Posted on December 13, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 6 of 24 in the series TJ

Independent Breathing After Severe Brain Injury : TJ Part Six

Returning to my interview with TJ we talk about his emergence from the coma and we touch on independent breathing after severe brain injury:

How long were you in a coma?

Like nine weeks.

You were at Beth Israel Hospital.  The accident date was?

March 22 of 2006.

How long were you in Beth Israel Hospital?

I got out on July 5.  I was at rehab at the hospital.  Rehab after ICU.

After you woke up from the coma, they moved you from ICU into the rehab hospital?


Did you go somewhere else after you left Beth Israel?

To Connecticut with them, at their home.

Did you get discharged home, with your parents?

I was (discharged) from Spalding.

What’s Spaulding?

Spaulding Rehab.

So, you went from Beth Israel to Spaulding Rehab.

That’s right.

And then came home on July 5?


Somewhere along the line, you moved to Florida?

That was late November ’06, I came here.

And you’ve been in Florida since?


Michelle’s narrative provides far more information:

And it, it was clear that there was a lot of understatement in my interview with him and we’re going to  come back and talk in considerable more detail about that.  You said that you had asked about the Glasgow Coma Scale. Where did the question about the Glasgow Coma Scale come from?

I have cousins that are physical therapists.  I have cousins that are doctors, and once I was settled in my hotel room and my husband brought up the laptop and they were communicating with me. I educated myself quite quickly on what is brain injury, how it, who it affects and how differently it affects different people and.

After your response to the nurse did you get answers from the neurosurgeon?

I did and he actually advised her to, that they were to sit there and remain quiet and that he would answer the questions based on his knowledge of the case.  And you really hope to actually sit with the staff.  That was a huge, it’s, I can’t even explain it.  It’s like you just won the lotto.  You are like, okay we have a meeting and you get prepared and, and you’re ready and you have your questions and you’ve really focused in on this, now all of a sudden a different doctor walks in that you’ve never met before.  So, when I asked who are you, I had gotten a very, you know, his bio of who he was.  I didn’t want your bio.  I just wanted to know who you were.

What it had to do with TJ?

Yeah.  Who are, you know, it was a very simple question; who are you; Dr. So and So.  That’s all I wanted to know, but he started giving me, well, his, you know, credentials.  That’s not what I wanted.  That wasn’t the question.  So again, he got a little standoffish so, I was a little taken back that it wasn’t his neurosurgeon and his neurosurgeon did find out afterwards and did schedule a re‑meeting with me, so.

Beth Israel is a teaching hospital?

I believe they are; yeah, I believe they’re part of Harvard.

When you say that there was a neurosurgeon, was it a resident?

No, no; it was not a resident.  He was a neurosurgeon.

When did they have the conversation with you that it doesn’t look like he’s going to  wake up?

Very shortly in.  I would say probably about within the first week and they said that we needed to realize what we were getting into; that at his age and you know, he may never walk; he may be in a wheelchair; he may never talk; he, you know, might not have his bodily functions and we needed to make that decision of what we wanted to do.

What was that decision like?

Well, it was not a hard decision because my husband comes from Italy, from a small little town.  You don’t have rests homes over there anyway.  I come from a very strong Jewish family, so our belief is your family is your family.  You’re going to  take care of them no matter what.  Whether he was in a wheelchair and never got to go to the bathroom again on his own, it was, he was our responsibility to take care of.

But you made the decision to take him off the respirator to see if he would have Returning to my interview with TJ we talk about his emergence from the coma and we touch on independent breathing after severe brain injury: 

We only made the decision to see if he was breathing on his own.

You would put him back on if he didn’t breath on his own?

Oh yeah.  That was the decision that was made; that we would see if he was breathing on his own.

So this how long after his injury?

I would say anywhere between seven to ten days.

What does it feel like when he begins to breathe?

Oh, when he breathed on, oh it was great.  It was like, okay, so, so, we’re over that hurdle, so it wasn’t the machines that were keeping him alive.  That’s all we thought of.

Next in Part Seven – Believing in What You Are Seeing During Coma Emergence

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