Live Updates On #ToomeyStrong
My uncle, Mike Toomey, was in a motorcycle accident. It's an absolute miracle he's alive.
*Updates will be added here as they come.
If you'd like to donate, you can do so here.
If you're in Southern California, Save the date: Nov. 10th & 11th.
*Two events have been planned by some great friends to benefit #toomeystrong, the first one will be a Pass the Boot at Dempsey’s in Long Beach on Nov 10th starting at 7:00. Along with passing the boot around, we will also be raffling off some gift cards and a silent auction of some cool stuff (including 2 Ducks tickets generously donated). The second event will be at Glory Days in Seal Beach on Nov 11th from open to close. Glory days has generously agreed to donate 20% of their profit that day to Mike and Evin. Drop in any time that day, eat and show the flyer (click here to download flyer). Easy as that. Thank you to everyone who has donated, everyone who has prayed, and everyone who has reached out.
*Updates written by his wife, Evin Toomey.
Update 1/day 1:
The web isn’t big enough to hold the pain and emotions I’m feeling right now. The man of my dreams, the amazing father to my children, the caring and devoted, hardworking, selfless, hero I’m fortunate to call husband is in intensive care across the country right now.
As many of you may have heard, Mike has been in an unfortunate and devastating motorcycle accident while off work in Florida. He’s nurses call him Superman, surviving the terrible crash with no major damages to vital organs. He is, and will be fine.
If you don’t know my husband: he is brave, thoughtful, generous, outgoing, intelligent, witty, humorous, neighborly, and much more. He’s an incredible man, a blessing to his family and friends.
I love you, Mike Toomey. I love everything about you. I will be your strong wife and love you endlessly as we get through this. Our children are distraught. They love their father beyond measure. He is the apple of their eye. He is their knight in shining armor. He is their hero. Their daddy. They are strong and brave children that Mike and I truly adore.
Thank you for all the love and support pouring in from my Toomey family, Scurlock Family, Rubio Family, Bragg Family, Family, neighbors, and friends. I could not get through this emotional rollercoaster without every single one of you.
Please keep him in your prayers as the story and his condition continues to develop. Mike is a great man that Descartes honor and respect. Accidents can happen to anyone. Hug your loved ones is an understatement.
He’s in the ICU under heavy sedation. He’s able to follow commands, squeeze his right hand and wiggle his toes. There’s no bleeding or alarming swelling. His vitals and fluids are good.
He’s pretty smashed up, broken nose and cheekbones. His eyes are swollen, black and blue. His skin is lacerated and raw. And behind all that he’s still the handsome and amazing man we al know and love.
Surgery yesterday placed pins in his left ankle, and irrigated his arms and face. Today is a rest day, changing dressings and marking minor adjustments.
His care team is amazing. He’s in great hands. Soon, today or tomorrow, we’ll meet with the plastic surgeon and orthopedic surgeon to discuss the next operations.
His road to recovery will be long and painful. If there is any concern, it would be his ability to breathe on his own. As of now, the probability is high, being that he’s young and in great shape. All signs point to Mike coming home.
There’s no definite time frame on when Mike will be well enough to come home. Rehab will be intense, and likely here in Florida. It’s miraculous there’s no head or organ trauma.
As for the accident itself. The witness who called 911 reported a motorcycle was cut off by a truck and went down when he swerved to avoid ramming right into the truck. The motorcyclist split-second decision to swerve saved his life. That motorcyclist is my brave husband. Mike Toomey.
Mike remains in close watch here in the ICU. His “road rash” has been described as “incredible” in regards to the magnitude. The abrasion on his back missed his spine leaving what looks like angel wings.
The ophthalmologists report that, miraculously, his eyes are in good condition and fully intact. He’s not out of the woods yet, but there’s no reason for concern at this time.
He’s in excruciating pain therefore his “sedation vacations” are limited to whats necessary for his care. We will keep him sedated until he gets through the bulk of this intense portion of the recovery.
The story of why this has happened is begging to unfold. It’s just now been confirmed that he was sideswiped by a truck. I’m getting in touch with the sheriffs' department and accessing the police report now. Security is on their way up to talk to me now.
It’s currently 11:17PM in Florida. I’ll provide another status report tomorrow morning.
The most important thing is that mike is ok, and will eventually come home.
Mom Sharon Toomey and I are doing well. Keeping #toomeystrong for the man/son we love.
Update 4/ day 3:
Today is rest day. Yesterday he was given his first “meal”. A super high protein packed smoothly through a feeding tube. He was given a small portion to see how his body would take it. It appears his stomach and digestive system was able to process the nutrients properly. Today he will rest, they’ll clean/treat his wounds, and prep for plastic surgery tomorrow.
His nurses Lisa and Jesse are absolutely wonderful. They’re off today, so we’ll meet the next round of nurses. I’ve asked Lisa and Jesse to request Mike for their next shifts, 3/12’s is how they do it here.
I’m requesting my family and friends to allow me to stay here with Mike. In doing so I will need everyone to picture in to care for Vivian, Violet, and Wyatt. Weslie is here with me. I want to be the first face he sees when he wakes up. I want him to know that I have not, and will never, leave his side.
The ventilator has been turned off to test Mike’s capabilities and he is currently breathing on his own. This is great news!
He remains at a high risk for infection and we’re hoping to avoid complications like pneumonia and bed sores.
Mike is in the best care he could be. The doctors, staff, and facility is amazing. His care team is kind hearted and have a bond with Mike already.
Mike will remain in ICU for 3-6 weeks. After that, he’ll be stepped down to PCU for another handful of weeks. Basically, I’m moving to Florida.
Mike and I were made to be together. We’ll get through this together, like we do everything else. He’s my hero. #toomeystrong
Update 6: graphic details
At midnight tonight PST it will be 72 hours since I learned that Mike was in an accident. 75ish hours since the actual crash.
The first 48 hours were mental and emotional torture. Not knowing exactly what was going on. Not able to piece together the chaos of what seemed to be a nightmare. Vague answers. No rest. All heartache. The ball of anxiety brewing in my gut has quickly crept up, chocking my throat, and clouding my brain. All of which seems like selfish and petty complaints compared to what Mike is going through.
Here’s a checklist, which might be missing a thing or two, of Mike’s injuries:
• Severe damage to his left foot and ankle resulting in immediate surgery/placement of pins
• Damage to left knee resulting in immediate surgery. Follow up surgery will be required for ligament damage.
• Broken elbow (cap), surgery not performed yet
• Severely damaged (L) hand, bone and skin. Skin is being treated first. Not sure if we’ve done X-rays on his hand yet.
• Extreme road rash to the entire left side of the body, back, chest, hands, arms, and face. Swollen, oozing, aching everywhere.
• Evident fracture to (R) hand
• Broken Jaw
• Shattered facial structure (checks, eye sockets, nose, forehead). Undergoing Maxillofacial surgery tomorrow at noon EST.
• A chest tube has been placed on his right side to clear the air that’s on the outside of his lungs.
His care staff is absolutely amazing. The head Dr., Dr. Pelligrino, gives me confidence that he’s in the right hands. At lunch today, while mentioning the hospitals name to the waitress, we learned that this staff saved the lives of her and her daughter. We’ve heard great things about this hospital and are experiencing nothing shy of the same.
Everyone around here knows about the guy in room A444. The strong guy who survived a horrific crash. He’s building an admirable reputation, just like regular.
Some facts that now make sense...
That same night (nearly same time as Mike’s crash and apparently nearby) a motorcyclist was struck at a stop sign and did not survive. The stories seem so similar, they may have been confused resulting in miss information finding it’s way to me in Long Beach. Luckily for us, our motorcyclist was the one who was life flighted to Home Health.
Tonight, after kissing Mike goodnight, we (Nana, Weslie, and I) have made our way to the condo Mike was staying in. I lay now in the bed- directly on the spot where Mike had his last sleep before this nightmare. I look over and see his travel bags and belonging shook out, and neatly organized. He left the bed made, sheets tucked nicely and pillows lined up just right. His workways way about him apparent, bringing me comfort... and making me miss him soooo damn much.
I love you Michael. I can’t wait to hold you in my arms. I’m so proud of you. #toomeystrong
** Tomorrow, 10/24, I meet with the County Sheriffs, sort out the rental car and motorcycle, and navigate some insurance stuff. It’ll be a busy day. An update will be provided at end-of-day.
** Thank you to everyone helping us through this. I’m focused on Mike and the tasks at hand, but I’m thinking of all of you too and appreciative beyond words.
Update 7 / Day 4:
Today was a productive day. Mike underwent a 6 hour Maxillofacial surgery- removing shattered facial bones and placing titanium plates as the new structure. He’s official ironmike now. Superman.
Simultaneously, we ran all over Florida, a rain I’ve never seen before. It’s not like California rain. It drowns your windshield making it nearly impossible to see out. Calls to insurance companies, scheduling, and all sorts of planning was completed while on our grand tour of this flat and wetland. A visit to the FHP/ Florida Highway Patrol, and $10 dollars later, we found ourselves reading the accident report which revealed details to this nightmare yet created new questions. Through the report, and conversations with the motorcycle rental company, we’ve now determined that Mike was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. For some reason, somehow, Mike chose to wear a helmet in this no-helmet-law state. A decision that, with no doubt in my mind, saved his life.
So where are the kids in all of this?:
A big part of this heartache is the “missing”. I miss Mike. I miss my kids.
Vivian just got word that she’s becoming first-string goalie on her club soccer team. A position that’s taken hard work a patience to achieve. Typically this is news that is shared in the living room. Vivian and I would jump up in the air, all giddy and excited. Dad/Mike would give us that look, then join in on our excitement. We could hug our girl and congratulate her. Instead, she got a congratulations over text. And to make it harder, she’s worried sick about her daddy. Her favorite person in this entire world.
Violet is in a fun, yet somewhat difficult stage. Nine. 9 years old and in the 3rd grade. You’re not so much a little kid anymore, but you aren’t too sure if you’re ready to go all out and be a really big kid. I would give anything to hold her right now and tell her she’s amazing and everything will be ok. She misses us, she knows this must be a big deal, but she’s comforted that daddy will be fine.
Wyatt is 2. I don’t worry about him. This is a grand adventure. Sure he misses Mom and Dad, but time is irrelevant. This is just one big party with auntie Bdo and auntie Cory. He’ll have no lasting effects or memories of this initial tough time. All of that makes it no less easy to be away. Everyday is a learning day, and I’m missing out.
Weslie is a trooper. She travels well and doesn’t fuss unless it’s necessary. Instead of having tummy time, chair time to learn how to sit, or playful/learning events... she spends her time in a car seat going from place to place, meeting to meeting. She keeps me happy and is a bright little light in this madness, but I should be working for her - not her servicing me.
My family (Mike, Vivian, Violet, Wyatt, and Weslie) have taught me how to love unconditionally. They’ve turned my heart into a powerful machine capable of strengths I never knew. My devotion to them drives me to be whatever it is that I need to be in the moment. I will never feel lost. I feel like I have a purpose in life, and I thank them for that.
Recovery Road: the next few days will be purely rest, rest, rest. With a tracheotomy, wired jaw, and healing wounds, rest and hydration are a top priority. Vitals/fluids are looking good. His heart rate is slightly elevated which is typical. Our next move is to get the chest tube out and slowly start “waking him up”. I know he can hear me when I talk to him. Since I know he’ll be back soon I tell him “have fun and be nice”. 😉 I love you, Michael!
Update 8 / Day 5 : graphic
Today was not a rest day. Knowing his strength, the nurses pushed him hard today. Challenging him and encouraged forward motion by pressing on with his recovery process. Why rest when you can work. “I’ll rest when I’m dead” he’ll say...we’ll honey, you ain’t dead.
We turned off the sleepy sedation medicine, took him off the ventilator, and within seconds he was coughing, lurching, trying to squirm out of his skin and waking up. It was intense. The cough would send flem shooting out from his trach tube. The Respiratory Therapist was impressed, thrilled that he was able to cough up this junk on his own without needing suctioning. He was starting to move, as best he could anyway.
A nurse told him, “it’s ok buddy. Calm down. You’ve been in a motorcycle accident”. He immediately tried to sit up. Beeping sounds from the machines starting going off, his heart rate was jumping up rapidly, the nurses were trying to get him to sit back. He was so strong and trying to sit up. I was freaking out. I grabbed his hand, leaned into his ear, and said loudly and calmly “it’s ok honey. You’re fine. Just sit back and relax. You need to take a deep breath. I’m right here”.... He sat back. He took a deep breath. And he rubbed my hand with his thumb. (You know like when you hold hands and you’re giving an extra touch you’ll rub your thumb, yeah he did that). He knew it was me. That was the biggest “I Love You” he could ever have given me. I’ve never felt anything better. The excitement was quickly over. They gave him a shot of pain medication and he soon fell back to sleep.
That was the longest “sedation vacation” yet. And the last, as he’ll never be under sedation again. The cocktails are being reduced into just pain medication. This will cut the excruciating pain enough so he can start forcing himself to move.
He can’t open his eyes yet. Or his mouth. I can’t imagine how scary and alone that must feel. Being told you’re in the hospital, you see nothing but black, and you can’t move, I’d feel paralyzed. I told him this is going to suck for a while, he’s probably going to be mad, but he’ll never be alone. We will get through it together.
It’s a huge step in the right direction. I’m left wondering: what can we do? What can’t we do? What will our life be like? Can he work? How much will he remember? When can we go home?
The other days' events weren’t as exciting. Or good. Remember that weird, slightly vague accident report from the FHP? Well, it makes sense now. Florida is a no-fault state. Meaning, that guy who hit my husband in the highway who’s fault it is that he’s in this life threatening condition- well it’s not his fault. Or he doesn’t have to be accountable at least. No fault means your insurance pays for you, not obligated to cover injuries you incurred on others. I’m pretty livid. I feel defeated. This just can’t be!?
I’m learning a lot right now. So much. Things I don’t want to learn. My immediate take-aways are:
Don’t use a lock code on your phone (at least while out of state/ traveling)
Write everything down
Think, think a lot before you do. React later.
Tomorrow he’ll get strapped to a chair and sat up. They say he’s going to hate it. He’s got a lot of milestones to make before he can get stepped down to the PCU, progressive care unit, and then eventually down to rehab.
I’m amazed by your strength and power Michael. I’m thankful to have you as my soulmate and best friend. I’m honored to be your wife. I can’t wait for you to see all the hot nurses you have.
Update 9 / Day 6
There’s no sense of time when you're in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. Whether things happen quickly, like rapid fire, or you hurry up and wait. Being calm and patient is an absolute must.
Mike made some big moves today. Many of them small, microscopic, invisible. The progression seems slow at first glance. But once you consider the laundry list of things he’s up against, you realize he’s already made it through the first leg of the marathon. There’s comfort in that.
Even with all that promising headway, we’re still not out of the woods. Cultures and swabs taken today from the slowly arriving fever will determine if pneumonia or a blood infection has set in. Frankly, it’s almost inevitable. Who knows what was on that highway as he was thrown, skid across the pavement collecting debris and losing flesh. When the majority of your body is an open wound, you’re bound to have infections complications. It’s just simple math. Or science. But it’s not simple. It sucks.
Regardless of his pain, skin condition, and broken bones, it was time to sit him up. A process I, his medical surrogate and wife, cannot attend to watch. I was able to return after he was in the chair and found him with his legs shaking. They shook for 10-15 minutes. I massaged him the entire time. The shaking finally stopped. He sat vertically for over 3 hours which is more than average. Leave it to Mike to push the envelope.
In the midst of his pain, Mike tries to stand up swooping his bandaged legs off the bed. He grabs the bed rail and pulls his torso up. He reaches out to grab a hold of you, trying to communicate. All while his eyes are glued swollen shut. Not knowing what exactly is going on. Not able to speak.
Watching him fight to survive is extremely hard. It’s scary, it looks gnarly. But it’s actually a good thing. It’s a sign that it’s still Mike in there. It’s a testament of what’s to come. It’s just the beginning.
Mike’s doctors and nurse staff are amazing. Beyond amazing. They know he’s going to be tough, stubborn, strong willed, hard. Challenge accepted. He is the reason they’re passionate about their job. He will push them (as they are pushing him) to be better, stronger, faster, and wiser.
My days here are similar to back home with 4 kids and a working husband. I wake up tired to my alarm. I rush to get myself ready so I can feed breakfast and get out of the door. I pack in every minute, write notes, grab food on the go, hustle from here to there, and finally lay down at midnight wondering where the day went- and how can I do better tomorrow. Finding joy in the small things is really hard. Finding peace is even harder.
I know there is light at the end of this tunnel. And like Mike always says “You wanna burn a bridge? F it, I’ll just build another”. We’re building a bridge right now Michael, and we’re going to cross this motherfucker on two feet, together. Like regular.
Update 10 / Day 7
It’s officially been one week since Mike’s life changing motorcycle accident. I let that sink in a second and realized, it’s unfair to call it an accident. He didn’t do this. It’s not an oops, accident. It’s a tragedy.
Emotionally, today sucked. Something was off. All day long. It just sucked. And there was no escaping it. Our moral has been beat up and chewed out and our patience worn too thin. Our frustration and sorrow is so fueled you could launch our emotions and see the jet stream all across the sky. There’s no end to the heartache. Physically, mentally, spiritually?.. let’s just not get started on those.
Progression wise: Today as a start of a marathon. You know when the whistle blows and the gun shoots up in the air to signal go, except it feels like the gun shot you in the chest and you’re stuck in your tracks. You’re not going anywhere. And it’s only the morning.
Mike had speech therapy this morning, a fancy description for a regulating coupling thing being placed on the trachea collar to restrict back flow forcing air out of the mouth and nose on the exhale. This helps the patient “find heir voice” as it passes air through the voice box. Sounds simple, but for someone alone in he dark who’s jaw is wired shut and they don’t realize they’re asleep, it’s frightening. And for some unfortunate patients, like Mike, you’re esophogas is so swollen that the trachea balloon takes up all the space, making you choke and not able to breath. Not the way to start your day. By the time we arrived to the hospital for the day he was already back in the ventilator and cranked with medication for pain and heart rate.
With an exhausting start to the day, Mike was pretty beat and spent a lot of the day sleeping. He was too burnt out to follow commands like squeeze my hand and open your eyes. Not that he could open them anyways. I know he needed the rest but I was hoping to see him, and he see me. And the term “follow commands” just bugs me. That’s not Mike, you can’t tell him what to do. He’s a grown ass man (inside joke moment).
It seems like he hasn’t fully awoken yet. Each time he wakes up he’s reliving orientation. Where am I? Why does everything hurt? What’s going on?
I want it to be my face he sees when “come to”. Not the nurses. Not anyone. Just me. Perhaps my most selfish desire.
The doctors around here aren’t done with him just yet. We’re watching a dark skin spot on his knee. Planning for necrotic removal and graphing if needed. He’s also stuck here until the jaw wire is removed, estimated 2-week removal from the time of placement.
Instead of sitting, watching, and waiting.. I got to be a nurse today. I didn’t exactly ask, but they didn’t exactly say no. I scrubbed up, put on gloves, and helped with routine tasks. I helped roll him over. I guided his feet when we put him into the stretcher chair to sit up. I guided his head when we placed him back in the bed. I helped clear flem. I lifted his wounded arms for rotating and pillows. The nurses were so nice to let me help, and they thanked me for doing a good job. I’m sure I was more in the way then anything.
Seeing your husband in excruciating pain is so. very hard. Like sooo so very hard. He was invincible. And now he’s helpless. He fights hard. He’s badass. But he’s hurt bad, and I can’t do anything about it. I thought he was holding my hand. But I realized today, he’s just holding on for dear life.
When I kissed him goodnight I realized that there will be many more days like this. Days of me caring after him. Dressing his wounds. Helping him move about. Turns out I’d make a great nurse Mike. (Inside joke moment right there).
On the drive home I thought about the kids a lot. How homecoming is around the corner and we can’t hug our Vivian and take awkward pictures. How we won’t get to trick-or-treat with Violet and Wyatt. How I don’t play with Weslie, just feed her and pass her on. How their lives will never be the same. How we’ll now be asking them to gain more independence and responsibility, with no reward and seemingly overnight. How unfair to them this is.
If “this too shall pass” then I say “merge this biatch into the carpool lane”. I don’t want to be in this zone much longer. Strength is one thing, but do I have longevity? I guess there’s no choice. Mike didn’t have a choice. This wasn’t his accident. This is his tragedy.
I love you Michael David Toomey. Even when it seems impossible, we’ll be#toomeystrong.
Update 11 / Day 8
I’m starting to get the lay of the land here. I’ve determining the fastest route to the hospital and found a sneaky-Pete route to the Starbucks. Something Mike would have figured out on the first day. I’ve eaten all over the place, immediately eyeballing what Mike would have ordered from the menu. I find myself thinking “I can’t wait to tell Mike that” when I see something funny or come up with a witty one-liner. I miss him. My best friend. Waiting is all we can do now, it’s the name of the game.
Vivian had a big day. Accomplishing a goal she’s been working so hard at. Not being there to watch her in action ate at me all day. Guilt doesn’t take a timeout for circumstances. We should have been there.
Mike’s action was minimal today. He’s now fighting pneumonia on top of his injuries. Honestly, it was inevitable. Mike is vulnerable to every complication. In my mind, I’ve accepted that he’s going to get all the side effects. But he’s also going to win. I made a bargain today, as to not feel defeated... We’ll go to hell and back, just as long as we come back.
Having a “mellow day” was literally what the doctor ordered. Mike doesn’t take medications, painkillers, or anything quite honestly. So, although he’s so giant, he’s a drug lightweight. Figuring out his dosage to keep him comfortable while not making him too sedated is a masterpiece that is being perfected. And you know how Mike likes things perfect. He’d approve of the meticulousness of his care team. So for today, uneventful was a good thing.
I’m continuing to track down pieces of this puzzle. I’ve been told Interstate 95 is one dangerous place, with only 2 Patrol Officers working the entire stretch. I’ve talked to first responders who were shocked to hear the guy on the bike, Mike, is alive. “It was a big case for us,” said the helicopter pilot who life flighted him just 8 days ago tonight. All that just fuels my fire, and I’m on a path for justice. We’re not taking this sitting down. The ignorance of the asshat who damn near killed my husband and the negligence of the trooper, with their combined lack of common sense, do not get to write this story. They don’t get to make the narrative fit their lazy interests. We are the storm. And the storm isn’t waiting, it’s brewing.
Update 12 / Day 9
Mike just woke up. It’s him. It’s my workways man. Communicating with hand signals and nods. I can see he has questions, pointing to body parts and pulling on wires. He knows where he is. He might not know why. But he knows he’s safe, and that we’re here.
Today the next chapter begins. Thousands of pages remain to be written. We thought his strength already amazed us... he’s just getting started.
I’m so proud of you my love.
Update 12 / Day 9
Today was the most nerve-racking day since day 1. Intense. Filled with every emotion possible. Worry, excitement, doubt, fear, hope, anger, frustration, gratitude, joy, and sorrow. A wise man told, “let your tears fall and wash your heart, making room for more love and strength.”
When calling the nurse to get the morning report we learned that Mike was “more alert” then he has been so far. Excited, eager, anxious, and nervous, we rushed to the hospital to have a chance to “see him”. And that we did.
At first glance, behind the nurses objecting liquid into tubes and reading digital outputs, I caught eyes with Mike. He looked vacant. And I felt my fear being realized. I was terrified.
After regrouping I came into Mikes line of sight again. His left side of his face still swollen shut, I approached from the right. “You’re wife’s here” shouted the kind young nurse. He looked at me. I smile nervously at him. And then it hit him. His eye got brighter. He made contact. He knew it was me.
I quickly started pulling at things, signaling his hands, gesturing, frantically trying to communicate. Wondering what parts of his body are intact, what parts work, and who knows what else’s. As his consciousness continued he became more and more clear about his condition. He recognized his mother and sisters. Smiled on just the right moments. Nodding yes and no when asked questions. Communication has now begun. The battle to rebuild what’s shattered, our life, has officially begun.
It’s scary watching your husband go through torture like this. Perhaps scary is an understatement. Haunting, horrific, terrifying, torturous. I’m stuck wondering how much he comprehends. What neurological challenges he may have. A wall of reality came crashing in that ICU room today. A wall I was not prepared for.
Throughout his efforts to communicate I could see the Mike personality. The workways, stubborn, and charming guy I know. That brought me confidence and comfort. Something I’ve been lacking for days. Something only he can give me. Even here, he gives.
So cool things he did:
• He wrote with a pen and paper. He asked, “why did they write that my knee is really black?” - that right there is a miracle on so many levels.
• He gets really aggravated when he has to pee and his sisters are in the room. He wants privacy. He’s irritated that he has to stay in bed. He tried to get up to go to the bathroom every time he feels the urge to urinate. - highly cognitive behavior
• He mouthed “fuck me” after telling him about his injuries and recovery requirements to lay still in bed.
• He held my hand. Hugged me. Pulled me in for a kiss.
Medically and physically we have lots of work to do. There’s still a long road ahead. We’re standing way in the valley, have to navigate the foothills, and then start climbing the mountain. A wise woman told me:
“So this big treacherous mountain you're climbing, there is no cleared path, there are jagged edges, drop-offs, fallen trees re-routing you. Every step, even if backward is progress. Because at the top of that mountain, everything becomes apparent. You can see and it will be beautiful! Then it happens, momentum changes. It's not a grueling uphill climb, it is the momentum you get going downhill. Changes happen quicker. Everything is faster. The progress isn't baby steps anymore. And you are reassured the entire time that you have already done the hard part. You already climbed the mountain”.
I’ve never climbed a mountain before. I’m not sure if I have the right equipment. I have faith, hope, and love. And together, Mike and I can conquer anything. Even things we don’t want to do. Didn’t choose to do. We just do, we drop the hammer, and we get some.
Update 13 / Day 10
Just over a week ago I booked a round-trip flight to Florida leaving LAX on Saturday and returning Wednesday. I was so naive.
The hurry up and wait game continues. All of Mike’s amazing nurses are astonished and say “he is progressing so fast”. For me, and especially for Mike, it does not feel fast.
My battle right now is hope. I’m holding tight on to hope, having faith, believing, and being positive. These optimistic thoughts and behaviors are what keep my spirits alive, but also set unrealistic expectations. Keeping a balance between hope and reality is challenging. I need to fine-tune the station and clear the static. Focus on what is here, right here and now. Not future plans. Not what progressions and landmarks I want to see be achieved. Just on the progressions that he’s made, and is making right now. I need to be in the moment and stay out of my head.
Mikes battles are incomprehensible. He has physical wounds of every sort and mental and emotional torment that are impossible to navigate. As the days continue, and he spends more time “awake”, the fog will begin to clear, allowing him to heal and rebuild.
So, like regular, Mike worked hard today. Pushing boundaries and defeating the odds. He sat up again in the stretcher chair. He coughed a huge amount of pneumonia infected phlegm from his lungs, each cough generating throbbing pain through this head and body. He moved his limbs, still wondering which ones work. He visually inspects the parts of his body that he can see, and anxiously tugs at the others. He itches like crazy. The drying, scabby skin revealing pink and red tones on the flesh below. Some lacerations still too deep, too fresh, too raw. There’s nothing we can relate to, or compare to in regards to his physical state. It’s miserable.
Mentally, Mike is rebounding faster then anyone could imagine. Faster then expected. He seems pretty savvy. With the pasmere valve placed on his trach collar, he can speak. It’s painful and frustrating. The action draws more painful phlegm-filled coughs. The coughs reduce his oxygen levels and risks destating. A necessary evil perhaps. Communication is vital. And getting him off the traech is the next big goal.
So here’s the overall:
• Mike knows where he is, the hospital.
• Mike recognizes everyone.
• He can communicate love, pain, frustration, and humor. Mostly through body language.
• He’s eager to stand up and doesn’t exactly understand why he can’t.
Here is their next moves:
• Get stepped down to PCU
• Remove the trachea collar and breathe through the mouth, passing air through the voice box and regaining the ability to speak.
• Remove the wire from his jaw freeing the lock for eating and drinking, learning how to swallow again.
• Get orders for rehab transfer. I’ve selected the best of the best, a facility in Jacksonville Florida.
• Complete rehab and book a plane flight home.
• Walk in the front door of our home in Long Beach CA, together, accomplished, and not naive.
Update 14 / Day 11
Mike is official awake. He’s had a lot of questions. Recited his 4 children’s names. Said I’m his favorite women in the world. And requested my phone, then dialed his boss J.B. to check in. He’s really hungry. He requested a granola bar and a hot banana. As of this moment, for the first time since midnight on 10/20/17, I feel like life will go on.
Update 15 / Day 11
Midday today Mike was kicked down a level, from ICU to PCU, and moved to a new room in the west wing. “4 West”. Westside riders. When asked “do you know where you are” Mike replied to the nurse “Flow-ridah”.
Lots of ups and downs today. First moments of clarity, then tons of confusion and frustration. He’s starting to grasp his situation. Each time he wakes up he’s more and more in tune with reality.
The things he says are so spot on. He talks about work; he feels like he’s left things hanging. He feels he need to communicate with whoever is taking over the job to inform him about where things are with the parts and scheduling. But when he goes to elaborate on specifics he realizes he doesn’t exactly remember, and he gets very frustrated. More like worried I guess. He’s worried that he’s messed up... and more than just physically. I can see his worry. And it makes me so sad.
He talks about the kids. He wants to know that they’re ok. But he steers away from detail. He just realized that today is Halloween and is bummed he didn’t get to take Wyatt out for his first time. He looked at pictures of the kids today- It made him happy, and a bit nervous.
He loves me one minute, then the next he is livid that I won’t let him stand up and leave. He keeps bargaining with me. And when I don’t cave he gets mad. “Quit doing this Evin”. Then the mood changes and he tells me “I’ll be honest with you Ev, I just want to brush my teeth, ditch all these people, and snuggle up with my babe”. His main complaint is that he doesn’t get to stand up or eat food. Never complains about the pain. But when asked “are you in pain,” he says “oh yeah”. You can see when the medicine wears off - he gets short and closes his eyes trying to block it away.
Mike absolutely knows he’s been in a motorcycle wreck. He asked, “am I ok like, I’ll just get to live, or am I ok enough to ride and do stuff again?” I honestly think he believes he’s handicapped in some way... and is scared to ask or find out. When I was changing his dressings, changing his bedding, and cleaning up he said “how spoiled, I guess I’ll get used to this”. I assured him that he’d be doing all of these things on his own in a matter of days. I promised that he’d be ok - so now I’m making sure to keep that promise.
We have more space on 4 West, but less surveillance. The independence and reduction in monitoring makes me insanely nervous. Leaving him tonight has been the most difficult of all nights. I know this is a huge step - the right step - a good thing. But it’s nerve-wracking nonetheless.
So, for now, we do this. We chill on the west wing of the fourth floor. Tomorrow will be a big day. More big pushes for recovery. Another peek to climb.
Update 16 / Day 12
Today, like many others, sucked. Each of the last 12 days have been the worst day of my life. Each day presents new lows and challenges. 12 for 12. That’s reality.
The overview: Mike did not show the staff this morning that he is alert and can “follow commands”. Consequently, his treatment plans were delayed and he had to be dealt with like someone with a more severe brain injury. Because that’s how he was behaving. Like a vegetable.
I think Mike had a really rough first night in 4 West. He told me today, “never leave me in the silence”. He ripped out cords and who knows what else. By the time I arrived to the hospital this morning he was agitated, unresponsive, and just shut down. He wouldn’t drink his medicine (I think he was pretending he could use the straw). He wouldn’t speak. He wouldn’t corporate. He was absent. By afternoon he asked me, “I’m a just a useless pile?” To which of course I replied “no way man, you’re awesome, you’re a badass”. “Well, who’s in charge here then. The last three days it’s always changing”. I let him know that he’s in charge. That he’s capable of everything.
Towards the evening Mike became more agitated. Nothing made him comfortable. He wouldn’t talk to any of the staff all day. And I realized it was because he was mad at them. “If they’re going to make me sit here the least they could do is give me a cocktail or something.” I told him that he has to be the one to speak. To communicate with the nurses about what he wants and needs. He has to do it, not me, so that they know he’s cooperative and responsive. Roger that, he got it. So the next time the nurse came in he took initiative and said “can I have something other than the paper to lay on for my prickly skin. And quit sliding me around everywhere”. Alas, the silence was broken. A communication like had been built. Things started looking up.
Finally, around 7:00 PM EST, after 12 hours of poor cognitive behavior, we were working. Mike dropped the hammer on a couple of shakes and smoothies, passing his swallow test. He drank all his medicine. He chatted it up with the hot nurse. He properly used the restroom cup. He sat in the chair. He tried many times to get up from the chair. He participated in his life. He made such great friends with the nurse that she offered to bring his selection of Starbucks tomorrow.
At one point Mike asked to hold Weslie. It was heartwarming. He held her, kissed her head, and caressed her little feet. The apparent love and joy made the nurse tear up. Suddenly, he snapped his eyes over to me and with a frightened look on this his face he asked “why am I holding a baby?” The nurse answered, “because she’s yours”. “She sure is cute” Mike acknowledged. We did this number a few more times throughout the day.
Tonight I sleep next to Mike for the first time in nearly two weeks. The staff so kind as to provide me a cot, wheeled right next to his bed so that we can be close. Respiratory Therapy came to suction out the mucus from his tracheotomy tube, and he quickly passed out. Not the most romantic evening, but not our worst. We’re together, and that’s what matters.
Update 16 / Day 13-14
Thursday and Friday have been exhausting. There have been leaps and bounds made, conquering major landmark in our journey up the mountain. Today we set foot on the double black diamond and embark on the biggest part of Mike’s fight to live.
Mike’s orders to transfer to rehab came earlier then expected. Today We took a medical transport to Brooks Rehabilitation Center in Jacksonville Florida. This top-of-the-lone rehab center offers great care with aggressive physical and metal therapy plans.
I’ve requested Mike’s medication be change to pain management without narcotics. I noticed he would become a vegetable shortly after his doses. The medication made him so looped out he would backslide. With the non narcotic medication we can treat Mike, not high Mike. This approach is already working.
Mike got a hold of his cellphone. It’s remarkable how much progress he’s made in 24hrs. He’s made phone calls and text, communicating accurately and intently. I’m hoping to continue with this forward momentum.
After observing non narcotic Mike, it’s evident that there is head trauma. He doesn’t remember a lot of things, but he sure can fake it. Everyone on his care team is certain he will make a “full” recovery. I share their confidence, yet reserve the possibility of missing pieces. A lot will never be the same, but our new normal won’t be so bad. Remix Mike will be just as awesome as the OG.
Update 17 / Day 15
Yesterday I felt somewhat at peace. I was able to feel comfortable and accepting of our situation. I became numb to the trauma and used to our new life. Today, not so much. Today reminded me that the road ahead - scratch that - the road we’re on, is extremely difficult. Torturous. Almost bizarre. Is this really our life right now?
Typically on a Saturday my families day would be filled with activities. Soccer for Vivian. Hanging out with a friend for Violet. Potty training and gearing the day around nap time for Wyatt. And hoping Mike would get off work early enough for dinner. Instead, I find myself exchanging sympathies in a rehabilitation facility elevator. Walking the halls, passing patience in like, or even worse condition, and wondering why we’ll all ended up here. Why can’t my days difficulty be “what’s for dinner”. Not “will my husband come home my husband”.
Day 1 at Brooks Rehab... there’s a lot to soak in. My immediate thought is: this place is great. The flooring is nice. The equipment is clean. The amenities are accommodating and bountiful. The staff is kind, thoughtful, and professional. I’ve picked the right place.
Three 60 minute evaluations were conducted today- occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. Each progressively difficult. Each eye opening to what we’re really up against. Brain injury.
Occupational Therapy consisted of teaching/ testing Mike on how to wash up and bathe himself. With many areas still too raw, this was difficult to do. Mike asked the OT to step aside and allow me to take the lead on the wash session, “she’s going to be doing this at home”. To which my reply was “no Michael, you are”. A few eye rolls and Mike completed the task. Next was dressing himself. This was a bit easier, minus navigating the vent tube and immobility of the left side of his body. Mike pushed through, and completed the task.
Next came Physical Therapy. The first task was to sit up straight. Mike has been laying down for 14 days straight. His body weak, withered and frail. No muscle or fat remains. It’s insane to see how quickly he “deteriorated”. Still, with weakness and no pain medication since last night, Mike sat. He sat so well. Being vertical brought a coughing fit, surely painful and draining. But he charged on. Using only his right leg and arm, he powered himself to swivel off of the hospital bed and onto a wheelchair. He made a round through the “Southside” wing, pushing and pulling the chair with his right arm and leg. A task much more difficult then he had expected.
By now Mike was exhausted. And Shortly following PT was Speech Therapy. This portion of evaluations was difficult, the most difficult for me. Here the ST tapped into Mike’s head and the discoveries were both exciting and alarming. Mike recalled a lot of information, both simple things like personal info and daily life. And difficult things like work related questions, long term memories, and recent events. I noticed his communication style and method of answering was similar to that of a job interview. He half understands that he’s been in an accident and is a hospital patient, but he half thinks this is a work function and he’s promoting himself. He’s informed us that he is a senior in high school. He believes that his high school basketball coach is behind the operations here at Brooks rehab. To hear that made my heart sink. My head light, and my stomach knot. But quickly following he recited some MLC crane business and talked about Liebherr welding certifications which I know are accurate. Ups and down.
All this reality crashing in freaks me out. I hear it can take weeks to years for “full recovery” after a severe concussion. I’m given a list of medical equipment we’ll need for the next 12-18 weeks: wheelchair, toilet chairs, ramps , canes, and so on. Instead of shopping for the new style of Vans shoes he’ll want to wear, we’ll be looking at orthopedic footwear and decals for his walker. Instead of the shiny new soccer mom Suburban it’ll be the giant handicapped man friendly vehicle. My bathroom remodel in our new home is set back, and handicapped friendly layouts is where I find my mind pondering.
Here’s a list of “conditions” to be added to Mike’s list:
•Surgery to the left toe was complete simultaneously to the OIF pins placed for the uncommon Medial Malleolar Fracture to his left ankle, and steel rod (either through or in place of) the left tibia.
•An L4 non operative fracture to the back/side supporting lumbar something-or-other
•Thee fingers on his left hand are numb
•About 50 pages of radiology reports remain to be navigated which hold the details to what’s going on inside Mike’s body.
When in recovery, there isn’t much time to sit back and reflect. It’s press on, keep moving, make progress, and ask questions later. He doesn’t understand the gravity of his situations. He thinks we’re in some sort of graduate school. One moment I’m his wife, and another I’m the head nurse.
When I pass myself in the mirror I’m slightly terrified. I can’t look myself in the face. I see an incredibly sad mother missing her children. I see a sad wife wanting a life with her husband. I see a stressed and concerned face on what once was a young attractive lady. I see someone who knows too much, and experienced too much, of things she’d never wish on her worst enemy.
The facts still remain- Mike is a tough, determined, strong willed dude. He’s capable of completing the most difficult tasks. He’s inspiring. He’s my love.
Update 18 / Day 16
Sunday funday. That term has change substantially. Our weekends used to be filled with fun at the bar. Then our family life progressed and our interests shifted. Sunday’s were for relaxing, family time, delicious meals, and yard work. I’m interested to see what our new Sunday’s are going to be like.
Today started with PT at 9:00 A.M. The trainer taught Mike how to pivot off the bed and onto the wheelchair. She modeled how to assist using a gait transfer belt, something that I’ll need to be certified in before we get discharged. Second session of P.T. came at 10:30 A.M. quickly followed by pain medication and a nap.
Around noon we (Mike) got the wound care consult I’ve been asking for ever since PCU. The amount of road rash is painful just to look at. It’s arguably one of his worst injuries. Some parts are scabbing, healing, drying up and itching. Other parts are still fresh, still deep, and oozing. I wanted more for him then scheduled dressing changes. I wanted a plan. And today we received that. A solid plan for the treatment of his aching skin.
The weekend care manager popped in today, observed both of our behaviors and jotting down notes. A number of question were asked, mainly to understand who we are and what our life is/was outside of these walls. A team meeting will be held tomorrow on Mike’s behalf - a gathering of his healthcare professionals to determine what the best rehabilitation process will be for him and his goals.
A big issue, maybe the biggest obstacle right now, is food. Mike’s diet is extremely limited- reduced to pure liquid “meals”. He’s over it. The wired jaw is driving him nuts. Liquified spaghetti or chicken is not his ideal meal. Surviving off of liquefied fruit smoothies is already getting old. He rather just not eat. And that, that doesn’t work. You’ve got to fuel the machine. So, to roaddog it with him, I’ll be making bedside liquid meals and we’ll eat them together. Thank you Pinterest for crafty soup recipes and nutrient additive ideas.
Mike made a lot of sense today. Talked about work, family, and friends. He was humorous. Made future plans and sighted inside jokes. He called his oldest daughter and bragged about her soccer talent. Many signs of “Mike” are shinning out. At the same time, he forgot a lot. Struggled and faked it when he was unsure of himself. Pretends to fall asleep when he’s over the conversation. Selects cartoons on the T.V. and watches lame movies and shows he’d never have the slightest interest in. He asks the same questions over and over. He seems immature.
He had a great nap, sleeping the best he’s slept so far. He snored as I rubbed brain stimulating essential oils on his feet. He used an ice pack on his head, to help inflammation and catch some relief. He’s understanding his body and injuries more, moving more deliberately as to not put weight on his left side. He starting to understand that he didn’t just have a fender-bender-bump-and-crash; he had a life changing big-time accident.
The “mellow” weekend is coming to an end. boredom is settling in on Mike, and he’s staring down the barrel of a two week rehab schedule. He just wants this to be over. He wants to be healed.
I have many inspiring examples of families who have been through similar situations- with outstanding outcomes. Families and victims who have been through much worse then what were surviving. But survive is what we’re doing nonetheless. Surviving by love, hope, faith, and support. Surviving by the prayers, thoughtfulness, efforts, and donations by our dear family and friends. Surviving as a team. Surviving in honor of Mike. The greatest movement I’ve seen in my entire life.
Update 19 / Day 17
Today is the first official- go hard at it- rehabilitation day. The day started at 8:00 A.M. and is packed with 3 main therapy treatments broken into 6 sessions. 30 minutes of PT, OT, ST, rest and then repeat. By 10:00 A.M. he had the “redass” and wanted to drag up. But of course he didn’t, he knows he has to complete the program in order to go home, something he wants more then anything right now.
It’s apparent Mike believes going home would solve his problem. He believes everything will be fine once he leaves here, once he gets home to Long Beach, CA. Unfortunately, this is not the case. We’re week 2 into a 52 week recovery, brain injury recovery.
Being told your husband has a brain injury is a hard pill to swallow. Luckily, I know the difference between injury and damage- injury being temporary. How long can I protect my children from the side-effects and symptoms of their fathers BI? When and how do I reveal to them the severity of his situation. How long can we both fake it.
Faking it is a exactly what Mike is doing. He’s a smart guy, and he can sense there’s something going on, gaps in his program, so he is filling the holes. His psychiatrist identified him as a classic “fooler” making us believe he’s in better shape then he really is. On the Rancho Scale, Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, Mike is at cognitive level V. 5 out of 8. He has yet to achieve Orientation. He’s unable to perform adequately in Attention, Orientation, Reasoning/Awareness, Organization, Memory, or Executive Function as described in the Hierarchy of Cognitive Recovery (A-O ROME). Ideally, and some day, Mike will be back to 100% in these mental capacities.
For now, I’m instructed to stay with him until he reaches Orientation. I’m instructed to reduce stimulation like T.V., iPad, cell phones, and visitors. I’m to encourage him to do his activities and remind him why he is here, and wha his goals are. His mind, his brain, is on overdrive reloading and downloading, trying to heal. Trying to learn.
Physically, we’re striving to remove his traech collar. His pulmonary doctor has authorized the attempt of capping the tracheotomy allowing air to pass through his mouth and nose. If he’s able to maintain his oxygen level and tolerates the extra work from his diaphragm, then we can look to remove the tracheotomy tube completely.
His skin is continuing to heal. The right side is still the most troublesome road rash area. His left eye is beginning to open. Sensation is returning to his finger tips. Wounds are healing and scars are begging to take residence. The narcotic scab adorning his knee seems to be growing. And the sores on his lips and in his mouth remain close to unbearable.
At he end of this road, a year or two from now, Mike will have his life back. Or some facsimile of. The road to home is becoming longer, an estimated 3-5 weeks from now. Lots of PT, OT, ST, on an outpatient basis will need to continue upon our return to home. The battle for his life isn’t over. But fight alone he will not. We’ll fight valiantly with him, like the warrior clan we are. And some day, his life will be back in his hands.
Update 20 / Day 18
It’s hard to pick a starting point when writing these updates. It’s hard to channel the emotions, recite medical terms, recall each event and activity, and convey the right message. The update posts are cathartic. The information is factual. The gravity of it all is painfully real. Each step in this process brings new hardships. Just when you think you’ve had the hardest day- tomorrow comes.
Today started with a poor mood. A lack of drive and enthusiasm was loud and clear in room 2117. Mike was eager to get ready for baseball practice but didn’t feel the need or desire to wash up and get ready. So unprepared we went- but to Physical Therapy in the gym instead. On and off, sliding on and off the wheelchair to the bed was the training of the day. The goal is to make the motion, safely, without any weight being distributed to or from the left side of his body. This didn’t go well. The limitations were too frustrating. And coupled with Mike’s frustration, I was unable to perform the guide assist, so fail the transfer test we did.
The next task brought some needed success. Mike was able to stand, staring, and balancing on his right leg only. A task that is estimated to be extremely difficult. He did this with grace, and completed three circuits of 15 leg lifts elevating his knee/thigh to 90 degrees. A few high fives and it was back to the room.
A team meeting was conducted at 10:45 A.M. EST and will happen weekly, on Tuesday. Everyone is present, the doctor, case manager, PT, OT, ST, nurses, respiratory, and more. Here we review, plan, and set goals.
The current standings:
•Orders to have Mikes jaw wires removed are being placed, a quick procedure in another wing of the hospital will take place sometime next week. Quickly following will be swallow eval (potentially with ex ray) to asses mikes eating/chewing/swallowing ability and needs.
•Once the wire is out and Mke is safely eating we can take the trachea collar out and let that heal up. He’s currently capped, breathing through the north and nose only (for the first time in 18 days). His stats are well, oxygen level is good. Forward motion on that.
•Tentative discharge date for a safe travel home is November 29th.
After our meeting we had TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury class. Mike had a hard time focusing and paying attention, he was extremely agitated, and wanted nothing to do with it. He left the class losses off and wanted to get into bed, and I left crying. I suspect his Rancho score is closer to 4. He refused to follow any instructions after class. He wanted to either do everything completely by himself or have full assistance, no in between. He’s in denial, and I don’t blame him. He does the “have fun and be nice” thing when staff is around, and is a total pistol when he thinks no one is watching.
It’s stressful and heartbreaking to watch Mike go through this battle. To recognize his injuries and mental challenges. It will take time for him to understand and be patient with his condition. I’m continuously being forced into new levels of acceptance, patience, perseverance, and faith. At some point it needs to get easier. I want to wake up at it be tomorrow already. But I’ve learned to be weary o what tomorrow will bring.
Update 21 / Day 19
We arose with the sun today. Bright and early on groundhogs day. The day started frustratingly familiar. Since last night ended terribly after informing Mike of his traumatic brain injury, my expectations for today were very low. We’ve been setting the bar so high- to not make it to the next peek would be devastating. Mike and I️ we’re down for a plateau day. My M.O. was to go with the flow, take deep breaths, be accepting and patience, and get through. I’d not allow the stress and pain slow my stride. I️ was going to be chipper, be the fearless cheerleader, and watch Mike do his things.
Straight into PT after a small, gross, liquid breakfast. One legged squats, transfers, and balancing. It was exhausting work. Occupational Therapy was next, matching a deck of cards onto a poster board. Speech Therapy contained some repetitive stuff- what type of building are we in, what city, what is the date, blah blah. I was exhausted already, just watching, and it was only noon.
After a quick lunch break it was back to it with PT. And here, finally, for no reason, boom.. something clicked. The super awesome PT suggested we practice getting in and out of the car. So downstairs we went- the first time out of our hospital wing. I️ pulled the rental car around and we proceeded to practice getting in and out of the car from the wheelchair. It was like the first time he took me swing dancing. We bonked heads and I️ stepped on his toes. Usually the public embarrassment of not being a coordinated duo would bring some eye rolls and crappy comments. But not today. Today was, “hey we’re just learning, this is new, we have lots of time to practice”. Hold the phone. Did that just happen? Was that teamwork, and kind words in the face of failure? It’s a miracle.
We proceeded to take a quick tour of the facility, then headed back upstairs for the next session. In the elevator, Mike wheeled head in, and came face to face with a mirror for the first time. He was shocked. Frozen stiff. Then words came out, words that broke my heart. “That’s one ugly mother fucker right there” Mike said to his reflection. I kissed his forehead and replied “that’s my handsome mother fucking husband right there”. A few “awes” from our tour guide and bing, the elevator door opened for exit.
Speech Therapy consisted of a written math problem, a fictitious month scheduling practice, and verbal exchange with the therapist. Mike nailed it. And when he didn’t know the answer, he problem solved in order to find it. A far cry from the guy in the ST office just two days ago. If there was a bar set for the day, Mike blew it off the hinges and clear back to Cali. Jaw dropping transformation.
The afternoon moodiness started to kick in. A lack of proper nutrition is still a factor. So nap time or was. I️ ticked Mike in for some R&R and ran some errands.
When I️ returned Mike had his cellphone in hand. He’s been in and out of interest with it. It becomes overwhelming, overstimulating, so he’ll chat a bit then put it down for a while. He usually forgets where he put it. But not this time. He knows where it was and retrieved it purposefully. He silenced it again after making a few calls and text.
Mikes awareness of this situation is growing, and nearly “complete”. He seems to be “maturing” in his Rancho score. He apologized for putting himself and our family in this situation. I️ quickly wanted to defend him and say “it’s not your fault”. But before I️ could speak he half jokingly suggests that it comes with the territory of riding and that we’ll be here again. Which tells me he isn’t back online just yet.
Mike realized today, and even admitted, that his brain isn’t all together. He accepted his injuries and is happy to have the chance to recover here at Brooks. His humor and wit keeps him from the dangerous slope of depressions. He admits that he could not, and cannot, do this without me by his side. He’s aware of everyone’s love and support. And for the brief moment that his awareness could grasp the gravity of it all, he shed a tear.
In the coming days the wire will be removed from his jaw. The tracheotomy will be removed and begin. To heal. His brain will continue to mend, recalling memory’s and banking new information. Most of the drainage has stopped and his roadrashed skin is a new shade of pink.
Mike’s medication regiment consists of non narcotic drugs, meaning Tylenol is all he gets for pain. I️ wanted to treat Mike and Mike’s brain injury, not a dolled up version. We don’t need to get home and deal with an addition after all this, not that he’s an addictive type, but why even risk it. The nurses have his doses down perfectly and Mike is able to stay relatively pain free.
I️ look back and realize that we haven’t been on recovery road this entire time. We’ve been climbing the mountain. But today, on what seems like groundhogs day, we found the path. We’re off the side trails and now on the road. Recovery road. Where here, we can safely begin our journey home. We can push fear of the unknown behind us. We can put one foot in front of the other, and know that the ground is beneath our feet. Tomorrow will come, because we’re headed straight for it.
Update 22 / Day 20
These past 20 days have been the hardest days of my life. I would say they are the hardest days of Mike’s life, however, I️ think those days are yet to come. I’ve been conscious and painfully aware of everything that has happened since October 20, 2017. I’ve learned my strengths and weaknesses, and accepted my limitations. Mike is just learning about his accident. Discovering his strength and weaknesses. Accepting his condition and limitations. The realization is both empowering and frightening.
It was go time for Mike bu 8:00 A.M. this morning. A quick slurp of slop and off to the PT gym. Awkward nods exchange between the patience in the hallways- each at a different phase of recovery. Those lucky to be walking, or in training to walk, are more smiley and you could almost see the neon of the exit sign on their calendars. Those in mid rehab are focused, not eager to make conversation with fellow survivors, but not shy from acknowledgement either. The cheerful faces of experienced rehab families are easily identified from the terrified new comers. Thank goodness it’s a short hallway.
Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital is awesome. It’s a busy bustle of professionals giving their all to the development of their patiences. You can see the care in their eyes. No one is here for employment.
Today was an “on” day. Mike was on fire in PT, hitting a few extra reps just for general principal. He killed it at OT, extending just past his current ability forcing his body to conform to the new requirements. He owned it at ST competing maps, diagrams, and verbal quizzes. To top it off, our teamwork was epic. We nailed our transfer tests and got the write-off on bed, restroom, and car transfers. Web. You lead with love, anything is possible.
A much anticipated visit from the optometrist came in the late afternoon. The in-room examination provided answered but offered no relief to Mike’s frustration. His eye seem to be self healing, the double vision being ruled as a side effect of his current state. His left eye has swelling along the lid, and the roadrashed skin underneath the eye is pulling the lower lid down, contributing to the miss alignment of the left eye. Coupled with the trauma both eyes have suffered, the converging muscles are weakened and unable to blend both images into one. This could resolve itself overtime. And the best remedy is to make the eyes do the work- no patch, no glasses, just work. Daily drops are advised to increase moisture.
We received an appointment confirmation for our post Maxillofacial consult. The offsite surgeon will determine if Mike’s jaw is ready for the wire removal- the top priority on Mike’s wish list. The appointment is schedule for Monday at 10:00 A.M. just a few miles from the hospital. It will be our first solo outing. Insert new level of nerves and excitement here.
Mike is gaining knowledge and memory with speed. Something that seemed in the distance future as of a few days ago. I’m astonished by his ability to heal. The Superman cape seems fitting, but neither of us are wanting to wear it. The truth is, on a molecular level, we’re all the same. No one is indestructible, and we found that out the hard way. There are risk, and we have everything to loose.
I️ let Mike know bits and pieces at a time. He’s still “coming to” and easily confused. I️ give him doses of home, informing him of that amazing people in our lives that are stepping up and helping out. For the first time in 7 years I️ whiteness Mike pray. He thanked God for keeping him safe that night, for using his healing hands to mend him, praised him for the care of his children, and gave thanks for the love and support of his friend and family. It was a beautiful prayer.
20 days ago my life was ripped out of my hands. It’s been 20 days since I’ve seen my children outside of a cellphone screen. 20 days of being on the go, wanting, waiting, praying, wishing. 20 days of the worst day of my life. But, that also means 20 days of healing. 20 days of answered prayers. 20 days of milestones and miracles. 20 days of recovery. 20 days that we’ve survived.
Update 23 / Day 21
Another up-and-at it start to the day. The necrotic spot on Mike’s knee is growing. The skin around the wound is red, and warm to the touch. A high white blood cell count indicates his immune system is in combat, fighting an infection somewhere in his body. A deep cleaning and upped dose of antibiotics is hoped to do the trick.
Mike’s blood platelets are high, at 1,005 compared to the average 150-300. Another change in medicine has been made to reduce the chances of a blood clot.
Mike’s personality is still intact. Some aspects being magnified. If you ask Mike a question, buckle up and grab some popcorn. Be ready to head off on a tangent safari. No matter the topic, it’s guaranteed to circle back to work.
Mike realizes there’s a deficits to his memory. It frustrates him, scares him. He doesn’t like not having the answer or not remembering key elements of his life. His speech therapists tells him, “this is a question of our intelligence- you’re extremely smart. This is a rebuilding of your awareness, memory, and problem solving”. For brain stimulation and exercise we play UNO in between sessions and “name 3 from the category”.
Today is shaping up to be a good day. We climbed the highest peaks of this mountain. Surely there will be lumps in the road, landslides, fallen rocks, and rainstorms. But guaranteed, through the parting clouds, is the bright light of sunshine. Success is reigning down from heaven.
Update 24 / Day 21
3 weeks ago tonight, at 8:42 P.M., an accident was reported on the I95 in Titusville Florida. The Brevard County Fire Department responded quickly scooping the bloody body of a motorcyclist off the side of the road. With the motorists face smashed, an emergency field tracheotomy was performed ensuring an airway to the lifeless body. A quick transport to the nearest hospital was made where the motorist was life flighted to a trauma center further south in Melbourne Florida. Immediately upon arrival the Holmes Regional Trauma team went to work, irrigating skin and repairing bones. The severely injured motorcyclist was given a grim prognosis. 3 weeks ago today- many lives changed.
Tonight, at 8:42 P.M. the fortunate and blessed man reflected on the days work. He reflected on his recent days of consciousness. He sat in awe hearing of the people who have rallied around him, to love and support him. He shared his desire to be the man he truly wants to be, a man like his father.
Although the day was filled with intense emotion: Today was the first day I️ didn’t cry. The first day that I️ felt joy. They say it takes 21 days to build or change a habit. Today we broke the chains of heartache.
Update 25 / Day 22
Weekends are mellow here at Brooks. Therapies are chilled down to just one 30 minute Occupational Therapy session, narrowing the focus onto what needs additional attention. For Mike, and for the moment, that’s sensation and mobility to his left three fingers- index, middle, and ring. The road rash is so severe here, we believe the impact damages and the irrigation procedure reduced the skin and tissue so much that the new skin cannot stretch. And it’s likely there’s a fracture or two. Yet recovery waits for no one, so dexterity exercises was the name of the game.
After the quick gym session it was back into bed. Mike wasn’t enthusiastic about touring the facility, taking a stroll to the pond, or spending time in the game room. He had no desire to be outside of his room and I️ didn’t press it. He’s not happy about his situation. He’s not one to take something sitting down. If he can’t be out doing activities on his own two feet, he rather sit and wait. i combated the mentality at first, “recovery waits for no one”, but after having a lovely time chatting with my husband, playing cards, and watching terrible hospital T.V., i realized we spent the day doing exactly what I’ve been wanting to do for months.
Mike came into Brooks one week ago today. The rotary weekend crew who admitted Mike swung in the room today- shocked to see how far he’s progressed. It feels good to be the successful story in the Southside hall. Many victims of accidents and crashes are here, and aren’t so lucky. Sadly, we’re reminded constantly of how tragic this outcome could have been.
When we first arrived, the Rehab hospital had just opened a housing unit for patient’s family members. Something similar to a Ronald Macdonald’s House. Coincident, and convenient timing. The first week I️ stayed in the brand new building alone. It was strange. Now there are a few more cars in the parking lot. I️ pass people in the hallway on the way to my room. The companionship is welcomed, yet I️’m sympathetic and regret having neighbors- we’re all here for the same reasons.
Mike’s diet has improved. He’s finally starving enough to slurp down as much as he can through the wired, lockdown jaw. In the meantime, I️ sneak away to the hospital cafeteria to keep fed with enough calories to sustain nursing. I️ average $8-$10 per meal, three times a day. The food is surprisingly good, the convenient location keeps the anxiety of leaving at bay, and there’s enough healthy choices to not pack on the pounds.
This journey seems to be stabilizing, yet I️ can’t help but to feel displaced. It’s raining yet I’m not cold. The wind is pushing the trees, yet I️ can’t feel it. My heart is in two, split to my kids in California and my husband in Florida.
I️ know Mike is starting to feel the stress and pressure of his situation. He’s awareness is up to par. He’s saddened by his current circumstances and humbled by the love and respect he’s receiving from his friends, his brothers, his family.
We finished the night with a game of Uno. It was fun, competitive, and stimulating. The evening medication cocktail set in and a wave of peace came over Mike. We kissed goodnight, already missing each other’s company and eager for our morning hug.
Update 26 / Day 23
Today has been the most relaxing Sunday we’ve had in 3 years. That’s not to be confused with stress free. We’re hardworking people; our objective is to be effective and efficient. We spend our time productively. Our actions are purposeful and accurate. Lounging and procrastinating doesn’t get the job done. So needless to say, “relaxing” isn’t all that relaxing.
After a short OT session I fun forced Mike into going outside. On campus, just across the parking lot, is a beautiful pond filled with mohawked ducks and a million tadpoles. Adjacent is a garden patch with a cobblestone walkway and thousands of jumping lizards. The trees hang above providing spotted shade and the foliage lining the permitter attempts to hide the city street. The space is designated for rehab use. Families gather around their loved one, a Brooks patient, hoping to generate some sort of happiness and normalcy. It’s nice to catch some fresh air, but not worth the awkward reminder of what you’re missing outside. Life.
Mike did his best to stay upbeat today. Being unnecessarily positive is my department, and Mike clocked in when he could. These first days of his “second chance at life” bring challenges he’s never faced. For him, these early days are spent in somewhat oh a shock. Actually, perhaps that’s exactly it- he’s in shock. “I just can’t believe where I am right now or what Has happened to me.” His body doesn’t ache, he has little pain...but how could that be he wonders. It’s hard for him to grasp the truth, in his mind, he’s been awake for just a few days. He’s been recovering from an accident for only as long as he can remember- last Tuesday/Wednesday. When in actuality, he’s been recovering for 3 weeks, 23 days already. Nearly one month.
The doctors made rounds late this morning. They were blown away by Mike’s progress. The statement “you’ll be out of here pretty soon” brought a load of excitement. Yet we won’t get our hopes up. We’re realistic.
Mike’s Wound Care Nurse came for an examination. She too was blown away by his progress. “He’s healing faster then anything I’ve seen. Faster even then what I see in pediatrics”. She contributed the rapid healing to the amount of protein intake, his natural ability, and my additional cleaning and massaging. The man is resilient. There’s no doubt in my mind that he could face any adversity. Her compliments brought us comfort and were yet another sign of early release.
Mikes index finger continues to bother him. He can’t feel anything to the touch, it doesn’t bend, and it hurts when he moves it. Orders for an ex-ray were put in, and the process was completed just before evening meds.
The thoughts of going home are just as frequent as the thoughts of how and why. I’m overjoyed by being able to see the light again. Going home seemed like a super distant, far off goal. Something we could only hope for. Now, I can see going home as an actual reality. Home is near.
With the weekend behind us we can get back to work. Doing what we do best. Our schedule will be filled with appointments. The days will be over just as quickly as the started. We’ll be in our comfort zone of hard work. We’ll feel accomplished. Even if our accomplishments are minuscule or unnoticed. We can relax in the fact that we are doing- we are providing- we are thriving.
Update 27 / Day 24
Today kicked our butts. We’ve been anticipating Monday all weekend, mostly Mike, itching to get over to the OMFS office for a consultation. The excitement quickly dissipated once the ball got rolling- the juice was almost not worth the squeeze.
Last night, from too much “relaxing” over the weekend, we both had a hard time falling asleep. And coincidentally, we both couldn’t even stay asleep. With Mike at Brooks and me at Helen’s, we probably got a collective 8-9 hours of interrupted sleep. Starting the day tired is no ones favorite.
Mike’s usually Physical Therapist had the day off (who I love because her personality and wit is perfect for Mike). So instead, we met with a lovely gal who saw us off to our first solo, offsite trip. We loaded up, wheelchair and all into our Nissan Rouge rental, and set out to follow the blue GPS like. I’m almost certain my GPS settings were programmed to “zig zag” or “most indirect route” as we looped around an 8 mile track. It was neat to take in another part of the city- but not for Mike. For Mike, it was uncomfortable and overwhelming. With his vision distorted and his left eye unable to see much, site seeing wasn’t an option. He can only manage to see still objects at about 10-12 feet ahead. So my pouting out things as we pass by driving at 40 MPH came more as a tease or nuisance. I learned quickly to shut up and drive.
We arrived at the University Of Florida Health Science Center and realized we’re here, on our own. I pulled up to the passenger loading and unloading. I lifted the wheelchair out of the trunk, assembled it, and staged it at the back passenger door, chalked up to the back tire as we practice. Mike came out, stepping on only his right leg, floating his left leg in the air and balancing his left arm against his chest. He made a precise rotation and sat on the chair. We snapped the leg rest onto the wheelchair and unlocked the wheels. Mike scooted up to the sidewalk to wait for me while I went off to park. I came back to meet Mike after parking and we set off to find the OMFS office. It’s difficult to find your way around a new place. Especially a giant multi building, multi story campus. Especially when you’re unable to navigate well or feel oriented.
The meeting with the OMFS, Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon, went well. The wires tightly holding Mikes jaw together was removed. But only to be replaced by slightly less cumbersome rubber bands. His jaw is still broken and needs to remain fairly still. No side-to-side movement, no chewing or grinding. Just slight open and close movements can be made. The only reason why they removed the wire is because Mike displays cognitive awareness- they trust that he is with it enough to follow instructions. Last week Mike thought the wires being removed would be the mile marker for things getting better, for him being healed, and for us going home. He realizes now that it’s not the case, that he has severe injuries that take time to heal, and that he had a NDE, near death experience.
During the visit with OMFS the original ex-rays were examined, and compared to new ones taken upon arrival to the office. The findings are:
•Mike’s mandible break is still broken requiring a minimum of 3 more weeks of healing- liquid diet and rubber bands.
•Mikes left lower orbital is broken. The original trauma surgeons addressed the most pressing part of the eye socket break, the top eyebrow bone. The bone underneath Mikes left eye is broken and will need surgery. The break is playing a role in his appearance, pulling the eyelid down and out. And it’s affecting his vision, as the eyeball is sunk in further back in the socket. We’re referred to the OMFS team at UCLA and will need to make an appointment as soon as we get back into California.
•The remaining fractures and repairs are still healing. Injuries of this nature take 6-8 weeks to heal. We’re 3 weeks down.
•OMFS signed off on tracheotomy removal.
•The follow-up appointment was made to remove the screws that are drilled into Mikes jaw, they sit in the bone just above/below the teeth. It’s painful, so the procedure is done with the patient under anesthesia. The appointment is Monday 11/27...
We left the appointment feeling blah. It wasn’t bearing a load of great news like we anticipated. It wasn’t a bad visit, but there weren’t any fireworks. Nothing to celebrate. The walk back to the car had a slight incline. My right hand was on Mike’s wheelchair pushing him uphill and my left hand was on Weslie’s stroller dragging her up. I fought the tear boiling over in my right eye, faking a smile to the pedestrian passing us on the sidewalk. I couldn’t believe my life was this at that moment- pushing and pulling in a city 2,000 miles from home.
We returned to Brooks Rehab in a less zig-zaggy route. The round trip took 4 hours. It was now 12:45 EST. We were exhausted. When we rolled up to Mikes room, 2117, we found a pissed off nurse. She had been looking for us all morning, turning the hospital upside down. We had went rouge, in the Nissan Rouge. Apparently, the PT didn’t tell our nurse that we were leaving. Mainly because it’s our responsibility to tell her- we just didn’t know that. We figured everyone knew we had an offsite appointment. Thankfully I had signed us out at the reception desk as I’d been trained to do for the pond and courtyard purposes.
After a brief regrouping in his room, it was off to speech therapy for brain training and testing. By 2:00 P.M. EST it was Occupational Therapy time. To step it up, the drill was 20 one legged squats and 4 passes of one legged hops. And a final session of PT at 4:30 P.M. where Mike and the trainer played toss using different size and texture balls switching off from left to right hand. By 6:00 P.M. we were ready for bed. Dinner was brought in, liquified meals in warm mugs garnished by a sipping straw. Mike chugged it. With a slight gap between his teeth he can now do work with a straw and actually get some food down.
Tonight Mike does a sleep study to see how his oxygen level fairs a capped trachea, no trach collar night. If he doesn’t desaturate and fairs the room air well, he will have his tracheotomy removed tomorrow. The hole in his throat will simply close up on its own. No stitches. Just some bacitracin.
Tomorrow is another day we’ve been highly anticipating. It’s “Team Meeting” day where all of his care team (doctors, therapist, counselors, me) meet to discuss progress and new goals. We’ve been hoping for early release. Logistically, and logically, it doesn’t seem to possible. With a few procedures lingering before taking flight, and a holiday schedule next week, it’s just not likely.
Mike is in good headspace. Accepting, adapting, retraining, believing. We both know that this is he hardest struggle of our life- but we’re doing it right. We talk everyday about our blessings- our family and friends who are support us, loving us, and cheering us on. We know that not every day will suck. We know that our team will prevail.
Update 28 / Day 25
It’s hard to rate your days when in a situation like this. Using a scale of 1-10 I would place today at an 8.5. Quite possibly our best day yet. Being the critical type, there’s always room for improvement.
Mike’s sleep study last night was not completed- but for good reason. In the middle of the night, before the 4 hour process could complete, Mike’s was tracheotomy collar fell out. Earlier in recovery or in any other scenario, this A.M. would have been a major concern. But the plastic apparatus was already scheduled to be taken out, so Mike just gave it helpers. He assured he Nurse he didn’t tug it out, it just fell out on its own while he was sleeping.
PT and OT consisted of a few rounds of BINGO while standing on one leg, squats and leg lifts, and arm exercises. These aren’t his favorite activities. His right knee wasn’t in good shape coming into this, and now it’s being hammered and required to carry all the weight. Not performing is not an option, so he ices it and slaps on a positive attitude.
Team meeting went well today, although Mike would have liked it to go better. We foolishly got our hopes up of getting an early release. In hindsight, why would we want to rush recovery and risk missing a step? The pressure of responsibility maybe. Missing home. I should have never allowed the thought in- I should have trusted my gut. I should have accepted the discharge date and geared ourselves to that. I failed my job on that.
The doctors require a number of mental and physical levels to be met before release. They’re reasonable. They’re well planned. They’re tailored to Mike- his personality, abilities, and goals. Mike is aware of the process, frustrated by the timeline, but willing to do what, when, and how it takes to get home. I promised Vivian that I would bring her Dad back- and I’m keeping that promise.
Every individual is different, and every brain injury is different. In our case, I describe the effects of this brain injury as maturity. I feel like today, Mike reached maturity. He didn’t tangent. He picked up on social cues. He used reasoning and problem solving skills. He corrected himself. He took correction. He paused to think instead of diverting. He was compassionate and thoughtful of others. He respected things, even if he didn’t understand or agree. These are accomplishments. Thoughts and processes that weren’t active just two days ago. He’s hit another milestone. And it’s awesome.
Conversations with Mike are so meaningful now. He’s actively being a part of his recovery. His mental recovery. I remind him to be patient with himself. To not be too critical. You think he’s hard on you... he’s his worst critic. He’s a tough critic, and he gives himself zero slack. This journey will be the biggest challenge in his life.
Our evening routine includes a shower that takes roughly 25-30 minutes. We wheel into position and transfer onto the shower chair. This process is less painful now with the raw skin mostly healed. We continue to wash away scabs, dried blood, and road dust. A process that will take many more showers.
Another sleep study will be performed tonight- just to observe the first full night with no traech. We expect no findings. It’s just a necessary step in the process. A box to check off the chart.
Just before bed, Mike’s wound care nurse paid a visit to examine his left hand. She found a growing spot of dying tissue and put in orders for a new ointment. This ointment acts like an enzyme that eats the dead cells and draws up the new growing skin below.
We ended the night by agreeing to be fully participant I each other’s success in this situation. To boost each other confidence, keep each other positive, and to be patient with one another. We’ll work on our communication, something that needed a boost anyway. We’ll commit to the 29th and quit juking for a Hail Mary pass. We’ll get this Florida thing done, get back to Cali and schedule his orbital reconstructive surgery, we’ll stick with therapies, and we’ll get through this. Together. We’ll work hard and turn this up to 11.
Update 29 / Day 26
Today is the first day, without a second guess or doubt in my mind, that I can say Mike is going to be ok. Mike is going to make a full recovery. I’ve been saying it, the signs have been there, but I hadn’t fully committed to that train of thought. I reserved the possibility of things not being ok. I prepared myself for many different scenarios other then Mike coming home as Mike. You have to be ready for all possibilities in a situation like this. But today, I can confidently believe that this story ends well.
PT, OT, ST as usual. One week ago today these sessions felt long and draining. The scores were low, 5 or 6 out of 30. Now, it’s thirty for thirty. A+ on all the reading comprehension and memory quizzes. Hitting 20 one-legged balance ball squats with a few extra just for GP. Hopping forward and backward. Not using his left leg or arm for anything. Transferring without assist. Absolutely nailing it. It’s so rad to be his wife. To be the proud lady swaying in the corner with a baby strapped to her torso.
I was treated to an over due break today. For weeks I’ve been a few miles from the coastline but too tense and focused to “sneak off” and touch the water. Better yet, guilty. The thought of ditching Mike to do something for myself made me feel guilty. Guilt is my nemesis. Guilt and regret cripple me- so every action I take is to avoid guilt and regret. Yet my survival of this is paramount. So I went. And boy did I not regret it. The 2+/- excursion was beyond delightful and rejuvenating. The baby powder smooth sand of the Florida Beach was unlike anything I’ve stepped foot on. The dry sand was so soft and fluffy, yet stable underfoot. The wet sand compacted, creating an effortless walk to the waterline. The sky was gloomy and the wind was blowing, but I felt great. The warm Atlantic water rushed in and pulled out exposing seashells for the picking. A flock of Terns wadded, minding their business and seemingly unbothered by our company. Two men fished knee deep in the wake with heir lines cast out beneath the pier. My pocket filled up with sandy shells and my heart grew with a new appreciation for travel. The time spent with the Atlantic water was perfect, and ended with an overdue, bonding lunch break. Healing on many levels.
With awareness comes depression. As Mike progresses through the recovery process he realizes more and more just how “messed up” he is and was. The “what did I do to deserve this” question is hard to not ask. The acceptance part has already come, but is now followed by the inevitable bummed out WTF part. I️ have been recovering alongside Mike, making sure I️ process these stages. I empathize with Mike, although I imagine Mike’s feelings to be more severe.
Physically, there aren’t any new developments. And fortunately, things should start to smooth out from here. We’ll see the orthopedic here in Melbourne immediately after releases, and before flying home. The ex-ray of Mike’s finger show now broken bones, just a lot of trauma and swelling. The skin is staring to bother him and feel burning/tingly and it makes that new layer of skin. The swelling in mikes face and head is nearly gone. With most of the major wounds healed, Mike can now feel the aches and soreness of his muscles. The knots and bruises from the 85mph impact he endured.
To combat loneliness, and to maximize in the time we have together, I’m sleeping the night in his rehab room. We laid together, hugged, and held hands. I massaged his neck drawing the lumps of fracture drainage and old blood down to through his lymph nodes. We exchanged “I love yous” and kissed goodnight. Tomorrow we take another step closer to home- the place that weighs heavy on both our minds. The place we will have many more great days.
Update 30 / Day 27
I️ think I’ve become somewhat robotic. I know I’m living in this reality, but every so often I realize where I’m at and I️ can’t believe what’s happening. I explain it like this: you know when you’re chatting with your friends and you talk about that tragic thing you’ve heard, “did you hear about” the so and so’s? Wait... we’re those people. We’re that poor family. We’re the so and so’s.
Today was ok. It was long. The day dragged on forever. It was a busy, on-the-go morning and an ultra boring evening. Being away from home isn’t getting easier. Parts of mental and emotional recovery can only be accomplished at home.
Mike’s oral study was completed with Speech Therapy and he’s finally graduated passed the strict liquid diet. He’s on the Maroon Spoon now and able to consume puréed foods. The thickened consistency is a nice change up from liquified everything. The luxury of eating from a flattened spoon is the highlight of the day.
There’s less chaos and constant medical monitoring now which leaves more time for other tasks. We tracked down Mike’s full medical records and reports, receiving and 84 page fax of his stay at Holmes Regional. Reading the document is a trip. After a few pages of reading out loud I’d look up to lock eyes with Mike, both realizing it’s him I’m reading about. But the documents are not for pleasure or personal use- they’re for the attorney.
The reduced chaos leaves us with time. Time to think. And thinking of this nature isn’t the most constructive type. It’s somewhat of the depressive sort. Not the “whoa is me” or anything of a victim mentality. Just the “what did I do to deserve this” type and the “how can I fox it” sort. We’re Toomey’s, we’re fixers.
This entire experience, which isn’t even over, has my entire sense of safety upside down. Life is so fragile, and can be shredded to bits in the blink of an eye. If this could happen to Mike, it could happen to anyone. How can I ensure heartache and tragedy of this magnitude will never strike my loved ones again? Oh that’s right, I cant.
What I can do, what Mike can do, is survive. We can rebuild, revamp, and prepare. We can repair our life and get back to where we were. Perhaps, with great effort and determination, we can make life even better this time. Our life won’t ever be the same- but that’s ok.
Update 31 / Day 28
Early every morning the days schedule is generated and released to the patients here at Brooks. Of all mornings, the morning we were actually “sleeping in”, we had a 7:30 A.M. start. A roll and transfer out of bed and Mike was off to PT.
Counseling was on the board for today. We each had a private session. The first thing we did was come back and tell each other how it went. Mike’s meeting was very informative. He noted that every single question, topic, and action of his therapies are purposeful. He sensed the purpose of his private meeting was for the counselor to asses our relationship, and his lifestyle back home. A preparation for release. My meeting followed his, and seems to have a similar theme. The rehabilitation staff wants to guarantee he will make a safe return, to a safe environment, and continue recovery in good care.
Mike’s doctor, who he calls his brain doctor, ran through a few requirements and necessities for his mental health and regrowth. She explained that alcohol, among other items, cannot be used for a minimum of the first 1.5 years of recovery. Doing so would put him into epileptic shock and result in a seizure. A risk not worth taking. Any of the above would jeopardize his license and working ability. Another risk not worth taking.
The focus of my session was expectations for the travel home- car transport, airport, first weeks home, etcetera. I’m advised to have a travel buddy to assist us home. Someone physically capable. I’m advised to refrain from large groups, gatherings, or parties. I’m encouraged to help him be accepting of the temporary limitations and not try to cut corners around them. I’m advised to keep doing what we’re doing- loving each other, being supportive, and patient.
Physically, Mike is getting so strong. His PT train jets are amazed to see his progress from just the begging of the week. He needs no assist and hardly any gait belt hovering. They enjoy working with him.
Mike’s Occupational Therapists used an instrument that generates heat and glided it across his numb index finger. He felt it. He felt the heat and was so relieved. That was the sign he needed to know his finger will heal.
Mike reports to have no pain. For over a week now he’s been on an “as requested basis” for Tylenol and has not requested it one time. He remains on Gabapentin, a medication being used primarily for neurological pain but also know to treat anxiety disorders, seizures, and insomnia. The other medication used is to prevent blood clots and he still gets antibiotic eye drops. I try not to look to far into these medications- to not be the paranoid over cautious wife. But I wonder how long these medications will be required, or just what to expect for the long game.
Perhaps the hardest task, outside of staying positive and stress free, is placing the rubber bands in Mikes mouth. His lips are still raw inside and out. The gums are chaffed from first the metal and now the moving rubber. And the tweezers required for placement are cumbersome and aggressive. But bless his heart, he sits there ever so patiently as I fumble my way through, gouging and snapping him, as I try repeatedly to get the rubber band looped around the Phillips heads screw drilled through his jawbone. I’ve developed a technique and nearly perfected it. A strange task I would have never thought is to be charged with doing.
Missing our children weighs heavy still. Having Weslie here keeps the sadness from taking over. She’s the most popular person in this building, second to her miraculously healing father. Every day we “X” out the previous on the calendar. Going home is always the topic we circle back to. And going home together, in good shape and good health, will make this leg of the journey so worth while.
Update 32 / Day 29
I fell in love all over again today. I fell in love with caring and humble man, who even from a hospital can give. Today Mike stayed positive and went outside of his comfort zone so I could be happy.
The day stared slow. Mike woke up remorseful. It’s my birthday today and he wanted to more for me then our current status quo. He felt guilt for having us here. He was bummed for me. Yet, I didn’t. I felt completely content. Being with Mike, physically spending time with him, is the number one thing I like to do. It’s always my main objective. It’s my overall goal- to spend time together. So off the bat today I was already getting what i wanted. Had we be home, he’d likely be working today, I’d be on kid duty, and we’d schlep together a dinner at one of the same-old spots. How often do you wake up across the country on your birthday? Might as well look at the bright side.
By 8:00 A.M. it was breakfast, coffee, then Speech Therapy at 10:00, backed with PT at 10:30. Shortly after 11:00 A.M. we were granted a 4 hour mini- a hall pass to leave the hospital. Knowing it was my birthday, the nurses and therapy staff set up authorization for a pass with Mike’s doctor. Out from these walls and into fresh air we went!
We (I️) chose to go to the zoo with our time. What does one do in Jacksonville, Florida with a wheelchair and a baby? The beach, that was out. Shopping, nope. A park, that would get old quick. So the zoo it was. Mike made no argument. He was happy to get out and felt the birthday girl should make the choice.
I will admit, I was nervous when we first arrived. The zoo was fairly crowded. We don’t have a handy cap plaque so parking could present an issue. Mike isn’t much of a crowd person. Weslie was oddly fussy. This could potentially go terribly wrong.
We found a wide enough spot, almost immediately. With ease and precision we unloaded the car. We made our way through the entrance, and soon found ourselves in the flow of foot traffic and the first exhibit. Mike was easy going. Along for the ride. Not one complaint, hint of negativity, or awkward frustration was made by either of us. I️ quickly caught on to navigating a crowd while pushing a wheelchair. Mike assisted and communicated kindly and patiently with me. We just rolled through that zoo like a couple of love birds.
Mike and I️ are outgoing and friendly people, but being in the spotlight isn’t our favorite. Funny thing is, we’re a tall guy in a wheelchair with a short redhead that has a bobbing baby strapped to her torso- were something to look at. An exhibit of our own. And everyone is looking. But the stares didn’t faze us. And frankly, the stares weren’t that bad. People here are genuinely kind. Manners and friendliness is the norm.
With a delay on the freeway, and around here that means you are sitting until the crash is cleared, we arrived 25 minutes late. The onetime Toomey’s pushes curfew on their first outing. Of course Mrs. responsible called ahead to notify the front desk. We arrived, made it for meds, and unwound for the night.
As I lay my head down I can hear the cries of the patients across the halls. The shouting and yelling for the nurse, for help, for relief. Most of these cries cannot be answered, they’ve had their meds already, it’s just the TBI talking. I’m reminded that my biggest gift is the life of my husband.
Mike wrote me a lovely card. A heartwarming gesture. And even more touching ones I read the words. And more heartwarming birthday joy was shares by the amazing friends and family caring from a far. Facebook posts, text messages, calls, cards, and gifts were sent to me- thoughtfully to give me a boost in this tough time. I purposely stayed happy and optimistic, but still, it was my birthday and I’m away on a medical emergency. Not what I had planned this year.
The more we dig into life, the more I love those around me. This part of getting older- the part when you mature and can value things- is the best part. The kind of maturity that allows me to appreciate people, for who they are and what they bring to the world, is my favorite kind. I’m glad I’ve made it here, to the time on life where things matter. Thank you everyone for making me matter today. You all matter to me.
Update 33 / Day 30
Ouch. Day thirty. We’ve been heading towards thirty days, I’ve been been counting it down this whole time, day 30 was inevitable- i just didn’t think we’d still be in Florida.
To think Mike was hit by a truck at high speeds one month ago today and he is now (not walking) and talking is miraculous. The human body is amazing. The human brain or remarkable. Mike is insanely badass. His drive to be better (in all things) has pushed him to a rapid recovery. It’s amazing.
Our outing today was awesome. However, “reentering” the world isn’t easy. His face is severely scared, covered by glasses and a ball cap. His strong and able body is restricted by injuries he has no recollection of. He has to sit it out, let others do for him, be along for the ride. It’s all very new.
It’s easy to discredit the gravity of the injuries and misinterpret Mike’s current condition. He is, by all means, doing great. That doesn’t mean Mike is healed and “all better”. He has a long way to go before being “all better”. His mind is still mending. His body is knitting. His future is still untold. The one thing I can guarantee, with Mike at the helm, he will be better, faster, stronger, and his “full recovery” will come sooner then any statistic would suggest.
After eating a giant, delicious, not puréed dinner, the onetime Toomey’s made it back to rehab right on the dot. An evening visit from his wound care nurse proved his remaining wounds were healing great. The granulated tissue is acting as it should. His open wounds are turning the corner and will soon hit the dry and itchy phase. His tracheotomy hole is closing nicely. A few wipes and dabs and he was all dressed up for evening meds.
Before bed we reflected on the last 30 days. The amazing people who we’re surrounded by. The excellent choices that have been made by his doctors, nurses, and care team. The strength of our relationship. The resilience of our children. The craziness that has been the last month of our lives. We wonder what the next thirty days will be like. How hard it will be to renter our real life. Not knowing what to expect isn’t something we’re used to. We plan, and we execute. And for now, our only plan is to get well- and get home.
Update 34 / Day 31
Mike and I met 7 years ago today. It was love at first sight. Timing was perfect. Mike needed appreciation, his daughters needed nurturing, and I needed purpose. Love and stability were needs we all shared. We fit right into our roles and became a family from that day forward. Of all our symbolic anniversaries, this one is my favorite.
After having two nights of very little sleep, and maybe some amount of stress that hasn’t shook off, I was tuckered out today. Mike hit recovery road solo today. After completing a few lingering errands, and keeping our baby fed and content, I was able to catch a small afternoon nap. I woke up with a power charge and new kink in my neck.
Mike’s mental state continues to get beck to his normal awesome. His physical state is following quickly behind. Another few weeks of eye drops and the I95 dirt should clear out of his eyes. And another 1/8” of hair growth is nearly covering the stitching crown that stretches from ear to ear.
Measurements taken from our home have been mocked into “at home simulations”. He no longer requires gait belt assist for transfers, we’re more in his way then anything. His right leg is strong, able to take the entire work load. All the training and practice is coming together- showing the powers that be that he is self sufficient and will be in good hands when he gets home.
We finished the night with a bedside takeout dinner date and a foot rub. Sitting in bed, talking, and being attentive to one another is time well spent. We’re going to make this last week in Florida count. We’re going to make the next 7 years be some of the best. We’re going to keep on keeping on, hammer down, and love each other without end.
Update 35 / Day 32
Today could be marked as successful. Mike and I did our jobs well, our kids were well taken care of, and we maintained forward motion towards a promising future. Without being taken too literally- we can’t complain.
Team Meeting came at 10:15 A.M. today and our 8’ x 12’ hospital/rehab room filled up with a dozen people. Mike has beat all expectations, and is seemingly self healing, so friendly small talk is the bulk of the group conversation. Everyone is lovely here, we’re developing friendships upon the patient/care taker dynamic. The staff genuinely likes us and we genuinely like them. Today the decision was made to start weaning Mike off of all medication, all possible medications. His doctor speculated that the only medication that he might need to stay on would be the one that prevents the blood from clotting in his immobile left leg.
Mike performed his standard PT, OT, and ST sessions. He bumped up to 8 sessions per day as opposed to the standard 6. We activated his replacement phone. The shattered screen of his phone that survived the crash is a good depiction of the shattered bones in his face. A chilling resemblance.
We decided to sneak off for an early dinner. After signing out at the nurses station, we set off down the elevator and towards the parking lot. Mike staged himself outside at the curb while I brought the car around. A light drizzle started to fall and a few new patient arrivals crowded the loading zone. Our spontaneous trip was off to a tricky start. We figured it out, got loaded, and drove a mile down the road to the Greek restaurant we had tried takeout from he night before. By the time we arrived, rain was poring out in slow, sloppy, glops of water. The restaurant parking lot was small. And new. As we pulled up we both were silent- knowing this exit would be challenging. I exited first, quickly retrieving the wheelchair from the trunk and assembling it beside Mike’s door. Mike transferred into the chair as quick as he could, inserted the left leg rest, and scooted and wheeled himself towards the entrance. There wasn’t an overhang or awning to shield from the rain, so we proceeded into the restaurant, up the ramp and over the bump. Mike selected a table while I ran back out to get Weslie. I came back in, sat next to Mike, and waited to confirm frustrations. After locking eyes for a few seconds we both shrugged with a “well, we got through that” type of acknowledgement. Dinner was delicious. We chatted with the waitress, sharing stories and scars. We felt comfortable. And by the time we were done, the rain had let up making for a dry stress-free transition back into the car.
A shave and shower we’re on the evening agenda. Mike rather perform these tasks independently, but I️ secretly enjoy being involved. I love to dote on Mike. Per the doctors instructions, I changed Mike’s hand and knee dressings. “You’ll be in charge of doing it when you guys get home, so I want you to get comfortable at it now”. And to think, this kind of thing used to make me squeamish.
We ended the day as usual- replacing the rubber bands in his mouth, evening meds with the nurse, and a kiss goodnight. It’s crazy how much we miss each other. We’re so close, yet unable to be with each other the way we enjoy. Hugging and cuddling is our favorite. Touch is our main love language. Early on his body was too fragile, and now our schedules too booked. By he time we have a window to snuggle or unwind, an appointment rolls around or the baby wakes up and needs a feeding. The same battle our relationship faced at home. Time. The lack of time. Since more time isn’t an option, spending it wisely will be the alternative.