Posted on July 19, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 7 of 16 in the series Mike

Negative Prognosis: Mike Part Seven

Waiting is mostly a time to watch, to pray, to hold fast to belief, to drift between fatigue and surreality. For Mike’s wife, it was also a time to ignore the negative prognosis which was coming from the doctors.

But for all the miracles, neurosurgeons are lousy fortune tellers.


Day 1 to Day 8.  Tell me what you’re observing.  You’re staying the whole time at the hospital.


You’re probably half asleep most of the time.  Talk to me about what you’re going through, what you observed with the negative prognosis you were given.

It was just, I just was, like I said, I was gone from the house in an hour and a half or two hours, whatever, as I can’t believe my life was turned upside down. I had our life all planned out for us and we worked hard, to do everything we wanted to do and have everything we wanted to have.

And now it’s gone to crap, you know, and I don’t know what I’m going to  do.  I had everything planned out.

I actually had a backup plan for everything in my entire life except for an injury, meaning if something were to happen to him and he would, you know, die, I always knew that I would have a little bit of life insurance money that would get me through a portion so I could figure the rest of it out.  But I just never had an idea about just an injury or anything.  I never thought about that.

Do you think in retrospect, with the negative prognosis, it was the right thing to just camp out there or should you have gone home for eight to ten hours each day?

No, I couldn’t leave there (despite the negative prognosis).  I, I just had to be there because I wanted to be there when he woke up actually.

What were they saying about his prospects of waking up after Day 2 and Day 3.

Well, I’ll tell you what, they had some doctors that come on call into the ICU and they just check on people every day, they check on everybody that’s in there.  And there was two foreign guys that came in there probably the third day or so.  The one came in there and actually Mike was moving his right side, his right arm and his right leg a lot.  The left side never moved.

More Medical Negative Prognosis

I was excited that he was moving and he was squeezing my hand, and I had said to the doctor, ‘I said isn’t he doing good, for what he’s been through?’  They’re like ‘no, absolutely not, you don’t understand, this is a major issue and it’s, you know, it’s a massive injury and no he’s not doing good at all.’

Well, I once double thought did I do the right thing and then I, you know, I actually thought well I wonder if I have to, you know, pull the plugs or something.  Later I thought about that for hours and did I do the right thing, and finally I thought you know what – that guy really pissed me off (with his negative prognosis).

I said why, why is he telling me stuff like that and I think that he’s doing good, and I understand the injury but he just makes it be like he’s going to  be a vegetable and everything.

And then there was another doctor that came in there the next day, a different one, and I said to him, I said isn’t my husband doing good and he’s like ‘no he’s not, this is massive.’

And More Negative Prognosis

So at that point I decided you know what whenever these doctors come around in the morning before his doctor comes in because his doctor, his surgeon comes in at different times, I’m just going to  leave the room when they come in because they make me think that I might have done the wrong thing, and I know I didn’t but for some reason they make me think that.

So then his doctor comes in and I meet up with him.  I don’t know, it was probably two days later or three days later, and I asked how he’s doing and he said, you know, he’s lucky to be alive but he’s really not sure of himself that this was the right thing for me to do, I could tell.

So then after probably, I don’t know, maybe six or seven days, eight days, whatever how many days it was, Mike woke up eight days later.

At eight days he woke up and the doctor said you know what he’s, he’s doing pretty good  – because you know what, after the second or third day I would have told you there’s no way he would have been here, so now the doctor’s kind of changing his mind.

Maybe the ninth day we have a personal meeting.  We ain’t in the meeting but five minutes.  I meet the surgeon in there, I sit down, and he says, you know, we should start thinking about maybe giving him a feeding tube in about a week he said.  And I said okay that sounds good because he’s losing weight and stuff, and he’s still strong moving that one good side.

So by the time I stood up, the doctor says to me, he says you know what, there’s no reason why we can’t start feeding him today with a feeding tube.  So in five minutes I was just so excited.  It went from a week down to right now we’re going to  feed him, and I was happy and actually he was on a ventilator.

Let’s go back a little bit.  It’s not an unusual scenario to have the family member say I think he’s starting to wake up despite the negative prognosis and the medical personnel ignore them. So tell us what was it that you were sensing – other than just your own hope –  what were you actually physically sensing, observing, that you can see that the medical people and their negative prognosis weren’t seeing?

I would go in there and he would squeeze my hand when we talk to him, and every time I would talk he would squeeze my hand and then –

What were you saying to him that he would, you felt he was responding?

I was just talking to him.  I don’t know exactly what I was saying or at that point.  You know, I just knew that he was listening and I would always tell him, you know…

Her voice trailed off as she was unable to finish the words “always tell him that I loved him.”  For all the tragedy, negative prognosis  and heartache that we talked about with Mike and his wife, it was at this moment, that she started to cry, and then he joined in too.

Despite all the medical negative prognosis that Mike’s wife received, she chose to ignore it and only looked at the progress that she recognized that Mike was making.

Medical Negative Prognosis Not Always Right

Put in a historical perspective, neurosurgeons are miracle workers, able to save lives that couldn’t possibly have been saved 50 years ago, before helicopters got the patient to them in time, before CT scans could show clearly what was wrong and sophisticated surgery techniques developed to relieve increased intercranial pressure.  But for all the miracles, neurosurgeons are lousy fortune tellers.  There is no science which can tell us who will awake, who will not. Until a coma has persisted for significantly more than a month, the wives, the mom’s, should continue to insist that there is hope despite all the medical negative prognosis.



Next in Part Eight – Spinning the Ring of Life

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