I spent the next three months living, quite literally, at Parkland Hospital and Baylor Rehab (HUGE Shout out to you both!). Once Sarah was brought out of the drug induced coma (10 days) and moved to a ‘regular’ floor, I literally moved into the room with her. I won’t complain about my ‘bed’ (a chair that turned into one), but I kept it as close to her bed as I possibly could. There were many surgeries during her first month there, many. After all the abdominal surgeries were complete, she was still open! They told us ‘in cases like this, we close the fascia only, she will heal from the bottom up’. “You can’t close her belly?” I asked in disbelief. Infection was too big of a risk, they’d learned over time. Beneath the crisp white bandages over her belly hid the sterile packing that filled the ‘valley’ beneath. Fascia is the strong, clear tissue that covers the muscles (meat) left on chicken after the skin is peeled, yes gross! Her left leg required 2 plates, one from the top of the hip to the knee and the other over the Tibia. Since she would be bedridden for so long, her Pelvis would be left alone. Her right foot would also have to wait, she’d developed ‘fracture blisters’ (I’d never heard of it either!), but they happen from the inside out in severe crush injuries. One of the first places I checked out, in the hospital, was the Chapel. I’ve always been fascinated with little Chapels, I guess I like to feel I’m ‘alone’ there with God and He will surely hear me there…I went to almost every Service announced over the speakers and they held Services day and night. I am Christian, but I even attended Masses…in Spanish! The Father would have me read the translated parts. I knew if Sarah were to survive all this, it would come from God. God working through these amazing Surgeons…
Parkland Hospital was like a United Nations, its staff from ALL over the world. I met an amazing young man, an Aide assigned to monitor her, (Uh, hello??? What am I here for?) and he worked nights. Sleep had become a distant memory since this happened for me, so we talked in between his duties… all night. He’d escaped one of many areas in Africa in Political ‘unrest’ and watched in horror as his father was killed by a machete while he and a sibling hid. After many weeks of hiding and walking, faced with starvation and lack of water, they lucked upon a large group and made their escape to freedom, here. His story humbled me, and I’ve never forgotten him. As I’ve said, Parkland Hospital is almost a ‘city’, a ‘City of Angels’. Sarah’s and my Angels…far too many staff were involved in Sarah’s care and recovery to remember all their names, but I remember every face! From the Trauma Team to the Nurses, Nurse Aides, OT’s, PT’s, Speech Therapists, Pain Management Team, Nutrition, etc., they were all pivotal in her recovery. Sarah spent one month there before transferring to Baylor Rehab in Dallas for her TBI. As a Therapist myself, I knew Baylor was THE place to go. They’ve been in the Top 10 Hospitals year after year and their Program for TBI’s was our absolute best option, there was only one problem. Because of her TBI, she was operating at about a 5-6-year-old when they brought her out of the coma. Once she’d progressed to about an 8-9-year-old, they wanted to transfer her, but she would NOT go unless I could be there with her. Of course, the initial response was ‘no’, but Sarah was adamant, she wanted her ‘mommy‘ (I was never called mommy by my kids!). Although this request had not been made before, Baylor agreed, and Sarah and I ‘moved into’ Baylor Rehab for one month.
Please don’t get me wrong that I was on this journey alone, not at all! Sarah was newly married and her husband loved her dearly, but with the TBI, she didn’t recognize him or remember their marriage (she soon would). Mike and I ‘moved’ to Dallas for three months, staying in an extended stay hotel where all our families came to visit, packing our room and theirs. Many, many people came to see her. She was loved beyond words by family, friends, and a husband! My support system was unbelievable during this time, but the stress of being the ‘one’ definitely got to me. Mind you, I’m in the thick middle of my health issues. I lived exhausted. I rarely slept more than 3 hours at a time. Our families offered (often) to stay with Sarah, but it was always me she wanted. To be honest, I wouldn’t have had it any other way, as she was now, once again, my baby.
Baylor’s TBI Program was an intense one, requiring hours of daily rehab. It involved OT, PT, Speech, Neuropsychology, and of course, Dr. Mary Carlise, M.D., the Director of the program! I was her cheerleader during the OT and PT sessions, but the others she did alone. Oh, and Nutrition! Baylor’s cafeteria was like nothing I’ve ever seen! Healthy options were front and center and the options were endless! But, their dessert…Decadence with a capital D! Pay dirt! We finally found something Sarah would eat! She’d lost so much weight that first month, but was eventually up 10 pounds (as were we!). Sarah made progress that was ‘almost unexplainable’ while at Baylor Rehab…almost. No doubt Sarah and the teams of Doctors and other Therapies played a huge role in how this all turned out, but in the midst of this horror, my mother had given me a charm from a Texas jeweler we both loved, a heart with the words “Expect a Miracle”. I came to “Expect a Miracle” during this time period. How? ‘Faith’, pure and simple. I had faith God would first, let her survive. I had faith that her Surgeons were given the gift through God, to do so. I had faith God would ‘let her come back to us’ after the TBI. I had faith He would give me the strength to deal . I cannot honestly say my faith never wavered, but it did persevere.
I remained in Dallas with Sarah and her husband to help with her after-care for 9 months. She was in a wheelchair for 18 months. Doing all she needed was almost exactly what I did in therapy (teach options for bathing, dressing, housekeeping, cooking, and so much more!) except…wound care. Although it can be part of an OT’s job, in school we joked that it was a PT thing…but for my own child, I would learn. It was surreal the first time because these aren’t the ‘boo boo’s’ of childhood. I learned to do sterile ‘Wet to Dry’ bandages which are as they sound, I had to ‘pack’ the wound with treated gauze, then cover with the dry outer bandage. I was so proud of myself with this accomplishment, you’ll never know! She continued to make progress and one day had an appointment with a Doctor we couldn’t remember, but we went. When we were called back and led to the Doctor’s office, instead of an exam room. Odd, but okay, put us where you need us…a few minutes later, a very young-looking woman in a white coat came in. She was confused about the appointment also, but after reading Sarah’s chart, I could see her eyes tearing up. She closed the chart, got up and walked up to Sarah, taking her head so gently in her hands. “Oh my gosh! I remember you!”, she said as she was clearly crying now. “Is something wrong?”, I asked. “This is amazing! We so rarely see someone with your injuries survive, Sarah. Here you are!”, she said still holding her,”You have made my day!”. Now we all cried as she described the scene in the O.R. that night. Three Surgeons, working in unison, in a ‘waltz’ of sorts. Then to realize Sarah had ‘the best of the best’ Surgeons working on her, all just ‘happened’ to be on duty that night. Some may think, ‘What a coincident!’, I knew otherwise. God put all these people, in the right spot at the right time, from start to finish.
It’s been awhile since I’ve mentioned my Vestibular Issues, oh they were still with me. I did make it to two more VRT sessions with my PT. The Hospital and the building my Physician and PT had were connected via the basement systems which connect miles of medical buildings, pretty cool! My PT thought the glass ‘bridge’ I had to cross was definitely ‘good’ for me to do. So was walking the hallways and I did a lot of that. I was able to keep up with my VRT the 3 months she was in the Hospital, but once she was discharged to home, I let it fall by the wayside. Once Mike went back home, we were pretty much homebound, as I wasn’t driving then, I sure wasn’t going to in Dallas! To wrap up this time period, it was a happy ending for her and those who love her. It’s been 10 years now since that horrid night and she regained all her mental deficits, along with keeping her right foot.She became a ‘Case Study’, as during surgery the bones weaken by months of not weight bearing, bones broke into pieces! He ‘redesigned’ it with tons of tiny plates and screws. To look at her today, the most one might notice is the slightest limp, partially from the broken pelvis and of course her foot. Sarah took on her therapy as a job, one she did very well. Once she learned to read again, there was no stopping her, book after book. She’s once again gainfully employed and doesn’t dwell on this event (like me), preferring to look at all she’s accomplished. Maybe I need to take on her attitude…I continue to wear my ankle bracelet (on my right foot!) with the charm that reads, “Expect a Miracle”, to remind me, they do happen…And I am one grateful mom for that gift!