Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cadillac Ride to the mountains

This is Lisa, Brooke's sister, for those I've not yet met. Blogging is a whole new experience for me, but like so many other things I might have closed my mind to just a few short weeks ago, I am jumping in with abandon. I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support by Brooke's friends and by family members since this terrible event and it has been a great source of strength for all of us.
Brooke had a very good day after feeling low for the past few. We can only just imagine all the thoughts going through his mind. He's needed some encouragement, though, and after a good night's sleep (finally), he woke up asking if he might be able to be wheeled out to see the world outside. He was placed in a cardiac chair, otherwise known as The Cadillac, and carted out to a part of the hospital with great picture windows on either side, surrounded by his team of nurses pulling ventilators and heart monitors. His eyes, always so expressive, were serene as he drank in the beauty of the mountains he loves so well. This kind of story, which 2 weeks ago would have seemed so abstract to me.... someone else's small victory in the face of tragedy.... someone else's story.... has taken on a very new and wonderful meaning.
We hope that soon he will be moved to the intermediate care unit and, from there, to the Rehabilitation Center here. In the meantime, keep praying, sending cosmic energy, rubbing your magic talismen, whatever you do, for Brookie.

Friday, November 28, 2008

tough times

Sara is back in Seattle so I'm blogging from Brooke's bedside in the hospital (it's not at all unusual for him to see me typing away on my computer while he contemplates some interesting interior thought). The past couple of days have been tough--even though his lung problem is clearing up, the cumulative frustration of two weeks in which you can't move or speak is taking its toll. You can't control anything, and you can't make your wishes known. Even though he can formulate his thoughts and mouth them in what are obviously long, full sentences, we can't lip-read well enough to catch it all. Many of you who've been to see him know this, how difficult it is to have a conversation even despite the wonderful expressiveness of his eyes. I've had a long conversation today with the attending physician here in the SICU, and understand that the reason they're not yet able to put a speaking cap on the ventilator connection is that in using it one exhales fully, but you don't want to do this if there's still a lung problem and so risk lung collapse. Thus it may be awhile longer before he gets a speaking cap, but certainly something to look forward to. Brooke's also looking forward to moving--perhaps tomorrow--to the intermediate care unit here, a sort of transitional space between the critical-care ICU and his longer-term destination in the rehab unit. Moving is a sign of progress, long awaited.

Spending a couple of weeks hanging around an ICU invites the sort of rumination about what you'd change or fix if you could. Much is really quite wonderful here (if you have to be here at all)--for example, the nursing staff is terrific, humane, considerate. But here's my first suggestion: I'd try to make sure there's somebody around who can lip-read effectively--hiring somebody with a hearing impairment would be a good way to do that, regardless of what capacity they were hired in. I'm told that there aren't too many cases here in which somebody on a vent is also competent and alert--many still more unfortunate folks come in with severe head injuries--but it is very difficult to watch the frustration of someone who wants so badly to talk but can't use his hands to write, can't use his vocal chords to make sounds, and can't even gesticulate except with his eyes.

So these are tough times. But the good news is that he's more able to have visitors, and is generally brightened by seeing people. Many many apologies to those who've been turned away by the nursing staff over the past couple of days, or who came during the excluded hours (no visitors are allowed 7:00-8:30 am and again no visitors 7:00-8:30 pm; I don't know what the rules are in the intermediate unit). It's impossible to say from moment to moment just what his condition will be, but I think he's missing being able to see people and would welcome short, not-too-strenuous visits again, sometime over the next several days.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Brooke - Quick update

Once again, thank you all for your incredible loyalty to the Blog and Brooke's condition. I am amazed (but not surprised) at what a following Brooke has!

Just a few updates today. Brooke had a 'filter' put in to prevent any blood clots, which is another anxiety relieving step for everyone. Although not a pleasant procedure, he's happy to have yet one more preventative measure in place.

And here's an amusing story - anyone who knows my brother, Mike, knows that he has connections everywhere. So it's no shock that he ran into a medical supply rep that he knows from long ago in the hospital elevator (never mind that neither of them are from Utah!). Mike mentioned that Brooke's bed was too small, and guess what, a new one came today! A big, LONG, bright red one. Brooke is quite pleased with it and doesn't have to worry about his feet hanging off the edge. Another small victory!

The rest has been very good for him, but he's been missing his visitors. He'll probably be ready to see some of you in the next few days.

Brooke sends his love to everyone for the Thanksgiving holiday and I'll speak for him when I say that he, and our entire family, gives thanks to each and every one of you for caring so much and showing your love in so many various ways.

I know where my thoughts will be tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

One step back, other steps forward

First, for those following Brooke's progress minute by minute, here's the not-so-good news: last night, as he was being transferred out of the ICU to an intermediate care unit, he had a full-code arrest--high drama of the sort you might see on E.R.--sobering when it's a TV fiction, terrifying when it's someone you love. But the crash team was right here, brought him back easily, and--here's the good news--this morning he is back in the ICU just as bright-eyed as he was the day before, largely without any recollection of what happened and still completely cognitively intact. Both the surgeon and the cardiology folks agree that this doesn't indicate any problem with his heart--always a fierce, strong, athletic thing--but with the challenges to homeostasis his body is currently undergoing, but that can resolve in the future. So there's a way to protect against further arrests in the future: he's just had a pacer put in that will step in if any such lapses in heartbeat occur, and it gives him--and all the rest of us--a measure of security. At the moment he is resting comfortably and in remarkably good cheer, given all that has happened.

That's the physical news. The mental news is way more interesting--yesterday he said (mouthed, but we can lip-read) that because of all this, he is beginning to understand much more who is actually is, and this morning he said--he was talking about all the concern and love he's been shown (overwhelming and wonderful, I have to say), that this has been "transformative" for him. It's remarkable what can go on in someone who, at the moment, is mostly all head.

This is my first post to the blog, but I want to tell you how much hearing about people reading the blog and seeing your responses has meant to me, to Brooke, to the rest of the family, and perhaps to all of us. Thanks more than you can know,


PS Sorry that he just can't handle visitors today, after the pacer surgery, and we want to keep things pretty quiet for the next day or two, but I know he'll appreciate visits soon.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Brooke - Monday, 9:00pm

Brooke is still in the ICU and had another exhausting day. Although he very much appreciates the visitors, he's not getting the sleep he needs to be able to heal. Both he and mom have a hard time saying no when people come by (because he does WANT to see you), so we're going to have to say it for him.

We're asking that you please refrain from visiting him in the next few days. He really, really needs to rest and sleep so he can stabilize and get out of the ICU. Please don't take our request personally - it's strictly a medical/sleep issue.

Please continue to post comments to the blog, as we read those to him and he enjoys each and every one.

We'll let you know when he feels stronger and ready for visitors again. Thanks so much.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Brooke - Sunday, 10:00 pm

There's no significant change to report from today. Brooke is still in the SICU and will remain there for at least a few more days, until his lungs are healthier (he still has a bit of lingering pneumonia). He feels comfortable and safe there, so that's the best place for him right now. We are thankful that although progress is very slow, it seems to be moving in the right direction. We are aware that could easily change, so we're just thankful for the small victories.

Peggy and the rest of the family have been overwhelmed with all the love expressed through the huge amounts of food. Thank you for nourishing us and making it possible to avoid the hospital cafeteria!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Brooke - Saturday, 10:00 pm

Brooke had a rough night last night, but ended up having a good day despite being very tired. He is almost weaned off the dopamine and his body has been working hard to keep his blood pressure up. The therapists have given him a 'sip and puff' straw which allows him to either call the nurse (sip) or, get this, control the tv by puffing. Apparently he's been somewhat of a closet football fan, because he was eagerly awaiting the Utah/BYU game today. When I asked him when the last time he watched a football game was, he said he watched this same match-up three years ago. Who knew?!? He was quite engrossed with the game and it gave him something else to focus on for a few hours.

I am back in Seattle so the blog postings may become less frequent. Ideally I will post an update everyday, but please forgive me if I miss a day or two. Thanks again for everyone's support.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Brooke - Friday 10pm

I'm with Brooke right now and I asked him if there was anything he wanted to say on the blog. He said, "tell them I love them."

Brooke - Friday, 6:00pm

Today was a surprisingly good day. Brooke was in good spirits as he learns to communicate better with his trach. He even wanted to watch TV, which is so unlike him. His lungs are definitely improving and they've stopped using the heavy duty antibiotics (he is just on the common garden variety now). There is still work to be done on his lungs and he will remain in the SICU until the lungs are more stable. Because he is on a ventilator, his lungs are compromised and susceptible to even the smallest of germs and bugs. Once SICU considers him stable, he will be moved to an acute care floor and then to the rehab unit. Doctors from many different specialties (rehab, occupational therapy, etc.) came to see him today, giving us the indication that they are beginning to look long term, rather than focusing on day-to-day survival.

Someone asked how Peggy is doing... she is doing OK now, given that she has such a huge family and friend support network. I worry how she will deal with all of this once the family leaves (we will be back but not all together), so I'm hoping that everyone will rally around her in the next few weeks (and months). She will need people to visit and sit with Brooke (since she can't be there all the time) and make sure that she is taking care of herself.

Please continue your good wishes and thoughts, as we can all but feel the energy being sent his way.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Brooke - Thursday, 6:00

The trach is in - horray! The surgery went fine and he's much happier now that we can read his lips. It's a learning process for all of us as he learns to slow down and clearly move his mouth and we learn how to interpret! As always he has a lot to say, but is quite exhausted as expected.

Especially post surgery, the ICU is insisting that visitors be accompanied by a family member, so if you don't see one of us in the hall (it's hard to miss our camp), please either wait or call us. Thanks.

Many many heartfelt thanks to all of you who have left food (and wine!) for us. We so need, and appreciate, the nourishment.

Brooke - Thursday, noon

We are still waiting for an OR so Brooke can get the tracheotomy, but they have 'promised' he will get it today. The neck surgeon checked on Brooke this morning and asked him to move his foot. HE DID!!!!! Of course we have to be VERY guarded/realistic about what this means, but I know that it brought me great joy to hear/see that. And the surgeon's comment? AWESOME. The road ahead is still incredibly bumpy and long, but at least it's a little glimmer of hope to hold on to.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Brooke - Wednesday, 10:00 pm

There's no update on the tracheotomy, because it didn't happen. He was continually bumped as more emergent cases came in ahead of him. They consider this an 'add on' surgery, so he's just not first in line. They have told us that they are requesting 'first thing' tomorrow (9 am), but we all know that's not something we can rely on. Brooke is incredibly eager (and quite anxious) to have this surgery and is extremely frustrated that it didn't happen today (he was continually looking at the clock all day and wondering about the delay). We continue to find comfort in his eyes and face and know that his mind his still all there. AND, today there was some small movement in his feet, although it's still too early to give a longer prognosis because the spinal cord is still swollen.

For those of you in the SLC area, he welcomes visitors but can only handle 3 or 4 a day while he is still in the ICU. It's quite exhausting for him because he wants to communicate and connect on some level and it takes all his energy to do that. The ICU has also requested that you be joined by a family member when visiting so that we can provide some level of consistency. All that to say, feel free to stop by the hospital, just know that you might not get to see him right then. Visiting will be easier when he's moved to an intermediate facility - of course we will update you when that happens.

Brooke - Wednesday, 1:00 pm

Just a quick update - Brooke will be going into surgery this afternoon for his tracheotomy. There have been a few hospital delays but otherwise we're on schedule. We'll send another update later tonight. Thanks for all the love and support.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Brooke - Tuesday, 8pm

It's the end of another long day at the hospital, but today was better than yesterday. Brooke's condition remains critical as his lungs continue to give him trouble. They are working hard to get the lungs clean and are making progress. They expect to do his tracheotomy tomorrow in order to remove the intubation tube from his mouth, however he remains dependent on the ventilator. This will enable him to better communicate and give him a big boost. In terms of his mobility, he is able to shrug his shoulders with vigor. His face remains incredibly expressive and wonderful. The best news is that his spirit was much better today. He enjoyed his visitors, smiled at stories and continued to endear himself to his nurses. In typical Brooke fashion, he is very interested in, and has many questions about his condition as well as what's going on in the rest of the world.

Brooke - Tuesday, 11/18 - 10:00 AM

Brooke is still in the Surgical ICU. He is currently fighting some complications in his lungs, fluid build up etc and a fever. He is on a ventilator and groggy from the various drugs, but fully aware and as communicative as can be expected through lip reading, nods and a letter board. Once his lung problems are solved the doctors hope to go ahead and install a trach and remove the mouth tube. The doctors and nurses are doing their best. Yesterday he did indicate that he could feel the nurses touch tests on his hands and feet, we are guardedly hopeful about this. The doctors and staff at the hospital have been wonderful.


We've started this blog to keep friends and family updated as to Brooke's recovery after his bicycle accident.
Here is a link to the Salt Lake Tribune article about the accident: