Finally – Going Home!

Yes, you read that right – Mom is finally going home tomorrow Friday October 9th!!!

AFTER 84 DAYS in the hospital its time to go home and try to resume a normal life once again.  The entire family is excited – but nervous at the same time.

Excited of course, because its time.  Its time for her and the whole family to be back together.  To start establishing a new routine.  To be together again.

Concerning and nervous because – although physically mom is independent and ok, mentally she is not.  She suffered from a tremendous brain injury that almost killed her – and after going thru all of that you can’t expect to have the same Carmen back, unfortunately.

Physically after a bit more recuperation – mom will be fine.  She can take care of personal needs on her own, she can eat on her own, she will be able to walk and in general physically she will be fine.

Mentally she has a long way to go.  Although she knows major things of her life such as who she is, who her kids are, who her immediate family is, etc…her short term memory is lost.   You can sit and have a conversation with her and in 10 minutes, she won’t know what you just talked about.  Or, you will be sitting having a conversation with her and then she randomly starts talking about things that don’t make sense.   The doctors don’t know if and when she will recuperate.  They think if she ever goes back to even be remotely close to how she was before, its going to take a long, long time.   Most likely, she will never be able to work again and most likely she won’t be able to drive either because it would not be safe.  The difficult part of this all is that my mom thinks she is fine – and she does not understand why everyone is telling her she can’t do things.  This is where our worry comes in.  She basically can’t be left alone ever – because you never know if she will decide that she’s going to drive somewhere or turn on the stove and forget to turn it off or anything like that that can cause harm.  So, again, although excited that she’s coming home – we are concerned because of the mental state she is in.  We are hoping that God grant’s us another miracle and that with time she is able to recuperate some of that short-term memory loss so that she’s able to be as independent as possible.

Right now the plan is that her husband will be taking care of her since he’s retired and at home.  We’re not sure how that is going to work as this is a major responsibility for anyone – and he has health issues of his own.  But, he will try it out and see how it works out.  If it proves to be too big of a task, we will have to look at other options.

I am hoping to have my sister take some pictures of mom when she’s at home and I will try to post them here.

God bless you all – and until next time!  🙂

Published in: on October 8, 2009 at 12:26 pm  Comments (4)  

Update – September 26, 2009

Definitely changes since last time I updated, so lets see where I can start.

My mom spent 3 weeks at a rehabilitation center while attached to a respirator and feeding tube.  During these 3 weeks, in addition to speech and physical therapy, they were working on getting her weaned off the respirator and the feeding tube so that she can really focus on her therapy.  It was very difficult for her to do her exercises while attached to tubes, so this was definitely the first goal.

She did extremely well during the weaning process and she did extremely well during the therapies where they were trying to “re-teach” her how to eat.  Just imagine a baby, when you first introduce solids to the baby, you have to start slowly so that his muscles can get trained to swallow.  Same thing when someone has suffered a brain injury:  retraining and slowly so that the person does not choke and can re-learn how to eat.

In these past 3 weeks, she’s taken some tremendous strides.  She was removed from the ventilator and she was introduced to small foods such as apple sauce and juice.  She did very well and as of yesterday – she was transferred to a new facility where she’s off the respirator and feeding tube and she can focus completely on her mental and physical recuperation.

The doctors say she may be in this second facility anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks, depending on how much she evolves during that time.  They think that physically she will be fine.  The worry that they, and the rest of the family has, is her cognitive rehabilitation.  She has a LONG way to go in order to get her brain “back” to where it was before.  So that is where the concern lies.  Will she have enough support at home to take care of her?  Does extra help need to be hired?  Are all the necessary safety precautions available at home?  At this point we kind of need to treat her like if she was an Alzheimer’s patient where you don’t want to expose them to dangerous things or leave doors open because she might leave and forget how to get back.

So all that to say, that while the family is thinking how to tackle these obstacles, meanwhile mom is doing extremely well in getting better.  She is a CHATTER box and is constantly talking now.  Probably 50% of the things she say make sense and the other 1/2 of what she says are random things that she starts talking about that we have no idea what they are about.  The therapists think that she will with lots of time and therapy, get back to her old self BUT that is something that only time will tell and they don’t know how long it will take.  It could be weeks, months or years.  They don’t know and they can’t make any guarantees.

I will update you in the next few weeks if she does end up going home.  I’m hoping when she’s able to be at home I can share with her some of the comments you all left on this site and she will hopefully remember all of you.  🙂

Thanks and God Bless.

Published in: on September 26, 2009 at 2:40 pm  Comments Off on Update – September 26, 2009  

God is truly amazing – September 14th, 2009

I feel very blessed that I am able to write this wonderful upate.  Just a couple of months ago, things looked very, very grim for mom and for our entire family.  But thanks to God’s grace and to the AMAZING thing that modern medicine has to offer us, I am here 2 months later writing about mom’s amazing road to recovery.

I’m wrapping up my visit to San Diego as I write this.  I came on Thursday September 10th while I left my husband on Daddy-Duty for the weekend.  I felt that I needed to come and spend some time with her, help her in any way I could without having to worry about the kids.  So here I am and its now Monday and my flight leaves in a few hours.  It was great to be able to spend the weekend with her and with the rest of the family – and yes, I will admit that it was nice to wake up in the morning without anyone waking me up to feed them, change them, etc!  🙂

So, here are a few of the updates I can remember now:

  • Mom is still on the respirator, however she’s doing all breathing on her own.  The respirator is just there for support in case her brain and body “forget” to breath.  Just yesterday they started the weaning process.  She was actually off the respirator for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon.  Today, they will repeat the process and then tomorrow they will do 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon.  And like that they will proceed each day with an extra 2 hours until she’s completely out of it.  The respiratory therapist told me that if all goes well and baring any infections or other complications, she should be completely off the respirator in about 2 weeks or 2 1/2 weeks!  This is amazing news as the respirator is what is keeping her from really doing more of the physical therapy.  But once she’s off it, she can really concentrate on her physical therapy and re-learning everything she has forgotten.
  • She remembers a lot of things.  She knows who she is, her first and last name, she remembers her kids, she remembers her family.   I asked her about several people that she used to work with (i.e. Lily, Beatriz, etc…) and she nodded that she remembered them.  So it seems like the big things in her life, she is able to recall.
  • The confusion comes with her short-term memory and with other small details.  For example, if I visit her in the morning and I tell her about something that happened and then I come back in the afternoon and I re-tell her the story and I ask her “do you remember that I told you this before”, she responds “no” with a nod of her head.  So her memory is definitely faulty.  She also does not realize how old she is, when her birthday is, her phone number, etc… etc…those details are just not there.
  • She writes a lot and very well.  Her handwriting looks pretty much like it did before, except for a few glitches here and there.   Her spelling is pretty good, minus a few errors.  However, she does have random thoughts that she writes and she does love to write numbers.  But a lot of times she writes things that make no sense, so who knows what she’s thinking.
  • I’ve also noticed that she has pointed for me to give her the white board, and then when I give it to her, she writes something but then when she looks at what she just wrote, she looks confused.  And I’ve been able to gather from asking her questions, that sometimes she writes something on the white board, but that is not what she meant to write.  It just seems that in her mind she’s thinking that she’s going to write something, but it does not come out that way.
  • She moves A LOT and has attempted several times to remove her respirator.  This is why when noone is there with her, they have her hands restrained, which she hates.  But, that is the only way to keep her from yanking at the tubes.
  • She’s not eating any food yet, she is still on the tube that feeds her directly into her stomach.  Right now her swallowing reflex is still not there yet, and the speech therapist is working with her to rebuild those muscles.  Right now it would be very dangerous to give her anything to eat or drink, as her muscles don’t remember what to do and the food or drink might go into her lungs which  can obviously cause her to choke or can even introduce infection into the lungs which we don’t want.

Overall, she is doing amazing and every day she gets stronger and learns something new.

The physical therapist tells me that she is doing excellent and that she has no doubt that with lots of theraphy and exercise, she will be able to resume a somewhat normal life.  But she of course reminded me that this will be a slow process and that we need to have patience.    One of the nurses at the hospital shared her story with me that her son, who is now 22 years old, suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm at the age of 14.  He is still, after 8 years, doing some physical therapy because he does have memory issues where he is very forgetful about things.  But, in general, he is healthy, he is independent and he’s doing great.  She told me she shared her story so that I can keep my faith that she will get better.  The therapist told me that she herself was in shock when this happened to her 14 year old son.  She said the first year was very difficult, with 6 months spent in the hospital and then at home he went thru some sort of depression because he was re-learning everything.  But time healed things and now he’s up and about – still needing monitoring by the doctors, has periodic cat-scans, but doing well.

Hearing this story gave me a lot of hope and I just know she’s slowly going to get better.  She is determined to do so and I know she will.

Until next time!

Published in: on September 14, 2009 at 8:19 am  Comments (5)  

September 6th, 2009

So I know I promised last time that I would update on a more regular basis, and I apologize in advance that that has not happened.  I hope you all know that if I have not updated the website, its usually because nothing much has changed since the last time I posted.  🙂

In any event, although my mom’s recuperation is definitely a slow one – she is slowly making good progress which is amazing.  I think if there is anything we can all learn from this entire process is that patience is definitely a virtue.  And, that we should never take a single day for granted because you just never know when your life can change instantly in the blink of an eye.  Lets remember to count our blessings and to be thankful for the wonderful gifts the Lord has given us.

On to mom, she was transferred on Friday out of the hospital to a rehabilitation center.  Its kind of like a nursing home, but its more for patients who are recuperating from strokes and such injuries.  Basically they are still not strong enough to go home and be on their own – they still need constant care, however they are not critical enough to be in the hospital.  This is obviously good news because, although we would love to have her home already, reality is that she still is not strong enough to do so.  She is still on a respirator, so she is still unable to talk.  However, she seems to understand everything that is asked of her and nods ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to respond to questions.  My aunt bought a dry-erase board for her so that she can practice her writing – and although its sloppy and sometimes not very legible, some stuff does make sense and we are hoping that with practice she can re-gain that ability so that she can communicate with us thru writing.

The doctors say that she is still not strong enough to be removed from the respirator, so she will be on that for a while longer.  Supposedly, mom is being very feisty and actually has let us know somehow that she is tired of laying down and wants to walk and move.  But at the moment she can’t.   The physical therapist continues to help her with exercises to make her stronger.  They’ve already had her sit up on the side of her bed and even had her attempt to stand and she was able to do so (with lots of support, since she is so week).

Each day is a new blessings and each day she gets stronger.  At this point although we’d love to have her home, the most important thing is her continued recuperation, her continued physical therapy, and slowsly but surely she will get stronger.

Your prayers have definitely worked, and for that we are still very, very thankful.

Until my next update, I hope everyone is starting off their September great.

Published in: on September 6, 2009 at 9:39 pm  Comments Off on September 6th, 2009  

August 23rd, 2009

Its hard to believe that my mom has been in the hospital for the last 37 days.  We miss hearing her voice chat with us but are very grateful for her recovery – however slow it may be.  Here are a few updates.

Mom was recently upgraded from the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) to the IMC Unit (Intermediate Care Unit).  This basically means that she is stable enough to be out of the ICU, however still needs constant looking after and is not ready for a “regular” hospital room.  This is amazing news!  As soon as she gets a bit more stable as far as not having to fight infections and such, she can then be moved to a rehabilitation center where she can continue physical therapy until she is better to go home.

There is some news which is not that great.  She has been constantly fighting infections which does not help as far as her recovery process goes.   We’re hoping that as tubes start getting removed from her that these infections will diminish.  We’ve asked her if she can see us and she nods “no” but then a few times she’s nodded “yes” so we’re not sure how valid her answer is because we are not sure if she’s understanding the question.  Her eyes are open, however her look is rather hazy – it seems like she’s really not looking at anything in particular which leads me to believe that she either can’t see or her vision is very weak.  We’re not sure and we probably won’t know more until she is removed from the respirator and can tell us for herself.  She currently cannot talk because she has a hole in her throat for the respirator.

The good news is that she recognizes everyone, she complains about the tubes, she nods yes & no to all our questions, she even wrote her name on a notepad once!  It was sloppy, but she wrote it!  So we’re trying to provide her with a notepad and pen so that she can “practice” and hopefully communicate with us that way for now.  We’re not sure how long she will be on the respirator.  The latest update from the nurse tells us that she only lasts about 2 minutes without it before she needs it so they put it back on.  So that could take a while.

Other than that she’s stable and we’re trying to be very patient as she goes thru this long road to recovery.

Published in: on August 23, 2009 at 4:55 pm  Comments (5)  

Latest Updates

First of all, I apologize for the delay but I’ve been very busy and have not had a chance to update the blog.  I will try and be more diligent about doing this at least 3 times per week.

Mom is stable.  She has just been removed from the ICU and is now in the “intermediate care unit”.  Basically, she is still not in a regular hospital room but they have now upgraded her to a room that is not as critical as the ICU, although she will still be closely watched.

She is slowly responding after the surgery, nodding to Yes and No questions, although she cannot talk because she has the tube in her throat for the respirator.  Once she gets a bit stronger, that tube will probably be removed.  She is also on a feeding tube that is feeding her thru her nose, however she will soon have a new tube inserted directly into her stomach in order to avoid any further infections.

For now the progress is slow but as long as she’s stable, we are hoping that things move forward slowly but surely.

Published in: on August 18, 2009 at 5:57 pm  Comments Off on Latest Updates  

Surgery Results

Well, it was a waiting game but she’s finally out of surgery and recovering well from it so far.  She took the procedure well and is stable.

It was a crazy day and night.  The original plan was that she would be wheeled in for surgery at 1pm.  However, it seems like the previous operation that was scheduled in the OR for another patient fell behind, so that pushed mom back more.  It was 4pm when she was finally wheeled in for surgery.  Dr Stern had told us that the surgery would take from 4 to 5 hours.   The anuerysm my mom had was very deep in her brain.  He told us that about 98% of aneurysms are found in the stem of the brain are usually easily accessible.  Unfortunately, mom mom’s was in a very rare place and was part of that 2% that has aneurysms in a very hard to reach location.  Because of that, the surgery would take longer.  The plan was to open up the skull, move the brain out of the way to be able to reach the aneurysm, clip it, put the brain back in place and close everything up.  It only took me 10 seconds to type that sentence, but of course to actually do it is another thing.  I am amazed at what modern medicine does, and I have a newfound respect for these doctors who literally take someone lives into  their hands and are brave enough to face the consequences, whatever those may be.

In any event, at 4pm she was taken and the clock started ticking.  We were expecting to hear something at maybe 9pm since that would be 5 hours.  Well 9pm came and went and we heard nothing.  By the time 11:30pm came rolling around, the nerves started rolling in.  We figured that no news was good news, however is still nerve-wrecking to be there waiting and waiting, wondering what is going on.  Everyone was tired but anxious to hear the news.  We got tired of bugging the nurse so we stopped asking.   FINALLY at 2am, the nurse came in saying mom was out of surgery and getting rolled into her ICU room.  She took the procedure well and will probably be unconscious for the next couple of days since she’s under an extreme sedative, obviously, that will take that long to get out of her system.

The next steps after this are more waiting.  Waiting to see what her response is once she wakes up from the surgery.  We are hoping that she’s back as we left her before the surgery – with slight nods and responses to us so that she can quickly start her physical therapy.  The respiratory doctor stated that if all went smoothly with the surgery and if she was stable after a few days, she could be removed from the respirator.  We are very excited for that.  She currently can’t talk or make any sounds because of the hole she has in her throat for the respirator – so shutting that hole shut will give her an opportunity to try and communicate.

Thanks again for the amazing prayers and show of support.  God is great.

Published in: on August 12, 2009 at 9:30 am  Comments (6)  

Surgery Tomorrow 8/11 @ 1pm

Just a quick update – we met with the doctor today and they have scheduled her aneurysm clipping surgery for Tuesday August 11th, at 1pm.

We had two options:  do the surgery to clip the aneurysm or do nothing.

If we decided to do nothing, she would slowly recuperate and eventually go home, go thru months of physical theraphy, etc… However, there is a very high percentage that once an aneurysm has ruptured, it will re-bleed if it has not been clipped.  This could be deadly and cause much more damage.  Plus, she would live with the constant worry of not wanting to do any physical activity, not wanting to get on a roller coaster, etc… because of the very high possibility of her having bleed again.   He told us this time she got lucky, next time who knows.

The other possiblity is to do the surgery.  As with any surgery, it poses some risks.  He told us that there is always a probability that she does not make it thru the surgery.  Or there is always the possiblity that she wakes up from the surgery with more damage.  Or, she can make it fine thru the surgery, recuperate and never have to worry about the anuerysm that ruptured again.  The surgery will not undo any of the damage that has already been done, it will simply prevent future damage.   He said that if she comes out of this surgery ok, she will have months of rehabilitation and physical therapy.  But he also stated in a kind of bragging way that he is one of the best neuro-surgeons and that he is confident that he can get in there and clip the aneurysm safely.  Of course, he stated zillions of times that he can’t promise anything, but he will do his best.

So with that said, it was decided that her having the surgery was going to give her the best chance of leading a normal life after this is over.

Please continue praying tomorrow.  The surgery is supposed to take 4 to 5 hours.  She is receiving a blood transfusion today to prepare her for the surgery, since her blood platelets are so low right now.  I will update this website as soon as I hear an update after the surgery.

Published in: on August 10, 2009 at 4:41 pm  Comments (2)  

Responding! – Saturday August 8th, 2009 – day 22

I flew down to San Diego today and was so happy at what I saw!

When I arrived at the hospital, I was told she had moved rooms.  Not necessarily because her state had changed, it was more for logistical purposes since the ICU has thankfully been rather empty so they wanted all the patients to be in a somewhat closer area so the nurses wouldn’t have to be running around.   The other difference between now and the last time I saw her is that now they are requiring everyone going in and out of her room to wear protective clothing.  My uncle or aunt, I forgot who already, but they had told me this past week that was a new requirement so I was expecting it.

I went into her room clothed with my extra-terrestial looking outfit :-), and she was laying there with her eyes open.  She has no expression on her face so it is definitely strange to have someone “see” you and not smile at you.  I asked her if she could hear me and she nodded ‘yes’.  I asked her if she could see and she nodded ‘yes’ as well – although when you look at her eyes it seems like they are staring at nowhere.  So I’m not sure if indeed she can see but her pupils are still not responding to what they are seeing or what.  In any event, her responses were FANTASTIC.  As long as you ask her a Yes or No question, she will nod yes or no.  The one thing I did notice, though, is that when I asked her a question in English she won’t respond.  But when I asked her a question in Spanish she responded.    However, I also asked her if she was understanding the nurses when they talk to her (the speak to her in English) and she nodded ‘yes’, so I’m not sure what she means by that.

She is no longer taking blood pressure medication and is keeping  steady blood pressure on her own!

No more drainage going out of her brain – her ICP is stable!

We did get a notice from the doctor that we have another family meeting Monday morning in which we are going to discuss her treatment going from here,  a possible aneurysm clipping surgery on Tuesday, and he will answer any questions we have.  I’m excited to have this meeting as I think we will have a clearer understanding of what the next steps are and what her prognosis is.

I know for sure one of the questions that I have, is she still considered to be in a coma?  If you ask me after what I saw this afternoon, my answer would be ‘no’.  Although I know the doctor has told us that the answer is not such a black or white answer – there is lots of gray area in between.  So I’m definitely going to ask the doc about this on Monday.

Her hair is very, very tangled and her head is half way shaven from when they had to insert the drainage tube.  Most likely if she goes thru a surgery on Tuesday, more hair has to be shaven.  We asked her if she wants her entire hair cut because its uneven and because its so tangled, and she nodded ‘no’.  However, at this point we might just have to do that.  First and foremost because I don’t think she realizes how uneven her hair is because I don’t think she even knows that her head is half shaven.  Second of all, her hair is so tangled from being laying down for 21 days, that it seems impossible to detangle.  And third of all, she will most likely be having brain surgery at which point more of her hair will definitely have to be shaven.  I’m thinking of going to buy her a nice little bandana/head piece thing for her to cover her head so it looks cute.  You know, a woman has her pride in her hair so we have to make sure that she feels nice & comfortable & cute even without hair.  🙂

Other than that, now that she has the breathing tube thru her neck rather than her mouth and now that she has no drainage tubes from her head, she seems much more comfortable.  We are also happy to see that she is responding and appears to be understanding everything we are asking.  This is a MAJOR MAJOR step in her recovery and we are glad that she’s responding in the amazing way that she is.

With that, I’ll leave you with a song that my son learned at Vacation Bible Camp and that I’ve heard at church many times that I think gives a wonderful message, specially during these not-so-good times:

All I need’s another day
Where I can’t seem to get away
From the many things that drag me down
I’m sure you’ve had a day like me
Where nothing seems to set you free
From the burdens you can’t carry all alone
In your weakness He is stronger

In your darkness He shines through
When you’re crying He’s your comfort
When you’re all alone He’s carrying you

I get down and He lifts me up
I get down and He lifts me up

I get down and He lifts me up
I get down

Published in: on August 8, 2009 at 11:23 pm  Comments (3)  

Your prayers are working!

I had to come here this afternoon to give a wonderful update!

The liquid that was being drained from my mom’s head had already turned a normal color a few days ago and her ICP (intracranial pressure – the pressure in the cranium and in the brain tissue and cerebrospinal fluid) has been stable – so the doctors decided she was ready to remove the drainage tube!  After the removal she has been stable and seems much more comfortable now (I’m sure having the respirator thru her neck rather than her mouth helps as well).  She was responding favorably today and although she’s still in a sleepy-state, she was actually responding to commands.

She still has a long ways to go, but this is a big step!

Published in: on August 6, 2009 at 2:21 pm  Comments (1)