Archive for April, 2009

“A tough cookie.”

We were excited on Monday to see Bob actually eat – chew and swallow – real food! – a meal of chicken, potatoes, carrots, apple sauce, milk, tomato soup and pineapples. Not that he ate it all, but the  act itself was real progress. His nurse reported that before we arrived he had been really lively – waving to the secretaries in the hall, answering her questions (even volunteering that he didn’t want to come back to this place). And she reported proudly that he had been able to sit in a chair for a little while. When we came, he was pretty tired from all this, but was relaxed while being fed.
On Tuesday, his orthopedic surgeon, who had done complicated surgery to repair both legs, called to say that the steel rod in one leg had slipped and he would have to do another procedure, which was scheduled for Wednesday morning (yesterday). He also needed more oxygen to help him out while his lungs are getting stronger so he’s in a kind of face mask to pump more into his system. He came through the surgery very well and though tired out, he was alert when he came back to his room, and talking even more than before. The doctors and nurses at the ICU are just terrific – watching over him constantly and with real concern, affection, respect and optimism. We say a grateful thanks to them and to all our family and friends who surround him and us with loving help and support. As one nurse said earlier, “he’s a tough cookie,” and we look forward to seeing him bounce back from this new surgery and be ready for his next 5-course feast.
As Bob would say, “Stay tuned.”

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Off the ventilator!

Update from Barbara, as I was out of town this weekend and haven’t seen Bob since Wednesday.

“Again, our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has written to express their concern and love. We feel encouraged by Bob’s progress from day to day. On Sunday, they removed the ventilator, and he definitely seemed more alert – even able to growl some words from a very sore throat. His first sentence, which I leaned in to hear, was, “I want a soda.” His breathing is somewhat fast (lungs are still healing), and he is getting extra oxygen through a new contraption. All the contraptions, of course, are driving him crazy and we’re not sure he actually comprehends yet what has happened or where he is. Today, the speech therapist is coming in to test his ability to swallow (something that can be affected by ventilators) and we hope the test will lead to that soda – or, really, food and drink. He waved to me through the glass panel of his ICU room with a hand wrapped in a fat white mitt (to prevent pulling out wires). I’m sure he’s waving to all of you, with thanks.”

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I stopped by the hospital this afternoon. Not having been there since Friday, and knowing that I’m going away this weekend, I was very much looking forward to spending some time with Bob. However, when I arrived, the nurse flagged me down and told me that it would be better if I didn’t go in. Apparently, Bob’s now greater awakeness and awareness are causing him to be increasingly agitated and confused, and he was trying to pull out his breathing tube. Understandably, of course – even the strongest and most coherent of people would reach a point where they just couldn’t take it any more, and Bob appears to have arrived there. This morning, she said, the staff gave him two breathing trials (meaning they turned off the fans in an attempt to determine whether he could breathe on his own if they removed the breathing tube); due to his extreme agitation, though, he failed both. Therefore, for the rest of the day, they were just trying to keep him calm and quiet, showing peaceful images on the television, and after I told the nurse that it was in there, playing Enya on the iPod. He was being kept under light sedation when I arrived, and while I was there she gave him a little more. As they had to rerestrain his wrists to prevent him from pulling out the tubes, he would periodically struggle against them, and every now and then try to sit up. As Melanie and I sat there quietly so as not to attract his attention and upset him, we watched him pulling on them and felt very sad.
In spite of all this, his greater cognizance is really actually a hopeful and positive sign; this morning, in fact, he was encouragingly responsive, wiggling his fingers and toes on demand for the nurse, and I heard that yesterday he even gave the thumbs up at one point. She said that they plan to give him another breathing trial in morning and that they anticipate that it will be successful. The expectation is that things will improve for him greatly once the breathing tube is removed. Our family is making plans to ensure that for as long as is necessary there is someone there with him during the days so that he won’t be overly frightened and won’t have to be alone.

Many thanks, as always, to everyone who has posted loving and healing wishes and thoughts on this site. We will continue to relay them. Please don’t stop spreading the word and checking in. Love to you all!

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Up and down…

Two days of updates today, folks. It’s been a roller coaster couple of days for Bob and his family; following the surgery on Friday morning he seemed set back some, with less eye contact and less responsiveness. Barbara reported on Sunday, “Bob still opens his eyes and looks at us with feeling when we speak to him – though most of the time right now he’s asleep. The iPod by his bed keeps the beat of his favorite songs – we feel sure it’s helping.” She related a story to me about one of his nurses who was very excited about his love of music and brought in her own recordings of reggae. “She played it loud and clapped and danced, and reported that when she did, his blood pressure went right down. The doctors tell us he is stabilized and that everything will take time.”

Yesterday Kevin wanted to go down and see him, so Susie, George and Barbara all went down with him and were thrilled and relieved to see a whole new Bob from the day before. From Barbara, “Bob was much more responsive today – opening his eyes with every new voice, squeezing our hands, even seeming to try to raise his body (and free himself from the maze of tubes going everywhere). We felt very encouraged and thankful for the good care he is getting. Also, thankful to all our dear, wonderful family and friends who have sent us and Bob so many loving messages. Please continue to send email notes – the days are so exhausting, it can be hard to talk by phone right now. Love to all, from Bob and all of us.”

So El Dobbo (as bro-in-law George calls him, a loving mutation of his nickname “Bobbo Dobbo”) does seem to be fighting his way back to us. His love of his family, his music, his friends, and his life must be his strength through this terrible trial. And strong he is…and loved! His very, very dear friend Keith drove to visit him yesterday as well, which we know had to have been a huge boon when Bob heard his voice.

As we are traveling this road, Bob’s family is grateful for all the well-wishes and calls of concern. We have been inundated with people who want to reach out to us and to Bob, hear how he’s progressing, send their love and caring over the miles. As you can surely imagine, though, in the face of moving more than 40 years of their lives from one house to another and the upheaval of Bob’s accident (all of which happened in the span of three days), Barbara and Walter cannot handle the volume of calls that they are receiving. Therefore, on their behalf, Susie and Jenny are gratefully requesting that all contact be made through them or through this website. Susie’s cell phone is 240-672-3431, and Jenny’s is 301-580-9386. It’s also possible for anyone to leave comments on this website – the bottom of each posting has a place where comments can be left, and we promise to relate every word to Bob and Barbara and Walter.

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Hopeful news

The report from Barbara and Walter today:

“The doctors are encouraged by how soon he began to awaken and look at people. They are now very slowly trying to wean him from the ventilator and reduce the amount of oxygen his is receiving – all very gradually. Jenny brought an iPod and he has the music he loves pouring into his head. His nurses have been terrific, and are now turning on the T.V. to add to the stimulation. The hospital he is in – Suburban – is a major trauma center, and the trauma surgeon who saw him as soon as he arrived – Dr. Westerband – is a man of great heart. He performed heroic, life-saving surgery immediately. We are thankful to him, to all the staff, and to all of you for your hopes and love.  Please send your messages to him on this website, or by mail to our new address: 16513 Hampton Dr. Gaithersburg, MD 20877. We’ll bring them all to him, and we know they will help.”

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We didn’t hear about Bob’s accident until 2:30 p.m., over seven hours after it occurred. In fact, it was total fluke that we heard about it even then. That Wednesday happened to be the same day, by some cruel coincidence, that Bob’s parents were moving out of their house in Bethesda, where they’d lived for over forty years. The movers were zooming around the house carrying boxes, and Bob’s sister Susie and his niece Jenny had already unplugged and packed both house phones. After Jenny left, though, Susie noticed that her cell phone, which she’d been using almost non-stop all morning, was almost out of juice. So she turned it off and plugged back in one of the house phones. And it was that phone that rang with the news, delivered from one of Bob’s colleagues. Imagine if her phone battery hadn’t gotten low. Bob had no emergency identification on him about who to notify in case of an accident. The police had no idea of whom to call. The only clue there was hung around his neck on his office identification tag, so that’s where they started.

Susie immediately called Jenny, and between them they notified immediate family members and within the hour everyone began to arrive at the hospital. Bob’s room is in the Intensive Care Unit, and he is hooked to life support systems that aid his breathing and stabilize his battered body. The major injuries he sustained were two broken legs, a punctured bladder which was repaired by emergency surgery when he arrived at the hospital, bruised lungs, two broken ribs, and bruises to his brain. A second surgery was performed on his broken legs. He was taken in for a third surgery, also on his legs, this morning (Friday, 4/17), at 9:00 a.m., called Intramedullary nailing. Prior to this surgery, another procedure was done, successfully, to put a filter into him in order to prevent blood clots from traveling to his lungs and brain.

Yesterday he opened his eyes periodically and looked at us, held our hands when we took his, and a couple times he turned his head toward someone’s voice when they spoke to him. His whole family is here – even his sister from Philadelphia and his brother and sister-in-law from Florida.

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