"They all said don't give up"
OUR HEALTH EXPERIENCE: ANGELA BOLTON/ROBERT BOLTON
MY LIFE has been in a holding pattern since my husband, Robert, had a cardiac arrest in hospital last October, a day after having surgery to remove a small section of cancerous oesophagus.
It was devastating. He was in ICU at St James’s Hospital in Dublin, and heavily sedated. After two weeks he was moved to an acute ward, where he has remained since, slowly progressing from a coma to minimally conscious – officially called “disorder of consciousness”.
In January we were told that the best we could hope for was that he would be made comfortable, his disability managed and we should not hold out much hope for a meaningful recovery.
I go in to him every day, twice a day. I try not to over-interpret signs of improvement but myself and other family members have noticed definite progress.
If he is asleep he wakes up when I go in and talk to him. He opens his eyes a little when I say “Hello sweetheart, how’s it going?” And when I touch his face, he will wake up completely.
He is hoisted out of bed with a sling and put in a wheelchair for five or six hours a day. I bring him outside if possible but if it’s rainy we stay in and I’ll give him a massage, play guitar, do passive physiotherapy or read to him. Sometimes we just sit together and do nothing.
It was our wedding anniversary on April 18th and when I read him a card we got from my sister, he started to sob. His stomach was heaving and the tears were pouring out of him.
I had never seen that before and I ran out to the nurses, thinking, “He’s upset – this is good, but I don’t like seeing it.” This was just after he had been inadvertently off his medication for five days, when a line fractured, and during that time he seemed to be getting more alert. He would look at people who said his name and he was holding his head up more.
I had been advised Robert needed long-term care until he could be given a 15-day Smart (Sensory Modality Assessment and Rehabilitation Technique) assessment in the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, for which there was a 12-month wait. Because he was 66, he was precluded from any other neuro-rehabilitation centre and a care of the elderly facility was the only option.