Written by, Silvia Caswell
My husband, Elijah, had a slip and fall on icy steps while working outside the week before Thanksgiving, 2013. He hit his head on the stairs and we think he was unconscious for about 10 minutes.
When he came to, he was completely disoriented and his speech was slurred. No one actually saw Elijah fall because he was outside by himself. He was able to call a co-worker who found a work colleague who lives in the area to come and pick him up. He didn’t know where he was so he looked on his iPad for the location. He then could tell the work colleague where to find him. He didn’t remember what car he drove or where he had parked. He was immediately taken to the Emergency Room to be evaluated. He had a severe headache and the CT scan showed no bleeding. He was released from the hospital with a simple concussion and we were told that he would be better in less than three weeks.
Elijah is 28 years old, so he’s in pretty good health otherwise. At home, my kids and I began noticing that he had some issues with confusion, short term memory recall, inability to read out loud, and his balance was severely off. His headache was unbearable and we returned to a bigger trauma center ER to have his pain managed because it was out of control. Again they checked him with a CT scan, but no bleeding. We were sent home and referred to a concussion specialist at the same hospital.
After two hours of neurological testing, the concussion specialist put Elijah in the “severe concussion” category. Again they believed that he would get better soon and that we would be back to normal quickly.
A few weeks after the accident, and with each visit to the doctor, we began finding more problems. Memory recall was pretty poor, disoriented to time and place, headaches out of control, and he began falling. Our doctor then decided it was best to keep him supervised at all times because he had driven to a nearby fast food restaurant and left the children at home by themselves (ages 5 and 3), and had no recollection of ever getting there, ordering, and driving home. Now I hide his wallet and car keys so it won’t happen again!
Long story short… we’re two months out and he has fallen down our stairs at home three times. The last time, a few weeks ago, left him unconscious. The doctor believes he re-concussed himself. Also, he developed right side weakness, and his symptoms continued to be severe. So far he is seeing a neuro-psychologist, two neurologists, one cervical physical therapist (to help with the limited mobility he developed from being in so much pain constantly), and a balance physical therapist. He was then moved out of the concussion spectrum and into the “mild to moderate traumatic brain injury” category.
All family members have been highly concerned about Elijah and it has pretty much turned my world upside down. We have 3-5 medical appointments every week. I had to quit my job at the hospital (ironically enough I worked in Shock Trauma ICU, where we get these types of patients constantly), to be able to stay home with him. We have three kids (ages 5, 3, and 11 months), and they know that sometimes daddy’s brain plays tricks on him (that’s how we deal with his confusion), and that he needs lots of rest in a dark, quiet environment so his brain can get a chance to get better.
We have friends and family that help us tremendously by watching our kids when we need to go to our appointments. It has been a huge blessing. It is overwhelming to go to the hospital that many times per week and sometimes I wonder if I have the strength to keep up with everything. I am a huge exercise fanatic and exercise 5-6 days/week, as well as eat healthy. Most of the time I get up very early to do it because I need the energy to keep up with our small kids, tending to my husband and taking him to various places (obviously, he cannot drive).
I am currently attending college and am preparing for taking the MCAT this summer and applying to medical school later in the summer. It’s definitely thrown everything off track, but I have learned to be disciplined and schedule everything in, even workouts. I feel that if I do something to help myself be a better person every day, then I can take care of everyone else in a better way. I have had a past history with severe depression so I always need to keep myself in check.
The results from Elijah’s last trip to the neurologist where further neurological testing was done, show we are looking at another 3-6 month recovery. His physical exam did not correlate with his MRI, so we have an MRI/MRA scheduled in a couple of weeks. He will go under general anesthesia for the procedure because he does not tolerate the MRI machine noise at all (we found out the hard way). The doctor thinks he may have a microscopic bleeding that was not caught in the CT scan or a regular MRI.
I appreciate your blog and I am grateful for finding other caregivers who are going through a similar situation. Thank you!!!
Thank you Silvia for writing Elijah’s story. Best wishes for a full and speedy recovery.