Weight Off Our Shoulders

January 24th, 2011 by MIchelle

When Doctor Gorsuch walked into the waiting room with a smile on his face as he briefed us in how the surgery went, I let out a huge breath of air. This breath felt like I had been holding it since January 3rd. I felt relaxed for the first time since I got here. That weight on my shoulders slowly melted off and evaporated for a temporary feeling of relief. We walked back up to Danny’s room in the ICU and waited for his return. When the bed rolled in and Danny was situated in the room that tenseness came back. Seeing someone your care about in pain and discomfort isn’t easy, but I was still really excited about the success of the procedure.

Danny was in a ton of pain. His head was hot all wrapped up in a bandages. The nurses ended up giving him a morphine button to push every 6 minutes and Ellen sat by his side to remind him to push the button or do it herself. Finally the pain leveled off and Danny was able to relax and fall asleep.

Meanwhile, Conor, Tom, and I were fast asleep at the hotel. After being up for over 24 hours and knowing that the surgery went well, sleep came easy. I managed to read the first ten pages of In An Instant before passing out. This book was written by Lee and Bob Woodruff about Bob Woodruff, the ABC NEWS Anchor that suffered TBI while reporting from Iraq when an explosive device went off near the tank he was riding in. It took me back to January 3rd. I’ll leave you with an excerpt from the first chapter.

“You can’t know how you would behave in a crisis until it drops out of the sky and knocks you down like a bandit: stealing your future, robbing you of your dreams, and mocking anything that resembles certainty. Sudden tragic events and even slow-burning disasters teach us more about ourselves than most of us care to know.” -Lee Woodruff


The Truth About Cuddling

January 23rd, 2011 by MIchelle

I’ve decided to write this post to clear a few things up. First off, I would like to say that I am not a fan of PDA (public display of affection). Danny isn’t either. I am not a googly eyed girlfriend that gets all mushy, especially not in public. I have my moments, but no one except Danny sees those and writing on this blog about those moments is something that I always question a few times before posting them. Typically, we would never cuddle with a random in the room watching our every move let alone with parents around. I’ve gotten past those things and agreed to the public cuddle when asked for by Danny. Whatever he wants right?

However, I will say that these cuddle sessions aren’t exactly the most comfortable. There are times when the IV and rubber tubes/lines manage to stay in place enough so that I’m not strangled or so that my head is at least on a soft surface rather than laying on a plastic box. There must be ten different wires and tubes that I have to, ever so cautiously, wiggle my way around to get into a comfortable position for Danny. Once I’m there and Danny is still, I try my hardest not to move until he wakes. I sit there, with my head pressed against the plastic sidewall of his bed, and stare at the random “babysitter” in the room trying not to make eye contact as to not create an awkward situation already more awkward.

When Danny finally moves, he will most likely pull a wire off his chest or jokingly wrap the humidifier tube around my neck and the random “babysitter” will then get up and hover over us until things are back into place. The humidifier is another thing in itself. When we are in said comfortable for Danny position I feel a humid mist on the back of my neck. I hear a gurgle which is a mix of flem from his lungs and the humidifier. Sometimes, if Danny coughs, a little spit might fly out of his tracheostomy and into my hair. I try not to think about that.

In a twin sized bed, there is hardly enough room for two and especially under these circumstances. I love that Danny wants to be close and all, but when my feet are falling off the bed I have to balance, flexing my abs to keep me in place, so that I don’t fall off feet first. When I finally get some shut eye I am usually fast asleep, but I have bad dreams of the nurse coming in to draw blood and accidentally grabbing my arm instead of Danny’s. Getting blood drawn must be one of the worst ways to be woken up.

All of this aside, I am happy to be there in whatever way Danny wants me there. If I were Danny and my two options were between cuddling or having restraints put on to hold me in place, I would chose cuddling too. I have never had the opportunity to cuddle in the ICU and the thought of that makes me laugh. Although this cuddling experience has been heart warming, I hope I never have this opportunity again.


Sock Monkey Update

January 23rd, 2011 by Conor

Conor pretty much covered all the bases with his post about tonight. It was quite the eventful night with a lot of interaction. One thing that I thought was worth adding to his post was a comment he made after being treated for the asthma. The lung specialist was reading what Danny was typing on my computer and after they had assessed the situation Danny typed “the sock monkey will help.” He has become attached to his teddy bear and the new addition, that his mom brought back from NH, is the sock monkey. We now have two little sock monkeys (thanks Maaah and Megamo). Danny definitely hasn’t lost his sense of humor.



January 22nd, 2011 by MIchelle

Danny got a cat scan this morning. Things are looking good and Doctor Gorsuch is planning on putting the bone flap back into place on Monday. Today has been the first day I noticed the skin over the missing piece of bone looking concave. That means the swelling is going down. It looks less normal, but it’s a good thing. After that we’ll just wait for however long post operation recovery takes before they move Danny to PCU. It could be a couple of days or it could be two weeks longer in ICU after this surgery. Sometimes, we were forewarned, the patient will take a step backwards in his recovery after the bone flap procedure. It’s not common, but it’s a possibility. Prior to the cat scan today, they gave him some morphine. He’s been sleeping since I got here around noon until now with about twenty minutes broken up in between of being awake. The respiratory therapist visited, put his voice plug in the tracheostomy, and tried to get Danny to speak, but he wasn’t into it at all. He told me yesterday that it’s painful and it’s harder to breath. He managed a whisper, but that was it for today. It’s been a slow day.


Stay Positive

January 22nd, 2011 by MIchelle

It’s 1:16 AM. I’m at “home” in the Great Falls Inn. Again thinking about Danny. He fell asleep watching Harry and the Hendersons while I sat next to him holding his hand. With the 24 hour babysitter it’s tough to get some alone time with Danny now. As much as it is necessary, I also feel like between Conor and I we’ve got the night shift covered. There are things you would do and say with your boyfriend that you wouldn’t do or say in front of someone else. It’s kind of awkward with someone sitting in the corner of the room being attentive to every movement Danny makes. All for the better though. If it will prevent Danny from any of his escapes then I’m okay with that. I certainly don’t want that to happen again.

This website and the outpouring of support, love, and compassion is astonishing. It’s mind blowing. It’s something we should do everyday.

We should…

…show our love and support to all of our family and friends.

…be there for people and listen to them when they are down.

…bring them up and try as hard as we can to put a smile on their face.

…cherish every waking moment of life and especially moments spent with those you love.

…remind them that they are loved and that no matter what happens they will have a friend by there side.

This list could go on for days and days, but I think you get the point. It’s a shame that it takes something so life altering to bring these feelings up sometimes, but it’s a blessing that we still have today and tomorrow to be there for Danny and to do all of these things for him. You still have today to do the same for your family and friends. Aside from the obvious lesson learned from this accident, to wear a helmet, there are many more lessons that I am learning, as I’m sure you are too.

I noticed myself smiling more at strangers when I pass them on the walk to the hospital or in the hospital. It’s not always well received on the 5th floor where the ICU is. Sometimes I walk away feeling bad that I smiled from their reaction, but I understand. I don’t think I looked any strangers in the eye for a week after January 3rd.

One day when i was getting in the elevator at the Great Falls Inn a woman introduced herself to me and told me that she was having a very hard time because someone close to her was sick. I got in the elevator with her and her family and she just grabbed me and gave me a big hug. When the elevator stopped at level two I had to pull away and get out. All I could say was, “stay positive.”

Last night when I arrived in the waiting area for the ICU I saw a family sleeping on the floor. It made my heart sink remembering the night I slept there. I hope their family member gets to give them a hand squeeze and a faint smile again. It’s such an amazing feeling, that hand squeeze. It makes time stop and your heart overfill with happiness, promise, and passion.

I’m looking forward to what tomorrow brings.


Teasures of room 5109

January 21st, 2011 by MIchelle

Wow, what a night last night. Just made it in and finished cleaning up Danny’s room. He’s fast asleep and sounds like he has been for most of the day. We watched a little bit of The Simpsons before he closed his eyes. I talked with him a bit and he doesn’t remember much, if anything at all, about yesterday. I asked him if he remembers cuddling and he doesn’t, but was quick to pat the bed and ask for more. Everyday we walk him through the same conversations as the day prior and he slowly starts to get his bearings again before he forgets everything. He’s got some really bad headaches which are being treated with pain meds every three hours, but they don’t ever really go away. On a pain scale of 1-10 they are rated a 10 nearly every time he’s asked. Yesterday he was refusing the meds, but today he seems more compliant. It’s good to see him sleep, I think he just has some catching up to do since he opened his eyes for the first time since the craniotomy. The doctor just came in to check up on him. Sounds like Danny will now have someone is his room 24 hours a day other than one of the four of us. Good thing because he’s anxious and ready to get out of bed!

Unfortunately, real flowers aren’t allowed in the ICU, but my friend Matt stopped by the other day for a surprise visit and left us with these beautiful flowers. They have been kept in the waiting area for everyone to enjoy.

Because real flowers aren’t allowed, this solar powered flower has been kept on the windowsill. Danny laughed when I showed him the fake flower. It’s perfect for ICU. Also, these little creatures have brought many smiles. Fuz is the snowboarding moose on the left and Dunlop is the sock monkey on the right (named by Conor). What should we name little blue monster in the middle?

A box of instruments was also sent. Here is Danny customized tambourine. I thought about breaking out all of the instruments at once, but decided against it thinking I would probably get a headache if not Danny. We’ll put these to good use in the future.

The Creative Cursing book made me laugh super hard. Danny and Conor laughed too, but it really never got old for me.

Who knew that there was even such a thing as the Cereal Lover’s Survival Kit? If there’s one person that is in need of this kit it is Danny. If you’ve read his interview on ShreddyTimes.com then you know that if Danny were trapped on an island for the rest of his life and he could only have one thing it would be cereals. “You name it, I’m down. Hopefully it wouldn’t be just one kind…”

Hillbilly Teeth and Thank You Notes

January 21st, 2011 by MIchelle

It’s 12:43 AM and tonight will mark the second night spent away from Danny since I can remember getting here. There were other nights when sleep won, I lost, and I didn’t make it the whole night in room 5109, but intentionally walking out of the room and home to the hotel feels strange. I get that choked up feeling in my throat when I say goodnight to Danny. I fight back tears and can’t say more than a couple of words at a time without my voice cracking. I spend as much time as I can in that room with him even if it means skipping meals, showers, and not seeing more than a two block radius around the hospital. Lot’s of people keep saying that we should get out of the hospital for a change of scenery, but I’m perfectly fine in room 5109. I’ve seen enough outside the hospital to know that Great Falls isn’t really for me.

It was extra tough leaving Danny tonight. He was wide awake and I’m pretty sure he thought he was coming with us when we left. He thinks we’re in New Hampshire. We’ve told him quite a few times we’re in Montana. Short term memory is definitely something we’re going to have to work on. He smiled tonight while Conor and I were hanging out with him. We were trying pretty hard. I was laughing really hard. We had hillbilly teeth in and hung up some decor his grandma sent. Danny now has a plastic hawaiian grass skirt and flowers hanging from the entrance to his room. He also wrote THANKS FOR EVERYTHING…BOTH OF YOU! on a piece of paper. Made us stoked.

I want to stay awake a write right now. I feel like any second now some really profound thoughts are going to surface, but I’m going to try to get on a normal schedule. Maybe tomorrow. Good night world.


Cuddle Buddy

January 20th, 2011 by MIchelle

It’s 2:24 PM. Usually I’m sleeping right now, but today I made it in early. I walked in this afternoon to him snuggled up with his stuffed bear. It’s absolutely adorable. I don’t want to gush about it and I usually am the last of my girlfriends to use the word “cute,” but really, you’ve got to see this. Even Doctor Gorsuch had a good laugh when he walked in to Danny and his cuddle buddy. It’s is funny and cute at the same time.

About an hour ago Danny had his physical therapy and occupational therapy appointments. They stayed for about forty five minutes until Danny was too dizzy and over it. The physical therapist did some upper and lower body simple workouts; raising his hands above his head, lifting his legs up one at a time, and tossing a ball back and forth. The occupational therapist had Danny write his name, the year, and different colors that she held up on a piece of paper. I watched anxiously to see how his writing was and to my surprise it was perfect.

The only area that I’ve found Danny to be struggling a bit with is his short term memory. If I ask him questions about yesterday, sometimes he’ll remember and other times he’ll look at me confused. From what I gather, he is doing absolutely amazing in all areas for this stage of recovery. Everyone is impressed. This includes myself. We had no idea what the extent the injury would effect him, but it’s been surprising everyday to watch Danny improve.

Although there are times that Danny might seemed bummed out or over being strapped down to the bed, there are also many time throughout the day that I feel like Danny is dealing with this as best as you could expect. He’ll smile if something funny happens and make everyone smile with him. Today he made us all laugh when the therapist joked about being left out and Danny passed him the ball instead of me. That’s probably a bad example, but it shows he still has his sense of humor.

At the risk of sounding too mushy in this post, I will also say that he still makes me blush multiple times a day. I had to include this stuff because I have to give him credit for all of the positives. The doctor also mentioned that the fact he is having these complex emotions shows that he is still capable of having them and that is yet another positive. All in all today has been a good day. He’s finally getting some sleep now and I haven’t had to hold him back from trying to escape yet, which he didn’t remember from yesterday. I really wish you guys could see him and that teddy bear!


Counting Sheep

January 20th, 2011 by MIchelle

It’s 4:14 AM. I’m laying in bed trying to think of something other than Danny laying in his room alone. If you’ve read what Conor wrote, then you know that Danny needed to get some rest and that we were asked to give him some space. I don’t blame the nurse for asking this of us. If I were trying to get some sleep, it would be pretty difficult with other people in my room. On the other hand, Danny is on a mission to get out of that bed. I had to restrain him twice today and eventually I was able to talk Danny out of making a run for it. Even though he can speak now, he still has yet to hold a conversation. There are times when he is squirming around in bed, red in the face, and his fists are balled up and flexed, but he won’t say a word. These times are painful to watch. These times break my heart because all I want to do is help him. I think, for the most part, that he has the worst headache of his life. He rated it a ten on a scale of 1-10. Hopefully tomorrow is less painful. Get some sleep Danny. See you in my dreams.



January 19th, 2011 by MIchelle

Not sure if we mentioned yesterday that Danny is no longer on the ventilator. He still has the tracheostomy in and the hole where the vent used to plug into is now where Danny breathes from. He had a few cough attacks yesterday which look horribly uncomfortable, but since I’ve been here today, he’s been doing well with it. He also got the voice plug put in today. Usually they only leave it in for a couple of hours or so, but Danny’s vitals are doing well enough that they can leave it in. If you haven’t figured it out already, this means that Danny can talk. David and our day nurse Kye got to hear it first hand. Conor and I haven’t heard it yet. I’m not one to pressure Danny into doing things that he doesn’t want to right now, but I would love to hear him speak. He mouthed words to me today, but didn’t make a peep. He seems very reserved right now. He’s hanging in there, bored with the questions, and over being strapped to a bed all the time. In physical therapy he is impressing everyone. He’s sitting up and balancing by himself. The doctor won’t let him stand up until the bone flap is put back in. That surgery might be on Monday. If you guys have any ideas as to how to entertain Danny while he’s hanging out in bed, let us know.


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