Around 8:20pm on the night of (11-04-2015), I got a phone call asking if Dusty was home. It was a friend of Dusty's that he was supposed to meet up with. I told him no that he Dusty was on his way to meet him. We ended the call. A few minutes later the phone rings again, it was Dusty's ex mother in law letting me know that Dusty was in an accident and being life flighted to Parkview Regional Medical Center. Dusty wasn't driving a car, but riding his 4-wheeler. Dusty had hit a deer with his 4-wheeler while on his way home. He hit the deer, his helmet came off and flipped the 4-wheeler.
Dusty did this usual ride several times a week on the same road both ways. The owner of the property that this happened in front of noticed the sound of his 4-wheeler had stopped suddenly. Of course, like most guys the louder the sound the better, so he took the baffles out of the muffler to make it louder. She sent her husband out to check things out. At the same time a pastor was dropping off a church member close to the same property. As he was pulling out the drive he also seen Dusty right away. If Dusty's accident had happened in a field, or another stretch of the road, he may not have been found, but he was right away.
As we went to get in our vehicles to go to the hospital we seen that the helicopter was just flying over our house to get Dusty....it landed a few miles away. We went to the hospital not the accident site because they load people up pretty quickly so we knew it would most likely beat us to the hospital, or so I thought, his dad and I beat the helicopter there.
We made all the phone calls to Dusty's sister and brother, all the family members because we didn't know what to expect. When you are life flighted, it's serious. All the family and friends gathered at the hospital. We waited over 2 hours to see Dusty for the first time. When we did he was in surgical Trauma ICU. He had a drain coming out of his head and a tube down his throat, they had his sedated. He looked like he was sleeping very sound. There were no marks on his face. No broken bones, no internal injuries.
Dusty had surgery that night to remove parts of his skull on both sides to relieve pressure. If not for reliving the pressure it would have hemorrhaged his brain stem and he would have died. Now we wait and see what happens. It’s all in God's hands.
On day 9 November 14th we made the decision to place the peg tube and do the tracheostomy. He was still in his coma state. November 17th, we needed to check out facilities for the next step of Dusty's journey. We tried to never leave him alone. Dusty's Aunt Cindy came to stay the day while I was gone. While I was gone, she told Dusty it was Grandpa's birthday and he had to wake up today. Cindy called me to tell me Dusty woke up. I was crying for joy and thanking God.
During the coma testing for feeling, with feather's and other items Dusty responded well. He took the washcloth to his face and the tooth brush his mouth. He was there!
After placing Dusty in Select for vent weaning and therapy, he was making very good progress. Once I went to work and came back he was very awake and very upset towards me. I asked him if he was mad at me and he looked away. I then asked him why, thinking it was because I went to work. He looked at me pointing to the tracheostomy. I cried. This was one reason we waited to give permission for the trachea and peg procedures.
In the next 2 weeks, he continued to make good progress, the trachea was out (the trachea fell out and they couldn't get it back in). His progress included sitting in the chair for up to 3 hours, sitting on the edge of the bed, pulling his shirt down over his head with assistance, and of course taking his helmet off when it was supposed to be on. The nurse asked once if she could get him anything, his reply couple of beers".
As most people who have experience with Traumatic Brain Injuries know, memory is or can be an issue. We would remind Dusty every day how and what happened. The answers were funny but
Very sad. Answers were, "I ran into a tree playing football ball, I got hit in the chest with a baseball" and on and on. He became very arguemenative. Insisting to go out for a smoke, to go out to the garage to smoke, to go to the bathroom, that he could walk there by his self.
Visitors came for a while, but in time they slowly mostly stopped coming. Family has been his one constant.
December 2015 Dusty was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital. When he arrived, he had been talking some, using his hands, moving his legs, sitting on the side of the bed, texting and was able to use his phone for calls and Facebook. He could pass a swallow study December 22nd, 2015. December 23, 2015, he ate a pureed meal, and nectar thick liquids. Dusty started taking his meds oral with applesauce, and started counting calories for getting rid of tube feedings. So, as you would think we were making a quick recovery.
December 31, 2015, Dusty was throwing up, pulse was sky rocketing up to 255, and blood pressure was all over the place. By 2pm, the rapid response was called and the room filled with over 20 people. Nursed, doctors of all kinds. X-ray, blood test, CT scan, everything head to toe. The chest x-ray showed a 'saddle pulmonary embolism' on both sides of his lungs causing a partial blockage of blood to his heart.
We were transferred to the Parkview Regional Medical Center across town where he was placed back in neuro Trauma ICU. After a week and now on therapeutic blood thinners, we returned to rehab. From this point on the roller coaster starts big time. Sigh. when returning to rehab Dusty was getting sick. Fever, non-responsive, high blood pressure and many other things. All the usual test was running again head to toe. Nothing seemed to show up. This happened over and over. He would get better, then worse, better then worse. He never gained or got back to where he was in early December.
January 30, 2016, we are dismissed from rehab, "Dusty was not making enough progress, to continue with therapy". We had to decide where to go with Dusty. We checked out Neuro Restorative, but because he did not have his bone flaps in yet, they did not want to take him on yet. There was no other place in Indiana for TBI patients. Disappointed, and heart broken. Dusty was then transferred to a nursing home rehabilitation facility. (reminding you, we almost never leave Dusty for more than a few hours, we tried our best to always have someone with him)
Having one of my last vocal conversations with Dusty in February 2016. I told him you are going to get better. The most heart-breaking moment is when he replied, "No I'm not". At that moment like a mother will do, I told him in a stern voice that I don't ever want him to say that again. He is not a quitter and he will continue to fight and get better. We never give up.
During the months of February and March 2016 he continued to storm. By the end of March, we seem to have it under control.
In April 2016 Dusty's peg tube somehow came out. The nurse (lpn) had not placed one before and got the head nurse to ask for help. Previously I had asked what would happen or what the protocol was for a peg tube that had come out. Their response was that they replace them there by just placing another one in.
When she placed it under the guidance of the shift head nurse, she said "I think it is in". She checked for air for placement, she said it sounded good. The lead nurse checked too and said it sounded good. I was very nervous about her saying the words "I think". To me it sounded unsure. After about 30 minutes she returned and asked if I am wanted to have the placement checked with an x-ray, I said yes. Everything checked out good. Feeding restarted then later that day it would not flush. Three different nurses tried and it would not work.
Their solution was to pull that one out and replace it again. When the next one was placed Dusty was in pain. When they tried to flush, it he was in pain. I did not feel it was in right.
After not getting it to flush and trying to push his medications through it and an aid starting his feedback up, they tried a suppository because they thought he was just blocked in his bowels. After trying all night, at 8am the following day he was sent to the ER to be checked. He was non-responsive by that time and in a high amount of pain. After testing we found out that the tube was between two layers of muscle. We were sent to the PRMC ER. After getting there we finally got to go back into the ER room and see him.
As we stepped in the Dr. Looked at us and said, "Are you mom and dad? we said "yes". He said, "You need to get out I am going to try to save his life." And so, it begins.
After several hours of surgery an open wound 8" long that needed to heal inside to out with a wound vac and a new placement for a feeding tube, and a few days later he looks better and is stable. God is good.
After a week, we return to the nursing home rehabilitation center. A week passes. The following week Dusty started having a seizure they couldn’t get to stop. I was at work. They tried for an hour to get ahold of me through work. When they finally reached, me he had been having a seizure for over an hour and had made the decision to send him to the hospital. I made it to the nursing home before the ambulance and we went to the ER. He was transferred to ft. Wayne to PRMC. By then the seizure was 7nder control and stopped. He was sent to neuro Trauma ICU. Diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a drain was put into his back, then he was diagnosed with pneumonia, then over the weekend the weekend neurosurgeon that he needed a drain in his head, so an additional drain was placed in his head. He continued to go downhill. He was inhabited. A drain in his head, a drain in his back, pneumonia, mrsa in his lungs, meningitis, blood clot in his right calf, had a IVF placed for blood clots. Also, the wound vac on his stomach from the feeding tube 2 weeks earlier.
When we are at this point, the neurosurgeon wants to meet to talk about our options and further care of Dusty. The question is when to stop care and let him go. I was asked if I really wanted to see him suffer by having burn marks on his chest if his heart stopped, if I wanted him to have cracked ribs from chest compressions and CPR. Asked if I wanted to just watch him with no quality of life. So, when do I want to sign a DNR. I told the surgeon all the following things. I hear and understand what you are saying. I will not stop until there is no brain activity. I have seen the things God as shown me. Dusty has everything worth fighting for.
He shook his head and I don't think he understood what I was saying, or he was just looking from a doctor’s standpoint.
I can tell you I begged and cried and pleaded time and time again and asked God to please take me, make Dusty whole again. Time and time again. But that stopped on December 31st, 2015. When I gave my son back to God and said he is yours do as you will. Then God gave him back to me to care for again, because he has many more things to teach me, to touch other lives, and to see his baby girl grow up. I don't hate God for this path we are on. I thank him for the time and have no regrets. I have lost my job but found a new one being a full-time caregiver to an amazingly strong survivor.
Today Dusty is learning to sit independently, to stand, enjoys going to the movies, shopping, can communicate what he wants. Learning to swallow. No tracheostomy, he continues the peg tube feeding until we pass a swallow study. Using his feet to move forward and backwards in the wheel chair. He is amazing!
I am a daughter a mother, a sister, a wife. But most importantly I am a caregiver to a STBI son. I live with no regrets!
Thank you for letting my Son and I join this helpful Family!