No one wants to hear the words “brain dead” in relation to anyone they know. No one wants to think about the implications. Not wanting something doesn’t keep it from happening.
On Sunday evening, April 30th, my husband inhaled his dinner and nothing I tried helped. The EMTs got there quickly, and shortly after they got him into the ambulance the food obstructed his airway completely and he went into cardiac arrest.
I learned this after I arrived at the hospital, where I was told that the EMT’s had been doing CPR on him when he arrived, and they had his heart beating again within two to three minutes after getting him into the ER. They’d also removed the obstruction and intubated him. I’m ignorant – was ignorant – enough about such matters that I didn’t realize what wasn’t being said until two hours later.
Mind you, I got people praying right away!
Roughly two hours later, the Intinsivist called me aside and explained the situation. For a young man in good health, you have about 2 minutes of oxygen loss to the brain before you have to worry about brain damage. For a man Jack’s age, and with his medical history, you have 11-12 seconds. They’d been working on him for somewhere between two and six minutes. Also, Jack had yet to regain consciousness, his pupils were dilated, and they were only sluggishly responding to light.
In other words, the doctor wasn’t telling me Jack might have brain damage. He was telling he would have brain damage; it was only a matter of how much. This was when he told me, “I can tell you he’s not brain dead. We have seen signs of brain activity.”
I can’t even begin to explain what I felt at that point. I went to see him as they prepared to chill his body to alleviate the damage as much as possible. They were prepping for other things as well, so I got ready for a move to the ICU waiting room.
Again, prayer warriors were lifting him up. Also, I had some strong support in the room with me, which was good since it was 12:30 AM before we heard anything else.
At that point, another doctor came and got my sister and me. He asked if I knew what all they’d planned to do and I gave him the list, ending with, “and…put him on ice.” (I still can’t remember what they called it.)
“Yes,” he responded, nodding. “On that, there’s been a change of plan. We’ve had him sedated, of course, because of the intubation, but a little while ago he awoke on his own. He’s groggy, but responding to our commands. We won’t be instituting ________ protocols.”
I HAD to clarify. “You’re saying you see no reason to think there’s brain damage.”
“Right,” he agreed as he opened the door.
His ICU nurse told me repeatedly, “You have no idea how lucky he is!” Jack was one of three of the five choking patients they’d had recently who had lived. The two they lost died because of the very lack of oxygen Jack experienced. But…
By 4:00 the next afternoon, he had been moved to a regular room. Two days later, he was transported to rehab. Seven days after that, I took him home. Yesterday, on May 17, the man they expected to either die or come out of this a vegetable walked into church.
May 20 EDIT/ADDITION
We saw his primary care today. I’d texted him immediately after my first meeting with the nurse.
He looked at Jack and said, “What I did not tell your wife is that, when I got that first text, I knew you were gone.”
And again I say…