written by Mary Ruckelshaus
These past ten days have been some of the most emotionally and physically draining since Jays accident, almost eight months ago.We started it by making a much anticipated journey up I 85 to finally meet with the folks at Duke. What an amazing visit it was. Jay, filled with excitement and apprehension, spent a day and a half meeting with representatives from various departments. The one common theme they kept reiterating was their desire to make Jay’s Duke experience whatever he wants it to be. We were continually blown away by the compassion and the passion of each of these individuals. Many times throuout the visit and since, we all have remarked that we truly cannot imagine a better fit for Jay. More than anything, it gave Jay encouragement to continue therapy and piece of mind that no matter what shape his physical body is in, his love of learning will be fostered and challenged in every way imaginable, come August in Durham. So, sending my third child of to school, I realize he will face many of the same issues as other freshmen and have some enormous hurdles to jump over.
However, there is such an army of magnificent people waiting at Duke to make the transition possible. For that, I am thankful and filled with gratitude to a group of individuals vie only known for a very short time.
Unfortunately, as wonderful as our visit was, we ended up in the Duke Emergency Room late Monday night.( so we now also know what capable medical facilities they have, in case, Jay would ever need them again). An excruciating headache and hypertension followed us back to Atlanta and Tuesday night found us back in the ER again, only to be sent home Wed morning. Then, you guessed it, Wed night ER again. The horrific part of a spinal cord injury is that many times, we are having to educate the medical community about signs of dysreflexia and levels of injury, lack of pain responses and ways to transfer from a wheelchair to a stretcher. Finally, after three very long days, Jay was admitted to a hospital next to the Shepherd Center.The past six days have been filled with ct scans, blood cultures, x rays, spinal tap and any other test they can find. Many days and especially nights, Jay was teaching the staff about symptoms of spinal cord injured patients and the proper way of caring for him- not what you want to be doing when your blood pressure is off the charts and your scared out of your mind! This has all taken a terrible toll on both of us. Up until now, other than the initial injury and a few minor health issues, Jay has been remarkable healthy and continually gaining strength, both physically and emotionally. To say we are worried and weary , would be an understatement. This is a cruel cruel world we are living in right now, and in the dark of the night, it is hard to not question why.Late today, after much help from so many people at Shepherd, he was admitted to the ICU there. Never were we both so happy to be back in a hospital. Once there, he was met by some of his favorite therapists, doctors and nurses. They are continuing to test and monitor Jay, ruling out different things at each step. One of the difficult things about a spinal cord injury is a person cannot feel or describe pain below the level of injury, in Jay’s case, just below his shoulders. However, the body knows something is wrong and therefore, the blood pressure rises and various other things alarm the brain. The scariest part of this, as Jay has repeatedly told the Doctors, ” I have one part of my body that works, my mind. We need to protect it! “
So tonight, after a whirlwind week , he is resting comfortably in the ICU, preparing for more tests tomorrow. As for therapy, he obviously is concerned about losing ground but must find the cause of the headaches before he can fully participate in the NRN regime. This week has given us much time to reflect on the past eight months and how incredibly different our family’s lives have become. As I write this tonight, we continue to be overwhelmed by the support of friends, family and strangers. It is a life I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but it’s all we have. As springtime has arrived in Atlanta, I find myself hoping for new signs of strength and recovery, and most importantly, endurance to keep fighting the fight. I tell Jay each night, “tomorrow will be a better day and we will never, never , never give up “!