A father explains how his 18 month old daughter's hand injury turned into +50 hours in the emergency department, and how poor communication and suboptimal care made his family feel unheard and ignored.
This unpacks my first experience at a children's hospital in northern Ontario with my 18 month old daughter. Sadly, a family vacation turned into a tragic experience. We flew to Cuba over a weekend in late March of 2015. On Saturday evening, we went to the beach at our resort in Varadero, Cuba. What was going to be a pleasant relaxing moment turned into a tragic event. Just as we sat on the beach chairs, my 18 month old daughter caught her right hand middle finger in the chair. She completely cut the top part of her middle finger off, down to where the nail ends. Her finger bone was slightly exposed. My wife and I panicked.
My wife grabbed the separated piece, in hopes that it could be attached again. We called the security guard who right away called the ambulance. For the next 6 hours we were on the roads of Varadero. First to one clinic, where they could not treat the wound, then to the main hospital, where the wound was cleaned and she was given a temporary dressing. We got home at midnight. We had to hold her arm up straight the whole night and my wife and I took turns to rest. I looked for the first flight back to Ottawa. We flew from Varadero late afternoon the next day and arrived in Toronto late in the evening.
After a five hour layover in Toronto, we took our late night flight to Ottawa and we arrived around midnight. We went home and grabbed what we required and ran to the children's hospital. (I was afraid that there could be some infection and we, at the time, had faith in our health system.) We were at the emergency entrance around 2 AM on Monday morning. We went to emergency, explained our situation, and this is what happened next… I explained the whole episode to the person at the first triage who everyone is supposed to see first upon entering the emergency department. I also told him that the doctors in Cuba gave her antibiotics and that she has to take a dose every 8 hours. To my shock he started laughing and replies, “every 8 hours doesn’t mean every 8 hours, you just have to split the 3 dosages throughout the day - once in the morning and second in afternoon and then at night time.”
I was thinking, okay, I understand, but where is the humour in this? This person knows that my daughter’s fingertip (1 cm piece had been cut off) is in my hand and I am in extreme pain, and this is how he comforts me and my wife? After that, there was no triage done at all. We waited with my exhausted daughter for the next 5 hours. It was terrible. My baby was in so much pain and I could do nothing but wait. At this point we had been up for almost 40 hours. I went twice to the registration staff and told them exactly what had happened, but no urgency was shown. Around 6:30 in the morning we went to the inside visitor room. Here, after an hour wait, a junior resident came. We told her what had happened and she left to get scissors, she then started cutting my daughter's bandage. At this point my wife told her that the wound is fully dried now, and maybe she should moisten it to remove the bandage easily, she continued still. She then realized that it was very dry and took us near the sink in the waiting room to moisten it with tap water. She was struggling to unwrap the wound. I asked her why she was not treating my daughter in a proper room with the required equipment. At this time my daughter is crying her lungs out as she is full of fear.
After asking her twice, she took us to another room which was also not properly equipped. She brought a helper and started opening the bandage. After she opened the bandage the wound started to bleed out again. They then told me that they have to go locate the proper dressing material for her finger - my daughter is still crying with pain. I was shocked that they didn't have the equipment ready before opening her bandage. This was so excruciating for us. We felt that the treatment in Cuba had been better than our experience here so far.
The nurses and doctors left the room and here we are, me, my wife and my daughter, waiting helplessly. The blood from my daughter’s finger is now dropping on my wife’s clothes and floor. Her hand is drenched in blood. I exit the room furiously looking for some help. I ask one of the nurses at the counter about the staff's whereabout, the ones who were helping me daughter, and she gave me a robotic response: “they will be there soon.” I return to the room and grab some more tissue to clean the blood. After a few minutes three student nurses arrive with a senior nurse. The students - at least they looked like students in virtue of the instruction they were receiving - were required to do a simple dressing of my daughter’s fingers, though they don’t seem to know how to proceed... the blood is still flowing out. One nurse stated, “oh, there wasn’t this much blood when we left earlier.”
My goodness! I did not know what to tell her. Three of them clean the wound and start wrapping it with fresh dressing. Lo and behold after a minute my wife notices that they are not covering her injured finger properly, and repeatedly tells them this. When they realize they have to open the whole thing and do it again! There is also a senior nurse behind them who is actually teaching them how to do the wrapping. He is showing them by demonstrating it on one of the nurses. I am thinking, if you are qualified, just help my daughter! Why train the staff at this urgent moment? During this the senior doctor came to have a look and the only thing I hear him say is “seems like the nail is gone completely!”
That is all I hear, after which he gives some instructions to the junior doctor and leaves. Thank you doctor, for the comforting lines. They do a temporary dressing telling me that the plastic surgeon team will come have a look later in the day. It is around 9 in the morning now. We then wait for someone to show up and tell us when the team will be coming. After another half an hour of waiting, the same junior doctor arrives and tells us that we can go home and we'll get called in a day or two regarding the plastic surgeon. I explained that they did a temporary dressing and we shouldn't leave like this. Also, how will my daughter sleep? If the wound gets a little bump it will hurt her immensely. I asked her if they can cover her hand more to absorb any impact and she offered me extra dressing material to take home and wrap myself.
We had no more strength to argue or even utter a single word. We had been up for many hours (I was up for more than 50 hours). We went home, wrapped her finger with some more dressing and tried to get some rest. We got a call on Tuesday evening for our appointment on Wednesday morning with the plastic surgeon. When seeing her, she inquired about who did the dressing (this is the dressing the nurses did on my daughter’s finger, the extra one we did, we took it off earlier, as it was only for her sleep time). She actually inquired three times to who did the dressing. I told her this was the staff in emergency.
My faith in the health system of Ontario has been damaged severely. I hope something is done to restore my faith. I have seldom wrote an email to express my dismay but this one I could not ignore.
Early in February of 2013 I underwent an endoscopy and colonoscopy at a hospital in the Greater Toronto Area. Near the end of the procedure I awoke to overhear a conversation between my specialist and his assistant in which I learned the diagnosis was cancer, that treatment would be radiation only, no surgery. I said nothing about overhearing the conversation but waited to discuss it directly with my specialist.
I prepared a list of questions and discussion points in preparation for my next appointment. When I entered the office he immediately told me I had cancer, and this is what he would do for his mother, that it had been sanctioned by “the committee”. I was told surgery was the usual treatment with a resultant colostomy but because of my polio history I would probably not get removed from a respirator and my treatment would be radiation only. I tried to have a conversation with him about breathing issues, the logistics of getting to radiation (I use a power wheelchair and live in Toronto), the side effects both temporary and permanent of radiation, and the consequences of having no treatment. He became very irritated. He went back to his desk - he had been pacing - he signed an already prepared form, told me I would go for radiation five days a week, for six weeks. He abruptly got up from his desk and opened the door as a signal for me to leave. His last words to me were “I’ll see you in a year for another colonoscopy”.
I left very upset. I left his office with little more insight into my condition than on my arrival. I was not informed of the type nor even the exact location of the cancer. Not only had decisions that would have a major impact on the rest of my life been made for me without consulting with me, they had been made on assumptions, misinformation and non-information and I was offered no recourse to question it. I made an appointment with my family doctor from whom I learned that the diagnosis was adenocarcinoma of the lower rectum, confirmed that I had been referred to radiology only, and because I was so distraught, referred me to the oncology clinic to talk with someone. The request was ignored.
Fuelled by my dismissive treatment, I armed myself with knowledge gleaned from various sources. All were consistent in the recommended treatment for rectal cancer - surgery - no matter the stage. Some radiation may be done before, during or after surgery, but surgery is the gold standard. Radiation only is done solely in cases where the patient is too ill to withstand surgery. Clearly I did not fit into that category. I was further spurred on by a CT scan that determined a Stage 1 cancer. The possibility of a “cure” loomed on the horizon. I sought a second opinion. I was referred to a surgeon at another location. The difference in respect shown to patients was night and day.
A comprehensive history was taken, a two-way conversation actually took place and further testing was done. Surgery was not questioned. All this took time. New tests revealed that the cancer was now spiking and beginning Stage 111. My question to the committee is “If surgery had have been performed in a timely fashion when it was first diagnosed, would it have reached Stage 111?”
Surgery is now behind me. I have a colostomy. I’m learning to live with my new reality. I’m living a fully independent life in my own home and gradually resuming my old activities. If I had agreed to the “radiation only” option, assuming logistics could have been worked out, I would in all probability be residing in a nursing home, perhaps still with radiation burn, in feces soaked diapers for the rest of my life. I’m very grateful to the surgeon and the team that gave me a fighting chance at quality of life and did not just dismiss me as “not worth it” like the first specialist had.
I’m requesting a copy of the minutes of the portion of the committee meeting in which my case was discussed. What I want to know is who represented me at that meeting? Who spoke for me? Did anyone question the validity of my specialist's assumptions regarding breathing issues? Did anyone ask for concrete evidence or suggest a second opinion? Did anyone suggest a spinal with light sedation as an alternative to conventional anesthetic? Did anyone question the consequences of radiation burn for someone who sits in a wheelchair full time? Considering the location of the tumour with the almost certain destruction of the sphincter muscle, did anyone question what quality of life would be like post radiation? Did anyone ask any question on my behalf or was it just a rubber stamp and “next”. I fear the latter.
I’m assuming, perhaps falsely, that every member of a committee that makes life and death and quality of life decisions for faceless people know best practises and the consequence of each treatment option. I’m alleging that, in my case, disability, age and gender, in that order, played a far greater role in my specialist's and the committee’s decision than did “best practise”. False assumptions were made with regard to my physical condition, my intellect, and my capacity to make my own decisions. I am requesting a meeting with the committee chair, one or two other committee members, and any other interested persons, to discuss this with me in person.
Once patients enter home care, support for caregivers is crucial. This story is from a woman who asks the important questions once she assumes the role of his caregiver to her husband: 'Why aren't there caregiving classes as they do with new mothers for breastfeeding, or diabetics with insulin?'
To understand where I am right now, you need to understand where I’ve been. My husband Bill and I have been married for 28 years December of 2014. We have 4 children, 3 with spouses, and 7 grandchildren. We appreciated our life and are thankful for everyone in our life and what we have worked so hard to get. Bill has an older sister and I am an only child.
Twenty-five years ago, Bill slipped on the ice and broke his ankle. At the hospital we waited over 4 hours for medical attention. I kept going to the nurses’ station asking for ice and somewhere he could go to put his ankle up to keep the swelling down until a doctor was available. Each time I was told in no uncertain terms to sit down and wait my turn. When he was finally seen, his ankle was so swollen the skin was splitting and they could not set the ankle.
Fast forward to 2002. We retired, the kids were on their own and we looked forward to following our passion of travelling and living in other cultures. By 2006, Bill’s ankle hurt too much for us to walk, especially in Europe where walkways are unpredictable. Our GP recommended one of two ankle replacement specialists in Ontario. After a year of not being able to get an appointment she asked us to try to set up an appointment. We phoned, left messages, called again, left more messages until eventually we visited the hospital where this specialist worked and saw his admin face to face. We got an appointment in 2009 and the specialist said there was a four year waiting list for him to do the replacement. (Because the Ministry of Health had a push to speed up hip and knee replacement surgery, ankle replacements suffered.) We wrote to the Ministry of Health who said if we paid our own airfare and hotel, they would pay for the surgery to be done in Vancouver. We gladly accepted this and while the surgery and recovery would be difficult, we were excited that Bill would be well enough to travel in 2-3 months. So we went to Vancouver in April of 2010 and the surgeon replaced Bill’s ankle. The last time we saw that surgeon was the day of the surgery. When we returned 2 weeks after the surgery, we visited the Toronto specialist/surgeon who took over Bill’s care. The ankle was infected so he had six weeks of a pic line with antibiotics. If the Vancouver surgeon had done a follow-up appointment with Bill before we went home, would they have caught the infection in time? After week 4, the surgeon didn’t see any improvement in the infection and recommended removal of the hardware. He did this and put in an external fixator to keep foot and leg together and kept the pic line. Home care was set up and we were assured it would be seamless. We didn’t have a home care visit for 48 hours after we were discharged from the hospital. That meant no antibiotics for his pic line and no dressing changes. I went out and bought some stuff to do the dressing changes myself. When the home care nurse finally showed up she took one look at his external fixator and said, “I hope you don’t expect me to change the dressings on that, it’s disgusting!” This started my second career as a nurse. After 8 weeks he had the fixator removed and another set of ankle hardware inserted. Another infection, another pic line, more home care nurses, who by this time were simply monitoring my work.
After a few months, the surgeon examined Bill’s ankle and saw he had a cracked heel, and wanted to do another surgery - fusion - to try to screw it together. At his pre-op they discovered Bill had moderate congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation (heartbeat at 172 bpm) and couldn’t get it down without regular medication. His ankle surgery was delayed for 6 months to stabilize his heart but eventually took place. Another infection set in but again was controlled with a pic line and antibiotics, which I was looking after as well as wound care. However, after several weeks it was apparent that the fusion wasn’t healing properly, so 3 months later they did a revision – the fifth operation – and again back to antibiotics and wound care, and still on crutches (Bill was prescribed to be off his feet from September 2013 to May 2014).
At this point there is so much hardware in his ankle his x-rays show all metal pieces going every which way and they could barely hold the skin together with stitches. His last appointment with the surgeon shows a collapsed talus and he wants to do more surgery but didn’t book an appointment for 6 weeks to see if anything changes. What can change? Will it magically heal? Another 6 weeks of waiting. Bill is still on crutches after almost 5 years.
Bill has had over 100 x-rays, numerous CT scans, and 5 surgeries in the last 4.5 years. Two years ago he developed a heart condition. Did the stress of the last few years cause it? We have lost years of our retirement. We don’t know how much time we have left to do the things we want, but we know we didn’t want to spend it in hospitals or waiting; waiting for the next appointment, waiting for the next surgery, waiting for a response, waiting, and waiting.
Is anyone thinking of Bill has a whole person, except me? I am frustrated with the surgeon’s admin because perhaps the outcome would have been different if the surgery has been done before the ankle had deteriorated so badly. I am frustrated with home care because they are unable to provide quality care, so I have taken it on because I care about the patient. I am frustrated with the surgeon because he’s not looking at the whole patient. Every surgery Bill has is a strain on his body, heart, circulation, stomach (from meds), boredom, mental frustration, etc. I feel the surgeon is focused on the technical aspects of what the problem and solution is for the ankle and not looking at the big picture. Who is thinking about all of this? Me. Our life is on hold. I now have many new responsibilities. I am trying to help my husband with his physical ailments and keep his spirits up as well.
In addition to his heart and ankle issues, Bill learned last year he shouldn’t be eating gluten so I have had to restock our kitchen and learn new recipes. As well, because of his digestion issues, he can’t eat leftovers, so no cooking big meals and freezing to save time. He also has other health issues which I need to track and look out for. I have had to learn medical terms, techniques, wound care options and become conversant in ankle replacement technology. I look after the family gift buying, organizing family time, taking care of the dog, groceries, errands, cooking, cleaning, etc. Imagine trying to get Bill (at 6’10”) into and out of the bath keeping his one foot off the ground. The effects of the medications, pain killers and anaesthetics have made Bill’s comprehension and thinking process very slow so it is left to me to think of and ask pertinent questions, make plans, push for answers, coordinate health care professionals, etc. Fortunately, the surgeon includes me in the conversation and has responded to emails when it is an emergency.
All of these health issue responsibilities are in addition to my day-to-day activities. I have rheumatoid arthritis and outside interests, all of which have gone by the wayside to make room for these added duties. I miss having grandchildren for sleepovers, spontaneously travelling somewhere, visiting friends, taking courses. Neither of us were prepared for the amount of time and energy this has taken.
What is disappointing is that I was not given any information on caregiving. So many times I felt I was drowning and totally overwhelmed. I don’t know how many times I cried because I couldn’t keep up with the learning curve. I was expected to be the strong one; reassuring our children and friends and keeping up appearances. Family and friends offered to help, but really what could they do? If someone had shown up with a meal, that would have been welcomed, but with Bill’s diet, I think people don’t want to tackle it. No one is interested in helping with the medical issues. There has been no one for me to talk to who can really understand what I am going through and offer helpful advice. I have been so busy and so exhausted that it never occurred to me to look for help. The last 5 years have been so stressful. What are the cumulative effects of this? What happens to Bill if something happens to me? What needs to change?
Before discharge, the hospital should provide caregiving classes as they do with new mothers for breastfeeding, or diabetics with insulin. These classes should also be made available to anyone who is caring for a family member by advising GPs and specialists of their availability. A better relationship must be forged between the hospital when discharging and home care organizations. The patient/caregiver needs to see a seamless handover. Doctors/surgeons need to consider the whole patient, finding out what else is going on in the patient’s life because it will affect recovery. They need to invite the patient and primary caregiver into the conversation early and keep them informed of the short and long term plan. When things don’t go as planned, they need to include the patient and primary caregiver in available options and agree on the path forward. Managing expectations is critical.
Home care professionals need to be trained and conversant in medical advice not just on wound care but in emotional issues as well. These could be suffered by either the patient or the caregiver. Officials should be alerted if the despondency or difficulties are ongoing, for more specific assistance. This is especially true for seniors. The administrative staff in the health care system need to be sensitive to the plight of the patient by making every effort to ensure the patient sees the doctor as soon as possible and raising red flags to the doctor if the wait is too long (6 months) as defined by the Ministry of Health. Patients and their caregivers should be routinely asked by the surgeon/specialist if they are satisfied with the administrative services without fear of retribution.
The Ministry of Health needs to recognize, acknowledge and provide assistance for caregivers because they are supporting the health care system without pay or training. When we left Vancouver, the surgeon had not looked at Bill’s ankle since the day of surgery. If the infection had been caught earlier, would he have had to have the external fixator? It should be a requirement by the Ministry of Health that follow-up must be done by the surgeon within 10 days of the surgery. If, when Bill originally broke his ankle, the medical team had triaged Bill properly and given him ice, elevated his foot and tried to set his ankle before it was so swollen, would we have had the last 5 surgeries? There needs to be follow-up on surgeries to determine if they were successful. And, if complications develop, why and what could be done differently?
What gets both Bill and I down is that there is no end in sight. What started off 5 years ago as a 3 month recovery period has turned into years of pain, worry, anxiety, frustration and more pain. At this point we have talked about whether amputation is an option. We will pursue it at the next appointment with the surgeon.
I would like to share my mother's healthcare experience. I read today that a woman in a hospital in Manitoba was left in her own feces and the province's regional health authority is investigating. I live in Toronto, but I have to say, I have never experienced a bureaucracy as self-serving and callous as they are.
My mother was removed from her apartment in February of 2012 and taken to her local hospital. My brother had complained about the care on numerous occasions but nothing was done to remedy the situation. The health authority just cancelled the service. They seemed to want to protect themselves and not my mother. She waited until 2:30 AM to see a doctor and then she was placed in an emergency bed for ten days. She was taking up a bed, so the bed utilization specialist said she would be transfered to an aboriginal shelter if my brother didn't release her, so he did.
They put my mother in the worst place. It has a horrible reputation. A Canadian news program had a feature about this place and a man was killed there. My mother had colorectal cancer with a prognosis of six months but she did not see the doctor for 13 days after her arrival. At that point she was treated for bed sores which she acquired at this nursing home. She was often seen with nothing on her feet and without her bra. The staff could not bother to dress her properly. Her oncologist had recommended that she be in palliative care but this was never done. I asked about this by letter and was told that there was no record of initiating a palliative care referral. Of course, there wasn't one because it never happened.
My own doctors in Toronto are appalled by the responses of these cancer care specialists. A woman with colorectal cancer was not treated at all and her respective health authority deems this as appropriate. At the hospital, the emergency room doctors said she had an egg allergy and no tests were done to have this diagnosis. On March 22, 2012, our mother was rushed to a local hospital where she died from sepsis due to a perforated bowel, not from her cancer. The doctors said they would have done surgery but she would not have survived it. Our mother's cancer had not grown so she could have had more time. We feel it was the poor care at this nursing home and the laziness of doctors to not have placed our mother in palliative care. I had a ticket to come in but waited because I was looking after someone here. I did not get a chance to see my mother before she died and I did not anticipate her death.
Our regional health authority said decubitus ulcers are common and to be expected. From what I have read, it is not. They also said it is acceptable not to see the staff doctor at a nursing home for 12 or 13 days. I was then told that further correspondence would not be helpful. It would be to me. I had to go to the Ministry of Health to ask further questions because they would not answer my emails. It has been a nightmare. The most vulnerable in our society are treated like this and it's acceptable. I have read about many unfortunate incidents in Manitoba, such as the elderly being dumped off by taxis and others dying on their doorsteps. This was also deemed as appropriate discharge measures.
It was September, 1997 and I was a grade 7 and 8 special education teacher in Toronto. It was an exciting challenge for me to find solutions to the day-to-day problems of working with students who had severe learning disabilities and behaviour problems. Despite the challenges, I loved my job and treasured the opportunity to motivate and inspire my students to face whatever obstacles may arise in their lives. My journey through life has taught me the truth behind the following quote by Aristotle, "knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom."
The morning of September 23rd, 1997 was full of excitement as I woke to the anticipation of coaching my school's football team to the city championships. I had to get the team fully prepared in practice so I decided to skip breakfast and left for school early that morning on my motorcycle. This was a decision that would change the course of my life forever.
My mother had arrived late that morning to the school where she taught and was preparing for her very energetic grade 2 class. Her organizing was interrupted when she was called down to the office to take a telephone call. As she rushed to the office, my mother made a mental note to speak to her son - me - about the motorcycle accident that caused the delay that morning. She smiled as she remembered my love of motorcycles and felt very reassured when she thought of my careful driving habits. I had recently completed a motorcycle safety course and my success stimulated thoughts of possibly one day teaching a motorcycle safety course. When my mother picked up the phone and said hello there was an unknown male voice on the other end of the line. He identified himself as an officer from the Peel Regional Police Department. To her shock and horror he was calling to advise her that her son - me - had been involved in a very serious accident and that she should go to the Hospital in Toronto right away.
Only three blocks into my trip that morning I was hit head-on by a careless driver smashing my motorcycle in one direction and spiraling me through the air in another. I was later told that when the paramedics arrived I was lying crumpled on the street some distance from my motorcycle, without a pulse, not breathing, unresponsive and blood was pouring from my mouth, my nose and my ears beneath my full face helmet. They immediately rushed me to the nearest hospital. During this time I was unconscious. I had seen a bright light and gone towards it. It quickly became apparent to the doctors at this hospital in Mississauga that they couldn't deal with the extent of my injuries so I had to be immediately airlifted to a trauma center in order to save my life.
At the trauma centrer in Toronto the trauma team rushed me into the operating room as they had determined that I had ruptured my spleen and it needed to be removed or I would bleed to death. During this surgery it was discovered that I had also torn my large intestine and the surgeons had to stitch this up as well. Following these initial life saving surgeries I was sent for a CAT scan which revealed there was bleeding in my brain causing increased pressure in my skull. The pressure had to be reduced to prevent further brain damage and ultimately death. So, emergency neurosurgery was performed to save my life. The neurosurgeons had to open up my skull and insert a tube into my brain in order to drain out the blood and cerebral spinal fluid that was increasing the pressure in my head.
My parents had rushed to the hospital and waited in the crowded emergency room hoping to hear something about my condition. They had been told by an attendant that they would have to wait for a doctor to come and speak with them. With a terrified look in her eyes, my mother asked the emergency room attendant if I was still alive. Seeing the fear in her eyes, the attendant replied quietly, "yes, your son is still alive but you will have to wait until more information is available." My mother's mind raced with a million thoughts as she rested against the cold, white wall in the hallway. She prayed that her son was safe and in good hands. The unknowns of the situation made everything feel out of control.
After several hours had passed a doctor finally came to speak with my parents. In a reassuring tone, he told them that I was still in surgery and that they would have to wait to find out anything more about my condition. After an endless eight hour wait in the emergency room, my parents were finally advised that I was out of surgery, for the moment, and I had been taken to the Neuro-Trauma Intensive Care Unit (N-ICU).
When my parents were escorted into the N-ICU they saw me laying unconscious in a deep coma and my head was larger than a basketball. There were thick staples in my head holding together a massive incision on my skull. I was also hooked up to a breathing machine as I was unable to breathe on my own.
My bloody and battered body was so swollen it was the size of the bed. My friends later told me that I looked like the Michelin Man.
It was heart wrenching to look at me. My face was black and blue and my eyes were swollen shut. I had to have plastic surgery to repair my broken nose, my broken jaw, my broken cheek bone, as well as the broken bone above my left eye. The plastic surgeon had to place a metal plate on my broken cheek bone to keep this bone together. The surgeon also had to put screws and wires in the bone above my left eye to hold it together.
My parents left the N-ICU for a few minutes to regain their composure. While taking a break outside the Unit, a doctor came to speak with them and advised them that their son had been involved in an extremely serious accident and they were not sure if he would make it. He suggested they go home and get some rest as they were going to need a lot of strength in the next few days to deal with this.
I spent the next two months in the N-ICU recovering from the surgeries mentioned above. As well as those surgeries, I also had to have open heart surgery as I had also badly damaged my heart and torn my aorta (the main artery that brings blood out of the heart). In addition, I required lung surgery to repair my badly damaged lungs. I had broken many of the bones in my chest and these broken bones had punctured and lacerated my heart and lungs. I also broke my knee and tore 3 of the 4 ligaments in my right knee. This required orthopedic knee surgery and since the day of my accident I have had to have an additional twelve knee surgeries to repair the damage that my knee has sustained.
As it can be seen, I sustained numerous serious injuries and I was not expected to live. However, the most difficult injury to deal with has been the damage to my brain. After being in a coma for two weeks, I was declared “brain dead” and it was suggested to my parents that they remove me from the fife support system that was keeping me alive. The doctors told my parents that I was in one of the deepest comas they had ever seen and did not think that I would ever wake up. Even if I did wake up, the doctors said that I would likely be a 'vegetable' and require constant nursing care for the rest of my life. They wanted my parents to think about the quality of life I would have wanted. The next day my parents sat at my bedside. My father desperately asked me if I could hear him and for the first time in two weeks, I moved my big toe and squeezed my father's hand.
A miracle had taken place and I survived this accident. I was given the gift of a second life and a second chance. However, when I sustained my brain injury I lost myself – I was no longer the same man. This is a common experience among brain injury survivors and it involves a conscious awareness on the part of the survivor that they are no longer the same person. This is exactly how I have felt since my accident and it has led to a great deal of emotional distress within me. The realization that I had changed so drastically as a result of my brain injury led to great feelings of anger, sadness and anxiety. I experienced a whole host of negative emotions because I had changed so drastically. I had changed physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially. As a result I was forced to start over and so began my journey of self-discovery.
It is my desire to teach others that anything is possible and to encourage people not to lose hope. Hope is a powerful energy that can carry you through despair.