January 8th, 2011 by Conor
When I sat down to write this, I wasn’t sure what I would write about. Do I tell a story, share memories, something personal…I don’t know. What I do know is that this is one hell of an experience and while I am going through this, the most helpful thing for me is reading or hearing from other people who have gone through similar situations. So here is my side of things and if not now, maybe later it well help you too.
There are no words to describe the feeling that I have right now. Since I got the phone call from Conor about Danny, the hours have passed like days, evenings blend with mornings, and time stands still. My first day here in Great Falls, Montana Ellen, David, (Danny’s parents) and I visited his doctor for forty-five minutes while Danny was getting a pick line IV put in. In that forty-five minutes, we were updated on his condition and everything that had taken place since the accident. It was an incredibly dreamlike moment for myself, as this whole occurrence has been. Reality really set in as we walked through the open glass door to his room and saw him for the first time. There is no way to prepare yourself to see a loved one in these conditions. My heart stopped and I didn’t know how to react or what to say/do. I asked the nurse if it was ok to touch him and when she said yes I went for his hand.
The nurses would check on his responses by periodically doing tests such as getting him to give a thumbs up or trying to get him to open his eyes. Before these tests they would lower the sedation levels and he was doing logical things like reaching for the tubes in his mouth. The fact that his movements had purpose was a good thing. On this day, there were times that I would talk to Danny and he would give me a good hand squeeze or even rub my hand with his thumb. Conor even got him to mimic a thumb war. However faintly his attempt was, he was trying and that brought a smile to my face.
I stayed up with him until late that night. I didn’t feel tired as all my energy was going to Danny, staying positive, and keeping him company. Despite knowing that I need to rest, one of the hardest things for me to do is leave his bedside. When my eyes glazed over and my vision got blurry, that’s when I called it for the night. I said goodnight to Danny and walked out of the room looking back before I left the ICU. With some blankets and pillows from the hotel next door, I made my bed out of the blocky wooden furniture in the waiting area next to Conor.
I woke up to the sound of the trash can being emptied at my feet. I thought to myself that we must look like a couple of bums, but this was the closest we could be to Danny while we slept. My eyes felt dry as I folded up my makeshift bed. Gathering up my belongings and preparing myself to walk through the ICU doors once again felt like a dream. Wednesday was more or less the same as Tuesday. The time went by slowly.
Looking back on Wednesday, it seemed to be a relatively mellow day. I slowly started to familiarize myself with ICU room number 5109. There’s a lot of machinery, tubes, beeps, numbers, and lights. I want to understand what they all mean so that I can monitor Danny, but that is not to say that I don’t fully trust and respect the care that he is under. It just seems that the more I can understand, the better I can assess Danny’s condition. I suppose I don’t have much to say about Wednesday because Thursday was a roller coaster.
I managed to sleep in a little bit, but the second my eyes open I fought to keep them open. From that moment on I rushed to gather my stuff so that I can see Danny. Danny’s dad gave me an update as soon as I reached his room and I sat down in my usually position, next to him, holding his hand. Leah, the nurse on Thursday, was doing the routine response checks (thumbs up, eyes open, etc.), but things didn’t really seem right to me. He wasn’t as clear with her commands. At some point in the afternoon, she decided to give Doctor Gorsuch a call in regards to the tests. It was a whirlwind after that. We did more tests with the same results. She asked me to try and get him to give the thumbs up in case a familiar voice could have a better effect. I raised my voice and tried my hardest to get Danny to give me a thumbs up. I tried to get him to squeeze my hand, to open his eyes, anything, but he simply wasn’t responding. My heart sunk. I looked up as Doctor Gorsuch was walking through the doors to Danny’s room. There was no time for an introduction. He walked quickly to Danny and tried to get a better result with the tests. It’s not the most pleasant thing to watch. The Doc pounded on his chest and yelled at him to open his eyes. He then held Danny’s eyes open and tried to get Danny to look at me. His eyes were glazed over and not moving a bit.
I told myself from day one that I wouldn’t break down in Danny’s room. I couldn’t let him get that energy of me being sad. When Doctor Gorsuch looked up at me and asked me where Danny’s parents were I knew we weren’t moving in the right direction. When we gathered together around Danny to hear that Gorsuch would be taking Danny into his next surgery, the craniotomy, my heart was racing. I couldn’t speak. My throat was choked. My stomach was flipping.
Once Danny was wheeled out of his room, I walked through the doors to the waiting area and felt the tears well up. I had left my imaginary “no cry” zone (the ICU) and it had to come out. Conor gave me a big hug and I muffled my tears in Danny’s sweatshirt that Conor was wearing. Still speechless. We waited.
A few hours later, the Doctor came out and let us know that the surgery went well. He let us back in Danny’s room. I can’t really explain why, but for some reason this surgery felt right. Standing next to him and sending him love and encouragement from his bedside, for the first time since the accident, I felt relief. Relief that the surgery went well, but also relief that we gave his brain room to swell.
Today is Friday. I woke up well rested for the first time since the accident. When I walked into Danny’s room this morning there was news of the tracheostomy being put in. Once the general surgeon finished up some surgeries, he performed the tracheostomy in Danny’s room. The procedure went well. Danny looks amazing without a bunch of tubes coming out of his mouth. You can finally see his handsome face. He looks like he’s under less stress. There’s no tape running across his mouth and squishing his cheeks together against the ventilator tube. I feel like Danny is more himself now. It’s easier on the eyes minus the large scar on the left side from the initial surgery on Monday.
Watching videos and looking at pictures of Danny makes me smile. It makes me tear up, but it makes me smile. I know Danny will make it through this. Until then, I will wait and encourage him. I will wait and love him. I will wait and see him open his eyes.