THE DATA: There are no numbers or data that can adequately describe any injury to a loved one -- but perhaps they can at least establish a framework for Chris's story:
- Emergency Room: 4+ hours
- Coma: From 3 - 10 days (depending how you define it)
- Intensive Care Unit: 3 weeks
- Inpatient Rehab: 4 months
- Outpatient Rehab: Ongoing...
UPSIDE: Chris survived the accident because he was a strong, healthy teenager, because he was driving a tough vehicle (an Explorer), because he was wearing his seat belt, and because the accident occurred only 10 minutes away from the University of Michigan Medical Center. The "upside" of being at a major medical facility like U of M is that you can have almost instant access to teams of doctors who are expert in every conceivable specialty. This was especially important at the start.
DOWNSIDE: However, the "downside" of being at a place like U of M is also important: Chris had 7 operations, he acquired a significant decubitus ulcer (bedsore) in ICU, he suffered through a sudden weight loss, and he had a very gradual return from a comatose state -- and we as parents were the only "constant" in Chris's care. The huge parade of physicians and other "experts" was incredible -- and we believe that it was only through our efforts at coordination and communication that there were so few errors made along the way.
CONFUSION: The issue there was NOT that people did not care -- because many people obviously DID care -- but that Chris received treatment from so many different specialists. It was often very difficult to find any one individual who would take responsibility. And the distributed decision-making model used in such large facilities almost prohibits any one person from having all of the needed information.
ADVOCACY: Every patient needs an advocate. The patient's parent, spouse, or other non-medical caregiver MUST be willing and able to learn the ropes, learn the jargon, and speak up when needed, for a patient with a TBI to receive the best possible care. Someone who has just sustained a TBI will not be able to advocate for himself or herself -- so if you care for that person, then you MUST become that advocate!
CHANGE AS NEEDED: We have followed the traditional paths for TBI rehab, we have sought out alternatives, we have changed as needed, and we have been relentless in seeking information, ideas, experts -- any one or any thing which might help Chris to improve. And we have constantly sought to encourage Chris to keep trying, to keep reaching, and to look to the future.
Original text: As with many people who have suffered a TBI, Chris continues to face challenges every day. Now in his fifth year after his accident, he continues to fatigue easily, to have memory gaps, to have emotional outbursts and anger management lapses, and to be inconsistent in initiation or follow-through in daily activities. And yet when we stand back for a moment, we still see progress occurring.
Update: At 10+ years post-accident, those emotional outbursts and anger management lapses are pretty much a thing of the past. More often than not, we see sparks of the humor and joy that Chris had always been known for. Yes, he still faces challenges in fatigue, initiation and follow-through, but that routine progress is still there, too!
PROGRESS: Chris continues to "beat the odds". In spite of predictions to the contrary, he DID wake up from the coma, he DID regain mental alertness, he DID regain movement, he DID learn to walk again and talk again, and he continues to improve each day. And by his perseverance and his (frequent, if not constant) good cheer, he has served as a role model for many others. Through this and related web pages, we hope that he can help many more people, too!
ROAD TO RECOVERY: As part of his recovery -- and as part of a final project in graduating from high school -- Chris began to develop his own web site about all of this. Please visit Chris Cochran's Home Page to follow Chris's travels along the Road To Recovery. Site update (finally) in process -- check back later this summer!