reid is quite famous as the church attended by Pres. Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower during the winter back in the 50's. There are a number of plaques commemorating them and the pew they sat in each Sunday.
The service was very good with the music being provided by the Palmetto Pipes and Drums. After the service, Dr. Lee fetched the Pipe Major, Billy Dubose, who Alex knew. It was obvious that Billy was not aware of Alex's condition. He squatted beside Alex to speak to him and, when he rose, tears were streaming down his face. After the service, we were invited to the pot luck lunch where Alex and Billy got an additional opportunity to talk. While we were eating, a family came up to Alex to say "Hi" and the kids (mid to late teens) told Alex that they had listened to his cds since they were small kids. As always, Alex finds fans wherever he goes.
After the luncheon, we went out to await the arrival of the cab. Alex got a little chilled so Linda put his tartan comforter over him and then a scarf on his head. I added my hat and, viola, he became (in his own words) Ali Baa Baa. Finally, Willie picked us up and transported us back to the VA Hospital.
Alex aka Ali Baa Baa
Finally time came for us to go and, after hugs and kisses all around, Linda and I headed back to Tennessee. As we left Augusta, I once again took heart that Alex is maintaining his positive outlook and working hard to recover as much as possible. And as we approached Franklin, a waning moon hung huge and orange just on the horizon. All in all, a fitting end to a fine weekend. . . .
Keep the faith,
Many folks have asked how to get some of the "I Love Alex" flags that were sported by many at the Stone Mountain Games. If you would like several, you can email Beth Arnold at firstname.lastname@example.org. I understand that she can ship you 4 for $20 or 6 for $30 (includes postage) and that all sales, less postage cost, will got to Alex to help defray his medical costs.
From George Flew, October 17, 2011:
As promised, I made the trip to the Stone Mountain Games and so did Alex. Alex arrived just in time for the opening ceremonies. He was given a place of honor next to the main tent and was introduced along with Linda to a rousing cheer and applause. Several hundred flags had been made that read "We Love Alex" complete with his Glenfinnan logo. Selling for 2 for $5 to help raise money for Alex, they were displayed throughout the games at Clan tents, vendors and entertainment stages much to Alex's delight.
From the opening ceremonies, he was pushed up the hill by his now friend, John Turner (I named him as John Pinkerton in my previous email but I stand corrected) to his sales tent that was manned by Carolyn Keller & Faye Bell. Here he met his fans while being serenaded by Jil Chambless and Scooter Muse, who were performing on what would have been Alex's stage and who performed many of his songs along with their own. Jil was quite moved to see Alex and his friends and fans and found it hard to hold back her emotions during several of the songs. (I'm sure it was exacerbated by the fact that many of the songs she was singing tended to be sad.)
From his sales tent, he wandered down to visit with Bob and Arra Mae Mathieson. (Bob and Arra Mae raise Heiland Coos on the M3 Ranch on the side of a mountain in North Carolina.) He mosied on by the McPherson tent to stop and chat with JT and then on down to the entertainment stage where Rathkeltair was playing. When he spied Alex in the audience, Neil Anderson, the piper for the band, stopped playing in the middle of their song to announce that "Alex Beaton, father of musical performers at the Scottish Games, was in the audience" which brought on a great cheer from the crowd. Alex and Neil have a special bond with Alex supporting Neil when he started in the business.
Alex spent the entire afternoon surrounded by his adoring fans and friends. I don't think you could pry the smile off of his face with a crowbar. He was scheduled to leave at three pm but didn't get away till closer to five. Linda said later that Alex remained awake and talked the entire trip back to Augusta. (I would have personally been drained, but I believe Alex literally drew energy from those that surrounded him.) He remarked later that night to Linda that, anytime he felt the weight of his situation bearing down, he could think back on this day and take strength from all that were there in body and in spirit.
I do not know of a better way to close this email than this. Except, of course, I have included a few pictures to share with you.
Alex with John Turner decked out in Alex's Saltire Kilt and Jim Thompson (Drum Major for Atlanta Pipes & Drums)
Alex gets a little attention from one of his many fans
Linda holding a "We Love Alex" flag with Arra Mae Matheison
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, October 12, 2011:
Just a quick note to let you know that Alex was cleared today for a day out this weekend. So he will be going to the Stone Mountain Games after all. I know he was looking forward to this and now he will be able to do it.
When Alex first arrived at Shepherd, he was surprised by what he described as "a large black man" that came into his room singing some Scottish song that few know the words to. (You'll have to check with Alex go get name of the song.) This large man, one John Pinkerton by name, turned out to be not only one of his aids, but fascinated with the Scottish culture. He and Alex quickly bonded as Alex described growing up and living in Scotland. As I understand it, Alex and Linda will stop by to pick John up on the way to the Games. He will be decked out in one of Alex's own kilts complete with sporran. I was not so fortunate as to meet John while Alex was in Shepherd so I also look forward to meeting him this weekend.
When I talked to Alex this evening, he sounded to be in the best of spirits I have heard in quite a while. Pam and Merv Forney stopped by on their way to the Games and have been there since Tuesday. They have seen that Alex's dinner has been most agreeable with him. So having had an excellent meal, having the good news that he would be at the Games and having his good friends, the Forney's, present he was flying quite high.
I will pass on anything I get while visiting with Alex this weekend including pictures of him and John. Till then. . . .
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, October 9, 2011:
Alex has been at the Charlie Norwood VA facility in Augusta, GA, for a little over a week now. For those wondering how Alex made it into a VA facility, he is a veteran having served three years back during the Vietnam era. (Fortunately, he did not serve in a war theater.) He even qualified on an M16 with only a single shot! Ask him about it, he'll be glad to tell you of his unique marksmanship.
I spoke with Alex last night and he said that there was good news and, well, not so good news. The good news is he is getting some excellent PT. He was scheduled for over 5 hours today and he was looking forward to it. One of his exercises involves sitting up on the floor mat with his arms slightly extended behind him palm down. He is able to support himself and get some push with his deltoids. And the therapists are very caring. (I have not met nor heard of a PT that wasn't absolutely dedicated to their work and their patients.)
On the not so good news sides - the food is not up to Alex's standards. Beth Arnold described it as a mix of the worst hospital food you ever ate AND the worst military food you ever ate. That said, he told me that his dinner that night was a pretty good lasagna. So maybe the food is not quite as bad as reported. (I never really served in the military but Dad used to make SOS. I didn't know what SOS stood for until I as about 18. But I knew that it wasn't very good!)
Alex got his own power wheel chair this week. He is not yet able to raise his arm and grip a joystick. But they use a u-shaped adapter on the joy stick that allows his hand to rest between the two vertical risers and gives him the ability to steer the wheel chair. He's still working to master this given his limited movement. A u-shaped joy stick adapter similar to the one Alex is using.
The VA will be providing Alex a new pc after he's discharged. After all of these years of being a Mac man, he will enter the world of Windows. (This may be his biggest challenge yet.) This pc will include a wonderful program called Dragon Naturally Speaking. This powerful software will allow him to run standard programs using speech (without using the keyboard). Once he has mastered this, he will be able to run many programs without assistance thus opening up his access to word processing and email.
Alex is still hoping to make it to the Stone Mountain Games next weekend. However, he will not know for sure until next Wednesday. They will evaluate him then and make a decision. I wish I could say one way or the other for sure, but we'll just have to wait.
Alex will remain at the Augusta facility until mid-December. He is encouraging anyone that is in the vicinity of Augusta to stop by and visit. Or, if you don't live close but just want to get out and drive, do so. He is typically in PT from 9-5 Mon-Fri but his evenings are open as well as weekends.
If you would like to visit, please contact Linda at email@example.com and she will coordinate it. And continue to send you cards and letters to:
c/o Glenfinnan Music
P.O. Box 681707
Franklin, TN. 37068
Alex has great hope that, with the help of the dedicated PT's at Charlie Norwood, he will make progress while he's there. We can help with our cards and prayers.
Keep the faith,
From George Flew, September 26, 2011:
Just a quick email to bring you up to date. Alex will make his move to the VA facility in Augusta tomorrow morning. Linda has asked that you send your future cards and letters to his Glenfinnan address in Franklin. For the foreseeable future, she will be spending her weekdays in Franklin and her weekends with Alex. Since the length of his stay is not yet known, it would probably not be advisable to try to send anything directly to the VA. (You, of course, are welcome to try.) His address in Franklin is:
P.O. Box 681707
Franklin, TN. 37068
I spoke briefly with Alex this weekend and he continues in good spirits. His voice continues to get stronger and that is a good sign. His breathing still gives him a problem from a vocal standpoint as he is not yet able to take a deep, sustained breath. This is part of that autonomic thing I mentioned earlier and should also improve over time. His old friend and fellow songwriter, Ron Eisenberg, was down from New York and I understand that the nurses didn't get a minutes rest. I believe Ron wrote "Pipes in the Glenn" and, possibly, "If My Memory Serves Me Well" with Alex so their relationship goes back many years (and many tears ago. . .or maybe that shoulda been beers ago).
I hope to get a good update from Alex once he is settled in Augusta. However, that may not be till next weekend since I do not know what the telephone situation will be until he arrives and gets settled in. By that time, Linda should know if he will be able to get a day or overnight pass to make the trip to the Stone Mountain Games. As soon as I know, I will pass the information on since I know that some of you may try to make it if he is there.
Till I hear more from Alex…
Keep the faith,
From Carrie Martin, September 20, 2011:
George....I too will be at the [Stone Mountain] Games...and would love to hang with you.
From George Flew, September 20, 2011:
I had a brief conversation with Alex Sunday and he continues to have a great attitude. While he has high hopes of a full recovery, he remains realistic that he might have to accept something less. However, he continues to give 200% in his various rehab classes; last week he had three voice rehabs the same day. He says his vocal therapists believe he has an excellent chance of regaining his pre-mishap vocal ability, but for now suffers with a very gravelly voice resulting from the tracheotomy. He's come a long way though since the time I spent with him when he was unable to speak at all.
The only thing that seems to really frustrate him is when, due to some reason beyond his control, he has to miss his therapy. His biggest desire at this point is to get in as much PT, OT, VT and any other therapy as possible. And he continues to express his thanks to those that are lifting him up with their cards, their comments on his Facebook page and their prayers.
The remainder of our conversation revolved around more mundane matters such as how well his Iowa Hawkeyes did in football this past weekend. And how badly my Tennessee Vols did.
Just as I was ready to send this, I got a phone call from Linda. She's in Franklin and as usual, she's juggling her job, Alex's insurance, modifications she needs to make to the house and three or four more things I won't even mention. However, she called to say that Alex has been approved for the VA facility in Augusta. He will be transferred next Tuesday. His stay could be from two to four weeks. She spoke with the admissions person and asked if it would be possible for Alex to get a day pass to come to Atlanta for the [Stone Mountain] Games (assuming he is still there). She was told that they did give day passes but she would have to talk with someone else about it. When he is discharged from the VA, he will come back to Shepherd so it's possible he will be back there anyway. I know that Alex would like nothing better than to put in an appearance at the Games. I'll be there.
I know that this is quite brief. However, the past few weeks have seen Alex slugging it out in the trenches. I know that the future holds much good for Alex and Linda.
Keep the faith,
From Alex HIMSELF, September 14, 2011:
This week was filled with highs and lows but it has been a good week all in all. The biggest health news is that on 9/6, my trach was taken out and now I am breathing and speaking completely on my own!!! No ventilator, no supplemental oxygen. My voice is weak and raspy but now I can begin working with the therapist to build my vocal strength. Although I can't talk as much right now as I could last week, I know this is a big step to gaining my voice back.
The biggest personal news is that for the first time in more than two months, I went outside (without being in an ambulance)! The hospital sponsored an outing on Wednesday. We went down to the parking lot, loaded up on a big bus, and we went to the theater. I had a date with Linda and we saw the new Harry Potter movie – I have a wonderful wife and it was so nice to be out with her!!
Now that I covered the high points, here are a few other items:
My feeding tube was removed at the end of August and I am "enjoying" hospital food.* I continue to increase the movement in my right hand and arm. Each week I see more progress and with support at my elbow, I can move my arm several inches both front to back and side to side.
Although my left arm remains "asleep," I do have a tingling sensation in all of my fingers. This could in part be from the bruising that extends over most of my spinal cord and could take more than 90 days to heal.
*Until I have better control of my arms, I use straw-like devices to communicate and drive my wheelchair. This technology allows me to change the channels on my TV, call for a nurse, and operate my chair.
*Also on Labor Day, the hospital was under a tornado watch for several hours. Linda, our friend Beth Arnold, and I spent the time in the hallway with my neighbors and the hospital staff. Fortunately, there was no damage or injury from the storm and we got to enjoy some time visiting with other patients.
*At this time we (and by we, I mean Linda) are still working with the Veterans Administration to coordinate admission to a VA hospital in Augusta GA that focuses on spinal cord injuries. If accepted, they will help with a portion of some large expense items like wheelchair ramps and modifications to our home.
Linda has returned to Franklin to work full time in the office, as opposed to working full time remotely. It has been such a blessing having her at my side through this ordeal and she has handled it all with grace and efficiency. Although I miss her terribly, she was asked to come back into the office and must do just that. She will be returning on the weekends and we will treasure that time together.
Again, I want to thank each of you for the love, prayers and support I receive every day. I draw strength and energy from you and I know that I am truly blessed!
From Carrie Martin, Grace Fellowship Church member and visitor to Alex, September 14, 2011:
George ....It was a pleasure to have our very brief conversation on the phone before I left Alex tonight!! God Bless you in mighty ways!!! Your emails have eased my heart on many occasions.
Spent 3 hours with our man today!!!...he is such a wonderful conversationalist and story teller. He "relished" recounting the love story of him and Linda, he shared stories of his home place in Franklin Tenn...(which he describes as "Heaven") ... and his descriptions of Scotland were vivid and lush (which at that point in our conversation ...he and I both shed tears....and I was privileged to wipe them from his face).
Alex knows he has much to share...that he is here for a grand purpose. His resilience is awe inspiring and has left me humbled and determined. I'm in for the long haul....keep up the dialog with Heaven on his behalf!!
Check out his tee shirt..."Life is Good'....
Alex and Carrie Martin
From George Flew, September 5, 2011:
Just got back from Atlanta and couldn't wait to report on Alex's progress. First, let me remind you that I haven't seen him since July 30, so I knew that I was going to be blown away by his appearance. And I wasn't disappointed. When I arrived, Beth met me at the parking garage and guided me to his room. There he set in his chair, hair combed and a big smile on his face…and a familiar "Hello, George" as only Alex says it with that Scottish brogue. Yes, he looked "mahvaleous" and he sounded even better. After hugs and kisses, he proceeded to bring me up to date.
On the day he arrived, he said not less than 20 doctors, nurses, therapists and other specialists (maybe even the cleaning folks) showed up to welcome him to Shepherd and explain what they would be doing and what their roles would be during his stay. To paraphrase, he said "My faith in my recovery went up sky high that day!" And I could see in his eye and his smile that he meant every word of it.
I hope I can enumerate all of the positive information I got while I was there. As I reported earlier, they have taken him completely off of the feeding tube and they finally removed it last week. (Unofficially I heard that a great deal of hot air was released before they got the hole plugged but I was unable to confirm this. However, enough seems to have remained to leave him virtually intact on that point.) His lungs have completely cleared of the pneumonia though the trach remains in place due to some congestion that still causes him problems. This is just precautionary and he hopes that it will be removed quite soon. I must report that he did "hock a loogie" once or twice during the visit (that would be "expectorate some phlegm" for the more genteel) so the congestion is still with him. The trach is also inhibiting the recovery of his voice which remains weak and raspy. (Perhaps I should say, more raspy than normal.)
He was anxious to demonstrate the motility that he has regained in his right arm and hand. He is able to move all of his fingers, though I again want to emphasize that the motion is not great and, in some fingers, is very slight. However, as we know, a baby must slither on their belly before they can crawl. There is still much work to be done. He also can now move his hand slightly up and down at the wrist. And with Linda supporting his elbow and hand, he moved his arm forward and backward about 6-8 inches. And he can swing his hand, pivoting his forearm at the elbow, from straight ahead to about 6 inches to the left. Again, this is all on his right side.
His left side remains "asleep" as Alex put it. (While doing "range of motion" exercises on his left arm, Linda was surprised to feel some "resistance" to her movements. This was a surprise to Alex since he had not done anything voluntarily. I mention this only as an indication that all is not forsaken at this point. Alex did say that he continues to get a "prickling" sensation in his left hand much as he did in his right at one time.) Linda says that, the night of the accident, there was some slight scraping on the left side of Alex's head with may indicate that that was the side that hit first and may explain the reluctance of the left side to "wake up".
Linda, Alex and George
If you don't want to hear any negative stuff, please feel free to skip this, and the next, paragraph. The bruising to Alex's spinal cord has not healed and may not for a while yet. It is not uncommon for these types of bruises to linger for 90 days or more. And the bruising extends over most of his spinal cord, again, not uncommon for this injury. However, the resulting loss of normal nerve function plays havoc with his autonomic system. For instance, his diaphragm, which is important in his breathing (and which, in a cow, provides excellent fajitas) causes him to him to have to break up his talking as he breaths. His diaphragm problem contributed to his oxygenation problem that caused the doctors to keep him on the ventilator as a precaution. Which reminds me, he is now totally off of supplemental oxygen, even the nasal cannula (the thingy they loop around your ear and stick in your nose) meaning that his lungs are fully capable of keeping his O2 level up. The screwy autonomic system also messes with his internal heat regulator which causes him to have cool spells. And, not to linger here, causes problems with the so called "bodily functions". Which can bring on some humorous situations. Let me just say that, between Beth and I, Alex will never be able to speak of the "Highland Clearances" again without at least a smile on his face. I believe Alex put it as "there are still issues related to the injury." The autonomic problems should certainly lessen over time and, for the most part, should clear with the bruising.
Alex also wanted me to relay a bit of information that is not commonly known. One of the most important items that the autonomic system regulates is the heart beat. While in the ICU in Nashville, Alex experience irregular heartbeats that his medical staff felt could lead to more severe difficulties under his circumstance. As a result, they implanted a pacemaker. It is Alex's hope that this will be temporary; however, that will remain under review. Since that time, he has not experienced any problems with his heart rate and all is well in that department.
If you are suffering info overload, you might want to take a break. But I would like to mention some odds and ends that you may appreciate. Until he regains sufficient use of one of his hands, he is using "blow tubes" to control his environment as much as he can. For instance, he has a red tube that clamps to his bed or chair that he can use to call the nurse. He has several that he uses to actually operate his powered chair. One is used to tilt his chair back into what I would call the "blast off position". This he has to do every twenty minutes to take weight off of his tail bone. He kept attempting to use "circular breathing" to raise or lower himself without stopping. (Circular breathing is continuing to blow (or suck) through the mouth will breathing through the nose. Watch a piper, not many can do it, but some can. Alex uses his friend, Eric Reigler, as his example and model.) He can also use his blow tube to drive his chair. We took a trip up to the 7th floor to a very nice visitation room and Alex drove there and back again. As he explains it, he uses various levels of blows and sucks to go forward or backward and steer. (His descriptions of soft and hard blows and sucks started its own round of bawdy comments.) Going, he kept the chair in "1st gear" or what Alex calls "turtle speed". We had to walk quite slowly. However, on the return, he had Linda crank it up to 2nd gear (there are 4 all together). (Picture nurses jumping on counters and people running in rooms and slamming their doors.) We made it back without incident or having to call the maintenance crew for repairs.
He also did some kind of artistic work using a 14" brush that he held in his mouth. He was able to paint a face that they will use to decorate a pumpkin for next weekend. (It took him four tries to get something he liked, but it was less time than it takes to introduce "The Gallant Murray"!) I believe he was quite proud of his work. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see it.
Several folks have asked me about visiting Alex in the hospital. Up until now, this has been somewhat less than convenient, considering all that has gone on. However, Alex asked me to let folks know that he feels in much better shape to accept visitors now. Visiting hours are 4pm till 9pm on weekdays. Weekends are not as strict. However, as we all know how it is at the hospital, they come in at all times of the night wanting samples of this or that, or to wake you up so you can take a sleeping pill or just to let you know the shift has changed. I would recommend that afternoons are best for weekends. And to keep the entire Beatonite Nation from showing up at the same time, you should contact him first through his firstname.lastname@example.org email. Linda checks his business emails and will coordinate with Alex on this.
Alex's current schedule looks like this (though it is subject to change). They plan to discharge him on Sept 28 from Shepherd. Linda feels pretty certain that he will go from there to the VA facility in Augusta, GA, for two weeks. He will then come back to Shepherd for another two weeks. (I'm sorry, but I didn't really get why they are shuffling him around. If I find out, I'll pass it along.) If my calculations are right, that will put him back in Atlanta at the time of the Stone Mountain Games. And Alex has hinted that, if he is in Atlanta and they will let him out, he would like to make some kind of appearance at the Games. I have to really emphasize that the stars will have to align correctly (not to mention he will have to get a release from the hospital) for this to happen. And hospitals are notorious for being concerned about their "liability". I mention this so that if you might have planned to come to the Games and are wondering whether to pull out, you might want to hold on to your reservations. As the schedule gets closer, this should become clearer. But it might not be final until the last minute. (I'm hedging like hell here because I don't want to feel responsible for someone getting stuck with an airline ticket or something.)
In closing can't emphasize enough how great Alex's attitude and his desire to improve are. He continues with a very positive outlook on his condition though he realizes that it could quite easily take years to reach the end of the journey. He also continues to express how much your concern for him gives him and Linda strength in this battle. And I want again say what a trooper Linda is. She daily continues to balance her work, Alex's business, insurance fights, scrambling with the VA and, of course, being a loving wife to Alex. She deserves a medal of her own.
As always, keep the faith,
From John, August 28, 2011:
From George Flew, August 28, 2011:
On the other hand, his lungs are much better and they expect them to clear up completely in a short time. He is also spending as much as 10 hours a day sitting in a chair. They have begun therapy raising him into a "standing" position. Because he has been prone for so long, he is unable to rise to a full ninety degrees without getting dizzy. So they are "tilting" him as much as possible without his head spinning. He up to about 70-80 degrees so far. This is just another of those things that will take some time to recover.
They have been exercising his muscles by stimulating them externally. If you have had any amount of physical therapy or therapy by a chiropractor, you may have had this. The feeling is an intense tingling/multi-pin prick feeling that causes the muscle to contract. When they apply it, they ask you to let them know when it's becoming uncomfortable. Alex says he lets them crank it up to the max setting. He also says that he can definitely feel the tingling so that in itself is encouraging.
They are also working with him using a mouth baton to interact with a computer. While this gives him some opportunity to do for himself, he is hoping to regain enough use of his right hand to operate a joystick on a self-propelled wheelchair and even use it with a computer.
Unfortunately we had to cut the conversation short when they came in for a respiratory treatment. Kinda like being asked to take out the garbage…but you can't say "No"!
Even with this less than stellar week, Alex's attitude continues to remain highly positive. He's looking forward to a big week starting first thing in the morning.
Linda says that Alex is expected to stay at Shepherd till at least the end of September. After that, the leading contender appears to be the VA facility in Augusta, GA. (Looks like those years serving Uncle Sam will pay off!) They specialize in spinal rehab and are one of the best in the Southeast, if not the nation. However, that's a ways down the road and there is much yet to be accomplished at Shepherd. And when Alex gets back to Franklin, Shepherd has an outpatient clinic there! (Now, is that a coincidence or what?)
Linda is attending seminars and study classes related to the on-going care of folks with spinal injuries. With all of this, she is continuing to keep up with her job back in Nashville. Those that know Linda are not surprised at her tenaciousness. If you don't know Linda that well, you should be getting the idea just how dedicated she is.
Lord willin' and the creek don't rise, I'll be visiting with Alex and Linda next weekend. I am looking forward to seeing his progress. Last time I saw him he was still not able to speak. Much has happened since that day. Till then…
Keep the faith,
From Amy Brady, August 27, 2011:
So, I made a quick trip to see Alex Tue, came back Wed. He has a full schedule but I was able to visit for a while. At the moment, he can move his head, neck and shoulders and all 5 fingers slightly on his right hand and a couple toes. He has sensitivity all over though his left side is a little behind. He has good voice early on but wears it out a little out by evening (since he chats all day).
He has the various therapists and assorted staff wrapped around his finger and they seem to truly enjoy being with him. They are wonderful, dedicated folks. He has learned and remembers all their names and knows all about them (one he fondly refers to as "the general"). They come skipping into his room and he rolls his eyes and says , "I always get the dancers."
There is a great, strong, young black guy who assists Alex with dressing, moving, bathing etc. He takes extra long to do anything because he is fascinated with Scottish culture and history. He has Alex explaining everything and Alex thoroughly enjoys it. One nurse has two kids who are learning the fiddle and cello so Alex is turning them on to Alasdair and Natalie and all kinds of music. His room is papered with dozens (likely hundreds) of cards and notes that people have sent and they are having to come up with some creative ways to display them. He's really proud of this and still worries about how to thank everyone.
I got to go to PT with him in the therapy gym and he drove himself there in a power chair by sipping or puffing air through a straw-like device. He's getting pretty good at it. Once there they fastened his legs to pedals on an automated bike then put electrodes all over his upper and lower legs and "pedaled" him to stimulate and exercise his muscles. He did the maximum that was prescribed and is determined to go to the max on everything they have him doing. He says he's trying to keep his body the 'temple' it once was. He really has an indomitable spirit, good humor and remains charming and funny.
Linda is staying in a neat little apt. attached to the center and is busy every minute. She has an enormous amount on her plate.
I brought home a bunch of stuff to research for her... such as who in Nashville might be able to build ramps and what construction is necessary to adapt the house, who makes properly equipped vans, etc. There's a lot to do and she has to go through a load of training herself to be able to eventually manage things at home. She continues to juggle her job remotely and really wants only to spend as much time with Alex as she can rather than battling insurance issues and everything else. She is amazing but I worry there's no one taking care of her. Shepherd has free massages for patient's families one day a week. I think she should take advantage of that.
Anyway, it is slow and, hopefully steady going. The therapists say it is different for each case. Improvement can come in spurts and lulls or incrementally. So, know he's working hard and absorbing all the positive energy like oxygen. Keep it coming.
From Alex, August 21, 2011
This is an update on my condition for the week ending August 20, 2011. Wednesday, August 24th will be the end of my third week at The Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia, https://www.shepherd.org, one of the country's finest spinal cord injury rehabilitation centers. I am at the start of a long journey that, hopefully, will result in the recovery of the use of my limbs. Progress will be slow, but I have the patience and the perseverance to fight this journey.
So far and in quick order, I was successfully removed from the ventilator, given the "green light" to eat solid foods and drink liquids (no Scotch though!), have experienced slight movement of three fingers and my thumb on my right hand and have also been able to move my right arm, though this too is slight. This is an injury with lots of related side issues that can delay progress, so updates will probably be every two or three weeks.
I continue to be amazed at the number of "get well" messages, via email, Facebook comments and greeting cards that I have received from throughout North America and overseas. I am sure you understand that I am unable to reply, but sincerely thank you for your love, prayers and support during this difficult time. I received numerous requests to visit me in hospital; however, with a full daily/weekly schedule Monday-Friday, I have only the weekends to rest. This is the time I want to spend with my wonderful wife, Linda and will need to limit visits to family members and a few close friends.
Thanks, again, for all of your support!
Please note: For those of you who wish to send well wishes to Alex, his mailing address at hospital is as follows:
c/o The Shepherd Center
2020 Peachtree Road NW
Atlanta, Georgia 30309
Or you can send correspondence to him at his Post Office Box:
c/o Glenfinnan Music
P.O. Box 681707
Franklin, Tennessee 37068
We will continue to post updates here as we receive them.
We want to do much more than just hold good thoughts and to offer our prayers for him. As good as those things are, he and Linda will have huge hospital bills facing them when this is all over. We want the Seaside Games to have a more direct involvement in this and are prepared to place a sum of money in "escrow" to be sent to the Beatons when Games weekend is concluded. We are thinking of the sum of $2,000. to be contributed once this year's Festival is over. The Treasurer thinks this is a proper thing to do and that we can afford it.
IN ADDITION, we have decided that all the people who would wish to contribute a lesser amount (or a greater one, bless their hearts), may do so to add to our sum by means of a "Matching Funds" procedure. Our thought is to match as much of our $2,000 donation as possible and, if we go over that amount. . . all the better!
Here's what you can do:
1. If you presently have a PayPal account, you make make a donation by following the "Donation" link below.
2. If you do not have a PayPal account, you may call us at 818-886-4968 and we will gladly process a credit card donation. (No American Express, please) All we would need to do this is some pertinent information taken from your credit card.
3. If you wish to send a check or money order, please make it payable to "Seaside Highland Games" and forward it to our address:
Seaside Highland Games
9654 Kessler Avenue
Chatsworth, CA 91311-5533
We all wish Alex a speedy recovery. Perhaps by helping out in this small way we can ease the burden that comes with post recovery.
John and Nellie