Part 4: 55 Minutes (Mike’s Story)

April 17, 2011

Family, Health, Mike

Mike came back to Good Shepherd Specialty on March 24.  His weaning from the ventilator was uneventful.  He has been off the vent…and is making progress toward being off the trach but it is complicated by his chronic obstructive sleep apnea. 

Since his return to Good Shepherd, his progress has been amazing.  Not so very long ago we couldn’t get him to blink his eyes twice…or even squeeze a hand.  He can (haltingly) wash his face, brush his teeth and comb his hair…though apraxia stymies the hair combing, he is making progress.  He is able to sit up on the side of the bed for 25 minutes or so.  Because he’s been in bed and so sick for 8 weeks, he is not yet able to sit up by himself…but he is working on it.  I see him trying every day.  He recognizes all of us though he has had problems with naming and proper names…and is beginning to decrease that problem.  I showed him a photo of the next door neighbor and his kid fishing and asked who it was.  He told me right out who it was! He reads.  Yesterday he was able to look at the clock and tell time.  His sense of humor is returned and he wisecracks at me with regularity.  He’s lost 50 pounds…which is good and bad.  Good for his heart…bad because most of it is muscle.  He can spell.  He can read.  He is motivated to get better and works at rehabbing his legs in bed himself.  He’s frustrated they won’t move better than they do!   He sings, he plays tic tac toe with me…has drawn a circle.  Watches the History Channel and National Geographic and yesterday could tell me something we were watching was Iraq and on another show identified George Washington.  He follow three step commands.  Yesterday he made fly fishing motions and told me he wanted to go Fishing.  I asked for trout or sunnies?  He told me “Doesn’t much matter”.  On  Friday I watched as two therapists walked him out into the hall with a walker.  So much for the prognosis of the neurologist!

Therapy at the specialty hospital is less intense than he needs…their focus is on vent weaning and the patient is expected to move on to other modalities and therapies in a more acute setting.  Still, they are working Mike as best they can given their limitations. 

To be sure, his progress has been slow…he was so very sick for most of it he could not progress.  Right now he is medically pretty stable.  There are bedsores.  A trach.  A feeding tube…he can’t swallow yet as the muscles have atrophied.  But as you’ll see here, he is sitting up this morning and reading the Sunday morning paper!!    

Vegetative? Probability of cognitive functionality recovering unlikely? I think not!

 I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to have people recognize that he would recover…that he was in there.  I had to convince the rehab nurse who was not willing to recommend him for the Brain Injury Treatment program thinking he would be too limited.  (the physiatrists evaluated him and he is eminently suited for an appropriate placement in brain injury treatment!)  Mike continues to demonstrate improvement…at rapid pace given his injuries.  I am told that it is almost never to be expected that progress and recovery such as he is demonstrating is seen in patient’s who have experienced his injuries.  He is outside of the norm.  The medical people seem to have lost sight of what miracles God can perform! 

Having crossed the hurdle of getting approval for him to attend brain injury treatment from the physiatrists, I settled in to wait for the medical stability green light.  It came last Monday.  Elated, I told Mike the long awaited REHAB would happen next day and we could blow this popsicle stand and GO HOME.     His case manager went about the business of getting him approved by Highmark PPO Blue…our insurance carrier.  Little did I know that my bubble was about to be seriously popped. 

Highmark denied approval to Acute Brain Injury treatment.  They say his needs can be met best in a nursing home.  Really?  Well…no chance Highmark!  I have appealed and appealed…I am coming down to my last appeals possible but I will not give up.  next post, which I’ll do tonight will tell the saga of the despicable position the insurance company is taking in denying Mike appropriate treatment that will permit him to return to any reasonable level of functionality.  I suggest you read it…and then evaluate your insurance company very, very carefully.  It will be enlightening for sure. 

Thanks for reading…!  Watch for Part 5 which will be about Highmark.

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3 Comments on “Part 4: 55 Minutes (Mike’s Story)”

  1. Susan Santee Says:

    Robin: You tell him that we have huge Lake Trout out here and we are always ready to take the boat out and fish whenever you two are ready!


  2. Greg Says:

    Your story is amazing. My father, Lester, just 5 days ago, had a severe heart attack and was pronounced dead until he began breathing on his own 20 minutes later. We have had two CT scans performed and an EEG.One showed some “artifacts” the other was clear. The EEG showed slow brain activity. He currently opens his eyes and makes facial movements but I can’t tell if he is aware of what is going on. Your story has helped me. Its hard to be strong and try to keep hope alive. Please pray for him and thank you.


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