Saturday, December 02, 2006

What a day!!!

Early AM Wednesday I got the call that all parents dread.

"Hi mom....I'm OK, but I'm in the ER at Duke. I flipped my car last night"

Needless to say, I grabbed some clothes and threw them on....then grabbed my cell, wallet and keys and ran out the door. He sounded a bit groggy, but he made sense, and I just kept praying all the way to the hospital.

When I got there I practically threw my keys at the valet guy and ran into the ER. You now have to go through the metal detectors and ask a woman if you can go in, where to go, etc. Room 14 I was told and given a stick on visitor's pass.

With a little help, I found his room. Door was shut. I knocked gently and opened the door.

To find my 22 year old son lying flat on his back with a cervical collar on. He had 2 IVs, on in each arm, and he had all the monitoring stuff (heart, BP, Oxygen sensor) on him....but nothing was hooked up!!! No sooner did I walk in, and he says "I'm going to be sick" and started to roll over! An aide handed me a bucket to hold for him, and said she'd get a nurse.

Within a matter of minutes, a nurse came in and started futzing around with his IVs. She asked if he was vomiting, and I said no, just dry heaves. She got him a medication for nausea and gave it to him IV and the nausea quickly subsided.

At this point, I asked how he was and was told by the nurse that she'd get his doctor. My son told me that he was OK, but "they told me I broke something in my back"! I nearly passed out on the spot!!!

Now, I'm a RN and have been for over 30 years. I've taken care of many a back patient, and even worked for almost 2 years with teens and young adults that were paraplegic and quadriplegic. I know how to "log roll" a patient onto their side to (hopefully) not do further damage to their spine. I also know that in auto accidents, especially if the car rolls, that a collar is placed at the scene and is often left on for much longer than is necessary. The nurse, of course, couldn't really tell me anything.

When I asked about his monitors, they did hook things up and got readings. All were within normal limits.

I was able to ask my son what happened, and found that he hit his brakes to avoid a deer and that his car "fishtailed" and "next thing I knew I was in a ditch, upside down. My arm was stuck in the sunroof, and they had to partly lift the car to get me out". While he's telling me this, I noticed that he was moving all 4 extremities, so at least I knew he hadn't done any permanent damage to his spinal cord. He was moving his legs a lot and complaining about his lower back, so I assumed that's where the break was.

Eventually, after he was given pain medication, twice, the doctor showed up. It was an orthopedic resident, and he explained that they had done Xrays and a CT Scan and that my son had broken 2 vertebra in his neck! The doc told me they were "pretty sure" that the break was stable, but had to do 2 more Xrays to check it out. They were going to do a film of him lying flat, then a second one of him standing.

A few minutes later they took him to Xray and over the next 30 minutes or so they took a bunch more films. They didn't stand him, but took the "standing" one with him sitting. Not sure why, I never got an explanation....but it could simply be because of his height, he's over 6'3" tall. In any event, the doc then decided that this wasn't sufficient and now they needed an MRI.

It took a few hours, but they finally got the MRI and decided that his fracture was "pretty stable" and they didn't need to do surgery. Now, a bit of explanation. The facet joint is on the side of the spine, where the separate vertebra are joined. It's what allows the bones to move independently of each other while holding the spine together. The bones are supposed to move, but they're supposed to move as one piece, not two, and if the pieces get displaced injury to the spine and/or spinal nerves can result.

My son's fractures were at the C3-4 level, which is very high, and at minimum would result in quadriplegia, if not also being ventilator dependent. My understanding is that a facet fracture would more likely cause damage to the nerves leaving the spine, rather than to the spine itself, but I'm not 100% sure. In any event. He was very lucky. The break could have been worse....and the results could have been devastating!!! What would be considered "life altering".

Hy son only has to wear a hard cervical collar for 6-8 weeks. He will likely have some problems for life, probably at minimum constant or recurring neck pain or discomfort. A small price to pay for surviving relatively intact!!! He's hurting a bit right now, but really, not as much as I expected!

My son, in his collar.

He's really not upset for me taking the picture, he wanted me to!

He's not sleeping, he just closed his eyes as I took the pic. Looks comfy, huh?

How did the accident happen? What did happen?

My son was driving home, late, from a friend's house. The roads are all "country" back roads, meaning they are generally 1 lane in each direction, lightly populated, and usually posted with fairly high speeds. Where he was the speed was 55mph. They estimated his speed at about 70mph, but he says "no way" and anyone that knows his, knows that he's a slow driver! He's a total car nut, but he also respects cars and doesn't abuse them. He says he didn't drive this car too fast because it was old. He really loved that car!

Before the accident. 1986 Ford Thunderbird. He's only had it for about 8 months, paid for it himself over about 3 months. Had been in the middle of fixing it battery, alternator, sound system.

Anyway, Brian was driving home, and came over a hill and saw a deer right in front of him. He knows he's supposed to just hit the thing, but he reacted (as most of us would) and hit the brakes. When he braked, his car fishtailed, and he over corrected. He skidded across the road and ended up in a ditch. The car apparently rolled over into the ditch, but we're not sure.

He says he never lost consciousness, but it took a few seconds for him to realize he was upside down. He was pinned, but able to move around and looked for his cell phone so he could call for help. He couldn't find the phone, so he set off his car alarm and honked his horn (SOS!!) to get someones attention. Eventually, he's not sure how long it took, someone came and called 911.

When EMS arrived, he said they broke windows and used the "jaws of life" to get him out. They also had to lift the car to free his arm, which was caught in the sunroof. When he was free, he was able to crawl through the side window and said when he got about halfway out the EMS pulled him out the rest of the way. He was then put on a backboard and a collar was applied. From there, he was taken to the Duke ER's Trauma area. After doing the initial Xrays and scans, he was sent to the non-acute area, where he was when I arrived.

I have several concerns about his treatment, and will post more on that.

Will also post pictures of the accident area and the car when I get them.

For now, I am just so thankful and relieved! A mother's worst nightmare....and it all turned out well. I think he had a Guardian Angel sitting on his shoulder that night!!!

1 comment:

Emzi said...

Oh wow! What a day indeed! I hope that your son has an easy recovery!