Horror of Catastrophic Brain Injury: Rita Part Two
I asked her mother about the horror of catastrophic brain injury and whether or not they had any idea what they were about to embark on with Rita’s injuries:
So let’s start with your part of the story as the horror of catastrophic brain injury begins:
It was really, I can’t describe it because they knock on the door saying – you know, your daughter’s been in an accident. But they don’t tell you anything, you know, what, how she is or anything like that.
Is this the police?
Yes, this is the police. We just knew that it was not good. We did. And, and we were, we were upset that it was so long. He told us it happened at 10:30 at night, and here it is 4:30 in the morning. I never knew the, never found out the answer to that. Anyway, we drive down there and we – we didn’t even know where it was.
The Horror of Catastrophic Brain Injury Begins
What hospital did they take her to?
Bayfront Medical Center. It’s a Trauma Two. Everybody around here goes there. It’s in Saint Pete, Saint Pete, Saint Petersburg. We got lost going down there. It was very foggy, and, you know, we were so upset. Finally, we get there. We saw the other family. We saw that Mike, he was going to be okay and really, you know, at that point, we didn’t know what was going to be happening with her at all.
Well, we didn’t know anything. I mean, they allowed us to go see her. I remember, just, she was hooked up to so many machines that she basically was not, you couldn’t recognize her.
I asked somebody that was standing there, a nurse I guess, I said is, is my daughter alive or is she being kept alive by machines because you, I couldn’t tell. I didn’t know. And she looked at me, and she said no, she’s alive. She’s alive. I went okay.
Well, then a brain surgeon came and told us that he was going to relieve some of the pressure off of her brain. You know, see, this is what I can’t remember exactly what he was going to do. He did some type of operation that night.
Is that primarily putting in a shunt or an ICP?
No. No, he didn’t do that. No. I can’t remember exactly.
A portion of the skull?
No. He didn’t do that then. That came later. He, he did something. There was a brain operation of some sort. Okay? And, then she was in the NICU for a week, and she wasn’t getting any better. The swelling was getting really, going up over levels that, wasn’t good. So that’s when he went in.
It was exactly a week later. He went in and did like a partial crani – and I can never say the word. With a partial lobectomy. I mean, some of her brain was taken out. He said it’s so badly damaged, she wouldn’t miss it. And he took off the, the bone flap is what they call it.
So she still stayed in – and they did that. She also broke her jaw, so that had to be all wired shut. That was a big deal because she had to be able to lie flat to do that, and she basically could not lie flat because of the swelling levels. And really, it was a miracle, she, she was able to lie down and have that operation done.
When you got there, she was in a deep coma?
She wasn’t in, I think they induced the coma. I don’t know if she was in on her own. I imagine so, but they did have her on that medication to keep her in, in a coma. She was in a coma for almost three weeks, and then they start taking her off the medication, and she started coming out of it.
So she did wake up when they removed the medication?
Yeah. She did wake up. She woke up, if you want to call it that.
What’s the next couple weeks like with the horror of catastrophic brain injury?
Well, the next couple weeks were just still waiting to see, you know, what, what was going to happen. I mean, she finally did open her eyes. But, she couldn’t communicate. Well, you know, what I did – she did start blinking her eyes. She did kind of start communicating that way.
Before they removed the medication?
No, no, that was after. That was after.
She also had another thing happen, too, which, I didn’t really realize it at the time. I found out later on. But sometimes when your brain, when it swells so much, they actually, they cut her from, you know, right under her breast bone down all the way down. So she has this big, huge, long like slit in her stomach. And it was basically, it’s something that they do to relieve pressure.
So the whole thing was just, – even now when I think about it, I can’t believe I lived through it because it’s just so, you’re just kind of like a zombie walking around. You cannot make really any decisions on your own. You’re totally relying on these people, these experts that have dealt with this to – you know, the hoping and praying that they’re doing the best thing ’cause you are clueless. You don’t know, you know? You don’t know anything about it.
Your first few hours are shock. The drive to the hospital is shock. When does the realization that something really bad and the horror of catastrophic brain injury has happened and starts to set in?
That’s a good question. Sometimes I still can’t, don’t realize it. I wake up and go oh, you know, it’s still really hard to believe. It just, it just is.
By Attorney Gordon Johnson