Our beloved brother ---- people call him Rob, Robert or Bob ----- has been facing some health challenges. Three years ago he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He was treated with radiation and chemotherapy at Sloan Kettering in NYC, and appeared to be doing better after the treatment. Last August 2018 he moved from his home in NJ to be closer to his son Robby, wife Serena and their family in Tennessee. After staying in Tennessee for several months, he moved back to NJ for more medical care in July of this year. In early August he drove down to NC from NJ for a family gathering when he collapsed after driving 12 hours, apparently due to exhaustion and dehydration.
Rob's story began on July 20th when he left New Jersey. His friend, Corey, helped him pack and get ready for the trip. Friends Bobby and Sandy were also offering support at this time. Rob was very excited to rendezvous with his sister, Franny, and together they were going to visit with the Olinger clan for a week at the beach in North Carolina. For reasons that we are still trying to piece together, Rob got very tired and dehydrated during the drive. He got about 3 hours away from New Jersey and became very tired and confused, and stopped to spend the night in a motel. The next day he drove again about a 3 hour distance, however, it took him all day. Once again he went to a motel. On the third day with only 3 and 1/2 hours remaining in the trip he drove for several hours and made it to within an hour and 45 minutes of his destination. He called Franny & said he could not drive anymore. At that point she and cousin Melody went out to get him and drive him back to where they were staying. He was exhausted and dehydrated and needed help walking into the motel room. Franny put him to bed, gave him lots of fluids and helped him walk to the restroom when needed. He rested the whole next day. When he was not better by that evening, Franny decided that he needed to go to the hospital, thinking that she would drive him there. When she attempted to help him get up, it became apparent that he was so weak that he would need to go by ambulance. He was transported to Carteret Health Care, the nearest hospital, in Morehead City, North Carolina. There he was treated for dehydration, sepsis and a minor infection with a broad spectrum antibiotic. On day 3 there he took a nasty fall when he tried to get out of the bed on his own. This resulted in a huge laceration that required staples and stitching. Cousins Amy, Polly and Jill and Aunt Dawn visited during this time. Rob seemed to be getting weaker and more lethargic and our cousins & aunt believed that his pneumonia was returning. On the 7th day, a more experienced doctor took over. He immediately diagnosed aspiration pneumonia and started our brother on stronger antibiotics. Dr. Jaworski stated that we would see changes and improvements in 24 to 48 hours. However, Franny was sitting with him, and she could see that he was very sick and not getting better. She did not believe the doctor's optimistic outlook and instead could see that her brother was dying. 15 minutes after she left that night, he crashed. He was down to three to four breaths per minute, not enough to sustain life. His other vital signs tanked as well. An experienced and caring nurse named Sabrina was tending to our brother, and she came in as he was struggling to breathe and taking what might have been his last breaths. She called the crash team, they came in, intubated him, got him to ICU and he was put on a ventilator. He remained unstable for the next 36 hours. This was the time when he was between life and death. 48 hours into his stay in ICU his vitals became more stable. He was completely sedated at this time so that they could keep the breathing tube in him. He gradually gained strength as the ventilator did the breathing for him. Dr. Jaworski said that he had been absolutely exhausted and that his chest muscles no longer were able to do the simple job of moving air in and out of his lungs anymore, but his other systems appeared to be strong. When the breathing tube was removed, Rob against all odds, began to make a remarkable recovery. The first 24 hours he was very confused and disoriented but each 24-hour period saw new gains in strength and clarity. He was more oriented than he had been since the trip began. Family started rolling in, beginning with Karen and Rayanne who drove all night to get there from New Jersey. Next came Rob's son, John, with his friend AJ. driving through the night from Florida and arriving the next morning. Then came his older brother John, from California. The next day Rob's older son Robbie and his partner Serenna arrived. Friends from NJ began calling & texting. Many people were sending prayers. The love and support during this time was amazing. Each day saw big improvements in Rob's mental clarity, his ability to sit at the edge of the bed, and then finally to be able to take some steps with the walker and to get in the wheelchair and go around the hospital. Rob Jr. & Serenna took him outside for the first time in 2 weeks. On the 6th day after Rob was taken off the ventilator, the hospital felt that he was ready to be discharged to a lower level of care, a skilled nursing or rehab facility. Franny had worked with case managers at Carteret Health care to look for such a facility in Montana. One was selected and both Rob and Franny were flown on a medical transport in a Learjet to Libby, Montana. That was on Friday, August 9th.
See journal entries below for further updates.
We thank you for your care and concern, and your loving thoughts and prayers.