Me? I’m attempting to go through our journey and countdown 31 things I used to have to do for Danny, that I don’t have to anymore. This exercise has already taken me down roads I haven’t traveled in my mind in quite some time. It has, and will allow me to be reminded just how far we really have come since August 16, 2005.
#22. Tube Feeding
Early on it was clear that Danny wasn’t just going to wake up and ask ‘what happened.’ Initially, Danny had a tube up his nose and then down into his belly to get him the nourishment he needed. A few days later, we made the easy decision to have the feeding tube inserted, especially because he was not responsive coming out of the medically induced coma. As Danny began to emerge, the feeding tube became a major player in the early stages of his recovery.
Three weeks after the accident, Danny entered Shepherd Center’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Unit. He had been getting tube feedings throughout the day, but when he transferred to Shepherd, they pushed his daily intake all at night so he wasn’t hooked up to the machine during therapy.
The second night he was there, he started coughing. Thank God there was a mother with her injured son on the other side of the curtain. She called the nurses. They came, checked on Danny, he quieted down and they went back to the desk.
He started coughing again, harder this time. The angel called the nurses a second time and it was then that Danny aspirated; he sucked the vomit into his lungs and almost died again.
His temperature went up to 105.7 and his blood pressure was all over the place. They called me on my cell, but I had terrible service and didn’t get the call. Danny’s mom did and she went down there, along with members of our Village.
Once I got the message, I called Danny’s brother who had gone down to Shepherd ICU. I will never forget him telling me not to come there. Loida couldn’t even go in there. Now, at 35 weeks pregnant, I was completely torn, but I trusted that if Loida couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t either.
The next morning, I did go and still found Danny struggling. He was naked and on ice, with just a thin blue paper rectangle covering his personals. His bed was on an incline, with his feet raised high above his head. And, he was breathing as if he’d just run many suicide sprints; his chest heaving.
It felt like square one.
But, obviously, Danny rebounded and began to emerge.
The feeding tube had to be flushed and all Danny’s pills had to be crushed and pushed through the tube as well. We had tubes burst, clog and fall apart. We had to cover it so Danny couldn’t pull it out and during the night, we had to restrain him.
Once Danny emerged and began talking a bit, the subject of food became a prominent subject.
As his family, we wanted to spare him having to see us eat when he couldn’t. We would ‘go check our email’ once someone else had finished eating and came to relieve us. There were no family dinners and most of the time, no one cooked.
Danny couldn’t have anything by mouth. No water. No food. No tooth brushing. No ice chips. No nothing.
When he swallowed, his windpipe would not be covered and he could aspirate again sending us back into the hospital for pneumonia.
When someone you love looks into your eyes and ask for water, for food, for an ice chip and you have to deny them, it will wrench your heart out.
When I came home from work one day, Loida cried telling me that during the day, Danny had asked her for an Arby’s Beef ‘n Cheddar and she had to say ‘no.’ As a mother, I can’t imagine not being able to feed my child.
We knew it was in his best interest. We knew he couldn’t afford to get sick again. And, we knew he probably couldn’t grasp those issues with his cognitive abilities at the time, or lack thereof. He would ask repeatedly, perhaps not remembering he’d already asked, or possibly because he was so dang thirsty or wanted to wash the horrible taste out of his mouth. But, it was horrible.
Now down to 158lbs, his 6′ tall frame looked sickly. His cheeks were sunken in and his eyes seemed to bulge. His ribs showed through and because his muscles had atrophied, he was so frail.
And, he begged us for food. And, we had to say no.
It would be over seven months before he could eat and fed him we did! Maybe we overdid it on the chocolate milk, but how wonderful to be able to eat and to drink again.
On a side note, did you see the news articles about the women who insert a feeding tube (through the nose) to lose that extra weight before their wedding?
As someone whose husband had to have a feeding tube to survive, using a feeding tube as your weight loss plan just leaves a bad taste in my mouth…pun intended.