The Taggart Family -- Life, Family and Friends

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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

This blog is a record of events in the life of Joseph Taggart and his family since his spinal cord injury while body surfing in Guatemala in January 2006.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Super Saturday/Sleepy Sunday -- 2/26/06

For information on the big dinner/auction see

Saturday was a down day for Joseph, he has a bladder infection and a bit of a cold, but he toughed through the day's physical therapy then just rested. He had a good night Saturday night and relaxed today.

On the Home Front things were hopping! During the course of the day, Saturday, we had 30 adults and 11 youth/children at the Taggart home in Taylorsville. They were plastering, sanding and painting the garage, packing dishes, books, DVD's and sundry items from the family room, and moving boxes down to the basement storage room. It was a great time: a ward social, mission reunion and family gathering all combined. There was so much accompished it was amazing. It is a bit like an old fashioned barn-raising, and the feeling of sacrifice, service, and celebration was significant! Joseph Smith said, "The greatest temporal and spiritual blessings which always flow from faithfulness and concerted effort, never attended individual exertion or enterprise." (HC 4:272) Our family is the recipient of that faithfulness and those concerted efforts. We are greatly blessed, spiritually and temporally.
1) John Connors gets plastered.
2) Pizza and packing go together, Little Ceasar's donated the Pizza, Pizza.
3) Youth from the neighborhood help pack books and DVDs.
4) And you thought Boxing Day was a celebration only in the British Commonwealth?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Pitching in and Digging Out


Joseph is making steady progress and loving the wonderful company he receives.
He keeps busy with excercise, education and extreme kindness from the hospital staff.

Meanwhile on the homefront everyone is pitching in to help pack things up and fix things up. With our nephew, many returned EBM missionaries, and friends of Joseph and the family all helping to begin the fix up of the house for Joseph's return. The garage is coming nicely, with plaster, prep and paint making things look brand new.
The Digging Out commenced in the back yard today. The trench for the foundation of Joseph's new room begins the project. What an amazing amount got accomplished just today!

1) The Moore Family, Nate (one of our EBM missionaries) wife and baby (Bristol), Mom and sister. They understand what Joseph is going through.
2) Nephew Eric Nish and EBM miss. Garrett Jacobson attack the garage.
3) The backhow made short work of the frozen soil in preparing for the footings of the new addition. Note the windows in the upstairs bedroom and bathroom that will have to be moved shortly.
4) Kate Lyon and Emily Fawcett, former EBM sisters, at work packing up the family room, preparing for construction.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Honest Abe, George, and Joe -- 2-21-06


This week end has been laid back as far as physical therapy etc. goes, with most of the regular staff off for the holiday weekend. Joseph had to pay the price for relaxing today, as his regular workout was pretty tough. . . but then so is he. He's enjoying a shower sitting up in a special shower chair at the moment (his second), an accomplishment by it's self. He has enjoyed the weekend so much because of the wonderful visits with friends, former EBM missionaries, ward members, work associates, professors from school, and family members of all of the above. Monday night the Jewkes family from the Bennion Hts 8th Ward did a family home evening with a great message on "angels all around us". Joseph said it was really spiritual and a great blessing.

He has been doing remarkably well with breathing. He has gone for a couple of nights breathing on his own, with the vent following along and providing limited pressure support. The days have been spent off oxygen, breathing room air for the most part, and on the speaking valve. The sensations in the right arm continue, there was some possible action in electrical stimulation tests today, his left wrist responded well too. The miracles are small, but with all of your prayers and faith, none of us expect a quick end to miracles.

The work on fixing the house is moving forward. We really appreciate so many helping out, it is humbling. It's an overwhelming task, but with so many "succoring the weak, lifting up the the hands that hang down and strengthening the feeble knees" we feel succored, lifted up and strengthened. God bless you all, for the love of the Lord that shines in your lives.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A month in LDS Hospital -- 2-18-06

It has been one month this week since Joseph and his Dad arrived in Salt Lake from Guatemala. It's hard to believe so much has been accomplished, and so many little miracles have happened in this short time. It's a long road ahead, but if the Lord keeps blessing us at this same pace, look out world, the Taggart kid is coming!

Elizabeth took Ethan to visit Uncle Joe yesterday, while Kasey (Ocupational Therapy) was working with him. Kasey suggested Joe put his hand on Ethan's shoulder. . . With little control over his hand, Joseph was waving it all over the place trying to get it up there, and Ethan didn't know what to think. Kasey and Joseph were hysterical, Ethan a little perturbed.

Joseph is spending most of each day now without additional oxygen support, just room air. He is able to speak all day long, since he has on the speaking valve. The last two nights he has gone all night with the respirator just assisting his own breathing, rather than doing it for him. He has managed just fine. These are marvelous steps toward independence from the respirator and trach. In all this there is great humility on his part as he continually credits the Lord for each step forward.

The staff at the hospital is so wonderful, they really do everything they can to make him comfortable in the midst of hard work.

His roommate was moved to another room so he has a private room again. . . he really sleeps well when he only has his Dad's snores to bother with.

At home everything is in a mess. Elizabeth with friends, ward members, and our former EBM (England Bristol Mission) missionaries are helping clean up and clear up things in preparation for fixing up the house. The downstairs storage room has been mostly emptied to make room for the plumbing and ductwork for a new furnace etc. Elizabeth's husband Denny worked on the garage to clear things out, then his Dad came over to help tear out the old cabinets to make room for the needed wheel chair lift and landing in the garage. Gloria and Tim with everyone’s help are eliminating unneeded stuff to make room for changes. The work on the addition will begin next week. One of our former missionaries who is now does plumbing work for a major commercial company came by today to size up the plumbing job he's going to do for the addition. . . "A piece of cake" says he, . . . "Maybe for you," says we! It is amazing to see the help and support pour in from all over. We all echo Joseph's most used statement: "I'm doing GREAT!"

Matt Blanchard (shown with wife Natalie) [see Update--Thursday, Jan 19, 3:30 p.m. and also Moving Forward-- 2-9-02 ] Was released from Rehab to go home to St. George today. He has worked so hard and done so well. He will continue to do well with his hard work and the Lord's blessings. We'll keep praying for him, and he for Joseph.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hearts, Roses, and Blessings -- 2-15-06

Happy Valentine's Day. The last few days have been very busy and productive. Joseph has been up in the chair progressing with exercise etc. He is spending more and more time off the ventilator. Yesterday, for example, he was off for over 8 hours including during Physical therapy. He also has the speaking valve in from first thing in the morning until he goes to sleep at night. so he can speak. This helps him develop his breathing muscles in preparation for eventually removing the trach and respirator altogether. He is doing so well this afternoon they removed his trach tube and installed a smaller size. This again allows for the trach opening to partially heal. It takes less effort to breath through the tube, and it is another step toward removing it.

Saturday evening Joseph developed a burning pain in his right bicep. (He has previously had no feeling at all there). On Sunday the pain moved down to his forearm as well. It hurts REALLY GOOD! At this stage we like feelings in new places. The sensation continues and we pray more will come as his nerves awaken.

Weston, his former roommate, is doing well. He and his family stopped in to say Hi to Joseph. He’s no longer seeing double and is walking really well. He had a bit of an episode with his feeding tube today, but is improving and we continue to pray for his complete recovery. Joseph has a new roomie, Raymond, mid 50’s from Kearns. He has had recent brain surgery.

This morning Taylorsville City approved the plans for adding a room off the back of the house for a bedroom and bathroom for Joseph. The plans call for a wheelchair lift, in order to get from the garage to the main level of the house. Then with the added room, we’ll have a place for him to come home to. Our daughter Elizabeth and family friends have set up a web site for those who want to help out: It's just starting out, but you'll get the idea.

We are so unbelievably grateful for so many who have taken upon themselves to do so much. Joseph knew he was loved, but he didn't know it was this much.


1&2) Valentine's Day, "Heart Attack" and get well decorations etc.

3) Misty (Physical Therapy) works him out (You should see how she can throw him around. . . verrrry impressive, Mom & Dad are taking notes).

4) Joseph and pals, Lisa and Katie (Nursing).

5) Joseph chases Mom in the powerchair.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Video/Photos from Guatemala --Monday 2/13/06

We just received the images and video Scott Dickson recorded on his digital camera of Joseph telling what happened in Guatemala. We'll do an update on his progress soon but thought you might like to view this video. They are lighting him with a flashlight, Kylie is in the background. I'll include a couple of the photos as well. Note the black sand all over his face. The volunteer firemen are taking him in the jeep, on a boat across the marsh to the mainland. Here is the link to the video: . If you want to save it to your computer, right mouse click on the link and select "save target as" (same with any of the photos).

Saturday, February 11, 2006

MOBILITY! -- 2/11/06

Please note the updated entry for Thursday (with Photos).
Joseph is doing physical therapy and working hard (note photo 1 with Andrea the Occupational Therapy intern helping work out his left arm and wrist).

Joseph's sister, cousin, and friend gave him a "heart attack" for Valentine's Day. The hearts all over the room are really cool. They also attacked Weston's room (the missionary with the cancer surgery see Friday 2/3/06 update). He was really thrilled.

But Friday and Saturday were awesome days because of test driving the new power wheelchair.

Joseph felt so EMPOWERED. He has enough movement in his left arm and wrist to completely control the wheelchair. On Friday he tooled all over the hospital, including OUTSIDE. Everyone was ASTOUNDED. This is so unusual to be able to do this at this point (and normally not even possible for a C-4 spinal cord injury). He is able to go without his respirator for hours at a time (thus no following contraption in the photos). He has a small portable device that humidifies the air and he has a small mask over his trach (He also has his speaking valve on, so he can holler at people to get out of the way).
He was in his chair for about 3 hours on Friday and a couple of hours on Saturday. It really takes a lot of energy, but he is eating, drinking and sleeping to build it up.

There he goes. . . . Hey Joe, wait up!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Moving Forward-- 2-9-02

Tuesday was a busy day with Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy, Recreational Therapy and Respirational Therapy all arm wresting for time to work Joseph over and out. He was on the speaking valve all day, and off the ventilator for three hours. Today Kasey the Occupational Therapist helped Joseph practice brushing his own teeth for the first time. Joseph had them laughing so hard neither could breathe.

Tuesday night was a rough night for Joseph's roommate so neither of them got much sleep. Joseph was about dead Wednesday. The staff made him rest most of the day. They said "we have lot's of people who complain that they are tired and want to rest or quit. You work so hard and never complain. . . when you are tired we have to make you quit." Joseph and Mike Blanchard are really great examples for everyone in rehab. The staff come in to say hi to Joseph even when they are working in other areas. Some have even brought their family in to meet him.

1) Andrea (Occupational Therapy intern), Misty, (Physical Therapy) and Kasey (Occupational Therapy) work Joseph in a wheelchair.
2) Kris (Recreational Therapist) brought Joseph his first Pina Colada Slurpee. He's been wishing for one since Guatemala.
3) Nurse Gretchen and Barb (Respiratory Therapy), the dynamic duo.
4) Mom and the grandkids.
5) Elizabeth, Joseph's sister, brought Cheyenne and Ethan to visit Uncle Joe. She has been such an unbelievable help.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Keeping my Nose Clean -- Monday 2/6/06

Joseph has been able to eat and drink enough for the last three days to prove he doesn't need the feeding tube up his nose. Dr. Dodds came in this morning and said "I've never had a patient off of the feeding tube before they were off of the ventilator, this is amazing". They removed the tube from his nose and the tape etc. from his face . . . What a relief! While they were at it, they removed the PICC line from his right arm. (this is the semi-permanant direct access to the blood supply for meds etc). One more step forward.

Joseph got in a lot of physical therapy today and still had enough energy to be on the speaking valve all day and breath without the ventilator for 3 hours. He is doing amazingly well and he looks really great too!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Day of Rest -- Superbowl Sunday 2/5/06

Saturday was busy in Rehab, Joseph had some good workouts. Gretchen and Adam strapped him on a table and stood him up (see photo) Notice his grimace as he works out his left arm. He is really working to develop the muscles he has and is really making progress. He was on the speaking valve for eight hours on Saturday and all day today. They are talking about the steps to move him toward getting off the respirator. He is spending most of the days now with little support, just pressure to keep his lungs well inflated. He is building his respiratory muscles each day. Today for the first time they let him go without the respirator for an hour. Elizabeth the respiratory nurse said "I see most patients take three weeks to get to where you have come in just a few days".

He has really enjoyed the visitors, it's been great to see family and friends. The second photo is his 'big sister' from England, Sarah and her new husband. Everyone comes to see if they can lift his spirits and go away with their day brightened. He is so great to be around (the nurses are arm wrestling over who gets to be assigned). He is able to eat very nicely and isn't minding at all, the challenge of getting his full calorie count orally. (That carrot cake isn't bad) He is taking his medications orally as well. He hopes to have the tube out of his nose sometime next week.

Today was a lighter schedule with no physical therapy, he enjoyed the rest. After a shower (a bizarre affair in the "blue boat") and several visitors from the Church Hospital Branch, he got to relax and watch the Superbowl with his friend Matt Smith. The Smiths are his second family and such great friends.

Back in the Thursday Jan. 19th Update, we mentioned the topic of Tim's talk on the Atonement “The Solution to All of Your Problems”. Here is a link to the four resource documents if you are interested.

(Thanks to Joseph's cousin Cort Schaefer for hosting the link.)

Friday, February 03, 2006

"I have Chicken in my Teeth, and I LOVE IT"!!! --Friday 2/3/06

What a remarkable couple of days! When the Jazz came from down 11 points to win by 10 tonight no one around Joseph was surprised. . . it was a day like that! The Physical Therapists, Speech Therapists and Occupational Therapists have been working with him all week. His muscles have been responding in a remarkable way, seeming to double in strength daily. He has been sitting up for longer periods each day and handling it well. He has been on the speaking valve in his trach and handling it very well (part of the process of getting off the ventilator, as well as excercising his vocal chords). Mom talked to him over the phone today (1st call). Last night she cut his hair just before his shower. She also reminded the doctors that he had stiches in his neck from the surgery and on both sides of his head from the traction device that had never been taken out. . . They did that last night as well. Today he dressed in a T-shirt and is looking pretty cool!
He was having some trouble with one side of his lungs so they did another bronchioscope (photo attached) You can see the plugged up left side before and after they cleaned it out. They also started a percussive treatment where they hook up a machine that mists medicine into his lungs at the same time it thumps them with air pressure, opening up the alveoli (little air sacs). He is so willing to happily submit to anything they say will help, joking with them, giving them a hard time and making them laugh all the way. They all love him.

Today they put a video camera on the end of a little tube up his nose alongside his feeding tube to check out his ability to swallow. This is a big deal because how well he can swallow liquid and food determines whn he can have the feeding tube out, and helps determine how well he can do without the respirator at some point and speak as well (the voice muscles and swallowing muscles are dramatically impacted by neck injuries like his, thus the speech therapy workers are always assigned). As you see in the photo the monitor shows the view looking down on the epiglottis. The white, horizontal, worm looking thing, is the feeding tube going down his throat. If the epiglottis doesn't completly close on swallowing, then liquids go down into the lungs instead of the stomach. They gave him thick orange juice. . . gallump, down it went. Then they gave him rice pudding, dyed BLUE, easier to see. He kept it in his mouth a long time . . . they assumed he couldn't swallow it, but he was keeping them in suspense while he savored the flavor. When they were about to give up -- he smiled and gallump! down it went, no problem. He finished up with a graham cracker, managing to get it down (with slight challenge since there was no liquid to wash it down) and ACED THE SWALLOW TEST.

This is remarkable! They said "you can have hamburger tonight". He's been saying since the first couple of days in Guatemala he wanted a Pina Colada Slurpee, but when it came right down to it he chose a Chocolate Shake and Chicken Fingers! As Vicki Smith raced off to procure the goodies, everyone at the hospital was stunned with the results. The head nurse said "In all my years I have never seen anyone with a spinal cord injury like this without an obstructed swallow. . . It is unbelieveable!" The other worker said, "I can't believe it, you are skipping liquids, baby foods, soft foods, and going right to hamburgers -- unheard of!"
Joseph is estatic about being able to start eating and drinking (he has to show that he can get his whole nutrition by mouth before he gets to lose the feeding tube), but he's also grateful for the little miracle-- not the first and certainly not the last.

He has a new room mate. Elder Weston Brown, a 19 year old from Farmington. He was three weeks into his mission in Mcallen Texas when symtoms of a brain tumor showed up. They flew him home for surgury and removed a 6 inch long tumor with a diameter from hotdog thick, to golf ball size, growing probably for many years. He begins radiation next week and will have to learn many things over again as he overcomes this challenge. He could use our prayers and few miracles as well.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Exhaustion! (Joseph's Title for today) -- Wedneday 2/1/06

Today was a very busy day! Along with speech therapy and speaking valve "class", physical therapy worked Joseph's arms, took him in around in a wheel chair, then took him to the gym to work his legs. After a rest they sat him up on the edge of the bed and worked his arms again. There were a lot of other things in between, but needless to say-- he was exhausted!! He has a bunch of really great people here, helping him to get his strength back. It seems great to be doing something even if it is exausting. He was so tired he was shaking and threw up. He has a massage therapist who worked him over for an hour and made the world good again. He's looking forward to a good night's sleep and back to work again tomorrow.

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