On Friday, May 15th, Ron (Ronnie) Sibert, my beloved husband, and brother to Linda Fischer, fell through his utility barn roof in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Ron was unresponsive when he was taken to Bronson Hospital and admitted to the Neuro ICU Unit. He was intubated, placed on a ventilator, and after four days was given a tracheostomy and feeding tube. Ron had a hematoma on both left and right sides of his brain, with contusions and bleeds throughout. Landing on his right side, he had a large gash on his forehead, a broken occipital bone (eye socket), wrist, two ribs, pelvis, L1 & L2 of his spine, and left mandible. After five days, surgery was performed on his wrist, stabilizing it with a plate. All other broken bones were non-separated and would heal on their own, given that he was immobile. Ron was in a coma. Due to COVID, I was only able to see him when he was admitted to the hospital, and then again before his wrist surgery.
After a week Ron was transported to Ascension Borgess-Pipp in Plainwell, MI. This long term acute care (LTAC) facility allowed us to see and talk to Ron through a window for the first two weeks, although the doctor did allow us to sneak in a few times, once with Ron's dog, Buddy. On occasion friends joined us for support. Outside his window we hung a bird feeder and a beautiful geranium plant from neighbors Bill & Ginie. We decorated his window with a sign from one of his favorite songs, reading, “We Love You, So Much, So Much", and signed his family and friends names. After about three weeks they began to ween Ron off the ventilator, and although he could only go a few minutes the first day, the rest of the time went smoothly and successfully.
Ron was at Borgess-Pipp for 8-weeks and received the same incredible care that he got at Bronson. It became clear that Ron needed to be transferred out because the LTAC had done all they could; the remainder of his recovery was up to him. They wanted to transfer him to a Skilled Nursing Care facility, as Medicare won’t pay for inpatient Rehab until a daily 3-hour minimum of PT can be completed. Ron’s Case Manager contacted over 30 skilled care facilities without success; they either weren't taking patients because of COVID, or because they weren’t trained to deal with traches. These skilled care facilities were also not allowing visitors, and the idea of us not being able to participate in and monitor Ron’s care was absolutely heart wrenching. This was a very difficult time for Linda and I, as we were clear that Ron needed his family and friend’s love and encouragement to facilitate the kind of recovery required for a TBI Rehab facility.
We made the decision to bring him home and transformed the den into a hospital room. Once that decision was made, a great relief came over us. On Friday, July 17th Ron was brought home by ambulance and has since been receiving around the clock care from us with the help of a home health care agency.
The gifts of having Ron at home are abundant. Ron is much more relaxed, and thriving, even though his gains are made in small increments. Occasionally, we’ll see a leap in some action he takes, and it is so exciting and promising. From being unresponsive and in a coma, where he didn't move any part of his body, to working with a physical therapist, speech therapist and occupational therapist each week, sitting on the edge of his bed daily, strengthening his core and holding his head up; it is amazing to witness. Ron is still not consistently following commands or tracking with his eyes; he’s not considered fully alert quite yet. As people recover from traumatic brain injury, they pass through many ability levels, and Ron still has a ways to go.
It’s been a rude awakening learning how little Medicare covers. Basically, less than 35 hours of skilled nursing care, PT, OT and speech combined. They don’t cover most medical supplies, although if he was in a nursing home, they would, which is the same with the 24 hour care that we currently have to pay for on our own. The costs for one-month of care at home for Ron is over $25,000. We don't know where his recovery is going, or how long it will take, but it really doesn’t matter. I’ll pay whatever it takes, for as long as I can, because everything I have means nothing without Ron.
Linda and I, along with family, friends, and friends of friends have been on this incredible journey of fear and faith and love. Prayers and thoughts of care have filled our mailbox, phone messages, texts, emails and Facebook pages. We have no idea what to expect, but love prevails and asks only that we show up one day, and sometimes one moment at a time.
Ron is an active man, a horse whisperer, a seeker, a devoted husband, a dog Dad, a brother, son, friend and a deeply caring soul. Please visualize him fully recovered and healthy, and of course, keep those prayers coming!
We have attached a link to a Go Fund Me page if you’re interested in helping out by donating. Every penny will go toward Ron’s care. And finally, please feel free to pass the link to Ron’s CaringBridge page to anyone you may think would be interested in hearing how he’s doing. We will continue to keep you updated. Thank You for your love and support!