On March 1st of 2005 I was in an accident that nearly cost me my life. Shortly after leaving home on my motorcycle (Harley Sportster) on a Tuesday evening I was in a near head-on collision with a car. How bad was it you ask?
I was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and placed in the Intensive Care Unit. A ventilator was placed in to assist with breathing. I remained in the ICU for about three weeks and a coma was induced to keep me from moving while the fractures healed.
After the time in ICU I was moved to Kindred Hospital to be weaned from the ventilator. Sometime during this time, I believe they stopped the drugs that had induced the coma. Though they stopped the drugs, I still did not regain consciousness.
Two and a half months after the accident I was moved to North Seattle Health and Rehab. (A skilled nursing facility) At this time my family in New York was being advised that I would probably never wake up and they began preparations to have me moved back to New York, expecting that I would need nursing home care for the rest of my life. The longer the coma continued, the more it looked to be a permanent condition.
I am a recovering addict (clean for over 12 years at the time of the accident) and had been active in NA (Narcotics Anonymous) for years. A person I sponsor had been coming to the hospital regularly to see me. After two and a half months of a coma, and little expectation of improvement, he began to get discouraged and went home and made the following prayer.
"God, Rod doesn't seem to be getting any better. I have a step that I need to work and Rod is the only sponsor I have had so I tell you what I'll do. I'll go in one more time. If he's no better I'll find a new sponsor and get back to working the steps and get on with my life."
The next day he came in and that was the day I woke up!! Miracles do happen and I received one.
At first I was unable to walk, talk, sit up, write or tell time. I wasn't allowed to eat any solid foods and was being fed through a tube into my stomach. The rehab at North Seattle was designed primarily to begin getting my strength back enough to first sit up, and them walking short distance with a walker and a cane. I still was not allowed to try and was unable to get in or out of bed or into a wheelchair without help. As I slowly began to get stronger I was finally transferred back to Harborview to their intensive rehab unit. Where I had been walking for short periods of time under supervision at North Seattle, now I walked everywhere I went, even if it was with a walker.
After 4 months of hospital care I was finally released to return home at the end of June.
I began taking regular walks and was making progress on my rehab. I put the walker in the closet and it remained there for the next six months. I was in a real hurry to get back to the condition I was in before the accident. Looking back at it, maybe too much of a hurry. In talking to people who had similar accidents, they were told 2-4 years before returning to work. I returned to work, on a limited basis, six months after the accident. I was almost to a point where I felt I could work full time when I had what seemed to be a minor fall. (This is an additional note made later. I had been walking a mile a day unassisted. In a foolish attempt to prove that I could, when I got to the end of that mile walk I turned around to retrace my walk for a walk of two miles. When I got almost to the end of that distance, and in sight of my home my legs gave out and I fell.) Because of the brain injury, even a seemingly minor fall can have some rather pronounced effects. This setback, and the psychological effects of the TBI led me to a point where I resigned my job and moved back to New York to be near family. .Over time I am slowly learning to live with this new body and mind that I now inhabit, and come to terms with the fact that the old me is gone, and the new one isn't such a bad guy.
Recovery has been slow and at times painful. There have been times of great progress and also times of serious setback, but through it all I have been truly blessed.
As I update this page, (end of February '07) I am approaching the two year anniversary of the accident, and this seems to be a good time to look at what appears to be the permanent effects of the accident.
As of July, 2007. I am once again taking anti-depressants. My physical improvement seems to have come to an end. Most days I can do ok, and I walk with a cane whenever I am out of the house. The one irritating thing is that every once in awhile, with no apparent warning or cause, my physical condition really takes a dive, leaving me barely able to walk at all. After a couple of days things seem to go back to 'normal' but I never know, day to day, how I am going to do. Frustrating, but I guess that in the long run I am lucky to be alive at all.
Update in February 2011. I am now living in an Assisted Living Facility after having fallen a number of times. After one such fall I had an MRI at the local VA hospital and the neurologist explained to me what was happening in terms that finally made sense to me. I was describing the problems with fatigue and she said that for all intensive purposes what happened to be (in particular the TBI) is the same as a stroke. Where a stroke is because of damage to the brain internally, this damage was the result of injury from an outside source. This made sense finally. I have to avoid overdoing it, because if I reach the end of my limits, I crash dive. This has happened on more than one occasion when I have pushed myself too hard. For example, when I first came to where I now live I was using a cane, but walking wherever I went. Then shortly after coming here I found out that they had a treadmill in the activity room. Being the bullheaded person I am I used it until I was exhausted. Two days later I was using a wheelchair and have been using a wheelchair for most of the last two years. I am able to walk short distances and do not use any assistance to get around my room etc, but use the wheelchair most of the time I am away from the facility. There are occasional burst of energy when I can walk farther with a cane, but these are rare.
Treatment such as I received was probably the best in the country! I was very fortunate that a trauma center such as Harborview was available. I was also very fortunate that the medical insurance available through my employer covered the cost. How much does care of this caliber cost? Here's a rundown of what my insurance paid. (Cumulative totals)
End of day 1 $9,112
End of week 1 $11,145
End of week 2 $12,731
End of week 3 $13,609
End of week 4 $116,224
End of week 5 $124,914
End of week 6 $125,491
End of week 7 $139,741
End of week 8 $139,815
End of week 9 $152,817
End of week 10 $157,418
End of week 11 $165,583
End of week 12 $165,602
End of week 13 $166,193
End of week 14 $171,342
End of week 15 $171,822
End of week 16 172,397
End of week 17 $193,084 (End of inpatient care and release from the hospital!!)