What’s In A Smile?

This week Don will officially become the bionic man. Watch out Lee Majors, Don Horton is after you! After four weeks of healing, the surgical implants from Deep Brain Stimulation will all be connected.  Many have questions… How does it work? Will you immediately see the results? How long will it last? and What are the benefits?

Well, one of the gifts that we look forward to seeing the most… …. is his simple smile.

Hadley asked “why doesn’t dad smile when he sees me?”  I felt my heart brake into a million pieces right before her big hazel eyes.  I responded reassuringly “he smiles”.  She’s my debater, so I knew this wasn’t going to be over as quickly as I wanted and I desperately needed to put my heart back together in my chest. “Mom, when you pick me up you always smile and I know you’re happy to see me but dad doesn’t.”  “Oh honey”, trying to stall and put together my words to be able to communicate to a five year old child as to why it seems that way. “Your dad smiles when he sees you, when he thinks about you, when he watches you sleep at night and even when you are arguing with your sister.  It’s just that there is a part of his brain that makes it hard to show emotion. You just have to feel it.  When he looks at you, when he takes you for a walk, when he reaches for your hand, when he’s playing with you and when he kisses you goodnight.  You are the highlight of dads day! You are why he wakes up. You are why he breathes and you are why he won’t give up.”  She’s 5, so I know I can relate everything to a song.  I said “Hads you know the Bruno Mars song we always sing… Just the way you are?”  THATS EXACTLY how dad thinks about you.  To quote……

bruno mars

This might be one of the harder parts for me to explain. Parkinson‘s sufferers often lose the ability to control the facial and vocal muscles which allow them to convey a range of different emotions. Although they continue to have natural emotional responses, often, they cannot indicate them in the normal manner, by smiling or frowning or by raising or lowering their voice. Instead, their face appears expressionless.

SO… if THIS

deep brain stimultion


plus (+)  THIS

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Don Horton Wedding

EQUALS (=)  THIS

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Hayes Horton and Hadley Horton – The Ultimate Smiles!

Then it will be a success!!

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A Duke Fan Forever

Team Sweeney

Team Sweeney

We currently reside in the south and in a triangular area of a state that has deep dividing “what team do you pull for?” lines. We’ve been associated with teams for all of our lives. Beginning from the ones we are born in to.  My first team was a family of 12.   We could actually field our own football team, with a substitution for injury to boot!  An Irish Catholic group whose heart and soul could stand close to any Notre Dame team. My father had a friend actually suit our family up. This gear was pre Adidas or Nike contracts. Our small frames and entire backs  were incased with the letters SWEENEY.  Now and then when we went on family excursions to Kings Island or Disney, we would proudly don our jerseys, making it easy for my parents to assess if a child had strayed from the flock.  My mother, who has in uncanny sense of preserving our childhood memories, recently “presented” me with my  jersey.  I was Lucky number 12.  Memories flood back now when I see my youngest wear it to sleep at night.  I am thankful to recollect my first official group.

Don - Indian Hill Jersey

Don – Indian Hill Jersey

Don has been a life long team member.  The first jersey number he can recall – 21.  His favorite number – 70.  He literally has played a role at every capacity a team member can be.  Father, player, coach, recruiter, husband, speaker, rookie team trainer, brother, statistician, water boy.  You name it.  He has been it as some point in his lifetime, from little league, Indian Hill, Wittenberg, Ohio University, UVA, Capital, Ohio State, Southern Illinois, New Mexico State, Boston College to NC State.  His hope is that whatever lives he touched during this process, they were positively influenced and changed.  At our wedding rehearsal dinner one of his  close friends and fellow team mate, Scott presented him with his basketball jersey.  It was from their alma matter Indian Hill, where they proudly took the Eastern Hills League by storm in basketball. They fondly reminisced about their playing time and the roles they played on and off the field in each others lives. Being a part of a team is special and those relationships formed generally last forever.  We hope our kids remember more of the process of being on a team than their stats.   As parents, we would rather our kids receive a good teammate or sportsmanship award than a MVP any day.

We all like to be on the winning team, or working feverishly to achieve that status.  In this profession many ethical and great leaders have been “cut loose” because their wins didn’t necessarily translate to victories that were seen on a score board.  When Don had made his mind up to go ahead with the deep brain stimulation surgery, we both felt the immediate need to evaluate our team.  Don had been seeing a neurologist at Duke that was recommended when we relocated to North Carolina.  He was fine.  I’m sure inundated with patient overload had caused our appointments to be short and for several phone calls and emails to be unreturned for days.  After asking a few questions about his surgical experience and knowledge with DBS, we decided, together, that our team needed new players.  Research ensued, phone calls placed and meetings / appointment set.  We decided that we needn’t search far. We had found the right facility.  We just needed 5 star rated players.  We came together for the first appointment, armed with a defense of questions that would take hours.  Don stated our intentions of assessing his candidacy for DBS and we were looking for the right person to lead this effort.  One of the keys would be,  if you were going to cut into his brain and body, we would need a little better response than what we had been receiving from the previous doctor.  It felt right from the moment we shook hands. Our defenses put at ease.  We confirmed what the best game plan and forms of communication would be and to date his attention has been amazing.  So great, that a veteran recovery nurse remarked out of surgery that she rarely sees surgeons examine their patients in recovery, but there was Dr. Turner – just checking in.  He has been the beacon of light we needed to make such a large decision and I’m glad were weren’t afraid to make an adjustment.

Having worked in athletics now for 30 years, we completely understand the word loyalty and dedication to a team and now a cause.  So, when someone has any question of what team we root for……. we will proudly claim Duke.  So, go Coach K!  Carry on Coach Cutcliffe and most importantly, thank you Dr. Turner and Duke Hospital for the first class care that we have received.  We couldn’t ask for a better team in a battle that isn’t just a season at a time but everyday of our lives.

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Our Count Down To A New Year!

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New Year Ball Drop

Our own virtual Dick Clark, ball dropping count down has begun!  We are 1 week- 7 days  – and as of right now 168 hours until we undertake a surgical procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation.  Many things are in the air.  The outcome, our new normal, job situations, etc.  But as many people watching and waiting for that ball to drop we are enthusiastic and eager about the hope that lies before us.

We will have our own cast of performers.  Unfortunately the following weren’t available Ryan Seacrest, Lady Gaga, or Justin Bieber. Although I do really wish Anderson Cooper was available to hold my hand!  Just real heroes, like the great doctors from Duke University, Dr. Turner and Dr. Hickey and their wonderful supporting crew.  The party will be intimate.  Our closest family and friends – for whom we can’t express enough gratitude.  They will come in during the light of day and stay well into the darkness of midnight if needed.  They will help make it seamless for our girls. They will shower them with love and hugs – with even more vigor than strangers do during the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve.  Believing with us that this will bring a new light to our lives.

There wont be a script or a teleprompter.  Just simple words spoken in the days leading up of gratitude for the life we’ve had together thus far , upcoming plans- and boy do we have plans! and uncomplicated words of love.

Tick……Tock