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Quite the Week

It has been Quite the Week. There was a more-or-less last-minute switch-about at work, which meant that I got to go to a conference in Montreal about HIV and housing, from Tuesday to Friday. Since I wasn’t going to be here for my son’s birthday, I switched his birthday dinner to Monday night.

We had just finished eating the birthday cake when the phone rang. It was my son’s father’s friend, telling me she was at the hospital with my son’s father (John). Something about a fall and a heart attack and it looked bad.

So GC and my son and I all raced over to the hospital, where we learned they didn’t actually know why he fell, but whatever precipitated the fall was the least pressing of his problems since he had broken his neck while falling down the stairs. (It’s funny how much more dramatic “he broke his neck” sounds than “he fractured two bones in his neck.”)

Anyway. We stayed with him and held his hand and lobbied for more and better painkillers until about 2:00 in the morning, after they had conducted all the imaging and neurological tests and were able to tell us more definitively what was happening.

The good news: he wasn’t paralyzed, and they didn’t seem to think he’d had a heart attack or a stroke.

However, the fractures were “unstable” which meant that if he moved the wrong way, he could end up paralyzed. So even though he was in a lot of pain and really wanted to change positions, he couldn’t. Secondly, there was bleeding in and around his brain. Not a huge amount, but enough that they wanted to keep a very close eye on him overnight. If nothing changed during the night, he wouldn’t need surgery. Instead, he’d be fitted with a big, heavy metal contraption called a halo, to keep his neck completely immobile for the next few months.

This is what the halo looks like, but John looks crankier than this guy.

This is what the halo looks like, but John looks crankier than this guy.

So that’s what they did. Big metal halo. He’s still in the hospital and will be released once he can walk on his own. (I went to see him yesterday, and he said he had walked on his own the day before but nobody saw him so it didn’t count.) He’s still pretty uncomfortable and he seemed uncharacteristically cranky too.

I sometimes take other people’s crankiness personally, so I had to keep reminding myself that he’s in pain, he’s immobile, he’s stuck in the hospital, his head is stuck in a 7-pound metal trap, he’s got a wicked headache, and he can’t smoke or drink as much as he might like. (They’ve got him on a nicotine patch and they’re giving him a couple of cans of beer each day.) At any rate, he’s got plenty of good reasons to feel cranky. And even though I think he’s bloody lucky to be alive and not paralyzed, I guess he’s feeling pretty unlucky for breaking his neck in the first place, which is fair enough.

Anyway. In other news…

Montreal was great: the conference was interesting, the hotel bed was so comfortable I asked the concierge for the make and model (it’s a Serta), and I had a lovely dinner with my Dad and Merle on Thursday. On Wednesday night I went to see the Chihuly glass art exhibit, which I highly recommend. It’s there until October 20th. Here’s a couple of shots I took of it:



10 comments to Quite the Week

  • I’m so sorry to hear about your son’s dad. Wishing him speedy healing and you a respite from crankiness. I hope this week is only as exciting as you want it to be, in only the best kinds of ways.
    Would you mind sharing the details on the mattress? Tim and I are finally admitting that our 17 year old mattress is creating such bad back pain that we can’t function and we’re going to bite the bullet and put a new one on the credit card. Our old mattress is a Serta but the make and model (of course) don’t exist any more. I found this mattress buying hard enough the first time around, when we had a little money…

    • Laurie, did you try putting a sheet of 1/4″ plywood between the mattress and box springs? It’s certainly less expensive than a new mattress, and may help– older mattresses tend to have quite a “dip” in the center, and that can throw your back out of whack. The plywood mitigates that dip some, making the whole center firmer.

  • So sorry about John’s injury! Sure hope the cause of the fall can be pinpointed & dealt with too.
    I saw one of Chihuly’s installations at a botanical garden here in Nashville, just fantastic.

  • Mary P

    I live in Dale Chihuly’s home town and am exposed to one of his installations anytime I drive through the downtown area. My favorite Chihuly installation is an old one that I first saw 30 years ago in a local bank lobby. It was an underwater world of wonderful glass shells and sea animals all arranged on a bed of sand in a display that looked like a window into an aquarium.

    Healing thoughts to John.

  • Ouch – I hope he mends well and quickly. Last year, a friend of mine missed the stair from her loft and fell, fracturing a vertebrae. At the hospital, her wife called my friend’s mother to tell her about the accident and she phrased it as “Bree fell and broke her back” We all looked at her in shock, and said – do you realize you just told her that her daughter is paralyzed! The phrase “Broken back” or “broken neck” just instantly brings up those images.

  • Florence

    I saw him on Saturday. He wasn’t cranky at that point in time. I got my dates confused. I thought it was the 29th, our brother’s birthday but he was quick to point out that it was only the 28th. At the time I spoke to him yesterday he hadn’t had any visitors, but he was telling me that he had a dozen or more on Saturday. He also was sounding a lot better, and more like himself. He was moved to another ward today. The physiotherapist had him up and walking with the aid of a walker. He hasn’t a phone – they don’t provide a mobile phone like they did in the previous ward.

  • Florence

    I actually had the same reaction to “broken neck” as Valerie. All I heard was “broken neck”. It took a bit before “he can move all his limbs” sank in!

  • Bonnie

    Sorry to hear about John. Hope he heals fast. It’s so strange that I am reading this post today because last night I went through basically the same thing. A late night phone call from my sister telling me one of her girls had been hit by a car. She was in the hospital and had broken her back in 2 places and had bleeding on the brain. Naturally we were in shock so I went to my sisters to get her dog so she could head to Toronto. She has 2 fractured vertebrae in her neck and they are keeping her under close watch for 3 days because of the bleeding. Maybe she will end up with a halo as well.

  • mudmama

    HOLY COW! We have a local friend who broke his neck badly enough that his wife had to hold his head in one position while *he* drove to the hospital – this was after having a tree fall on him, lying there for 6 or 7 hours realizing he’d die of exposure before anyone found him dragging himself to his truck and making it down the mountain to his house where he picked her up. He didn’t get to leave the hospital for months and he still has random sudden paralysis. Sending all good thoughts to J!!!