Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Where to begin?

My family has had the most unexpected of challenges this week. Last Friday morning I got a call from my mom telling me that my brother, Jonathan, was in the hospital. He had been experiencing a bad headache for 3 days and, when he went to his nursing class on Thursday night, his classmates noticed that he was not well. The teacher actually ended class early and his classmates brought him home.

After some convincing, his wife was able to get him to the local hospital. By the time they got him there, he couldn't even hold a pen to write his name.

He stayed in emergency while a bed became available in ICU. After many tests and examinations, they determined that he had an abscess in his brain. My brother is 38 and a health nut, how could this happen?

When my sister in law called Jonathan's work to tell them that he would not be able to work, the head nurse that he works under asked if there was any way to get him transferred to USC medical center, because they have the best neurological department in the country. After a lot of paperwork and waiting, they were able to get him transferred on Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, I was still up at our house in WA, talking to my mom on the phone every few hours, and trying to get things in order to come down to CA. Jonathan had had a pretty violent seizure that morning and there was a time when we thought we were going to lose him. The more I heard what was going on , the more I realized that I needed to get down immediately. Not in 3-4 days, but the next day.

Saturday night Jonathan underwent a craniotomy. Meaning a small area of his brain had to be exposed to clean out the abscess, which, by then, had burst. Fortunately it did not leak into the spinal fluid. The surgeon was optimistic and said everything went well, but a long road to recovery lies ahead.

On Sunday morning I got on a plane and flew down to CA. My sweet husband, always supportive, just said to stay as long as I feel it is necessary. My mom and uncle picked me up and we went back to my mom's house where I unpacked and we ate some lunch. No visitors are allowed at the hospital for certain hours, but, as soon as they were, we returned.

Sometimes, even when you know something, it doesn't really sink in until you see it with your own eyes. That is how it was when I saw Jonathan in a hospital bed in ICU, with a bandage across the base of his forehead, a swollen right eye (the abscess was on the right side, so the right side of the face looks a little traumatized,) and different lines and IVs coming out from every direction.

We are trying to be patient as he recovers from his surgery, but it isn't easy. He still has not opened his eyes. His right eye, especially, looks very sealed shut because of the swelling. He had lost some function on his left side (because the abscess was on the right,) so his left hand (his dominant hand) is kind of curled, but the good news is that his color is looking better and last night he crossed his left leg over his right voluntarily...which is great.

He did have 2 little mini seizures yesterday, one of which happened when the physical therapist came and helped him sit up. Because of that, they hooked him up to an EEG machine, which means that now he has a turban of bandages to keep the 16 different sensors in place. There is a computer monitoring his brain activity with a camera on him, which the neurosurgeon can even see from home.

There is no doubt that the care he is getting is excellent. The nurses in ICU have only 2 patients per nurse, and they are right there for everything and great about answering our questions. They are also very diligent about turning him (as last night's night nurse said "The bed is not your friend,) to help avoid sores, phlegm build-up, and pneumonia, which are always concerns when someone is lying down for an extended amount of time.

As far as his response, he says a lot of "Mmm, mmm" like "yes" to things you tell him. The other day when the ophthalmologist came in and was trying to examine the eye that doesn't want to open, Jonathan said "I'm trying to cooperate." The night nurse that we have gotten to know sometimes asks him what the procedure is for certain things. On Sunday night, when Jonathan was running a fever of 101, the nurse asked him, "What should I do?" And Jonathan responded, "Blood cultures," which was correct.

At this point, it feels pointless to ask questions like, "How long will he be in ICU?" "How long will his recovery time be?" "Will be recover 100%?" We just have to take things on a day-to-day kind of basis.

The real question is, "How did this happen?" Jonathan is a very avid bike-rider, a vegetarian, and very thin. He bikes anywhere he can, 10 miles to work, 20 miles to school, 30 miles into the mountains. There is a possibility that the abscess originated in his sinuses from breathing in dirt and pollution during those very vigorous bike rides. When an abscess begins, it starts to travel to the heart or brain. His traveled to the brain.

It is ironic that when we think of spending so much time on the bike we worry about traffic and weather. There is no way we ever would've guessed that something like this could happen.

We are praying for a complete recovery. His wife needs him, his two little kids need their dad.

The hospital staff has told us that sometimes in cases like this, things seem to get worse before they get better. So, despite that fact that the swelling, fever, even the seizures seem very alarming, they are still within the normal range of things that can happen when someone has had a surgery for this condition.

The outpouring of support we have received has been amazing. We have gotten calls from friends and family in the US, Mexico and Vietnam. His name is on the temple prayer lists in CA, WA and UT. All of this is greatly appreciated.

Right now the only people allowed to visit are immediate family, but we feel the love and support from so many.

Please keep him in your prayers. I'll update in a few days.


Karen said...

Oh Kristie!! What a shock to read your blog today! I'm so sorry! I will keep Jonathan and your whole family in my prayers! Keep us updated!

Sally said...

I don't know what is up with blogger today but I can only see pictures on your page and there is just a large blank space where the text should be so I haven't been able to read any details, but Karen e-mailed and said your brother is sick and we should check your blog and keep you in our prayers. I'm sorry I can't comment more specifically but I want you to know that I am very concerned and will definitely keep you in my prayers and will be checking for good news. You have such a strong family and a good husband so I am comforted to know that you and your brother and his family have a great support system. Please know the slooks add our support, too!

Anonymous said...

I echo Karen and Sally - you will be in my thoughts and prayers. I am so glad your brother is receiving such wonderful care - what a blessing they were able to move him there. Hang in there and know that we love you!

The Driskill Family said...

As a nurse, it does sound like your brother is receiving the best care that he can receive. I love that even in his current condition, he is able to answer some medical questions from the nurses correctly! Impressive! Stay close to your family, and keep taking things one day at a time. Just know that I am thinking of you and adding my prayers to everyone else's.

The Class Family said...

I'll continue to pray for him.