The Brief Story

Wednesday, day 1
late morning
  Angelee climbed on a table in front of a window, leaned on the screen, popped it out, and fell 2 stories onto concrete.  She landed on her head, her skull was fractured, she got a minuscule scrape on her right thumb, and a possible lumbar spine compression fracture, but not even any bruises on the rest of her body.  Dad saw it happen.  Mom and Dad rushed her to the hospital, where she was airlifted to Primary Children's Medical Center.

  Sadly, the impact collapsed Angelee's skull which then punctured the Wernicke's area (the language center) of her brain. She was taken straight into surgery where they removed a significant section of the left side of her skull to allow for the inevitable swelling. When it was removed, the bone flap fell apart but was molded back together and frozen for future re-installation. Her skin was stitched back up, and the new "soft spot" (actually, the whole left side of her head) allows the brain to swell (as brain traumas do) without putting pressure on other areas of the brain and causing further brain damage. She also had a fracture toward her forehead.
  Angelee was taken to the Pediatric ICU on a respirator to help her breathe, wearing a neck brace, her arms tied down to the bed, and with more than dozen cords, wires, and tubes hanging out of her little body.  Her injury was to the speech center of the brain, and only time will tell if she will be able to talk again, or understand language.

Thursday, day 2
  Angelee progressed slowly during the day, doing well enough that they decided she did NOT need to be put in a medically-induced coma after all.  She was given a sedative to keep her calm enough to not pull out the respirator tubes, and morphine for the pain.

  The respirator was taken out because Angelee was breathing very well on her own.  The staff is beginning to talk more of rehabilitation instead of survival.

Friday, day 3
  The doctors looked at Angelee's spinal x-rays and decided that the possible compression fracture was of no consequence.  She can now be moved gently, but not taken from her bed until she either has on a helmet or the skull bone flap is put back in.  The rehabilitation team checked her out and determined that, although she was using her left arm and leg more than the right, she can move the right side still very well.

  Angelee looked over to the right for the first time.  She was also moving her right arm without provocation.  She was also gingerly moving her right arm - it still has all the IV lines in it.  The staff ran a feeding tube into her stomach to start giving her feedings.

  Angelee showed that she understood speech for the first time, responding to a verbal command.  She looks more comfortable and reacts more to things around her.  The brothers visit for the first time.

Saturday, day 4
  Angelee was moved out of ICU.  Most of her hookups are disconnected.  She only has a feeding tube in her nose, the sticky chest dots, and an oxygen monitor on her toe - all of which she pulls off on a regular basis.

Sunday, day 5
  Angelee had her first outing today, and endured it fairly well.  She rolled over, grinned, and giggled just a bit.  Her arm is not broken.

Monday, day 6
Angelee is cleared to drink thick liquids.  She still has to wear the neck brace for a while.  She did well playing with some toys.  We're starting to settle in to a routine, and we'll be here for a couple of months.  Reality is starting to set in, and it's pretty discouraging.

Tuesday, day 7
Angelee responded to spoken language, and tried to sign a word.  She started eating more pureed food.  She is moving around much more.  Everything but the feeding tube is unhooked.

Wednesday, day 8
Angelee drank well from a bottle.  She is responding more to verbal cues.  She's still not sleeping well.  She went for a little walk outside in the stroller.  She can sit up unassisted.  She played well with a drawing toy.  She laughed!

Thursday, day 9
Angelee took all her feedings by mouth.  She likes Carnation instant breakfasts, and signed "more" when she saw the peach I brought for my lunch.  They took her neck brace off.  Mom spent the night with Angelee in the hospital, and Dad finally got a chance to go home.

Friday, day 10
Angelee is eating well again today - and got her feeding tube removed!  She now has speech therapy (working on getting her to swallow and eat well), physical therapy (standing, walking, reaching, balance), occupational therapy (turning pages, using her right hand more), and music therapy (to help calm her).  She is still terrified of the doctors, but now just hides her face from them instead of shrieking and trying to bolt.  She is trying to climb out of bed.

Saturday, day 11
Angelee ate pureed macaroni and cheese for lunch.  You ought to try it sometime!  She got a visit from the therapy dog but it frightened her.  She is starting to walk!  Angelee is becoming more animated, and enjoys reading books and playing with toys.

Sunday, day 12
Angelee is starting to wobble around by herself now.  She loves to walk up and down the halls, look out windows, and examine the brightly colored animal tiles on the walls.  Lifeflight helicopters coming in scare her.  She points to everything and looks expectantly up, waiting to be shown the sign for that object.  She is learning new signs, and remembering old ones.  It is fun to see her communicate, even if she isn't speaking at all.

Monday, day 13
Angelee passed the swallow study.  She is cleared to eat solid foods (she remembered how to chew), and drink thin liquids (she remembered to swallow instead of inhale).  Her right ear passed the audiology test; the left didn't; more hearing tests later.  She started to talk!  And the best news:  we have our little girl back home again!

Tuesday, day 14
Angelee didn't sleep well - we are all tired and a little bit cranky today.  She ate, among other things, potato chips and a cupcake for dinner.  It is so nice to be HOME!

Wednesday, day 15
The early childhood evaluators came over and accepted Angelee into their program.  She is getting a little less moody, and talking a little more.  She likes baths again.

Thursday, day 16
Angelee slept a little bit better last night.  Her once-extensive vocabulary is now up to 25 words.

Friday, day 17
Angelee actually went to bed before midnight last night.  Her eating is nearly normal - just working on feeding herself with a spoon again.  She is taking good naps, and entertaining herself for short stretches with age-appropriate toys and books.  Her vocabulary is slowly growing again.

Day 32
Angelee is drinking from a cup.  She can climb up and down stairs without holding on to anything.  She can run and jump, although I don't know if both her feet can clear the floor yet.  She graduated from physical therapy.  Her incision is mostly healed, so we don't have to work so hard to keep her from picking the scabs off.  Her vocabulary is about half what it used to be, but growing all the time.  She sleeps fairly well at night (now if we could just get her to go to bed earlier... but don't we say that about all our kids?).

1 month, 20 days
Angelee is back in the hospital today to get her bone flap put back in.  All of the swelling has gone down, she is running, jumping, climbing (on everything!), her vocabulary is up to 150 words, and she is doing so well!  They tell us that she will only have to stay for a few days. <crossing fingers>  We'll update a little bit more frequently now.  :-)

1 month, 23 days
We are stunned and amazed that Angelee only spent two days in the hospital.  The swelling is starting to go down now, and she is doing very well.  Her bone plates are held in place by re-absorbable plates and screws that will be gone within a year.  In 3 to 6 months, her body will fuse the bone pieces together snugly.  For right now, she doesn't even need the helmet anymore!  Angelee is still moody, and easily offended.  We'll see how it goes as she settles back in.

2 months, 15 days
All of Angelee's 92 stitches have dissolved.  The shorn side of her head is growing soft blond hair again.  The incision, once a red, jaggedy gash, is now a gentle pink scar.  She talks in three-word sentences, and adds to her vocabulary daily.  Both hands work evenly well to eat, play, stack blocks, and color.  She can walk, run, and even dance on her tiptoes.  When she wears her hat, she would look to anyone like a normal, active toddler.  What a miracle.

3 months, 11 days
The bone plate didn't take.  The pieces of her skull must have been too crushed in the fall to be able to regrow.  Her body reabsorbed the bone, leaving soft spots.  She'll have to do more surgery.

5 months, 4 days
Angelee went in to the hospital for her next (hopefully last) surgery, and again only had to stay for two days.  A synthetic skull implant was specially manufactured to fit the opening in her skull, then secured into place with metal plates and screws.  Officially, the implant will need to be replaced in several years as her noggin grows, but the surgeon said he has never had to do it.  We hope we won't break his record.