Thursday, May 17, 2012

Moving Forward

It has been nearly a month since my brother's accident. It's been over a week since I've seen him.
Now that I know that he's okay, life can go back to normal.

He is still on the trach but no longer on the ventilator. He's "stepped down" but he doesn't want to see anyone. I am assuming that includes me, just for safe measure.

I have so much to say about the whole ordeal. Much more that I can type on my lunch hour.  Tigger pretty much has the computer locked down at home and my fingers are too big to type on Darling Hubby's teeny-tiny lap top.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Really?? Did you mean that?

Currently it is the 18th day for my brother to be in the trauma unit at UAB. I had to count that on a calendar because I'm really not all that sure. The days have begun to run together.

During my brother's stay, I've had to prepare for a graduation, a prom, a charity walk, a staff meeting and a birthday, all important events, but somewhat diminshed due to the circumstances.  It's as if life goes on, but is in some strange holding pattern all at the same time.

 I can say that now he is awake and alert. The trach makes it impossible for him to speak but he's mouthing things to us, writing notes with that little chicken-scratch hand writing of his, and using a lot of sign-type language.

We've come a long way from those early days. Day Three was another long, boring day filled with a whole lot of nothing. We did have a few visitors, who made the waiting more bearable. I went to lunch with my cousin D, but really didn't feel much like eating.

Day Four, I went back to work, which was a good distraction, but I shudder to think of the decisions I had to make that day.

On Day Five, they removed the breathing tube. Though I was working, I had planned to leave early to see him. At almost 4:00 pm, I received a frantic call from my mother. I dashed out the door, leaving my computer and my phone on and had to call back to make sure someone turned it off.

Our worst fear had been realized....he had pneumonia. When I arrived, he was on a mask, but his breathing was very labored. He would cough, nearly choking. I couldn't bear to watch. The nurse told my mother that they may have to re-intubate him, or worse, insert a tracheotomy.  Mother signed a large stack of papers for procedures that may or may not be performed on him.

The next day, the day nurse told me that his pneumonia was caused by MRSA, the antibotic resistant staph infection. They were ready for it and had already started him on a strong, broad spectrum antibotic. Then all we could was wait.

A few days later, they put in the trach tube.  He suffered from "icu psychosis" from his extended periods with no definable wake/sleep pattern. They added more tubes that he would not have approved of or been the least bit happy about. They tied all four appendages to the bed to combat the thrashing and kicking.  It was almost like the little brother I used to have was gone and left this mad man in his place.

Mother and I went to his house on that first weekend to check on his cats and put several lights on timers. He had left it just like he was only going to be gone for the day. Dishes in the sink, clothes in the washer. Fruit flies had formed on the dishes in the sink and the cats were in desperate need of attention. We spent most of the day cleaning. My mother is a real stickler and soon I had to start a list of items to replace because they went straight into the trash. By the end of the day, it was very long.

Oh, and we killed the vacuum cleaner. I'm not certain what did that, but it suddenly smelled like burning rubber and began smoking profusely. I know that I've mentioned before that I am not good in a crisis situation, so when the vacuum began smoking, I began screaming. I couldn't turn it off! Thankfully, my mother was trying to find out what I was screaming and unplugged it. The rest of the day, the demise of the vacuum caused us to laugh uncontrolably.
It was apparent early on that many of our friends were very concerned. My Facebook page was in constant motion, as long time friends checked in, new friends asked for updates, and people that were friends of my brothers, but new to me, left messages. They were all basically the same..."I'm concerned, I'm praying and if you need anything,please let me know."

Really? Did you mean that? Do you realize what you are saying?

Now I know that all of my friends are well meaning. I'm certain that if I were to make a menial request of any, more than a few would deliver. I'm quite sure that if I had asked the former high school boyfriend who visited on Day Three to bring me a latte, he would have.  My cousin D even bought me lunch..But when it boils down to it, how much of it do we really mean?

My mother said that when people say that, they really mean they want to bake you a cake.

That's okay too.

We had certainly needed help cleaning up Dooder's house. Darling Hubby's cousin, another police officer, lived down the road. He was checking on the house and rinsed the car off so that it wouldn't be obvious that no one was home.  But we couldn't ask him to take care of the cats. My neice also lives up the road, but with a brand new baby, I couldn't ask for her assistance either. A long time friend was checking the mail, and was feeding the cats, but he wasn't a cat person.  My mother finally found a place to board $10 a day....times 2....oh, well, you do the math.
So, while sitting in the waiting room, waiting for my one, coveted hour of visitation, I came up with a list of things that one can offer that would actually be helpful.

Pay for a day in the parking deck
I think this is the single-most helpful thing anyone can do. UAB is $6 dollars a day. Now multiply that by at least 3 family members for 18 days. Now that it's obvious that Dooder is going to be there a while, the long term Parking Pass is much more economical, but for the short term, this is ideal.  Mother and I both agree, we will be doing this from here on out. Paying for one family member to get out of the parking deck at least once won't break me.

Bring some snacks and drinks
I've actually been doing this one for a while. I call it my "Hospital-ity Bag." I get a bag (the cheap, reusable shopping bags are great for this. Much more sturdy than a gift bag) and drop some packs of crackers, chips, nuts, granola, cookies and some juice boxes, or water, down in it.  It's so much easier on the family than having to empty your purse in the waiting room for change only to find out the crackers you can buy at the store for $1 a case are a $1 EACH in the vending machine.

Bring something to keep the little ones occupied (and away from the other visitors)
This is also part of my Hospital-ity Bag.  If I know that there will be little ones, I drop in a box of crayons and several coloring and activity books.

Friday, May 4, 2012

And Now We Wait

I guess I would be remiss if I didn't mention that my brother is a cop.

In 18 years on the force, he has made many friends and they spent the whole first day coming in and out. I think that someone was mistaken when they called it the "thin blue line," because the line of law enforcement was long, strong and steady. We made the "large family" with the GSW rather nervous for a day or two and even caused more than one family member to pull his pants up and straighten out his hat or nervously exit the building. When I pointed this out to my family, my daughter scolded me for not being politically correct. "I noticed that too" her boyfriend remarked, never looking up from his phone.

My father and step-mother came. I learned that my stepbrother, recently released after lung cancer surgery, had returned to the hospital. My eldest niece, RaRa, was also coming to the hospital at 5:30pm. She was having her labor induced and soon we would be welcoming a new baby boy. I couldn't help but think of the old wives tale, that when a new baby comes into a family, someone old goes out. I worked hard to push that thought out of my mind.

On the second day of  Dooder's hospital stay was my oldest daughter's, Julz, graduation from a local medical program.  It was hard to celebrate this victory for one family member, while another had just started the battle.We had all taken the day off weeks prior, but this newest development left a bittersweet aftertaste.

Dooder had been Julz biggest fan,  since day one, and she was equally smitten with him.

 The day of her birth coincided with his Senior prom. I remember the nursing staff smuggling him and his date into my LDR room (a no-no back then) so that I could see them. I tried my best to not show any pain and keep a smile on my face while they visited. They went off to enjoy the prom. When it was over, rather than going to the "after prom breakfast" they came to the hospital to wait out the rest of my labor.  I have pictures of my brother's mulleted head, leaned back on the wall, mouth agape, asleep.

He had been very excited to have a new baby in the family. Most likely to have a new audience for his never ending barrage of jokes, stories and one-liners.  When she arrived, he held her like she was the most precious possesion on earth. She smiled that precious little baby smile (that they always say is gas for some reason) at him for the the first time and he was awestruck. 

Over the years, Julz was always guaranteed to laugh at whatever silliness he threw her way and she always enjoyed his company.  As she got older,  trying to become her own person, they butted heads over the decisions that she made, and the guys that she saw, as much as if she were his own child.

Celebrating without him just didn't feel the same.

We collectively rushed to reach the chapel at the hospital where the graduation service was to be held. The chapel was large, but not quite large enough for all. Seating was scarce and we felt a little guilty as we saved a whole pew. The ceremony took a few hours and afterward we were treated to a reception. Then we all went back to the hospital to be with Dooder.

Arriving in the lobby, I noticed a congregation of familiar faces. My neices, RaRa and AA, standing by the elevators! RaRa was in her street clothes with her i.v. port in her arm, pregnant belly leading the way. Turns out, there was a shortage of nurses, only 7 for the 17 LDR rooms on the unit. AA had her walking, so they wanted across the crosswalk to our side of the hospital.

They had taken him for surgery on his collarbone. They wound up having to put in a plate. While he was asleep, things were good, but when he'd start to wake, he would thrash and fight. I couldn't bring myself to stay in there.

I bought a notebook so that we could keep up with all who had come by. Had I thought about it earlier, I would have brought one with me on the first day, because there were far more visitors that first day. We tried to write down as many as we could remember, but we know that we do not have them all.

My Facebook account was on fire. Messages from accross the country filled my wall, and Dooder's wall. I answered endless messages. I really wish I knew how to copy and paste on my Kindle. It would have made the whole process easier.

In the midst of answering messages and speaking to visitors, a woman came in. We were told that she had been a girl-friend of his friend Steve. Afraid that she was there to start trouble, I jumped to my feet.There had been enough drama and I was determined that there would be NO MORE DRAME. She had seated herself away from our group and when we were no longer looking, she wandered into the unit.  The Chief followed her down the hall. She apparently took a wrong turn because The Chief was able to make it back to the nurses station before her.  Because he had been so aggitated, they were limiting visitors anyway, so they stopped her right there.

Finally, the events of the day proved to much for me.
Exhausted, we said our goodbyes and went home. I posted one more time on my Facebook that I was exhausted and needed to gear up for Day Three.

I don't even recall my head hitting the pillow.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Road Less Traveled

It's been ten days since my brother's (whom I call Dooder, a pet name from our childhood)  motorcycle accident. This is his tenth day in the TBICU at UAB.  I am just now where I can talk about it without bursting into tears.  I never thought about writing about it, until our mother encouraged me to read the blog of another family at TBICU.

So, here goes...but first, a little background:

On April 1st, off-duty police detective and fellow Sentinels club member, Steve Head was tragically killed on Alabama highway 25 between Leeds and Vandiver.  As a Sentinel "brother" and friend,  Dooder, took this death hard. 

On April 14th, Leeds resident and friend Micheal Isbell was also tragically killed on the same stretch of Alabama highway. This was especially rough for me, as I had known Micheal and his wife, Kim, since they were children. 

So in the early morning hours of Sunday, April 22, when my mother called to tell me that Dooder was in a motorcycle accident, I didn't hear another word that she said. My heart stopped.

He was riding to the home of a friend, on a small, winding road in Odenville. The friend recounts coming around a curve to find deer standing in the road. He swerved to avoid them, but Dooder could not. He struck a telephone pole on the side of the road and went sailing out into the adjacent field. When the friend reached him, he was unconscious. While during a quick triage, Dooder suddenly exclaimed "Dude, stop touching me."

He had a broken left shoulder or collarbone, left hand, and nine ribs, also on his left. They were concerned with fluid around his spleen and one of his ribs nicked his left lung.

Half asleep and groggy from being awakened at 1:27 a.m. I was trying to wrap my head around what I was hearing. Then I heard him laughing with someone in the background, and my tension eased a little. But little did I know what lay ahead.

I asked if I should come to the hospital, but mother said if they needed me, they would call me.  Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang again. "He has a brain bleed!" my mother had said, "They are sending us to UAB because it's a trauma center. They said it's the best place for him."  Mother assured me that they would call me if they needed me, but I could no longer sleep. I sat up in bed, turned on the tv and got on Facebook.

Please pray for my little brother (Dooder). He hit some deer on his motorcycle. Being transferred from Trinity to UAB as we speak. He is talking but they are concerned about some bleeding on his brain. What is going on with these acursed motorcycles?

When I finally settled back in bed a few hours later, my mother called to tell me that UAB had decided to put in a chest tube to relieve the fluid building in his chest cavity. Because the proceedure was so painful, he agreed to be put to sleep. Before showering, I posted on Facebook once again.

(Dooder) admitted to trauma unit. He has a punctured lung so they knocked him out for a chest tube and intubation. Shoulder not broken but collar bone and hand are. Still no update on brain bleed but they did a scan before they moved him to the unit.There was also concern over his spleen. Thank you to all for your continued prayers. Going to hospital now. More updates to come.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was somewhat prepared for what I saw. My step-father, The Chief, filled me in on his condition and explained that he was a little bruised and was hooked up to several machines. He said that they said he could hear me, but wouldn't be able to respond.

It was every bit as bad as I had expected, but surprisingly not as bad as I had prepared myself for. There was a tube in his mouth and one in his nose. Several leads bloomed from out of the top of his gown. His hands were restrained by Velcro cuffs, connected to a tether underneath him. His head,  perched above a cervical collar, showed no signs of bruising or blood. Protocol for this unit is that all visitors must wear disposable gowns and gloves.  So I suited up and tiptoed to the side of his bed.The room was somewhat dark and Dooder appeared to be sleeping quietly.  Machines hummed softly in the background.

I leaned in really close and whispered, "Hey baby, I'm here."  His eyes flew open! That startled me, given I was told that he couldn't repond. I jumped back, unsure of what to do. Monitors started beeping and flashing. His heart rate went up. The Chief spoke to him, soothing him, calming him back down. I went to the right side of the bed and spoke to him again, while Chief spoke to him on the left. His eyes were open and they searched the room for me. The C-collar held his head firmly, so his whole body moved as he tried to make eye contact with me. "I'm here baby, please don't move" I said. He mouthed the word "Joy," over and over. He thrashed in the bed, pulling against his restraints while bringing his knees up to his chest and kicking them out again. 

The two nurses ran in and began shouting commands to him. I had to leave.  I thought I could take it, but I couldn't, and felt I was going to break down. The older sister is supposed to be the strong one. The protector. Not the sniffling mess that I was about to become.  I cried all the way back to the waiting room.

The nurse said that he had not reacted to anyone that saw him that day, like he had reacted to me. Mother said that it was because I was his "partner in crime" and if anyone would get him out of this perdicament, it would be me.

Friends came and went throughout the day. I tried to get on Facebook to update everyone, but the public connection was slow. As I did this, I began to observe the families around me.  A large family on one side of the room, appeared to be having a simultaneous reunion. Everyone and their brother , and his kids appeared to be there. Several toddlers ran amongst the rest of the visitors, drooling and grinning, like happly little puppies. I thought I heard "gun shot wound" in the midst of their converstaion, but I could have been wrong.

Another family, met quietly a little closer to us. One of the gentlemen appeared to be someone familiar to me and I couldn't help but stare while I tried to place him. Several times, he caught me staring. I later realized he had been a popular sports writer and his face was familiar to me because of his guest appearances on a Friday night local sports show. His wife had been hit by a drunk driver at 5:30 in the morning.

Another quiet family was also in the waiting room, but they were not there for long.

Finally, I got connected. I triend to update my Facebook again. My wall was filled with prayers and well wishes. Each post so heartfelt, I began to cry all over again.

Just heard about Dooder! Praying for him and you and your entire family! Please keep us posted and if I can do anything please don't hesitate to call!
Oh Joy....I am so sorry to read this. Praying that he will be okay. Praying for strength for you as his big Sis and praying for all of your family as you are facing this horrible situation.

((hugs))) & prayers for you & your family ♥

praying for Jason and your family.

The Fourth Man in The Fire.Believing For a Miracle!In the Name of Jesus.Love You!!!

Praying for you and Dooder... Let me know if you need anything!!! Hugs

When I could compose myself, I posted:

Finally got connected here at UAB. Brother sedated and intubated because chest tune is so painful. I went to see him but he became really aggitated when I spoke to him. He opened his eyes and tried to say my name.The nurse said he hasnt reacted that wayto anyone else. He has to be this way for at least the next two days. Its gonna be a long 2days. We've had a rough few weeks with 2 friends loosing their lives in bike-related accidents. The family appreciate all the prayers and support. It means more than words can express.

The next time I went to see Dooder, I stood in the hall and kind of peeked in. I didn't want to aggitate him any more. His buddies had come up and took turns going back to see him. He blinked his "yes's and no's" to their questions.  He kept signaling with his hands to flip him. I watch from the hall.

Finally, it was time to go home. I felt bad leaving, but I knew he was in good hands.