Thursday, July 29, 2010

Paralyzed We Communicated With Blinking

g o l d g e s t r y p pImage by Der Ohlsen via Flickr
The First Month

My father spent his first 30 days as a new quadriplegic unconscious and in no pain. Getting to become a quad was quite a different story, very scary, and truly a trauma in itself. It was a slow onset, at first he could not feel his legs, then it was his abdomen, then it was his arms and finally he stopped breathing. This took over 16 hours from the incident to the transformation.

I was at his bedside, trying to console him and he was trying to console me. Still in the midst of such trauma he was trying to be my father and tell me he was okay, this was all okay. I was looking at him, he wasn't fine and I knew, I just knew he would never be fine again. I did all I could to not break down on him right then and there, but I was saved by the emergency bells going off like fireworks all around his bed and the rush of what seemed to be the entire hospital staff running into his room. He wasn't breathing any longer.

It is a site I will not forget, watching him looking at me gasping for air, turning colors right in front of me, scared, frightened, fighting for life. As quickly as they came in they were through, tubes in him, knocking him out with med's and initiating a paralytic medicine so he would not move even in his sleep. There he remained until just after Christmas.

He woke up in Casa Colina, a tremendous facility, but again, scared and confused. He just spent 35 days asleep, paralyzed in a medically induced coma. Now he can't talk and he can't move.

We soon realized collectively, as in the beginning my mom, my father's ex-wife, my brother and I were the only one’s coming to see him, that talking and communicating was a challenge. I pretty much lived their sleeping in a chair next to his bed on the days that my mom was not doing the same, so we developed eye blinking at first, as he was still with tubes through his throat. The ventilator was not in as a trachea tube yet, they were attempting to wait for full recovery if possible before doing that surgery.
So, our option and only option in the beginning was eye blinking. Very frustrating on both parts, but it was all we had. My father blinked, “don't let them kill me,” That was the first thing that he was able to blink to me and I remember it perfectly as if I was playing a movie in my head.

So commonly people tell each other, "If I ever become a vegetable, just let them kill me." This was not too much different with the story of the recent man, Richard Rudd, in the news who is paralyzed blinking to the doctors "Don't Pull Plug". Prior to my father's incident, we were watching the news and the story on Christopher Reeves becoming a quad came on. My dad told me in a very serious tone, quite specifically, if that ever happened to me, push me into the ocean and let me die. I told him I would.

The first thing he told me when he woke, "Don't Kill Me" and he was scared I was going to follow his original wishes. He must have verified with me 10 times that I was not going to let anyone do anything to him and I was going to let him live.

Of course I was going to let him live (live is what he did, long enough to be in my wedding and see his first grandchild, my daughter), I was going to do more than that. I was going to use all the years I had spent dreaming about getting into the medical profession, first as an anesthesiologist, then a paramedic firefighter, to make sure he was taken care of.

While the Medical system is great, you are not going to want to let your family member alone through the treatment process. You need to stay on top of the doctors, the nurses, the orderlies and the administration. All of them are over worked, and you DO NOT want your family member becoming just a number. So I stayed and I researched and communicated with everyone I could to learn from on options, outcomes, probabilities and the future of my father.

I would spend my days to come in the library resources of Casa Colina by the kind hand of a few of the doctors there, learning about the life of a paralyzed individual and what it will be like if he remains a quad. I researched on the computer while I was there, at home or at school, what I would needed to do for him so he might have a life.

Soon they did the surgery to cut in the ventilator directly into his trachea. This was good and bad. It was bad as his lungs would get weaker more quickly, but it was good as he could now mouth words to me. Soon enough he got strong enough to add the capability of the voice control option with the trachea tube, so he could finally speak.

When he finally could speak, he thanked me for not letting them kill him. From there we began our journey.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Father as a quadriplegic

My Father As a Quadriplegic

My dad became a quad in 1999.  It was quite sudden and the onset was slow as a result of trauma to the upper spinal column, C4.  The incident in which he became a quad is one I am not prepared to share for many reasons at this time, but his story changed my life and I would assume I am not alone when I say Living with a Quadriplegic is a life changing event, for all, especially the quad.

I found in the ten years I got to be with my father as he changed into his new life as a quad, that there were very few people, actually no one, that I could rest my pain on.  I was there for my father whenever he needed me, not because I felt I had to, but because I could not think of anything else I would rather do.  This was not just my father, but one of my biggest hero's and biggest fans.  He and I were friends as much as we were father son.

How do you turn to this hero that can't feed himself, or take care of himself and not break down?  Who do you turn to, to even begin to hope will understand you?  What do you do when you are left with a father that is helpless, who once was the strongest, toughest, biggest man you knew, and now you take care of him?  You love him, you live and you laugh.

It took me years to get there and I felt I did it alone.  I'm sure there are thousands of resources, but none that came to my aid, while I was going through this.  I hope that through this page and my face book page, there might start a community of people with resources, support, encouragement, and love to help those currently going through this.

I am not trying to take anything away from the individual that is now or has been the quadriplegic, any one with any type of spinal cord injury, neck, back or head trauma has a special place in my heart.  I don't know how they do it, they have the real strength.  But while you are there for them, who is there for you.  You need to stay strong for them and to do so you need help.

My father later became very active with Friday Study Ministry's the first on line church and was able to begin his process of healing through helping and accepting Jesus Christ.  His story can be found in the Church Pages, but I will weave it here week by week, telling his life and my feelings, hoping to provide encouragement for friends, family, loved ones who are living with a quadriplegic.