2019 was not a great year.

This is my attempt to document what happened to me. Some of you may have heard rumors, some have tried to contact me within the past few months with no response.

Please note that I have no memory of the first 1-1/2 months of this account. That part is from what I have been told.

On June 29, 2019 I delivered a piece of surplus equipment to a friend in Carp. He apparently talked me into trying his homemade e-bike. The Drs. are not sure what happened but believe I had a stroke and fell off the ungoverned e-bike at 60 or 70 KMH.

I was airlifted by helecopter from Carp to the Ottawa Civic haspital.

I had bone depth lacerations over my entire body (more on my right side).

I broke several upper ribs. They told us later that those were very hard bones to break which indicates how badly I was injured.

I mostly destroyed my face and did serious damage to my head.

But most concerning, I sustained double severe brain injuries.

My wife came to see me and they had about 20 tubes and sensors in me. One was giving me sedation because of the bleeding and pressure in my brain they didn't want me to wake up. After a few days they removed the sedatives and expected me to wake up in a day or two.

I went 32 days unconcious and in a coma.

When I didn`t wake up as expected the Dr. held what my wife calls "The Horrible Meeting" with my family.

They seemed pretty sure I would likely die. and were consoling her on how bad it was to "lose a loved one". They advised her that if I didn`t die I would be severly disabled for life, unable to talk, walk or even move. They gave me less than a 2% chance that I would regain any function and that if I did, I would at the least be completly paralyzed on my entire right side.

Then they asked her to state what she thought I would want to be able to do. She kept it simple, saying things like "Hug his children. Sleep in his own bed. Eat his meals. and Work a little with his hands." in her words "They shot everything she said down". [NOTE: I have done all of those things and much more since then].

At the end of the meeting she signed a DNR to release me if things got worse.

On July 13, I was moved to the "Trama Unit" still at the Civic. I was still unconsious, but my feeling is that the Drs. were not looking at me as closly because I was medically more stable, and they thought they had a pretty good idea what would happen.

My wife and some of my nurses noticed some slight responses when I was stimulated. This was a good sign.

On July 25 I was moved to "St. Vincent" hospital in downtown Ottawa. I was placed on the fith floor which is the "Long Term Critical Care Ward". Basically where they put you if you are not expected to go home any time soon.

Eight days later I "woke up", but not as myself. It was as if someone else who was "not quite right" had moved into my body. I have only one clear memory from this time which is a picture of my wife carefully cradling my face. The rest of this time seems non-existant or as vague grey cloudy memories. I was soon able to make simple words like "yea" and "no". At one point while being lifted by a microprocessor controlled lift that stopped working while holding me I said "I hate computers". That gave my wife a chuckle (Its a "me" thing to say), and marked the beginning of my real recovery.

Sometime after that, I became more myself. Not fully rational as I did not know where I was, or why I was there. When I realize I was in a hospital ward where people mostly didn't leave, I got angry (and was not a great patient).

A few days later I made a bad decision and tried to escape. I could not walk and fell out of a wheelchair in the hall. My wife came in and found me with about 6 people standing over me wondering what to do with me. I apparently said "Hi there" to her. After this they decided to alarm my bed so it would tell them if I moved out of it.

[from here on is from my own memory]

With the alarmed bed, I thought I was being held against my will. When my wife brought me my cell phone so I could reach her (drove her a bit crazy as I wanted her near me all the time), I began calling friends and asking them to get me a lawyer so I could go home.

I had occupatioal and physical therapy once a week for 0.5 hours each. Finally a chance to do something! I embraced it, and I think the therapists were happy to see someone progressing. They decided to apply to the Ottawa Rehab Center to get me a spot.

Took a couple weeks, but on September 5 I was moved to the Rehab Center. Before leaving I had mentioned to my Dr, that they had not taken a scan since the beginning, so how did they know what was going on in my head. She sent me out for a CT scan and as I left shortly after did not discuss is with me.

At the rehab center things were different. Everyone who enters the center is intended to exit by going home. Contrary to what you might think, their main focus is not to make you better, but instead to insure that you can do basic functions and not hurt yourself again.

I had physio, occupational and speech/cognitive therapies every day for an hour each. The therapists were great.

During the initial evaluation I mentioned to my Physical therapist that my main goal was to walk again. On the second or third visit she took me to a long set of parallel bars in the Gym, and told me to try walking while holding my hands over them without touching them. I walked the very first time and she told me to keep going back and forth till I couldn't any more. After about 20 times she stopped me. At that day, I knew I would be OK. I had been of concern to me that I couldn't walk - perhaps something had happened during the brain injury which would prevent me from being able to balance.

My OT therapist taught me how to handle moving around a house, how to do stairs and how to set up the bathroom so I could use it. I also practiced cooking and other household chores.

My speech therapist decided on our first meeting that she didn't need to help with speech, so she concentrated on the cognitive aspect. I did fairly well and we stopped meeting before I left.

At the Rehab Center you can be granted "Weekend Passes" to go home after your commitments Friday until Sunday evening. This doesn't start until your second week (they want to evaluate you first). I went home every weekend I could.

After the initial evaluations, you are given an "expected discharge date" mine was October 16 the wednesday after Thanksgiving. As noone would be there on the monday it would have ment my coming back for one day. When I asked about this, I got my discharge moved to Friday Oct 11. When I finished therapies on Oct 10, I asked the Dr. and as I had no other activitied, was able to leave to go home permanently on Oct 10.


Accolades:


I do not know if I set any records, but many of the Drs. and therapists that worked with me indicated that my recovery was faster than usual or expected.

My Dr at Saint Vincent came to my room the day before I left and said I was one the most promising patients she had seen.

The Dr. in charge of the Rehab Center came to my room shortly after my arrival, talked with me for a bit, did some tests, and just before leaving said "You are a lot better than you look on paper".

My wife has been calling me her Miracle since I started recovery. I am now up to five Drs. and Therapists who without any prompting from my wife have said "You are a Miracle". Keep in mind that these are mostly people who deal with severly injured people every day.


Downsides:


Some things in my life may never be the same. It is very slowly getting better. Not enough that I notice it every day, but I see a very slight improvement every week or two. I have been in contact with four ex-patients of the Rehab Center who told me that they had serious vision problems and that they got better after a year or so - so I do have a little hope.


Lessons:


I have three ideas I would like to pass on to anyone who finds themself in a similar situation:
  1. Don't Give Up Hope.
  2. Miracles do still happen.
  3. You don't know how fast your life can change.
[#3 is not meant to be a negative - the thing is: You should live for now, not next week/month/year]

Dave Dunfield
Nov 7, 2019

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