Posted on December 7, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 2 of 24 in the series TJ

Coma Call: TJ Part Two

In part two we talk about the phone call ( the coma call) to his step-mom that tells her that her step-son has been in an accident.  She also is informed that he is in a coma that we will refer to as the ” coma call”.

The Coma Call begins with the words:

 “You have a phone call” (the “coma call”)

“From the hospital.” he adds.

Everything turns flat and dull.

I pick up the phone and a voice tells me my husband has been in an accident.

Everything takes on an air of unreality.

Those words were written in 1997, with the hope that they could open a door into a shared experience of coping with coma and the coma call.  Almost every case has some similar first few minutes, but for Michelle and her husband, that ordeal of scrambling to get to the Trauma Center – to face the stark reality dragged on  – because they were half a country away, disrupted from normal communication channels.

How did you first find out about the accident?

We had gotten a call (the coma call).  We were building the home that you’re sitting in and we were down here and we were leaving on Sunday to fly into New York.  You had asked TJ why he’s a New York Yankee fan.  We lived on the border of New York and Connecticut; he lived there his whole life.

He had only moved to Massachusetts two months prior to the accident, so we were flying back to JFK and we had gotten a call in the morning and we flew into Boston and then my husband had to fly back to JFK, get the car drive back up, but we had gotten a call: They had many people looking for us.

What was that like in that first few hours of not knowing?

Hell.  There’s no other way to describe it.

Well, first of all like I always say: (I do run this support group in Pasco.) You do have to come up with words to explain to people that are going through the exact same thing that we went through and I like to just say: “How many times did you think of brain injury before you were struck with this type of injury?  Not much, I’m sure.” And that was the thing.  It was the unknown.  It was okay, what, what are we getting into; what is this; what is brain injury?

We had no idea and no one could tell you and there isn’t a book, there isn’t an article and nobody’s got a computer; you’re just sitting waiting.  When you’re in that kind of unit that they had there, there was just death all around you.  I mean, no one was surviving.  So, you were holding on by a thread.

Did they tell you he had a brain injury on in the coma call or did you find that out when you got there?

The first phone call was that he was involved a car accident and that he was in the hospital and that it didn’t look good.  Then several phone calls from there through the airport and onto the plane.

“Just get here as quick as possible and it doesn’t look good.  It doesn’t look good and you’re not going to  recognize him and half his face is gone.”  And things like that which was not the case.  But it was a very scary moment.

When you get there, did they allow you in?

Oh, yeah, we were allowed right in.

And that was what, 24 hours after the accident?

Oh no. He had his accident and we were there probably within about 13, 14 hours after.

When we authored, it was with the hope that it actually could be viewed on dedicated computers in the waiting rooms, to provide that connection, that source of information, some break from the dread, from the void of information after the coma call.  The original plan was for hard-wired WebTV’s with the site to be the home page for such computers, so that it would be available for any and all who waited.  Now with laptops, Wifi and portable phones, we naively think that no one goes through this without access to what is written to help.

But finding words such as we have here to help, still requires hardware, connection and search engine optimization. is one more step to hold out a hand of guidance and comfort for all those who wait.  We thank all those who have participated in making this an evolving, interactive community connected by that common goal.

Next in Part Three – Gauging the Severity of TJ’s Brain Injury

By Attorney Gordon Johnson


About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447