Saturday, October 6, 2012

Long Overdue Update

It's been a while since I have had a chance to sit down and type about Rachel and the healing process.  Rachel has been moved from St. Vincent's ICU trauma unit to Rehabilitation Hospital Indiana (RHI).  She has been at RHI for several weeks now.  First of all, what an amazing place!  Walking into RHI, one of the first things you walk by are two large Therapy Gyms.  This is where the work is done - therapists working with patients one on one to relearn the simplest to hardest tasks.  Walking by these gyms leave you with such a feeling of awe.  As you work your way back to the unit Rachel is in (the Traumatic Brain Injury unit) you are hit with two waves of emotion - hope and depression.  In Rachel's unit, there is an area for patients to eat and visit with family.  These patients are in different stages of the healing process - relearning to eat, write, talk.  You are filled with a sadness as you weave through this small and crowded area.  But, if you are able to sit long enough, the sadness changes to hope as you see that they are making progress and while I may not know their back story, you know that they have truly come a long way.

When I finally get to Rachel's room, I am overwhelmed with emotion.  Emotion that I finally see Rachel, my sister, not Rachel the patient in a hospital.  Was there a miraculous change between the hospital and RHI?  Physically, no.  But RHI is equipped to treat their patients as people, not just another patient.  Rachel was dressed in clothes, she was missing many of the tubes, her room was tastefully decorated, she had a nurse that sits with her to care for her 24/7.  As I sat and visited with Rachel on this first day, I have already noticed many improvements in the 12 short hours that she was released from the hospital to RHI.  I witness the Physical Therapist tell her to move her hand this way or to adjust her leg that way, and she does those very simple basic tasks that she was not doing two days before.  I see her look my way and give a little smile as Bella and I sit to visit for a few minutes.

I unfortunately do not get the time to spend at the hospital to visit like I would like to do.  I keep in constant contact with my mom who gives me daily updates on Rachel's progress.  Rachel has always been our trouble maker - of which I say that in the most lovingly way and those of you that truly know Rachel know that I speak the truth with no ill will in mind.  With that said, Rachel does like to cause some stress by pulling at tubes.  Something that is quite common with patients with a traumatic brain injury (TBI).  In a short amount of time, she removed her trach tube.  She no longer has a trach and now breathes on her own.  She communicates using hand signals or by closing her eyes for no.  On nice days my mom takes her for long walks outside in her wheelchair.  She is relearning to eat and has been able to eat pudding and suck on ice cubes. She will give us high fives.  While all very simple tasks, they are amazing feats of accomplishment. 

As for Rachel herself - it's very hard to explain medically what is happening.  (Part of the reason it has taken me a while to write about her)  She is in "twilight" - she is not fully "awake", but is waking up more and more every day.  While she has made a tremendous amount of progress, she still has quite a long road ahead.  We do not know what is ahead nor do we know how much longer she will be at RHI.  Part of the mystery of brain injuries is that it is a very complex and as you can guess an overwhelming process.  

The last thing that I want to write about is the power of prayer.  I have a small confession to make - prayer is not a strong suit for me.  Wait, what?  Yeah, you read that right.  I believe that it is something that is learned at a very young age and grows with you as you grow older.  I started late in life so, I am in the child-like stage of learning about prayer.  What I can say is this: prayer works.  Never, ever underestimate the power of prayer.  On that fateful day of Rachel's accident, I had several close friends pull me aside and say "believe in the power of prayer".  While I still have a lot to learn, I do not doubt nor have I ever doubted that one statement.  I see prayer working everyday.  I see your prayers working for Rachel, my family and myself every single day and for that I am truly, truly thankful for all of your wonderful thoughts and prayers.  I am not going to get into a theological discussion here - do we really want a headache right now trying to discern theology?  We'll leave that to the priests and pastors to disseminate.  We do not know what the future holds for Rachel.  For you naysayers that say - well you are praying, but she's not up walking and talking, how can you say prayer works?  It's simple.  Prayer works because we receive a caring nurse that does not give up on Rachel.  It works because we "bump" into another family at the bank that we have not seen in years and this family has been through this exact process years ago and has now made turned this into a living by working at RHI as a case manager.  This person is now an advocate and resource for our family - that's not a coincidence.  We create new relationships with other people - I have been introduced to many of Rachel's wonderful friends and I am happy to meet and get to know them.  A friendly gesture that may mean nothing to the person giving the friendly gesture, but means the world to us - a smile, a helping hand, the right word. And most simply, a sense of peace knowing that God's will is at work.  A simple statement I learned last night from a dear friend's mom - I felt a punch right in the face from the Holy Spirit when she looked at me and said - "It is so good to meet you! I have been praying for your sister every single day."  She ended her statement "God's will be done".  


  1. So Thankful that her recovery is continuing, and that she still retains her feisty spirit! It's amazing how much a great staff can really help, and even in spite of the healing being slow, I do doubt the Power or Prayer either. I've seen work, quickly and slowly, but it works.

  2. Thank you Lindsay. Each Sunday I am amazed by the changes she has made in a week. Still I didn't know a lot of things that she was capable of. I just want to thank you for writing this, it comforts me. I love rachel and your family so much and I am just so thankful for her progress.