It was early in the evening on December 5th 2010, I had fallen asleep while studying for my accounting and statistics test the next day when I received a phone call from my frantic brother. He was not crying but he was breathing hard and in complete shock. His first words were
"Michelle, I dont know what happened to dad. He is not moving. I am scared, he is not moving." Life as we knew was changed forever.
For a moment I hoped this was his idea of a joke, but when I heard the strange voices and blaring radios in the background I knew he was not trying to be funny. There were paramedics in the house talking to mom about what had happened to my dad.
My dad had the flu that week and had been running a very high temperate the past few days and just feeling awful. That night was particularly high, his fever was around 104. That is high for anyone, but especially for a man of 50 years. My mom suggested that he move from the living room couch and go lay down in bed. So he tried doing so, but on his way down the hall he fainted (we are still not 100% sure of the cause of fainting) and fell face first into the door jam of the guest bedroom. The way he fell had his face perfectly lodged between the door and the door frame with his full weight pushing himself into the crevice. That force pushed his neck unnaturally far back and continued to twist it with much force as his body fell to the ground, face sliding against the wall. That exact position of his face and force from the fall pushed a disk out in his neck and dislodged it between the vertebrae and the spinal chord.
You could call this a one in a million kind of accidents.
How many time do people faint and break their neck hitting a wall (nearly flat surface). Why couldn't he have just fallen straight down and bellyflopped on the floor?
Why couldn't he have just made it one more step past the door jam and not have hooked his chin perfectly on the frame twisting his head back as he went down?
These were just a few of the question running through my mind in the ICU the few weeks following my dads fall. To top it off the doctors said he was incredibly lucky the disk did not sever the spinal chord, in fact it didn't even puncture, penetrate or fracture anything. It just sat sideways lodged between the bone and spinal chord. The reason why he could not move was because when something that drastic and hard happens to our spinal chord it swells up. Just like when you sprain an ankle or get hit so hard your bruised area swells for days or weeks at a time. Well his spinal chord was so swollen it was cutting of communication from the armpits down. he could move his shoulders and ars, but not his fingers or wrists. Little to no movement in his legs, feet, or abdomen He could hardly tell when he was being touched. His nerves were so fried he said it felt like a burning sensation.
My dad was a Chiropractor so to make things a little worse for him in the moment he knew exactly what had happened the moment he woke up ni the hallway seconds after he fell. he could tell what disk had popped out, he knew what the side effects would be, he knew what he would lose function of and he knew just how serious it was. He also knew that it was at the part of his neck where, if injured you could lose function of your diaphragm causing you to stop breathing He had to talk my mom through all of this while she was on the phone with 911 and tell her what to look for and then what to do in case it started happening. Which it did. Luckily he held out until the ambulance got there and intubated him opening his air-passage and kept him breathing.
I hate to say this because it is my dad, but I dont think this could have happened to a better person. Without his knowledge from being a chiropractor who knows if he would have made it. And his extremem optimism carried him through the first few weeks of hell in the hospital. He was intubated and could not talk to us for weeks. The tube had to stay down his throat because with Spinal chord injuries you never know for certain how much function is lost until you just try it. And in his state at the beginning trying to breath on his own was not something his body could handle. For if he had tried it and immediately needed the tube back down his throat in order to take in air those things aren't the smoothest going down. They freaking hurt and can do quite a bit of damage on the vocal chords as the force them down your throat. So I read his lips for the first few weeks before they took them out.
I cant put into words how scared I was about never hearing his voice again. I know that day will come much much later in life when he passes away. But to have in front of me distraught and as scared as us without the ability to communicate with us was hell. I am terribly glad those days are behind us. From the ICU he went to Spinal chord Rehab center in the bay area. When he could finally return home many changes needed to be made, for example; handicap ramps, a hospital bed in his room, round the clock care which ended up being my mother until Social Services kicked in and provided a certain number of caregiver hours per month and a wheel chair van.
This all happened a week before my finals that semester, and it was my last semester of classes in my Associates Degree Program. Somehow I got it together and passed all my tests, some I even got an A on which really was amazing since I did not study what so ever and had 3 math courses that term... how? Yet another question that will never be answered!
It has been over 2 years since the fall and I am just now able to write about it.
It has been an interesting, nightmarish, but blessed journey for my family.
I see gods hand in every aspect of our life, that I am certain of.
But it would be a lie if I said I understand why us.
I still wish this particular chapter of life wasn't part of our journey.
Maybe in another 2 years I will see why it was meant to be.