The Model Patient – Tom Jannuzzi

January 28th, 2011 by Conor

Laughter and love are the cure for everything. I decided this a long while back but didn’t realize the significance until I came here to Great Falls to see Danny. I’ve always had fun with Danny and our times together have always been full of smiles and laughter. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this visit, but I knew that I needed to be here. Obviously I was scared and uncertain as to what I was going to see, but if Danny could go through all that he has, then I could certainly make the trip for the closure I was so desperate for. Sure there were posts of Danny getting better and slowly becoming himself again, but I’d never be certain of that until I saw it with my own eyes. Now having spent my final night with Danny I can go home with a feeling of relief and a sense of closure that he will make it through with a full recovery.

My last moments in Benefis Hospital with Danny last night were full of laughter. I’m happy to say that I’m leaving Montana with tears of joy in my eyes. I knew I would get choked up saying goodbye, but am happy to report that these tears come with a smile. The past few hours spent with Danny were full of laughter and fun. Just like we always do while we’re together, we did nothing but sit around telling stories and poking fun at one another. All the guests and visitors have gone home and only Conor, Michelle, and I were left to spend time with Danny. The four of us sat around joking and reminiscing of the “funny” experiences that have happened throughout the course of this incident.

Surprisingly, even though Danny’s short term memory is still his biggest issue, he remembers a lot of what has occurred these past few weeks. Taking a recent brain exam full of puzzles just 12 hours after his final surgery was not clear to him. So painting him a visual picture of this account was no trouble for us to conjure up a good laugh at his expense.

The day of the test Danny sat like an all-knowing Sultan Prince in his rocking chair. The towel on his head looked like a turban as it covered the fresh wounds re-stapled from his surgery. As he rocked back and forth in what could only be described as his throne, Danny was far from wise and all-knowing. The hospital thought it best that Danny take these tests doped up on drugs so strong that they could take down a baby oxen. There was extreme pressure as the room was filled with 8 different sets of eyes all watching as Danny struggled with each test. To make matters worse his right eye was swollen shut so all visions of the mazes and puzzles were through his left eye only. You could see in that one good eye that he was not completely with us and could hardly care about some stupid tests.

He passed a few of these exams, crushing the matching pictures and going above and beyond with connecting shapes. Filling in the numbers on a clock seemed to be the biggest challenge for him as he tried to sneak peaks unknowingly, with his one good eye, at the real clock on the wall. The nurse giving the exam busted him cheating, but informed him the real clock was allowed to be used to help fill in the blanks. I informed her that in all my years with Danny I noticed that he tended to do much better on his tests if I just happened to be taking the same one right next to him. This seemed to be a great method for passing classes in high school and all the way through college for us. We all had a good laugh, but Danny still had trouble with the clock. They took him off most of the drugs and the next day he passed all the same tests with flying colors.

This was just one recent event within the current week that Danny couldn’t recall, but rewind to last week where Conor and Danny had some stories for us that you’d never expect him to remember. Conor asked Danny if he remembered a special moment the two of them had shared one night together in the ICU. Surprisingly Danny did so they both went on to tell us this little gem:

While Danny was recovering from his induced coma, toward the end of his second week, he still couldn’t speak and was only beginning to use his hand gestures as communication. We have all read the accounts of people visiting Danny and him greeting them with a warm flatulent welcome. Well I guess this was one occasion where he may have pushed a little too hard.

From what Conor told us it sounded like a solid, (or in this case wet), seven on the fart rictor-scale. Him and Conor recounted the look on both of their faces when Conor asked Danny jokingly, “Whoaaa bro, did you just shit your pants maaayn?” Not expecting the answer that he got in return, as Danny raised both arms and looked up with a surprised/guilty look on his face confirming the accusation. Conor ran out of the room to inform the nurses immediately.

Danny informed us that sometimes this shit just happens, and as badly as he felt about it, the deed was already done. He referred to it as the nurse’s job security, and said how on these occasions he’d have three nurses rush in to control the “situation.”

Needless to say there wasn’t a dry eye in room 1509 last night, and even in his current state, Danny was laughing and joking right along with us all. He sends everyone his love and even gave me permission to tell you all about shitting his pants. It felt like Danny was back.

These are just a couple of the accounts Danny experienced that we could all have a good laugh about. Not many people who go through a traumatic TBI experience like this end up as lucky as him. Some might think it was Danny’s strength that helped him, and others might say it was the surgeon’s expert work. Personally, I think it was all of the support he’s been receiving throughout his time here in the ICU. Without the love and great energy that everyone has been sending Danny, I’m not quite sure if things would have turned out this way. Yes, obviously Danny had a lot to do with his own healing process, but there’s certainly something to be said about all of you people in his life that care about him so much. You have all showed so much compassion for his situation. I am not sure if things would have turned out this well for him if it wasn’t for all of you.

Danny and his family have been through a lot over the past 3 1/2 weeks. During all of this there have been many ups and downs and plenty of uncertainties. These uncertainties have been haunting many people’s thoughts since they first heard the news of Danny’s accident. From the very beginning people were concerned for Danny’s well being. No one was sure what was going to happen to Danny and some people, (like myself), were scared for the worst. It was impossible to go an hour without wondering what was going on with Danny all the way across the country in Montana from the East coast, but as things got better the worrying slowly faded.

Coming here to visit Danny has been one of the best experiences of my entire life. I can honestly say that I was terrified to come here at first, but now I wish that I didn’t have to leave. It is hard for me now sitting on this plane, heading back home, reliving my airline nightmare. It has felt so good waking up every day excited to go visit Danny and see the vast improvements he had undergone since the day before. Like a child on christmas day, visiting Danny was like opening a present under the tree. You never knew what to expect but always knew it would be something special. I would go and see him, excited to talk about anything at all. Just knowing Danny was pulling through warmed my heart and eased my mind.

This seemed to be the case with everyone who came in contact with Danny in the ICU. His hard work and dedication to healing and getting better earned him the privilege of being the best TBI patient at the Benefis Hospital in the past three years. They informed us that future head trauma patients of the hospital would be told Danny’s story in hopes of inspiration for their own recovery. They would use him as a model patient for others to look up to when things seemed to be at their very worst.

I feel like this is no different than how people felt about the rest of Danny’s life. Danny has always been a person to look up to. Even in the state that he is in now, he is still being looked up to as a person others want to be like. You’d think that this would surprise me, but after experiencing what I just have in Great Falls, Montana, I’m not sure I’ll ever be surprised of what the power of love and laughter really has on us all.

Keep up the hard work Danny. I realize it is difficult sometimes, but just know that when things get frustrating, you’ve got the worlds greatest supporters here for you 110%. Thank you all for the love and support you continue to send Danny’s way. We all appreciate it more than you could know. Miss you already, hope to see you sooner than later DCT.


One Response to “The Model Patient – Tom Jannuzzi”

  1. Polly Allyn Says:

    Can’t stop crying reading that one, Tommy. Hope you had a safe trip back. Polly

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