Update June 9, 2005
I regret to say that Sally did not make it to our 30th anniversary. She passed away peacefully at home while being taken care by the Home Hospice Organization. I still plan to be active in the tbichat room, as I can still give support to other caregivers and the people they are caring for.
Update April 20, 2005
Since I last posted the story in 2005, we have quite a few adventures. We have been
on 10 cruises including trips to the Galapagos and Macchu Pichu, two river cruises
through the center of Europe, a barge cruise through Scotland, and our greatest (and
last) adventure-a cruise to Antarctica.
Unfortunately, our 30th anniversary is probably the last one we will celebrate, as Sally has just been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.
We will make the most of the time we have left, but any serious traveling is out. We have enrolled in a home hospice program, and it is a wonderful way to handle her disease. No nursing homes, etc., a nurse on call at all times, and whatever pallative treatment she needs.
In early May, 1993, Sally woke up with a splitting headache and nausea. The pain was so great she fainted. After coming to, she crawled to the phone to call me at work. He came home and took her to the doctor. The doctor sent her to have a CAT scan and awaited the results. After about an hour, the nurse came in with a serious look on her face and told them that Sally had a brain hemmorage.She was immediately taken to the ER for more tests to confirm the diagnosis, which was a subarachnoid hemmorage. This is a blowout in one of the blood vessels in the front part of the brain.
After being in ICU for about a week to stabilize her, the first of 3 surgeries was performed. During surgery, they found 4 more aneurysms that were ready to blow. A microsurgeon was called in, and a complete vascular reconstruction had to be performed. The surgery left some scar tissue that prevented flow of fluid in the brain, so she had to go back into surgery to install a shunt that would drain excess fluid into her abdomen. During this time, the nurses would look at me and sadly shake their heads.
Sally was in ICU for a couple of weeks, and was then transferred to a skilled nursing facility for rehabilitation. When she came in, she could not walk or talk, and was basically out of it for a while. I was there for that "Kodak moment" when she got out of her wheelchair for the first time and stood up. Her rehab was going so well, she was transferred to a full time rehab facility to expedite her recovery. After she was considered well enough to go home, she was put into a skilled nursing facility for 2 weeks to allow Steve to find someone to watch her during the day while he was at work.
During her time in the hospital, I visited her in the morning before going to work, then saw her again after work . Also, once a week she was wheeled to a telephone to talk to her aged mother in Pittsburgh, who was worried sick about her.
Sally came home in August, and the caretaker stayed with her until late November.
In September, as a celebration of her release, we flew from Los Angeles to Monterey for the weekend. While in flight, the flight attendant reached into the overhead for some soda and dropped a full can of soda on her head!! Fortunately, it hit on the other side of the head from the surgery.
By January Sally was ready to travel, and went on a Caribbean cruise. We left Sunday, and Monday morning the Northridge earthquake hit in the early morning. Our house is 2 miles from the epicenter, and we wondered what damage had been done. A quick (and expensive) call from the ship to our next door neighbor revealed that there was no structural damage to the house, and just some broken stuff.
We continued our cruise, and came home to a small mess, but nothing like other people had. Sally's illness was a wake up call for us, and we decided to do some traveling that we had put off. Since her recovery, we have cruised the outside of Europe from St. Petersburg Russia to Odessa in the Black Sea. We also crossed the Atlantic on the QE2, and returned on the Concorde(SST). We also took a 2 week cruise to Australia and New Zealand.
In 1997, however, Sally suffered a seizure and fell against the kitchen counter fracturing her first and second cervical vertebrae. These are the same one that Christopher Reeve fractured in that jumping accident. Fortunately, there was no paralysis, but she had to wear a "halo" and had the two vertebrae fused with some bone from her hip. She bounced back from that, and 6 months later was bouncing across the Serengeti on an African Safari. We are still traveling, and have a trip scheduled to South America in November 2000.
Sally is mostly recovered, but still has some deficits. She has some balance problems, and some short term memory problems. We work around those by putting grab bars in the bathroom a second railing on the stairs, and a grab bar by some steps outside. I made up a weekly planner for her, and she writes down everything on it, and crosses it off as it is done.
For the past few months we have been going to a weekly meeting of a brain trauma support group, which has helped us both. It gives me more understanding of the problems people with tbi face, and shows Sally she is not alone in facing her problems.
We just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this year, and hope to be able to celebrate many more together.
Email Steve and Sally