Jeff Kern

First post: Oct 19, 2018 Latest post: Oct 10, 2020
Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place after Jeff's head injury. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting

The accident:
Monday afternoon, around 2 pm, October 15th, Jeff was hit on the head by a  9 in diameter blowdown poplar tree.  He was working to get the tree off the North side of his shop building behind our house.  The accident was unwitnessed but it appears that he had used the chainsaw on the base of the tree, it fell but maybe not to the ground.  He was hit by the tree several yards away from the base, in the woods behind the shop.   He was likely knocked unconscious and spent the next 2-3 hours laying in the woods in 40-degree weather.  He was somehow able to get himself back to the house, open and close the door and collapse on the far end of our living room couch.    I was off that afternoon and had been working in the yard with him earlier.  I had been calling his phone with increasing concern and looking for him but didn't think to go to the far side of the shop building.  When he got himself in the house, I was in another room but came when I heard him come in.  He was obviously badly injured -head and face bloodied  - but talking and complaining of being very very cold.  He was unable to tell me what had happened.   An ambulance was dispatched and his loving family of fellow EMTs and first responder friends arrived to take him to North Shore Health, our local hospital, just a few blocks away.  There he was assessed and treated by another team of friends/coworkers on the hospital staff before being helicoptered to Essentia Health in Duluth MN ER.  He was treated by the trauma team in the ER and admitted to the neurotrauma floor. The clinic family took care of supporting me.   My dear friend Marce Wood drove me in my van to join him at the ER where Kim and John Wood (no relation) were waiting for me.  Marco Good was able to follow and take Marce back home. 

His injuries:  
Jeff has a brain injury.  The worst of it is a bad concussion that is affecting him in many areas - thinking, speech, appetite, fatigue, head pain, memory...   He has had no further loss of consciousness.  A large deep scalp laceration on the top of his head has been irrigated and sutured closed.  He has multiple,  non-displaced skull and facial fractures on his right temple, nose,  orbit (like a cracked but not broken plate glass window hit by a baseball).  These do not need surgery.  His brain has no swelling or significant bleeding.  His eyes are fine but were very swollen /bruised.  He has is a minor fracture of a vertebra in his spine (T5) between his shoulder blades and a fracture of his right shoulder blade (acromion).  His neck CT shows no fracture but he has a lot of neck pain and there could be ligamentous injuries that can't be assessed until he is more alert.  His neck is being protected in a hard collar till that exam can be done or he could tolerate an MRI scan.     There are no other injuries on the rest of his body but he is pretty sore all over.  

He has steadily improved since our arrival - this is the most encouraging thing.  He initially could not answer questions verbally but used signs and gestures and followed commands. He can talk pretty well now but not many words.  He is able to greet visitors and listen to the conversation but not participate much.  He is able to be clearer now about what he wants and needs or ask about what confuses him.  He is not retaining new information very well yet.  He has no memory of the accident or the story I've told now so many times.  He sometimes says he doesn't believe me.  His laceration, bruising and swollen black eyes are better every day... but he still looks pretty banged up.  He hates the cervical collar (who wouldn't ) and has to be reminded not to remove it - he knows how to do that and has.  He can be reasoned with about why the collar is important but needs this repeated and sometimes gets argumentative about it.  He is able to sit up in a chair for over an hour at a time now.  He can move around in bed some but can't see well enough to push the buttons to raise and lower his head. No position is very comfortable for long so he moves around a lot.  He can walk in the room to the bathroom with just someone standing by now after just a day using the walker and gait belt.   He sleeps a lot.  He needs it.  He is mostly on Tylenol for pain now.  Occasional low dose narcotic when the pain is worse.   He is not at all hungry and has to be encouraged to drink and eat anything.  Does not ask for it.  He is was on IV fluids yesterday and may have to restart if his appetite does not improve.   He is greeting visitors, sometimes by name.  Thanking them for coming.  He thanks the staff for their care.  He is mostly calm.  I left the room for awhile yesterday to go to urgent care to get treatment for a bad migraine (I didn't take good care of me the first 24 hours here) and he got a little paranoid and agitated, refused to put his collar back on, take meds...  I've stuck pretty close since or had a proxy in the room (thank you, Sandy Stover and Ralph Larsen).   The nurses we are working with are great and we are very close to the nurses' station.  He can't use the call light yet and moves pretty quick when he wants to so I've been sleeping here.  We have enjoyed many visits from friends from Duluth and Grand Marais, texts and emails.   I wanted to start this site so I can communicate more efficiently.  

What's next:  
We will go to Miller Dwan head injury rehab as soon as approved insurance wise and medically.  He has to be able to tolerate 3-4 hours of rehab therapy a day.  He's close to being able to do that.  The doctor who will care for him on that unit felt we may go yet this week somehow.  I'm guessing Monday is more likely.  He may be there a month doing intensive PT, OT and speech therapy.   They have already started working with him here.  Everyone is positive about his rate of improvement and chances for recovery.  I am encouraged by his progress to date and good spirits.  

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