So what happened? Why did I suddenly stop blogging? Especially seeing as I was attempting to blog every day. Well, on Monday the 17th February, my 81 year old father was hit by a car and catastrophically injured. He’d gone for a walk to the local shops with a friend to buy some teabags, and it would be almost nine months before he finally made it home.
The 25-year-old driver, for reasons unknown, was on the wrong side of the road. My dad was not far from stepping onto the kerb but he didn’t quite make it. His friend was just ahead of him so she made a leap for it and was saved.
My dad was hit at 60km/h.
His physical injuries included a subdural haematoma, broken ribs, punctured lungs, shattered pelvis – open book, cracked L4, AC on his left shoulder, shattered fibula and tibia in his right leg, multiple cuts, bruises, and abrasions. The skin on the little finger of his left hand was abraded down to the ligament. The list is longer and his file is as thick as a phone book of yesteryear, but you get the idea.
I found out when my brother rang me at about 6 pm. He’d found out from his daughter when a friend Facebook messaged her that she was pretty sure her Grandpa was the person in the accident she’d just passed.
My brother rushed to the scene, which was only a couple of minutes away from his home. Dad was probably already at the hospital by then. Major Crash were doing their thing and they told my brother that we’d all better get there as soon as possible. I don’t think anyone held out much hope for him.
Word spread and we all raced to the Royal Adelaide. We found out later that when Dad arrived, the emergency teams were doing hand-over so he had two of the best teams working on him. Apparently his only pulse was in his groin but those amazing doctors worked their magic and brought him back from the brink.
He was critical but had regained consciousness and they took him up to ICU, where we were finally allowed to see him. At that time, he didn’t look too bad, considering. A bit beaten up but otherwise ok. He was confused, of course, and unsure about where he was or what had happened, but we were just grateful that he was still alive and that we could speak to him.
My brother and I stayed all night in ICU and the others came back the next day. This is when we discovered the extent of his injuries and that he needed surgery and that the 48 hours after an accident are the most crucial. A lot of people die within that 48 hour window. After the adrenaline settles down, the body realises what has happened to it and the injuries really take hold. It’s like when you give yourself a nasty knock on your arm, for instance. At the time it hurts but the next day it’s suddenly bruised and painful in a way it wasn’t the day before.
So the massive trauma of the accident was now making itself known. By some miracle, there were no injuries to Dad’s organs. If there had been, we doubt he would have survived. His body couldn’t have coped with that as well as everything else.
He was booked for pelvis, leg and skin surgery on Wednesday morning. The surgeries took more than 6 hours. His tibia got a rod and pins. They had a bit of trouble with the pelvis so they ended up doing external fixtures but the next day they weren’t happy with it so they booked another surgery for Friday, where they fitted an internal plate.
In ICU, he was hooked up to machines. He had a breathing tube, a feeding tube, a catheter, a thing in his neck to administer medications, wires coming from everywhere to monitor everything. His bruises and cuts had really come out and they looked worse before they started to get better. He was so doped up on pain relief that he could barely open his eyes. And we just sat with him, two at a time, holding his hands, silently willing him to be ok so we could all be ok.
For 3 weeks, we lived in ICU. We had family meetings with Dad’s attending doctors who would look gravely at us and shake their heads and basically try and prepare us for the worst. They kept giving him 48 hours and, somehow, he survived. Then they’d give him another 48. He met that deadline. By the end of week two, they started seeing evidence that he might just make it after all but they were worried about what would happen when they removed the breathing tube, so they wanted to wait until they felt the time was right and he had the best chance of survival. His chest injuries were so bad they weren’t sure if his lungs had the strength to do their job.
But in a Catch-22, leaving a breathing tube in too long is just as bad as taking it out too soon. It’s a fine line.
Waiting for that breathing tube to come out was agony. If his lungs failed him, they were prepared to do a tracheostomy – something they weren’t willing to do the week before. Again, by some miracle, when the tube was removed, he was put onto a mask and his lungs came to the party. The mask came off after a few hours and they put that little oxygen tube thing in his nose.
By now, though, after lying dormant for just over 2 weeks, he was extremely weak and his poor body was working so hard to fix everything that was broken or hurt. We did marvel at how quickly his cuts and bruises healed. Seeing that gave us hope that his insides were healing quickly too.
Slowly, tubes and wires were removed, and physio began.
But then, whilst still in ICU, he contracted CRE, which is a superbug. He was moved to isolation and we had to don gown, mask and gloves when we went in to see him. Then he got pneumonia. Which is par for the course, apparently! We had a new fear now. That the CRE would prevent the antibiotics from working.
Yet, again, even in his extremely weak and immunocompromised state, he managed to fight off the pneumonia. Once that had cleared he was moved from ICU onto a ward, where he stayed for another 3 weeks. So that was six weeks at the RAH.
His hospital time was up but he wasn’t strong enough to go home. He needed extensive physical rehab but because of his head trauma and subdural haematoma, there were signs that he had a brain injury. It wasn’t severe, but enough to warrant sending him on to Hampstead – which for the uninitiated is a specialised rehab centre that deals exclusively in brain and spine injury, and amputees.
Now, before I move on to rehab hell, I just want to say how grateful my whole family are to the wonderful professionals at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. They were brilliant and not for one single moment did any of them ever give up on our dad. They fought hard for him and gave him the best care. As one of his fantastic doctor’s in her lovely Dutch accent said, “We don’t like to lose.”
And a huge thank you to the first responders. The ambulance crew who were first on the scene who had to use their skills and expertise to stabilise our dad and keep him alive for that 20 minute trip, during peak-hour, mind you, to the city.
Each and every one of the people who worked so hard for our dad – in front and behind the scenes, are an absolute credit to their profession. We applaud you. Thank you.
Next time … Rehab Hell!