Mission Critical (1 Month Update)

August 8, 2010 by  
Filed under Our Recovery Journal

Procrastination can be an irresistible temptation for anyone faced with a difficult or unpleasant challenge.  In Jessica’s case, her recovery raft is in an ocean of huge waves.  The ebbs and flows she deals with are enormous from day to day and week to week.  In a perfect world, she would get a little better each day and the schedule of writing these updates could be consistent.

For the past month, however, the world has been far from perfect.  It has been a labyrinth of new problems and challenges, including many that have popped up unexpectedly.  Just keeping up with the medical possibilities and understanding the problems related to heart attack, stroke, and organ failure that her medical team deals with on a daily basis is an exhausting task.

The past few days have contained a lot of frustration and setbacks… and to write a journal entry that focused on those few days would have been a depressing chore for me and taken all our family and friends out of the desired mindset of positivity and hope.


Navigating the Labyrinth

We all have days where we feel we’re not at our best.  A cold, fever, muscle ache, or even an all-around blah feeling can ruin an otherwise acceptable day.  In the grand scheme of things, we tend to exaggerate our condition.  What we would describe as “feeling terrible” may mean that we’re still functioning at 95% of our normal level.  For a patient recovering from serious injury, however, small problems often result in big consequences.

Adding a fever to everything else she is dealing with makes Jess’ condition seem even more tenuous.  With a temp of over 100 degrees, she is lethargic and uncommunicative.  It feels like all the gains she has made over the course of the past week(s) have been erased.  Each day, I walk into the hospital room hoping she has left the fever behind.  Seeing her color still bad, temperature off the chart, and her overall lethargy are all proof that she remains under the weather.  Each of these negatives contribute to the frustration of dealing with the labyrinth of brain injury recovery.

Every day I desire that she simply get a little better than she was the day before.  We desire her trajectory to continue to steadily move in a positive direction.  Unfortunately, the labyrinth has other plans.  There is no other way to beat it than to simply progress forward despite feeling lost, frustrated, and unsure of the present realities of the situation.  Just when I feel we’re getting out of the woods, up pops another distraction or setback.  The path is beset by roadblock after roadblock and the physical and emotional toll of dealing everything despite a lack of control over any of it can take its toll on even the most stable among us.  The doubt, worry, and fear are dangerous opponents who are capable of tearing down the mountain of hope where I have planted our flag.

Spending so much time at the hospital has taken my focus off of everything else in our life and placed it all in the 8th floor step-down unit in the little hospital room where Jess currently resides.  If you stare at an object as intensely as you possibly can, everything around it becomes blurry.  So it goes with our life.  Maintaining friendships, paying bills, scheduling meals, and going to bed, and every other responsibility in life is now completely out of focus.  No effort is spent on these items and no thought is given to potential damage that could result from neglecting them.  The only thing that matters right now is Jessica’s well-being.

My existence mirrors the hand-to-mouth living of primitive man where survival each day depends on finding the food needed to sustain.  Sustanance in our situation is made possible by consuming each crumb of positive news and every bit of good interaction with the family.  All effort is spent brainstorming how best to encourage her to keep recovering.  Even though Jess may not be able to see, hear, or remember our daily interactions, great care is taken to treat her with the utmost dignity and respect.  The expectation is that she will get better and that expectation is made known to family, friends, and staff.  Those who may not share our positivity have been instructed to leave their opinions at the door and treat her as if they expect a full recovery.


Struggling Through Infection

The past several days have been less than stellar visits for me.  In addition to the functional deficiency of her organs and the fact that she remains in a coma, Jess has had a high temperature that has amplified her weakened condition and caused her to present as even sicker than she normally is.  Generally fevers like this are the result of infection.  Infection is very common within the hospital setting, and attempting to diagnose its source is an exercise in frustration.  Whether the fever was caused by a UTI, catheter, or other source is an irritating thought.  Whether it was preventable or not even more annoying.

In the big picture, Jess will eventually get over it and continue recovering.  Unfortunately, we live in the day-to-day reality that Jess looks even worse than normal now that she has a fever.  She doesn’t look or act like even her weakened self and every day that she is sick seems like a day we have taken another step back.  Patience is hard to come by in a crisis situation where it seems that the crisis is growing larger.  The time spent just sitting in a quiet room with a sick Jess and dwelling on it all day much like time in a jail cell.

The most hopeful medical opinions were that the fever might last a day or so, and I held onto that timeline as I anticipated a small bump in her recovery road.  In my own mind, she would beat the fever quickly since she had able to slay much larger dragons in the past.  The fact that it took awhile for the fever to come down added additional stress for those days, but today she finally appears to have beaten it.  The relief of walking into her room today and seeing her improved appearance and slightly more vibrant actions is awesome.  Before the fever she had begun making eye contact, responding to voices, and even flashing an occasional smile.  The eye contact and the smiles faded as her temperature rose and I was left to wonder whether they would return when the fever broke.  It was a great delight to see her smile again after those few days where interaction just wasn’t a part of her personality.


Baby Steps Forward

I waited until after a better visit so that I would have something positive to write about, and there have been quite a few positives in recent days.  The most notable of those is that Jessica’s kidneys have recovered enough to discontinue dialysis.  That means one less catheter, one less machine, and one less possible source of infection.  She is sleeping more intensely and the contrast between “awake” and “asleep” is now more clearly defined.  Jess has no problem closing her eyes and going to sleep right in front of guests if she is tired.

Even though she can’t tell us what she thinks or how she feels, I appreciate and enjoy the fact that she prioritizes sleep over anything else.  She notices more, responds more, and appears to be getting closer and closer to being completely aware.  It seems that she is slowly but surely coming out of the coma.  Glimpses of the Jess that we all know have begun to shine through My hope is that she is able to get the rest she needs now so that a rested Jessica will be able to continue regaining bits and pieces of herself in the future.


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