Making Progress

So we are almost 14 weeks removed from the incident. In many ways Annette is doing very well. She is talking, constantly. She is perceptive and logical in her thinking. Her memory of the things that happened before the incident is pretty good.

Other things are coming along more slowly. The use of the right side of her body is just beginning to come back; she can now willfully move two or three of the fingers on her right hand, though this consists mainly of small twitches. She is sitting for longer periods of time. She is feeding herself. This is all good progress.

Another area where she is doing quite well is her mental faculties. Her perceptions are excellent. She is very observant and makes connections very quickly. She has gotten into the habit of pretending to be in pain so she can manipulate the hospital staff. During a meeting with hospital staff we found out that she has been teaching other patients how to pretend they are in pain.

This is still good news, to a point. It does speak to the fact that she is still creative and maintains her problem solving faculties. The other side of the coin is that we cannot tell whether she is being honest about what is going on. I had to explain to her that they will discharge her from the hospital if she is not making adequate progress. I also explained that how hard she pushes herself to deal with the pain and cooperate with her therapy will make the difference between her walking out of the hospital or leaving in a wheelchair.

Annette, like many teenagers, had a problem with impulsivity and self-control before the incident. One of the well-known symptoms of a traumatic brain injury is the loss of self-control and increased impulsivity. At times it feels like her self-control issues were magnified by an order of magnitude. At other times I feel I can almost see the calculation in her actions.

Before the incident she was also very manipulative. Since she is doing so well cognitively, I oftentimes feel like she is manipulating things. The problem for me is that I don’t know where to draw the line between the sympathy she righteously deserves and the discipline she needs. How harsh can you be with a young lady trapped in a hospital bed, even when you know she is playing games with you?

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I am a minor bureaucrat in a smallish department of a large local government organization. I am not particularly fond of my job. It is not exciting. I show up each day, do what I can, and leave at the end of the day without a thought or worry about what tomorrow may bring. Nothing will change.

However, at this point in time I am happy to have my job. I make a decent salary, though I would make more if I were to do a similar job in the private sector. I am happy about my job because of the excellent benefits that are offered as a tradeoff for lower pay. I have very good health insurance.

Annette is currently in a small, clean rehabilitative hospital in a private room. She is receiving excellent around the clock care. This is all because of my health insurance. I shudder to think where Annette might be if I didn’t have this insurance.

Of course, because I work for government,  I am subject to the problems of bureaucracy. When I originally submitted my Family Medical Leave Act paperwork to the Human Resources Division, it was rejected because the doctor who signed my forms dated it incorrectly. I was instructed to resubmit a new set of forms. The date could not be corrected.

This led to me having to deal with the bureaucracy of the hospital, which itself is another headache. Dealing with these things might be a simple annoyance under normal circumstances; under the circumstances I was dealing with it was a nightmare. I did eventually get it all straightened out. All it took was for me to set up an appointment with the doctor who had originally signed my paperwork. It took me several weeks and many lost copies of the forms to figure this out.

My coworkers have been very supportive. One day I realized that all of the people in my division were gathered behind me. It took me a minute to notice this. Turns out that they wanted to present me with a card signed by everyone in my division, a flower arrangement for Annette, a couple of gift certificates and some cash. I was overwhelmed, very surprised, and deeply appreciative.

Mercifully, people at work don’t ask too many questions. Some ask more than others, depending either on how long I have known them or their own gregariousness and/or curiosity. They know my daughter is seriously hurt and they know I am navigating a stressful situations. That, it seems, is enough for them to know to leave me to my work. Another thing for which I am thankful.

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Not all progress is good…

I went to visit Annette this evening, along with my wife and R. She has been recognizing people. Now she is nodding to answer yes and turning her head to say no. She hasn’t done this before and I was really happy with her progress.

We fed her dinner. She ate most of a plate of pasta alfredo with broccoli. She drank some coke. Then she ate ice cream. Things seemed to be going well.

After she ate her heart rate rose and she seemed agitated. My wife was talking to her and she said in the low whisper she uses to speak that she wants to go home. My wife and I both assured her that she would get to go home after she gets better. This didn’t do the trick.

My wife and I left the room for a while hoping this would help. When we returned to the room about 15 minutes later she was still agitated. Annette asked us to leave a few minutes later.

The three of us left. We went to a restaurant for dinner. None of us was really upset, we were just trying not to burden Annette.

I can’t imagine what this is like for her. From what I can see the closest analogy I can think of is a really bad hangover.You wake up and someone is there, fall asleep and when you wake up again they aren’t there, and you have to wonder if you imagined them being there in the first place.

The problem is I don’t really know what it is like for her. The doctors and nurses tell me what they think she might be feeling, but until she can tell us it is all a guess. I imagine she is frustrated, frustrated beyond belief.

We know she is in some amount of pain. Her body doesn’t work the same way it used to. We don’t know what she remembers. What we do know is that she wants to go home. We just don’t know when that can happen.

Yes she is doing much better today than she was nine weeks ago. She is steadily improving. It is great to see the improvements she has made. It is also painful to watch the pain and confusion that all of this is causing her.

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The Man Pled Guilty

The man who hit Annette has plead guilty to Felony Drunk Driving,  Felony Hit and Run, and one more charge (I cannot recall what it is) related to Annette’s injuries. At least it means that this will not drag out over years.

I am glad he didn’t have the gall to try and fight the charges. I don’t know if this means he has a conscience. Hopefully he will have the courage to face Annette and ask her for forgiveness, though I am sure that is still a long way off.

I find the justice system to be a peculiar institution in that it attempts to provide a remedy for situations in which there are no remedies. Watching it in action can be stupefying and boring and stressful all at once. Court is not a good place to be under the best of circumstances.

I want this man to reap what he has sown. I do not need revenge, and no court can provide justice considering the circumstances. However, I am placing my faith in the justice system. His sentencing will take place on Feb 13.

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Hanging out with Annette


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I don’t even have the worst story…

I went to a support group for families of people with traumatic brain injuries. It was a very interesting and enlightening experience. I found that my tale of woe pales in comparison to several of the stories I heard.

Having your daughter run over by a drunk driver is terrible. It hurts beyond belief. I have lately been feeling very bitter and angry about what happened to Annette and the things I have been forced to contend with because of what happened to Annette. But I now realize that what happened to her is not even close to the worse thing that can happen.

Not that knowing there are people in the world who face worse problems makes me feel any better. It puts your pain in perspective. This would not be a competition that any person with any sense would want to win. It just helps you to realize that you are not the only person in the world who has experienced this kind of pain.

I know logically that I am not the only person going through this, of course. But in the long, stressful days at the hospital while you stare at your incapacitated child and wonder whether or not your child is still there in that silent and largely immobile body, it is very easy to get lost in feelings of loneliness.

There are braver people than me in this world. There are people who face worse trauma and pain and far greater ordeals than I am dealing with right now. There are children who were injured far more severely than my daughter. Now I have met several of them.

Without infringing on the privacy of those who shared their stories with me, and without providing too many details, let me explain. I will say that things seem to be much worse when the injury is self-inflicted. Not only does the parent have to worry about the pain and suffering and rehabilitation, they also have to wonder what drove them to do such a thing. It is disturbing and unimaginably sad to hear the parents tell those tales.

Then there were the tales of injuries suffered away from home. This adds yet another level to the complications and confusion. Imagine being trapped away from home without any support while you wait to see what happens to somebody you love. Add to this the feeling of not knowing where anything is and not being able to learn where things are because you spend all your time in a hospital.

I feel better about my situation, though not any less sad. My daughter is still in pain and a long way from being whole. To hear these stories told by the people who live through them is encouraging. It is good to know that people who are suffering great heartache will take the time to share their stories so that others might have an easier time in their own heartaches.

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The Diffuse Axonal Blues

Diffuse axonal injury is a nice, clinical way of saying massive brain damage. This term was introduced to me in the intensive care unit while I was looking upon the complicated network of tubes and needles and machines that were keeping my daughter alive; it was a little difficult to comprehend at the time. It is also called shear damage, which sounds deceptively simple when you first hear it.

Considering that she was hit by a car traveling 45 miles per hour when it hit her, Annette was surprisingly “intact.” I hate to say she was lucky, but her body was amazingly free of visible injuries after the accident. Now it is apparent that her head took the brunt of the damage that fateful evening. Her brain did a lot of bouncing around inside her skull when she hit the ground, not to mention any damage inflicted when she was hit by the car.

The “shear” part of the damage comes when the brain is bouncing around inside the skull.   Some parts of the brain of the brain stay in motion while other parts stop. This results in neuron connections (axons) being ripped apart from each other. The diffuse part means that this is happening throughout the entire brain.

The wikipedia entry where I got most of my initial information was exceedingly grim. I have since reviewed other sources of information, though none of them were any more hopeful. I am cautiously hopeful, but it is heartbreaking nonetheless.

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