Day 5 – March 29, 2013

Peter came to relieve me at 6:00 am after a night shift; Jess slept a bit, but I couldn’t rest because every time he shifted mama bear wanted to make sure he was safe.  I left to get some much needed sleep and collapsed until I awoke at 10:00am.  Soon after, I got a call from Aidan: Jess was being transferred to Shands TODAY at noon!  All kinds of moving heaven and earth happened after the rough day yesterday, as the medical staff felt Jess was ready.  I was thrilled and hurried to get to the hospital, where everyone was busy preparing for Jess’ imminent departure.

Jess was alert, somewhat talkative, and still wanting to get up to pee by himself (not allowed yet, buster).  His stocking cap that hid the 50 staples in his incision was gone…he was proudly showing off his “Franken-head”; he doesn’t need the bandages anymore since he is no longer bleeding (YAY).  His head hurts constantly, but we are trying to keep his headaches at a manageable 4 or 5 out of 10 with medication that doesn’t drug him to badly.  His therapists are all giving him a good prognosis, as are the docs.  We have some issues to deal with, but that’s what rehab is for.

Our insurance was not willing to pay for an ambulance to transport Jess the 2 hours to Gainesville, but the docs said they felt fine about us transporting our precious cargo ourselves.  (We are playing nice with our insurance company because the entire expense report for this adventure will total almost half a million dollars by the time we are done; we are soooo grateful that our insurance will cover the vast majority, although we are responsible for in excess of $10,000 ourselves!)  We caravanned with Jess’ sweetie, Tori, and her mom, who came down the night before.  The best medicine for Jess EVER was having Tori right there next to him; he was more coherent than he’d been in 4 days.  After emotional goodbyes with the staff at Orlando Regional, we departed for the next phase of our adventure.

It was surreal to be driving in our car with Jess laid back in the front seat, pillows and blankets all around him to make him as comfortable as we could.  He said something like “Goodbye, Orlando” as we merged onto the highway, and all we could think was how Orlando totally kicked his ass.  His first semester at school he nosedived into independence and partied his grades away; he was on academic probation by the time he came home for winter break.  We had the stern series of talks and he knew he had one semester to turn it around and make good grades to bring up his GPA.  He worked very hard this second semester, and managed a complete turn-around, both in his lifestyle and his grades.  He had A’s and B’s when we were forced to withdraw him.  Orlando seems to have been the place where Jess is testing his manhood.

I know that we all must face trials in order to become strong, like drought can make stronger trees.  Stressors are a way that we toughen our resolve and strength, and we become resilient when we survive those tests.  I have had plenty of those trials in my life; but for God’s sake, this kid has already been faced with one of the big ones, and he isn’t even 20 yet.  He must have a pretty amazing destiny ahead.

During the drive, Jess was more emotional that he has been thus far.  He asked to listen to a song that was playing in his head, and when we put it on, he sang the lyrics without missing a word or a beat.  He said, “This is the emotional part”, and sang a little louder, and a tear rolled down his cheek.  I started crying again with gratitude, and Peter, who was driving, had to keep it together.  Every little bit of evidence that Jess is still with us is so encouraging.  Those moments when he is altered and confused are so scary (we had another episode today when he awoke from a nap in rehab and didn’t know where he was), but we understand now that they are to be expected.   Watching Jess be integrated emotionally and artistically was a tremendous boon to my belief he will have a 100% recovery.

We arrived (after some confusion about which building to go to…there are so many Shands here!) and got settled in to our new digs.  Shands is on a beautiful campus with lots of open space and trees….a peaceful place for the hard work ahead.  Our amazing case worker at Orlando Regional  arranged for me to stay with Jess in his private (teeny but with a great view of the trees) room.  This is bad and good…good in that he will never be alone and his greatest advocate will be right there; bad in that he may get really tired of me and that I may not get much rest.  I guess it balances out!

pileated woodpecker

An interesting, occurrence once we got settled in to Jess’s room, was a series of long and insistent visits by a pileated woodpecker to the window sills of Jess’ room.  The windows are reflective on the outside, so it is likely the woodpecker thought it was looking at another male and pecked and danced and fluttered on the window.  It stayed for about 20 minutes despite our efforts to scare it away (the noise was irritating to Jess’ sensitive head), but then came back 2 more times for a similar duration.  They are big birds, so it is fun to watch one so closely all by itself; but my shamanic background impels me to see all of creation a messenger of spirit, and I pay attention when something out of the ordinary occurs.  We have spoken to one another in our family of this traumatic brain injury (TBI) event being an initiation for Jess into his greater life, the calling that perhaps he was meant to fulfill (whatever that may be).  Given that this creature visited his windows so specifically, for such a long time and so insistently, I am seeing it as a kind of symbolic communication about Jess’ stay at rehab.  Take a look at some of these compiled qualities of the woodpecker:

  • Balance
  • Progress
  • Signaling
  • Returning
  • Protection
  • Initiation
  • Attention
  • Prophesy
  • Listening
  • Opportunity
  • Discernment
  • Communication
  • Determination
  • Awareness
  • Teamwork
  • A sign of changing times

Seems appropriate!  We’ll see if Mr. Woodpecker comes around again tomorrow.

At the end of the afternoon, Peter and Aidan had to go back to Orlando to withdraw Jess from UCF and empty his dorm room.  My brother from Jacksonville is meeting them to help and to escort them all the way back to Tally after dropping back by the rehab center in Gainesville to drop off a few treasured possessions that will help Jess with his recovery (such as his drumsticks, drum pad and pedal).  Peter and Aidan need to return to some kind of routine, and since I have the flexibility, it is right that I can stay with Jess in Gainesville.

Saying goodbye to Aidan and Peter after the intensity of the last 5 days was rough, though.  Our family togetherness is one of our great strengths, and we have all been holding each other up through this craziness.  But I have to say I feel so held and supported right now, I am not (at this moment anyway) afraid that I am flying solo as Jess’ caretaker while he rehabs.  The staff here at Shands has already been wonderful, as was the staff at Orlando Regional.  We have been so greatly taken care of.

Tomorrow we begin a full day of 3 hours (!) of therapy, beginning bright and early at 8:00 am.  Think of the qualities of the woodpecker and think good, strong thoughts for Jess (and the rest of us)!

More tomorrow…and lots of love to you all.  Thank you for your continued support.