Posted on November 18, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 8 of 17 in the series Rita

Return Home after Catastrophic Brain Injury : Rita Part Eight

In part eight I talked with Rita’s mom about her return home after catastrophic brain injury and the events leading up to her going home.

Almost as if the medical community had been waiting for its first real chance to expel her from its umbrella, when the mandates had been met, she was sent off the grid. Her Mom explains that while on the sixth floor rehab, she got her bone flap put back in from her craniotomy.

So August of 2010 she got the bone flap put back in. There is no recuperation.  You’re, you’re like out within a day really.

Was she wearing a helmet until then?

She did.  She did wear a helmet.  When she was on the sixth floor.  Yeah.  And at the nursing home, she did wear a helmet.  Yes, she did. She had a horrible relapse right after that.

Rita’s Return Home after Catastrophic Brain Injury Didn’t Last Long

Did she get an infection in the hospital before her return home after catastrophic brain injury? 

She had a urinary tract infection.  That’s what I think it ended up being.  Nobody could say.

It was like a Friday night – we had just brought her home.  She was home two days and she gets this horrible fever.  She started throwing up.  We thought she was going to gag on her own throat.  We called 911.  They brought her over here.

We came here to this hospital, community hospital.  The doctor looked at me and said this is not the place for her to be.  If something was to happen over the weekend, we cannot handle this.

I tried to get her in – back to Bayfront.  I called the neurosurgeon.  They were like nope, nope, nope, nope.  Sorry.  We’re done.  You can’t come back here.  Blah, blah, blah.  I spent the night for three nights at this hospital while she basically lost everything.  It was just, it was almost worse than the first thing that happened.  It was just awful.  She just –

You said she lost everything.

She, yeah.  She just lost everything.  Her temperature was very high.  In other words, she couldn’t move.  You know, like, she (had been) moving her right side of her body.  That was not happening.  She wasn’t talking.  She wasn’t coherent really.

After the Return Home after Catastrophic Brain Injury She Got Very Ill

How high was her temperature?

I don’t know exactly.  It was probably 103.  I mean, we were bringing in those ice packs things that they have at the hospital.  I don’t know if you’ve seen them like these weird kind of get up and putting them on her, and it was just a constant battle keeping her temperature down.  Her heartbeat was going off the charts.  She was on this blood pressure medication; a real huge, high dosage.

People (the medical staff at the community hospital) kept saying why is she on this?  You know, I don’t know.  I’m not the doctor.  Well, they took her off of it. Well, I ended up – I hired our own ambulance, and I took her down, back down to Bayfront that Monday morning.  She had this great big, huge, like, fluid on the outside of her brain after the operation.

So during this weekend, she was in your local hospital?

Yes.  We could not do a hospital transfer.  They said she couldn’t come.  The only way she could get in there was through the emergency room door, and that’s what I decided to do.  My husband and I, we decided we had to take her back there because they knew her.  Everybody in the whole hospital knew her after being there five months.  I had to go in an ambulance, in a hired one, and took her down there.

And, you know, everything ended up being fine.  I was very concerned that the infection was in here, and the doctor did do a puncture thing, and, it all went down, and he tested it, and that was not where the infection was.  And just to find that out was a relief.

Were the doctors telling you it was a coincidence that she got this high fever  after her surgery?

Yeah.  Yeah.  Yeah.

And they didn’t want to see her while she was the most  severe, most grave?

Yeah.  You know what he said?  He said tell those doctors to do their job.  That’s what he said.  Tell the doctors here at Community to, to do their job.

And you know what?  They were trying to do their job.  The one main doctor that’s on staff here, she’s the doctor on staff.  She doesn’t have an office anywhere.  She’s the doctor for this hospital.  She had every kind of doctor possible coming in with doing all these tests trying to figure out what was wrong with her, and basically, it was a urinary tract infection, which she had at Bayfront, which we knew.

No Recuperation before Rita’s Return Home after Catastrophic Brain Injury

The surgery knocked down her defenses to the point that it flared up?

I guess so.

Is there a neurosurgeon in this community hospital?

No, there’s not.  Yeah, see that was part of the problem.  That was the problem.  So she stayed (at Bayfront) probably about five days. And he told me, the neurosurgeon, the original guy that did the original  operation said that the fluid might come back, and it did.  It did come back, and she had that fluid on her head until November, until around Thanksgiving.

Outside of her head, so you can imagine.  I have pictures of her.  It was very, very scary, but again, by some kind of miracle, he said it would slowly absorb, the body would slowly absorb it, and it did.  It went away.

Once Rita was out the door, Bayfront was not letting her back in, short of the medical emergency transport route.  That is not wise medicine talking, that is a medical triage coming from someone who was counting the beans.  That bean counter had determined that Bayfront had taken all of the Medicaid write down losses they could afford.  When she was put in the helicopter, Bayfront had had to take her until she was medically stable. But once freed of that yoke of care, they weren’t signing back up for more, even if a surgery they had just done, had caused the complications.

These dangerous, not medically guided choices are forced upon our medical system by the irrational distinctions in allocation of benefits to those in need, that a single payer system might eliminate. But only if the single payer is guided by rational medicine, not by bean counters.  Whether we can put ration back into care for the brain injured is an open question. But if we don’t start to demand it, it won’t happen.

Next in Part Nine  – Recovery from Severe Brain Injury Continues at Home

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