Healed of Traumatic Brain Injury
On June 1, a Wednesday, G. had an accident and experienced a blunt trauma from a fall, which lacerated the back of his head, and he sustained a traumatic brain injury. Combative and bleeding profusely, he was rushed to the hospital, minutes after the incident.
A day or two later, he was awake and eating apple sauce. Soon after that, his brain began to swell, and a week from the accident, aWednesday, his brain was swelling so much that they did a craniectomy. A huge piece of his skull was removed to allow space for the brain swelling. At that point, he was being cared for in the Trauma Intensive Care Unit, on a ventilator with a feeding tube and was monitored from head to toe. Doctors did everything they could to reduce the swelling in his brain. He was non-responsive and would squeeze a hand when squeezed, but they did not know if he was hearing them.
Doctors kept trying to get him to respond. They would yell,“G., wake up! G., can you hear me?” They would pinch him and would take a bottle cap and push on the back of his cuticle to try to get him to even have a pain response. Thursday, he had a small response; Friday he did not. The palliative care team was involved, the family was advised, medically, they could not do any more to reduce the swelling. By this time the area where the cranium was removed was now fuller and larger looking than when the scull was in place, rather than being sunken in because of the missing structure. If the brain swells too much, it herniates, and the patient dies immediately.
Friday evening, his wife, mom, and best friend met with the medical staff and palliative care unit. He had been specific about his wishes: He did not want to be resuscitated or live below his full capacity. Doctors thought it unusual he had already planned this at the age of 36. He also had registered to be an organ donor. On Friday evening, his family members were filling out the documentation for donor services. They knew he wanted to bless someone else if possible, and it would honor him. He was perfectly healthy except for the trauma to his brain. They said their good-byes that night because doctors did not know if he would make it through the night. If he did, the plan was by Saturday evening, they would extubate him (he was dependent on the ventilator at that point). They could be with him through the day, then go out while they extubated him, and he would die within minutes. Then they could go in to be with him while he transitioned to heaven. Once he was pronounced dead, the family would have two minutes with him. He would be rolled down the hall, celebrated with the “Walk of Honor” to the operating room where the teams of doctors would harvest his organs. Donor services asked if they would like to have a medallion of his fingerprint. His wife and mom said yes.
The next morning, his mom went to the hospital, and the nurse said, “Hey, G., look! Your mom’s here.” She looked, and he was looking at her. The nurse said, “Show her how you can move your tongue.” That meant his eyes were open, he was alert, he could understand speech and was responding to commands. The family was told he would most likely be blind because of the damage to his occipital lobe, but apparently, he was not. Sometimes a patient will “rally” for a few days, and only time would tell. They celebrated and continued to pray. His mom said, “We stood in faith, with wild HOPE, knowing God is good, God is faithful, and Jesus already bought and paid for our healing!”
Things looked good for a couple of days. Then he started to decline again. By the middle of the next week, they were again having meetings with palliative care and by that Friday, he was moved to palliative care in another building. One can only be intubated for a certain number of days. He had reached the maximum. He had to be extubated. Some time during the week, he had begun to breathe on his own, but the vent was still there and would push if he did not breathe. He was also receiving oxygen. They had never tried it without the ventilator.
His family had said no to a tracheotomy because they knew he would not have wanted to live the rest of his life with a tracheotomy. Doctors showed the CT scans and MRI and explained the percentage of people who make it, the various levels of recovery, and the timeline of recovery, which could be years in a facility. They said he had a 50% chance of recovering and being able to be at home. He would probably always need supervision and not be able to work. There was a 1 or 2% chance that he would almost fully recover, but not back to his job. His mom said, “If someone is going to be in that 1 or 2%, it will be G.” The palliative doctor said, “But he won’t have that part of his brain (the part that would be willing to fight for it)”. His mom said that was one of her most sinking moments. She, his wife, and best friend agreed, “We can’t let him live like that, he would hate it.” His DNR was explicit. All the while they said, “God can still do the miracle. We are not saying he is dying. We are saying he doesn’t want life support.”
So that Friday he was to be extubated, and the feeding tube removed because it was also on the DNR list of things he did not want. Again, they said their “good-byes.” The family left the room while they removed the tubes and machines. And he breathed. They returned to the room, and he breathed some more. The next day he was still breathing. His mom said, “So, are we waiting for him to starve to death?” The nurse said, “It could be more than a week because he is so healthy.” On Sunday, Father’s Day, he was moved to hospice at a different facility. (He is the father of four sons, five and under). That week was Father’s Day, his best friend’s birthday, one of the children’s birthdays and their ninth wedding anniversary.
In hospice, he began to wake up, become more alert, ask for a drink. They gave him water and asked if he wanted a protein-infused, highly caloric milk. He wanted that. Then he was hungry and could eat pureed foods. They had to be careful he did not choke or inhale food. He never did. He ate more and more and became more and more alert. He was watching a TV show he liked, and his wife asked who one of the characters was and he knew. He began to think more clearly, process more, ask more questions, relate more, and carry on conversations. His humor and broad vocabulary were popping through the fog and confusion.
To their surprise, the thumbprint medallions were delivered a couple of weeks later. His mom considers it a testimony piece. She said, “I don’t think many people have an organ donor thumbprint necklace if they are still looking their son in the eye.”
One night when he was in hospice, his mom was there when the nurse came in to give him medication. G. said, “What is this, anyway?” He was interrogating the nurse and wanting to know what each medication did and how many milligrams it was. He talked the nurse into letting him hold the pill cup. He did not have all his fine motor skills, but the nurse hung in with him. He wanted to hold the syringe (used to give oral meds). He was holding the pills in one shaky hand and twirling the syringe in the other, while asking questions. The nurse was patient, G. got the information and took the medication. Later out in the hallway, his mom asked the nurse, “How are you going to chart that conversation?” The nurse replied, “That was a miracle!”
He had lost 30 pounds between the accident and when he had started to eat. A physical therapist that goes to their church offered to come and do an evaluation. She got him to sit up in the bed and stand. This was at least a week into the two weeks he was in hospice. The family brought in two other therapists who were able to submit their evaluation as they were advocating for rehabilitation for G.
About 10 days into his two weeks in hospice, it was established that G. was no longer eligible for hospice because he was recovering, rather than dying. This meant they would have to start paying for his bed while trying to get him into rehabilitation. The social worker and his wife made some calls. She was told they could add rehab to their insurance policy. Another miracle. They would make it retroactive to June first, and their premium would increase a little bit. Naturally, his wife agreed.
Hospice does not transfer patients out, except for “out the back door” or to the hospital. There was no protocol to transfer him from hospice to a rehabilitation hospital. The family had to sign him out, meaning they were taking responsibility. They had to personally arrange medical transport to take him to rehab.
He spent two weeks in hospice, then transferred to rehab on a Friday. He started therapies on Monday and made progress daily. He had physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. After his first great week, he was feeling stronger. Provoked by some frustration, he abruptly got out of bed and climbed over the rail, setting off an alarm. Not as strong as he thought, he nearly fell, but managed with help, to land on a chair. The nurses rushed in. He had some sort of “episode.” He needed to have testing, so he was transferred to the main hospital via 911. His agitation led to this additional health incident. G. spent a very rough five days back in the hospital, thirty-eight hours in the Emergency Department and the balance on the neurofloor.
He then transferred back to the rehab hospital where he worked hard, championed all markers set before him by his therapist for two weeks before being discharged to go home. Doctors, therapists, medical staff, and surgeons were amazing. The rehabilitation hospital team lined the walls of the hallway and celebrated G. as he walked out the doors upon his discharge.
His mom said that standing bedside, praying, declaring, reading Scripture and handouts from the Healing Rooms really helped her stay focused. She would play worship music. The Presence of the Lord is real! G. had a blown-out eardrum from the accident, but he can hear now. His mom sent out updates, and many were praying. The prayer warriors were an encouragement and blessing. She commented about a couple of people saying something like, “We know he will be healed whether it is here or in heaven.” She said, “I felt an alarm in my spirit on that comment, like never before. Although it’s true, I felt when we say this, it seems like the kind thing to say, but do we say this because we are protecting hearts, our own or the person we are consoling? Are we are already putting in place something that is going to make us feel better, if we don’t get what we are praying for? To me, this felt like a divided heart. That’s what the Lord was teaching me. So, I decided not to go down that road of finding peace in either outcome. Leaning with absolute dependence on the faithfulness of God, not compromising what I was believing for. Knowing that if G. did not survive, God would care for my heart. I had to stay, ALL IN—with wild hope!”
G. is home with his family, no life support, continuing with outpatient therapy, some safety limitations for now, and working for his full recovery! His amazing wife, family, church body, prayer warriors continue to press in for “G–2.0” believing for the fullness of everything Jesus bought and paid for—saved, healed, and delivered! He is near, He is here!
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