Bumps in the Road (of Life)

Mike and Libby's life has been happy, stable, and (mostly) trouble and pain-free.   They consider themselves blessed, as they and their daughters have been healthy and safe.   However, there have been a few difficult moments in their lives, including:  

  1. The Bike Accident: Head Injury
  2. The Tornado
  3. Cancer(s)
  4. "Blackout" Car Accident
  5. "Life Savers"

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The Bike Accident

In 1988, Mike was in excellent physical condition: he'd been playing tennis, was into distance running, and was biking as well.   He had taken up running and biking to increase his stamina, because he was losing some tennis matches he felt he should have won.   On April 4, he went out in the late afternoon for a "fitness bike ride" on the canal bank near his home.   He was well equipped, with large 10 speed bike, a quality helmet, riding gloves, and biking shoes.   After riding some distance (he can't recall how much), he was almost home and was crossing one of the city streets that intersected the canal every few miles.   Although it's unclear if he was riding or walking his bike across the (marked) cross-walk, he was hit by a car and thrown about 40 feet beyond the cross-walk.   This fact obscured some of the "fault issues".

All traffic stopped on this busy street...but this was before people had cell phones, and the area wasn't "commercial".   Remarkably, another driver had the presence of mind to turn around, go back to a nearby shopping center, and call 911 on a pay phone.   Response to this call was fast, and the EMTs scraped Mike off the pavement and took him to a nearby hospital...where Mike would spend a month in the ICU and inpatient critical care.  

Mike was taken to John C. Lincoln Hospital, and because he was carrying identification, Libby was contacted.   She rushed to the hospital, and as she entered the E/R door saw a police car parked there with a man in handcuffs - he was the driver of the car that hit Mike.   Libby didn't realize this as she entered to find Mike and see how badly he was injured.  

She was able to find an attending doctor.   Mike was unconscious and unresponsive, prompting the staff to run "coma scale" tests.   Libby asked the doctor if Mike's condition was serious.   He replied simply, "He could die."   She was shocked...and scared.

Mike was in ICU, unconscious, for 8 days, and was then sent to a private room for basic recovery.   He regained consciousness there, and it was the first time he was aware of his situation.   He remembered going out for the bike ride and recalled crossing the street over the canal...nothing thereafter.   At this time, he had a diagnosed serious head injury, broken ribs, broken left leg, and a crushed right shoulder.   Due to the obvious pain and head trauma, Mike wasn't making any sense in conversation and was very confused.

Further examination of his head wound revealed a subdural hematoma (blood collecting in the brain), a condition which required surgery.   This procedure, which involved drilling a hole in his head to drain the blood and relieve the growing pressure, was performed there.   Afterward, he was forced to lie on his back, head in a device to restrict motion, for several days while normal brain fluid returned around his brain.   During this time, he remained incoherent and confused.   Also, after he was back in a "normal" bed, he was violent and hard to control, getting out of bed and trying to walk away from the hospital.   The staff had to first restrain him in the bed and later put him in a "pen" constructed on the floor of his room.   It was a horrible situation for a while.   Fortunately, this hospital was close to home, and Libby could respond to many calls from the nurses when Mike was having difficulty with his situation.

After a couple of weeks, Mike calmed down and started to receive some physical, speech and language therapy.   He was then able to receive visitors, who, when they came by, found him breaking down emotionally and crying.   (Mike was to later learn that brain injuries often "amplify" emotions, which was certainly true in his case.) The physical therapy work was very painful, and the speech therapy showed he was still badly disabled.   The hospital wasn't equipped to handle the many of his problems, so Mike was released to home recovery (whatever that meant...).  

Libby was at a loss as to what to do for him.   Friends offered advice.   Most important was one Ann Wallack, who suggested a program at another nearby hospital: The Adult Day Hospital at a world-renowned facility, Barrow Neurological Institute.   Although small and exclusive, Libby got help from Mike's employer, Honeywell-Bull, to cover the specialized treatment's costs.   Mike had to be "interviewed" to qualify for entry, and after about 3 months at home he started the program.   This turned out to be incredibly beneficial in his recovery, and it was probably a life-saver.

The Adult Day Hospital was, for Mike, a nearly 6 month activity.   Every weekday, he would take a bus (he wasn't ready to drive for almost a year) downtown to the hospital where this special facility was, for a four hour session.   The activities included neurological rehabilitation, physical therapy, cognitive training, and personal and group counselling.   He and his family were required to attend weekly sessions with the ADH staff, so that they understood what was going on and how he was doing.   His personal psychologist was Dr. George Prigatano, Founder and Director of the ADH.   Mike's lead therapist was Dr. Pam Klonoff, who he initially found intimidating, but as time wore on he developed a good working relationship with her.

Mike's success with this program was very much due to an intense "competitiveness" he seemed to have to get better.   In sessions he shared with another patient who was much younger, he showed remarkable desire to achieve "winning" results, a factor that drove both to succeed.   For a frequent exercise called "Word Fluency", Mike would read a dictionary while travelling on the bus.   Most activities there were scored, and Mike found an desire for achievement that he didn't know he had.

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The Tornado of 2008

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Cancer(s)

Cancer Scares

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The "Blackout" Car Accident

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Last Updated: February 16, 2019