09 January 2009


{Back to Square One}
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital ran their own tests on my dad, but we were confident that they would yield the same results. We've never been more wrong.

On January 19th, exactly 1 week and 2 days after the accident, we heard the worst news ever. My dad's neck was broken. I actually think this news would have been easier to handle if we'd heard it in the original list of injuries, but no. It came a week later when we felt that he was "out of the woods." It brought us right back to January 10th. Back to square one.

The neurologist explained that my dad had a C1, C2 sublux. What does that mean? It means that the first too Cervical Vertebrae in my dad's spine were dislocated. Huh? Yeah, we were confused too so the doctor put it in laments terms for us and I will never, ever forget what he said: my dad was basically decapitated and the only thing holding his head on his body was his skin. That's how he explained it. Thankfully, his spinal cord looked to be in good condition, which the doctor still didn't understand. He called it a miracle, actually. Now, there were 2 options: do nothing and hope that any slight bump or fall wouldn't cause immediate paralysis or death (yeah, not an option)... or... surgery. The doctor told us that he had the "chance of quarters" after surgery- 25% chance of death, 25% chance of becoming a quadriplegic, 25% chance of becoming a paraplegic, or 25% chance of coming out "fine." What we heard: 75% chance that something could go wrong. But what choice did we have?

January 21, 2003 was the second longest day of my life. We sat in the surgical waiting room hour after hour grasping on any signs of hope that we could find that meant things we're going to be okay. They had the show ER on in the waiting room. Who ever is in charge of selecting television shows for the families in the surgical waiting room has a delusional sense of humor. Sometime in the late afternoon we finally got an update... my dad made it through the surgery. No paralysis. Thank God. The doctors placed a metal plate in the back of my dad's head, fusing his skull to the top of his spinal column. Because the C1 and C2 vertebrae control head movement, the surgical fusion meant that my dad would no longer be able to turn his head from side to side, or up and down.

Over the next month, my dad remained in the hospital and on the ventilator. Every time they tried to wean him off, something would happen and he would need to go back on. "One step forward. Two steps back." became our moto. He had a tracheotomy put in but he was still unable to speak. He continued to use the notebook so that he could "talk" to us. By this time, he had several notebooks filled with one-sided conversations that were barely legible due to my dad's inability to look down to write. My family and I got very good at decoding his writing and using his body language and "signs" to figure out what he was trying to say.

When the ventilator was finally removed, they discovered that my dad could no longer eat by himself. The initial trauma of the accident coupled with the tracheatomy severely damaged his throat. He was put on a feeding tube.

My dad continued to beat the odds throughout his time at Jefferson. He moved from the Neurological ICU, to the step-down unit a few weeks after his surgery. He then moved to a long-term care floor, and then, finally, to the therapy floor. We all absolutely loved all of his doctors and nurses... and they were so supportive of his goals. He is a very determined man, if you haven't picked that up by now. :)


Trinity said...

your dad is amazing.

Joseph's Journey said...

your father is a very lucky man! your family is truly blessed to have all of that happen and still remain so strong and have him come through all of those set backs. many, many blessings and angel kisses to you and your family!
~Veronica, in San Antonio, TX

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