I only vaguely remember the first year post accident.
The following is a description of what I went through;
I spent the first 3 months in a coma, being fed through a nasal gastric tube.
Initially, I required machinery to assist me with my breathing for the first month.
To save my life, I had the left half of my skull surgically removed in the first few hours after my trauma.
This operation is known as a craniotomy, it was carried out by a surgeon named Tom Morris and it SAVED my LIFE.
Due to the rather violent knock to the head that I suffered, I had numerous facial fractures, a concussion, contusion and a diffused brain injury, including a subdural haematoma ( bleeding in the brain ), brain swelling and bleeding in the skull.
The prognosis and opinions of doctors in Flinders Medical Centre were grim, at best.
DEATH or LIFE in a vegetative state, a coma, with machinery breathing for and feeding me.
I spent about 3 MONTHS in a comatose state, however, something VERY special, important, unbelievable, awe inspiring and just straight forward FANTASTIC happened in late November 2011.
My one and only older brother, Ivan, spent HOURS upon HOURS for WEEKS on end, sitting by my side, hopeful and praying, asking me to show ANY kind of sign that I can hear and comprehend what he’s saying.
On one MARVELLOUS day, Ivan sat by my side and began his routine of:
” Dimitri, if you can hear me, show me a sign. ”
” I know you can hear me, please respond. ”
” STOP pretending and mucking around, just ANSWER me!!!!! ”
Finally and at long last, I poked the very tip of my tongue out.
Such an impressive action obviously caused INTENSE exhaustion and I then did not respond for some time.
From there, I began showing my tongue more and more often, as if I was becoming stronger.
Eventually, a speech pathologist came and assessed my mental capacity.
She asked me Yes-Or-No questions. I replied by either poking my tongue out for ” yes ” and doing nothing for ” no “.
I couldn’t speak because I had a tracheotomy tube.
A couple examples of the questions that I was given:
” Is the ceiling below the floor???”
” Does 2 + 2 = 5? ”
I would answer EVERYTHING correctly, however, I would eventually become mentally fatigued and stop answering because I simply just fell asleep. Mid conversation. Nice…
Actually, the first signs of awakening began rather soon.
I started squeezing my mothers hand but not at her request.
Doctors dismissed this, describing it as a spinal cord reflex.
One day, my mother gently brushed her fingers across my eyebrows AND they wriggled.
Facial muscles are innervated ABOVE the spinal cord, so this CANNOT be a reflex!!!!
Doctors again dismissed it as a random twitch.
I ALSO have a blurred memory of the various sounds in the ICU.
The beep beep beeping of various machinery.
The KKKKK-SSSSS-CHCHCHCHCH of breathing apparatus.
The gentle, soothing and sorrowful voice of my dearest mother pleading and begging me to wake up.
I was eventually regaining consciousness.
Waking up from a coma is a frighteningly slow and gradual process.
In my case, I may have already been awake, conscious, hear and comprehend but I just could NOT respond in ANY way.
I was fortunate that I was able to breathe on my own.
The ventilator was used to help my injured lungs to heal, therefore, in my case, there was no question about switching me off life support.
It’s frightening to think how many people have been switched off life support, NOT given a chance to regain consciousness.
The lesson that my family learned is: ” NEVER give up hope, NO MATTER WHAT doctors say, hold on to you love, hope and faith. “