The first phase of my recovery and rehabilitation.

When I was finally discharged from Flinders Medical Centre, it was clear that I wasn’t in much of a physical state to just go back home, AS MUCH as we had hoped.

Eventually, I was transferred from Flinders Medical Centre to Hampstead Rehabilitation centre, where I spent half of a YEAR surviving and just HOPING for progress and improvements.

My physical ( and mental ) status wasn’t exactly “ideal”, BUT their services and therapies were FAR from adequate.

I couldn’t walk because of SEVERE spasticity and cramping in my left limbs.

I had EXCRUCIATING neuropathic ” BURNING ” pain in my right arm, neck, shoulder blade and chest.

My memory was OFF, meaning I didn’t even remember what happened an hour ago.

ON TOP of ALL THIS, I had a stent in my right bronchus, holding my right lung open and fixed up to my body. This stent had complications, resulting in NUMEROUS hospital visits and Bronchoscopies.

I actually remember that during these bronchoscapies, just before I was put to sleep under the general anaesthetic, I silently hoped that I would soon awake in my bed at home, like this nightmare would end.

The same thing applies to when I went to bed each and every evening.

I just would NOT remember the previous day or what happened and where I was when I woke up either in hospital or Hampstead.

The next morning, I’d wake up to a blank slate. Starting from scratch.

Hampstead was by FAR the hardest and MOST difficult phase of my recovery.

The first steps towards some sort of normality were:

I started wearing normal clothes and not a hospital gown.

I began learning and getting used to sitting again.

I began learning how to transfer from bed to an electric wheelchair.

Because I ended up spending just under 5 MONTHS of laying in a hospital bed, immobile, my muscles had significantly atrophied, and I had SEVERE spasticity in my left limbs.

It was so bad, that nurses managed to squeeze a face towel into my hand to prevent my finger nails from digging into my palm.

My left elbow and biceps were so spastic that I would often awake in the middle of the night to find my left hand cramped and pressing into my throat, hence suffocating me.

I lost function in my right arm and hand because I had a brachial plexus nerve injury.

My left ankle was also spastic, whilst my right had very limited control, it was flaccid.

Although I was not paralysed, I had virtually no control over my limbs.

My vision was also impaired. My left eye was short sighted, whilst my right eye had suffered a nerve injury, resulting in no movement, rendering it crossed.

My brain couldn’t render two images, so it stayed closed.

My hearing was good, though, but I became EXTREMELY sound sensitive.

Any sudden loud noise would knock me out.

I would lose consciousness.

I also developed an incredible craving for food. I was always hungry.

This is a common consequence of being in a coma.

I completely forgot what foods I liked and disliked.

For example, I really hate Brussels sprouts.

But when they were served at dinner I would eat and praise how much I liked them and ask for seconds.

I was so mentally weak that I couldn’t have a prolonged conversation, I would just fall asleep.

If someone were to talk in my presence, but not directly to me, I would simply doze off.

I couldn’t laugh OR cry. These are higher brain functions and they were totally absent.

I’m writing this in such detail to show what the consequences of a severe Traumatic Brain Injury look like, and to tell others that it is indeed possible to rise up from such a devastating condition.

To be continued…

The VERY beginning of my rehabilitation and recovery.

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???”

And

” 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. “

My living nightmare

When I finally awoke from my coma, I was AWFULLY confused.

Because of my diffused brain injury, I initially had a 5 second memory span.

A couple chaotic MONTHS passed and I eventually remembered that I was in Hampstead rehab centre, although each and every single day felt like a bloody nightmare to me.

My accident happened on the 14th September 2011, some 3 months before my 19th birthday.

For the 6 months I spent in that God-Forsaken centre, I thought that I was still in year 12 of high school and that I was STILL 17 years old!!!!!

EVERY SINGLE day felt like a nightmare to me, like some sort of chaotic bad dream.

I COULD NOT wait to get to sleep every evening, because I assumed I’d wake up at home the next morning and go to school.

When I was still in Flinders Medical Centre, after I awoke from my coma, my dearest mother thought up and started repeating this mantra;

Motorcycle Accident Hospital Trauma Not your fault

She repeated these words several. HUNDRED. MILLION. times a day for the better part of 3 MONTHS.