On July 21, 2009, Jim was up north at his newly built cottage in Irma, Wisconsin on the Wisconsin River. After enjoying his morning paper and cup of coffee, he set out to work on painting the deck. He was standing on a ladder while painting a column on the north end of the house. He was using the railing of the deck to steady himself and the railing gave way. Jim fell 13ft. to the ground below made up of tightly packed sand. He landed on his stomach and immediately noticed he could not feel his arms or legs. Mary Kay called 911 and within 15 minutes, the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department and an ambulance from the Merrill Hospital were at the house and attending to Jim. He was then taken by helicopter to St. Joseph's Hospital in Marshfield and placed in the ICU.
Jim received two surgeries while at St. Joseph's Hospital in Marshfield--an initial stabilization surgery at the injury site on July 23 and a tracheostomy and feeding tube installation on August 3. On August 6, Jim was tranferred to the Spinal Cord Injury Unit of Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee as a C4 complete injury. Since he was still using a ventilator, he was initially placed in an acute care room. After about a month in acute care, Jim started suffering what were believed to be seizures. He spent 3 days in the NICU before being stabilized and sent back to acute care in the SCI Unit.
On September 9, Jim had surgery to remove stenosis (arthritic scar tissue) from his spinal column and also had the back of his neck stabilized. On September 15, Jim was moved to the rehabilitation side of the SCI Unit. For the next two weeks, Jim seemed to be very exhausted and there was no consensus as to what was causing the exhaustion. On September 23, Jim's heart rate and blood pressure dropped to a dangerous level and he was tranferred to NICU for observation. After 2 more such episodes, Jim received a cardiac pacemaker on September 26. He was moved back to the acute care side of the SCI Unit on September 28.
Jim moved to the rehab side of the SCI Unit on October 12. He made progress until he suffered a small setback on November 15 when he became septic due to a buildup of CO2 in his system. He was moved to the MICU for a week and then returned to the rehab unit. Jim began eating again, working with a mouthstick, driving his wheelchair and pretty much working hard to get home. He was released from Froedtert Hospital on December 15 and taken to North Central Health Care in Wausau, WI for a week of rehabilitation before returning home to Mosinee. Unfortunately, Jim developed another lung infection and needed to spend time in Aspirus Hospital in Wausau to recouperate.
Jim was moved out of the Intermediate Care Unit of Aspirus Hospital in mid-January 2010 and spent 3 weeks in the Aspirus Rehab Unit rebuilding his strength and preparing to go home. On February 3, Jim was discharged from Aspirus Hopsital to his home in Mosinee. He was doing very well until March 5 when he developed another lung infection and had to spend time back at Aspirus Hospital.
I'm sure many of you have heard about this by now, but some of the extended followers may not have heard yet: last Monday the trach tube finally came out. Hopefully it is for good. So far there have been no problems to report other than an initial issue trying to seal up the stoma. The hospital had used an adhesive bandage over the gauze that would create leaks anytime increased pressure was applied to the lungs. The result was an inability for Jim to get enough air going through his voice box to speak. We finally settled on an ace wrap bandage to tightly hold a sponge in place over the gauze. Mary Kay reported today that it is working like a champ. Thank you Jennifer from SyKora for your suggestion.
What this means is the days of trach suctions and nighttime ventilators has come to an end. He currently can't use the bi-pap machine because it compromises the bandage over the stoma. Hopefully his breathing stays strong so that machine becomes a thing of the past. Then it's on to increasing quality of life which hopefully will include an overnight in Irma at some point.