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Thread: My dad is in ICU with 3 spinal injuries!

  1. #1

    My dad is in ICU with 3 spinal injuries!

    We don't know what to do. My dad is 72 years old--VERY healthy, but fell from a ladder 10 days ago and has many broken ribs, still on ventilator, moderate head injury (he's starting to wake up and respond to commands), and C2 & T6 fractures (probably no cord involvement) and an "exploded" T12/L1 (almost certain cord involvement).... He has a right shoulder (scapula) fracture and for some unknown reason, is not moving his right arm much. He seems to wince to pain in his upper legs, but no leg movement other than from his pelvis area. They expect him to wake up completely, but are unsure of how much or little cognitive changes to expect.

    The doctors are saying that he needs a halo for C2, brace for T6, and fusion surgery for T12/L1. They are recommending that we withdraw support because even if they bring him through the acute hospitalization (and they think they can), they say he will surely die of respiratory or skin pressure complications within a few months after discharge. My mom is healthy and willing to do whatever is necessary to care for him, they have excellent insurance--including long-term care insurance, and I'm trying to find out what options are available for him.

    He's at a level 2 trauma center, but I don't see any evidence of a spine center or rehab unit here. We're in Northern California. Where should I go to find options for him. Is it really as hopeless as these trauma surgeons (and neurosurgeon) suggest? What should we do?

    I was surfing the web and came across your site.... Is this the right place to ask these questions?

    Thank you so much!


  2. #2

    Six locations to choose from for rehab in CA.

  3. #3
    Senior Member BeeBee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Washington, D.C.
    DorAnne: I'm very sorry to hear about your dad. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I'm sure the nurse and others will be around soon to point you to some excellent SCI centers, Northern California is a "good" place to be. And YES, this is the right place to ask. There is a wealth of information in all the forums.
    A reality check is that a SCI is very hard on you. I'm not going to tell you what to do, but what to think about while you're making your decision: significant weight loss (and maybe he can spare it?), repeated UTI's, lung infections, loss of appetite, memory issues, the wear and tear on your mother that long term HARD and very personal care involves (bowel, bladder, feeding...). 72 is very old to heal.
    No one knows how he will respond to any of these issues and how he will recover, your family only can make the best decision you can with the information available. Think about his wishes, as well. Would he want to be kept alive under all circumstances? Or would he want to "not be a burden". Has this ever been mentioned in converstion or does he have an advance directive? Talk to your mother outside the hospital environment, it helps to get distance outside of his room. And don't force a decision on anyone.
    I know this comes across as very negitive. I don't mean it to, I only want you to know what battles are out there. I'm the mother of an SCI, not the injured.
    Come back anytime and ask anything. If you look at the Care forum you'll see that there are really no Taboo topics. If you want to know, ask. You'll be answered.
    I'm sorry you had to find us and best wishes to your family, whatever your decision.

  4. #4
    Whatever you do, don't listen to stupid doctors. Yes there is always that possibility however, it is not a certainty. If I were in your position I would do whatever I would think my dad would want. And, from what you said, that he was healthy and active prior to his injuries I would think that he would want to fight. You and your family are in my prayers. Please let us know what happens. And by the way, this is definately the right place to be for any and all questions.

    T8-9 according to latest scoring.......
    since 1/3/04

    I am the best at being me. No matter how that happens to be!!

  5. #5
    So sorry to hear about your Dad. It must be a horrible time for your entire family! We are praying for you!

    I believe the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation have staff that might be able to help refer you to services in your area. Check it out and give them a call.

  6. #6
    Are you in Chico or UC Davis? I agree with Dan, go to and contact an information specialist. You can reach someone until 5 pm PST by calling 800-539-7309.
    Every day I wake up is a good one

  7. #7
    Where in Northern CA? Can you get him to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose? They are one of the leading SCI Centers in the USA and formerly a SCI Model System Center. They won't write him off as it appears they have where he is now. I have had new injury tetraplegic patients in their 80s and 90s who did well in rehab and went home with their family members....pressure ulcers and respiratory issues are treatable and preventable with proper care. If he is not getting it there, then arrange to move him soon.

    Is your father a military veteran? If so, then a VA SCI Center should be seriously considered. The Palo Alto VA is the closest one to you.

    Try to stick with a CARF accredited SCI Center. There are only a few in CA. Some of those listed on the URL above are NOT CARF accredited as a SCSC (Spinal Cord System of Care). The ones who are include the following:

    California Pacific Regional Rehabilitation Center, San Francisco CA

    County of Los Angeles - Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, Downey, CA

    Kaiser Foundation Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, Vallejo, CA

    Northridge Hospital Medical Center, Center for Rehabilitation Medicine, Northridge, CA

    Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, San Jose, CA

    Spinal Cord Injury Center, VA San Diego Healthcare System, San Diego, CA

    St. Jude Medical Center, Fullerton, CA

    VA Long Beach Healthcare System - Spinal Cord Injury/Disorders Health Care Group, Long Beach, CA

    VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Spinal Cord Injury Service, Palo Alto,CA

    Please come back and ask more questions. We want to help.


  8. #8

    Thank you So much!

    Wow....I am so appreciative for all of your prompt, thoughtful and encouraging responses. There is so much to think about...when I read your responses, it was so comforting to realize that there actually is someone "out there" who understands the situation my dad and my family are living through. As we've grappled with my dad's living will and his expressed wishes, we've all come to the agreement that, since there are no definites at this point, we must move forward with the best care we can find and then if he wants to make a different decision in the future, that will be up to him. It has been a tough and painful moral and ethical dilemma to struggle with the unknowns of his condition in the face of what would be best for him and most in alignment with his desires.

    I've had some people from our church recommend Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, and it sounds like it meets all the criteria for top-notch excellence. So I think I will contact them tomorrow and see what they say. Even though my dad is (obviously) immobilized, I guess there must be a way to get him transferred there.... sounds like a bit of a daunting task to get insurance approval, acceptance from the new facility, and cooperation from the current facility..... But I'm up for it if that's what's hecessary. If anyone has any personal experience with the pitfalls of this type of a transfer process, I would love to learn from your wisdom!

    Thank you, again, for your welcome and kindness. As time allows, I'll go through more of the past posts and I'm sure I'll learn a lot from your discussions.


  9. #9
    DorAnne -
    "they say he will surely die of respiratory or skin pressure complications within a few months after discharge." That statement really got my dander up. With good, conscientious care, that should not happen. It's certainly true that things will not be easy, and there will be setbacks, but he has a damn good chance. It sure does sound like he'd be better off somewhere else.
    As for advice - do whatever SCI-nurse KLD says, and you can't go wrong.
    Best wishes,
    - Richard

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by rfbdorf
    he will surely die of respiratory or skin pressure complications within a few months after discharge.
    That statement reminds me decades ago I went to a medical library and looked up old neurosurgery books. The oldest was 1926 which had half a page on SCI which ended with a statement just like that. The next edition in the 1930's was a lot more optimistic and had a whole chapter. I think they are reading the old book.

    Why would he have respiratory complications if there is no spinal cord involvement at C2?

    I've met many people of your father's age or older living with SCI in the last 40 years. They were very much alive after many, many years.

    I don't think you can really "consider options" just on paper or as a description. You'd really have to actually go through the rehab first to have any idea of what your choices were in fact. Also it takes a couple of months before they know what a persons level is likely to be. If the only permanent SCI is the low one thats a very different injury from a C2.

    Good luck,

    Last edited by ThomasB; 09-25-2007 at 07:54 AM.

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