Billings ICU, September 15th, three days after the accident.
Today they took the pressure valve out of Terry’s head because his ICP, intercranial pressure—or is that intracranial pressure has gone down and is now stable? Hell, I don’t know which way it’s spelled and I don’t care at this point. I’m just glad we are past the danger of brain swelling.
This morning the doctors dropped the heavy, heavy sedatives completely, the ones that keep him unconscious. Instead they gave him an epidural line to control the pain from all of those broken ribs pain better. This lets them lower the drug level overall so I am hoping he comes out of the woods and wakes up soon. He is still not responding to voices but he has good motor functions, he responds to tickling his feet and poking with pointy things. Yes, they really do scratch with a straight pin, just like in the movies so we know his feet and arms are working. He has had the left chest tube removed but not the one on the right. He now has pneumonia on the right side which was expected because of the injury, as in he probably poked holes in his lung with his broken ribs.
He flexes his feet and hands when he is in pain. He cannot cough with a tube in his throat, it’s horrible to watch him try. I spent the day talking to him, I feel like a candle in the window lighting his way home. It could be a day, two days, two weeks or more before he recovers consciousness and we can see how much brain damage he suffered. This is the hard part, waiting and hoping so hard I feel like I’ll implode. I got a little set of portable speakers at Radio Shack and I’m leaving the iPod playing tonight when I leave, everything REM and Don Henley ever recorded. It will be playing on his pillow all night long, music to wake up to.
The good part is he is in such astonishing physical shape that his body has recovered amazingly in such a short time. His head is shaved (yuck!) and with the cervical collar he has a strange resemblance to Darth Vader with his helmet off. Sorry, black humor is saving me about now—I am so hoping he comes out of it the drug coma soon and we can figure out what comes next. What’s worse knowing or not knowing how much damage he sustained? I can only hope and pray at this point. I feel like a tiger with one cub and I’ll eat anyone who messes with him.
And after that bloodthirsty sidebar, let me switch gears to say how much I appreciate the love, thoughts and care of the fire fighters and the people at the city of Lacey. I put Faye on a plane home tonight, and Terry’s oldest sister is here now. It’s good to be part of the fire fighter family, and Don Bowman is officially my rock.
September 16th, morning, email to my son Corey who is riding out to Billings on his bike.
I’m guardedly optimistic. He has opened his eyes twice this morning and the doc said he had moved his hands and feet on command before I got here. I can see Terry is really struggling to make it back and make sense of all this. I’m not sure what’s going on in his head, he’s moving around a lot and you can tell he’s not comfortable. Stay safe–and don’t ride out from there unless you know the weather has broken!
September 16th, evening, journal entry.
I’m back from the hospital, at the creepy motel and just about worn out. I’m both elated and exhausted. Terry is doing better, but its slow going, inches forward and sometimes a few back. I understand this is common with head injuries and we just have to play it as it lays. Today he was able to move his toes and his hand at the doctor’s command and he actually opened his eyes a few times. Once, when I was talking to him, he opened his eyes and turned his head, tracking on my voice for a few seconds before he faded again.
I’m sure as he regains consciousness he is panicked and confused. The tube down his throat is irritating him and gagging him. When he coughs it’s silent and horrible to watch, he is racked from one end to the other, but still his lung is clearing with every fit of coughing. The nurses said he won’t remember any of this later, God’s blessings in that, but it is so hard to watch for me. I have to run for the nurse on duty when his breathing tube gets completely clogged and he can’t breathe. She comes in and pulls this long valve out of the tube and it sucks the it clear. It makes me choke and gag even to think of it.
He is moving his legs and curling his toes and stretching. His hands are restrained so in his reduced state of consciousness he can’t rip anything loose in his struggles. He has side to side movement, just not a whole lot. I think our lives have been changed forever, I see God’s hand in healing him so speedily this far. There have been a few miracles here, not the least of which are the reactions of the firefighters. I want him to wake up so I can tell him he’s still part of the brotherhood and not forgotten, sometimes retired fire dogs can feel pretty lost. Don Bowman is my hero and my rock. He calls me every day and tells me what he has learned about what happened and what is going on and gives me so much encouragement.
Things are slow and scary for me, but we move forward still. The CAT scan of Terry’s head today came back just great, no more leakage or further damage. So now he has to fight his way back. My metaphor: It’s like being beaten within an inch of your life and then tossed in a deep black, warm ocean with a straw to breathe through and the straw gets clogged occasionally. You have to follow the bubbles to the surface and finding and following them is so exhausting you sink back down into the black when you get there, but each time you sink less and sooner or later you’ll be on the surface and wide awake again, just bobbing around in the blue and taking it all in.