Sunday, May 5, 2013

The long road back

I've been more than distracted lately. You see my brother had back surgery over three weeks ago. He had been having problems with his back for a while but in the last few years, his spine began to deteriorate. The pain has been excruciating and even with an almost lethal dose of pain killers, he could not get relief. The pain, the pain killers, and the depression made quality of life as non-existent.

He had 2 different surgeries, but the relief was only short term. He had high hopes that the previous one would allow him to pick up his granddaughters, but it wasn't enough.

Eventually a doctor was found who looked at the problems and felt he had a treatment plan that would finally provide relief, but the surgery would be extensive and the recovery would be intense.

Right after the surgery began, the doctor called for the family and explained that things were even worse than the tests had shown and it would be impossible to do all that was needed in one surgery. The surgery lasted more than 8 hours and plenty quickly things began to digress. I was not able to visit until several days after the surgery but the reports had been bad. He was in such distress that he was kept fairly well sedated. By the time I arrived, there was still little response, and inability to follow orders. The therapists came in and tried to manipulate his arms and legs some. His nurse came in and announced to the therapists that they needed to get him up, that he had to progress enough to have the second half of the surgery by the next week. I never would have thought it was possible, but they did get him up, which really started the recovery needed for the next surgery.

Just before he had the second surgery, the therapists had him walking up and down the halls, something that had been impossible before the surgery, and he was cracking jokes with all the nurses and techs.

The second surgery was considerably more aggressive and included the insertion of a titanium rod and 28 screws. The doctor expected it to take 8 - 10 hours but finally after 12 hours, the doctor finally came in to say they were through. We knew the doctor had to be exhausted, but he took the time to sit with us and explain the answers to any and all of our questions. I could see why they trusted him.

The rest of that week was grueling, the doctor knew he was in considerable pain, so there was considerable care to keep him as immobile as possible and unaware as they could, but when it was time for all of that to wear off and begin rehab, he could not wake up. Day after day he laid there with very little if any response to anyone. Talk began of sending him to a skilled nursing center until he could respond and begin rehab. Prayers were requested and within hours, he began to respond and before the end of the day, the therapists had him up again.

Of course as all of this is happening, life continued and it proved difficult to make the long trip to the hospital but a few times. Each time I left, I increased my prayers because I could not imagine his ability to recover.

He was finally able to reach the goals set for him at the hospital, much to everyone's surprise, everyone except those of who had prayed, and moved to a rehab hospital.

Today was the first time I had seen him since he was moved and when I walked into his hospital room, I wanted to shout out loud with joy! For the first time since this had started, he actually looked like himself. But it was even more than that, he looked like he had before all the pain had robbed his life of anything other than just trying to exist. He could carry on a conversation and was trying to feed himself. He even asked us questions and wanted to hear about what was going on. By the time we left, with help from his ever patient wife, Martha, he was able to stand up and even turn to tell us bye.

I know there is still a long way to life pre-back injury. There is a lot of hard work to be done so that he is able to get out of the bed on his own and stand, but for the first time, I felt like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel.

I truly believe the only way any of this has been accomplished though is due to the prayers of so many, who have answered our requests, and continue to. Thank you for taking the time to include my brother and his family in your prayers and I ask that you continue until you receive the "all clear" signal.

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