Anoxic Brain Injury
(Philadelphia, PA, USA)
In June of 2010, my father, age 62, suffered a massive heart attack and coronary arrest. He had no symptoms and was in pretty good health so this was quite a shock. He was without oxygen for approximately 10 minutes. As a last ditch effort, a surgeon placed 2 stents in his heart. The surgery was successful. We were just so happy that he survived that we did not think about or care what was going to happen from there. I am sure we all know of someone who has had a heart attack and been home within 3 or 4 days. Like I said, we had no idea.
He was in the ICU and sedated for approximately 8 days. As they began to ween him off of sedation, we were warned that if he didn't ask where he was and why when he woke up that was a sure sign of brain damage. I remember looking at the doctor and thinking that he was crazy. My dad - brain damage? I don't think so. Well, I was so wrong. My dad is suffering from an anoxic brain injury.
He knows everyone by name, which is such a blessing for us, but as far as his memory is concerned, it is like living the real life movie "50 First Dates". His sense of humor and sarcasim are two things he did not lose. I thank god for that.
His symptoms are that he can't remember 2 minutes ago or 5 years ago or 20 years ago. This is supposed to be a short term memory problem. I am not sure why he can't remember 20 years ago. He also "recognizes" everyone, which is sometimes uncomfortable when he grabs an older lady's arm and says "Hey Mrs. such and such" and the woman is ready to jump out of her skin. He also gets VERY emotional over things that we might find sad, but to him it is devestating. Another problem is that he can't remember that some family members and friends have died. We pretend they are alive because when we have tried to tell him the truth, he gets so upset that it is unbearable. He calls our new dogs by name, but doesn't realize our old dogs are gone. He hallucinates, which at times is very, very scarey. At other times, it is just sad. They can go on and on. A major problem is that if he sees something on tv or hears it on the radio, he turns the event into something that has happened to him or someone he knows. This can also be a problem when he is talking to strangers. We have learned to keep the news, cop shows, medical shows, etc. at a minimum.
We have tried everything to help him. He went to inpatient and outpatient rehab and has seen doctors regarding this. We play cards and Wii games. We repeat, repeat, repeat. He sees his family often. We try to keep him occupied until he gets tired. When he gets tired, he can sleep for hours and then get up and go to bed for 12 to 14 hours.
On one hand, his brain needs to heal and those doctors say for him to rest. On the other hand, his heart needs activity and those doctors want him to move. It is all very confusing for us.
It seems that everyone is different and I realize how lucky we are that he knows us and pretty much gets around by himself. We are blessed that he doesn't have outbursts or get angry.
My concern is that I see his mind reeling about what is wrong. I have tried to explain it, but he doesn't remember what I say. Does anyone have a suggestion on how to comfort him and ease his mind a little bit? I would appreciate any advice, especially from someone suffering from this same injury.
Thank you all for telling your stories. They have helped me a great deal. Keep fighting and doing what you are doing. Being in this situation is very difficult. Find a way to laugh everyday. It is so important!