Arnie and I were in the medical field of neurological rehabilitation and our son Brandon worked for us. Who would ever think that what you do for a living would become your worst nightmare. I remember the night it happened, I felt like I was in a dream or state of limbo. By the time we got to the hospital Brandon was already in ICU, in a coma, on life support and in critical condition. The doctors told us he wouldn’t survive the night. The first thing Arnie asked was “Is his spine clear” meaning does he have a spinal cord injury. We were given no answers of any kind other than he probably wouldn’t survive the night and they weren’t sure of all of the injuries. A broken pelvis, broken right hip, fractured lower mandible (jaw), lacerated liver, crushed left hand with multiple compound fractures, as well as some kind of head trauma and was in a neck brace. I really don’t even remember sleeping that night. We stayed in ICU the entire night. The next morning the Neuro Surgeon called us into that private room (never a good sign). He explained that the fact that Brandon made it through the night was significant but if he survived he would be a vegetable for the rest of his life. He explained to us that he suffered a traumatic brain injury with bleeds throughout his entire brain, the diagnosis was Diffuse Axonal Injury, DAI, similar to shaken baby syndrome. The doctor went on to tell us that the survival rate for this type of brain injury was very low.
Arnie and I knew what we needed to do and that was to prevent pressure wounds, atrophy of the muscles and foot drop (dropping of the forefoot due to muscle weakness, causing the person to drag the front of the foot while walking, not a good thing!) So I went to a sports store and bought a good pair of ankle support hiking boots. We rotated them on and off his feet in order to prevent any pressure points from developing. I stayed by his side 24/7 and made sure that he was being rotated a minimum of every 2 hours, I also requested a low loss air mattress which allows airflow to constantly alternate throughout the bed from head to toe.
After we felt we had done what we could do to help prevent further damage (and the doctors would allow us to do), trust me there were some heated discussions on what we were doing, then came the down time and reality set in. The hours seemed like days and the days seemed like weeks. Our family was there with us in ICU as well as very dear friends some of which were doctors who were a great comfort to us and answered many of the questions we had that we weren’t getting answered by Brandon’s doctors.
I remember about the third day in ICU my sister came walking in with big poster boards, fancy cutting scissors, glue sticks, pictures, and markers. I asked her what all that was for, her answer was, “When Brandon wakes up he needs to have visual stimulation and reminders of his life before the accident and it needs to be of family and friends.” She also stated that it would be therapeutic for all of us as it was doing none of us any good just sitting there waiting and worrying! She told me to go home and sit down and dig out photos of friends and family, Brandon in his younger years. Cathy told me to get as many photos as I could gather because we were going to be making big poster sized collages then we would get them laminated so he would have them always. Leaving the hospital was the last thing I wanted to do, but knew in my heart I needed a break, so my daughters all came with me and we spent a good 3 hours going through photos and gathering them together to bring to the hospital.
When we got back we all sat on the floor of the ICU, I felt like our entire family had taken it over. I have to say that we actually laughed as we put the photo boards together and reminisced about old times. This project took all of us over a week to do and it helped ease the worry and pain of not knowing what was around the next corner for Brandon. One of the Social Workers’ also came up with a great idea on the second day that Brandon was in ICU. She told me to get a journal and just start writing… All my feelings, how the accident happened, what was happening on a daily basis with Brandon’s recovery, just journal she said. I took her advice and literally started writing from the time I awoke after a few hours rest until I fell asleep. I wanted to be able to tell Brandon everything that happened and in detail. What I didn’t realize at the time was I was journaling everything from the exact time a nurse would come in, what she would do, and what the results were, these journals became my sanity. They also came in handy later, which I will later go into more detail.
My point with telling you about the first couple of weeks while Brandon was in critical condition and in ICU and not knowing whether he would live or die, or ever wake up out of his coma is that you have to find something positive to pass the hours as you wait. When they wake up they will need to have visual reminders of their life before the accident. Do you know that 10 years later we still have every one of the photo boards and still use them to this day as part of his therapy? There is so much more that we did medically, which I will tell you about in my next blog.
Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your stories and comments, we all are in this together. God bless you all and until next time… Never, Never, Never Give up Hope!