Coping when a loved one is critically injured? Having faith in recovery?
November 26, 2021 7:38 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to stay positive and optimistic about recovery, but all I can think of are worst case scenarios.

If I call or see him, I’ll break down. I’m not close by, and I’m getting not a ton of detail. What I know is he’s stable, can walk (carefully) and talk but there is a risk he could die or become tetraplegic with one false move. I am hoping brain involvement will not go beyond a concussion. He’s forced to recover at home. But he’s stable. He’s alive.

I alternate between crying, feeling sick, and not understanding how this is real. I want to kill the bitch who did this.

I need to stay positive for him. I need to learn how to have faith. Can you please share with me how you do that.
posted by cotton dress sock to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- Eyebrows McGee

Response by poster: I am panicking a lot.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:42 PM on November 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm so so sorry you and they are experiencing this. Someone who is talking and walking, even gingerly, has a good chance of recovery that gets better every hour. The state of trauma care is pretty amazing. Yes, of course things could take a bad turn, and your worry is not misplaced, but optimism is not unreasonable here. Can you make plans to visit? Having something to focus on will help you a lot.

What I have done when a loved one is in danger is to take a couple minutes every hours or few hours, sit quietly and send love, healing light, positive energy to them. I imagine a beam of light from me to them. It certainly helps me not melt down, and sending love out into the world is a reasonable task to set myself. And mindful breathing will help you manage your perfectly understandable panic; there are suggestions in this ask.Me.
posted by theora55 at 7:53 PM on November 26, 2021 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Went through something similar a couple of years ago. Finding something useful to do for them helped. (In my case it was legwork about medical care when they were outside the country.)(AskMe helped and I get a little choked up about it even now!)

Breath slowly and deeply: professionals are doing their best. Your love is winding you up, which speaks well of you. Think about the good things you have shared with this person. Good times will come again.

Try "box breathing," methodically. Honestly, breathe. Hang in there!
posted by wenestvedt at 8:02 PM on November 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for your support… he actually was released the same day this happened. No beds apparently... I don’t understand how they could do that. No nurses or doctors are with him. Insurance company will offer home nurses and a bed soon. Why not now. They just gave him a collar and morphine and told him not to move. The fractures, I don’t know exactly their nature. Facets, not broken all the way through. Diagonal. So he’s ok to go home. But apparently transport to a hospital in a proper city is too risky. I don’t understand this. His lawyer told him to go to a real hospital. A neurologist at a good hospital will look at his scans. But he can’t be moved. But he’s ok to be at home. Nothing about this makes sense.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:12 PM on November 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you can find a good hospital and call an ambulance they will have the training to safely transport him. Good luck. You're right--nothing about this makes much sense, but if he's home and stable that's a good sign.
posted by Amy93 at 8:16 PM on November 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Does he have somebody local who can advocate for him? That sounds so so shitty and I’m sorry he’s (and you’re) going through this.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:17 PM on November 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Last reply from me. No one can convince him to go to the city, he won’t do it. His GP made this plan. GP who didn’t call back for a day and a half after he was discharged. Said they should only move him now for emergent surgery which he doesn’t need at the moment. Wouldn’t repeat CT anyway. He’s scared and not in a position to make good decisions, and he believes this doctor is doing the right thing. We can’t change his mind and have upset him when we’ve tried to talk to his partner (he can hear). He needs brain rest as well, not conflict. Very difficult. He should never have been let out of the hospital to begin with. I can’t do anything about this, not one thing. At least a different neurologist will review his scans. If elective surgery is needed, he will go. Yes I agree, it’s good he can talk and is able to walk. He is not in the worst position.

Thank you so very much for your kind thoughts, everyone.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:29 PM on November 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

You don't have to be optimistic. The reality of it is that he might die and you don't have much control over that. There are some small things you can control. You can tell him you care about him and you can try to make him more comfortable, and you can try to wrestle with the healthcare system in order to get him better care. That's really all you can do. If you know that you are doing everything you can, then you can rest with that knowledge in your heart that whatever happens, you did everything you could. That may make it easier to cope.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:39 PM on November 26, 2021 [7 favorites]

When my husband of 45+ years was clearly dying, my mantra was "After he's gone, there will be all the time in the world to mourn. For now, what can I do for him?"

This was easy for me but I don't think as advice it is easy to put in practice.
posted by tmdonahue at 4:36 AM on November 27, 2021 [21 favorites]

Best answer: I’m so sorry this is happening. During a very scary time about two years ago: “Every hour brings new information.” It wasn’t a conscious attempt at a mantra, more a reflection of what happened, but the phrase is apt. Take it hour by hour, because every hour there will be more information to help everyone plan next steps.
It’s hard, but try to focus on practical things you can do for him now. Also focus on what you can do for yourself: fresh air, healthy and regular meals, sleep. The nurses told me “The better you take care of yourself now, the more you’ll be able to help when it’s needed,” and they were right. Sending best wishes for the best possible outcome.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 6:46 AM on November 27, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: He’s scared and not in a position to make good decisions, and he believes this doctor is doing the right thing.

It might help to reframe this from "the doctor is clearly making poor decisions and the patient is, too, by trusting them" to "the doctor is making decisions I don't fully understand because I do not have the same information as them, and even if I disagree with those decisions, there is certainly benefit for the patient in having someone they perceive as an authority and relying on their decisions as a way to feel some peace and security through a very scary experience." I can see from your additions that you already understand how important feeling comfort and being able to rest without the constant adrenaline of stress and fear is important to healing, so hope this helps.
posted by solotoro at 10:37 AM on November 27, 2021 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Just want to say thank you again… this is so hard. The nurses who *work* at that hospital apparently told my mom they wouldn’t ever go there themselves if they were sick, they’d go to another hospital… he was discharged with no copy of the CT report or any notes or guidance other than an appointment for a follow up in a couple weeks, and the morphine (no mention to him of need for meds for BMs!!); no occupational therapy or nurse visit so he could know how to eat, cleanse, anything; they were going to let him go walking, no wheelchair (my mom had to get one), into a car to go home??… what the FUCK is that shit. Three (we thought two) cervical vertebrae broken. Absolute shithole of a hospital. Medieval. Wartime medicine. Wtf. These people are to be trusted?? I can’t contain my anger and fear. If anyone is still reading and can offer advice on how to shut up about it… if ALL GOES WELL, he’s going to be lain up for over a month at home, at risk at any moment. What if one of his children cries and he naturally turns his head?? What if there’s a loud sound or emergency in the home?

Like is this normal for this kind of injury, can anyone say?? People are sent home?

>The reality of it is that he might die

Ok… this is my brother. He’s in his early 40s. Not some elder uncle who’s had his time. No. I can’t accept this.

I can’t do anything to help them in practical ways other than shut up about how furious I am. I live in another city. It’s not like with my dad where I have POA, or my partner, who voluntarily involves me, I can’t talk to anyone in the healthcare system about this. Can’t even talk to my brother’s partner, who is (we are grateful) dedicated and careful, but totally deferent to the dr and to my brother right now. They won’t even listen to his damned lawyer. I’m impotent even in small ways.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:12 PM on November 27, 2021

Best answer: IAARN, but NYRN

Just to throw a few thoughts out to you (and, FWIW, I used to work in a hospital that I really don't think gives optimal care and would definitely drive to one of the other two further away from me):

First, is it possible that the ER didn't want to admit your brother because the hospital has a lot of COVID admissions right now and maybe he would be safer at home? They wouldn't have discharged him if he wasn't medically stable. That is a direct road to litigation for the hospital, no matter how shitty you may think they are. You also mentioned that you're getting a bunch of incomplete information, so that may be part of the confusion.

You mentioned that he has three partial diagonal cervical facet fractures. So, they're not displaced, right? That's good. And he has a collar, so your brother's neck is supported. This is a hard collar? He may be really uncomfortable, but he's supported. Can he feel his extremities and has full use of his fine and gross motor skiills (like can still use his bladder, can wiggle his toes, nothing numb)?

He didn't get a CT report right away because the radiologist needs to dictate an 'official' reading. Given that it's been a holiday weekend, you might be able to get one tomorrow. Sucks, but hospitals don't get shit done even on regular weekends. This is probably also the case for any caseworkers involved in getting OT or home health care help.

I'm not quite sure how your brother's GP got involved - the ER should've referred your brother to a head and neck doctor or neurologist. If your BIL is on opiate pain meds and may have a concussion, he probably isn't able to make appropriate decisions about medical care (such as switching hospitals, making dr appointments). Is there any way the lawyer can persuade your SIL into having her take him by saying that this can affect whatever legal direction he plans to take on (what I presume was a car accident?) behalf of your brother if he continues to delay what is critical medical care?

I'm really sorry that you're dealing with all of this. I'm five states away from the rest of my family and I've been through this. It is tedious and frustrating - I've been through it firsthand with a parent and a grandparent. Deep breaths. Your brother's injuries are scary, but if he was at risk of being a tetraplegic from turning his head because the doorbell rang, or his kiddo cries, he'd be in neuro ICU and in a lot worse shape. By all means, please keep updating - as somebody said above - think of it as another hour, more information. Sending big, big hugs to you.
posted by dancinglamb at 11:52 PM on November 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Dancinglamb, thank you so much for offering your professional insights, and your support.

- Covid concerns: possible. It’s a tiny hospital. No idea about case #s but my mom noted they had an unexpectedly large security presence for such a small hospital, and the MPP in the area is an antivaxxer, so yeah Covid concerns might be at play. They don’t have a lot of physical beds period, either.

- it wasn’t the weekend when it happened (we’re in Canada so it’s not a holiday, either). Idk. Any time my dad or anyone has been to a hospital around here, there’s a printout of lab results, imaging reports, clear follow-up instructions and some awareness of how to manage things at home. (Eg has had no BMs since Wednesday, no one told him he needed to take Senocot. I HOPE that’s the reason and not nerve involvement… he can use his bladder.) His health card isn’t with him, they are working on finding it so he can maybe request electronic access to at least the CT report.

- he is medically stable. I don’t know if all the fractures are the same. At least one was a diagonal facet fracture. No dislocations afaik. I did some reading, I guess sometimes they do an MRI to see if the vertebrae are unstable, no MRI was done. He has a rigid short collar but does not feel secure in this, would like something that goes down over his chest and back. I don’t know if they gave him what is ideally indicated for his fractures (c5-c7) or if that’s what they just had. OT (from the insurance company) is visiting him tomorrow, maybe will prescribe another brace.

- fine and gross motor skills are intact. Thank god.

- the hospital did give him a referral to a local neurologist, will happen in a couple weeks. (I don’t know what kind of neurologist he has access to in this small town. He is 40-60 minutes from world class hospitals/specialists in neuro care…)

- they called his GP after discharge because they did not feel supported and of course wanted some guidance. My mom and I wanted to hire a private ambulance to take him to said excellent hospitals immediately and go through the ER again to get rapid access to a neurologist. GP was worried about the trip and thought extra radiation was a bad idea, although, any hospital can access his reports… that GP thought he might not be seen by a neurologist through the ER and would have to wait or go back home… I mean. That is crazy talk. Of course a neurologist would see him, there’s no way an ER doc in Toronto would pass on it, we have a level 1 trauma hospital and the aforementioned neuro centre…. Here (Canada) the fastest way to see a specialist is to go through the ER (not ideal but usually even GPs recommend this.)

So the GP is sending a referral through a non-ER route to a Toronto neurologist. I don’t know what the process is for that or how long it takes. That neuro will read the CT scan (hopefully will look at the images, not just the report) and offer their second opinion. GP only wants him to travel for surgery if needed, is worried about the trip.

> Is there any way the lawyer can persuade your SIL into having her take him by saying that this can affect whatever legal direction he plans to take on

I guess he tried. SIL and bro are worried that if the GP doesn’t approve a particular approach to getting care, insurance won’t cover something (?). Like we would absolutely pay for a private ambulance without a thought. Anything without a thought. Lawyer recommends it himself. If doctors here thought xyz, insurance would approve xyz.

> if he was at risk of being a tetraplegic from turning his head because the doorbell rang, or his kiddo cries, he'd be in neuro ICU and in a lot worse shape

I am not sure about this. They said he is at risk of a spinal cord injury, at C5-7, if he moves his head.

Thank you so much.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:32 AM on November 28, 2021

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