Catastrophe: How to Protect Yourself from Unforeseen Tragedy
November 16, 2016
Catastrophe: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Brain Rehabilitation
November 28, 2016

I wrote this book – Catastrophe – because there is nothing written on handling major catastrophic events when someone survives. I remember the day after Bob’s accident, asking doctors at Emory how to care for someone with a TBI and were there some layperson books I could read to learn more. They could not recommend any book.

So, how do we handle a catastrophic event? Who do we call to help us after family and friends go home? How do we heal emotionally when life becomes so narrow and lonely? How do we help our children accept the new normal? How do we pay our bills? Get transportation? Handle emergencies? Books have been written on catastrophic events, but what about caregiving someone who had a catastrophic event—when you also had one? I started to realize that very few books are written for caregivers after a tragedy occurs. I wrote the book I wanted to read.

Although still in a deep coma and on a breathing machine, after three weeks at Emory Neuroscience ICU Bob was considered “medically stable” (meaning there was nothing more they could do) and was transferred by ambulance to Shepherd Center, a world renowned brain and spine rehabilitation center on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, GA.

The Day Bob Awoke From a Coma
After a complete medical assessment and a major dose of a stimulant, which doctors often give to people with brain injuries to increase alertness, Bob awoke. When my children and I went into his private room the third day after arriving, he was mouthing sentences and even lip-synced his favorite song, Southern Cross, by Crosby, Stills and Nash, as my son played the guitar. He joked with our three children and their spouses and told me not to drive at night. He asked the attending doctor how to care for his trach at home, and she grinned, kissing him on the forehead. Although he could not move his legs or arms or hold up his head, his cognition was normal and we all were so elated and thankful.

Miracles Still Exist!
I just knew this was a God-given miracle and I had my husband back. But the next days and weeks were not as miraculous and over the long haul, Bob’s seven-month stay at Shepherd Center was anything but normal, as he suffered infection after infection, underwent surgery for trach stenosis and had a tragic trach bleed that filled his damaged lungs. He lived in the rehab’s ICU much of the time and I would receive calls throughout the night from hospitalists to come to the ICU STAT as Bob was no longer responding.

From the time of Bob’s brain injury on April 27, 2011, I drove daily to Emory Neuroscience ICU or Shepherd Center Brain Rehab. Encouraged by our children and family, I’d stay from early morning until late at night (sometimes overnight) always holding on to the hope that Bob would take small steps to recovery. Why not? My husband could do anything! In my heart of hearts, I knew that if I stayed hopeful and prayerful and persistent, it would influence Bob’s body, mind and spirit and give him the strength and perseverance he needed to get well. Being strong was his very nature and he was fit, very energetic and optimistic. The oldest of five children and a natural born go-getter, I expected him to fight hard just like he normally did to conquer seemingly insurmountable problems. In fact, when he’d get angry in therapy or pull his arm out of a nurse’s grip, they would applaud his feistiness, saying this is what it takes to beat a brain injury and go home.

Not only was Bob an achiever, he was my best friend and biggest supporter, helping me around the house when I had pressing deadlines, taking care of all the car repairs and health insurance paperwork, even plugging the iPhones in at night so I had one less thing to think about. Every night he pulled our comforter back, fluffed my pillows and made me go to bed early so I would feel energetic the next day when I awoke to write at 5AM. Bob did everything to help me raise our children and build my writing career.

And I was right by his side in all he did, singing in his church choir, teaching workshops, and meeting his new parishioners for lunch after worship services. Together, we wrote 10 marriage and family books, spoke around the south at area parenting events and taught large workshops on How to Reclaim Your Family, Guilt Free Parenting and Boosting Intimacy in Marriage.

We were committed soulmates from the moment we met; a match made in heaven, people would smile and say. And there is more…

Deb

Deb Bruce
Deb Bruce
Debra Fulghum Bruce, PhD, is a well-known author, senior medical writer and health literary expert. Deb works hard and plays hard! An avid wordsmith and health communications professional, Deb loves boating, fishing and catching blue crabs at her bay front condominium in South Tampa Florida.

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