January 14th, 2011 by Conor
I knew this was going to be a short trip so I wanted to make the most of it. Little did I know I would be awake for 90% of the time I was here. This is a CRAZY lifestyle that they are living out here. The hotel room is a little packed so Conor and I had to share a bed. When we were 5 years old there would have never been any hesitation to share, but 20+ years later this spawned a topic of debate. Once rules were established (separate blankets, no facing in towards the middle, etc.) I secured my half of the bed and passed out. After a quick 5 hours of sleep we were back at the hospital. Danny had a cat scan while we were sleeping. They reported that the swelling in his brain had reduced slightly and they were going to go without inducing him with paralytics for the first time. This was great news to hear! After dinner Conor, Michelle, and I set up our spots for the graveyard shift. It wasn’t long before our favorite male nurse, Paul, came in to conduct another neuro test on Danny. Move your right hand…passed, thumbs up…passed, thumbs up with your left hand…no reaction, wiggle your toes…passed, Danny move your left hand…no response. At this point I could feel some general concern building inside me for the lack of movement in that left hand. Danny can we get a thumbs up with your left hand….no response. Paul then grabbed Danny’s left hand and began to tap his left thumb. Danny how about a thumbs up with this hand….no response. This time he held his hand and asked him to squeeze his hand….no response. All of a sudden Danny started moving his legs and it looked he was shifting out of discomfort for the position he was in. His eyes were half open and it looked like he was trying to blink his eyes. Then out of nowhere….BOOM….there it was, he raised his left arm and you could see that he was trying to move his fingers on his left hand. Immediately I felt some relief from the thought that he was suffering in that left arm from some sort of paralysis, either physical or medically induced. This was the first time I had seen Danny move around so much with his legs, that left arm, and even to see his eyes sort of blink. We were all content with the progress that he was making. The nurse shifted Danny in to a balanced position in order to keep a consistent flow of blood to travel through his body and up to his brain. He gave him a dose of Propofal and you could see it run through his body as Danny shut his eyes and fell back to sleep. A few minutes later we heard his ICP monitor beep. His ICP, which measures his brain pressure, had jumped from the normal teens up to the 40’s. This happened a lot during the first week he was there which they called “cycling”. The ICP was climbing 40’s, 50’s, 60’s. The monitor continued to beep in order to warn the nurses that he was reaching dangerous levels. In silence Conor, Michelle, and I were all fixed on this number. Why is it all of a sudden skyrocketing out of control? Why is it staying at such a high level? Why isn’t he cycling back to the teens after this intense spike? Paul entered the room and began to shift Danny’s head to see if he could relieve the pressure…no change, he started moving some tubes around and punching numbers in to the machines….no change. Then he walked out of the room. I don’t think any of us said anything and we continued to watch the ICP number fluctuate in the 30’s and 40’s. Paul returned to the room, walking quickly, and stated that the doctor has ordered a precautionary CT scan. To get the ICP number back in the teens Danny was given a small dose of paralytics. This was the first induced paralysis Danny had been given in almost a 24 hour period. Which was a big step in the recovery process. Due to standard operating procedures they had us leave the room and he was wheeled out to another part of the hospital.
Time passed as we anxiously awaited the results of the scan. Every time the door would open to the ICU I would hope it was Paul announcing his return. During this time there was another family that had arrived to see a different patient in the ICU. They all seemed to be in and out of the ICU every minute, which was building that anxiety of his return each time the door opened. However, this wasn’t nearly as annoying as one guy in that group that was sitting in the waiting area with us updating everyone in his family while on speaker phone. Note to everyone: don’t use your speaker phone in public. By the third family member called, Conor had reached his limit and asked the guy to be considerate to other people in the room. Problem solved.
Paul returned with some great news. The CT scan came back with positive results.
He told us that swelling had subsided and things had improved even from the other CT scan earlier in the day. As far as our concern with the ICP number he said that at this point we can sort of just ignore it. The bolt that is inserted into the brain tissue has a limited 7-14 day life span and at this point a positive CT scan and Danny’s ability to pass the neurological tests are all that really matter for judging his progress. This was a huge relief and we could not wait to get back in there to see Dan-O! This led us to the most exciting moment of the trip. Paul wanted to give Danny another neuro test before he hit him with a fresh dose of Propofal. When we all gathered around the bed we could see that Danny’s eyes were half open on his own. He was in a pretty heavy fog from the medicine so it was a blank stare but very cool nonetheless. We all took turns talking to Danny and he started moving his legs and trying to shift himself in the bed. Michelle was holding his hand and would tell him she loves him. In response he would squeeze her hand as if to say don’t ever let go. This was getting really cool! Then Paul began the test: Danny can you move your right hand…passed, thumbs up…passed, squeeze my hand…passed, thumbs up on your left hand…no response, can you move your left hand…no response, Paul grabbed Danny’s hand, can you squeeze my fingers….slight movement, squeeze my hand again….soft squeeze (passed), wiggle your toes…passed. Then things got really cool. He was sorting of kicking his legs, moving his arms around (both of them), and really shifting around in the bed. His eyes were more than half open at this point and he voluntarily blinked. With each blink it was like his eyes opened a little bit more. Paul quickly moved up towards his head and started asking Danny to look to the right and to the left. His head didn’t move but his eye balls flickered a bit. This was a bit of a surreal moment as he was moving all of his extremities, blinking his eyes, and for the second time we saw him move his eyes. Being a bit of optimist I started thinking that Danny was waking up and maybe he was going to speak to us. His mouth was moving and he looked like he might be trying to say something but nothing was coming out. Paul explained to us that it would be impossible for Danny to speak right now due to the tracheotomy. So much to my disappointment this meant I won’t be hearing his infectious laugh while I’m there. Damn, we all miss that! Those 2 minutes have stood out as my favorite of the trip. You could actually see Danny fighting to get back to being Danny. Thank you God, we need more moments like that!
The remainder of the evening was filled with some exhausted laughs, Facebook stalking, and Paul’s request for Conor to help raise awareness that not all male nurses fit the homosexual stereotype. Since Conor is overwhelmed with the work to keep the website updated, I thought I would include that as a plug for Paul. So everyone is aware Danny has some really great doctors and nurses taking care of him. Paul was the nurse on duty for both nights that I was there so I was able to get to know him the best. This is a guy that you know is passionate about the care of his patients and the well being of family members present. He is thorough with answers to any questions, patient with explanations, and speaks in ways that people without a medical degree would understand. We always had a good time when he was in the room telling jokes, picking on each other, and he was very interested with the accomplishments of Shreddy Times and dannyisthebomb.com. Danny is very lucky to have this type of person to oversee him until he is back on his feet. Keep up the good work Paul!
For some reason 6a came quicker than it had the night before. So we headed back to the hotel so i could try to sneak in 4 hours of sleep before I left for my flight.
Overall the day was a bit of a roller coaster. It had some low points of uncertainty but it also shared some highlights of progress and recovery. I will have to make it a point to stop back at the hospital in the morning to say bye to Danny before I leave for the airport.