Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Jim's Story

A story that has really hit home with me occurred back in the Fall of 2006. I was working for a CPA firm in Bethesda MD and getting up early to beat traffic from Northern VA. My friend and co-worker Jim did the same thing and the first one in usually made the coffee. Over time, we became friends and he was one of the first to congratulate me after Benjamin was born. The night Benjamin turned one year old, Jim was involved in a serious car accident on his way home from work. His sister Laura has written his story and I will post it later in this article.

A little about Jim...He was a senior manager in the firm's tax department who was always willing to take on additional responsibilities from his colleagues in both the tax and the audit departments. He was able to take care of things without letting anything fall through the cracks. Jim was very committed to mentoring his staff and this is very important in a CPA firm. He devoted the time necessary to supervise and oversee their work. Jim was a tireless worker who showed efficiency and was very reliable.

Here is Jim's story:

Jim had a serious car accident on his way home from a 11 hour work day as CPA. On a twisty, back-road short-cut and only minutes short of his home where his wife and children waited, he missed a turn and went straight into a tree. Instead his wife was greeted at her door by a police officer with grim news. Thankfully no one else was involved. But tragically, Jim was discovered to have traumatic brain injury in the days that followed, and remained in a coma for several weeks.

As he emerged from his coma, six weeks later and into the third month, Jim slowly showed signs of awareness, smiled sometimes to greet some of his family and even lifted his hand in purposeful "hello's" and gave "high five's" to children. There were many instances of clear cognitive ability throughout these months since the accident, spelling words with his eyes and a spelling board, picking out the correct keys on a keyboard to spell things, and reading short stories and answering reading comprehension questions with 100% accuracy.

In the Spring of 2008, after some second opinions with new neurologists and a try at a different hospital, Jim was given a boost by having a baclofen pump implanted in his waist, which drips baclofen into his spine at a slow but continuous pace. This medicine is used with people who have muscle spasm or "tone" issues to relax the muscles. Just the right amount can make otherwise rigid arms and legs loose enough to cooperate with the patient's intention to function. The level of improvement for Jim has been subtle, but at the same time tremendous! He has been able to participate more in Physical Therapy and as a result the PT staff at his current nursing home have become quite enthused this past few months with seeing his willingness to "work" and clear cognitive awareness.

Jim's parents are now his guardians and have worked for all these gains. He has clearly answered questions in the affirmative about wanting to continue recovery and "be there" for his children, no matter if he is disabled. That is the goal.

Brain injury is a mysterious condition. While the person suffering from this may continue to look "out of it" - in large part because of the "palsy" stiffness on their face - the attentive visitor will see the eager but subtle reactions to questions asked or sometimes a "blue streak" of accurate head shakes either "yes" or "no." The up and down of good responses versus slow days or weeks are part of the territory of brain injury. Patience is required by all involved!

Our family has attended support meetings for brain injury. We've met people who have been where Jim is, and their caregivers. The two prongs of this support have been: One: Don't give up! No matter what, Jim hears, sees and feels emotions about all that is said about him and hope extended or not extended to him. Two: Many, many brain injured folks given time to recover, even if it is sometimes years, ARE able to do a little more or a lot, especially if they are encouraged and challenged with gentle tones of love and decent PT.

Jim is on this track! Jim is having a recovery. It is slow, it is sometimes still very sad to realize all that has been lost. But Jim is very much alive and the doctors all say he likely will live 20+ years. He is actually very healthy in his body, and has gained weight, to the point of a nutritionist being concerned that he should lose weight!

Join us in our hope for Jim and keep praying for success and joy in Jim's life. Amen

I think about Jim a lot and his accident was one reason I made the change to work closer to home. I pray for his recovery daily. This is why I've included Laura's blog He's Our Brother under my Favorite Reads section.

1 comment:

maryjanejeff said...

I just saw this - very sorry to hear about the accident but glad to hear about the progress he has made. May he continue to progress.